Christ's Lutheran Church in 1853

[ Christ's Church on the Sawkill ]

Pastor Thomas Lape, 52, conducting services in the third church building, which, like the second one, was known as 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).

Pastor Lape had earned a reputation as a

clear, methodical preacher … instructive … gentle, amiable, cheerful and faithful pastor; … a humble Christian, and a sincere friend. He stood well among the Lutheran clergy of the State.(1) Anderson, Mark J., For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], draft, quoting the 1879 tribute presented by Rev. P. A. Strobel, of the Hartwick Synod obituary committee. (Close)
We have no description of what it was like in the first or second church building, but here is a reminiscence(2) Quoted from Moseman, Magda, and Anderson, Mark, eds., Perspectives and Patterns: Christ's Lutheran Church, 1806-1976 [Woodstock, NY: self-published monograph, 1976], itself citing Nathaniel M. Nash in 1906. (Close) about what the third was like in the 1850s:
[ The stove in the church ] My memory dates back fifty years, and that old church standing upon the rocks is the same in outward appearance now as it was then. The door in the center of the south end opened directly into the church, there being no vestibule or hall. The stove stood between the door and the first row of seats.… The stove was a solid cast iron stove … it took long wood and when it got hot it was awful hot. The pipe suspended by wire ran the whole length of the church to the chimney at the north end.… The seats were planed pine boards with backs and ends, and I think the hard side of the boards was up. I could not sit still on them. …

The church was lighted with candles, a candlestick on each end post of the pulpit and tin candle holders hanging upon the wall--just enough of them to make darkness visible. Every little while the sexton would go around with the snuffers and snuff the candles and sometimes he would snuff too low when out would go the light.

There was no carpet on the floor.… There was no bell, so when it was time to commence service, someone would come out and tell those outside to come in.…

[ Farm wagon ] It would be a sight worth seeing today to see the vehicle on a Sunday morning that stood about the church grounds with the teams tied to the pine trees.… [F]arm wagons with long boxes on them and boards laid across for seats, and bed quilts for lap coverings in cold weather, the same kind of wagon with wooden springs with seats attached which they put inside the box (which simply emphasized the jolts); the Gondola pleasure wagon which turned up slightly at both ends with no door but with springs under it; and others of various styles. And in the winter the long sleigh, the farm bobs and … you could see any Sunday that there was sleighing … in some neighborhoods one farmer would take his team and long box wagon and gather up all that wanted to go to church and the next Sunday another would take his team and bring them. In this way those not having teams could get to church. How they all enjoyed the ride! Neither do I think they were proud, for many if not all wore the garments spun, woven, dyed and fashioned by their own mother's hands.

The church owned no parsonage. The pastor
lived in rented rooms wherever they could be procured, sometimes several miles away.… [Reverend Lape] lived part of the time in West Camp on [his own place], coming up on Saturday and going back on Sunday afternoon or Monday.…

The Woodstock Region in 1853

A Methodist church was built in Willow.

In the wake of the Anti-Rent War of the early 1840s, a land rush continued, with tenants besieging the Livingston brothers and other manorial landlords with offers to buy the farms they had been tilling for generations. In the years following that war and continuing for a couple more years, Woodstock-area tenant farmers named Short, Shultis, Hasbrouck, DeWall, Riseley, Ricks, Happy, Lasher, Winne, Duboise, Hogan, Elting, Van de Bogart, and Lewis became fee-simple farm owners. Because some tenants could not afford to buy, Livingston agent Henry P. Shultis would be collecting rents for several more years; there were even still a couple of Livingston tenants left in the mid-1880s.

A group headed by Kingston lawyer Marius Schoonmaker founded the Ulster County Glass Manufacturing Company in Shady (also called Bristol) on the ruins of (and thereby reviving) the New York Crown and Cylinder Glass Company, which had gone out of business a decade earlier. Peter Reynolds served as superintendent. Unfortunately, it was difficult for this factory, originally sited 43 years earlier for its proximity to plenty of wood, to compete effectively with coal-fueled glass factories that were located close to good sources of coal. Besides, the original hardwood forests nearby had already been depleted, necessitating either that wood (or coal) be brought in at great expense from an ever-increasing distance or that the furnaces be fired by hemlock or other less efficient fuels.(3)

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town [Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987], p. 130. (Close)

One of Woodstock's only resident doctors was Dr. Stephen L. Heath, whose house still stands just to the east of the old brick post office building on Tinker Street. Dr. Heath was active in politics and was commissioner of schools. He would ride his horse all the way to the end of Mink Hollow to deliver a baby--for a fee of $5.00 ($112.95 in 2006 dollars). 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 MacDaniel 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.

The United States in 1853

[ Franklin Pierce ]

Millard Fillmore, 53 (Whig), was President, succeeded during this year by Franklin Pierce, 49 (Democrat). The newly elected 33rd Congress was in session. A dollar in that year would be worth $22.59 in 2006 for most consumable products.

Fewer than half of Americans were engaged in agriculture, representing an average decline of 1 percent a year over the preceding three decades.

Thousands of Irish immigrants came to the United States, at an annual rate of 92,000. The luckless immigrants received no red-carpet treatment on their arrival in America.(4)

This description of the Irish immigrant experience liberally quoted from Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, pp. 302-05. (Close) Forced to live in squalor, they were rudely crammed into the already-vile slums. They were scorned by the older American stock, especially "proper" Protestant Bostonians, who regarded the scruffy Catholic arrivals as a social menace. Barely literate "Biddies" (Bridgets) took jobs as kitchen maids. Broad-shouldered "Paddies" (Patricks) were pushed into pick-and-shovel drudgery on canals and railroads, where thousands left their bones as victims of disease and accidental explosions. It was said that an Irishman lay buried under every railroad tie.

The immigrant ship Annie Jane was wrecked off Scotland; 348 passengers perished.

The disembarking Irish were poorly prepared for urban life. They found progress up the economic ladder painfully slow. Most immigrants were willing to work for a pittance, and wages as a consequence plummeted. Large numbers of these unskilled laborers, eager for work of any kind, were absorbed into the factories of the Northeast. As wage-depressing competitors for jobs, the Irish immigrants were hated by native workers. "No Irish Need Apply" was a sign commonly posted at factory gates and was often abbreviated to NINA. The friendless "famine Irish" were forced to fend for themselves. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a semisecret society founded in Ireland to fight rapacious landlords there, served in America as a benevolent society, aiding the downtrodden. (It also helped later to spawn the "Molly Maguires," a shadowy Irish miners' union that rocked the coal districts of Pennsylvania.)

Thousands of German immigrants also came to the United States, at an annual rate of 95,000. The bulk of them were uprooted farmers, displaced by crop failures and other hardships. Some were liberal political refugees, fleeing after the collapse of the democratic revolutions of 1848. Many of the Germans, unlike the Irish, possessed a modest amount of material goods. Most of them pushed out to the lush lands of the Midwest, notably Wisconsin, where they settled and established model farms.

Emigration to America continued to appear as an attractive escape from the horrible conditions for the common people in Europe--especially for the Irish and the Germans. 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 reality was usually somewhat different.

Many in the North resented the Irish and other immigrants, who were gathered in urban slums and voted in blocs according to what their political bosses told them to do. Immigrants sold their votes in order to satisfy immediate needs--jobs, relief, shelter, friendship. Urban politicians and the underworld of prostitution and gambling formed a strong alliance with the immigrant voters.

Anti-immigrant bigots, who had 2 years before organized the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, called for reforms in the naturalization laws, including a 20-year waiting period before citizenship could be conferred, and the deportation of alien paupers. They also promoted a lurid anti-Catholic literature, and they sometimes incited violence against immigrants. The group's membership was rapidly expanding.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, sneeringly referred to in the North as the "Bloodhound Bill" or the "Man-Stealing Law," was "tested" by many incidents: The Underground Railroad, which for years had smuggled slaves over the border into Canada, increased its activities. Here is what antislavery Virginian Moncure D. Conway observed at a home in Concord, MA(5):

Quoted from Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 521. (Close)
I found the Thoreaus agitated by the arrival of a coloured fugitive from Virginia, who had come to their door at daybreak. Thoreau took me to a room where his excellent sister Sophia was ministering to the fugitive, who recognized me as one he had seen.… I observed the tender and lowly devotion of Thoreau to the African. He now and then drew near to the trembling man, and with a cheerful voice bade him feel at home, and have no fear that any power should again wrong him. That whole day he mounted guard over the fugitive, for it was a slave-hunting time. Next day the fugitive was got off to Canada.
Black prisoners were delivered from jails by white mobs. Many slaves were recaptured, and some free Negroes were carried off into slavery. Many Northern whites feared that the draconian measures against blacks might eventually be used against them as well, and many heretofore moderates had become strong antislavery men. Pulpits and newspapers denounced the law, there were meetings of protest, and many of the Northern states in effect set about to nullify the law by simply refusing to comply with it--which increased the South's feeling of injury and aggravation.

Historian Paul Wellman has described the mutual hostility between the South and the North at the brink of the Civil War(6):

The following is from 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, pp. 428-29. (Close)
The rise of abolitionism was the beginning of the really severe resentment in the South.… Oral and written abuse of slaveholders, and indeed the entire South, became an abolitionist obsession, and went to extremes. Southern men were pictured as sadistic and greedy upholders of "unbridled licentiousness and despotic control." Sex, an ever-sensational subject, was brought up with wildest exaggerations, to fan public opinion to heat. For example, abolitionist Wendell Phillips characterized the South as "one great brothel where a half million of women are flogged in prostitution."

Churches were divided on the slavery question. Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist denominations separated into two independent bodies, North and South.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, 42, sister of abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, 40, defended the authenticity of her controversial novel of 1851, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, a sentimental portrayal of slave suffering that was a bestseller all over the North and banned all over the South, with her The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. The novel itself laid bare slavery's wicked inhumanity, especially the cruel splitting of families. It had become a bestseller all over the North, going through 120 editions and selling 300,000 copies there, with similar sales overseas. It hardened Northerners' antipathy not only against slavery but against the South itself and against all Southern white people. In Europe too, especially in England and France, the novel was immensely popular, creating a feeling of "Tom-mania" and a hostility toward American slaveholders.

Naturally, the book was heartily condemned in the South as an "unfair" indictment, however, and the author referred to as that "vile wretch in petticoats," a "quack," a "cut-throat," and a "coarse, ugly, long-tongued woman." They accused her of trying to "awaken rancorous hatred and malignant jealousies" that could only undermine national unity. One reviewer called the book a

criminal prostitution of the high functions of the imagination to the pernicious intrigues of sectional animosity.(7) Quoted in Garraty, John A., The American Nation: A History of the United States, New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 379. (Close)

In the cotton fields of the Deep South, slaves brought several hundred dollars per head more than in the Upper South; the urge to sell slaves "down the river," therefore, remained strong. Slave trading was a thriving business. There were some 50 dealers in Charleston, 200 in New Orleans, most of them very prosperous and thus now considered quite respectable in high society. John Armfield and Isaac Franklin were the most successful dealers, collecting slaves at their "model jail" in Alexandria, VA, and shipping them either by sea or land to their huge depot in Natchez, MS.

Solomon Northrup, 45, published his autobiographical Twelve Years a Slave about how he, a free black from New York State, had been kidnapped 12 years earlier while visiting Washington, DC, and set to work on a plantation in Louisiana , toiling in the fields from "can see to can't see," eating cold bacon and corn meal for supper, and sleeping on a 12-inch-wide plank. He was somehow able to escape and make it north to freedom.

Though laws of the United States and almost every Western nation declared the African slave trade to be piracy, a capital offense, the laws against it were not enforced, at least not by the United States. British war ships attempting to suppress the trade were forbidden to search vessels, American or otherwise, that raised the U.S. flag, that "proud banner of freedom." Conversely, any American slaver had only to raise a foreign flag to evade search by the U.S. Navy, whose four vessels designated for "suppressing the slave trade" were in any event far slower than most of the slavers. The Navy Department warned its officers that they would be held personally liable for damages if they made any mistakes--such as cases being dismissed for "want of evidence" (chains and fetters on board apparently not considered evidence). As a result, tens of thousands of fresh Africans, "black ivory," were imported each year by Brazil, Cuba, and the United States; in fact, the number was now greater than it had been half a century earlier, when the trade had been legal. Many of the slave ships had been fitted out in New York City and other Northern states, where the profits from the trade ended up. Every Northern seaport (as well as New Orleans, Mobile, and Charleston) took part.

[ Jefferson Davis ] At his inauguration, President Pierce delivered a confident, clear-voiced address from memory before an audience of some 15,000 people. His cabinet contained some aggressive, "fire-eating" Southerners--including War Secretary Jefferson Davis, 45, pictured here--who were determined to be compensated for the closing of the Mexican Cession to slavery by acquiring more distant slave territory through imperialistic manifest-destiny adventures, consistent with the expansionist Young America movement, at the expense of Latin America.

The newly elected 33rd Congress authorized the coinage of the $3 gold piece (worth $67.77 in 2006 dollars); it also stipulated that the amount of silver in all coins except the silver dollar be reduced.

The wife of educational reformer Amos Bronson Alcott and 73 other women petitioned the Massachusetts Constitution Convention to permit granting the vote to women.

The American Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, MA, produced pocket watches in quantity.

Concord, MA, horticulturist Ephraim Wales Bull, 48, exhibited his Concord grapes that he had developed to the Massachusetts Horticulture Society.

Boston shipbuilder Donald McKay, 43, launched the 4,555-ton Great Republic, with patent double topsails and a 15-horsepower steam engine on deck to handle the yards and work the pumps. The ship was too bulky to be a commercial success.

Shipbuilder I. K. Brunel began building the passenger steamer S.S. Great Eastern, with a propeller and paddle wheels.

Boston pianomaker Jonas Chickering died at the age of 55. His burnt-out factory was replaced by a 220,000-square-foot plant run by George H. Chickering and Thomas E. C. Frank.

Samuel Colt, 39, opened an armory in Hartford, CT, with 1,400 machine tools for making small arms.

German immigrant pianomaker Henry Engelhard Steinweg, 56, and several of his sons set up a piano factory, Steinweg & Sons, in New York City.

Louis Antoine Jullien, 41, opened a music school in New York City.

The New York State legislature authorized New York City to purchase land--some 624 acres between 59th Street and 106th Street between Fifth and Eighth Avenues--for a public park

Jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany founded Tiffany and Company.

Austrian immigrant August Brentano, handicapped with a withered arm, was allowed (because of his handicap) to open a newsstand in front of the New York Hotel in New York City. He ordered newspapers from England, obtained the papers quickly by meeting the clipper ships at dockside, and prospered by selling the papers to hotel guests who bet on English horse races.

The Home Insurance Company was founded in New York City, underwriting protection on a national scale through local agents with an initial subscription of $500,000 ($11.3 million in 2006 dollars).

The New York Clearing House opened at 14 Wall Street in New York City, serving 38 banks and clearing nearly $2 million ($45 million in 2006 dollars) on its first day.

Construction began on St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

The 27-year-old Lord & Taylor store moved into a new building with carpeting, cathedral windows, and a central rotunda, at Grand and Christie Streets in New York City.

Banker Erastus Corning, 59, consolidated ten small New York State railroads to form the New York Central Railroad, connecting New York City with Buffalo. Unfortunately, gauge standards changed at the New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio borders; workers in Erie, PA, tore up rails of identical gauge in order to force trains to stop at Erie.

Freehold Raceway opened in Freehold, NJ.

A railroad reached from Philadelphia the Atlantic Ocean at Absecon, NJ, which would soon become known as Atlantic City.

The Mount Vernon Hotel opened at Cape May, NJ, and featured private baths, the first hotel in the world to do so.

The Steam Cracker Bakery in Philadelphia, run by Godfrey Keebler, introduced "Keebler biscuits."

Chef George Crum at the Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs, NY, invented potato chips in a mocking response to a patron who complained that his French fries were too thick. The demand for the chips became so intense that Crum opened up his own restaurant across the lake.

The Oneida "Perfectionist Community" of farmers and mechanics in central New York State, founded in 1848 by New England clergyman John Humphrey Noyes, 42, sawmill owner Jonathan Burt, and farmer Joseph Ackley, continued to thrive, with hundreds of converts living in communal buildings made of timber from the community's farms. The community practiced free love ("complex marriage"), birth control (through "male continence," or coitus reservatus), and the eugenic selection of parents to produce superior offspring. Men and women were treated equally, and all classes of work were viewed as equally honorable. Noyes called his system "Bible Communism." Children were reared in the "children's house," operated by men and women considered best qualified.

German immigrant lens grinders John Jacob Bausch, 23, and Henry Lomb, 28, established the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company in Rochester, NY.

The Rike-Kumler Company opened as a dry-goods store in Dayton, OH.

William Wallack, publisher of the year-old 4-page penny daily Washington Evening Star hired Crosby S. Noyes as a reporter.

Virginia was still an the leading producer of tobacco, although states west of the Appalachians raised more than half of the total U.S. crop--especially the Bright Yellow variety, which grew best on poor soil. Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, with their reputation as tobacco-growing states, were concentrating more and more on diversified farming--corn, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and livestock. Cotton growing had been migrating ever westward, more and more of it was being grown west of the Mississippi River.

The University of Florida was founded in Gainesville.

Yellow fever killed 7,848 in New Orleans.

Texas steamboat captain Richard King, acting on the advice of his friend Army Colonel Robert Edward Lee, 46, purchased 15,500 acres on the Santa Gertrudis Creek between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River from a Spanish family for $300--less than 2 cents per acre (45 cents an acre in 2006 dollars)--the beginnings of the King Ranch. Extreme drought lowered the price of land and cattle, and King was able to buy longhorns at $5 per head ($113 per head).

Texas cattleman Samuel A. Maverick, 50, had never bothered to brand the 400 head of cattle he had obtained 8 years earlier in payment of a debt. He sent a party of cowhands to round up the same number of unbranded cattle on his 385,000-acre ranch on the Matagorda Peninsula, which Maverick sold to Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, 35, of New Orleans and then retired from ranching. The term maverick became generic for unbranded cattle, political independents, and intellectual nonconformists.

Washington University was founded in St. Louis.

The federal government signed treaties with the "chiefs" of various "tribes" at Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, similar to the treaties arranged 2 years previously at Fort Laramie (in present-day Wyoming), where some 10,000 Indians from various tribes had agreed to give up land in return for "colonies" (reservations) and guaranteed federal subsidies. The two sets of treaties were designed to separate the Indians into two great "colonies" to the north and south of a corridor on intended white settlement. Unfortunately, according to historians Bailey, Kennedy, and Cohen,

the white treaty makers misunderstood both Indian government and Indian society. "Tribes" and "chiefs" were often fictions of the white imagination, which could not grasp the fact that Native Americans, living in scattered bands, usually recognized no authority outside their immediate family, or perhaps a village elder. And the nomadic culture of the Plains Indians was utterly alien to the concept of living out one's life in the confinement of a defined territory.(8) Bailey et al., op. cit., p. 600. (Close)

Many of the full-blood Cherokees in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) belonged to a secret society known as Kee-too-wah (the "Pins"), so named because each member wore two common pins in the form of a cross on the coat or hunting shirt. Its purpose was to encourage the retention of the old tribal customs and to prevent their taking up the ways of the whites. Few of the full-bloods owned slaves, and the Kee-too-wah was usually opposed to slavery. Nonetheless, many Cherokees did own slaves.

The newly acquired prizes of California and Oregon, now growing in population, were extremely difficult for those in the established United States--the Eastern states--to get to. Sea routes to and from the Isthmus of Panama, let alone the route around Cape Horn, were much too long. Covered-wagon travel was slow and dangerous. Here is an excerpt from the diary of Amelia Stewart Knight about the hardships her family faced on their way to Oregon:

Monday, April 18th. Cold; breaking fast the first thing; very disagreeable weather; wind east cold and rainy, no fire. We are on a very large prairie, no timber to be seen as far as the eye can reach. Evening--Have crossed several bad streams today, and more than once have been stuck in the mud.…

Saturday, April 23rd. Still in camp, it rained hard all night, and blew a hurricane almost. All the tents were blown down, and some wagons capsized. Evening--It has been raining hard all day; everything is wet and muddy. One of the oxen missing; the boys have been hunting him all day. (Dreary times, wet and muddy, and crowded in the tent, cold and wet and uncomfortable in the wagon. No place for the poor children.) I have been busy cooking, roasting coffee, etc. today, and have come into the wagon to write this and make our bed.…

Friday, May 6th. We passed a train of wagons on their way back, the head man had drowned a few days before, in a river called the Elkhorn, while getting some cattle across. With sadness and pity I passed those who a few days before had been well and happy as ourselves.…

Friday, August 19th. After looking in vain for water, we were about to give up, when husband came across a company of friendly Cayuse Indians, who showed him where to find water. The men and boys have driven the cattle down to water and I am waiting to get supper. We bought a few potatoes from an Indian, which will be a treat for our supper.…(9)

Quoted in Davidson, James West, and Stoff, Michael B., The American Nation, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986, 1995, p. 355. (Close)

Some visionaries proposed camels, the "ships of the desert," as a solution for faster travel to Oregon and even imported some of the beasts from the Middle East, but Americans were more used to mules and could not adjust. Even though the railroad revolution in transportation had produced an economic shock in some quarters, it was generally perceived that the railroads were producing growth and prosperity for everyone, and a transcontinental railroad, though dauntingly expensive to build, was perceived as the only viable solution for connecting the Far West to the older states. The daunting expense seemed to dictate that there could be only a single railroad.

The 33rd Congress appropriated $150,000 ($3.4 million in 2006 dollars) for the War Department to survey the most practicable route for a single transcontinental U.S. railroad. Four possible routes suggested themselves:

War Secretary Jefferson Davis, a Mississippian "fire eater," naturally favored the Southern route, which would connect the South with California; the rail-connected sections would reap rich rewards in population, wealth, and influence and would make up for what the South had lost with the Compromise of 1850. Davis realized, however, that the United States needed to expand just a little bit more to the south, into a bit more of Mexican territory.

Davis arranged for a prominent South Carolina railroad man, James Gadsden, 65, to get appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Antonio López de Santa Anna, 59, the "Napoleon of the West," was once again President of Mexico (for the sixth and last time) and was, as usual, in need of money. Gadsden negotiated a treaty that authorized the U.S. to purchase 45,000 square miles of land south of the Gila River for $10 million ($226 million in 2006 dollars). When the Mexican government learned that American freebooter William Walker with a force of fearsome Americanos had just occupied Ensenada in Baja California, the Mexicans signed the treaty, especially when the yanquis acceded to the demand that the area not include access to the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California (which would have been a seaport for present-day Arizona but would have eliminated a Mexican land connection from Baja California to the rest of Mexico). Of course, many Northerners criticized the payment of such a large sum for a cactus-strewn desert with no access to the sea, but the Senate approved. (In compensation for not getting access to the Sea of Cortez, the Americans did get transit rights across the Isthmus of Tehauntepec.)

[ Brigham Young ] Brigham Young, 52, pictured here, continued to develop the State of Deseret (Utah Territory, as it was known by the federal government and other non-Mormons), considered by its residents as an independent nation with Young as President, extending, according to the Mormons (and disregarding the arrangement that Congress had worked out in 1850), from the Great Salt Lake down to southern California (encompassing most of present-day Arizona, all of Nevada, and parts of California, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon, as well as all of Utah). Young's Salt Lake City had adobe brick buildings, avenues wide enough for a wagon and four oxen to make a U-turn, an ornate temple, and the first major irrigation project ever undertaken by American whites, irrigation that enabled the settlers to raise crops and herds on the desert. Other well-planned towns were springing up.

Thousands of Young's Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) followers, from different parts of the world, obeyed his commands without question. They paid a tenth of all they acquired into the coffers of the church. Young made polygamy part of the Mormon doctrine (he himself had some 27 wives and begat 56 children during his lifetime). From his spacious and rich "Lion House" mansion in Salt Lake City, Young, acting in what he was convinced were the best interests of his people, brooked no opposition from his followers, or from anyone else, and he was unscrupulous to that end. He condoned, if not actually ordered, many murders, and he warped justice in the courts. He was determined to resist the rule of the United States government. Young and his followers made emigrant travel to the Pacific Coast difficult and sometimes dangerous, since the Territory of Deseret lay right athwart the Overland Trail. Discipline in the church was maintained by a more or less secret body of men known as Danites (or "Destroying Angels"). Those disobeying church laws, especially "apostates," were sometimes murdered by these agents. Emigrants passing through Mormon country were frequently robbed and their livestock stolen. Young was suspected of involvement in the 1849 murder by Ute Indians (Mormon allies) of surveyor John Williams Gunnison, who had exposed the Mormon practices of polygamy and blood atonement.

The Boston-built clipper Northern Light sailed around Cape Horn from Boston to San Francisco in 76 days 6 hours, a record trip.

The annual take in gold production was $91 million ($2 billion in 2006 dollars). Many mining towns had been springing up: Hangtown (later Placerville), Angel's Camp, Grub Gulch, Poker Flat, Red Dog, Poverty Hill, You Bet, and Helltown. Population was growing almost unbelievably in San Francisco and Sacramento and many other towns that were becoming cities. The most reliable profits were made by those who mined the miners, particularly by charging outrageous prices for washing soiled laundry or performing other personal services. Many women were beneficiaries of the California excitement. The following is from a married woman writing from the California gold fields to her sister in New England:

I tell you the woman are [sic] in great demand in this country no matter whether they are married or not.… [You] need not think strange if you see me coming home with some good looking man some of these times with a pocket full of rocks.… It is all the go here for Ladys to leave there Husbands… two out of three do it.… there is a first rate Chance for a single woman… she can have her choice of thousands.… I wish mother was here she could marry a rich man and not have to lift her hand to do her work.…(10) Quoted in Bailey et al., op. cit., p. 403. (Close)

Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss, 23, hired all the tailors and seamstresses he could find at his 3-year-old San Francisco pants factory on California Street. He switched from canvas to denim as his basic material, and when he learned that light colors would not hold the same shade, he ordered a deep blue indigo dye as the standard color for his "blue jeans."

U.S. commodity prices were still soaring as a result of the California gold discoveries. Workers were striking for higher wages, but all the wage hikes could not keep up with the rising cost of living. The times were characterized by extravagance and wild speculation. Money by the millions of dollars that should have been used for legitimate investment was instead devoted to dubious schemes for sudden wealth. Much of the capital was put into new railroads into areas where there were as yet no settlers, so there was no revenue generated from freight. When dividends did not accrue, some railroad stocks would begin a decline--especially the stocks of some of the Western lines. At the same time, land speculation had been attracting funds far exceeding their value. New territories and parts of some of the Western states that were not yet populated were covered with "paper cities," and the credulous were invited to "invest" at fabulous prices.

The Governor of California had called for land grants to encourage the continued immigration of Chinese, "one of the most worthy of our newly adopted citizens." Some 50,000 Chinese had escaped China (where the penalty for attempted emigration was beheading), almost all from the Toishan district of southern China, to come to California's gold fields. The Chinese Six Companies, named for the six districts of China where most had come from, was formed as an immigration agency to advance money to newcomers so that they could buy picks, shovels, and other mining supplies. Most of the Chinese immigrants were men (the ratio was 19 males for each female).

The world's largest tree was discovered in California and was named the Wellingtonia gigantea.

Residents of the Oregon Territory south of the Columbia River consolidated the limits of the territory into its present-day shape, in preparation for an application to be admitted to the Union as a state.

Now the remainder of the territory (present-day Washington, Idaho, and a little bit of both Montana and Wyoming) needed a name distinct from "Oregon." Many of the inhabitants of this remainder, wanting their region to be organized as a territory in its own right, considered the name Columbia Territory, named for the great river there, to be appropriate (it was certainly preferable to naming the territory after the other great river, the Snake). The name would also be appropriate to differentiate it from "British Columbia" to the north. The name Columbia Territory was submitted to the 33rd Congress for approval. Kentucky Congressman Richard H. Stanton argued that people might confuse "Columbia Territory" with the District of Columbia and recommended substituting the name "Washington" for each instance of "Columbia" in the proposal. Congress approved the change, and the region became organized as Washington Territory, easily distinguishable from the nation's capital.

A 3-year-old lumber town on the shores of Puget Sound was named Seattle in honor of the friendly Chief Seathl of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. In organizing counties, the legislature of Washington Territory designated Seattle's county as King County in honor of Vice President William R. King. Since Tacoma was then the largest settlement in the territory, its county was designated Pierce County in honor of President Pierce.

Cayuse War

Hostilities continued between white settlers and the Cayuse tribe in eastern Washington Territory, ostensibly to avenge the 1847 massacre at the Whitman Waiilatpu mission in the Walla Walla Valley, even after the hanging 3 years earlier of the supposed perpetrators.

Science and technology in America: Specifics

The United States Review predicted that by the end of the Nineteenth Century
machinery will perform all work--automata will direct them. The only tasks of the human race will be to make love, study and be happy.(11)

Quoted in Trager, James, ed., The People's Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979, p. 478. (Close)

Texas experimenter Gail Borden, 52, using vacuum pans obtained from the Shakers in New Lebanon, NY, produced condensed milk without any burnt taste or discoloration and that would last for nearly 3 days without spoiling; Massachusetts naval officer Charles Davis published the American Nautical Almanac; Vermont inventor Elisha Otis, 42, improved his elevator with safety devices to prevent it from plunging if the cables broke; Massachusetts meteorologist James Coffin, 47, described three distinct wind zones in the Northern Hemisphere; and Canadian scientist Abraham Gesner, who had the previous year discovered a way to obtain kerosene from oil distilled from coal, introduced the product to the U.S. to burn in lamps.

Henry W. Ravenel began publishing the first American work on fungi.

Arts and culture in America: Specifics

Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, 49, published Tanglewood Tales for Boys and Girls; novelist Sara Willis (Grata Payson Sara Willis Eldredge Farrington "Fanny Fern" Parton), 42, published Fern Leaves from Fanny's Portfolio and Little Ferns for Fanny's Little Friends; and abolitionist and former slave William Wells Brown, 39, published Clotel, a novel about slave life (Brown was the nation's first published black novelist).

Popular periodicals included the Niles' Weekly Register, the American Journal of Science, American Farmer, Christian Watchman, Saturday Evening Post, National Preacher, Godey's Lady's Book, Ladies' Repository, Peterson's Ladies' National Magazine, Home Journal, Boys' and Girls' Magazine and Fireside Companion, Harper's Monthly Magazine, Yale Literary Magazine, Knickerbocker Magazine, Spirit of the Times, National Police Gazette, and Scientific American.

The song "Old Dog Tray" by Stephen Collins Foster, 26, was released and became popular. Other popular songs included "Old Folks at Home" (also by Foster), "Massa's in de Cold Cold Ground" (also by Foster), "My Old Kentucky Home" (also by Foster), "Camptown Races" (also by Foster), "Oh! Susanna" (also by Foster), "Jim Crack Corn" (also known as "Blue Tail Fly"), "Buffalo Gals," "Old Dan Tucker," "Old Rosin the Beau," "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton," "Home Sweet Home," "Turkey in the Straw," and "Amazing Grace."

The Christy Minstrels of showman Edwin Pearce Christy, 38, continued their long engagement at Mechanic's Hall on Broadway in New York City. Here is a description of a typical minstrel show by historian Samuel Eliot Morison(12):

From Morison, op. cit., pp. 495-96. (Close)
In the first act the performers, most of them white men in blackface, sat in a semicircle around the interlocutor, a dignified colored gentleman in dress suit who acted both as master of ceremonies and butt for the jokes of the end men--"Mistah Tambo" who banged a tambourine, and "Mistah Bones" who rattled castanets. Besides repartee and horseplay, the cast played banjo melodies and sang comic or sentimental songs. The second act, known as the olio, included a "hoe-down" dance, comic parodies of grand opera, and a "walk-around," in which the players one by one took the center of the stage for individual songs or dances while the rest clapped time to the music.

American pianist Louis Gottschalk, who had been performing in Europe for the previous 9 years, made his American debut in New York City.

The World at Large in 1853

[ Stephen Douglas ] The Young America movement--modeled on European youth movements, inspired by the "manifest destiny" notion, and founded 8 years earlier by Edwin de Leon and by 48-year-old newspaper editor and social reformer George Henry Evans (organizer of the National Reform Association to lobby Congress for free homesteads in the West, insisting with his "Vote yourself a farm" slogan that every man had the same natural right to a piece of land as to air and sunlight ["Equality, inalienability, indivisibility"])--advocated support for republican movements overseas (such as each of the uprisings in Europe 5 years earlier), free trade (reduction or elimination of tariffs), and American expansion into new territory. Young America adherents argued for the spreading of American "democracy" over, first, the North American continent and, ultimately, around the world, by all means necessary. The movement was already an important faction within the Democratic Party and was supported by such influential politicians as Illinois Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas, 40, pictured here, as a way to distract Americans from the explosive sectional issue of slavery.

At least partly inspired by the Young America movement, William Walker, 29, the "Gray-Eyed Man of Destiny," enlisted 45 adventurers and set out from San Francisco to conquer northern Mexico. He landed at La Paz on the tip of Baja California Sur but was unimpressed with the prospects there, so he sailed north to Ensenada. After a brief skirmish with a little Mexican force, he proclaimed the Republic of Lower California, friendly to slavery, with himself as President "until the country shall be firmly established." Unfortunately he ran out of food and several of his followers deserted. He marched the rest of them north to the mouth of the Colorado River but could get no help from the Sonorans. He retreated to California, where he was indicted but not convicted for violating the neutrality laws.

With the inauguration of U.S. expansionist President Franklin Pierce, acquiring Cuba, the "Pearl of the Antilles," became part of American government policy, dominated by adherents of the Young America movement (including War Secretary Jefferson Davis). But both President Pierce and his Secretary of State, William Learned Marcy, 67, realized there would be strong opposition from the North, realistically suspecting that acquiring Cuba was a way to extend slavery. In fact, many in the South did covet Cuba, with its large population of enslaved blacks, for precisely that reason: It could be carved into several states and thus restore the political balance in the Senate.

Inspired by promoter Ferdinand de Lesseps, 48, the piratical-minded, foghorn-voiced shipping magnate Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt (van Derbilt), 59, who had been operating an exclusive franchise for transporting California-bound Argonauts (Forty-Niners) across the Nicaragua isthmus--the Accessory Transit Corporation--determined to construct a canal there, opening Nicaragua up to world commerce with Vanderbilt on the ground floor. De Lesseps, authorized by Vanderbilt to draw upon Accessory Transit funds in San Francisco, set up the Interoceanic Canal Company with stocks on the San Francisco Exchange.

Then Vanderbilt decided to go on vacation; in his steam yacht North Star, he began a celebrated tour of Europe. He left Accessory Transit in the hands (and powers of attorney) of ship owner Charles Morgan and banker Cornelius K. Garrison. These two subordinates soon manipulated the stock and gained control of the company. When Vanderbilt realized the full extent of the conspiracy, he wrote the following to Morgan and Garrison:

Gentlemen: You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I'll ruin you. C. Vanderbilt
At that time Vanderbilt acknowledged that his net worth was $11 million ($249 million in 2006 dollars), bringing him an annual return of 25 percent.

Samuel Montagu, 21, along with his brother and brother-in-law, founded the London banking firm and foreign exchange that would make London the clearinghouse of the international money market.

[ Queen Victoria ] Queen Victoria, 34, pictured here, allowed chloroform to be administered to her when she delivered her seventh child, thereby ensuring its place as an anesthetic in Britain.

A cholera epidemic in London was traced by physician John Snow to a busy public pump in London, bringing to the surface water contaminated by a nearby cesspool of a tenement occupied by a cholera victim. The solution offered by Snow? "Remove the pump handle."

Smallpox vaccinations were made mandatory in England.

The British Parliament authorized construction of a 3.75-mile underground railway in London between Farrington Street and Bishop's Road, Paddington.

The British 4,690-ton 340-foot-long single-screw steamship S.S. Himalaya went into service.

Nearly 45 years after defining the problem of heavier-than-air flight in his paper On Aerial Navigation, Sir George Cayley, 80, designed a heavier-than-air man-carrying glider and prevailed upon his coachman to fly 500 yards across a Yorkshire valley.

Prince Consort Albert, 34, directed the beginning of the renovation of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and effort that would be completed in 2 years.

After being rejected in his bid to marry a Vasa or Hohenzollern princess, Emperor Napoleon III of France, 45, married the Spanish comtesse Eugènie de Montijo, 26, at the Tuileries Palace.

The First International Statistical Congress convened in Brussels.

Brunswick, Hannover, and Oldenurg joined the German Zollverein ("customs union"), bringing all the non-Austrian lands into the union.

The German family magazine Die Gartenlaube began publication in Leipzig.

Queen Maria II (Maria da Gloria) of Portugal died at the age of 34 and was succeeded by her son, Pedro de Alcantara (Pedro V), 16, with her husband serving as regent.

A railroad was completed connecting Trieste in Italy, crossing over the Alps, to Vienna.

Russia-Ottoman war

Russia insisted on protecting Orthodox Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, but the Ottoman Sultan rejected the demand. Russian Tsar Nicholas I, 56, then ordered his forces to occupy the Ottoman states of Moldavia and Wallachia (the Danubian Principalities), and--in spite of Austrian efforts to resolve the conflict--the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia. The Russian fleet destroyed an Ottoman squadron and transports off Sinope.

Meanwhile, Russia and France were arguing over the privileges of Orthodox and Roman Catholic monks in the Christian holy places in Ottoman-controlled Palestine, setting the stage for France to intervene in the war on the side of the Ottomans.

Russian expansion into central Asia

Russian forces continued their efforts, now 3 years old, to conquer the Syr Darya Valley (the ancient Jaxartes, in present-day southern Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, draining into the Aral Sea).

British expansion into India

The United Kingdom annexed the Mahratta state of Nagpur in central India.

English engineer James John Berkley, 43, completed a railway between Bombay and Thana, 20 miles away.

A telegraph system was installed in India.

Anglo-Burmese war

In the concluding peace treaty, the United Kingdom was confirmed in its annexation of the province of Pegu in southern Burma. Mindon Min became King of Burma.

Great Kaffir War

British forces defeated the Kaffirs and annexed more territory in South Africa.

T'ai P'ing Rebellion

Kwangsi Province mystic Hung Hsiu-ch'uan, 41, proclaiming himself the younger brother of Jesus Christ as well as the T'in-wang ("Heavenly Prince," effectively the Emperor of China) of the so-called T'ai P'ing ("Great Peace") dynasty, continued his rebellion, 3 years old so far, against the government of China's Manchu dynasty. The rebel forces captured Shanghai. As imperial troops withdrew from Anhuei, North Kiangsu, and Shantung provinces in order to cope with the T'ai P'ing rebels, bandits there organized under the name Nien Fei and began a campaign of plunder.

Here's another example of the fallout from the expansionist Young America movement: The ostentatious U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, 59, arrived in the harbor of Edo (Tokyo), Japan, with his armed squadron, including the steam frigates Mississippi and Susquehanna. (His orders forbade him to use force, except as a last resort, but he made such a strong and forceful first impression that physical force was unnecessary.) Perry demanded that the hermit nation Japan, isolated from the rest of the world for more than two centuries, open relations with the U.S. He asked for protection for shipwrecked U.S. seamen (Japan had protected their insularity by prohibiting shipwrecked foreign sailors from leaving and refusing to readmit Japanese sailors who had washed up on foreign shores). Perry also demanded an opening of Japanese ports to American commerce. He carried a letter from President Fillmore (who had still been President when Perry had embarked), demanding a treaty "as a right, and not… as a favor" and a clear warning that he would return the following spring expecting a favorable reply. After boarding the ship and examining the big naval guns, Japanese officials agreed to these terms; the Tokugawa Shogun Ieoshi agreed to transmit Perry's letter to the Emperor in Kyoto. (The Japanese decision to end their reclusivity was partially motivated by fear of Russian designs.)

Soon thereafter Shogun Ieoshi died at the age of 61 after ruling for 16 years; he was succeeded by his brother Iesada, 29, who decided to open two Japanese ports to trade with the gaikokujin ("foreigners").

The University of Melbourne was founded in Australia.

After a half-century of "transporting" some 67,000 convicts to Van Diemen's Land, the United Kingdom stopped the practice, and acknowledged the name Tasmania for the island.

World science and technology

Scots physician Alexander Wood, 36, was the first to use a hypodermic syringe for subcutaneous injections; and Alsatian chemist Charles Frederic Gerhardt, 37, synthesized acetyl salicylic acid (the principal component of aspirin), but the derivative was not pure enough to be used therapeutically.

World philosophy and religion

German theologian Johann Jakob Herzog, 48, began publishing Encyclopedia of Protestant Theology, which would take him another 15 years to complete.

Arts and culture in the British Isles

English clergyman-novelist Charles Kingsley, 34, the rector of Eversley in Hampshire, published Hypatia; novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge, 30, published The Heir of Redclyffe; novelist Charlotte Brontë, 37, published Villette; dramatist-novelist Charles Reade, 39, published the novel Peg Woffington and produced the play Gold at Drury Lane Theatre in London; art and social critic John Ruskin, 34, published his 3-volume The Stones of Venice, praising the moral virtue of medieval Gothic architecture and attacking "the pestilent art of the Renaissance"; poet-critic Matthew Arnold, 31, published Poems; novelist Mrs. Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, 43, published Cranford and Ruth; and novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, 42, published The Newcomes.

World arts and culture

French composer Charles Camille Saint-Saëns, 17, produced Symphony No. 1 in E flat major in Paris; and Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, 40, produced Il Trovatore ("The Troubadour") at the Teatro Apollo in Rome and La Traviata at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice. Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, 42, produced over the next year 15 Hungarian Rhapsodies at the Hungarian National Theater in Pest, with Hans von Bülow as soloist. German Romantic composer Richard Wagner, 40, completed the text of his tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, the music for which had been completed 6 years earlier.

French painter Théodore Chassériau unveiled Le Tepidarium; and French urban planner Georges Eugène Haussmann began reconstructing Paris's grands boulevards.

German historian Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen, 36, began publishing his History of Rome, which would take him another 3 years to complete. German poet Ludwig Tieck died at the age of 70.


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