Sunday, November 1, 2009

The University of Georgia and the War for Southern Independence

Near the 1857 Arch which marks the main entrance to the campus of the University of Georgia, at the intersection of Broad Street and College Avenue, Athens, Georgia, this historical marker gives a brief history of the university and bears silent witness to the impact of the War of 1861-1865, which is here named the War for Southern Independence. The marker reads:

Endowed with 40,000 acres of land in 1784 and chartered in 1785, the charter was the first granted by a state for a government controlled university. After Louisville and the Greensboro were first selected, the current site was chosen.

The first president, and author of the school's charter, Abraham Baldwin, resigned when the doors opened, and was succeeded by Josiah Meigs. The University first began to thrive under Moses Waddel, who became president in 1819. Alonzo Church was president in 1829-1859.

During the War for Southern Independence, most of the students entered the Confederate Army. The University closed its doors in 1864, and did not open again until January 1866. After the war many Confederate veterans became students.

Famous pre-war professors were John and Joseph LeConte and Charles F. McCay, while famous students were Robert Toombs, Alexander H Stephens, Howell Cobb, and Crawford W. Long.

Plans for a modern university were first developed by Walter B. Hill and realized under Harmon W. Caldwell. The best known of the post-war presidents (now chancellors) was David C. Barrow. The Builder of the modern plant was Chancellor Steadman V Sanford.

The Tree that Owns Itself

This beautiful White Oak tree (Quercus alba), at the Corner of Dearing and Finley Streets, Athens, Georgia, owns itself. The tree was deeded to itself by Colonel William H. Jackson circa 1832. It may be the only emancipated tree in the world.

Upon giving the tree its freedom, Jackson wrote: "For and in consideration of the great love I bear (for) this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides."

The curent tree pictured is actually a descendent of the original tree, in the same spot occupied by its predecessor. The scion of the original tree was planted by the Ladies Garden Club in 1946. In 1975 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1988 it has been officially designated as an Athens Historical Landmark.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Geographic Center of the United States

This flag, on a private ranch in Butte County, South Dakota, is at the Geographic Center of the United States of America. The nearest town is Belle Fourche, about 20 miles to the south.

Embedded in concrete at the base of the flag is a reference mark (Center - No. 1) placed by the U. S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survery in 1962. The flag and marker is surrounded by open prairie as far as the eye can see in all directions. The center of the United States is in the middle of nowhere.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Historic Powhatan, Arkansas

Once the seat of Lawrence County, which covered most of the northern part of the state, Powhatan today is almost a ghost town.  A series of several stair steps leads down the rocky hill upon which the Powhatan Courthouse stands to Powhatan's original town site. It sits in the river bottom where the ferry crossing and busy river traffic once kept the city a beehive of acitvity.

Only two buildings remain of the many (both commercial and residential) which comprised the town in the mid to late 19th century. Visitors may also see a few old foundations and an old well. Historical markers on the grounds and brochures, available at the Visitor Center, explain some of the points and features of Powhatan's colorful past.

Built of logs Circa. 1933, the Ficklin-Imboden House is the oldest standing building in Lawrence County. It is said to be "a fine example blending of the 'Tidwater South' and 'Midland' building syles.

Visitors may tour the house, which is complete with period furnishings. There is a detatched kitchen to the rear of the house. It offers a glimpse into an earlier time on what was once the American frontier.

Blue Iguanas in the Cayman Islands

The Blue Iguana, aka Blue Dragon, is a symbol of the Cayman Islands. It is one of earth's rarest creatures, found in the wild only on Grand Cayman Island where an estimated 30 to 40 of them survive in their natural habitat. There is a worldwide population of about 150 Blue Iguanas, including those which are kept in zoos and aquariums.

The Blue Iguana can grow to 5 feet long and eats a vegetarian menu of leaves, flowers and fruit. During the mating season, hormones turn the males electric blue while the females brighten to powder blue.

We were not fortunate enough to glimpse this rare creature in the wild, although we did see many other iguanas of different species. But if you don't spot a live Blue Iguana you can surely find one of the fanciful fiberglass models which are placed at strategic public spots around George Town. In this first photo Karen is posing with one of them.

The Legend of Big Black Dick

If you ever go to the Cayman Islands you've got to pause and pay your respects to Big Black Dick.

According to legend, Big Black Dick was born of 'Royal' African parentage before being kidnapped by French slavers who gave him the name of "Richard Le Noir". His French captors tossed Richard overboard near Grand Cayman Island.

Miraculously reaching land, Dick became a slave on a sugar cane plantation where he learned the secrets of turning the cane into the Caribbean's finest rum. His kindly Caymanian master, recognizing Dick's hard work and honesty, awarded him his freedom in the early 1700's.

A free man and a skilled seaman, Big Black Dick soon earned the rank of captain of a three-masted-square rigger named "Caymanus". She was a ship carrying 20 cannons with a crew of near 200 men that were known as the best in the Caribbean.

History tells us that Dick was a dashing and handsome figure of a man, wearing a bright purple velvet coat and four pistols in his red silk sash. Those who knew him most intimately, say that Big Black Dick was a man indeed, possessing certain physical attributes unequalled by most all other men.

After a successful career, Big Black Dick retired to a more peaceful venture of making the best original pirate rum in the Caribbean.