Monday, August 18, 2014

The Fours

Corp of Discovery route

4:00 p.m., May 14 1804.  The most momentous undertaking in American exploration began at that very moment in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Corps of Discovery departed westward along the Missouri River, bound for the Pacific Ocean, charged by President Jefferson to explore and map the formerly French territory, engage in botany, zoology, geography, and establish trade with the current inhabitants.

The beginning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is only one notable event that has occurred during a year ending in the number 4.

Two hundred years ago this month, America's first Executive Mansion in Washington D.C. was burned by the British on August 23 1814.  On the night of September 7 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that set to song, has become our distinguished, stirring National Anthem.  I have been twice to Fort McHenry where the Star Spangled Banner flew during the battle for Baltimore, and now comprehend the pivotal victory that occurred there against all odds.

Fort McHenry, 1814

1824--I could not think of anything significant about 1824 but when I googled it, what came up was the establishment of Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River by the Hudsons Bay Company.  The lovely, Lincoln-Loggy, spiky-timbered fort has been reconstructed as a National Historic Site.  I've spent numerous happy hours here where Indians and trappers once gathered to barter for food, blankets, furs, tools and the skills of the blacksmith.

Fort Vancouver, Washington

1834--same problem as the above.  On August 1, 1834 slavery was forever abolished in the British Empire.  Should have remembered that one; my senior thesis at BYU was about the demise of black slavery.

June 27 1844, a day of historic shame for the US of A.  Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was murdered by a mob in Carthage Illnois.  Yes, that happened in a land whose Bill of Rights guarantees free exercise of religion, yet the government permitted persecution of this particular religion.  And when the Mormons fled the US to live without oppression, the government pursued them and imposed restrictions on them.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territory of those future states, opened the land to settlement, and authorized the settlers to determine: slavery or no slavery.  What a rat's nest of savagery that opened up--you've heard of "Bleeding Kansas"--the territory was flooded with single-minded devotees of one side or the other, and all hell broke loose.  7 years later America was wound tight as a spring over the slavery issue and the Civil War erupted.

The American Civil War was in its 4th year in 1864.  Grant was appointed commander of the Union Army and lots of well-known battles occurred.  Also significant, Arlington National Cemetery was established.   It occupies the grounds of Robert E. Lee's estate--well, it actually belonged to his wife, a descendant of Martha Washington.  If R.E. Lee was going to continue killing Union soldiers, then by golly, those dead were going to be buried in his own front yard.

Arlington National Cemetery

Levi Strauss got rich by selling his sturdy denim pants to California gold miners.  In 1874 his pants with copper rivets were patented.

1884--Not a banner year for major milestones.  Oh, except that Grover Cleveland was elected, a first-term president.  He's the only one who has served non-consecutive presidential terms.

The Dreyfus affair broke in 1894.  It was also the year of one of those horrendous forest fires that occurred periodically in the northern US, this one in Minnesota.  I recall that even those who jumped into ponds and creeks were consumed by the firestorm.

Something major occurred in 1894, 120 years ago, that has led to a momentous legacy in our day.   The Genealogical Society of Utah was founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For over a century it directed the gathering of records created by people around the world, microfilmed them, protected them in a granite vault hewn out of a mountain, and then transferred them to digital format so that anyone, anywhere, anytime could peruse billions of records in their own home.  See FamilySearch.

T.R. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in his own right in 1904.  He had become president after the assassination of McKinley in 1901.  And an event of huge consequence: the opening of the first underground portion of the NYC subway.  I recently rode the subway and love love love how one can get from one end of NY to the other in a fraction of the time it would take to drive the same route.

The War to End All Wars began on July 28 1914, and became the most ghastly war of the 20th century.  Most of a generation of young men (of various nationalities) was wiped out.

Marching to Their Deaths

On Christmas Eve 1924 my Uncle Jim came into the world.  More well-known is the adventure of George Mallory.  I recently read a book about George, whose ice-bound body was finally located on Mt. Everest in 1999.  He had never returned from his 1924 attempt at the summit.   In 1924 Joseph Stalin forged dictatorship of the Soviet Union.  Stalin's rise gives thought to one of those historic "what ifs?"   How would the world have been different if he had died in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic, or been killed in the Russian Revolution?

In November 1934 my Mom's youngest brother, adorable little Bobby, died of appendicitis at age 6.  The shockwave and accompanying devastation from that event permeated the family until the death of the last person who had known Bobby.  And in 1934 Germany forged ahead on its march toward attempted world domination.

As battles raged around the planet in the 5th year of the World War and German death camps ramped up their activities, the Allies invaded Normandy on June 6 1944.  My Dad was transferred from office duty in New York's Navy Office at 90 Church St., to the spankin' new USS Missouri.  Bound for action against Japan, the ship shoehorned through the Panama Canal and arrived at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve on the way to join the Pacific fleet.  Dad dined on a hot dog for his Christmas dinner at Pearl.

USS Missouri

1954--Brown vs. Board of Education, and Rock Around the Clock, it is my birth year!

1964 is the year of American Civil Rights, with the passage of the act and MLK being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  The debut of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show was 50 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  Our whole family watched on our black and white TV.  My parents couldn't get into their music but my Grandma Ashe humored me by paying attention to the antics of the group.

The Fab Four

December 19 1974.  Provo Utah.  Our family came into being!  Inflation in America was over 12% that month, not an auspicious time to marry and create a new family.  The oil crisis sort of ended so the helter-skelter lines at the gas stations disappeared.  And Hank Aaron hit number 714.

1984 was a year of upheaval for our family.  We pulled up stakes in Idaho and came to Portland Oregon for the risky proposition of my husband working for a small start-up company.  Los Angeles staged a wildly successful summer Olympic games (sans USSR).   Four words: Bhopal India Union Carbide.  Our lovable President Reagan uttered this immortal phrase into an open mike: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever.  We begin bombing in five minutes."  

My oldest graduated from high school in 1994.  Mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  Other than those events, I remember little from that year; not surprising, when you're raising 5 kids, three of them teenagers.  Wait, the Northridge Earthquake occurred that January.  We were awakened by a 5:00 a.m. phone call, which we ignored, until we heard my sister saying there had been a major quake in Southern California.  Their house was littered with broken glass, fires blazed in the streets, and they could not reach Mom and Dad to see how they had fared.

Earthquake Damage in Weldon Canyon

2004:  There wasn't much of note that happened that year until the end, when the world was horrified by the enormous Indian Ocean quake and tsunamis on Christmas Day.  Which brings me to my Dad's death that year.  I always think of him dying in 2005, not 2004.  He died on December 30 but his funeral was on January 3 2005.  While he was in the hospital after Christmas every single TV in the building was tuned into earthquake/tsunami coverage.  The death totals were first at a few hundred, then a few thousand, then 10, 20, 30, 40, 100 thousand, and up from there.  What a grim memory.

2014: Putin, Putin and more Putin.   Multiple major airline crashes.  Isis and Boko Haram.  Israel and Palestine.  And Syria:  unceasing carnage in a wonderful land full of good people.

It's a tough time all over the world.  No matter what challenges and strife go on around us, we can strive to be a little better, make our neighborhood a finer place to live, support positive causes, serve those in need, and hope for sunnier times.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this back when you posted it, but I did wonder about your comment from 1844. I agree people should be more tolerant of other religions and it is a shame how Protestant Americans have been suspicious of and unkind to various other faiths over the years, but I draw the line at some things. And I wonder how much Joseph Smith's practice of marrying other men's wives played into people not liking his religion. I only mention this now since the LDS Church is apparently opening up about its past and confirming things that aren't so pretty about the faith's beginnings.

    Mormons today seem to be truly lovely people for the most part. But I would have definite problems with men wooing other men's wives and marrying them - even if it were just an eternal sealing or whatever. That's kind of ... adulterous, isn't it?

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post! I enjoyed reading what the 4s have meant to you and history!