Source: WV History Film Project
WEST VIRGINIA ROLL 31, JUNE 4, 1992,
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE ONE, CAMERA ROLL 149, SOUND ROLL 31
Q: Ray, tell me about the earliest white people
that came to this area, the High Valley area, who
settled here, what kind of people were they?
RS: They came chiefly across Pennsylvania and settled in the Pittsburgh area because the forks of the Ohio, the headwaters of the Ohio, were recognized very early by the French and English as being of extremely strategic importance. So the Pittsburgh area was settled, and then they drifted down the Ohio Valley. The squatters seemed to stay ahead of the legitimate settlers. When Washington went down the river in October of 1770, he said that squatters had taken over all the good bottom lands on both sides of the Ohio as far south as what today is Point Pleasant, the mouth of the Kanawha river.
And this became such a problem that the federal government in the 1780's, actually before the federal government was established in 1789 under George Washington, but the national government under the Articles of Confederation, recognized that they were going to have a full-fledged Indian war on their hands if they didn't do something about the squatters taking over Indians' land. So they sent General Richard Butler down the Ohio in 1785 to warn off the squatters and drive them off their lands and burn their houses and their crops. Then Fort Harmer was established at the mouth of the Musquine river to serve as a base for the soldiers who were engaged in this kind of work. I have read, I don't know if it is true, but I have read that Fort Harmer was the only United States military fort established to protect Indians from white men.
So from the upper Ohio you had the force of settlement coming from Pittsburgh area and then going down and then in the 1770's Daniel Boone and others led the advance from across the mountains into Kentucky. So it was sort of a two-pronged affair. But, you know the Ohio river was known to the French in the 17th century. There were French settlements in what's now southern Illinois and French traders and Dutch traders and English traders went down the river as a matter of common occurrence. So it wasn't to some people at least a dark and secret land. It was something with which they were very familiar.
Q: ? ? What interaction did they have with the
RS: The Native Americans welcomed the traders initially because they provided things they couldn't get otherwise, the brass buckets, the guns, gun powder, the alcohol. They became dependent on these items. But then when the settlers started to come in it was a different story altogether. The Indians very quickly realized that this encroachment was their doom; and there was nothing they do about the conflict that eventually broke out in the mid 18th century was inevitable. It cumulated with the Treaty of Greenville in 1794 in which most of what's now the state of Ohio was taken from the Indians and they were shoved up into the northwestern part of what is now Ohio and the whites ruled and ownership of the land -- ...
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE 2, CAMERA ROLL 149, SOUND 31
Q: ... who are they... give a brief background of
RS: Harman Blennerhassett came to America with his wife, Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett in 1796 from England, although they'd started out from their home in Ireland which was a 7,000 acre estate in County Kerry named Castle Conway. The Blennerhassett home which was a three story stone manor house and the estate itself both had the same name, Castle Conway and had been in the family since about 1600. Blennerhassett had fallen heir to the Blennerhassett at the death of his father in 1792. His father was Conway Blennerhassett.
Harmon had had two older brothers who died without male heirs, so according to the law of primogeniture, the estate to keep it intact, fell to the next male heir, which was the third brother Harman. He married sometime in 1794. We don't know when. He and Margaret, his wife, spent the rest of their lives trying to conceal their early years, especially all the facts concerning their marriage. This was because of their close relationship -- they were uncle and niece. Of course in the late 20th century this probably horrifies all of us Americans, but in the 18th century scene especially on the continent of Europe, uncle-niece marriages were not uncommon. ... Uncle-niece marriages were not uncommon in Europe in the 18th century. But the Blennerhassetts were anxious that any future children they might have not learn of their relationship, and because of that and because of the political difficulties in which Ireland, Blennerhassett had gotten himself entangled in Ireland, they decided to emigrate to America.
They arrived in New York in 1796 and they went down to Philadelphia, which was the national capital at that time, and they seemed to have planned from the very beginning, even before they left Europe, to settle in the American west. They had ingested a great deal of writings stemming from the last half of the 18th century, mainly by French writers, writings which extolled the American west which was then the Ohio Valley, the edge of American civilization, as a kind of new Garden of Eden. The picture of it projected in these pages was the image which we sort of have of the south sea islands today. Life here was effortless. The grounds, the lands were so fertile, the vegetation was so lush that you just reached up and plucked fruits off of trees to live. The Indian was the noble savage of nature. He was the innocent child of nature, the noble savage.
The Blennerhassetts swallowed all this baloney; and they came here believing life would be like that. Actually life on the frontier was very harsh and they found that out to their dismay. They never became accustomed to certain American social values -- for example, in America you could have a great family name but each generation of that family, that great family, has to prove itself anew. In Europe if you had a noble name or an ancient name, you could rest on your family's laurels. And they never really understood that. Their old European values, their old world values clashed with the realities of the American frontier.
Q: What were those realities?
RS: The harsh realities of the frontier which the Blennerhassetts had to become accustomed to and accept eventually ...
SOUND ROLL 32, JUNE 4, 1992
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE 3
RS: There's some descendants here and they're still sensitive about that. Can you believe that after 200 years?
Q: Yes, I can believe it. Let's get back to the
harsh realities of life in the Ohio river valley.
RS: Someone asked a famous historian, writer once and I don't know if were Corva? Doll? or one of the English historians. They asked him. It was Trevor Roper. Someone asked Trevor Roper the famous historian once what century you would like to live in if you had a choice. He said, he replied, "Any century as long as I had money." Because without money even in the 18th century when certain aspects of western civilization were obtaining their peak of conversation and cooking and manners, etc., some of the social aspects, without money you were lost. The Blennerhassetts were wealthy by frontier standards, and yet that wealth was not a sufficient buffer from the realities of disease. There were epidemics that swept through the Ohio Valley that devastated whole families.
One of the Blennerhassetts chiefest friends, their dearest friends in this area were Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Waldo Putnam, he was the grandson of General Israel Putnam of Revolutionary War fame. She was a very charming woman. Mrs. Blennerhassett, according to the historian, Dr. Samuel B. Heldreth, loved Mrs. Putnam with the fervor of a sister. They died within a day of each other in a terrible epidemic that swept through the valley in 1823. Earlier in the 1790's the early 1790's before the Blennerhassetts came here to the Ohio Valley there were families wiped out by disease. Some of them lost their entire children. This went on, up until the 19th century until after the Civil War.
The weather was very harsh; there were times when the Ohio river froze over and the streams froze and the grist mills would not turn for lack of water. People froze to death and they starved to death. They couldn't get around by horseback because the ice in the creeks and rivers hoved up into big blocks and they were just like walls.
Q: Tell me about the isolation. ? ?
RS: There were no roads through the frontier Ohio valley in the 1790's as we know roads now.
For people to get around in any speed, comfort or safety had to go by the larger rivers. The greatest of these 'liquid' highways was the Ohio river. It's why Pittsburgh was called the gateway to the American west because this is generally how you entered the upper regions of the Ohio river. The Blennerhassetts living here on this island were situated as though you and I lived between two California freeways today because there were hundreds of boats going up and down the Ohio every year and sometimes thousands. Blennerhassett operated a store here on the island for this river trade. This was their only contact with the outside world and even with this constant stream of outsiders going up and down, they were isolated and it took months for news, national news, to reach the area.
Q: There was a stark contrast between the
Blennerhassetts and the people that lived in Wood
County and the Ohio Valley? How did they get along
with the natives around here?
RS: There were natives, and then there were natives. The Blennerhassetts lived on an island, and they lived between two worlds. Northwest of the Ohio in this area of the island it was the world of the Yankee, the New England settlement, the New Englanders from chiefly Connecticut, Massachusetts, some from Rhode Island, who had come here in 1788 and settled Marietta and then Belpre, Ohio, the following year. They brought their old ordered Yankee or New England way of life with them. They brought their churches and their schools. On the south side, or east side of the river, you had the domain of Virginia, where settlers drifted in.
You had a mixture of socio-economic patterns. You had the backwoodsman, who lived in a log cabin or lean to, who was a squatter, who had a few acres of corn and survived by his rifle, by what game he could kill, and you had the old planters who moved over here with their slaves and their sideboards and their silver from the Tidewater and lived here in Wood Country on plantations which has particular names just like east of the mountains. They were called 'Tuckahoes' or Virginians. Just like the New Englanders had the nickname Yankees. So Blennerhassett were caught between these two worlds, and he leaned toward the New England settlements because there was a degree of education and culture, a high caliber of culture which was unusual on the frontier at that time.
That was undoubtedly a deciding factor why he decided to live here in the Ohio valley. You had very cultured people, Virginians, on this side of the river with whom he associated. And you had the other type, the lower type, who hated him and who looted his mansion when the Blennerhassetts were forced to flee down river.
Q: Let me ask you about that. I don't want to
jump ahead too much, but they did, they come in and
destroyed the mansion. Why did they do it? Who led
that? What do you think really started it?
RS: Blennerhassett Island was invaded by a group of soldiers in December 1806. They had been called the Wood County militia, and yet they had no official authorization to do what they did, so they were actually a vigilante group. They were frightened that treason was being committed on this island, on Blennerhassett Island. What set them off was a proclamation issued in November, 1806 by Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States, calling for the arrest of Burr and Blennerhassett on the charge of treason. Jefferson was convinced that the military force which Burr had come west in 1805 and organized in that year and the following year in 1806, was to be led against the United States to separate the American west politically from the rest of the country. Most historians no longer believe that charge of treason by Jefferson. They think that Burr was forming a filibuster against the Spanish-held Texas, which was then in northern Mexico and was not American Territory. But in any case, the people, the public, believed Thomas Jefferson and not what Aaron Burr was saying.
So the patriotic citizens of Wood County decided to invade the island. When they did they discovered Blennerhassett and Burr's men had fled downriver under the cover of darkness at midnight on December 11, 1806, and they got away. The captured Mrs. Blennerhassett and her two small children and her servants and held them all prisoners here in the mansion. They very quickly broke into Blennerhassett's wine cellar and got drunk and this was a very dangerous situation because of the combination of booze and guns was as lethal in 1806 as it is in 1992. Plus, you add the factor that the commander of the soldiers who was a very upright person, Colonel Phelps, had left them almost immediately with part of his men to gallop overland to try to capture, intercept Blennerhassett and Burr's fleeing soldiers, who were going by boat down the Ohio.
So, the soldiers here who remained on the island were effectively without leadership. They got drunk and one of them shot his rifle through the hall ceiling here in the mansion and nearly struck Mrs. Blennerhassett, who was seated upstairs in her bedroom with her two small sons. It must have seemed like a scene from the French Revolution unfolding before her eyes, with her as the principal victim.
Q: Why do you think Burr was attracted to the
RS: Burr was attracted to the island because he came west in the spring of 1805 needing two things very badly to make his enterprise, his military expedition into the southwest a success: (1) Burr needed a base of operations and (2) he needed a wealthy financial backer. And he found both of them here on this island.
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE FOUR, CAMERA ROLL 157, SOUND 32
Q: ?? Burr
RS: Burr came to Blennerhassett Island for two reasons: number one when he entered the west in the spring of 1805 he needed two things to make his military operation, his planned expedition into the southwest a success: number one, Burr needed a base of operations and number two, he needed a financial backer and he found both of them on this island. Blennerhassetts were discontented with their life here by late 1805 because Blennerhassett had made the horrifying discovery that he had spent too much of his capital in setting up the estate here, not leaving enough to live off of. He did have business investments which brought in a profit, but not sufficient profits to support their extravagant lifestyle, which they enjoyed. So, they decided reluctantly to sell the Island and move south and become planters in the south, where there were men making fortunes practically overnight growing principally cotton.
Q: ? ?
RS: No, the Blennerhassett mansion has generally been regarded as being the largest private residence and the most beautiful private residence at that time. By that time, I mean from the period from 1790 to 1810 in the Ohio valley. There was only one possible rival to the house, and that was a home in Steubenville which was built by Besalle? Wells, the founder of Steubenville and home estate was called 'The Grove'. ...
WEST VIRGINIA ROLL 33, JUNE 4,
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE 5,
RS: Local people had never seen anything like the Blennerhassett mansion after it was completed and the Blennerhassetts moved into it in September, 1800. Travelers going down the river by boat could hardly believe their eyes because here in the middle of this raw wilderness where log cabins dominate, with dirt floors and scraped animal skins and little window glass, was an European estate. The Blennerhassetts brought furniture from England; they went on a shopping spree in London before they set sail for America. They brought additional furniture in Baltimore and Philadelphia and had it shipped across the mountains. Floors were covered by oriental rugs. The rooms were lighted by alabaster lamps, which were suspended from the ceilings by silver chains. The fireplaces made out of dark, polished marble. On the mantel pieces were clocks chiming that were made out of gold and marble and the walls were covered by oil paintings, so it was a little oasis of luxury and culture here at the edge of American civilization.
Q: How would you describe Harman
Blennerhassett? What kind of guy was he?
RS: Harman Blennerhassett was the product of a very ancient family. The novelist Raymond Chandler who had connections, family connections in County Kerry, wrote that the Blennerhassetts were of such ancient and distinguished lineage that they made earls and marquises look parvo and that's how he saw himself, as a member of a great family. He was very aristocratic. He had practiced briefly as a lawyer after his father died before he came to America, but then abandoned that when he came here to the island and lived as a gentleman. Off of his independent income, he pursued his hobbies of science and chemistry, medicine and music.
Q: Was he intelligent?
RS: He was very intelligent. He was very handicapped in the eyes of his neighbors because even though he was tall for the time, he was six feet tall in an age in the 18th century when the average American male stood five feet, five inches, he was tall but he would probably be legally blind by standards in the late 20th century. When he read a book his nose had to rub the page. When he went out hunting, his wife or servant went with him, pointed the gun and told him when to fire and the gun would go off and frequently the game too, as one early writer said. He was a fish out of water here because by frontier standards he didn't adapt very well. Some of his neighbors were offended by his aristocratic airs and jealous of his wealth.
Q: What about Margaret ? ?
RS: Margaret was a different case altogether. Margaret had all the impact when she settled here on this island. When local society would say -- Mrs. Asterwood -- she had settled here in the 1880's or if Madonna would come here to live in 1992 -- and I threw in Madonna because when she, Margaret, was on horseback and her scarlet riding habit with its gold buttons and her long, white gloves, and her hat with ostrich plumes it, she was a figure of such romance and elegance and so exotic, that the men in the area just simply lost their heads. She introduced some little customs, European customs, which back in England and Ireland in upper class circles were considered very refined and very cultivated, but which were misunderstood here on the frontier.
For example, when she was growing up in England in the 1770's and the 1780's, young ladies of her status and station in society were taught to fake a lisp, to talk baby talk to initially their father's friends and their brothers' friends and later on their husband's men friends. This was considered refined. She, Margaret, introduced this habit here, so you can imagine how it stirred up the local housewives. When they would come over here to a party and hear Margaret lisping to their husbands, how -- things like that.
Q: On that note, what's the ? ? a lot of people
just think it's an aberration? and doesn't fit in, why is
it significant to West Virginia's history?
RS: Blennerhassett was typical of a number of settlers who came west, to settle in western Virginia to go across the mountains. The early settlers are often seen by writers as a stereotype, wearing coonskin caps like Daniel Boone. He never wore a coonskin cap; he were a dark felt cap or hat. Blennerhassett was just the pinnacle of this type of settler. There were educated men, cultivated men who came to western Virginia to live, men of wealth, men of refinement.
Blennerhassett is seen as a figure of romance, chiefly through the eyes of Victorian historians. There has been -- how do I say this without sounding conceited -- little research done on Blennerhassett from the time of his first two historians, Dr. Heldreth of Marietta and William H. Safford of Parkersburg and later of Chillicothe, Ohio. After that nothing was done on him, and they were both Victorians. They had the flaws of Victorian historians. He was very important, not because of his flashy and glittery role with Aaron Burr in the so-called conspiracy, the Burr Conspiracy, and not because of the glamorous home that he built here through its sheer glamour, but because he really set this section of the Ohio valley on its feet economically and this extended into the counties here in western Virginia.
He brought his fortune from Europe; he invested in the fur trade; he invested in the cattle industry; he had the first recorded cattle drive from this section of the Ohio valley, from the Ohio valley period across the mountains to the east coast. He invested in the shipbuilding industry in Marietta, which took in the western fringe of Virginia here. He had a chain of general stores, several of which were located here in Wood county that stretched through a large section of the Ohio Valley. So he was a very important entrepreneur and businessman, and this aspect of his life, which is really the most important, had hardly ever been explored. The building of the Blennerhassett mansion had the same effect on the local economy as the establishment of an industrial plant would here today. It gave so many people jobs, it loosened so much money, cash, into the local economy.
Q: So then that helped stir up things and then
after that, industry started to take place in
Parkersburg. Wasn't that the ?? of trade and
RS: Yes, that's true. He started the interest in this; he started it here in Wood County; he started it here in Parkersburg; he started down at Belleview where there was a mini-ship industry building going on.
Q: Let's talk about Alexander Wilson and ? ?
Tell me about what he saw and what he said?
RS: Alexander Wilson was a Scottish ornithologist who came down the river in 1810 and left a very interesting travel journal behind him. He was astounded by the great Creek Mound, which is one of the largest conical pre-historical Indian burial mounds in the United States. He tried to interest the owner, Mr. Joseph Tomlinson, or Tumblestone, as Wilson gave an alternative spelling for the name, in excavating the mound, an Mr. Tomlinson was not all impressed by Wilson's arguments. Wilson said that he would not [he, Mr. Tomlinson] was so a thrifty a farmer that he would not expend three cents to see the whole of the mound sifted before his face. I think that's a pretty classic line.
Q: Tell me ? ? we'll gonna get into ? ?
RS: You want me to tell you about ??
SWICK, TAKE 6
RS: In frontier times, river life and the people who lived on the river, for example here in Wood County and across the river in Ohio, had a different kind of existence than the people who lived in the remote mountain areas. There was more contact with outside life. There was this constant commerce, travel going by. Many of the local farmers had sons, who had part of their growing process when they were in their teens, would take a flat boatload of produce down to New Orleans, and it was their first peak at the outside world. People lived in the mountains got more and more isolated, thus did the dialect that's spoken in the Appalachia now is almost pure Elizabethan because it was never corrupted by outside influences. During Civil War some of the Union soldiers got into areas of West Virginia where they wrote that the local people had never seen an American flag before. They were that isolated.
WEST VIRGINIA, JUNE 4, 1992
SWICK INTERVIEW, SOUND ROLL 34, TAKE 7, CAMERA ROLL 159
Q: How did Jackson connect and get established
between Clarksburg and Parkersburg?
RS: John George Jackson was a congressman and probably the most important political figure nationally speaking in western Virginia in the first two decades of the 19th century. He was also very prominent and very important in the Clarksburg area in business and industrial development. He courted around the year 1799 a young lady who lived in Clarksburg. The young lady's name was Frances Amelia Triplett. She belonged to a very prominent Virginia family; her brother was the first county surveyor of Wood County; the Tripletts more or less made the surveyorship of Wood County a dynasty, and there was nothing but Tripletts in the office until the 1940's, when the last one didn't have a son so there weren't any more Triplett surveyors. In any case, she lived with another brother, Frances Amelia lived with another brother in Clarksburg named Hedgeman Triplett.
She met the congressmen and evidently she started courting her after a fashion because she got in the family way and then refused to marry her because he had a chance to marry Dolly Madison's sister, Mary Payne. John George Jackson was a friend of James Madison; he admired him tremendously. He admired Dolly Madison, whom he nicknamed Dora; they were close friends. I think he genuinely loved her sister, Mary Payne. So he threw over Frances Amelia Triplett. She was a Triplett; she didn't take such actions lightly so she sued him for breach of promise, and she won. She had her child who was a boy, and then she departed for Kentucky. She was the owner of thousands of acres in Kentucky as an heiress of her father, Colonel Francis Triplett who patented thousands and thousands and thousands of acres in western Virginia and Kentucky before his death in the early 1790's.
Evidently she left her child back here in Virginia. I don't know who raised him; I don't think anyone knows who raised him. John George Jackson went ahead and married Mary Payne. As far as we know, they were very happy. They had a number of children, all of whom except for one daughter, died of childhood illnesses of the time. Then Mary Payne Jackson took ill and died of consumption, which was the old name for tuberculosis, and she is buried in Clarksburg. John George Jackson married a second time; his second wife was equally socially prominent as his first. His second wife was Mary Maggs, whose father, Jonathan Maggs, was one of the most prominent men in Ohio politics and political life.
Return Jonathan Maggs who was a member of the Ohio Supreme Court; he was governor of Ohio, and then became Postmaster General of the United States and served longer in that office than any other man until Mr. Farley, who was Postmaster General under F.D.R. Mary Maggs Jackson heard of her husband's early liaison with Frances Amelia Triplett, and she made him go get the boy, give him his name, and educate him. He was eventually sent to West Point; he not only had his father's brilliance, but he had the brilliance of the Tripletts. Clarksburg historian, Dorothy Davis, told me that it was this infusion of the Triplett blood that led the success and the outstanding prominence of the Jacksons in Parkersburg in the 19th century because they were the family of Parkersburg, the outstanding family. They became federal judges. One of them became governor of West Virginia, Jacob Beeson Jackson, in the 1880's.
Q: Were the Jacksons union sympathizers in
RS: Jacksons were very much union sympathizers in Parkersburg.
Q: Didn't they go to Wheeling to the
RS: They went to Wheeling and one of the Jacksons was in Richmond at the time when the war broke out. I believe it was John Jay Jackson and had a little difficulty getting back home. But they were very prominent in keeping this section of Virginia in the union cause.
Q: Do you think this section of Virginia,
Parkersburg, was very much union because of the
commerce and the investorism that was starting to get
going here -- such as Wheeling?
RS: That is a very difficult question to ask or to answer -- why was this section of western Virginia pro unionist? I think the geography had as much as do with it as anything. I think the fact that this section of Ohio -- I'm sorry, Virginia ... I think that this section of western Virginia, being so close to Ohio, and being so close to the Yankee settlements across the river where there were so many abolitionists eager to help the slaves escape, was responsible for the low slave population, especially as we got closer and closer to the Civil War.
You can look at the census records of Wood County and you have a considerable slave population, in the hundreds, here starting in 1800, around 1810. Then with every succeeding census, the number of blacks gets fewer and fewer until you have very few by the time the Civil War broke out because the planters here in Wood County just couldn't hold them. Freedom was across the river, and there were abolitionists with a New England background who would help them and did help them escape.
Q: How did that contribute to the beginning of
the Sumner School?
RS: Sumner school is an outgrowth of the establishment by Robert Simmons, who was a mulatto, who settled in Parkersburg and became a barber, of his efforts. The black population of Parkersburg and Wood County was always special. ...
WEST VIRGINIA, ROLL 35, JUNE 4,
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE 8, ROLL 160, SOUND 35
RS: The white settlers who came to the frontier in
this section of the Ohio valley in 1780's and 90's and
early 19th century had an unusually high caliber of
culture and education. This is both sides of the river,
not only the Yankee settlers north of the river but here
the Virginia territory had planters from the tidewater
who were equally culture. I think, I don't know, I
think this rubbed off on this side of the river in
Virginia on the slaves, because the back black
population had a degree of education and culture and
interest in these matters that was certainly unusual in
the south. It's reflected in the fact that the first free
grammar school for blacks in the south, south of the
Mason Dixon Line, was started here in Parkersburg in
1862. This was followed by the first Sabbath school
in the south for blacks being established here in
Parkersburg a year later.
This continued on in the 19th century. The blacks here, if you look in the old newspaper accounts, had coming out parties for their young ladies; they had literary societies, and as I said a degree of culture and educational sophistication that was unusual in Virginia and most parts of the south.
Q: ? ? civil war ? were largely domestics and
service jobs, right.
RS: Yes, the culture that the blacks had was not paralleled by any economic advance. They still had their traditional jobs of blacks. They were barbers, they were domestics, they were laborers, but the school that was established here during the Civil War thrived and became Sumner school and was an outstanding school of its type for blacks in West Virginia and in the south.
Q: ??? Robert Simmons and how he was very
RS: Robert Simmons was really the leader of the black community in Wood County, and he was very important politically. He was offered the position of Consul to Tahiti by President Grant, and he turned it down. So he wouldn't have had such a offer if he couldn't swing the votes for the Republican party. He was a barber, and his obituary was published when he died in the 1890's so all of Parkersburg mourned him.
So he was a remarkable man for his values at the time. He came from Virginia, and one of his descendants told me that it was rumored that he was a son of the master. In other words, the white plantation owner was his father. This is family tradition among his descendants, and has a chance of being true.
SWICK INTERVIEW, TAKE 9.
RS: Margaret Blennerhassett certainly was not
typical of the frontier woman's status in life in the first
decades of the 19th century here in this section of the
Ohio valley in western Virginia. Margaret
Blennerhassett has come down as a very romantic,
perhaps over-romanticized, glamorous figure, more
typical of her sisters -- and I say sisters meaning her
gender -- of the time their existence was Mrs. Peter
Nicewonger? Her husband was a backwoodsman.
They were both Virginians. He was of German
descent. When the Irish traveler, Forthascoot?
Cumming? was going down the Ohio in 1807, he
stopped at the Nicewonger home for the night, and it
was about 40 miles below Blennerhassett Island and
was grudgingly allowed to spend the night. They had
supper. During supper Mrs. Nicewonger stood
behind her husband's chair and served him and Mr.
Many women had very degraded lives; they were the work horses; they were the glue, though, that kept society together, even though this period of their history in the Ohio valley and western Virginia and West Virginia there's little known, very little research. They are, as the former librarian of congress, Daniel Borstein? has said, "Women are the forgotten men of history."
ROOM TUNE FOR DR. SWICK'S