Christ's Lutheran Church in 1839

Pastor Adolphus Rumpf (often spelled Rumph), conducting services at the second church building, designated the "Church on the Rocks," because it sat on a rocky ledge overlooking the Sawkill about ¾ mile east of our present location (that is, north of present-day Route 212, across from the country club).

The Woodstock Region in 1839

Region historian Alf Evers(1)

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town [Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987], pp. 23ff, 41, 150ff. (Close) has described the Catskills as largely a region of absentee landlords and struggling tenants, in a manorial relationship more or less transplanted to upstate New York from medieval Europe. The principal landlord for tenant farmers and tavern keepers in the Town of Woodstock, and for all his other Catskills holdings of some 66,000 acres, was sickly Robert L. Livingston, 64, dwelling in his Clermont estate on the other side of the Hudson.

The typical official arrangement under which the tenant held his land was the "three-life lease": A tenant would be permitted use of Livingston land for three generations, and after the grandson of the original tenant died, the lease "fell in"--that is, the land would revert to Livingston. Stipulated in the typical lease was an annual rent of fifteen to twenty bushels of wheat per hundred acres, plus three or four "good fat hens" and from one to three days' work with team on the common land. A tenant could sell his leasehold, but he had to pay the landlord one-sixth of the sale.

Livingston was having trouble managing the resources on his manor lands. Trespassing and unlawful lumbering had become part of the Woodstock way of life by indigent tenants (termed "beggars" or "rascals" by Livingston agents), in spite of deputy sheriffs being sent to Woodstock to discourage the practice. Tenants were becoming ever more bold in their resistance to Livingston demands for rent payments. Several trespassers were apprehended during this year. Livingston lawyer H. M. Romeyn of Kingston demanded high bail for the prisoners, all of whom pleaded that they, not Livingston, had true title to the land.

Livingston's health had fallen apart: He was suffering nervous anxiety and rheumatic attacks that left him quite lame. He had now been diagnosed with gout. During this year, when his son Robert Livingston died, Robert L. Livingston began to plunge into madness.

Anti-Rent War

The lord of a manor in the Helderberg Hills to the north of the Livingston holdings, Stephen Van Renssalaer, politician and soldier, known as the "last patroon," died at the age of 75. For years he had been renting large sections of his vast domain, the Manor of Rensselaerwyck, on feudal terms similar to those of Livingston in the Catskills: Tenant farmers were supposed to pay annual dues of ten bushels of wheat per 100 acres, a day's labor of a man and a yoke of oxen, four fat hens, and other irksome duties. Van Renssalaer had been easygoing about collections, so that at the time of his death, tenants owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and about a million fat hens. Van Renssalaer's will indicated that the old patroon had debts amounting to about $400,000 ($7,052,000 in 2006 dollars), approximately what the tenants owed, and his sons were determined to collect the rents rather than pay the debts out of the estate. Historian Evers summed up the results:
What followed made enough noise to be plainly heard even in the most secluded valley of the Catskills. It came from the thud of horses' hoofs carrying sheriffs with eviction notices in their pockets, the tramp of militia-men trying to support the sheriffs, the crackling of fires over which kettles of tar were being heated in preparation for the tarring and feathering of sheriffs, the rolling phrases of orators addressing meetings of tenants who were uniting in their refusal to pay back rents until after the validity of their landlords' titles had been examined in court. [Tenants in the Catskills] listened eagerly when they were told of Anti-rent leaders asking government officials why a tenant should pay rent to a landlord with a shaky title under a system that shackled a farmer's energy and initiative and was contrary to accepted American ideas. In Albany, politicians, who hoped to rise high with the help of Anti-rent support, coaxed and wheedled and applied pressure on their fellows and made whispered deals. Men of inherited money and position pounded their mahogany tables and denounced all Anti-rent sympathizers as levelers who were out to destroy civilization. Many clergymen declared from their pulpits that refusal to pay rent was an act of rebellion not only against landlords but against God who had created rich and poor and expected both classes to be satisfied with what He had done. Rich worshippers nodded in agreement: they were satisfied with their lot in life, why could not the poor show an equally pious acceptance of theirs? Young Van Renssalaer tenants meeting at crossroads taverns muttered threats against landlords and their agents, and as whiskey warmed them their threats grew louder. All this was heard and pondered by the tenant farmers in the Catskills.(2) Quoted directly from Evers, Alf, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1972, p. 406. The quotation ahead is cited by him from the Catskill Democrat, April 22, 1846. (Close)
Tenant voters in Greene County elected the popular and homespun Erastus Root to the state Senate to replace the agent of the "purse-proud and aristocratic landlords," James Powers. According to the rich and well-born, Root was a devil who favored the abolition of slavery, the extension of the franchise--even to women! Many other Anti-Rent sympathizers were elected, too. The Van Renssalaer heirs were alarmed with this development and hastily put greater pressure on tenants to pay up before the levelers would take office. The tenants, however, refused to give in. According to one ballad:
A great revolution has happened of late,
And the pride-fallen landlord laments his sad fate;
The cry has gone out through the nine counties o'er,
Our landlord is falling to rise nevermore.
Governor William Henry Seward, 38, called out the militia to put down the uprising by force, but he offered compromise: If the tenants would only cease resistance, he would withdraw the militia and urge the legislature to abolish the feudal system of land tenure. The tenants agreed to disperse.

The New York Crown and Cylinder Glass Company of Bristol (Shady)--founded 29 years earlier by Stephen Stilwell as the Bristol Glass, Cotton and Clay Company just over the boundary from Livingston land--was still in business, although it was suffering ups and downs. The company shipped its products down the Glasco Turnpike to the Hudson River landing in Glasco (from "Glass Company") and then by sloop on to New York City. Unfortunately, its operation required vast amounts of fuel, principally wood, which denuded the forests around Woodstock and, as a result of the deforestation, caused massive erosion of the mountainside soil.

One of Woodstock's only resident doctors was Dr. John Fiero, 34. A doctor in those days could pull teeth, bleed a sufferer, and lance a boil, as well as other medical duties. There was no hospital available to Woodstockers, but many women were skilled in nursing and midwifery. There were no drug stores, but the remedies most in demand were available at the general store, including opodeldoc, a soap-based liniment; camphor; spirits of hartshorn; castor oil; gum guaicum; syrup of squills; and opium and its derivatives, such as laudanum.

Betsy Booth was a local herb doctor, nurse, and midwife, who had learned her craft from an "Indian doctor" on Tinker Street. She is said to have been able to cure consumption by herbal means.

John Steinfurt Kidney, Louis L. Noble, painter and writer Charles Lanman, and one other man formed the "brotherhood," dedicated to climb Plattekill Clove, Overlook Mountain (known then as South Peak), and Shue's Pond from a summer base at the old farmhouse of Levi Myer at the foot of Plattekill Clove. They enjoyed swimming and trout fishing in addition to the vigorous hiking.

The 16-year-old commodious Catskill Mountain House near Kaaterskill Clove had for a long time been suffering deep financial trouble, with its respectable revenues not meeting its grievous expenses. The corporate entity of CEO and founder James Powers (the state senator voted out this year by the Anti-renters), the Catskill Mountain Association, had fallen behind in its interest payments to its principal creditor, the Catskill Bank, and during the previous year the bank directors had begun foreclosure proceedings. At the beginning of this year, the county sheriff had a writ of execution, directing him to sell the hotel and its belongings at auction. Unfortunately for the creditors, however, during the financial depression the hotel was unsalable at any price. In June, the hotel opened as usual, with the Catskill Mountain Association retaining title, but with rich stagecoach entrepreneur Charles L. Beach, 30, running it.

Smelly tanneries in the Catskill region continued converting animal hides into leather, using chips and powder from hemlock bark in the tanning (softening) process and thereby leaving millions of bark-skinned hemlocks to die while standing. The largest such operation was the New York Tannery in the factory town of Edwardsville (present-day Hunter), autocratically run by "young colonel" William W. Edwards. In the atypically neat factory town of Prattsville, workers in the factory of Zadock Pratt lived in some hundred handsome classical-style houses, with pilasters and sunburst gable windows. Both of these businesses managed the hard times with low leather prices reasonably well. Other tanneries were not so lucky (although the small tanneries of John C. Ring and of Samuel, Philip A., or John Culver on the Tannery Brook in the heart of Woodstock hamlet stayed in business). Many turnpikes that reached the hemlock stands were now neglected or partly abandoned; Sullivan County tanners who could get their hides and ship their leathers over the Delaware and Hudson Canal had an advantage over those further north.

Part of the Canajoharie & Catskill Railroad was carrying hides and leather and other freight as well as some passengers in the northeastern Catskills.

Former New Paltz and Hurley slave Isabella Bomefree Van Wagenen, 42, originally from Hurley and now residing in New York City, continued her job as a domestic while she pursued her religious interests. She felt that she was in direct communication with God. Her son, Peter, 19, who had been getting into all kinds of mischief, was finally arrested; freed by a friend, he was commissioned on a whaling vessel.

The United States in 1839

[ Martin Van Buren ]

Martin Van Buren (Democrat), 59, was President. The newly elected 26th Congress was in session. A dollar in that year would be worth $17.63 in 2006 for most consumable products.

It was considered vulgar to mention "trousers" or "pants." Here are some sample quotes that include substitutes for describing this garment:(3)

Quoted in McCutcheon, Marc, Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians (Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books, 1993), p. 116, citing the Philadelphia Public Ledger (April 5, 1836); Knickerbocker Magazine (March 1837); Philadelphia Spirit of the Times (April 20, 1842). (Close)
The managers have resolved to insist upon their wearing stockings and unmentionables.

How could he see about procuring a pair of unwhisperables?

The child was wrapped in white linen, and then crammed into a bag made of the leg of a pair of inexpressibles.

Tensions with the United Kingdom

The border between Maine and New Brunswick had never been adequately settled. The Maine legislature had been making land grants to settlers along the Aroostook River, disregarding British claims to that area. Canadian lumberjacks had begun to build a road there for their own lumbering operations. Maine had appointed state senator Rufus McIntire as a land agent to eject the Canadians, but he was arrested by the lumberjacks at Madawaska.

Major Hastings Strickland, Sheriff of Penobscot County, now deputized a 200-man posse and headed north. The Maine state militia under General Isaac Hogdon established Fort Fairfield, and federal troops under General Winfield Scott, 53, occupied the blockhouse at Fort Kent. In response, the British established Fort Ingals at the head of the Madawaska River at Lake Temiscouata and reinforced the garrisons at Grand Falls and Woodstock in New Brunswick. The Nova Scotia legislature appropriated war funds.

Both the Governor of New Brunswick and the Governor of Maine prepared for war. Congress authorized a conscription of 50,000 men and voted $10 million ($17.6 million in 2006 dollars) toward the prosecution of this "Aroostook War."

Calmer voices prevailed, however: General Scott arranged a truce; he and the New Brunswick Governor negotiated a settlement, temporarily recognizing each other's possession of territory. Both parties agreed to refer the dispute to a boundary commission. The only casualty was a pig that had strayed over the border from New Brunswick into Maine and had been eaten by the American troops.

In addition to these troubles, there was still considerable ill feeling between the two countries over the 1837 Caroline incident.

There was tension for yet another reason: Slavery. The British had outlawed the slave trade 32 years earlier, and 5 years earlier they had abolished slavery throughout their empire. The United States had officially forbidden the transoceanic slave trade 31 years earlier, even (supposedly) providing the death penalty for violators, but American slave merchants boldly flouted the indifferently enforced law. The British Navy felt constrained when confronting American vessels that would run up the U.S. flag: Because of American enduring touchiness from the "impressment" days before the War of 1812, the British were hesitant to insist on searching a suspected American slave ship.

Financial depression (from the Panic of 1837)

There was no specie (money in coins) in circulation, and employers were paying their workers in paper "shinplasters" of dubious value and often counterfeit. Some 39,000 Americans were bankrupt. Almost all New England textile mills were shut down. Thousands were reduced to starvation.

The shakeout of land speculators made more U.S. farmland available for real farmers. Recovery from the Depression was very slow.

The English lenders whom Americans had been reviling as "bloated British bond-holders," were bitter with the resulting default and open repudiation of American state bond debtors, inspiring many Englishman to sing the following new stanza for an old song:

Yankee Doodle borrows cash.
Yankee Doodle spends it,
And then he snaps his fingers at
The jolly flat who lends it.
Flat is a Briticism for "simpleton."

Economic depression in the United States forced Maryland and Pennsylvania to default on interest to British and European bondholders.

Meanwhile, the Van Buren Administration was trying to find an acceptable substitute for the bankrupt and discredited state banks as a place to keep federal funds. The President advocated "divorcing" the government entirely from all banking activities, and he promoted an Independent Treasury Bill (nicknamed the "Divorce Bill"), whereby all federal funds would be stored in government-owned vaults placed in various parts of the country. The bill met with tremendous resistance from banking interests (who would no longer have access to government funds) and in the newly elected 26th Congress from Whigs and Conservative Democrats.

To save money, the Administration cut off all federal aid to internal improvements, even to the extent of selling off the tools it had used on public works.

Connecticut showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, 29, continued his career of showing carnival attractions.

Chang and Eng, 28, male "Siamese twins" connected at the chest, tired of being displayed, ended their 10-year international tour and settled in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. They purchased a general store and sold everything from chewing tobacco to clothing. They became American citizens and took on the surname Bunker.

Thousands of Irish and German immigrants came to the United States.

Steam engines were introduced on the New York and Harlem Railroad, heretofore relying solely on horse-drawn carts.

Envelopes (for sending letters in) were first manufactured in New York.

Abner Doubleday, 19, laid out the first baseball diamond in Cooperstown, NY.

The Lowell Institute in Boston, providing free public lectures, was founded from funds bequeathed by the late Massachusetts scholar John Lowell.

A state-supported "normal" school opened in Lexington, MA, through the efforts of Horace Mann, 33, offering a 2-year teacher-training course to high school graduates. Mann also sponsored a Massachusetts law setting the annual school term at a minimum of 6 months.

New England clergyman John Humphrey Noyes, 28, established a Bible class in Putney, VT, the seed of his communal society there.

The Spanish slave ship Amistad was transporting 54 blacks, newly captured in West Africa, from Havana to another Cuban port, when Cinqué, one of the slaves, led a mutiny. The slaves killed the captain and all the crew except a single white man who they relied upon to navigate the ship back to Africa. This white man steered north, however, until the ship was intercepted off Montauk Point on Long Island by a U.S. warship and forced into harbor at New London, CT. The slave "cargo" was put in charge of a federal marshal there. Abolitionists Lewis Tappan, 51, and Roger Sherman Baldwin, 47, who was a Connecticut attorney, took up the captives' case. Baldwin argued to the U.S. District Court and the Appeals Court that the Africans had been illegally brought to Cuba and sold as slaves, in violation of a Spanish-British Treaty outlawing further slave trade. Thus, the Africans were legally within their rights to seek freedom from their captives. The proceedings dragged on.

The abolitionist Liberty Party held a national convention in Warsaw, NY.

[ John Quincy Adams ] Abolitionists sent tens of thousands of anti-slavery petitions to the new 26th Congress. The House of Representatives continued to pass "gag resolutions," declaring that all petitions or papers "relating in any way" to slavery or the abolition thereof be "laid on the table" (and forgotten) without liberty of debate, and receive no further action. Massachusetts Congressman John Quincy Adams, 72, pictured here, continued to denounce the gag rule, in spite of exasperated threats of censure, expulsion, and even assassination. He continued to present such petitions, which had been addressed to him, one by one, sometimes as many as 200 in a single day, demanding the attention of the House of Representatives to each separate petition, thereby defending the right of even the poorest and humblest American to petition Congress.

Ohio abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, 36, published Slavery As It Is.

[ Henry Clay of Kentucky ] Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, 62, pictured here, made a conciliatory speech against militant abolitionism. Acknowledging that the speech might alienate ultras on both sides, Clay, a perennial also-ran in the Presidential elections, stated,

I had rather be right than be President.

Abolitionists were fond of charging the Southern slaveowner with miscegenation, a charge that was true in many cases. White masters, all too frequently, would force their attentions on female slaves, fathering a sizable mulatto population, most of which remained enchained. Mrs. Mary Chestnut, wife of Senator James Chestnut of South Carolina, wrote in her diary(4):

Quoted in Wellman, Paul I., The House Divides: The Age of Jackson and Lincoln, from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966, p. 352n, who was citing Chestnut in Manly Wade Wellman, They Took Their Stand; also from Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, p. 368, and Schwartz, Marie Jenkins., Born in Bondage: Growing Up Enslaved in the Antebellum South, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000, pp. 44-46. (Close)
God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system, a wrong and an iniquity! Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattos one sees in every family resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household but their own.
When childbirth in the slave quarters produced a baby of mixed race, participants negotiated the moment gingerly or angrily, depending on their ideas of who had been victimized and who had been betrayed, who had the power to punish and who was vulnerable to punishment. Children of mixed race were often the result of forced sexual encounters by masters, the masters' sons, overseers, or other whites living or visiting in the neighborhood. The practice of white men forcing themselves upon slave women was widespread. Mistresses must have entered the birthing room of a slave mother with trepidation. The mother of one slave born with light skin, straight hair, and blue eyes received a whipping from the mistress. Identifying fathers of mixed-race children could prove dangerous for the youngsters, and parents who denied children knowledge of their paternity hoped to shield them from reprisals. Very rarely did children of mixed race attain a status other than that of slave. Southern society discouraged recognition of mulatto children, and a father's flagrant favoritism toward sons or daughters of mixed race could serve as grounds for divorce.

Pope Gregory XVI issued In Supremo Apostolatus, an "Apostolic Letter" condemning the slave trade. Here is how slaveholding American Catholics regarded what the Pope had to say: Bishop John England of Charleston, SC, wrote a series of public letters to U.S. Secretary of State John Forsyth, 39, begging him to understand that the Pope was being misunderstood. He wasn't really talking about American slavery at all. No, he was merely condemning the slave trade as practiced by Spain and Portugal. He gave his own history, a history in which slavery was a positive good, in which no Pope had ever criticized it, in which all slaves were happy and content. Shortly thereafter Philadelphia's bishop, Francis Patrick Kenrick, wrote a moral theology whose description of slavery was another attempt to pretend that Pope Gregory had said nothing, and that slavery as it existed was a lesser evil to what would happen if slaves were freed.

U.S. Attorney General Felix Grundy, 62, resigned to become a Senator from Tennessee.

[ James K. Polk ] Democrat James Knox Polk, 44, pictured here, a protegé of Andrew Jackson and nicknamed "Young Hickory," was elected Governor of Tennessee.

Josephine Amelia Perkins was finally convicted of horse theft (she admitted to being "4 times detected, twice pardoned on account of my sex, once for reasons of supposed insanity"). She was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment in Madison County jail in Kentucky.

The State of Mississippi became the first state to permit wives to own property after marriage.

Second Seminole War

Hostilities continued.

The "balloon-frame house," or "Taylor house" (named for its inventor, Augustus Deodat Taylor), originating in Chicago and the prairies, began to replace houses all over America that had been constructed with heavy beams joined by mortise and tenon. The new houses, constructed in a cagelike frame of nailed-together two-by-fours and two-by-sixes, were at first ridiculed by critics, predicting that the prairie winds would blow the houses away like balloons. On the contrary: The houses proved superior to the mortise-and-tenon variety, which were prone to rotting at the joints. Taylor houses could be put together by amateurs (in contrast to the long experience required for mortise-and-tenon fitting), using precut lumber and cheap mass-produced nails.

John Chapman, 64, known as "Johnny Appleseed," continued distributing Swedenborgian religious tracts and apple seeds to settlers in the Indiana wilderness. A small, wiry man with "eyes that sparkled with a peculiar brightness," he had a reputation for loving children and all living creatures, even mosquitoes. He made friends with all the Indians he encountered. He traveled barefoot, dressed in cast-offs or a coffee sack. He liked to read to settlers from the New Testament, calling it "news right fresh from heaven."

[ Joseph Smith ] Joseph Smith, 34, pictured here, was the "Prophet" of the 9-year-old "Church of Christ" (later called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), with the followers called "Saints" (or Mormons), whose doctrine was based on the alleged revelations Smith said he had been receiving for several years from the angel Maroni, now all gathered, translated, and published in the 522-page Book of Mormon. The book claimed that the New World aborigines (the Indians) were descended from the lost 10 tribes of Israel, who had sailed from the Near East 2,500 years earlier, and who had received a visit from Jesus Christ after his resurrection in Palestine. Smith and his followers were commanded to redeem these lost Israelites from the paganism they had fallen into. The book also sanctioned polygamous marriage.

Responding to persistent hatred from "gentiles" (non-Mormons), typically reacting to the polygamy doctrine, the ever-growing Mormon congregation had been migrating from bases in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio (where Smith had to escape from an arrest warrant for fraud and illegal banking), and now in Missouri (in the vicinity of Independence). During the preceding year, Mormon settlers and non-Mormon residents engaged in several skirmishes, such that the state's Governor had issued what became known as the Extermination Order, authorizing Mormons to be either driven from the state or exterminated. Smith and several other church leaders had been arrested and imprisoned on charges of treason and murder.

Some 10,000 Mormons left Missouri, crossing the Mississippi River for the village of Commerce in Hancock County, Illinois--a village they renamed "Nauvoo." Smith and the other prisoners escaped and joined the refugees. They were granted a charter by the state of Illinois, authorizing independent municipal courts, the foundation of a university, and the establishment of a militia unit known as the "Nauvoo Legion."

In October Smith led a delegation to Washington, DC, to meet with President Van Buren, seeking redress for the persecution and loss of property suffered by the Saints in Missouri. The President responded:

Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. If I take up for you, I shall lose the vote of Missouri.
Meanwhile, robbers and outlaws gathered within the settlement, called themselves "Mormons," and used the town as a base for committing crimes in the region. They then would take refuge in Nauvoo, secure from arrest from the county sheriff. The true Mormons were fanatics labeling all other forms of religion the "works of the devil," and they defended anyone who called himself a Mormon.

Prussian Prince Alexander Philip Maximilian of Wied, 57, who had been accompanied by painter Carl Bodmer, now 30, began publishing his Travels in the Interior of North America, about their 2-year natural science expedition (1832-34)--from Boston to St. Louis and up the Missouri River to Fort McKenzie (near Great Falls, MT), back to St. Louis, to New York State at Niagara Falls and along the Erie Canal. The detailed work included 81 color plates of Bodmer's Western watercolors of the landscapes, vegetation, animals, and Indians they had seen.

Writer F. A. Wislizenus, M.D., recorded his impressions of the languishing beaver trade among mountain men, still meeting at yearly rendezvous in the Rocky Mountains. The men were getting better and better prices for the ever-more scarce furs:

At the yearly rendezvous the trappers seek to indemnify themselves for the sufferings and privations of a year spent in the wilderness. With their hairy bank notes, the beaver skins, they can obtain all the luxuries of the mountains, and live for a few days like lords. Coffee and chocolate is cooked; the pipe is kept aglow day and night; the spirits circulate; and whatever is not spent in such ways the squaws coax out of them, or else it is squandered at cards. Formerly single trappers on such occasions have often wasted a thousand dollars. But the days of their glory seem to be past, for constant hunting has very much reduced the number of beavers. This diminution in the beaver catch made itself noticeable at this year's rendezvous in the quieter behavior of the trappers. There was little drinking of spirits, and almost no gambling. Another decade perhaps and the original trapper will have disappeared from the mountains.(5) Quoted in A Journey to the Rocky Mountains in 1839, cited from "Library of Western Fur Trade Historical Source Documents: Diaries, Narratives, and Letters of the Mountain Men" on, accessed 21 January 2007. (Close)

The Cherokees who had survived the previous year's government removal of them from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee to the "perpetual outlet, west" (or the "Cherokee Strip") in Indian Territory (Oklahoma)--on the cruel route that the removal they called Nuna-da-ut-sun'y ("The Trail Where They Cried"), better known as the "Trail of Tears"--had now settled as the more numerous party with their brethren, the Cherokee Nation West, also known as the "Old Settlers," those who had moved west years earlier in response to pressure from white settlers. Among those already residing in Indian Territory were the small minority of chiefs--led by the "Ridge Party" of Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and his nephews Elias Boudinot and Stand Waitie--who had without authorization signed 4 years earlier the notorious Treaty of New Echota, which had agreed to the removal from the ancestral lands in the East. Understandably there was considerable hostility toward the Ridge Party from the new arrivals, the Eastern Cherokees.

The Old Settlers, along with the Ridge Party, resented the influence and power of the more numerous Eastern Cherokees, and it was soon apparent that the entire Cherokee Nation was split into two mutually hostile factions, and bloodshed soon resulted. Armed Eastern Cherokees came to the home of John Ridge and stabbed him to death, disfiguring his face in the presence of his wife and children. Another group did the same to Elias Boudinot. A third group ambushed and murdered Major Ridge while he was out riding on the road with his grandson. John Ross, the elected leader of the Eastern Cherokees, was suspected of the nearly simultaneous but distantly sited murders, but he denied it. The fourth traitor, Stand Waitie, managed to escape being murdered.

Passionate interest in Oregon grew among American farmers, who heard tales of wheat that grew taller than a man and turnips that were 5 feet around.

The 3-year-old Christian mission of Dr. Marcus Whitman, 37, and his wife, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, 23, continued to flourish among the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu in the Walla Walla Valley of eastern Oregon Country. The missionaries had established schools and grist mills and had introduced crop irrigation. Unfortunately, however, the Cayuse were nervous about agriculture, since they believed that to plow the ground was to desecrate the spirit of the Earth.

Science and technology in America: Specifics

Connecticut inventor Charles Goodyear, 39, produced vulcanized rubber through an accidental spill of Indian rubber and sulfur on a hot stove; Massachusetts inventor Erastus Brigham Bigelow, 25, devised a power loom to weave two-ply ingrain carpets; New York inventor Isaac Merritt Singer, 28, invented a rock-drilling machine; and Massachusetts inventor Isaac Babbitt, 40, patented the journal box axle housing and produced the metal alloy named for him, which could be used for lining bearings.

Naturalist and ornithologist John James Audubon, 54, published his 5-volume Birds of North America. The Harvard Astronomical Observatory was founded with astronomer William Bond, 50, as director. John L. O'Sullivan, in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, promoted the cause of American expansion:

The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated.… We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march?(6) Quoted in Wallechinsky, David, and Wallace, Irving, The People's Almanac, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975, p. 166. (Close)

Nutritionist Sylvester Graham, 45, published his 2-volume Lectures on the Science of Life, espousing vegetarianism and blaming dyspepsia and sallow complexion on fried meat, alcohol, eating too fast, and "unnatural" refined wheat flour. He urged his readers to eat fruits, vegetables, and unsifted whole wheat flour in slightly stale bread that should be chewed slowly.

Arts and culture in America: Specifics

Massachusetts novelist and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 32, published the novel Hyperion and the poetry collection Voices of the Night; Connecticut author Jared Sparks, 50, published the bestseller Life of Washington; New York novelist James Fenimore Cooper, 50, published the scholarly History of the Navy of the United States; South Carolina architect Robert Mills, 58, designed the U.S. Patent Office building in Washington, DC; and English-born architect Richard Upjohn, 37, designed Trinity Church in New York City in the Gothic Revival style.

The Roman emperor look continued to be fashionable for men. Aping the fashion of Great Britain, American men had begun growing mustaches.

People began playing poker in their spare time. People also played faro, a game where a player bet against the banker as to which card would be chosen from the dealer's box. The only completely professional sports of this era were cock fighting and boxing.

Popular periodicals included the Niles' Weekly Register, the American Journal of Science, American Farmer, Christian Watchman, Saturday Evening Post, New York Mirror, National Preacher, Godey's Lady's Book, Ladies' Companion, Yale Literary Magazine, Knickerbocker Magazine, Liberator (abolitionist), Emancipator (abolitionist), and Spirit of the Times. Aristotle's Masterpiece, an anonymous sex education book, illustrated with explicit woodcuts and describing sexual mechanics, was popular among young men, who read it behind the barn.

Popular songs included "Old Rosin the Beau," "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton," "Home Sweet Home," "America," "Turkey in the Straw," "Amazing Grace," and "Woodman, Spare That Tree."

The World at Large in 1839

Canadian insurgency

John George Lambton, First Earl of Durham, 48, investigating the causes of the 1837 uprising, resigned his post after he was deserted by Whig officials in the British government. Then he published Report on the Affairs of British North America, which proposed the union of Upper Canada (Ontario) with Lower Canada (Quebec), a representative government of the Canadians themselves in a popular Assembly, and the planned settlement of unoccupied lands. Lord John Russell introduced a resolution in the British Parliament to implement Lord Durham's recommendations.

France recognized the independence of Texas. France also sent a naval squadron to bombard San Juan de Ulúa in Mexico, in response to the Mexican government's failure to honor claims against it by French citizens--claims for repudiated bonds, revoked concessions, and damage to French property during the frequent Mexican civil wars.

German-born Swiss pioneer "General" John Augustus Sutter, 36, working for the American Fur Company traveled to Fort Vancouver, Honolulu, and Sitka. He finally arrived in San Francisco and, after becoming a Mexican citizen, was granted permission by Mexican Alta California Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado to found a 50,000-acre colony of settlers at the junction of the Sacramento and American Rivers. He named the colony New Helvetia.

American traveler John Lloyd Stephens, 34, and Frederick Catherwood discovered and examined the ancient Mayan ruins in Central America.

Peru-Bolivia war, involving Chile

Chilean forces defeated those of Bolivian President Andrés Santa Cruz in the Battle of Yungay, thereby breaking up the 3-year-old Peru-Bolivia confederation.

Brazilian insurgency

Brazil was beset with provincial revolts and separatist movements.

Uruguay-Argentina war

Uruguay declared war against Argentina.

Popular agitation in England

Lancashire calico printer Richard Cobden, 35, who had established the Anti-Corn Law League in Manchester the year before, amalgamated opposition groups to consolidate power. Workers were attracted to the cause by the promise that tariffs on foreign grain would be removed, food prices reduced, enabling workers to buy more clothing, thereby providing jobs in the textile industry. Employers were sympathetic, realizing that lowered food prices would enable them to lower wages.

The Chartist movement continued in Britain, seeking Parliamentary reform and more political power for laborers. When Parliament rejected the Chartist petition, riots erupted in Birmingham and elsewhere. The Chartist leaders were arrested.

The Whig Prime Minister William Lamb, Second Viscount Melbourne, offered to resign as Tories gained more and more support among the middle classes appalled at the Chartist turbulence, but Queen Victoria insisted on keeping the charming man in office.

Meanwhile, the condition of poor and working-class people in Europe was appalling. Europe seemed to be running out of room and was generating a seething pool of apparently "surplus" people.

In the British Isles a Poor Law designed to discourage paupers from seeking any kind of relief ensured that work inside the workhouse was far more unpleasant than any kind of work that could be found outside it. There were tens of thousands of children under the age of 16 living in such workhouses. Of course, such conditions among industrial workers fostered the development of socialism. In the countryside, thousands of farm workers and their families simply starved during the frequent famines caused by crop failures. Ireland, where a terrible rot attacked the potato crop, was especially prostrated. About a quarter of the Irish population (that is, about 2 million people) perished by disease and hunger; starved bodies were found by the roadsides with grass in their mouths.

An attractive avenue of escape was emigration to America. In America there was freedom from aristocratic caste and state church; there was abundant opportunity to secure broad acres and better one's condition. Much-read letters sent home by immigrants--"America letters"--often described in glowing terms the richer life: low taxes, no compulsory military service, and "three meat meals a day."

The First Grand National (steeple-chase) race was held at Aintree in England.

Arthur Fell devised the rules for Rugby at Cambridge University.

John Henry Newman, 38, at the Oriel College of Oxford University, delivered Tracts attacking the "national apostasy" of the Church of England in the Oxford Movement. The Church of England needed a basis in firm doctrine and discipline, rather than be an arm of the state. Was the Church of England a department of the state, to be governed by the forces of secular politics, or was it an ordinance of God? Were its pastors priests of the Catholic Church (as the Prayer Book insisted) or ministers of a Calvinistic sect? Did baptism bestow an indelible character on the soul? What does "consecration" of the eucharistic elements signify? Was the Reformation and Elizabethan Settlement a release from papal bondage, a disaster imposed by a heretical state, or a sophisticated via media between these two extremes? How were the "golden ages" of the early Church Fathers and Seventeenth Century Anglican theology to be recovered? Edward Bouverie Pusey, 39, focused his attention on the ritual observances of the Church.

"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera," asserted Dr. Alfred Velpeau, professor at the Paris Faculty of Medicine.

It is absurd to go on seeking it.… Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient.(7) Quoted in McCutcheon, op. cit., p. 158. (Close)

With the Treaty of London, King Willem I of the Netherlands grudgingly recognized the independence of Belgium. The Dutch and the Belgians divided Luxembourg and Limburg between them.

Prussia restricted child labor to a 10-hour-a-day maximum.

King Frederick IV of Denmark died at the age of 71 and was succeeded by his nephew, Christian VIII, 53.

Pope Gregory XVI issued In Supremo Apostolatus, an "Apostolic Letter" condemning the slave trade:

Placed at the summit of the Apostolic power and, although lacking in merits, holding the place of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who, being made Man through utmost Charity, deigned to die for the Redemption of the World, We have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men. Assuredly, since there was spread abroad, first of all amongst the Christians, the light of the Gospel, these miserable people, who in such great numbers, and chiefly through the effects of wars, fell into very cruel slavery, experienced an alleviation of their lot. Inspired in fact by the Divine Spirit, the Apostles, it is true, exhorted the slaves themselves to obey their masters, according to the flesh, as though obeying Christ, and sincerely to accomplish the Will of God; but they ordered the masters to act well towards slaves, to give them what was just and equitable, and to abstain from menaces, knowing that the common Master both of themselves and of the slaves is in Heaven, and that with Him there is no distinction of persons.

But as the law of the Gospel universally and earnestly enjoined a sincere charity towards all, and considering that Our Lord Jesus Christ had declared that He considered as done or refused to Himself everything kind and merciful done or refused to the small and needy, it naturally follows, not only that Christians should regard as their brothers their slaves and, above all, their Christian slaves, but that they should be more inclined to set free those who merited it.… But--We say with profound sorrow--there were to be found afterwards among the Faithful men who, shamefully blinded by the desire of sordid gain, in lonely and distant countries, did not hesitate to reduce to slavery Indians, Negroes and other wretched peoples, or else, by instituting or developing the trade in those who had been made slaves by others, to favour their unworthy practice. Certainly many Roman Pontiffs of glorious memory, Our Predecessors, did not fail, according to the duties of their charge, to blame severely this way of acting as dangerous for the spiritual welfare of those engaged in the traffic and a shame to the Christian name; they foresaw that as a result of this, the infidel peoples would be more and more strengthened in their hatred of the true Religion.

… This is why, desiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour. Further, in the hope of gain, propositions of purchase being made to the first owners of the Blacks, dissensions and almost perpetual conflicts are aroused in these regions.

We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices above-mentioned as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

See how this letter was regarded by slaveholding American Catholics.

Prince Milos Obrenovic of Serbia abdicated under pressure from opponents supported by Russians. He was succeeded by his son Milan, 20, who died that year, and then by his son, Michael III Obrenovic, 14.

Lady Hester Stanhope, the English eccentric who had settled among the Druses of Lebanon, died at the age of 63.

Ottoman dissolution

Ottoman forces invaded Syria to contest the claims of the Egyptians there. Egyptian forces under Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Muhammad Ali, 70, Viceroy of Egypt, defeated Turkish forces in the Battle of Nezib. The Turkish fleet surrendered at Alexandria to Muhammad Ali. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II died at the age of 54 and was succeeded by his son Abdul Mejid, 16.

British expansion into central Asia

British forces escorted the unpopular Shah Shujah into Kabul, Afghanistan, and restored him to power. Afghans rose up against British occupation and began to agitate to restore the imprisoned Dost Muhammad, 46, to power.

Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh kingdom in India, died at the age of 59.

First Opium War

Chinese official Lin Tse-hsu, 54, ordered the destruction of some $6 million worth of illegal Indian opium ($106 million in 2006 dollars) that had been stored in Canton warehouses by foreign merchants. (The British East India Company had encouraged addiction to opium to keep its Indian and Chinese laborers subdued.) The United Kingdom, protesting this wanton destruction of private property, declared war.

The United States South Seas Exploring Expedition (U.S. Ex. Ex.)

American scientist and surveyor Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, 41, commanding 346 men (including 9 surveyors, botanists, geologists, other scientists, and artists) in a six-vessel U.S. Navy expedition to circumnavigate the world (intending to provide accurate charts for the American whaling industry) continued his voyage. He mapped a 1,500-mile section of Antarctica, demonstrating that it was an actual continent. Sailing on into the Pacific, Wilkes outrageously promoted himself to the rank of Captain and flew a commodore's pennant from his ship. For this and for his martinet-style leadership, he was mocked by his men.

Two British ships, the 370-ton Erebus and the 340-ton Terror, commanded by James Clark Ross, 39, and Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, 43, set out for Antarctica.

The Boers in South Africa founded the independent republic of Natal, around the little town of Pietermaritzburg. Andries Pretorius became the first President. The British refused to recognize the republic.

The joint-stock company formed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield under the auspices of the New Zealand Association dispatched a colonizing expedition under his younger brother. More than a thousand settlers arrived in New Zealand and founded the settlement of Wellington in the North Island. When the British government learned that France was contemplating the annexation of New Zealand, it sent out a man-of-war under Captain Hobson, to treat with the Maoris for the recognition of British sovereignty.

World science and technology

French physicist Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, 50, patented the daguerreotype process of photography; English chemist William Henry Fox Talbot, 39, claimed that he had produced photographs earlier with his experiments with a camera obscura with silver chloride and a common salt fixative, and he communicated his results to the British Royal Society; Russian inventor Moritz Jacobi announced the process of electrotyping (making duplicate plates for relief printing); Swiss physicist Carl August Steinheil, 38, built an electric clock; Scots engineer James Nasmyth, 31, invented a steam hammer for precise large forging; and Scots inventor Kirkpatrick Macmillan, 29, invented a 57-pound prototype bicycle that included a pedal system and a brake, a 32-inch iron-tired front wheel, and a 42-inch rear wheel.

German philologist Franz Bopp, 48, identified Celtic as an Indo-European language; German physiologist Theodor Schwann, 29, collaborating with Matthias Jakon Schleiden in their Microscopic Investigations on the Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Plants and Animals, described the cell as the basic unit of life; Swedish chemist Carl Gustav Mosander, 42, discovered the element lanthanum; German-Swiss chemist Christian F. Schönbein, 40, discovered and named ozone; and English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, 30, summarized his trip in the Beagle in Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by HMS Beagle, 1832-1836.

World philosophy and religion

French political leader Jean Joseph Charles Louis Blanc, 28, published the essay L'Organisation de Travail, with the statement
to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities.
Blanc founded Revue de Progrès to promote his socialist doctrines.

Arts and culture in the British Isles

English painter Edwin Henry Landseer, 37, painted Digity and Impudence. Scots novelist John Galt died at the age of 60, parodist James Smith died at the age of 64, portrait painter Sir William Beechey died at the age of 86, and poet Winthrop Mackworth Praed died at the age of 37.

World arts and culture

French painter Théodore Chassériau, 19, painted Suzanne au Bain and Venus Anadymone; and German painter Karl Spitzweg, 31, painted Der arme Poet ("The Poor Poet"). German landscape painter Joseph Anton Koch died at the age of 71.

French composer Hector Berlioz, 36, produced the choral symphony Roméo et Juliette; German composer Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn, 30, conducted the first performance of Franz Schubert's 11-year-old Symphony in C Major ("The Great Symphony") at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig; and Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, 26, produced the opera Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio in Milan.

French novelist Marie Henri Beyle (Stendhal), 56, published La Chartreuse de Parme ("The Charterhouse of Parma").


The copyrighted material cited on this page comes under the definition of "Fair Use."

See also the general sources.