Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Tuesday 29th September 2009 - Another Dark Satanic Mill

          In 1871, The Port Washington Coal Company, saddled with a loss-making mine, producing poor quality coal, sent their Mr Cherry to Glasgow, in Scotland with samples of local iron ore.  This induced a number Glasgow Capitalists (afficionados will know that Glaswegians put the emphsis on the second syllable, which allows you to spit while you're saying it) to part with very large sums of money indeed.
          They set up the Glasgow and Port Washington Iron and Coal Company, sending over three Scots to build quite a large Ironworks.  In the end, they spent three-quarters of a million dollars.  Goodness knows how much that would translate into in today's money.  They built a bridge over the Ohio Canal, and added a spur to the Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and St Louis Railroad (known as the "Panhandle Road").  They started production in 1874.  It was not a success, and sputtered to a stop in 1880.  Local history has it that the failure was due to poor dividends on the vast amount spent, and "mismangement in Scotland".
          In 1873, a local landowner, Robert Hill, laid out the village of Glasgow next to the furnaces. 
While the furnaces were operating, the village prospered, running to a population of about 450, with two stores.  But when the works failed, the village followed it, although there are still a number of houses there, and it still retains the name.  There was still a school, up to about 1920.
          So this Glasgow, very definitely, was named for Glasgow, Scotland.
          Where one usually identifies land by its township and range number, this land was known as the "Salem Tract", having been leased to Moravian Missionaries working with the Delaware Indians.  An atlas of 1875 even shows a "Glasgow Station" on the main line, where the spur comes off.
The present township (district) is known as Salem.
          Later that night, everyone seemed to be watching poker on the TV.  Why would you do that?  If you wanted poker, you could invite some friends round and do it yourself, in your own front room.  You can't do that with football: even one dad and a small boy would be a risky proposition playing American football in the front room.  It must be to do with the very large amounts of money involved.
          I wanted to compare some of the beers, but it required the help of a grown-up lady.  The young barmaid was prepared to indulge me byheating the glasses , but she was very unwilling to let me have two at the same time.  "This is a family restaurant", she kept saying.  I couldn't imagine what sort of obscenity she thought I could indulge in with two beer glasses (and if you can think of one, I don't want to know).  The grown-up barmaid gave her blessing.  Turns out they're afraid adults would buy beer for minors.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Monday 28th September 2009 - On the Road Again

          Microsoft once again saves the world!  It seems to me the mission of microsoft is to save us from ourselves.  When I turn on my computer every day, a veritable street market of hucksters pop up out of my taskbar, offering all sorts of services to save me from myself.  I expect they have to pay Microsoft for their pitches, because Microsoft steadfastly refuses to show me an easy way to close them down.
          Even more, when I'm typing something in Word, it sneakily corrects my spelling when I'm not looking.  There are usually ways round this: I can stop it capitalising a word by mispelling it then correcting the spelling, or I can spell words my own way by doing the opposite of that.
          When I was reviewing yesterday's little oeuvre, as I always do to get up to speed for today, I noticed that my "plentiful supply of nubility" had become microsoft's "plentiful supply of nobility".  Now I accept that this is much higher-toned, but it's not what I said.  And I know I didn't do it by mistake, because I had to check the spelling.  I wonder if that's happened anywhere else and I didn't spot it?
          It is usual, when publishing, to put in a preface thanking everyone who helped, and to end by saying "but, of course, any errors remaining are my own."  I guess we should now add "or Microsoft's"
          Today was a travelling day.  But the distances are no longer vast.  Within a couple of hours,I was across the mighty Ohio River, and stopped for breakfast.  The Weather Channel last night had been threatening terrible rain, but it was a lovely clear blue sky, which set off my last views of the wonderful hills of West Virginia nicely.  I'm sure you're aware that "over the Ohio River" means into the state of Ohio.  Ohio rapidly gets more cultivated and less hilly.
          Dulcie had used her plentiful prep time well, and took me straight to Glasgow Ohio.  Actually I should say Glasgow, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, because Ohio boasts two Glasgows.
          Although no longer in its heyday, Glasgow Tuscarawas County still exists:
           Then I had time to decide between staying at Newcomerstown (which is nearer) and New Philidelphia (which is the county seat, and so has the Courthouse and central Library).  The price and quality of motels, and availability of other services come in to consideration, and N Phil is an easy winner.
          Later that night, I realise I have to wear a pullover to go out.  And turn off the air-conditioning and turn on the heating.  And I remember that I drove all the way here without air-conditioning.
          It's that time of year.  The trees were definitely changing colour as I came north, even in just two hundred miles.  The clocks will soon be going back (I wonder if they do it at the same time here?)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sunday 27th September 2009 - Go on, Spoil my Day!

It's off to Ohio tomorrow. So there is a bit of preparing to do. Rozie needs fed and watered, and tidied and packed; and Dulcie needs to be instructed, so that she can get down to her calculating (and, no doubt, recalculating).

Everything went smoothly: I must be getting good at this. I even went so far as to reveal to Dulcie both Ohio destinations, and all three Pennsylvania ones. That should give her lots of time to make mischief. Perhaps there will be a Canadian diversion in the middle.

At the lunch counter, I had my day thoroughly spoiled. A truck driver sat beside me. I only knew he was a truck driver because he told me. He surveyed the scene, and launched into a conversation. He had a real, attention-grabbing, show-stopper of an entrée.

There was a plentiful supply of nubility on display, particularly among the serving staff. You could just imagine it was one of that kind of owner or manager.

Anyway, our truck driver catches my eye and launches: "How would you like to be twenty-one again?", he says. Twenty-one? No, not never: twenty-one was the worst year of my life! "Not much", I say, "these years have been hard earned. I wouldn't give them up easily. Anyway, being twenty-one was awful. I'd be gaping at these girls, wondering which one I could pull, and knowing it was going to be none of them."

I could see he wished he hadn't asked. Or, at least, not asked me. He must have had a better twenty-one than I had. Mind you, that wouldn't be so difficult: almost everyone on the planet must have had a better twenty-one than me.

I wonder if he'll use that conversation-starter again? Probably not with grumpy old men, anyway.

Later that night, (Well, they don't really have "later" on a Sunday in this part of the world), I was watching the NASCAR racing. Now that the football (American, that is) season has started, baseball has been edged off the screens, and I have decided that NASCAR racing is the next best thing.

I think American Football has a lot in common with cricket. It's lots of shuffling about, setting up to do something, and when they've managed to lull you into a false sense of boredom, they do something you miss. It's what action-replay was invented for.

NASCAR, on the other hand, is magnetic, it's a sort of ballet with death. They're travelling inches from each other in really confined spaces at frightening speeds. It has all the old motor racing spirit of mad daredevils. The fact that the cars look, superficially, like normal cars, gives me the feeling that I could be doing it.

American footballers wear skin-tight pants, probably to stop the other side getting a hold of them. Perhaps it attracts an audience of ladies, who, I'm told, like to look at gentlemen's bottoms. Although they don't seem to me to be those kind of bottoms. But what do I know about that?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Saturday 26th September 2009 - The Glass Museum

          In one last attempt to find out about the Kanawha Glass Company, I drove up to Weston.  It's about a hundred miles north of here.  Actually, Americans say about an hour-and-a-half.  I'm quite surprised at myself driving that distance just on the off chance.  I must be getting Americanised.
          Actually it turns out to be more daring than I intended, beacause the weather is terrible.  There is really, really heavy rain, like I had in Iowa in the remains of a tropical storm: which results in a fair number of accidents.  Someone went spinning off the road just in front of me.  He lifted a road sign right up in the air and it came spearing down onto the road.  Actually it was all just close enough to frighten me, and far enough away to stay in control.  The car in front of me, which he just missed, kept on going, but a lot of people stopped to help.  Being on T-mobile, the first thing I did was to check if I had a signal to phone 911, but I could see a number of other people already doing that.  The young man seemed unhurt: "The steering-wheel just whipped out of my hand", he said.  The whole thing was a a testament to how much space is left round the interstates.
          The West Virginia Museum of American Glass (and, a new addition, Marbles) is fascinating.  It's one of those places where grown-up ladies go to be useful.  I had a long conversation with the Director.  He had heard of the company, but only knew of one reference.
          I swopped my information with him, sitting at the desk of the President of the American Flint Glass Workers Union, which was formed in 1878.  I had thought that since one of the maps revealed my company had a flint department, it might have produced fancy glasses, but he said flint just meant clear.  It looks like it was just a bottle factory, producing milk and beer bottles.
          Stimulated by the age of the Union, and puzzled by there being no incorporation papers for my company, I asked if it was possible that it had been there since before the Civil War (when there was no West Virginia).  He thought that very amusing.  "They couldn't have got in, and they couldn't have got the glass out", he said.   So it must have arrived after the railroad, whenever that was.
          He promised he would email what he had on his database.
          The weather cleared briefly, so I had a walk round Weston before the drive back.  It has a typical 19th century main street, mostly of brick with fancy work at the top.  The bank at the main junction is very large, and used to be a hotel, so it it must have been a busy town.
          Driving out I notice what I consider to be rows of neat little houses, but, of course, they're not really that small.  It's just that almost all American house are detached, and they are actually small for the sort of detached houses I'm used to.
          Then it's back to Charleston in another bout of terrible weather.  There are several accidents to see on the way.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Friday 25th September 2009 - Glasgow under the Glass

          I picked up some music books at the festival week before last.  I thought it was time to see about shipping them home.  I pass a Post Office on the way to Charleston, so I thought I would take them along and see if I could get a box for them, and post them home.  When I got there, it seemed like a good idea to check for the cheapest way to send them.  The clerk weighed them and started stabbing buttons on his computer.  He concluded that $35 was the cheapest way. And I can put them in one of these boxes?", I asked.  "No", he said, bending down below the counter: "put them in this one".  And he produced a common-or-garden empty box which turned out to fit them exactly.  I wasn't sure I wanted to spend that much, but he let me keep the box.
          While all this was going on, a queue was building behind me.  Being British, I was sure they were forming a lynch mob.  But when I sneaked a look, they were all beaming at how helpful the clerk was being: a definite cultural difference.
          I was on my way back to Charleston for a repechage of the maps and pictures.  I hadn't taken enough notes, and couldn't remember some things.  In the process of doing this, I discovered that I could download pictures from the computer to my new pocket camera, and use it as a viewer.
          So I was able to look at the maps in the courthouse, and compare them with the picture from the book at Glasgow Public Library.  And what the maps describe as "Kanawha Glass Company", the picture caption describes as "Thatcher Glass Company".  And one of the maps made it clear that there was a "Flint" and an "Amber" department, and a "Blacksmith machine shop" which matched the buildings in the picture.
          The Secretary of State, on the other hand, couldn't find any incorporations for any of these names.  But the Historical Society found me a West Virginia Museum of American Glass, just up the road in Weston.  So I'm not at a dead stop.
          Later that night, with only that tiny crumb to celebrate, I discovered that almost everybody in the motel I'm in decamps to the Saloon across the way.  So we had a party.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Thursday 24th September 2009 - A Wild Glass Chase

          Google is supposed to 'alert' me whenever "Glasgow" is freshly mentioned in the vastness of the World Wide Web (Have you noticed that "WWW" has twice as many syllables as "World Wide Web"?  So why do people say it?).  I always make a point of using the word "Glasgow" in these pages, but Google almost never finds them.  Anyway, it does find some interesting stuff. 
          Today it told me that the Sheriff of Barren County, KY, has added some Glasgow people to his 'most wanted' list.  One of them was a lady of 38, wanted for 58 counts of theft by deception.  Her address was given as "Good Folks Road, in Old Lovers Lane".  You couldn't make that up, could you?
          Another was wanted for "failing to report change in order to collect benefits", so they're not exactly up there with Al Capone, are they?
          I'm now trying to chase a company, this glass company which shows up on the original plat map of 1911.  Glass is the third most important industry in West Virginia (after coal and steel).  I think a visit to the WV Historical Society, at the Capital, might yield some interesting history.  But it doesn't.
          There is a Kanawha Glass Company mentioned.  It's quite famous.  People collect its output.  But it was created in 1952, so it's not the one.  There is no mention of any of the other names, and hardly any mention of Kanawha County.
          It's crystal clear that local historians don't devote much time to industry.  If I wanted to chase some ancestors, or find out who was mayor of where, or who got killed in which battle, I'd be there by now.  But a company based quite close to the capital, in one of the most important industries in the area?  Not a word.
          I do know quite a bit now about how window glass was made.  Did you know they made big cylinders, then split them and flattened them?  So they were never ever quite flat.  They had to be sure to pack them the same way up, or they got broken.
          Because of the very high skill levels involved, quite a number of the companies, were workers' co-operatives, with the workers holding all the stock, and electing the company's officers.
          And quite a lot of workers were Belgian.  There is a whole book of Belgian Glass workers.  It reminded me of Beachcomber's "Anthology of Huntingdonshire Cabmen".  When fans of Agatha Christie's Poirot tell you there are no famous Belgians, you can take them to the West Virginia Historical Society Library, and read them a whole bookful.
          Later that night, I nearly met an American I didn't like.  He swept into the bar in 'take over the room' mode.  He remarked on my book.  Wanted to be told which teams were playing on the television, and what stage the game was at.  My hackles really, really hacked.  Fortunately, he was with a lady, and had to pay her most attention.  From what I could hear of their conversation, he didn't seem to know her very well: despite the wedding rings.  Maybe he spent his life stuck in 'take over the room' mode.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Wednesday 23rd September 2009 - Duller and Duller

          It's all getting very dull, isn't it?  Its all these small towns with no bars.  And today is courthouse day, so I'll be trekking through reams of hundred-year-old papers.
          Well, after I'd been to court, since this is also the state capital, I thought I'd trot over to the Capital, have a word with the Secretary of State, see if she could tell me anything about the incorporation of the Glasgow Development Corporation: which she could.
          And as I was wandering out through the magnificent marble halls, idly eyeing the portraits of past governors, a name caught my eye: William Ellsworth Glasscock, Governor from 1909-13, the very years I'm interested in.  The name caught my eye because it was the one next to "Glasgow" in the Deed Book index for those very years at the county courthouse.  He'd been pretty active in the property market around that time.  He had also, the little bio by the portrait told me, declared martial law and sent in the troops in his last year of office.
          But what really caught my eye in the bio was the statement that he had "risen quickly in the Republican Party as attorney of US Senator Stephen B Elkins".  Because the Glasgow Development Company acquired its land from its president, George E Thomas, who had, in turn got it from a special commissioner on the order of a chancery court judge acting in the cause of D B Elkins against H P Thomkins.  The Thomkins are the original landowners from way back in 1815 (a date every British schoolboy knows!).  H P Thompkins is the Secretary of the Glasgow Development Company, according to the signatures on the plat map, but not listed as a stockholder.
          Now, I don't know if these Elkins are related (when I went to the Chancery court and asked to see the order book for April 5th 1913, they took my details and said they'd get back to me).  And I don't know if Governor Glasscock was buying land in any close proximity to where he was sending troops.  But it makes for a thickish plot, wouldn't you say?
          And to cap it all, after the town is incorporated (in 1920), the President (Thomas) closes down the company (in 1922) and buys back all the remaining assets.
          The first map they submitted, in 1911, had the name as "Glas=gow" (a large 'equals' sign in the middle), both in its title and the company name, but that was the only time it appeared in that form.  Everywhere else, it's simply "Glasgow".
          The attorney who acted for the company in its formation, and who was an equal stockholder (there were five), was called Donald O Blagg.  In the midst of this thickish plot, I'm not sure what a Londoner would make of his second name, but his first name certainly marks him for some Scottish ancestry.
          So let's get to the point.  It seems likely the name is a corruption of "Glass Company", because this part of the world was littered with Glass Companies, two of them figuring in the plat maps of Glasgow, one of them appearing to predate anything else there.
          But my thesis is that someone, with Scottish ancestry, said "OK, let's call it "Glassco", but let's at least spell it properly".  So, in that sense, it really was named after Glasgow Scotland.
          Later  that night, I saw an advert for Yeungling Lager, "America's Oldest Brewery - since 1829".  Now I'm sure you're as familiar with human nature as I am: the oldest American Brewery must have been about 1492, mustn't it?  And that's only thinking of European breweries.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tuesday 22nd September 2009 - Trains and Coal and Textbooks

          As I drove down to Glasgow Library from Charleston, I spotted a coal train stopped alongside the freeway.  Just for once I displayed some presence of mind, and looked at the tripmeter in the speedometer.  The train was more than a mile-and-a-half long. 
          Kanawha (Kan-oh-ah, they seem mostly to say, emphasis on the first sylable) County is a strange mix of Charleston, which is not only the county seat, but also the state capital, and all the little creek valleys that spill off the main Kanawha River valley.  This caused a lot of trouble in 1974.  The valley people, one imagines, were pretty isolated, relying only on family.  The only social glue they knew would be their churches and their pastors.
          One of the members of the School Board Textbook review Committee took exception to some of the books being recommended.  Given the liberalisation of the sixties, this was probably the end of a lot of people's tether.  Anyway, for what ever reason, the county exploded.  There were coal strikes (and if you read about them, you would think "come back, Arthur Scargill, all is forgiven"), and school strikes.  People were shot.  Organised Labor tried to stop workers' marches because everybody on them was armed.  Schools were burned down.  Men labelled "reverend" were jailed (for burning a school down).  The city slickers, having pushed too far, then retreated too far.  It is argued that this was the birthplace of the so-called New Right.
          It's not like that now.  The Glasgow Librarian was delighted to see me, and took me through her local history section.  While I was enjoying my read, she, unbeknown to me, was compiling a set of statistics about Glasgow and Kanawha County.
          There is not really much local history written, but there are quite a few pictorial histories.  It's quite clear that there was a glass factory before there were many houses:
[N0192] [N0191]
the caption has it that the dominating feature is the Thatcher Glass Factory.  It also has it that the place was informally known as "Glassco" before it was adapted to Glasgow.  There is certainly still a "Glass Fire Lane" [N0195]
          The town is now dominated by a coal-fired power station
what caught my eye was the unique West Virginia scene, where they have had to shave the mountains (no doubt continuously) to get the power lines out.
          The librarian said "have a nice journey (not 'day'!)" when I left.  The Town Clerk was keen to come by and say the same.  And the Mayor not only presented me with the proclamation of last night's council meeting (making me and Honorary Citizen), and a Police Department Arm Patch.  He also insisted that I have the Mayor of Glasgow's shield.   They were very genuine expressions of welcome for a stranger, ones that I shall treasure, and hopes that the rest of the journey went as well for me.  It could simply not have been further from any notions of "Deliverance". 

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Monday 21st September 2009 - Chance Meetings and a Special Honor.

          I have tried to avoid the Interstates as much as possible, so as to enjoy the scenery and the peace and quiet more.  But for most of the road from Glasgow VA to Glasgow WV they've built the Interstate along the same road as the old US highway; probably because it's so hilly, and there aren't any other choices.
          I also hoped this strategy would make it easier to eat at 'Mom and Pop' Diners along the way, but I never found any.  So imagine my surprise when I turn off the Interstate at Low Moor, and almost the first thing I see is a shiny, traditionally built Diner.  Although it is actually hugely bigger, they try to give the impression that it's been built out of an old railroad car.  And I get a traditional American breakfast.
          When I get to Glasgow, I decide to have a look at the local library, but it's not open today.  As I go to leave, I see a sign saying "Reserved for the Mayor", and as I'm looking, someone parks there.  "You must be the Mayor", I say, being obvious, and he says "Only privilege I get". 
          The Council is meeting tonight.  I'm invited to be there.   As I head off to Charleston to check in, I see a Glasgow Police car.
          At the council meeting, I made my little presentation to the Mayor
and the council proclaimed me an Honorary Citizen.
          Glasgow has a population of just under 800, but it has a budget now in excess of a million dollars.  It has three policemen, one of whom is sitting beside me.  I shall never get comfortable sitting beside someone wearing a gun.
          It really is very pleasing to see a small council at work.  When they are discussing problems, they all know all the people involved.  One of the councillors raised the question of a light out in the park, and started talking to one of the staff sitting at the back.  I got the feeling that he was not only responsible for fixing the lamp, he was actually going to do it.
          Later that night, I discovered that the bars in Charleston shut at ten o'clock.  I remember when I was a child, the bars in Glasgow (Scotland, that is) shut at 9.30.  That may sound bad, but the bars in Paisley, next door, shut at 9.00.  So, between 9.00 and 9.30, the road between Paisley and Glasgow, which I lived near, was best avoided.  The drink-driving laws in those days were, like the Montana speed limit used to be, of a 'non-numeric' nature.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Saturday 19th September 2009 - When BBQs Go on Too Long

          I've just finished reading Larry McMurtry's "Terms of Endearment".  I got it cheap in Barnes and Noble.  Looking to see when it was first published, I discovered to my surprise that this copy had been published and printed in Britain.  The reason I was looking was that, near the end, he suddenly classifies a particular group as "Grown-up Ladies".  The book was first published in 1975, so I guess he gets the credit.  But I've only just read it, and I've never heard it used in that way before.
          It was made into a film and won Oscars in 1983.  I had to look that up too, because a lady asked me what it was about, and I asked her if she remembered the movie.  She didn't: obviously not grown up.
          There was a BBQ this afternoon, with several menfolk displaying exceptional culinary arts.
          And plenty of music round the campfire.  Everyone here seems to know the tunes, and the words, and the chord structures.  It's almost like it was cultural, rather than training or practice, or even interest.  Or perhaps I've just landed myself in a self-selecting group.
[N0176] [N0167]
With mysterious figures lurking in the background drinking beer:
          And later that night, it was still going on.  Someone kindly took me home.  I have a dim recollection of Police activity, with lots of blue lights, just before we turned of the main highway.  I hope I didn't get anyone into trouble.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Friday 18th September 2009 - Around and About

Glasgow is pretty well signposted:
[N0099] [[N0096] N0100] [N0101]

It's well spaced out (because they thought it was going to be huge), with splendid new library, a small Town Hall, and its own fleet:
[N0114] [N0110] [N0111] [N0117]

It has, of course, a Centennial Park, and a pretty welcome. Some of the original town is still there. As is one of the original parks:
[N0113] [N0134] [N0127] [N0107]

It was hard to find the James River. I had to go all the way to Natural Bridge Station, cross the river, drive along the other side, and eventually pretend I was going to rent a canoe (I figured they must have some access to the river). But it was worth the effort:
Glasgow also has, rather surprisingly, what I'm told is the biggest carpet factory in the world under a single roof:

Friday, 18 September 2009

Thursday 17th September 2009 - Meeting the Mayor

I met Mayor Sam Blackburn today, and made my little presentation.
Sam has been Mayor here since 1981, so he provides a great deal of continuity. He remembers a previous visitor from Glasgow Scotland, in 1991, who also brought greetings from the then Lord Provost, Susan Baird.
I've only just got to look closely at the photo, and see the motto on the flag. Those of you who can read latin backwards may come up with a different translation, but I make it "thus always with tyrants". But why is the picture showing a cave-lady standing on the neck of a caveman? [I looked it up. It ought to be the state flag, and, in fact, it is. The lady represents Virtue. The man carries a scourge to represent tyranny. If you look really closely, you'll see his fallen crown just by the Mayor's shoulder.]
I intended to do some photography, but it was a miserable wet day, with not even the buzzards flying. I took a photo of a large number of grounded buzzards, but it looks too much like a Transylvannian wake to publish alongside the nice photo above.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Wednesday 16th September 2009 - A Day in Court

Rockbridge County Courthouse in Lexington is a new building with a parking lot underneath it. So when the man with the gun wouldn't let me take my Swiss army knife in, I only had to go back downstairs to stow it. This was after another leisurely breakfast swopping photographs. One of the Lexington coffee shops actually has live old-time music at breakfast time, with the players gradually vanishing, dressed for the office.
Wandering through old records is fascinating, and I can do it for hours. Of course I can hardly see afterwards, so I try to be disciplined and limit the time I spend. Anyway, I want to go round the music shop and mooch for a bit when I've finished.
The clerks who copied out court records back in the 1800s did not always have quite the quality of handwriting one might expect. Previous searchs have left me unable to decypher significant words. Usually seals are rendered just as a set of squiggles. But the clerk here relieved his boredom by making an attempt to draw the corporate seals on the original documents. And the documents carrying the seal of the Rockbridge Company produced a surprise: it carried the motto "Let Glasgow Flourish", which has been the motto on the coat-of-arms of Glasgow, Scotland for 400 years.
So this place wasn't just named for a local family, it adopted the original brand as well.
Even more, the street names they chose included "St Vincent Street", "Argyle Street", and "Clyde Place". I formed the adventurous view (I confess this was later that night) that someone knew the names of the streets in the centre of Glasgow, and they chose all the ones which weren't royalist or imperialist. If you look at a map of the centre of Glasgow, that leaves very few. I explained the absence of Sauchiehall Street by an inability to spell it. And, of course, if they had known all of Nelson's victories, they might have excluded St Vincent as well. But their map also calls one of the pools in the James River "Loch Lomond", and one of the parks "Kelvin Grove". The only one in present-day Glasgow VA is Kelvin Grove, which survives as a street name.
So I think it is reasonable to claim that this place was named, at least partly, after Glasgow in Scotland. Although the deed selling the land is signed by Mrs Johns as "Elizabeth Glasgow Johns".

Later that night, as well as inventing part of an early meeting of the Rockbridge Company, we had a long dicussion on the multi-dialect etymology of "redneck" and "white-van-man". Of course, we reached no conclussions: that would just spoil things.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Tuesday 15th September 2009 - Another Library Day Where Illumination Turns to Darkness

The regional library is in Lexington, the county seat of Rockbridge County. (It's called Rockbridge, by-the-way, because it has the extraordinary Natural Bridge where US 11 runs over Cedar Creek, a small tributary of the James River.) The librarian is keen to tell me that Glasgow has a splendid library, but I don't want to go there till I've got some grasp of the history and geography. Going to Lexington also allows me to hang out in street cafes and vegetarian restaurants, swopping photographs.
There is a history of Rockbridge County, written in 1920, and, surprisingly, a history of Glasgow, written about 1990. There appear to be two basic parts to the story: how it got its name, and how it got to be a city.
How it got its name is steeped in the Scots-Irish settlement of this area, and undoubedly goes back to a man called Arthur Glasgow, born in Scotland in 1750, a descendant, apparently, of an Earl of Glasgow. He acquired land in what is now Glasgow from the McNutt (or McNaught) family, who came from Ulster (so you can see the confusion about the spelling of their name) via Nova Scotia. The McNutts seem to have been granted huge tracts of land in Nova Scotia and Virginia.
Arthur appears never to have lived there, but he willed it to his son Joseph in 1822. Joseph, having been married in 1815 (one of the few dates in history everybody in Britain knows), built a very grand house on it in 1823. This, basically, is where the name came from.
His daughter, Elizabeth, inherited it fully when her mother died in 1868, when, in the American south, the times they were achangin'. She lived there till she died in 1902, but she sold all but a fifty-acre buffer zone to the Rockbridge Company early in 1890.
How it got to be a city is where the Rockbridge Company comes into it. We are now twenty years or so from the end of the Civil War. The Southern gentry have survived the ravages of the regulators and carpetbaggers, and have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and are preparing to start all over again. The "Southland" is to be industrialised. There are huge profits to be made from land turned into cities. The process is really very simple: you buy some well-chosen land, 'plat' it (that is to say, get it surveyed into identified lots, lodged at the local courthouse), then sell it off in small lots on the promise of a city full of workers and consumers.
The Rockbridge Company has more than its fair share of Southern gentlemen. The President is General Fitzhugh Lee, former Virginia Governor and nephew of Robert E., the Vice-President is Major M Martin, and there is a board stuffed with local worthies. And a Scottish Surveyor finds a place at the confluence of two navigable rivers, with not one, but two railroads (one, I think, going North-South, the other East-West), a canal in the offing, and large landowners willing to sell. And so they arrived at Glasgow.
The petrol poured on this flaming brew is huge amounts of European credit looking for a fire to land on. There are any number of local attorneys keen to provide the hosepipes.
Everyone is full of praise for everyone else. They spent money like it was going out-of-fashion, unaware that it actually was going out-of-fashion. The parallels with the present last few years is uncanny. The only differences are that it was European Credit, rather than American, and a Scottish surveyor, rather than a Scottish Bank.
They planned it out on a huge scale. They built a 200-room hotel (in the middle of nowhere!) with electric lighting, huge fine-wood-staircased entrance hall, furnished throughout with the best. The grand opening gala had dignitaries from all over the States and Europe. The Duke of Marlborough, no less, arrives with tens of thousands, looking for willing pockets to stuff it in. They had banks of telephones to do the dealing. The champagne flowed free and fast. Everyone was making money.
Then Baring Brothers, unkindly, tossed in the match. And in minutes, the receivers were there. In no time at all, the US Treasury had to protect the currency, ending up in the Great Panic of 1893. European credit fled, and there was nothing left but a smoking ruin.
Why did they do it on such a scale? The answer is probably like today: because they could. Where did all the money go? Well, craftsmen undoubtedly got paid well, but no doubt lawyers and landowners got paid weller.
And it left the curious feature that since it was conceived on such a huge scale, it now exists startlingly spread-out for such a small place.

Later that night I went round the pub, and it was all in darkness. Perhaps it's happening all over again.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Monday 14th September 2009 - A Bit More Photography

I felt I should have a day off, so I went to Lexington, about five miles away, for lunch. Lexington is the county seat, so I got to check out the locations of the courthouse, the library, and the historical society; and exchange a few photographs.
But I mainly got to find a music shop, so I could get some music, and some nylon strings for my banjo. The nice lady in the shop had plenty of banjo strings, but she'd never heard of nylon ones. I guess they use guitar strings: I'll just have to find out which ones.

On the way back to Buena Vista, I noticed a sign on the side of the first shop on the main street. It said "Welcome to Buena Vista - 6002 happy citizens, and 3 grumpy old grumps". I surmised that that must have been stimulated by a particular incident in the shop: or perhaps three particular incidents. Perhaps next time pass, it will say "6001 happy citizens, and 4 grumpy old grumps"
Which reminds me of something that happened the first day of the festival. I had stocked up on beer from the local supermarket, and when I was putting them in the cooler, I noticed that they were entirely the usual can, except for a little red strip which read "totally alcohol-free". Which put me in a state of shock for a while. But I gathered them up and took them back (they were no use to me) and asked if I could exchange them. The clerk was kind enough to let me. At the end of the transaction, I thanked him for being so kind, and as I went out the door, he said "y'all come back, now". And I realised, for the first time. that I was south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Later that night, I was bemoaning the fact that there was nowhere to hang out in in Glasgow, except the Moose Club (or Lodge). The man sitting next to me said "I'm a Moose, I'll bring you a form: for $35 dollars, you can hang out in Glasgow. It's a small world, isn't it?

Sunday 13th September 2009 - And So to Bed

Despite having got to bed after four, I managed to get up for the ten o'clock gospel singing. It was pretty nearly a rerun of "Oh, Brother, Where art Thou", but I managed to get through it without feeling too mawkish. It ended with Down to The River to Pray, and everybody stood up to circle round shaking hands. The local newspaper reporter chose to photograph me shaking hands with the star. She being a grown-up lady, one can but guess at her motives in picking me.

But she then wanted to know my name for the caption, and soon my story was out. I have now been introduced to almost everyone in Rockbridge County.

I had promised to run someone home after the festival, so they could stay till Sunday. Having had so little sleep, of such poor quality as I get in the saddle, I wasn't looking forward to it, but she had arranged a break for more music and a BBQ half way. The BBQ was at the fine antebellum house of the bookshop owner at Buchanan (the first syllable as in Bunter). We had a discussion about Ellen Glasgow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning local novelist from the late nineteenth century. She is from the same family after which Glasgow VA is named.
They had an Old-Time group playing all afternoon, having stopped on their way home from Buena Vista (the first syllable as in Beauty).
We spent some time talking to a local couple, she originally from Georgia, he from New York. They had lived a long time in Boston. She complained that "yankees" heard her accent and assumed she was stupid. I told her that wasn't so bad, "they hear his accent here, they'll think he's going to rob them". I stiffled my guilt about the lovely southern belle in the Irish bar near the Second City Theatre in Chicago.

I had booked into a very reasonable motel in Buena Vista, and when I finally got back, I was quite exhausted. So later that night, I restricted myself to a lovely hot bath and ten hours sleep. There are a very few things which, in the right circumstances, are better than beer.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Saturday Afternoon 12th September 2009 - A Tribute to Mike Seeger

Mike Seeger, who lived here, started this Festival, some twenty-three years ago. He died in August. I wanted to be here when they remembered him. They didn't just bring their memories, which they shared with us, they brought their instruments.
It all finished with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?", and a vow to go on for another twenty-three years.

The local newpaper photographer offered to take a photo for me.
It almost works, doesn't it?

Saturday Morning 12th September 2009 - A Banjo Class

I had a banjo class this morning; with Frank Lee, of the Freight Hoppers.
Of course, there were several dozen other people there; asking questions in an accent and idiom I did not understand; and I didn't have a banjo.
But, I suppose, like learning any language, you have to start with an overwhelming mystery. Asked about tuning in some piece, he said (something like) "it's a fretless banjo with nylon strings in a double-C tuning let down to an A, so really it's a double-A tuning, I suppose" (I loved the "I suppose"). And: "It's one-finger left hand, with hammering on". And so on.
I got to see a fair bit of how they do the 'claw-hammer' style, but it's very hard to see at all: their fingers hardly seem to move. I bought a DVD. Let's hope it shows it in slow motion.

Then there was a flat-foot dance lesson. That's a lot of fun, although some people seem to use it as a trance-inducing technique. It's also a 'boys-showing-off' style.

And then it was time for the big event of the day.

Friday 11th September 2009 - Square Dancing with Grown-up Ladies

Someone is alleged to hava said to Joseph Heller that he had only ever written one book, to which Heller is said to have retorted, "Yes, but that was a masterpiece". Catch-22 is certainly the best book I have ever read, and was my candidate for best book of the 20th century (one day they'll listen to me, you know).
I myself am now trapped in a catch-22: the immigration people won't extend my stay because I haven't got a ticket home at the end of that extension, and I can't buy a ticket until they tell me if I can stay. If there is any parallel, I think I must be the Soldier in White.

The Rockbridge Festival had plenty of fringe activity during the afternoon, with quite a few jam sessions going on. It seems musicians come from all over just to play with each other. The structures of the music seem to allow them to do that. And they seem to enjoy the "no, I do this way" pauses that happen some times. More 'apprentice' players stand a little way off, where they can hear the band, but the band can't hear them, and join in.
My father used to love to tell a story about Mendelssohn who, asked, after playing one of his pieces at some soiree, what it meant, said "I'll tell you what it means" and proceeded to play it again. "That's what it means", he said.
The musicians here seem to approach explanations in much the same way. Almost all the discussion and explanation seems to involve playing bits.

Later that night I extend my knowledge of American beer technology: The big bags of ice from the supermarket are emptied into the cooler, and the six-pack is then buried in the cubes. Expecting the bag to hold the water after the ice melts, so that, for instance, food can be kept in there as well, is not how it works. I dispose of the salt, etc., and practice this a little bit before the main event of the evening, which is a dance.
At the dance, I find myself being dragged, almost literally, into the company of grown-up ladies, so that we might form into dance sets. To my astonishment, one of the group is herself a good dance caller (I only find out the following evening quite how good). This is the first time I have ever been to what I would call a "square dance" in the company of someone who not only knows what she is doing, but can anticipate what I need to be told so I can do it. I was terrific fun.
After the dance, there were jam sessions going on all over the place. I managed to co-ordinate listening to different groups with passing the cooler a regular intervals. Until I just had to climb past the cooler into the back of the van and go to sleep; with the music still playing around me.

[I failed to find out the setting I had left on while trying out my new pocket camera which stopped the flash from working, so the pictures are a bit too 'arty' for putting up here]

Friday, 11 September 2009

Thursday 10th September 2009 - An Old-Time Good Time

          I ran down to Glasgow to look over the hotels google pointed me at.  They simply didn't exist.  There was one address where a hotel could simply never have existed.  I asked at city hall, and the lady said there was a hotel at Natural Bridge, which is a tourist spot about five miles away.  I drove over.  The hotel would not have looked out of place on the sea front at Brighton.  I didn't bother to ask about their rates.
          So  it looks like I will have to stay in Bueno Vista and motor down to Glasgow.  That won't help "hanging out" with any Glasgow folk.  But I will have to arrange to meet the mayor, hand over the letter and banner.  It looks like there is a mayoral election going on, although I only saw signs up for one candidate.  I will have to be careful not to appear to give my approval to one candidate.  People might be heavily swayed by the opinions of an ambassador from the original Glasgow.
          One of the pubs in Bueno Vista is called the "Stone Grey Pub".  It is a reference to the Confederate view of the defeat at Gettysburg, but Google only provided three references to it, and those were CDs of country songs.  The pub was certainly full of confederate memorabilia.
          Later that night, there were lots of jam sessions going on.  One, in particular, was not old-time music, more 'good-time' music.  It was just as old, but it was from black roots, rather than Scots-Irish.  I got into trouble for saying "negro" music, which I thought a bit unfair, since when this music was first being created, it would have been described by the other, now totally unusable 'N' word.  The lead musician was white, from Chapell Hill, near Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  He was so good, I just had to ask him, in my cups, why he wasn't famous.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Wednesday 9th September 2009 - Chalking up Another State

          I start with a shower, in the "Drivers' Suite, provided for the truckers.  I cost $10, but it was clean and private, and everything was provided.  And the two-snooze day seems to have worked.  I'm near Catlettsburg, right on the corner of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.  So I can skate right across WV by lunchtime.  It is very misty, so I decide to use the last of my WiFi time to catch up on mail and things.  I check up on Dulcie, to see what route she's chosen, see if I can avoid the Interstates.
          I notice that the next part of the interstate,which is the way she wants to go, is a toll road, so I opt for the US highway on the other side of the river.  And, blow me down, there is Glasgow, WV.  The saucy cow was only going to slip by it on the other side of the river without so much as a mention.  I can't have that.  I instruct her to take me through Glasgow WV.  Will that be a destination or a via point, she asks, trying to maintain her dignity.
          I have to stop and think.  The festival doesn't start for two days.  Could I?  I tell her tentatively it's a 'via', but I think that I'll rush there for breakfast and see what comes out. 
          I look it over, and then have breakfast.  Actually, it's one of the 'proper' Glasgows, incorporated, with a mayor, and police, etc.  So I can't posssibly do it justice in two days.  I will have to come back.
          Then I have another tussle with Dulcie, who wants to turn back and get on the Interstate.  I decide to igore her and press on along US 60.  She 'recalculates at me for ages, until all other options are cut off.  US 60 is reminiscent of 101 in Oregon, and CA 1.  It's a switchback throught the wonderful wooded hills of WV.  Actually some of the smaller hills near Glasgow are made of coal.  One of the signs says this mine has the finest metalurgical coal in the world: I wonder what that means?
          Finally, both me and Dulcie get our way.  The Americans are capable of abstracting the notion of a 'route' as opposed to a 'road'.  We enter a stretch of road which is both US 60 and I 64.  I drive happily along OS 60, and she insists on telling me it's I 64.
          The US route numbering system is quite logical: North to south highways are odd-numbered, with lowest numbers in the east and highest numbers in the west. Similarly, west to east highways are even-numbered, with the lowest numbers in the north and highest numbers in the south.  So US 2 runs along the Canadian border, and US 1 runs down the east coast.  The interstates are the same, but mirrored, so I 5 is on the west coast, and I 95 on the east, and I 10 is in the south, I 90 in the north.  Of course, it doesn't work out as neatly as that in practice, and it is not uncommon to see a road with both an odd and an even route running along it.
          Later that night, having got to the Festival site, I find the spot I have chosen is where the musicians hang out, and some have arrived early, to book the best spots.  There are a number of practice sessions going on.  I am even invited to join in one.  It's a terrible thing, the drink.

Tuesday 8th September 2009 - On the Road Again

          It has become apparent to me that sleeping in the saddle is only possible if I do it twice a day.  and sleeping twice a day for prolonged periods is going to make me fat (think about it).  I shall give it a try today, see how it works out.
          The day started badly.  I caught the end of a new item on NPR, as it was telling me that "Engineers might not be able to repair the crack in time".  A crack in Time?  Oh my god! Have they sent for Stephen Hawkings?  Will the crew of the Enterprise get there in time?
          Then, of course, I wakened up/calmed down/caught on.  They were repairing Oakland Bay Bridge near San Fransisco over the Labor Day weekend, planning to open it on Tuesday for its daily quota of 260,000 cars, when they found a crack in one of the girders.  They were working frantically through the night to see if they could "repair the crack in time".
         I got to today's destination by lunchtime, so I thought I would try my new regime, see if I could make tomorrow a little bit shorter.  I found the approprite brand of truck stop, since I still had some time left on my day's  WiFi purchase.  I even had the luck to find a space under where a tree's shadow would be at the appropriate time.  Then I settled down with my book and a couple of beers. (I decide to forget the slurs cast on J J Hill's bottom, and read on.)
          Then I had the worst meal I've eaten in some years.  Usually American waitresses with interrupt your meal countless times to ask you brightly if everything is OK.  Not this time.  I had a long catalogue ready, but she must have already been aware of the cook's capabilities: she gave me the bill as she gave me the meal, and I never saw her again.
          After I had snoozed for a couple of hours, two young men kindly decided to sit in the shade of my tree and have a conversation.  It was time to be off again.
          There was another stop of the same brand a hundred miles or so away.  It involved a bit of night driving, which was OK, but left me, later than night, in the middle of nowhere.  Which reminded me of a story I read in a comic book as a small  boy.  It was called "The Road to Nowhere".  I got most of the way through it wondering what now-here might mean.  Of course, it's kind-of the opposite of no-where, isn't it?  At least it would be, if you could slip through a crack in time.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Monday 7th September 2009 - A Day of Labour

          Glasgow VA is 1200 miles away. I have to give in and take the Interstates.  It's going to be a mad dash across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and into Virginia itself.  Of course, driving the Interstates means I won't get to see any of these states: on the Interstates, I only get to see the road ahead.
          Today is Labor Day, the official end of summer.  But I get off to a good start, and am half way down Wisconsin (at Lake Wisconsin, Dulcie told me) before the first jam.  There were more at Madison (capital of Wisconsin), and, of course, through Chicago.  When I was last in Chicago, enjoying breakfast on Route 66, I didn't realise there are these enormous freeways carved through it.
          Actually, I shouldn't say "freeways", because these are toll roads in Illinois.  The map would have warned me, but Dulcie didn't.  I found myself in the wrong lane, too late to change, cut off by dikes, and bundled through the electronic paying lanes.  I expected my tires to be shredded by spiked strips, but nothing happpened.  The man at the next toll plaza (yes, that's what they're called) was very kind, and gave me a leaflet telling me how to pay in arrears on the internet.
          I almost didn't make it into Illinois.  I think it must have been a relatively bad accident.  I covered about 6 miles in an hour, but there was no sign of what the delay had been about.
I was planning to stop the night in Gary IN, which is really in the hinterland of Chicago.  As we picked up speed in heavy traffic out of Chicago, we were cut up by a swarm of bikers.  Not your put-put Harleys, your screaming Japanese bikes, with their unbelievable acceleration: ridden by boys, sure of their immortality.  It was quite terrifying to watch. None were wearing helmets, and a few had little girls clinging desperately on the pillion.  One of them was actually carrying a helmet on his arm.
          When I got to the Gary exit, they were all waiting for me, parading all over the exit ramp.  I reminded them of my association with the San Bernardino chapter ot the Outlaws, and they hurriedly retreated.
          The book I am presently reading informed me, apropos of nothing at all, that the great J J Hill, the Empire Builder for whom the train that stops at Glasgow MT was named, died of an infected hemorrhoid.  It is one thing to poke fun at people's heroes, but it is quite another to firmly attach this kind of slur.  I will never see the great man in quite the same light again.
          But is does remind me of my childhood.  When I was about ten, the teacher set up this spelling game, where we had to find a word which we could spell, but the other children couldn't.  Yes, you've guessed.  I managed to pick "hemorrhoid".  I can't imagine what the poor teacher thought, with this word being hurled back and forward across the class.  Of course, I didn't know what it meant.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sunday 6th September 2009 - A Day of Rest

          Sunday is, of course, a day of rest.  Achieved, in good celtic tradition, by going to church and drinking heavily (in that order, of course).  This being Minnesota, I have lots of people to go to church for me, but it is not kind to delegate the other. 
          This is an extra day: I should be on my way to VA today; this is the last holiday weekend of summer, everyone will be static today, coming/going home tomorrow.  I have decided, while everyone is at church, to wash the horses and instruct the servants.  Rozzie is pleased to have his ears cleaned out and various bits and pieces of tackle fixed.  Dulcie refuses to coome indoors and speak sensibly.  She insists that she must breathe the outdoor air to commune with her muses: it's Sunday, I will be tollerant.  But I get everything stowed, and everyone alert to the tasks of the next few days.  Then I can rest.
         Later that night, I find a nest of catholics to fall among, leading only the closest of relatives astray.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Saturday 5th September 2009 - An Attempt at Retail Therapy

          My idea of shopping is to sit down at the computer and surf a few 'review' sites, focus in on the subset from which I'm going to buy, then trawl a few retail sites till I see a combination of best product and best price.  Then I get them to send it to me.
          Of course, I can't do that now.  I have to go to actual shops, speak to actual shop assistants, go to other shops if they haven't got want I want. 
          I am presently a few miles from the biggest shopping mall on this spiral arm of the galaxy, so I thought I would indulge in some exploration.  A chap has to learn new skills from time-to-time.
          The purpose of the trip was to find a cheap pocket camera.  It turns out I don't want to look like a tourist when I'm out in my Glasgows, so I can't bear to carry my fancy digital SLR camera.  Inevitably, this means I don't get some pictures I want, or I get phone pictures, which are no more than an aide-memoire, and only really viewable on the phone.
          Of course, I still started with the on-line reviews.  Then I went to the local Walmart, just to calibrate.  Then I went off to the mall.  The Mall of America, it's called.  I think the developers must have had ambitions to replace all the shops in America.  Certainly, people fly in to the local airport for shopping sprees.  It's so big, I have to note down where I parked the car.
          But I got what I wanted, and it was a good bit cheaper than Walmart.  And I had lunch in a Japanese restaurant.  There were lots of groups of young girls mopping about, practicing being ladies.
         Then I went to the cinema to see "District 9".  It is a science fiction, boys' 'crash-bang-wham' picture, painted over a thinly-disguised criticism of the South African Apartheid regimes.  Essentially, the story is a great big build up to a sequel (I'm guessing "District 10"), with considerable use of 'deus ex machina' as a plot device.  But most films are like that.  Perhaps it's the only way they can cut them down to size in the time available ("with one mighty leap, Jack was free"). 
          There were some very charitable grown-up ladies in the audience, indulging their menfolk: I hope they were well-rewarded later.

Friday 4th September 2009 - Getting Organised for Phase Two

          I've now collected the documents I can for the Immigration Service.  I'm much impressed by my host's PDF printer: I send documents to it and it produces a PDF file which I can email looking exactly like a printed document.  I must get myself one.
          I had to go over to the Mazda dealer to see to a few things for Rozzie.  There was a Friday's next door, so, it being Friday and all, I had fish-and-chips.
          But the big event was going to the State Fair (again) to see Garrison Keillor in " A Prairie Home Companion".  It was held in what they now call "the Grandstand", which is (as you would expect) the grandstand of the old car-racing oval.  The Minnesota State Fair is an enormous thing, and the (permanent) fairground stretches over miles.  The bus companies run special buses from all over.
          There must have been six or eight thousand people come to see APHC, which will broadcast on Public Radio Saturday evening and Sunday Lunchtime.  It's a good show.  Keillor says it's now on the BBC, so I expect the Brits are enjoying it too now.
          The show runs for two hours on the radio, but the performance took about three hours, so it was much to late for any later that evening when I got back.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Thursday 3rd September 2009 - Changing a Library Book

The venerated book on Minnesota place names is Upham's "Minnesota Geographic Names". It's the one that says Glasgow Township got its name "...there being several Scotchmen in the town, and the first settler being a Scotchman". Upham was a geologist for various state organisations, and also held several positions in the Minnesota Historical Society. The society produced a new edition (virtually unchanged) of his book in 1969. In it, the then Librarian described him as a "pedantic precisionist and formalist, of infinite old-world courtesy".
Upham got his information, apparently, on his geologing travels, simply by talking to people. I can confirm that that is a very pleasant way of doing things. And shows what people remembered when Upham was doing his stuff.
But the "scotchman" (the Scots object to that, by the way, I'm not sure why) was actually one Hugh McGowan, born in Glasgow in 1813, and emigrating to Nova Scotia in 1830, just when Glasgow was descending into a public health nightmare. By fits and starts, he made his way to southern Minnesota, ending up as the first white settler, in 1855, in what became Glasgow Township. This is asserted in his obituary, which appeared in the Wabasha Herald of February 13th 1896, when these events would still have been in living memory.
So this Glasgow, which I nearly missed, and has no physical or institutional existence, really was named after Glasgow Scotland, by an emigrant.

Wabasha hosts the National Eagle Centre. If you want to sit up close to a real, live eagle while it crunches through a baby chicken, this is the place for you. They have several Bald Eagles (which aren't bald) and a Golden Eagle. They are awesome birds.
It is common, out in the country here, to see big birds floating in circles on the thermals.
People refer to them as "TVs", Turkey Vultures. The Centre had a big wall chart showing all the birds of prey: "Why", I asked one of the Keepers, "is the Turkey Vutlure not here?" "Well", he said, "it's not a bird of prey". Yeuch!
The Centre is right on the Mississippi. There is a viewing platform, for watching out for wild eagles. As I stood out on it, a 'tow' came by. I'd heard a lot about them, but this was the first one I'd seen. It was immense. Twelve huge barges lashed together, with a tug at the back, pushing them (despite their name). It must have been 50-60 feet wide, and several hundred feet long. I expect it was the maximum size the minimum lock would hold. I forgot about the eagles.

While I was spinning through the reels of Wabasha Herald editions, I somehow managed to stop at February 22nd 1893. It recorded, in a very short paragraph, "The decline in Reading Railroad stock has caused a commotion on Wall Street". This 'commotion' turned into the great panic of 1893, which put paid, it is said. to the prospects of Glasgow, Virginia, becomong the great railroad town of the south.
Glasgow VA is where I am going next week.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Wednesday 2nd September 2009 - A Quick Tour Round the Township

Since there is no actual Glasgow MN to go to , I took a quick trip down to Wabasha, the county town of Wabasha County; a nice quiet run down old roads along the banks of the Mississippi. This took me past Lake Pepin, where the river widdens out. It's sufficiently wide to freeze over in the winter and let the river flow underneath. There is a lot of ice fishing here. It's tourist country, so not cheap. Wabasha was one of the first river towns, and the main street has that nineteenth century small-town look about it. They are preparing for Octoberfest (no doubt as a way of extending the season. The preparations seem to involve hanging a German flag from every lampost.

I took a tour round GLASGOW township, but, in truth, there is not much to see. Gravel roads and isolated farms:
wooded hills and cultivated valleys
at least one abandonded house
but mostly places to avoid
I did find Dumfries, which used to be a depot on the narrow-gauge railway which followed the Zumbro river valley. There were still a few houses there.
Later that night found me in the famous Slippery's, which figured in "Grumpy Old Men". It's right on the Mississippi. I had an unexpected sighting of the Queen Mary docked there.
Despite there being few people in the bar, we managed to generated some quite heated discussion. Then the Canadian Pacific Railway gave me a lift home.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Tuesday 1st September 2009 - What a Library

When the election boundaries of Wabasha county, Minnesota (it's easier to say it if you put a 'w' at the end - wa-ba-shaw; it is a native American name, the syllables all having equal emphasis) were set up in 1858, Township 110 North of the Clarenden baseline, in range 11 west of the fifth principle meridian had, or was given the name "Richland". But by the time we have a second county supervisors meeting in September 1859, it has gone from being Richland, through being "Wacouta", to being "Glasgow". It is represented at this meeting by one Hugh McGowan, who may have had some influence on it's change of name. McGowan carried some burden of tragedy, having lost his wife, and the child, in childbirth in 1855. His wife was the first white woman in the county, the child would have been the first such child.
They had arrived in Wabasha county in 1855, very shortly after Wm McCracken, who is credited with turning the first sod. This ranks McCracken as 'the pioneer'. McCracken was born in Scotland on 15th August 1815, a month after the Battle of Waterloo. But if one looks at the names of the group who arrived then, it is reasonable to guess that many were Scots.
The history books have it that it was called Glasgow because there were many "Scotchmen" there. When the railroad came through, the depot got called "Dumfries". The 1940's map shows a place called "McCracken".
So it would seem reasonable to think this place was named for Glasgow Scotland.
Trouble is, it's a township. A bit like a congressional or parliamentary constituency, it's not actually a place at all, it's just the enclosure of some lines on a map.

Americans are very apologetic about their history. They don't think they have very much of it. It unnerves them a little when I point out that they have exactly as much history as the rest of us. They just seem to have lost more of it.
But their discomfort causes them to cherish what they have. When I got to the headquarters of the Minnesota Historical Society,I couldn't believe my eyes. Well, to be precise, I thought Dulcie had got it wrong. This is no converted church hall. I half expected to have uniformed guards poking their guns up my bottom again.
I was going to take pictures of the inside, showing the beautiful oak furniture, the custom-built microfilm racks, the restaurant, and the facsimile Curtis JN4 biplane (the famous "Jenny") hanging in the atrium, but I felt a that it would display an undignified, third-world jealousy.
So you'll just have to imagine it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Monday 31st August 2009 - Another Library Day

I had to change my library book today.
A task which continued late into the night.