Last Place in the United States

On July 10, 2016 · 1 Comments

I decided to wrap-up the series of "Last Places" with the United States, after previously exploring England, Asia and various members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The premise remained the same, to find the last places in the nation where something once happened or where anachronisms still remained.

The Last Arabbers


18 - Donald 'Manboy' Savoy
Donald 'Manboy' Savoy – a patriarch of the Arabbers by Cultural Documentation on Flickr (cc)

Men known as arabbers once commonly walked beside horse-drawn carts through city streets of the northeastern United States selling fresh fruits and vegetables. They shouted distinctive chants to identify themselves and their wares. Residents came outdoors when they heard items they wanted to buy. Many African American men pursued this entrepreneurial opportunity, a means of steady self-employment free from discrimination in the years after the Civil War. The practice gradually faded after the advent of motorized vehicles. Cities became increasingly hostile to horses and people switched their shopping allegiance to grocery stores. Arabbing disappeared everywhere except for tiny pockets of Baltimore, Maryland.

The term Arabbing seemed unusual. It derived from A-rab (pronounced Ay-Rab), which earned a special explanation from the Baltimore Sun when it described the practice in 2007. The etymology extended back to London in the mid-Nineteenth Century, referring to "a homeless little wanderer, a child of the street." In turn, that "likely reflects the sense of the nomadic life historically led by the peoples on the Arabian Peninsula." In other words it derived from a stereotype.

The profession could disappear soon even in Baltimore. Only a few arabber continued to exist. Animal rights activities derided the practice, lobbying Government officials to end the tradition in other cities such as Philadelphia and New York. Baltimore officials raided one of the last stables, the old South Carlton Street stables near Hollins Market (map) in 2015. All charges were dropped in March 2016 in a case described as "laughably weak." However by that time officials found replacement homes for all of the horses. The city effectively put the rightful owners out of business. Now arabbing in Baltimore hangs by the weakest of threads.


Last Place to Fly the Bourbon flag of France


Fort de Chartres Wall
Fort de Chartres Wall by henskechristine on Flickr (cc)

I struggled with this one. Did Fort de Chartres fly the Bourbon flag of France longer than anywhere else in territory later part of United States, as claimed? Maybe.

France controlled inland North America for much of the Eighteenth Century. This including a preponderance of the Mississippi River and its watershed. It established a series of forts along these waterways to enforce its domain. Fort de Chartres (map) on the east bank of the Mississippi in modern-day Illinois, played a central role. The initial fort dated to 1720. It washed away as did its replacement, a predictable fate for wooden structures built in a floodplain. The French decided on something more permanent after that. They rebuilt Fort de Chartres in thick limestone in 1753. This served as their main military outpost and government center for all of Upper Louisiana until 1765.

France and Britain battled in the Seven Years’ War during this period, a conflict called the French and Indian War in North America. Britain eventually won. The resulting 1763 Treaty of Paris forced France to cede all land east of the Mississippi to Britain and all land west of the Mississippi to Spain. It took another two years before British forces occupied Fort de Chartres.

Then the white banner of old France, with its royal fleur de lis, was drawn down from its staff, and in its place was displayed the red cross of St, George. Thus was ended the splendid dream of French conquest and dominion in North America. After the performance of this sad act, St. Ange took his departure by boat, with his little company of 30 officers and men, and proceeded up and across the Mississippi river to the new French trading post of St. Louis, which was then in Spanish territory.

Napoleon Bonaparte briefly claimed Louisiana from Spain before selling it to the fledgling United States in 1803. However Bonaparte did not fly the Bourbon flag so the assertion might be true.


The Last Indentured Servants


Haleakala Cane Fields
Haleakala Cane Fields by bradmcs on Fickr (cc)

Indentured servitude seemed like something out of the colonial era of American history. People received passage to the New World and in turn they agreed to work for someone for a number of years. The practice disappeared soon after the American Revolution. However, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898. Hawaii had been an independent nation that allowed indentured servitude so the US had to abolish the practice again.

The Organic Act, bringing US law to bear in the newly-annexed Territory of Hawaii took effect 111 years ago–June 14, 1900. As a result, US laws prohibiting contracts of indentured servitude replaced the 1850 Masters and Servants Act which had been in effect under the Hawaiian Kingdom and Hawaii Republic. Tens of thousands of plantation laborers were freed from contract slavery by the Organic Act.

Sugar drove both freedom for indentured servants and a loss of sovereignty for the Hawaiian nation. Immigrants from the United States built large estates like the 1864 Grove Farm Sugar Plantation on Kauai, now a museum (map). These super-wealthy capitalists demanded more influence in Hawaiian politics. Their power came from the other side of the Pacific and they seized control. Ironically they also lost their cheap supply of Chinese and Japanese indentured servants once the United States took over.


Last Place Where Oysters are Harvested with Tongs from Small Boats


oyster shells in tong heads
oyster shells in tong heads by Southern Foodways Alliance on Flickr (cc)

Machinery changed many practices of people who made their living from the land or the sea. Oystermen generally abandoned traditional labor-intensive techniques in favor of motorized dredges once they became available. Only in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay did harvesters continue to scrape oysters from their beds using hand-powered tongs (map). The water was so shallow and the oysters so abundant that the traditional method actually allowed watermen to make a decent living. This reminded me of another anachronism, the skipjack sailors of Chesapeake Bay. They used small sailboats to harvest oysters. A quirk in Maryland law allowed them to harvest during times of the year that those using motorized boats could not, a means to prevent over-harvesting.

Ted’s Last Stand

On June 26, 2016 · 0 Comments

A last stand didn’t mean that the person subjected to the stand had to die, I supposed. I looked to the modern era and examined the curious case of Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, for the final of this series of final stands. His last stand happened at an isolated cabin in the wilderness, ending more with a whimper than a bang. A critical mistake made by the overconfident evil genius led to his ruin.



Before the Bombings

Kaczynski didn’t like modern technology and he blamed it for the ills of society. He lived according to his practices, moving to a one-room cabin completely lacking any amenities in rural Montana, preferring the world of a hermit. He demonstrated remarkable intelligence in spite of his lack of social skills. Kaczynski entered Harvard University at the age of 16 and became an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley by the time he turned 25. That lasted only a couple of years and he moved to his cabin in 1971, not yet 30 years old. He didn’t fit in well with society.

A Terrible Turn of Events

His reclusive behavior seemed unusual although it remained legally acceptable. He was simply another loner who preferred a life of solitude. However his distaste for the modern world progressed to a deadlier level. He began to craft homemade bombs that he delivered or mailed to technologists at universities and research facilities. He also managed to slip a bomb onto a passenger jet that would have taken it down except that the device started smoking and failed to detonate. Federal agencies searching for a suspect used the code name UNABOM for University and Airline Bomber. The press changed it to Unabomber.

Kaczynski’s terrorist acts continued for many years, from 1978 to 1995. They involved sixteen separate bombs, three deaths and a score of injuries. His spree could have lasted indefinitely except that Kaczynski actually wanted to change the world. He drafted a rambling manifesto condemning the failings of modern society. Kaczynski said that he would halt the bombings if major news organizations published his beliefs verbatim. Federal officials convinced both the New York Times and the Washington Post to print the document, a hugely controversial decision at the time. They hoped someone might recognize its distinct writing style and turn-in the bomber. That’s exactly what happened. Linda Patrik, Ted’s sister-in-law, had a suspension and convinced her husband David to take a look. David Kaczynski was Ted’s brother and noticed an immediate similarity. That was the break the case need and the FBI arrested Ted Kaczynski at his mountainside cabin.

The Cabin


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The Unabomber’s house by Anthony Dean on Flickr (cc)

Twelve Mile Circle couldn’t identify the exact spot of the cabin where the last stand took place. It happened somewhere several miles south of Lincoln, Montana (map). The property was for sale as recently as 2010 however, so I’m sure someone could find the spot without too much effort. It wouldn’t do much good because the cabin was removed. The FBI took it away and loaned it to the Newseum in Washington, DC (map) where it became part of an exhibit.

Kaczynski wasn’t happy about that, either.

I recently received a page from the Washington Post, June 19, 2008, page A9. This comprises a full-page, full-color advertisement that features my cabin, which is being exhibited publicly at something called a ‘Newseum,’ … Since the advertisement states that the cabin is ‘FROM FBI VAULT,’ it is clear that the government is responsible for the public exhibition of the cabin. This has obvious relevance to the victims’ objection to publicity connected with the Unabom case.

Ted’s New Home

Ted’s still very much alive even now, so many years later. A judge sentenced him to eight life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. He currently spends his days at the federal Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado (map). Authorities designed this prison for the worst of the worst criminals, with restrictions a level beyond maximum security, a so-called supermax facility. Here Ted will remain with other notorious villains such as Eric Rudolph (Olympic Park bomber), Zacarias Moussaoui (helped plan the 9-11 attacks on the World Trace Center and the Pentagon), Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bomber), Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City Federal Building bomber); and Robert Hanssen (notorious spy for the Soviet Union) until he dies. ADX will truly become Kaczynski’s final last stand.

A Duo’s Last Stand

On June 22, 2016 · 1 Comments

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow earned instant fame during the gangster era of the 1930’s. They and their gang were despicable people, common thugs and criminals. They also practiced extreme violence, killing numerous people including nine police officers. They robbed banks and shops through midland America, from Minnesota down to the Gulf states, with much of their activity focused in Texas and Louisiana.

The Couple


Bonnieclyde f
Bonnie & Clyde on Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

Bonnie and Clyde came from the Dallas, Texas area, both surviving tough childhoods in poverty. Clyde became a hardened criminal at a young age with a string of arrests and a serious prison record by the time he turned 21 years old. Bonnie didn’t become a criminal until she met Clyde, gladly tagging along on a multi-state crime spree. They quickly captured the imagination of the public in an era when women weren’t generally thought of as gangsters. Undoubtedly, the romantic angle of criminal lovebirds with rifles also piqued interest.

They mastered quirks of geography, oddly enough. Bonnie and Clyde understood the power of state borders and the limitations of law enforcement. Their crimes fell within the jurisdiction of state enforcement. They committing crimes near state borders and simply slipping across the line to neighboring states to escape. That simple trick kept them a step ahead of the law.


Fame


Bonnie and Clyde in Joplin
Bonnie & Clyde Hideout in Joplin, Missouri
via Google Street View, April 2013

The duo made a series of mistakes during a brief hideaway in Joplin, Missouri. Otherwise they may have remained unknown to the public. They needed to lay low for awhile with members of their extended gang and selected a garage apartment at 3347½ Oak Ridge Drive (map). Joplin offered quick access to Kansas and Oklahoma should the gang need to flee. They located out of site in a quiet neighborhood. Then they got drunk every night and made lots of noise into the late hours. Neighbors contacted police to report rowdy behavior, not because anyone suspected a house full of armed robbers. Police thought they were busting bootleggers when they raided the apartment on April 13, 1933. Instead they encountered a pack of killers who opened fire. Two policemen died and the gang escaped.

However they fled in a hurry, leaving most their belongings behind including identification papers and a camera with rolls of undeveloped film. Images included Bonnie and Clyde acting as a happy couple, posing with weapons, and acting lovingly tough. One iconic image showed Bonny with a cigar and a pistol in a very unladylike manner. Images hit the newswires immediately, and became front page material in newspapers around the nation. Bonnie, Clyde and the newly-dubbed Barrow Gang became instant celebrities.

They lived in the apartment for less than two weeks. However the trove of photographs created a myth that resonated with the public, catapulting the couple into instant fame for all the wrong reasons. The significance of this location justified its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. It even had its own website.


The Last Stand


Bonnie & Clyde historical marker in Louisiana
Bonnie & Clyde historical marker in Louisiana by finchlake2000 on Flickr (cc)

Their fixation on geography eventually became their undoing. The state of Texas called a retired Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer, to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde in 1934. He understood the geography and also saw that the gang traveled in a predictable manner. Notably they visited family members upon occasion. Hamer assembled several Texas and Louisiana officers to negate the border issues, then on a hunch, began a stakeout along a secluded country road. He guessed correctly. Bonnie and Clyde rambled down that road in the middle of nowhere near Gibsland, Louisiana, and drove straight into an ambush (map). The officers never attempted to stop the duo, they simply opened fire with automatic rifles and finished the job with shotguns. Lawmen emptied 130 rounds into the stolen 1932 Ford V-8 automobile, riddling Bonnie and Clyde with lead and killing them on the spot.

The Bienville Parish police department erected a stone monument at the site of the ambush. Vandals shot it repeatedly, leaving it damaged and pockmarked. I supposed it seemed appropriate given what happened to Bonnie and Clyde on that same spot.


Remnants


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Bonnie & Clyde’s Death Car by Jay Bonvouloir on Flickr (cc)

The Twelve Mile Circle audience would be forgiven for not wanting to travel all the way to Gibsland, Louisiana, to see where Bonnie and Clyde died. One could still see where they died, their actual car, in a more accessible location. Whiskey Pete’s casino in Primm, Nevada put the car on exhibit in recent years along with the tattered shirt Clyde wore at his death (map).

I thought Bonnie and Clyde might approve. Primm sat directly beside the border, barely inside Nevada. A spectral Barrow Gang could ride again and escape into California in a pinch.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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