The Utter Crap You Find On The Internet (rant)

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

I’ve been reading about the causes of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 and discovered that shortly before in 1787 there was a similar tax rebellion in Massachusetts known as Shays’ Rebellion. (Shays’ Rebellion was basically a showdown between the establishment – of which Mrs. Adams is an example – and the rebels who were being forced into bankruptcy by onerous state taxes imposed by Massachusetts.) In my research I came across this gem over at Yahoo Answers: (bad grammar and misspellings are left intact)

Question:

“Did Abigail Adams support Shays Rebellion? Provide 2 examples of why or why not.” – ZVXO

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters:

“There is no indication she knew anything about it. THere were few newspapers, no radio, no tv no Internet.There is a possibility that she did not know how to read anyway. It was against the law in many Colonies for women to learn to read. The current Tv programs about her are totally inaccurate. Women back then were completley subservient to their husbands. Whether women today like it or not, it is a fact.” – J&C H

First off, Abigail Adams (who would later become First Lady) was a consumate writer and scores of her letters exist to this day. Secondly, she was a woman of means who speculated in Massachusetts war securities, and this war debt was the reason for the enormous tax increases which led to Shays’ rebellion:

Unlike her husband, who clung to the traditional belief that real estate was the best and most secure investment, Abigail pursued a riskier but potentially far more profitable venture. She instructed her financial representative, Cotton Tufts (who was also her uncle) to purchase as many state-backed Massachusetts securities as he could locate and she could afford. These securities, due to be redeemed with interest by the state in the future, were trading far below their face value. By buying low, Abigail reasoned that she would make a very large profit if Massachusetts made good on its promises to pay the holders of the certificates their original value plus interest. It was a gamble; who knew if the financially-embarrassed government would in fact be able to pay off its creditors? It was a risk Abigail was prepared to take. Cash-strapped Massachusetts citizens, including war veterans, sold the certificates they could not wait to redeem to Adams and other speculators who bought them up for only a fraction of their face value.

In 1786, it seemed that Abigail’s gamble would pay off. That March, the Massachusetts legislature laid the heaviest tax in the history of the state, in part to fund the state-issued certificates, including accrued interest. What Abigail did not anticipate was the response of Massachusetts residents to this enormous tax increase.

If the rebels were successful and Massachusetts couldn’t pay off the debt Mrs. Adams’ securities would be worthless. She loathed the rebels and you can read what she had to say about them in this letter to Thomas Jefferson:

With regard to the tumults in my Native State which you inquire about, I wish I could say that report had exaggerated them, it is too true Sir that they have been carried to so allarming a Height as to stop the courts of justice in several Counties. Ignorant, restless desperadoes, without conscience or principals, have led a deluded multitude to follow their standard, under pretence of grievances which have no existence but in their own imaginations.

So here you have a woman speculating in war bonds and regularly corresponding with Thomas Jefferson yet “JC&H” in his Yahoo Answers post asserts that she was illiterate and “completely subservient to her husband”.  Unbelievable.

Ok, rant is over. Check back in the next few days for a “Then And Now” post featuring the last remaining hardware store in town!

Souvenier From Monongahela Old Home Week 1908

This is a souvenier from the Monongahela Old Home Week Celebration of 1908. Originally it would have included a ribbon attaching the top and bottom of the medal. I purchased this off eBay a few months ago and was excited to receive it in the mail. Kind of gives you a sense of connection with the people of that time. I wonder who originally purchased this?

Monongahela was booming back in 1908 with the population reaching 7,598 in 1910, eventually peaking at 12,948 in 1970. In 1970 I suspect that there was little in-migration where as in 1908 much of the growth was due to immigrants arriving from all over the world to work in the coal mines and at the supporting industries in town.

The Monongahela Old Home Week Celebration must have been quite an impressive affair.  The organizers assembled a wonderful publication called the Historical Magazine Of Monongahela’s Old Home Coming Week: Sept. 6-13, 1908. (At 312 pages I would call it more of a book than a magazine!) Here is the welcome message from Mayor William J. Blankenbuehler.

You can really sense a feeling of pride and optimism among the citizens of Monongahela back then. I wonder if that ever will return?

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Monongahela PA – Then and Now

I came across an old post card showing St. Paul’s church as it appeared years ago when it still had a steeple. It’s always interesting to compare how things change over the years so here is a photograph of the church taken in 2010:

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Monongahela PA

St. Paul Episcopal Church, Monongahela PA March 2010

And here is how the church appeared on a postcard with a 1909 postmark:

St. Paul's Church, Monongahela PA circa 1909

St. Paul's Church, Monongahela PA circa 1909

The the first thing that grabs your attention are the vines! My gosh, the place looks abandoned. Who would have guessed that the church was actually flourishing under the leadership of Rev. John Palmer Norman, M.D.  In fact the Historical magazine of Monongahela’s old home coming week: Sept. 6-13, 1908 refers to the church affectionately as the  “… ‘ivy walled’ St. Paul’s…” and since St. Pauls is an Episcopal church my guess is that Rev. Norman felt that the ivy gave it the appearance of Anglican churches back in England. According to the blog created to celebrate St. Paul’s 150th anniversary:

Norman was very keen to connect St. Paul’s to its Anglican roots and so started many English-themed organizations and events, including soccer and cricket teams.

At the time, Monongahela was being flooded with immigrants due to the booming coal industry and I’m sure St. Paul’s would have been a comforting sight to somebody arriving here from England.

Rev. John Palmer Morgan, M.D.

The Rev. John Palmer Morgan, M.D.

Another thing I noticed from the postcard is how the steeple had developed a severe tilt. This tilt is apparent in other photographs at the time and eventually the steeple was torn down. According to the history section over at the Monongahela United Methodist Church website:

In 1925, a brick fell from the tower [of the Methodist church]. The Catholic church steeple had just been destroyed by lightning about the same year, and the steeple of St. Paul’s Episcopal, which had been leaning for years, had just been removed.

Now this is pure speculation on my part but I bet the congregation of St. Paul’s waited until after Dr. Norman’s retirement before tearing it down. I bet it would have broken his heart to witness its removal. (Rev. Norman retired in 1918 and moved to Cochranton Pa. where he passed away in 1923 at the age of 83 after serving at the church for 40 years.) It would have cost a tremendous amount to either repair or replace the steeple so removal would have been the most economical thing to do. It’s just a shame that they didn’t keep gables on the tower roof to give the tower a finished appearance. My guess is that the roof valleys at the base of the steeple failed and rotted the rafters.

Just a few other observations:

  • Notice how similar the old and new lamp posts are. Kudos to whoever chose the new design when the sidewalks were replaced and electrical lines buried years ago. (just wish they would turn down the wattage – too much glare when you drive through town)
  • Notice how the old steps have been removed and replaced. The building had a more elegant appearance with the old steps and its gently sloping yard. The new steps however are much more accessible with a wheelchair ramp on the left side.
  • It’s a shame those trees are in the way. I wish I could have seen the building to the left of the church!

And finally, an aerial picture of the church and its surroundings:

St. Paul's Episcopal Church from above. Monongahela PA

Visit the St. Paul’s church website for information about church activities and to view pictures of the interior.

Mrs. Adams And The Dropsy – Neighborhood News from the Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh PA) Monday, December 19, 1859

Mrs. Adams Dropsy articleFAYETTE COUNTY –  Sometime in February, 1854, Dr. S.M. King was called upon to perform an operation on the person of Mrs. Adams, residing near Monongahela city. She was afflicted with the dropsy, or, as medical men term it, asciles, and the doctor drew from her fourteen gallons of water; from that time to January, 1856, he drew from her one hundred and fourteen and a half gallons, and up to the 18th of October last, had taken six hundred and twenty-eight gallons, two quarts, or nearly twenty barrels. Mrs. Adams is about forty-five years old, is in the enjoyment of tolerable good health, and should nothing unusual occur, bids fair to live for years yet. Her health is much better now than when the first operation was performed.