The Next Together

I went looking for books that “seemed to be similar” to Green Darkness by Anya Seton. This, I mean books about sweethearts who lost each other in one time period, were reincarnated, and found each other in another time.

I found The Next Together by Lauren James.

The Next Together followed two sweethearts, Katherine and Matthew, as they lived through four time periods: The Siege of Carlisle, England, during the Jacobite rising in 1745; The Crimean War in 1854; a British government conspiracy in June 2019; and a second British government conspiracy in 2039.

Several times, Katherine and Matthew parted in tragedy and found each other in the next life.

In my opinion, The Next Together qualified as: Young Adult (for mature teenagers), Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction. The book referenced sex and included a few off-color jokes. The book did not include graphic sex scenes.

I actually gave the book a not-great rating on one of the book rating websites. However, I blog about this book tonight because you might disagree with my reasons for the harsh rating.

I rated the book unfavorably for two reasons:

Reason #1: The Next Together ended with several loose ends. I can’t elaborate more without giving away spoilers. However, after I finished the book, I learned from reading the book’s other ratings that at least one sequel exists. This was not at all evident to me from the promotional material that I saw when I purchased the book. I saw absolutely nothing on the book’s jacket or opening pages that this was the first book in a set. I’m not happy that the book ended with loose ends and that I need to purchase at least one additional book in order to read a resolution. If I wanted to read a series, then I would have actively searched for a series.

Let me explain something: back in high school, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver ended with no clear resolution. I finished the book feeling annoyed and confused. I wondered if somebody tore the final pages out of the school library’s copy. Up until then, Lois Lowry was one of my absolute favorite authors. I discovered YEARS later that The Giver was actually the first book in a four-book series. Absolutely nothing on The Giver‘s jacket alerted me to this. We didn’t have the internet back then at my high school, so I couldn’t find this out via a Google search. I guess that I’m still slightly ticked off about this.

Reason #2: One of the protagonists concluded that society was better off because the Jacobite rising for Scottish independence ended the way that it did in 1745. I’m an American. I didn’t study the Jacobite rising in high school or college. I don’t have an opinion on the Jacobite rising. However, I’m under the impression that the issue of Scottish independence is still a touchy subject across the pond. I felt as if this author forced her own opinion on readers, especially the Young Adult readers.

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series also explored the Jacobite risings. So did Sir Walter Scott’s The Waverly Novels. So, you probably don’t agree with my reason #2.

By the way, the book listed a copyright of 2015. So, the author wrote this book prior to the 2016 United Kingdom Brexit vote, the 2016 United States presidential election, and the 2019 United Kingdom Conservative Party leadership election. Be assured that the protagonists made NO statements about Donald Trump, Brexit, or Boris Johnson.

Let me know if you read The Next Together.

Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond

You are all fantastic for reading my blog! I’ve had several readers reach out to me in the past month. I appreciate you all for taking precious time out of your full lives to digest my stories. I don’t want to let you down.

I will tell you a little bit more about our brief sailing adventures on Lake Erie. First, let me tell you about Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond.

The “Greater Erie, PA” region sits on the south shore of Lake Erie, and also on the south shore of Presque Isle Bay. Presque Isle Bay’s west and north boundaries exist due to a Peninsula that extends into Lake Erie.

To the west and the north of Presque Isle Bay is a peninsula that extends into Lake Erie. (On this peninsula now sits Presque Isle State Park. )

The Native Americans known as the “Eriez Nation” inhabited this area hundreds of years ago. The Iroquois defeated the Eriez in the 1600’s.

If you leave from Erie and head toward the open lake, then Erie (the city) will be on your starboard side and the peninsula will be on your port side.

You will travel past a monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry at Presque Isle State Park. Then, you will travel past Misery Bay.

Monument to Commander Oliver Hazard Perry

Then, you will travel through a shipping channel. Finally, you will pass the North Pier Lighthouse. Congratulations. You are on the open lake.

Perry commanded the U.S.’s Lake Erie naval fleet in 1813. This was during the War of 1812, the United States’ second war against the British. This U.S. naval fleet was at Presque Isle Bay when Perry took command. Perry’s forces broke a British blockade at Presque Isle. Then they defeated the British off of the Ohio coast at the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813.

Perry then returned to Presque Isle Bay.

Do you remember when I wrote that the bay next to the Perry monument is called “Misery Bay?” Well, the bay earned its name from what happened after the Battle of Lake Erie. Many returning sailors contracted smallpox and died in quarantine. They died aboard ships harbored in Misery Bay. The ones who didn’t get sick buried these sailors in the pond next to Misery Bay. Then, sailors who got sick but hadn’t yet died also got “buried” in the pond.

Local storytellers renamed the pond “Graveyard Pond.”

The navy sunk the hulls of two of their ships, the USS Lawrence and the USS Niagara, in Misery Bay for preservation.

In 1875, preservationists raised the Lawrence. They shipped her to Philadelphia. Exhibitors displayed the Lawrence at the U.S. Centennial International Exhibition of 1876. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the Lawrence at that same exhibition.

Preservationists raised and rebuilt the USS Niagara in 1913, then rebuilt her again in 1988. The reconstructed USS Niagara now sails regularly from her dock in Erie, past Misery Bay, on her way to the open lake.

Flagship Niagara Passes Fishermen on the North Pier

My husband, Jonathan, and I purchased our sailboat, S/V Pinniped, last autumn from the original owners, P. and M. In fact, P. built the boat himself from a set of plans. P. told us to be careful to stay away from Misery Bay when we travelled through the channel. Misery Bay is shallow, compared to the shipping channel. P. admitted that he actually grounded Pinniped on various sandbars in Misery Bay.

So of course, when we returned to the bay from our first sail together on the open lake, we accidentally steered into Misery Bay.

Misery Bay at that particular spot has a datum depth of four feet. Pinniped drafts five a half feet.

Fortunately for us, Lake Erie is high this summer. So, the actual depth on that spot on that day was seven and a half feet. We lucked out!

A week later, we again sailed onto the open lake. We sailed past a docked freighter before we left the bay.

Freighter

We sailed about one third of the way across Lake Erie.

And . . . we avoided steering into Misery Bay on the way back!

However, after several hours of sailing, the wind died and the flies appeared. Lots of flies. We motored for over an hour, covered in flies, to reach our slip at our marina. (For the record, we sprayed ourselves generously with bug spray. We still received fly bites.)

Despite Misery Bay and the flies, we both had positive experiences on both sailing trips. Stay tuned for more sailing adventures and more stories from history.

Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austen

Once upon a time, I followed my husband Jonathan on his business travel to London. We rented a car. We drove to Tintern Abbey, in Wales, on the River Wye.

Well, Jonathan drove our British rental car on the left side of the road. Jonathan maneuvered the traffic circles (roundabouts). I navigated.

Here’s the first road sign that we saw after we crossed the line into Wales. Note that the first three lines of this sign are in Welsh and the final three lines are in English:

PAN FYDD

GOLAU COCH

ARHOSWCH YM

WHEN RED LIGHT

SHOWS WAIT

HERE

We almost didn’t tour Tintern Abbey.

The government runs this landmark as a day-use attraction, so it closes before the sun sets. The staff ends ticket sales 30 minutes before the attraction closes for the day. We got lost and then we arrived at Tintern Abbey about an hour before it closed.

But we made it!

Cistercian monks established and maintained Tintern Abbey between 1131- 1536. Tintern Abbey closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Here are some of the things that happened:

1.) The monarchs in England used to be Roman Catholic.

2.) The Protestant Reformation began in Saxony (Germany) in 1517.

3.) Henry VIII of England wanted to end his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.

4.) Henry VIII rejected papal supremacy. Parliament passed a law establishing Henry as the head of the Church of England.

5.) In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry closed all of the monasteries, including Tintern Abbey.

6.) Henry’s agents stripped the monastic property of anything and everything valuable, including the lead roof.

(In Anya Seton’s novel Green Darkness, one of the main characters lived as an English monk in a different Catholic monastery. Henry VIII also closed this monastery during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The novel detailed how Henry VIII’s officials plundered that monastery of its valuables and banished the monks. At least one of these monks fled to France. Many of them remained in England but hid from the Protestants during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. The King’s officials grew their own wealth by closing the monasteries. See my prior blog post about Anya Seton.)

The band Iron Maiden filmed their music video for “Can I Play with Madness” partly at Tintern Abbey.

Jane Austen shouts-out to Tintern Abbey in her novel Mansfield Park.

Wikipedia taught me that Allen Ginsburg tripped on acid here in 1967 and then wrote his poem Wales Visitation.

William Wordsworth also wrote a poem about Tintern Abbey.

The Wye Valley Railway established a station near the Abbey in 1876. Though prior tourists visited Tintern by boat, fashionable Victorians could now access it by train.

We left the Abbey and grabbed dinner at a local pub. Other patrons spoke Welsh to each other.

We drove through the rural darkness back to London.

Watch for my upcoming blog posts about my adventures in travel.

Ancient Henge and Modern Pagans

Today is May 1. May Day. The ancient festival of Beltane.

Ancient residents of Northern Europe celebrated May 1 as a spring festival. My ancient ancestors most likely celebrated on May Day.

In Anya Seton‘s historical fiction novel Katherine, the serfs living on the English protagonist’s estate snuck off and observed Beltane. A nobleman discovered them and ended the party. The powerful men in this novel forbid Beltane since it wasn’t a “Christian” holiday. They labeled Beltane as “pagan.”

In honor of May Day, I blog today about a place in England that predated Christianity in England. Modern-day Pagans (Contemporary Pagans / Neopagans) still gather at this landmark to observe their own beliefs. I blog today about Avebury.

My husband Jonathan travelled to London for business a few times. I took vacation days from my own job, purchased plane tickets, and squatted in his hotel room so that I could blog about England.

Jonathan had a weekend “off,” so we rented a British car. We drove several hours out of London and visited rural England.

My cousin R. previously lived in the United Kingdom for a year. We asked R. for sightseeing recs. Cousin R. told us about Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England.

Avebury Henge, a Neolithic henge monument, encircles a section of the village of Avebury. A ditch surrounds the henge.

UNESCO classifies this as part of its “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites” World Heritage site.

We decided through our research that Avebury was more accessible to us than Stonehenge from our hotel “base” in London. We had limited “free” time during our trip. So, we skipped Stonehenge in favor of Avebury.

To our delight, Avebury and its attractions charged no admission. We found it uncrowded, too!

Visitors can even shop inside the henge.

Sheep graze among the Avebury Henge.

In fact, I watched a sheep rub itself against the henge stones.

Look at the below photo. Some of the henge stones show long-term wear at sheep level.

We explored the actual village of Avebury:

Here is the Parish Church of St. James in Avebury. To be clear, this IS a currently operating Christian (Anglican) church. I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

St. James dates from approximately 100o A.D. The Normans possibly altered the church after the Norman Invasion in 1066 A.D.

The residents on this land now called Avebury once celebrated such pre-Christian rites as Beltane. The status quo maintained Beltane as a festival.

Then, the (Roman Catholic) Church brought Christianity to Avebury. The status quo no longer maintained the pre-Christian beliefs and festivals. The status quo maintained Roman Catholicism.

Then, in the 1500’s, Henry VIII established the (Protestant) Church of England. Henry dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries. His supporters prosecuted practicing Catholics. Henry VIII died. Henry’s son Edward VI maintained Protestantism as the status quo in England. Edward VI died.

Henry’s daughter, Mary I, then became Queen. She reinstated Roman Catholicism and persecuted Protestants. Mary I died.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I became queen. The status quo changed again, this time in favor of Protestants.

(This actually provides much of the setting for Anya Seton‘s time travel / reincarnation novel Green Darkness.)

In 1561, Elizabeth I ordered that all churches destroy their rood screens. (The rood screen separated a church’s chancel from its nave.) Unknown parties disassembled the rood screen at St. James and hid it behind a false wall. Church inhabitants discovered the rood screen in 1810. St. James parishioners restored the screen and reinstalled it by the end of the 1800’s.

Here is St. James’ churchyard:

Again, I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

The rest of this post details landmarks several miles outside of Avebury. We had to drive to these these places. They are “associated sites” included in the official Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site:

West Kennet Long Barrow:

This neolithic tomb contained the remains of over 40 individuals.

We parked and walked up a hill in order to view West Kennet Long Barrow. Partway up this hill we came upon a tree filled with ribbons. Unknown visitors tied various items to many of the ribbons.

Here is the inside of West Kennet Long Barrow. Earlier visitors lit candles inside the barrow before we entered it.

Silbury Hill:

This prehistoric artificial mound is the largest one in Europe.

Thank you for letting me share my adventures with you!

Check back for my upcoming blog post about Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austin.

(Note: Henry VIII closed Tintern Abbey in 1536 when he replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestantism as the status quo.)

Happy Beltane!

Anya Seton and Reincarnation

This is a book report on Green Darkness by Anya Seton.

Anya Seton (1904 – 1990) wrote several historical fiction novels about real-life and fictional protagonists. My high school library, my college library, and my Grandma Gaffron’s library all carried her books. Philippa Gregory wrote forwards to new editions of several Seton novels.

I read Dragonwyck first.

Perhaps our high school librarian set it out as one of her recommended books. Dragonwyck told the fictional tale of a poor young farm woman in New York State who married a rich man who knew President Martin Van Buren. She learned that the rich husband actually poisoned his first wife and intended to kill her as well. Dragonwyck has the same gothic plot as movies (such as The Babysitter’s Seduction starring Kerri Russell) and at least one Mary Higgins Clark book (A Cry in the Night).

Then I read Seton’s novel Katherine because I saw it on a list of the “best historical fiction that aspiring writers should read.”

Katherine fictionalized Katherine Swynford’s life in the 1300’s. Katherine grew up in a convent after her father (a knight) died serving the King of England and the Black Death killed her grandparents. Her sister Philippa married Geoffrey Chaucer. Katherine married John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster after his first wife died of the Black Death and his second wife also died of something horrible. Katherine’s stepson, Henry, overthrew his own cousin Richard II from the throne of England. Henry became Henry IV of England.

Next, I read My Theodosia.

My Theodosia fictionalized the life of Theodosia Burr, daughter of Aaron Burr. This is the same Theodosia who inspired the song Dear Theodosia in the Hamilton musical. In real life, Theodosia Burr married a future governor of South Carolina and she moved to his plantation. She ended up “lost at sea” at the age of 29. She was a passenger on a boat that disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean in 1813. (Just a note of caution: My Theodosia‘s story line and language turned racist after Theodosia moved to the plantation.)

Finally, I read Green Darkness.

Now, I consider Green Darkness (published in 1972) as a cross between fantasy and historical fiction. The story “begins” in the year 1970. A fictional American – Celia Marsdon – moves to England with her British husband, Richard.

Richard grew up in his family’s ancestral seat in Sussex, but he hated his childhood there. Richard still decides to move back home after his father’s death. Big mistake.

The Marsdons show up in Sussex on Halloween. They stop first at the ruins of Chowdry House, a real-life Tudor mansion that burned down in the 1700’s. Celia insists that she remembers being in that mansion before it burned. The Marsdons watch bonfire lights in the rural darkness. They meet business associates at the real-life, ancient Spread Eagle Inn. During drinks, somebody jokes about Halloween and its “wormy dead” which “rise from their graves.” The business associates tell Celia a ghost story about a “black monk” (a Benedictine monk) who haunts the area. Celia slips out of the inn to look for the ghost monk. Celia finds the ghost monk and chases it. (Just like every episode of Scooby Doo!) Richard finds Celia and gets angry.

The Marsdons “settle” into Richard’s ancestral home. Their marital problems continue. Richard plays the song “Celia, Wanton and Fair” over and over on his record player.

Celia tours a famous “real” landmark, Ightham Mote, with her mother. They learn that renovation crews recently found a skeleton walled up in the estate’s main house. Celia suffers vague flashbacks to prior events there and she falls ill.

The Marsdon newlyweds hold a dinner party for a bunch of people that they barely know. However, all of the guests at the party actually seem “familiar” to Celia. Celia suffers a medical emergency that night.

As Celia recovers in a hospital, her mother brings to her bedside a physician / Hindu teacher. Under this doctor’s “guidance” Celia recalls memories from her prior life as Celia de Bohun in the 1500’s in Sussex.

The story goes back to the 1500’s for about 500 pages.

Celia’s husband from 1970, Richard Marsdon, is a Catholic Benedictine monk named Stephen Marsdon in the 1500’s.

Brother Stephen Marsdon lives in an English monastery until Henry VIII closes it through the Dissolution of the Monasteries. I imagine that Stephen’s monastery resembled Tintern Abbey. (I will blog about Tintern Abbey next.) Stephen flees to France, but later returns to Sussex.

I need to mention that Celia de Bohun’s aunt, Ursula, is obsessed with predictions and divinations. Aunt Ursula hires a famous mystic to tell Celia’s fortune. The mystic predicts Celia’s early and violent death.

For the next several hundred pages, Celia de Bohun and Stephen Marsdon fall in love as they dodge the wrath of the Tudor monarchs.

As you probably guessed, Stephen Marsdon and Celia de Bohun leave behind “unfinished business” in the 1500’s that Richard and Celia Marsden resolve in 1970.

Celia Marsdon wakes from her trance in 1970 and she realizes that the guests from her dinner party were all reincarnated from people that she knew as Celia de Bohun in the 1500’s.

The two Celia’s, Richard, and Stephen are all fictional, as are all of the guests from the 1970’s dinner party. However, several of the characters that Celia de Bohun met in the 1500’s are real historical figures. The “ghost monk” that Celia Marsdon chased on Halloween is based on the “real” ghost story about the Black Monk of Pontefract.

Green Darkness spans about 600 pages. In my opinion, Seton should have cut this down to 300 pages. The story goes off on many side plots (tangents) that have nothing to do with Celia and Richard’s “unfinished business.” I suspect that Seton plugged unused material from her other books into this, her final finished novel.

I laughed when Celia de Bohun mentions Katherine Swynford’s famous marriage to John of Gaunt two centuries earlier. (John of Gaunt’s son, Henry IV, married Mary de Bohun in 1380. I suspect that the author intended that the fictional Celia de Bohun of the 1500’s belonged to the same de Bohun family.)

If I ever return to the United Kingdom, I might visit these real places listed in Green Darkness: the Chowdry Castle ruins, the Spread Eagle Inn, and Ightham Mote.

In Green Darkness, some of the characters who mistreat and abuse others in the 1500’s pay dearly for it in 1970. Similarly, kindly Aunt Ursula suffers in the 1500’s but during the 1970’s dinner party she is rich and beautiful.

It’s important to be nice to people. Karma exists.

Anya Seton passed away in 1990. Hypothetically, if she was born into another life in 1991, she would now be 28 years old in her new life. Perhaps Anya Seton lives on in the body of another writer.

The Most “Pittsburgh” Part of Pittsburgh?

The Pennsylvania Shelf at my favorite used book store.

Here’s a Monongahela (Mon) River secret: I believe that one of the most “Pittsburgh” things about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania isn’t actually within Pittsburgh’s city limits.

By this, I mean the stretch of the river about ten or so miles upstream from where the Mon meets the Allegheny to form the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh.  By this, I mean the communities of Braddock and North Braddock, PA. The Mon flows south to north here.

Here are my reasons:

1.) Every Pittsburgh “origin story” includes the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War. In 1755, the French and their indigenous allies ambushed British General Edward Braddock’s army and his indigenous allies at Braddock’s Field (this land is now present-day Braddock and North Braddock, PA). A young George Washington served as an aide-de-camp to General Braddock. Braddock died from his wounds during the retreat. Washington lead the retreat and he oversaw Braddock’s burial.

Marker on General Edward Braddock’s grave. General Braddock was mortally wounded in Braddock’s Field during the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755.

Any internet search on “Braddock’s Defeat” and “folklore” will overwhelm you. For fun, throw in these search terms: “Simon Girty,” or else, “missing gold.” One legend even claims that divine intervention saved Washington from death. Another alleges that one of Braddock’s own soldiers (intentionally) shot him.

This re-enactor portrays a British soldier during the French and Indian War.

2.) In 1794, rebels of the Whiskey Rebellion gathered in this very same Braddock’s Field before they marched into Pittsburgh to protest the U.S. government excise tax on whiskey. President Washington sent federal troops to put down the insurrection. In the fiction novel The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull, angry frontiersmen threatened to burn down the houses of Pittsburgh’s leaders during this rebellion. 

My copy of “The King’s Orchard” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull

(My own hometown in Somerset County, PA later celebrated the Whiskey Rebellion with a festival out of memory for rebellion leader Robert Philson. Another rebellion leader, “Whiskey Dave” Bradford, fled to Louisiana and established the famously “haunted” Myrtles Plantation.)

3.) Braddock’s Field sits very close to the present-day Edgar Thomson Steel Works. 

Edgar Thomson Steel Works, Braddock, PA and North Braddock, PA

In 1872, Andrew Carnegie and his business associates built this steel mill. They named the plant after J. Edgar Thomson, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. They equipped the plant for the Bessemer process. 

U.S. Steel owns this working steel mill today.

I found one travel blog in which the writer (a military history enthusiast) visited the Braddock community and attempted to retrace the Battle of the Monongahela. The blogger recounted the battle (in great detail) and provided maps. The blogger complained that later “progress” corrupted this land to the extent that he couldn’t actually view the battlefield in its pristine state from 1755.

The blogger’s complaint stuck with me. Just think about the tragedies and injustices (including labor disputes and the Johnstown Flood) that some blame on Pittsburgh’s Industrial Revolution leaders. If the blogger wants to complain about Andrew Carnegie and his business associates, he needs to take a number!

Al Roker spotlights Pittsburgh Guilded Age leaders such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and J. Edgar Thomson in “Ruthless Tide,” his book about the Johnstown Flood. Roker’s book also taught me about the Edgar Thomson Steel Works.

What do you consider to be the most “Pittsburgh” places in Pittsburgh?

These re-enactors portray French settlers in North America during the 1700’s. In the 1750’s, the French and British fought for control of the mouth of the Ohio River (present-day Pittsburgh) during the French and Indian War.
My view of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works and of the Monongahela River as I sat on the opposite side of the river, behind Kennywood Park in West Mifflin.

This was my Part 3 of my Secrets of the Mon.

Here is Part 1 and Part 2 of my Secrets of the Mon.

Taj Mahal on the Mon

I gave you a full month to catch up on my blog! You’re welcome.

This is my first post about the “Secrets of the Mon.” You can read here about the “Taj Mahal on the Mon.”

“Taj Mahal on the Mon” is my name for Nemacolin Castle (aka Bowman’s Castle) in Brownsville, here in Western Pennsylvania.

See, Nemacolin Castle sits on a bluff above the Monogahela River (known by locals as “the Mon”).

(My dad graduated from nearby Cal U – California University of Pennsylvania. Cal U also sits on the Mon. Dad refers to his alma mater as “Harvard on the Mon.”)

About 40 miles or so downstream from Cal U and Brownsville, the Mon joins the Allegheny River. This confluence forms the Ohio River at downtown Pittsburgh. (The Ohio flows into the Mississippi River.)

Now, a very long time ago, tremendous earthen mounds dotted the banks of the Mon, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers.

From where did these come? If somebody built these, then who? 

Archeologists maintain that indigenous people built these hundreds or even thousands of years ago. But how? 

One theory claims that humans significantly larger than ourselves – those known in lore as the “Tall People” – built these mounds.

Some storytellers insist that aliens from another planet built the mounds.

What is the truth behind these mounds?

Did these mounds bring special energy – special power – to the Mon?

In the 1700’s, British settlers spoke of the Mon and Allegheny’s confluence as the “Forks of the Ohio.” In the 1750’s, Britain and France quarreled over the Forks. They both wanted access to the Ohio River. The French and Indian War started. George Washington served in a British army under General Edward Braddock. Braddock marched up from Virginia and Maryland in an attempt to seize the Forks in 1755. The French and their Native American allies ambushed Braddock. Braddock’s army suffered heavy losses in this defeat. Braddock himself died during the retreat. Washington witnessed all of this. In 1758, Washington served in a different British army under General John Forbes. This time, Forbes seized the Forks for Britain. The British built Fort Pitt at this confluence that formed the Ohio River. The site of Fort Pitt became Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh.

I bring this all up right now just to point out the Mon’s importance to local history and folklore.

Now, as I blogged above, Brownsville sits on the Mon. The town includes the spot that European settlers called “the Redstone Creek River Crossing.”

The river crossing sat on Nemacolin’s Path. This path emerged from  a series of trails used by Native Americans to travel through the region. 

White settlers named the path after the Shawnee chief Nemacolin.

General Braddock’s army actually marched on part of Nemacolin’s Path on their way to the Forks of the Ohio in 1755.

Then, as I just blogged, General Forbes reached the Forks (present-day downtown Pittsburgh) in 1758.

In 1759, British Colonel James Burd built a fort on the earthen mound overlooking the Redstone Creek River Crossing at the Mon. This became Fort Burd. 

Then the British won the French and Indian War. 

After this, the white colonial settlers fought against the Iroquois Confederacy during the American Revolution. 

Around the end of this war with the Iroquois, Thomas Brown purchased much of the land surrounding the Redstone Creek River Crossing.

Brown sold part of this land to Jacob Bowman.

Jacob Bowman built his trading post and tavern out of material taken from the old Fort Burd.

Remember, the British built old Fort Burt on a very old earthen mound. A mound that some claim to be an indigenous burial mound. A mound that others claim was built by an ancient tribe of giant people. A mound that still others claim was built by visitors from outer space. Then the Bowman family used part of Fort Burd to build the family home. How much ancient history – how much ancient power – did the Bowman family import from this mound into their home?

Now, here’s how Jacob Bowman’s trading post and tavern became the architectural “wonder” that we now call Nemacolin Castle:

Jacob Bowman built a room above his trading post. Bowman and his wife lived in this room. They added more room as their family grew.

The home morphed from a trading post to a colonial home.

Jacob’s son Nelson inherited the home in the 1840’s.

Nelson Bowman added the east wing and the brick tower.

Thus, the 1789 trading post grew into a 22 room Victorian mansion. A Victorian mansion with a tower. A castle.

During this time, the Bowman family saw births, marriages, and deaths. Lore claims that this home functioned as a stop on the underground railroad. The family’s tragedies and the land’s bloody history figure in ghost stories here.

Three generations of the Bowman family lived in the castle until the Brownsville Historical Society acquired it in the 1960’s.

The castle’s official website refers to it as Nemacolin Castle but also states “also known as Bowman’s Castle.” The website confirms that “Nemacolin” is in reference to Nemacolin’s Trail.

I toured the castle with my sister E.R. in October 2011. We joined a special “ghost tour.” As the name implies, our guide dressed in nineteenth century period clothing and told us ghost stories about the castle.

I felt uneasy during the “ghost tour.” But not because I saw any ghosts. I felt uneasy because the house is such a hodgepodge of architectural styles.

As E.R. and I waited for our tour to start, we ran into our Aunt L. and our cousins R. and J. Our cousins explained that they toured the castle every year for Halloween. One of my cousins revealed that she once felt something grab her ankle as she stood on a stairway inside the castle.

Did you ever tour Nemacolin Castle? Did you see any ghosts?

General Braddock and the Tower of London Beefeater

“Are any of you from Pennsylvania?”

My husband Jonathan and I visited London a few years ago. We spent our first full day at the Tower of London.  Our ticket included a tour given by a Yeoman Warder, known colloquially as a Beefeater.

The Yeoman Warders – Beefeaters – are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In olden days, when food was scarce, they held a position of such high importance and honor that they were given beef to eat. Thus the name.

When Jonathan and I toured the Tower, the Beefeater assigned to our tour asked our group whether any of us were from Pennsylvania.  The Beefeater identified himself as a member of the Coldstream Guards. Then he specifically mentioned the Pennsylvania grave of Major General Edward Braddock.

General Braddock commanded the British forces that attempted to seize Fort Duquesne –  the future site of Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh –  from the French in 1755. You see, this is where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River merge at “The Point” to form the Ohio River. Braddock’s expedition from Virginia and Maryland into present-day Pennsylvania occurred near the beginning of the French and Indian War. George Washington served as an aide de camp.

The French and their Native American allies defeated Braddock’s men in the Battle of Monongahela.  Braddock died from his battle wounds during the retreat. Braddock’s men buried him in the middle of the road (in present day Fayette County) so that the opposing army would not locate and defile his grave. George Washington was there.

General Braddock belonged to the Coldstream Guards.

Generations later, road workers recovered Braddock’s body and reburied it a few feet away. You see, the road under which Braddock’s men buried him became the National Road in the 1800’s. We now call it US Route 40.

The Coldstream Guards erected a monument at Braddock’s grave in 1913.

After Jonathan and I returned from London, we visited and photographed the Coldstream Guard’s monument to Braddock’s grave. I posted at the top of this entry a close-up of the marker.

Now, the story of Braddock’s failed expedition to Pittsburgh in 1755 fascinated me when I was a kid. My dad told me stories about how Braddock’s army camped very close to what later became my great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ home in Westmoreland County.

Now, the lore also says that Braddock’s army carried gold intended for the soldiers’ payroll. The men weren’t paid until after the battle ended so that only the survivors received pay.

Anyway, per this myth, the British buried this gold the night before the battle.  They supposedly hid it under a very specific tree on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The French attacked. Perhaps everyone who buried the gold was captured or killed. In the confusion of the retreat,  the gold remains in the Pennsylvania earth.

I find it curious that Pennsylvanians uncovered Braddock’s body about two centuries ago, yet there’s no sign of this gold.

Here are some more photos that I took the day that we visited Braddock’s grave along Route 40, near Fort Necessity, in Fayette County:

Here is a close-up of the Coldstream Guards’ regimental badge on the Braddock monument:

We actually visited London twice: in September 2008 and September 2009.  In 2008, we toured the Tower of London. In 2009, I viewed the Changing of the Horse Guards and also the Changing of the Queen’s Guard. Here are some photos that I took of these events. I believe that Coldstream Guards possibly participated in these ceremonies. However, I am a clueless Yank. So, if I am incorrect about any of this, please enlighten me in the comments.

And finally, since at least one guard in the Tower of London speaks about General Braddock to American tourists, here are some photos from inside of the Tower. I watched a bride arrive for her wedding at the chapel inside the Tower where Anne Boleyn is buried. I took these the same day that we met the Beefeater who served in the Coldstream Guards, in September 2008: