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The New National Park No One Is Talking About & More!

 

There are lots more other changes to the National Park System included in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which has now been officially signed into law.

Among the many remaining changes that jump out to me is that Death Valley National Park is expanded by 35,292 acres, further expanding the largest national park in the contiguous 48 states.  Although this is a small addition to Death Valley’s existing 3.4 million acres, the expansion is larger than seven other national parks.  If this were a stand-alone addition to the National Park System, we might well be celebrating the addition of a 62nd national park.  In fact,  the additional lands are about the size of Bryce Canyon National Park’s 35, 835 acres.  So in some ways, this addition to Death Valley National Park is the new national park that no one is talking about.  If land of this size had been set aside as a new national park with a new name, it would certainly be headline news.  As it is, its a bit of a footnote, but is still worth celebrating.

A bit over 6,000 acres of this addition come from adding an area known as “the Crater” to the Park.  If you look closely at a map of Death Valley National Park, The Crater appears as a “doughnut hole” of Bureau of Land Management Land in the northeast corner of the Park.  That hole will now be filled in. The remaining 29,000 acres come from expanding the Park southwards to include the land between the current boundaries and the Fort Irwin National Training Center operated by the U.S. military.

Fort Moultrie, outside of Charleston South Carolina, tells a nearly complete history of US harbor defenses, and is now formally included in the newly-renamed Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. Photo from 2011.

Although the expansion of Death Valley is far and away the largest expansion of the National Park System under the Dingell Act, there are a number of other changes to existing units that should not be overlooked:

  • Acadia National Park benefits by Congress confirming the 2015 addition of land on the Schoodic Peninsula to the Park;
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado, which preserves absolutely spectacular 35 million year old fossils, gets a small expansion from 6,000 acres to 6,300 acres
  • Fort Frederica National Monument in Georgia, where the British solidified their hold on their southern colonies, is expanded by 22%, with the addition of 55 additional acres;
  • Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas, which preserves a Fort that played an important role in the “Bleeding Kansas” conflicts of the antebellum years before the Civil War gets a small boundary expansion;
  • Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park not only gets a new name, but gets formal recognition of the inclusion of Fort Moultrie and the Charleston Lifesaving Station within the boundaries of the park after 60 years of being unofficially included in the park;
  • Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence, Missouri gets authorized to acquire additional land in Independence for a new or expanded visitor center;
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York gets expanded by approximately 10% as 89 additional acres are added along the scenic Hudson River;
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia, the site of an important battle on General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War, gets a small addition of 8 acres around the  Wallis House and Hairston Hill;
  • Joshua Tree National Park  gets a modest expansion of 4,518 acres, plus the authority to establish a new visitor center in the unincorporated town of Joshua Tree, California;
  • Mojave National Preserve in California gets a small expansion of 25 additional acres;
  • A small sub-unit of National Capital Parks in Washington, DC containing a statue of Irish independence hero Robert Emmert gets redesignated as Robert Emmert Park;
  • Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Georgia, in addition to getting a new name, is tripled in size from its present 702 acres to some 2,100 acres;
  • Reconstruction Era National Historical Park gets a new name, and also the authority to acquire additional properties beyond the original monument designation;
  • Shiloh National Military Park, site of the overall bloodiest battle in the Civil War, is expanded by adding three new areas:
    • the Davis Bridge Battlefield in Tennessee, which is currently already a Parks Passport cancellation location by virtue of being part of a shared National Historic Landmark designation with the national military park itself,
    • additional acres around the Fallen Timbers Battlefield site in Tennessee, and
    • the Russel House Battlefield site on the Tennessee-Mississippi border;
  • Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota benefits by allowing the Department of the Interior to transfer 49 acres within the current Park boundaries that are currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management to National Park Service management, and also authorizes the possibility of up to several dozen additional acres to be donated to the National Park Service by the State of Minnesota;
Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site in Illinois, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sought recruits for the Corps of Discovery in November 1803 will now benefit from the recognition of the eastward extension of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Photo from 2009.

Beyond the additions to the National Park System, the Dingell Act will also make a major change to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, extending it from its current starting point near St. Louis, Missouri eastward to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 2004, during the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, Congress directed the National Park Service to conduct a “Special Resource Study” on extending the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail eastward to include routes related to activities occurring both before and after the main 1804-1806 expedition already commemorated by the existing Trail.  The National Park Service looked at some 25 different route segments as part of its study, eventually determining that only the routes from Pittsburgh to St. Louis along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers met the criteria for historical significance to be added to the National Historic Trails System.

Interestingly, in researching this post, I discovered that the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail had already certified 12 of these “Eastern Legacy” sites as Trail locations, despite not being located along the then-authorized trail route.  The extension of the Lewis & Clark Trail to Pittsburgh will incorporate about half of these sites, but five certified sites will remain outside of the new, extended National Historic Trail:

  • Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, in Virginia (currently a Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area cancellation location) where Meriwether Lewis met with Thomas Jefferson to plan the Corps of Discovery expedition;
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia where Lewis procured armaments for the expedition and tested plans for a collapsable boat (which ultimately failed);
  • the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Lewis received training in the natural sciences from Benjamin Rush, and other Society Members, in preparation for the expedition;
  • the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Meriwether Lewis received Medical Training from Benjamin Rush and others; and finally,
  • the Lewis and Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Resources where most of the plant specimens collected by the Corps of Discovery continue to be housed today.
Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield in Tennessee Is the Newest Affiliated Area of the National Park System. Photo from 2018, courtesy Brian Bailey.

The Dingell Act will also be adding one new Affiliated Area to the National Park System.  The Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield in Tennessee, which already has a passport cancellation and an Eastern National-operated bookstore gets elevated to recognition as an Affiliated Area of the National Park System.  The 368 acre battlefield is managed by the non-profit American Battlefield Trust, and preserves the site of a Civil War engagement that took place on New Year’s Eve, approximately three and a half months prior to the Battle of Shiloh.

The President James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee is one of several areas that will now be studied for potential inclusion in the National Park System. Photo from 2010 by Polk Association Photographer. [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
Finally, the Dingell Act authorizes a number of special resource studies for future additions to the National Park System.  A special resource study is where the National Park Service formally studies and gathers public input on the national significance, suitability, and feasibility of a proposed addition to the National Park System.  As mentioned earlier, it can be a long time between the authorization of a special resource study and a change to the National Park System – 15 years in the case of the eastward extension of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.  Here are the studies authorized by the Dingell Act:

  • the President James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee, which would be the first National Park System Unit other than Gateway Arch National Park interpreting the Presidency of James K. Polk;
  • the Thurgood Marshall School in Baltimore, Maryland, better-known as Public School 103, which the first African-American Supreme Court Justice attended as a youth;
  • President Street Station, which played a role in the Underground railroad,  Baltimore’s Civil War riots, the growth of the railroad industry, and early 20th century immigration (and which also currently has an Eastern National Bookstore and its own Parks Passport cancellation already);
  • Camp Amache Internment Camp in Granada, Colorado, which would be the fourth Japanese internment camp added to the National Park System;
  • the  George W. Bush childhood home in Midland Texas;
  • the Ocmulgee River Corridor in Macon, Georgia; and
  • the route of the explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike (of Pike’s Peak fame) for consideration as a national historic trail.

These special resource studies will join a slew of studies already underway by the National Park Service, including a study of Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York that was authorized by a piece of stand-alone legislation in October 2018.

The authorizations of  special resource studies for the President Street Station and for Thurgood Marshall’s Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland are particularly notable because Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland first introduced legislation requesting this study in October of 2011.  It took more than 7 years to get the legislation enacted, just for a study!   The proposal for the study of a Pike National Historic Trail goes all the way back to 2010!  That really illustrates how much effort goes into establishing just one new unit of the National Park System – even a small one!  Moreover, many of these special resource studies will of course conclude that the proposed addition is either not suitable, not feasible, or even not nationally significant and recommend against inclusion in the National Park System.  Although Congress can always make its own decision, an unfavorable recommendation in the special resource study often effectively ends efforts to designate a particular area a national park.

This article is Part III of a three-part series on changes to the National Park System in early 2019.  Check out Part I and Part II.

Update: This post was updated after publication to make it clearer that the “new” national park will still be known as Death Valley National Park. 

Final Shot: A new dawn rising on Death Valley National Park. Photo from 2009.

 

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May Stories Behind the Stamps: Freedom’s Frontier

Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area in Kansas (and Missouri) has received its first Passport cancellation this month. This picture is of Fort Scott National Historic Site, located within the Heritage Area. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area in Kansas (and Missouri) has received its first Passport cancellation this month. This picture is of Fort Scott National Historic Site, located within the Heritage Area. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.

Eastern National has released their list of new stamps for the month of May:

    • Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument | Washington, DC
    • Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail | Woodlawn, VA
    • Valles Caldera National Preserve | Jemez Springs, NM
    • Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area | Lawrence, KS

The stamp for the brand new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument simply replaces the previous stamp for its old designation as the Sewall-Belmont House Affiliated Area.  The story behind this new National Monument is well worth reading, you can check it out in this Parkasaurus post.

Valles Caldera National Preserve is also a relatively new unit of the National Park System.  Ever since it was transferred to the National Park Service by legislation in December 2014, it has been using an unofficial stamp reading “New Mexico” as the location.  The “Jemez Springs, NM” stamp is its first official stamp from Eastern National, and will presumably replace the existing stamp.

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail runs from the mouth of the Potomac in the Chesapeake Bay all the way up to Cumberland, Maryland and from there, into the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania.  The newest stamp is for a National Trust for Historic Preservation property adjacent to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  Woodlawn Plantation was given as a gift by George Washington in 1799 to his nephew,  Lawrence Lewis, upon his marriage to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, of all people, Eleanor Custis.  By 1799, George Washington was two years removed from the Presidency, from which he retired from in 1797. The gift was made with some intent of keeping the new family close to home, as it were.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, he was just a few months away from his sudden death due to some sort of upper respiratory ailment in December 1799.  Woodlawn Plantation first became a historical house museum in 1949, and it would actually become the very first property acquired and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1957.  In 1961, the property would add the Pope-Leighey House, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, that had to be relocated from nearby Falls Church, Virginia due to the construction of Interstate 66.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation now owns or operates nearly two dozen historic buildings, and partners with the administration of a half-dozen others through cooperative agreements.  Of the 20 properties owner or operated the Trust, this is the 5th to be included in the Passport Program.

Fort Scott in Kansas was decommissioned by the time of the events of "Bleeding Kansas," but the repurposed buildings were the site of several conflicts between pro- and anti- slavery forces - events commemorated by the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.
Fort Scott in Kansas was decommissioned by the time of the events of “Bleeding Kansas,” but the repurposed buildings were the site of several conflicts between pro- and anti- slavery forces – events commemorated by the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.  Photo from 2006.

The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area includes 29 counties in eastern Kansas and 12 counties in western Missouri, and principally commemorates the events of the Bleeding Kansas years of 1854 to 1861 leading up to the Civil War.  This stamp is their first Passport cancellation, and will be located at the partnership organization’s headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas.  For more on National Heritage Areas, check out this Parkasaurus post.

The term “Bleeding Kansas” refers to the years of extensive civil conflict between pro-slavery and pro-abolition settlers spurred by the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 and culminating in the start of the Civil War in 1861.

The history of the antebellum United States is largely a history of tensions over slavery, divided between the southern states whose economies were largely dependent on slavery, and northern states who became increasingly in favor of abolition of slavery during this time. Following independence from Great Britain, the semi-independent state of Vermont, and the just-across-the-Appalachians states of Kentucky and Tennessee were added to the Union relatively quickly, all during the Presidency of George Washington.  The fertile land of Ohio was added in March 1803, just months before the Louisiana Purchase would be completed.   That would lead to the addition of the state of Louisiana, and its valuable port of New Orleans, in the spring of 1812 – just 49 days before the US would declare war in the War of 1812.

Thus, the initial wave of expansion left the United States with 18 stars on its flag, and a rough parity of 9 southern states (counting Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware) where slavery was legal and 9 northern states where slavery had been abolished since at least 1804 (when New Jersey became the last of them to abolish slavery).  Following the War of 1812, the question of how to handle the expansion of the United States into the western territories, and in particular, how that might alter the parity between “slave” and “free” states became arguably the preoccupying political issue of the era.  Indiana and Mississippi would join the Union almost exactly a year apart in December of 1816 and 1817 respectively.  Illinois and Alabama would follow them in the Decembers of 1818 and 1819.  Then the Missouri compromise of 1820 would allow Maine to split off from the rest of Massachusetts in March 1820, followed by Missouri joining as a “slave state” in August of 1821.

The Missouri Compromise was supposed to settle this issue by extending the line of the Virginia-North Carolina, Kentucky-Tennessee, and Missouri-Arkansas Territory borders westward, and providing that future states located within the Louisiana Purchase and to south of that line would be “slave states,” and that future states north of that line would be “free states.”  This compromise more-or-less held as Arkansas was admitted in June 1836 and Michigan was added in January 1837.  So too, with the addition of Florida and Texas in March and December of 1845, and then Iowa and Wisconsin in December 1846 and May 1848.

The admission of Wisconsin came just a little less than three months after the Mexican-American had ended in February, after less than two years of fighting.  The results of that war would change the balance between “slave” and “free” states in ways that no way had anticipated.  Unbeknownst to both the treaty negotiators ending the war and also to those in Congress admitting Wisconsin to the Union, gold had been found at Sutter’s Mill in California, less than two weeks before the war had ended.  It would take several months for word of the discovery to reach the wider world, but by 1849 hundreds of thousands of “forty-niners” would be arriving in California, many along what is today marked by the National Park Service as the California National Historic Trail.   Just one year later the massive influx of people would begin raising the question of statehood for California sooner than anyone had previously imagined and would begin the process of unravelling the Missouri Compromise.

Technically, the Missouri Compromise  only applied to those lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, thus a new deal was technically required for how to handle the slavery question in the territories that had been newly conquered from Mexico.  That deal was the Compromise of 1850.  California would be admitted to the Union as a “free state.”  In addition, instead of extending the Missouri Compromise line through the rest of the lands acquired in the Mexican-American War, the newly-formed New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory would each be allowed to decide the slavery question for themselves through popular sovereignty.  This somewhat satisfied both sides as it opened the possibility of additional pro-slavery states in the new lands, but at the same time it was recognized in the north that the largely desert climate of these new states would likely be unsuitable for plantation-style agriculture.  The compromise would also settle the northern and western boundaries of Texas (which had been added five years earlier) and also prohibit the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in the District of Columbia.  In exchange for what on balance seemed like a major victory for the pro-abolition forces in the northern states, the southern states gained a truly major concession, passage of a much-stronger Fugitive Slave Act.

The Fugitive Slave Act established severe penalties for aiding an escaped slave, and imposed requirements for helping to return escaped slaves.  The Fugitive Slave Act quickly became resented in the northern states, as in their view it essentially forced northerners to become complicit in the practice of slavery itself.  Thus things simmered for four years until the question of future statehood for Kansas rose to the top of the agenda, especially as Kansas was located to the north of the Missouri Compromise line, and thus should have been a “free” state.  On the other hand, with the admission of new states from the desert lands acquired in the Mexican-American war still many years away, there were no longer any obvious pairings of future “slave” and “free” states for admission to the Union.  Thus, Senators from southern states began holding up legislation applying to the new territories, which not only would hold up their future admission to the Union, but also blocked the legal frameworks necessary for the extension westward of the future trans-continental railroad to California.

A solution to this impasse was struck in 1854 when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, effectively repealing the Missouri compromise and extending the notion of “popular sovereignty” from the former Mexican territories to the future states of Kansas Nebraska.  In exchange for this victory of southern states, the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed for construction of the trans-continental railroad to proceed.  Still, the “popular sovereignty” provisions would soon prove disastrous, creating an immediate free-for-all as pro-slavery settlers from the south and pro-abolition settlers from the north flooded into Kansas in the hopes of  altering Kansas’ final orientation as a “slave” or “free” state upon statehood.  Tensions between the two sides were palpable, and violence would regularly erupt between the two sides off and on for the next several years. Even as Minnesota and Oregon would be added to the Union as “free states” in 1858 and 1859 (in part due to Oregon electing two pro-slavery Democrats as Senators, despite being a “free” state), the “Bleeding Kansas” era would only come to an end once the secession of the first six southern states allowed the Senate to ratify Kansas as the 34th (or the 28th, depending on your perspective) state of the Union in January 1861. The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area was established to tell the stories from the front lines of the conflict over slavery in the years leading up the Civil War.

With these additions, there are now 2,008 total active cancellations in the Passport to Your National Parks program.   Excluding the cancellations for anniversaries and special events, there 1,912 active cancellations available.

A visually stunning candlelight tour at Fort Scott National Historic Site. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
A visually stunning candlelight tour at Fort Scott National Historic Site. Photo courtesy NPS.gov.
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January Stamps: Steel, Slavery, and Security

The Gantry Crane is part of the Battle of Homestead self-guiding tour sponsored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Photo from 2006.

A total of 13 new stamps this month:

Everglades National Park | Nike Missile Site

Lassen Volcanic National Park | 100th Anniversary 1916-2016

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail | Bitterroot Valley, MT

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area |

      • Battle of Homestead 1892
      • Bost Building NHL
      • Carrie Furnace NHL
      • W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop

Underground Railroad Freedom Network |

      • Cape Hatteras NS
      • Christiansted NHS
      • Fort Monroe NM
      • Fort Scott NHS
      • Monocacy NB
      • Petersburg NB’
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service

If you participate in the Passport program long enough, you’ll no doubt have many cases of the “one that got away” – a stamp that you just missed due to the circumstances of the day.   The Parkasaurus Family just had one of those moments as we visited Everglades National Park over Christmas week just last month.  We had hoped that this visit would give us a “complete set” of all four Everglades Passport stamps, only to have Everglades receive this new stamp for their Nike Missile Site, which is open by guided tour.   As we like to say, though, this gives us another reason to go back to this park!

Nike Missiles were early surface-to-air missile defense systems that were deployed during the first part of the Cold War in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.   Nike Missile sites can also be viewed at several locations in Golden Gate National Recreation Area,  including one in the Marin Headlands area with its own Passport cancellation.   Nike Missile Sites are also included within the boundaries of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, but are not part of the interpretive program at either park as near as I can tell.  (UPDATE: a reader in the comments informs me that Gateway NRA’s Sandy Hook Unit in New Jersey does offer guided tours of its well-preserved Nike Missile Site on the weekends in-season, as this schedule from Spring 2015 confirms. Gateway NRA has a second Nike Missle Site at Fort Tilden in Queens that is very deteriorated.)

Although the history of the Cold War is slowly being included in the National Park System through places like Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, Eveglades National Park is actually a surprisingly rich location to learn about the history of the Cold War.   Due to its proximity to Cuba, the Nike Missiles stationed in Everglades National Park were some of the last to be decommissioned, remaining active some five years after other sites around the country were taken out of service.  In addition, numerous locations around the Park were used by the Central Intelligence Agency to train Cuban exiles to conduct operations against the Castro Regime in Cuba. These efforts even included the stationing of secret weapons caches for arming Cuban exiles in areas around the park!  In addition to these clandestine offensive operations, during the 1950’s the US Air Force actually trained National Park Service Rangers as part of the Ground Observer Corps  Program, whose role was to have participants capable of identifying incoming hostile bombers attacking the United States.   Although advances in radar technology rendered the program obsolete by the late 1950’s, that program is illustrative of a much different era in U.S. History, one in which Everglades National Park was in many ways located on the United States’ front lines in the Cold War.

Meanwhile, Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northern California, is continuing an extended centennial celebration.  Last year, Lassen Volcanic added a new stamp marking the centennial of the 1915 eruption of Mt. Lassen.   This eruption lead to the creation of Lassen Volcanic National Park the following year on August 9th, just a couple weeks before the creation of the National Park Service itself on August 25, 1916.

 

While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Photo from 2005

The new stamp for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail will be located at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, MT, about 30 miles south of Missoula. The Lewis & Clark expedition passed through this area in early September of 1805, the second year of their cross-country expedition. Just before passing through this relatively broad valley, they encountered the Native Americans now known as the Salish.  Lewis & Clark purchased horses from them and gained valuable information about the Lolo Pass to the north, which they would eventually take over the Bitterroot Mountains, just barely making it through before the early onset of winter.  Interestingly, Lewis & Clark were so amazed by the unique sounds of the Salish language that they speculated that the Salish must be the lost descendents of Welsh explorers from the 12th Century – which was a popular legend in America at the time.

It is also worth noting that the Bitterrot Valley actually owes its name somewhat indirectly to Lewis & Clark.  The American Indians of the area would eat the roots of this plant after boiling them until they were soft, and the women would collect these roots in the valley during the late summer each year.  In 1805, they shared some of these roots with the expedition, but Lewis found that “they had a very bitter taste, which was naucious  to my pallate.” (spellings from the original)   Nonetheless, on the return journey back east in 1806 Lewis was able to collect some specimens of the complete plant, which he he returned back east as part of the expedition’s collections.  Botanist Frederick Pursh of the University of Pennsylvania would later give this species the scientific name Lewisia rediviva in Lewis’ honor.   And of course, that initial assessment of the bitter taste lives on to this day in the name of the valley and of the mountains.

This decaying water tower is one of the signature landmarks at the Battle of Homestead site in the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.. Photo from 2006.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, like other National Heritage Areas, is a partnership program – but in many ways, it also functions as “Steelmaking National Historical Park” in the absence of a full-fledged national park dedicated to the history of steelmaking in southwest Pennsylvania. The main starting point for any visit to the Heritage Area is the visitor center and headquarters for the River of Steel Heritage Alliance in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.  The Bost Building  was originally built as a hotel, and served as the temporary headquarters of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers during the contentious strike and lockout of 1892.  That strike culminated on July 6, 1892 with a conflict between the striking workers on one side and the security agents and strike-breakers hired by the Carnegie Steel Company on the other side.  The nearby site of that battle is already a Passport location for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and features a small visitor contact station, some wayside exhibits, and a cell phone audio tour.   Across the Monongahela River from this site are located the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark.  There lie the remains of the giant blast furnaces at the Homestead Steel Works, and are open only by guided tour from May to October.  The Carrie Furnaces are actually the core of a proposal to create a Homestead Steelworks National Historical Park; you can also see part of this facility in this 13 minute online video tour.

Finally, the last new Passport location is for the W. A. Young and Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, which is located about an hour south of Homestead in Rices Landing, PA, and has been restored by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Alliance.

Appomattox Plantation at City Point in Petersburg National Battlefield once had a number of slaves before it was occupied by the Union Army in the closing stages of the Civil War.  Photo from 2015.

The last stamps this month are for the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom.  This is partnership that includes any site that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in the United States.  Since this partnership includes more than 500 sites and programs, for purposes of the Passport, the Network only issues cancellations to sites in the Network that are already part of the National Park System proper.  The waterfront at Christiansted National Historic Site in the Virgin Islands was once part of the slave trade from 1733 to 1803 as a colony of Denmark.  Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia preserves the Appommattox Plantation at City Point, which was later used as General Grant’s Headquarters.  Like most southern plantations, the plantation included a number of slaves, whose stories are now told by the National Park Service.  Similarly, Monocacy National Battlefield includes the Best Farm, which was founded  in 1793 as L’Hermitage by French plantation owners from what is now present-day Haiti.  The  Vincendiere Family owned slaves at the plantation into the 1850’s.

Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia was amously used as a refuge for escaped slaves during the Civil War as well.  Union General Benjamin Butler argued that if the Confederates wished to argue that slaves were legally property and that they had legally seceeded from the Union, then escaped slaves were legally “contraband of war” and thus no longer needed to be returned under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act. The story of escape from slavery is now part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  A monument there marks the site of the Hotel d’Afrique on Hatteras Inlet, which was used as a safe haven for escaped slaves during the Civil War.

Finally, Fort Scott National Historic Site in eastern Kansas tells the story of the “Bleeding Kansas” years of the 1850’s.  During this time, pro-slavery southerners and pro-abolition northerners flooded in to Kansas, and frequently had conflicts with each other, as they attempted to influence whether Kansas would enter the Union as a so-called “slave state” or “free state.”  The violence would include an appearance by John Brown, who would later go on to fame (and his death) in a raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.   This violence also led to the infamous case of Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts being nearly caned to death by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks after Sumner gave a speech sharply criticizing the role of one of South Carolina’s Senators in instigating the violence in Kansas.  The violence ultimately came to an end only when southern Senators abandoned the US Senate during the Civil War, allowing Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

The addition of this month’s new stamps means that there are now 1, 997 Passport cancellations currently available.   That means next month we will almost certainly pass 2,000!    Excluding anniversary and special event cancellations, there are still 1,897 cancellations available.

Fort Scott National Historic Site
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas is one of several new sites adding an Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Passport stamp this month. Photo from 2006.

 

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