I love herons. “Heron” rhymes with “Gaffron.” Just saying.
Updated May 11, 2021
What do Kennywood Park (an amusement park outside of Pittsburgh), and the Tower of London have in common?
Well, at each of these places, I heard a shout-out to British Major General Edward Braddock.
At Kennywood Park , a statue and also a Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission (PMHC) sign honor General Edward Braddock. When I rode the train around Kennywood, I ate a chocolate brownie as the train intercom extolled the park’s fun rides and told us about Braddock’s Defeat.
Braddock’s army and its Native American allies marched ON the land that became Kennywood Park in 1755. They crossed the Monongahela River (the Mon) at what is now Kennywood. After they crossed the river, a French army and its own Native American allies attacked them. Braddock’s army retreated.
Braddock died. A lot of his men died or taken prisoner. Women who followed the army as cooks and laundresses also died or were taken prisoner.
You can actually find a much better synopsis than mine with a 30 second Google search. A lot of Google searches refer to this as the “Battle of the Monogahela.”
However, I have an anecdote! I went to London and I toured the Tower of London. The Yeoman Warder (“Beefeater”) who was assigned to docent my tour group started off by saying:
“Is anyone in this group from Pennsylvania?”
The Yeoman Warder said something about the Yeoman’s own involvement in the Coldstream Guards. He specifically mentioned the grave of “General Braddock.”
Well, then the Yeoman Warder moved on to a different subject (after all, we were at the TOWER OF LONDON). I had to look up the Coldstream Guards later.
Turns out that General Braddock also belonged to the Coldstream Guards. Officers from the Coldstream Guards actually travelled to Pennsylvania to dedicate a new monument at General Braddock’s grave in 1913. So, they did this less than a year before World War I started.
Now, just to be clear, General Braddock wasn’t buried at the actual battlefield. He wasn’t buried at Kennywood Park. Braddock was wounded at the battlefield that is behind Kennywood. He died of his injuries later, and miles away, during the retreat.
A young George Washington served as an officer on Braddock’s staff. Washington had to oversee Braddock’s burial.
The Coldstream Guards dedicated a new monument at Braddock’s actual grave in Fayette County in 1913. They actually travelled from the United Kingdom to Pennsylvania and attended the dedication ceremony. Here is an old photo that I took of the actual grave in Fayette County.
Here is a close-up of the Coldstream Guards’ regimental badge on Braddock’s grave monument:
I really wish that I could blog here that the Coldstream Guards also visited Kennywood Park in 1913 during their trip to see Braddock’s grave. A trip to Kennywood in the summer before World War I! Sadly, I have not found any mention of any Coldstream Guard visit to Kennywood during any of my 20 minute Google searches.
That would be a fun story to tell, if it were true.
I don’t have anything else to add here about the Tower of London, the Coldstream Guards, or Braddock’s actual grave in Fayette County.
The rest of this is about Kennywood Park, the Battle of the Monongahela battlefield, and the bike trail that runs between these two.
I discovered a now-defunct travel blog in which the blogger visited this area because he had an interest in the battle’s military history. In his blog, he RAILED against “developers” for completely carving up the actual site of the Battle of the Monongahela. (There’s actually a “Braddock’s Battlefield History Center” IN Braddock, PA, near the site of the battle. However, I think that this blogger meant that he wanted to visit someplace where one could retrace the actual battle, like one can do at Gettysburg.)
I, too, find it a shame that people today can’t visit the actual battlefield and walk where the two armies fought.
But, the thing is –
The developers who failed to preserve the battlefield were . . . business associates of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. The battlefield was “ruined” . . . at the turn of the century. The turn of the LAST century. During the Industrial Revolution.
If you aren’t familiar with Henry Clay Frick’s treatment of organized labor, then Google “Homestead Strike.”
Also, go ahead and Google “Johnstown Flood” and “South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.”
I mention all of this just to point out that “ruining the site of the Battle of the Monongahela” wasn’t the very worst allegation ever connected to Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie.
So, how did the business activities of Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie “ruin” this battlefield?
Well, they built a steel mill on top of it.
They built the U.S. Steel plant known as the Edgar Thomson Steel Works on top of the battlefield.
I mention all of this because a bike trail – the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) -runs along the Mon River behind Kennywood Park. You can ride on a path directly behind the roller coasters. You can look across the river and see this U.S. Steel plant .
You can ride past a 1906 locomotive roundhouse in McKeesport.
Here’s some photos of said roundhouse.
Jonathan took much better photos than I did. You can view Jonathan’s photos here, at our other blog.
Eight days ago (so, on April 29), Jonathan and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary. We were married at Mount Saint Peter in New Kensington. Jonathan’s late mother, Fran, worked at the parish at that time. So, I have a special place in my heart for Mount Saint Peter.
I look for opportunities to develop my skill at sunset photography. So, I took my camera to Mount Saint Peter for this evening’s sunset. This almost didn’t happen because clouds frequently covered the sun this afternoon! In fact, clouds covered the sun WHILE I waited at Mount Saint Peter for the sun to set.
The clouds moved just in time for me to witness the sunset.
Now, you will see a bridge in the background of the first photo that I posted. This bridge crosses the Allegheny River in downtown New Kensington. The bridge sits in the river valley. Much of New Kensington sits in this same valley. However, Mount Saint Peter sits on a hill overlooking downtown New Ken.
I mention all of this because I like to think of the Allegheny River as “my river.” The Allegheny River is obviously NOT merely “my river.” I was actually born directly across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg. I grew up near the Susquehanna and in the Allegheny Mountains. However, ever since I was a child and I visited my grandparents in Pittsburgh, I felt as if I belonged with the Allegheny River. Perhaps I lived along the Allegheny in another life? Perhaps I was always destined to return to the Allegheny?
Update: I wrote this original post in November 2019.
However, tonight I went through the Gaffron Woytek Vault (aka my personal folders on my laptop) and I found several more photos that I thought that SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE might find interesting.
So, the original post included four photos. I added three photos tonight. So, this blog post now includes seven photos.
Andrew Carnegie endowed the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in 1901.
From what I understand, Andrew Carnegie built this facility for the people of Carnegie after they named their community for him.
In 1906, the Captain Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) adopted a dedicated meeting room on this building’s second floor.
The GAR was a fraternal organization open to honorably discharged Union soldiers, sailors, or marines of the American Civil War. So, this was a club for Union Civil War veterans.
I honestly don’t know whether Post No. 153 was itself established in 1906. I forgot to ask the docent to clarify this.
Perhaps the actual post was established earlier? Perhaps they just happened to start meeting at the “Carnegie Carnegie” in 1906? (The locals call the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, PA, the “Carnegie Carnegie.” They actually sell tee shirts at the front desk that say “Carnegie Carnegie” on them.) The American Civil War “technically” ended in 1865. So, the War would have been “over” for 41 years already when GAR Post No. 153 moved into this room at the Carnegie Carnegie in 1906.
I DO remember (as of my memory in May 2021) that the docent (that night in November 2019) told me that the GAR Post No. 153 “paid rent” by paying $1 each year and also by providing coal to heat the “Carnegie Carnegie” each winter. The docent told me that the Post members “were able to obtain free coal,” or “had access to free coal” or something. Many of the post members worked in the local coal mines.
I have no additional information about how these post members “had access to free coal.”
The final living member of this GAR Post No. 153 died in the 1930’s.
How awful would it have been for a Civl War veteran to live until he was the final living member of his GAR post?
After this final post member passed away, somebody locked up this room with this post’s Civil War collection – its library, flags, etc. – still inside the room. The room stayed locked for the next 50 years.
The room became a time capsule for Captain Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).
For instance, here is an ORIGINAL SPITTOON used by GAR members during their GAR meetings. As in, the GAR members spit their chewed-up tobacco into this:
Here is their post’s Bible:
The room suffered water damage and deterioration. Preservationists restored the room into a Civil War museum – the Civil War Room – in 2010.
Volunteers attend and docent this museum for the public during limited hours. (Well, at least they did so pre-Covid.)
These volunteers opened it for viewing the night of Marie Benedict’s November 2019 talk on her fiction novel, Carnegie’s Maid, held at the adjoining music hall. I purchased a ticket for that lecture. I am a fan of Marie Benedict’s work. I arrived early, so I first toured the Civil War Room.
(Also, I mentioned this earlier in my blog, but I joked to my husband that I had a ticket to “an event at Carnegie Hall.”)
The New York Times has a firewall.
I can read ten free New York Times articles a month from my personal devices. Then, the firewall blocks me from reading more.
Sometimes I think about purchasing an online subscription to the Times. However, the Times published something or fired someone with which I disagreed. Did an editor tweet something stupid? Perhaps an organized labor dispute? Anyway, it was enough to keep me from giving money to the Times. (Same reason that I don’t pay to read past the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s firewall.)
(I can also log into my work computer and read such firewalled-stories using my employer’s corporate subscriptions, but I don’t like to do too much reading about personal interests on my work computer. Surveillance and all that.)
I mention all of this ’cause the Wall Street Journal has a similar firewall. If I’m not willing to pay to read my 11th Times article of the month, I’m not going to pay the Journal to read one or two articles posted there each year.
Instead, I use the same workaround to get beyond the Journal‘s firewall that I use to snoop around the Times‘ firewall:
I Google key words from the article’s title to see if somebody else republished the story as an AP story, or to see if another, non-firewall publication already posted a story about the firewalled story that I actually want to read. Sometimes, I go onto the publication’s Facebook page to see if they posted a link to the story there. Then, I read the story’s Facebook comments. If the story has enough comments from enough engaged readers, I get a synopsis.
If I’m still not satisfied, then I break down and read the story on my work computer.
The TL;DR from all of this is that I only read the first four paragraphs of the Wall Street Journal article “The Newest Status Symbol for High-Net Worth Homeowners: Trophy Trees,” by Katherine Clarke, dated April 22, 2021. The firewall blocked the rest of the story for me. I had to go read a synopsis of the rest of this story on DailyMail.com.
So, here’s the gist that I cobbled together: Really, really rich people – referred to as “super rich,” “superrich,” “uber rich,” etc., have a new way to spend enormous amounts of money: they hire consultants to scout out other people’s trees and offer those people lots and lots of money to purchase said trees. Then, they hire specialists to dig up the trees – root systems and all – and transport these trees to the rich person’s estate. The specialists transplant the trees on the rich person’s estate, just as if the tree had been there for years.
I’m not talking about the time that my dad went to a nursery and purchased baby trees in little buckets for our front yard, or the time that Jonathan and I hired landscapers to bring baby trees in buckets to our house and plant them along our sidewalk.
I am talking about a tree just doing its tree thing, setting down roots in the earth. Some human digs up the tree’s roots, moves the tree to a new location, replants said tree in the new location, and tells the tree, “This is your new home now!”
So, I pieced together what I could without reading the full original article, and I thought, “Jonathan and I are on trend!”
You see, a much-beloved Japanese maple tree used to live in our backyard.
We spent years trying to keep the tree from dying. The tree eventually died, though. We were very sad.
Before the tree died, though, it dropped seeds all over our backyard. Japanese maple saplings popped up all over our yard. Most of these saplings popped up in poorly shaded areas or other spots that were not very good locations for us to host brand-new trees.
Several times, Jonathan attempted to transplant these saplings to other spots in our backyard. Each time, the saplings died.
By last fall, the original Japanese maple which shaded our backyard was dead, cut down, and existed as firewood next to our backyard chiminea.
Jonathan noted that one of the Japanese maple’s saplings still thrived very close to a rear corner of our house. Despite that particular location’s intense shade, the sapling was now quite large – a regular little tree, in fact. Unfortunately, this little tree grew way too close to our house’s foundation for our comfort.
So, we decided to risk digging up as much of this little tree’s root system as we could. To replant this little tree in a different part of our yard. The tree could die in this replant. However, we couldn’t let the tree put down more roots in its current location – next to our house’s foundation.
We chose our front yard for the replant because the front yard gets more direct sunlight than does our back yard.
So, here is what our little tree looked like in autumn 2020 after our replant. I took this photo off of my smart phone:
Here is the same tree today, from a different angle:
So, you see, Jonathan and I are “just like” the “uber rich!”
Now, I know that so few uber rich exist, that any publication can take any dumb thing or not-so-dumb thing that a handful of the extremely rich people do, and say, “You see, a significant number of the people in the X tier of wealth are doing this thing! It’s a trend!” For instance, a few years ago, I listened to a podcast about this one tech billionaire who flew around the world in his private plane looking at birds for a year so that he could cross all of these birds off of his list of “birds that you MUST see – but they MUST all be seen in a one year time period in order for you to get bragging rights!” The podcast episode intended to highlight the “trend” of “extreme bird watching” among the ultra-wealthy.
I know that having Jonathan dig up a little tree so that it doesn’t damage our house’s foundation, and then replanting this same tree in a sunnier patch of our yard in order to give the tree a second chance is NOT the same thing as purchasing somebody else’s fully-grown tree, moving it on a flatbed truck, and replanting it beside a billionaire’s new construction mansion as if the tree “always” lived there.
However, with all of the money that I save by not purchasing subscriptions to websites with firewalls, I might someday be as wealthy as the Uber Rich.
Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!
I went out during this morning’s snow flurries to photograph our tulip bed. We have a frost warning for tonight.
Is this the same woodpecker that I saw in this same tree last November?