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Posts Tagged ‘James River’

Wolsey, South Dakota

Posted by graywacke on February 3, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  Since I got back in the ALAD saddle, I haven’t had one of my good ol’ fashioned High Plains teeny town landing.  Until now, here in . . . SD; 53/50; 4/10; 5; 155.4.

 Here’s my regional landing map:

wolsey landing1

 Here’s closer-in, showing my proximity to Wolsey:

wolsey landing2

Note the tidy one-mile square pattern of roads.  I mean, really – if you’re out there building roads across a flat prairie, and there’s no reason not to . . .

 Although there are no streams in the immediate Wolsey vicinity (as you can see above), I could, using Google Earth’s topographic feature, figure out that the land sloped to the east, towards Stony Run, which is off the map to the east.  By the way, this was my 11th distinct landing watershed with the name “Stone, Stoney or Stony”.  Stony Run runs on to the James R (an amazing 17 hits) to the Missouri (368th hit) to the MM (782nd hit).

 Note how the landing map shows little intermittent ponds all over the place.  I wonder what those are.  Well, let’s take a look at the Google Earth (GE) shot:

 wolsey GE1

I landed in a predictably agricultural setting (maybe pasture land?).  The intermittent ponds just look like the splotchy brown areas.

 I checked out the geological & soil surveys for Beadle County, and figured out that we’re in an upland area underlain by glacial till deposits.  The glaciers were pretty messy about laying down their deposits, and we’ve ended up with irregular topography with small depressions.  The soils are fairly permeable (well-drained), and so these depressions are generally dry.  I bet that’s more information than you needed (or cared about) . . .

Here are a couple of back-in-the-day shots – the first, is the old railroad depot, from the town website:

 wosley old rr depot, town webiste

And this, of Main Street, probably about the same time (from the USGenWeb):

wosley us gen web postcard main st

So, what else about Wolsey?  Well, the town is pretty little (pop 367).  Here’s a GE birds-eye view:

 wolsey GE2

The only thing of real interest is this little tidbit from Wiki, under “Notable Wolsey Residents:”

Richard Warren Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck, and Co, began his retail sales career by selling unclaimed watches while serving as a station agent for the railroad in Wolsey in the early 1880s.


Here’s some bio info on good ol’ Dick Sears, from the Sears archives:

Richard Warren Sears was born December 7, 1863, in Stewartville, Minn., to James Warren and Eliza Sears.

Although Sears’ father was at one time a fairly prosperous blacksmith and wagon-maker, he lost all of his money—about $50,000—in a failed stock-farm venture. Consequently, at a young age, Richard Sears found it necessary to work in order to help support the family. After learning telegraphy, he was employed by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad and eventually became a station agent at North Redwood, Minn.

Note:  this bio says nothing about Wolsey SD.  Oh, well.  I’m going to let Wiki pick up the story here (they included some interesting details):

It was in 1886 at age 23, that his career path changed forever: A shipment of gold-filled pocket watches from a Chicago manufacturer was refused by a Minnesota retailer, Edward Stegerson.

A common scam existing at the time involved wholesalers who would ship their products to retailers who had not ordered them. Upon refusal, the wholesaler would offer the already price-hiked items to the retailer at a lower price in the guise of alleviating the cost to ship the items back. The unsuspecting retailer might then agree to take this new-found “bargain” off the wholesaler’s hands.

But Stegerson, a retailer savvy to the scam, flatly refused the watches. Young Sears jumped at the opportunity, and made an agreement with the wholesaler to buy the watches for $12.  He then set about offering his wares to other station agents along the railroad line for $14. Sears acted as a “middle man,” because the other station agents actually sold the watches to passers-by.

The watches were considered an item of urban sophistication. Also because of the growth of railways, and the recent application of time zones, farmers needed to keep time accurately which had not been necessary until then. For those two reasons the station agents had no trouble selling the watches to passers-by.

Within six months, Sears had netted $5,000 and felt so confident in this venture that he moved to Minneapolis and founded the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He began placing advertisements in farm publications and mailing flyers to potential clients. From the beginning, it was clear that Sears had a talent for writing promotional copy. He took the personal approach in his ads, speaking directly to rural and small-town communities, persuading them to purchase by mail-order.

In 1887 Sears moved his company to Chicago and moved his residence to nearby Oak Park, Illinois.

[Hey – I used to live in Oak Park, and never knew Sears lived there.]

In 1887 he also hired watch repairman Alvah Roebuck to repair any watches being returned.

Roebuck was Sears’s first employee, and he later became co-founder of Sears, Roebuck & Company, which was formed in 1893 when Sears was 30 years old. Roebuck left the growing company a few years later, and Sears went on with a new business partner, clothier Julius Rosenwald, who became president of the business in 1908 upon Sears’ retirement at age 44.

The first Sears catalog was published in 1893 and offered only watches. By 1897, the 500-page cataglog include items such as men’s and ladies clothing, plows, housewares, bicycles and athletic equipment.

How about that Roebuck?  A watch repairman who only hung around for a few years.  No wonder they eventually dropped his name . . .

Here’s a quote from Mr. Sears:

“If you buy a good watch you will always be satisfied, and at our prices a good watch will influence the sale of another good watch; and that’s our motto: “Make a Good Watch,  Sell a Good Watch.” (1892)

True confession:  the quote (lifted from the Sears history archive website) said “Make a Watch, Sell a Watch.”  AYKM?  (OK, that means “Are You Kidding Me?”)  That’s a lousy motto without the “goods.”  In my not-so-humble opinion, my version is vastly improved!

I’ll close with this country side shot, taken some miles south of my landing (Panoramio, by fred089):

 wolsey fred089


That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day


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Huron, South Dakota

Posted by graywacke on March 10, 2009

First timer? In this once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” above.

Dan –  A ho hum WBer . . . SD; 47/42; 5/10; 5; 166.3.  For the 15th time, I landed in the James R watershed (way OS, I’m sure); on to the Missouri.

Here’s my landing map:


And a broader view, featuring Cavour:


I think I’ll start with a little info about the James River, from Wiki:


The James River (also known as the Jim River or the Dakota River) is a tributary of the Missouri River, approximately 710 mi (1,143 km) long, in North Dakota and South Dakota.

The James River has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the longest unnavigable river in the world.

Originally called “E-ta-zi-po-ka-se Wakpa,” literally “unnavigable river” by the Dakota tribes, the river was named Rivière aux Jacques (literally, “James River” in English) by French explorers. By the time Dakota Territory was incorporated, it was being called the James River.  However, the Organic Act of 1861 that formed the territory renamed it the Dakota River. Apparently this did not catch on, as the river retains its pre-1861 name.

So what’s an “Organic Act?”  From Wiki:

Organic Act may refer to any Act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States or an agency to manage certain federal lands.

It doesn’t really explain why it’s call “organic.”  Oh, well. 

I’m a little dubious about the Indians call it “unnavigable river.”  I’m sorry, but you can paddle a canoe on the James (at least the lower 500 miles or so)!  I mean, check out this picture!!


So, you can see that I landed fairly close to Huron.  It turns out that Huron is the hometown of Cheryl Ladd.  From Wiki:

Cheryl Ladd is an American singer, author and actress, perhaps best known for her role as Kris Munroe in the 1970s television series Charlie’s Angels.

Ladd, whose given name was Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor, was born July 12, 1951 in Huron, South Dakota, the daughter of Dolores, a waitress, and Marion Stoppelmoor, a railroad engineer.  She married fellow actor David Ladd, son of the famous actor Alan Ladd, with whom she had a daughter, Jordan. She took his surname as her own, which she kept after their divorce. She has been married to record producer Bryan Russell since 1981. Ladd is a celebrity ambassador for the child abuse prevention and treatment non-profit Childhelp.

Pretty amazing that the daughter of a waitress and a train engineer from a town in the middle of nowhere made it so big.  Well, she certainly was attractive! (OK, so here’s a picture):


Now for the “a little of this and that” portion of the post.  Here’s a picture of a railroad round house in Huron:


Here’s a picture of a corn pile in Cavour.  Why aren’t there a million birds (or squirrels or rats) eating the corn?


Here’s a picture of a street in Iroquois back in the day:


Here’s a picture of a Pepsi Cola add painted on the side of a building.  This picture by Bob Kisken comes from the “Fading Ad” blog located right nearby in WordPress (although this particular ad doesn’t look very faded).  Anyway, click here for the blog.



I think I’ll close with the world’s largest pheasant statue (in Huron):




© 2009 A Landing A Day

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Charlottesville, Virginia

Posted by graywacke on February 21, 2009

First timer? In this once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States. I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the towns I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find out something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is, and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please check out “About Landing,” above.

Dan –  I’ve got another pattern going.  Let me see, it started with CA (US); WI (OS); AL (US); SD (OS); GA (US); MT (OS); followed by today’s USer . . . VA; 12/23 (amazingly US!); 6/10; 19; 165.0.  My Score is as low as it has been since New Year’s Eve. 

So, Dan, I landed closer to you than I ever have.  (Landing Nation – Dan’s a student at the University of Richmond).  But, (and this probably hurts you a little, Dan), I landed very close to what is undoubtedly the most famous college town in VA.  That’s right, I landed just south of Charlottesville, home of that bastion of southern gentility, U VA.  Dan, I don’t know how you feel about U VA, but just in case you feel disdain for them as a rival institution, I won’t feature them in this post (not that I necessarily would anyway).

Oh my!  I got out of my usual rhythm here, mentioning the town first rather than the watershed.  Well, getting back to business . . . I landed in a new watershed!  The Rivanna River (I like the name), on to the James (2nd hit); on to the AO.  My first landing in the James watershed was (get this!) back on September 29, 1999.  That was landing 108, when I landed near Appomattox, which is about the same distance from Richmond as Charlottesville.

Anyway, here’s my landing map:


And here’s a broader view.  Today’s landing is the one all by its lonesome right in the middle of the state.


This map gives you a feel for just how US VA is, and how it looks like the LG has been studiously avoiding VA in general, and central VA in particular. . .

So, Charlottesville.  It’s a pretty big place, with about 45,000 people in the town proper (I don’t know if that includes the student population associated with that particular institution I’m not talking about).  The greater Charlottesville area (which I suspect includes my landing) has a pop of about 90,000. 

As you know, I prefer my small town landings – and then poking around the internet like I did yesterday for Lodge Grass.  Nothing against Charlottesville, but I’m going to ignore the obvious (like U VA and Monticello).  I’ll start with a couple of pictures of Carters Mountain, which, as you see on my landing map is just north of my landing (and just south of Charlottesville), and then move on to a fascinating story about an old friend . . .

First, Carters Mountain.  Here’s a shot of the mountain:


And here’s a view of the mountain from a different perspective.


Here’s a shot looking out from the mountaintop:


The rest of this post will focus, as I said above, on an old friend who is oft-mentioned in A Landing A Day.   It turns out that Meriwether Lewis was born just outside of  Charlottesville!!  Here’s a plaque commemorating his birth place:

 Meriwether's birth place plaque

Anyway, taking this opportunity to look at some general biographical information, I found out that Meriwether met an untimely and tragic end, and that there is some mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death.

I found a very interesting piece about Lewis’ death from “Dead Men Do Tell Tales . 

Let me warn you that the following piece is way longer than the usual cut-and-paste you find in A Landing A Day.  By way of explanation, I think this is well worth the read, and I also want to know that I’ve performed some serious editing to make this shorter and more readable (a service I’m more than happy to provide to my readers!):

In September 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition made a triumphal return to St. Louis after their two year and four month explorations. The men had crossed more than 6,000 miles of wilderness and arrived in the city to much celebration.   After the celebration, Lewis departed for Washington, where he was welcomed into the home of President Jefferson and  appointed as Governor of the Louisiana Territory.

Lewis went back to St. Louis to take over his duties as governor.  Unfortunately for Meriwether, he soon found much to dislike about the office, such as sitting behind a desk all day long and dealing with politicians, which he despised.

In spite of this, he seemed to be the man for the job.  He was well acquainted with the Louisiana Territory, and was an experienced military officer and popular in the city.

Although he enjoyed some early successes, Lewis became involved in several local quarrels and made an enemy of his subordinate, Frederick Bates.  A heated argument at a party one night resulted in Bates humiliating Lewis in public.  Bates soon became the governor’s tormentor, spreading rumors about Lewis and reporting any mistakes that Lewis made to his contacts in Washington.

Lewis’ administration began to fail and as it did, his personal life began to deteriorate as well. Ill-conceived land speculation deals drained his finances.  He became careless about his clothing and his appearance.  He began to drink too much, complaining that he was unable to sleep unless he took laudanum.

As he sunk more deeply into debt, he raved and fumed and wrote angry letters to Washington, becoming so ill with worry that he was often confined to his bed.  He feared that his loyalty was being questioned and that he was being accused of treason.  (His fears of treason were because some rebellious quarters were demanding that the Louisiana Territory secede from the Unite States, and he feared that his detractors were linking him with this movement.)  He wrote letters, vowing that he was no traitor and had no involvement with the rebellious group.

Lewis decided to journey to Washington and defend himself against charges he believed had been leveled against him.  He set out down the Mississippi in 1809, planning to travel by boat from New Orleans to Washington.  But on reaching Memphis, he and his small party heard that British ships were patrolling the Gulf of Mexico.  Fearing that he might fall into enemy hands, Lewis decided to make his way to Washington by land instead.

He decided to travel along the Natchez Trace, the rough and often dangerous wilderness trail across Tennessee that was the main overland route of the day.  By most accounts, Lewis was in no condition to travel.  His companions warned him that his health would not hold for the number of days in the saddle that it would take to reach Washington.  Lewis could not be dissuaded.   Major John Neely, the Cherokee Indian agent in Memphis, tried to talk Lewis out of the journey.  When he failed, he decided to accompany him.  They soon set out with Lewis complaining of terrible headaches and a fever.

On October 10, 1809, a torrential rainstorm fell on the party.  The pack horses fled into the forest and Lewis’ servants went after them.  Major Neely begged Lewis to ride to the home of the nearest white settlers on the trail, promising that he would help to find the pack horses and the records they carried.  Lewis agreed and the wet and sick man rode to the home of John Grinder, located about 72 miles from Nashville.

The house served as an inn to other travelers along the Trace, so Mrs. Grinder graciously opened the door to him.   A short time later, the servants arrived with the most of the pack horses and Mrs. Grinder prepared a meal for supper.  Major Neely was absent, evidently still searching for other, still-missing animals and papers.

According to her account , Lewis ate little.  He seemed very agitated and was heard talking to himself.  He lit a pipe and then smoked it, pacing back and forth on the front lawn.  She said that he ranted about his enemies in Washington.  Then suddenly, he would calm down and speak quite kindly to her.  She wasn’t sure what to think of her famous, yet quite strange, visitor.  She prepared a bed for him, but he refused to sleep on it, preferring to make a pallet for himself on the floor with a buffalo robe.  After that, Mrs. Grinder retired to bed with her children, but not before sending Lewis’ servants to sleep in the barn.

According to later testimony, Mrs. Grinder stated that she was awakened several times that night by the sound of Lewis walking back and forth, once again talking to himself.  In the middle of the night, she heard the sound of a gunshot and then the sound of something heavy falling to the floor. 

Immediately after that, she heard the sound of another gunshot and in a few moments, Lewis’ voice at her door. He called out to her. “Oh, Madame, give me some water and heal my wounds.”  Through the chinks in the log walls, she saw him stagger and fall down.  He crawled for some distance, raised himself up and then sat for a few minutes.  He then staggered back to the kitchen and attempted to draw water, but was unable to.

Mrs. Grinder refused to leave the room where she had been sleeping and assist him, apparently fearing for her own safety.  In fact, she waited nearly two hours before even sending her children to the barn to rouse the servants.  They came inside and found Lewis on his pallet again.  He had been wounded in the side and once in the head.  The buffalo robe that he lay on was soaked with blood and Lewis was barely hanging on to life.  He died just as the sun was rising over the trees.

Major Neely arrived later that morning.  He took charge of Lewis’ papers and carried them the rest of the way to Washington.

Lewis was buried there on the property.  The land now exists as the Meriwether Lewis State Park in Tennessee. According to Major Neely and the historians that have followed him, Lewis’ death was a suicide.  The man had been deranged and drunk and took his own life in the Grinder cabin.  But was this really the case?  If Lewis did in fact kill himself, then why do so many questions remain?  Why didn’t Mrs. Grinder come to the man’s assistance?  Why didn’t Lewis’ servants hear the gunshots?  Were they somehow involved in a crime… a murder, or a robbery gone bad?

Regardless, there were really no eyewitnesses to Lewis’ death, as even Mrs. Grinder did not see the shots being fired.

In fact, the belief that Lewis committed suicide rests only on accounts of his state of mind during his journey.  For example, Gilbert Russell, commander at Fort Pickering in Memphis, testified that Lewis was ill, acting strangely and occasionally drunk soon after getting off the boat at Memphis.  In fact, Russell arrested Lewis for drunkenness, and Lewis spent one night in the Fort Pickering jail.

While most historians accept the fact that Lewis did commit suicide, there have been many who have questioned this. They believe that his death may have been part of a far-reaching conspiracy.

If indeed the famed adventurer’s death was a murder plot, the main culprit behind it is believed to be General James Wilkinson, Lewis’ predecessor as governor. In 1804, Wilkinson had conspired with Aaron Burr to create their own “empire in the west” and had tried to extract money and weapons from both Britain and Spain. Wilkinson and Burr both escaped punishment, and in fact, Wilkinson returned to the post of governor of Louisiana after Lewis’ death.

It has been pointed out that Frederick Bates, who did much to sabotage Lewis’ career in St. Louis, was close to Wilkinson, and visited with him often in New Orleans, where Wilkinson was living.  It is surmised that perhaps Lewis, who was known for his honesty and integrity, may have discovered new evidence against Wilkinson and planned to use it.  It is even believed that this may have been the real purpose behind his trip to Washington and even why he chose to take an overland route instead of journeying by river.  Lewis may not have been afraid of British ships in the Gulf, but the fact that Wilkinson was in New Orleans.

Could agents of Wilkinson have pursued Lewis?  Some historians believe so.  In fact, Captain Russell at Fort Pickering, who imprisoned Lewis and then testified that he had been drunk and deranged, had been appointed to his position by Wilkinson, as had Major Neely.  Could the two men have testified falsely against Lewis after his death?  Or more shocking, could Major Neely have actually assassinated Lewis and then disappeared, only to show up at the Grinder house the next morning?

Who knows? This mystery will undoubtedly never be solved . . .

Wow.  Quite the story, eh?  Here’s a picture of Meriwether’s grave stone, then a close-up of the inscription:

 Lewis monument

meriwether lewis

Here’s a plaque outside the site of the Grinder house, where the suicide/murder took place:

 Grinder House Marker

The next time I run into Lewis & Clark references (which seems to happen quite regularly), I’ll have a different perspective on Mr. Lewis . . .

One final note.  You may have noticed that Meriwether took to the drug laudanum.  You may remember that in my Spring Hill, Tennessee post, laudanum was also mentioned (a confederate Civil War general was taking laudanum and that may have contributed to bad judgement and a significant lost opportunity).  Anyway, laudanum is an opium-laced elixir.



© 2009 A Landing A Day

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