Esteemed thinker: John James Abert

enchanted island

We get used to things the way they are and when our usual gets shifted or changed our whole world seems to get out of sequence. Take for example driving; we are accustomed to the same route and without having to make a conscious effort we are able to get home without the aid of a map. However, if a tree on the very street you always travel was to suddenly be cut down, you would find that this once so familiar journey has been altered and might just question if indeed you are going the correct way.

Call it what you will: habit, comfort zone, routine… the same thing can happen if your desktop icons are suddenly misaligned. Like the road well-traveled, we are accustomed to finding specifics without much effort. But let the familiar computer screen suddenly go into its own snit…rearranging what we have taken the time to set up, like the driver whose road has lost its favorite landmark, we too are lost. John James Abert

Today’s blog brings you a more obscure but none-the-less esteemed thinker: John James Abert (b. 1788-1863) Abert was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). He graduated from West Point in 1811, but declined a commission. He enlisted in the D.C. Militia during the War of 1812, and rejoined the army as a topographical engineer with the rank of Major in October 1814.

In 1813, The Topographical Bureau was created as a branch of the U.S. Army Corps of and remained only a small, elite corps until John James Abert, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became its head in 1829. The major mission of the Corps was to map out the West, an unexplored undocumented region and unlock its secrets. For 32 years under Abert’s leadership, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which recruited the best soldier-scientists, or “Topogs,” Abert could find, made explorations that resulted in the comprehensive mapping of the American West.

James, who became a Colonel in command of the US topographical engineers in 1838, and one of the organizers of the National Institute of Science, which subsequently merged in the Smithsonian Institution.

I now bring to you a most fascinating letter written by Abert to the prominent naturalist James Audubon in 1847.  Take time to relish in the discovery of what today is indeed a rarity.

Dear Sir.

 I have sent you a copy of my son’s first expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The report of his second, from which he has just returned is, of course, not yet made out. I shall talk to him about the subjects of your letter. It was after an examination of your small edition of the birds of America that I considered the Quail a new one. There is certainly nothing like it in that work, unless it be out of place in the book and in that way has escaped my examination. A person of some knowledge in these matters, who has seen the skins, calls it a new bird, but there is no one of sufficient authority to depend upon.

 Yours truly,

J.J. Abert

 

 

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Esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield

Protesting is an exercise we have performed throughout the ages. People living in all lands around globe have declared and aired their disagreements sometimes peacefully and sometimes not. The method of protesting however has changed in comparison to the centuries prior to the current millennium.

The dumping of tea in Boston Harbor was a dramatic display of injustice by a defiant group of colonists, Sons of Liberty, in 1773. The call to join the efforts was rallied by word of mouth, a clandestine ploy where colonists went as far as disguising themselves as Native Americans and slipped aboard a British ship and relieved them of their cargo. In contrast, today’s call to protest often comes in the form of a text message where the silent voices are set free to cast their opinions world-wide, and in a matter of seconds their message is heard and repeated. And though the methods have changed over the centuries the demand for change is the similar.

Today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Rev. Owen Whitfield (1892-1965). Born in Jonestown, Missouri to a sharecropper family, he himself became a sharecropper as well as a Reverand. By the mid-1930s the Great Depression was taking an extraordinary toll on poor tenant farmers whereby the federal government and its new subsidies was making it more profitable for landowners to dismiss their farmers. Seeing the plight of African American tenant farmers like himself and other poor farmers he rallied support for change.

Owen Whitfield In 1937 Whitfield joined and later became president of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, a multi-racial group of advocates. In 1939 he brought to the attention of the cause to President Franklin Roosevelt, explaining in a letter the exploitation of the tenant farmers and requesting changes be met.

Whitfield was instrumental in helping bring about reform, most notably by way of organizing The 1939 Roadside Sharecroppers Demonstration, a peaceable protest in Southeast Missouri. More than fifteen hundred men, women and children piled their meager belongings along US Highways 60 and 61 in the lowlands, also known as the Bootheel. Tenant farmers had been ruined by environmental disaster, falling crop prices, poverty and disease, New Deal agricultural policies, and the mechanization of cotton production. Now landowners had decided to hire day laborers to replace their tenants. Families who normally expected to occupy a plot of land for a year or more face seasonal employment with no guarantee of work or shelter.

Due to death threats, Whitfield did not participate in the demonstration but rather rallied politicians in the north for support. His efforts were effective and the government did begin to initiate some changes beginning with housing; the Delmos Security homes were erected for 600 farmers.