Friday, December 30, 2016

James Bowdoin: Post-Revolution Governor of Massachusetts

Feke Painting of James Bowdoin
James Bowdoin was a Bostonian revolutionary during the tumultuous years of America' war for independence. Like many, his position of opposition against British rule was not his initial stance on the topic. His opinion slowly changed over the years and he eventually became a governor in post-war Massachusetts.

Bowdoin was perhaps not as popular as the governor who served before him,–John Hancock–but that may have had something to do with his apparent absence during the American Revolution. He was suffering from what modern historians believe was tuberculosis and was involved with the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, despite his illness. When he felt better, he got right back into politics on a bigger scale. As such, he belongs among the list of Boston patriots, regardless of how undecided and sick he may have been during the war.

James Bowdoin was born in Boston to Hannah and James Bowdoin on August 7, 1726. He was technically James Bowdoin II and is currently referred to as such, though his family didn't distinguish between the two in that manner. His parents were wealthy, thanks to his father's endeavors as a merchant. Bowdoin was able to attend Boston Latin and go on to further his education at Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1745.

Three years after graduation, James Bowdoin married Elizabeth Erving. Two children came from the marriage, one of which was James Bowdoin III, who played a role in starting Bowdoin College in Maine in his father's memory.

James Bowdoin was an active, thoughtful man. He was the owner of extensive tracts of land. He dabbled in being a merchant, science, politics and maritime rescue. He was the founder of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, of which he was the first president. He was a member of the Massachusetts Humane Society–the name of which today is associated with animals but that focused on rescuing survivors of shipwrecks during the American Revolution. He earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. Clearly, he was a well thought of man in many circles.

As for political endeavors, Bowdoin was involved with the royal government in Massachusetts as a member of the governor's council from 1756 to the start of the American Revolution. He was off for a brief period when he became vocal about his shifting political views. In 1770, he wrote, "A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre" about the so-called Boston Massacre. By then, he was clearly siding with the rebels.

Whether it had anything to do with his later political leanings or not is unclear, but James Bowdoin did befriend Benjamin Franklin. It is not known precisely when they met, but Bowdoin did know Franklin at least two years before his graduation from Harvard College. The two had an interest in science in common and would send letters back and forth about Franklin's experiments with electricity.

After the American Revolution ended, James Bowdoin recovered from a long flare up of tuberculosis and ran for governor of Massachusetts. He lost to John Hancock. Five years later in 1785, John Hancock resigned for the first time and James Bowdoin became governor. It is generally thought that Bowdoin lost the first campaign by a large margin because of his seeming disdain for the lower class. When Shay's Rebellion took place, he had no sympathy for the affected "common" people. This hurt his campaign, but clearly, he was popular enough to win the second time. Therefore, it may have simply been John Hancock's popularity that killed Bowdoin's first campaign. He was in office for two years before John Hancock became governor yet again. Bowdoin passed away just three years later on November 6, 1790.

Monday, December 5, 2016

James Otis: Lawyer and Patriot

James Otis is one of the Boston men who helped stoke the fires of revolution during the 1760s. In fact, some people may say that he is the man who lit the fire. He is not as well known and he was not as prolific in his speeches and political work as many of his fellow revolutionaries. However, he was among the most intelligent and dedicated of these men. Sadly, his years of dedication and public service ended tragically.

James Otis was born on February 5, 1725 in West Barnstable, Massachusetts to James Otis Sr. and Mary Otis nee Allyne. His father was in politics. James Otis Jr. attended Harvard College. He graduated in 1743, at the age of eighteen. From there, he went to study law under Jeremiah Gridley.

James Otis' career in law began in 1748. He practiced in Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, Plymouth did not have a great need for a lawyer at the time, so two years later, James Otis took his practice into Boston. There, he earned a name for himself as a great speaker and a highly intelligent man. During the 1750s, John won a case that earned him the largest sum ever paid to a lawyer in Massachusetts until that time. His career was looking very promising.

In 1755, James Otis married Ruth Cunningham. The couple would go on to have three children together, James, Elizabeth and Mary. At the time of their marriage, they were both loyalists. That would change for James. Ruth would remain loyal to England for the remainder of her life, which, as it turns out, was longer than James' was.

James Otis shared his wife's beliefs openly until 1961. Around that time, some British revenue officers were given the authority to search the homes and places of business of Boston merchants in search of smuggled goods. James Otis decided to leave his then current position as advocate-general and represent Boston's affected merchants, for free. When the case was heard in what is now known as the Old State House, James Otis gave a roughly five-hour-long speech, addressing this issue and much more. One of his focuses was the fact that colonists had to follow Parliament's laws when the colonists were not represented in Parliament. He lost the case. However, the impact his speech had can be summed up by what future president of the United States John Adams said later. He remarked that it was on that day in the Old State House that "the child independence was born."

Soon after James Otis gave his speech at the Old State House, he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court. In 1764, he became a leader of the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence. That same year, he wrote his famous pamphlet, "The Rights of the Colonies Vindicated." A year later, he attended the Stamp Act Congress in New York City.

In 1769, James Otis made some negative comments in the Boston Gazette that were directed at a few revenue officers. One of those customs officers and some British military men found James a few days later and mercilessly beat him. He sustained a head injury that contributed to the decline of his mental health. James Otis was able to hold on to his sanity for long enough to sue his attacker. He was rewarded a sum of money, but he would not accept it. He also received a formal apology. He remained in public office for a few more years, but by the time the American Revolution began, he was insane and in the care of his sister, Mercy Otis Warren. His life would be dotted with a few brief periods of lucidity, but he was never the same man again. He did however contribute to the American Revolution in a way that you probably will not expect.

On June 17, 1775, James Otis, then 50-years-old, decided to procure a musket and walk to Breed's Hill. That day, on Breed's Hill, a battle was raging that would become known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. James Otis showed up for the battle, fought in it, and walked home. Obviously, his hopes for the future of the country followed him in his descent into insanity.

Most of the rest of James Otis' life was spent in Andover, Massachusetts. He was there on May 23, 1783 when he was struck by lightning and killed instantly. A brilliant and at times odd life ended there. James was buried at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts.


James Otis, retrieved 5/22/10,

James Otis, retrieved 5/22/10,

Friday, November 18, 2016

Samuel Adams: The Face of a Revolution

John Singleton Copley's
portrait of Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was one of the founding fathers of the United States, a Boston revolutionary and the current face of Bostonian beer. He is inextricably linked with the Boston rebels who helped ignite the revolution in the years leading up to 1775 and the famous documents that severed the many ties between the colonies and England. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he was not a soldier, an inventor, a successful merchant, a tradesman or a plantation owner. His only interest and success was in politics, but it was not for lack of trying other things.

Samuel Adams was born in Boston on September 27, 1722. He was raised in Boston and schooled at Boston Latin, like most of his peers. Also like his fellow Boston patriots, he went to Harvard College, graduating with his masters in 1743. After graduation, he became a merchant, but he was terribly bad at it. He seemed uninterested in money, instead being interested in public service. His father was a politician, but also a successful businessman. Samuel would not follow his father's example in that regard.

In 1749, Samuel Adams married Elizabeth Checkley, who bore him two surviving children before dying in childbirth. In 1764, he married Elizabeth Wells, who cared for his children, but had none of her own. Elizabeth Wells is remembered in a way as the woman who put up with Samuel Adams. He made very little money in public service. He had some land and a house, but Elizabeth did some work from home to keep them with money while he gave speeches and attended to the masses. In 1756, he became a tax collector and actually lost money due to his ineffective tax collecting strategies.

When Samuel Adams' father died, Samuel also had to fight off the British over a banking scheme his father had. It was popular among the people, but deemed illegal by the British. Samuel Adams was on the brink of having to hand over his estate, but he prevailed and the British were eventually run out of town anyway. Samuel also received the run of his father's maltsing business after his death. That was another failure for Adams.

As history shows us, Samuel Adams was not some poor unfortunate who was just no good at anything. The brewing discontent in the colonies gave him the perfect opportunity to showcase his talents. When Christopher Sieder was shot, Samuel Adams was quick to publicize the incident. Some say his speeches were such that he was something of an agent provocateur, though on the same side as those provoked. Indeed, the Boston Massacre occurred little more than a week after the event. Samuel Adams was also giving speeches before the Boston Tea Party. Suspicious? Historians think so. One thing is certain, instigator or not, he was one of the best orators in Boston before the American Revolution.

In 1765–five years before the Boston Massacre–Samuel Adams became a member of the Massachusetts Assembly. As revolution became inevitable, he served on the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and later the Continental Congress. He was positioned politically to be one of the men instrumental in creating the new nation. He signed the Declaration of Independence and helped draft the Articles of the Confederation.

In 1781, Samuel Adams retired from Congress and helped develop the Massachusetts Constitution. Eight years later, he became Lieutenant Governor. Five years after that, he became the Governor of Massachusetts. He remained governor until his health dictated that he rest in 1797. He died in Boston on October 2, 1803.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mary Hays McCauley: Revolutionary War Hero

Currier and Ives painting
of Molly Pitcher
Mary Hays McCauley was an American Revolution heroine who earned herself the nickname “Molly Pitcher” for her brave actions during the Battle of Monmouth. Her dedication and fearlessness are legendary.

Molly Pitcher was born near Trenton, New Jersey on October 13, 1754. Her parents were German immigrants, whose names are not known. Her maiden is not known for certain either, but it may have been Ludwig.

In 1769, at the age of fifteen, Mary Hays McCauley went to work for future Colonial Army colonel and Brigadier General, Dr. William Irvine. She worked in his household as a maid, but she was not happy in her position. She soon fell in love with a barber named John Casper Hays and left her place of employment to marry him. John soon enlisted in the artillery of the Continental Army. When John went off to war, Mary followed.

During the Revolutionary War, it was common for women to follow their men so that they may do chores such as washing and cooking for them. They were also handy for tending the wounded. Mary Hays McCauley was present with her husband at Valley Forge, but it was at the Battle of Monmouth that she proved that she could do far more than cook and clean. The temperature was very hot on the battlefield, so Mary decided to begin collecting pitchers of water from a nearby water source and bringing them to the men on the battlefield. This is what earned her the fond moniker Molly Pitcher.

At some point during the battle, Mary Hays McCauley’s husband collapsed beside his canon. Some reports say that he had been wounded but that Mary noticed that he would survive. The men around her watched as Molly Pitcher took up her husband’s post and began firing his canon. She supposedly did this for the remainder of the day. Joseph Plumb Martin, who had witnessed Mary’s bravery, wrote of her in his memoirs. He stated that an enemy canon ball had gone straight between Mary’s legs. She behaved as if nothing untoward had happened and continued firing her canon. She did however remark upon what would have happened had the canon ball been a little higher.

The story goes that, after the battle, brave Molly Pitcher was presented to George Washington himself, who commended her for her efforts. He supposedly also gave her a new nickname, “Sergeant.” She soon became legendary among the colonial troops.

After the war, Mary Hays McCauley and her husband moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. John Casper Hays died there in 1789. Mary remarried shortly thereafter, to a man named George McCauley. Reportedly, McCauley was not particularly kind to his wife and treated her as if she were a servant. Their union was not a happy one and they were not well off financially.

An answer to some of Mary Hays McCauley’s troubles came in 1822. The local government decided that she earned herself a lifetime annuity for her services. She collected that annuity every year until her death in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1832.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vincent Price: Horror's Most Iconic Actor

Vincent Price is one of film's most legendary actors. He was beloved for his haunting performances in numerous classic and modern horror films. However, there was much more to Price than an eerie voice and an unforgettable face. He was a philanthropist, author, chef, art collector and promoter of lesbian and gay rights. Behind the characters he played was a man with many and varied interests.

Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was born on May 27, 1911 in St. Louis, Missouri. His lineage can be traced to a baby born on the Mayflower off the coast of Massachusetts, making him as American as Thanksgiving. His immediate family was in the candy business and had done well for themselves, making it possible for young Vincent Price to attend private schools and eventually get a degree in art history from Yale. He would later collect art and donate thousands of pieces to the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College.

Price was initially a teacher, but he found his calling on the stage in London. While he is most memorable in horror roles, thanks to his distinctive features, he started out as a character actor in dramas and even a comedy or two. Horror roles did pop up early in his career. However, it wasn't until the 1950's, when he had roles in The Fly, House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax and others, that he became known for his abilities in the genre. In the 60s, he further cemented his place in horror history with a slew of Poe adaptations, including The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven.

Even while making his mark in horror, Vincent Price branched out, landing roles on television– including the role of Egghead on Batman. He also continued to do stage roles until late in his career. Music gave him another outlet for his talent, gaining him a new generation of followers. He did a cover of Monster Mash and a voice over for Alice Coopers Welcome to My Nightmare. His most significant contribution to music was his narration of Michael Jackson's Thriller. If you didn't know him before Thriller was released, you knew his voice afterward.

Vincent Price married three times. His first wife was actress Edith Barrett. They married in 1938 and divorced about a decade later. They had one child­–a son named Vincent. The following year, he married his second wife, Mary Grant Price–a costume designer with whom he had a daughter they named Victoria. The couple also authored cookbooks together. Vincent's third wife was actress Coral Brown. They married in 1973, the year after his divorce from Mary. They stayed married until she passed away in 1991.

In 1990, Vincent Price played the role of the inventor in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The pair worked together before on the short film Vincent in 1982. Unfortunately, the aging actor was so sick with emphysema and lung cancer by the time he did Edward Scissorhands opposite a young Johnny Depp that his work with the film was cut short. He died just a few years later at the age of 82. To this day, there is no one in horror who comes close to his reputation.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Abigail Adams: First Lady and Mother of a President

Abigail Adams by Gilbert Stuart

Abigail Adams was the wife of lawyer and politician John Adams. The couple met when Abigail was just a teenaged girl. John was ten years older than his future wife but the age difference meant little. Their 45-year marriage was apparently a very happy one, judging by the scores of letters the lovebirds sent each other. For the better part of their early married life, Abigail lived in Quincy and Boston without the company of her husband, but that did not stop them from starting a family.

Abigail Adams nee Smith married John Adams on October 25, 1764. Their first child, a daughter they named Abigail, came just shy of nine months later. Their second child and future President of the United States, John, was born in 1767. The following year, a daughter named Susanna was born to the couple. She passed away when she was two years old. Right around the time Susanna passed away, John and Abigail Adams had their second son, a boy they named Charles. A third son-Thomas- followed two years later.

Abigail Adams was well educated (by her mother). As such, she was suited for life as the wife of a lawyer, politician and eventual President of the United States. During the American Revolution, she wrote a letter to her husband that would become the first evidence of an early push for women's rights in the United States. In this letter, she wrote, ". . . in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." During her time as First Lady, she stood up for the rights of a young African-American man to get his education in Massachusetts. She was not a pushy or aggressive woman, but her intentions were made clear and no one could question her morality.

Abigail Adams was the first First Lady to occupy the White House, if only for a few months. She was also the first First Lady to demonstrate an interest in politics and to hold something akin to political office. During the American Revolution, members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress appointed her as one of the women sent to question female British loyalists.

Abigail Adams was as loyal, loving and dedicated as a woman can be. We know this about her through her correspondence with several individuals. She passed away on November 10, 1818 from complications of a stroke she suffered a few days prior.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Simo Hayha: A Finnish Sniper

Add caption
During World War II, Germany was not the only country on an invasive path. The Soviet Red Army was pushing west. On November 30, 1939, the Red Army invaded Finland. What ensued became known as the Winter War. The Red Army met with some serious opposition, which they likely did not expect. It is estimated that Finnish soldiers killed more than 100,000 Soviet soldiers. This number was exponentially higher than Finnish losses during the Winter War. One of the Finnish soldiers responsible for the amazing defense Finland put up was a small (little more than 5' tall) man by the name of Simo Hayha.

Simo Hayha was born in 1905 or 1906 in Rautajarvi, Finland. His was a simple life of farming and hunting with his family. He joined the Finnish Army in 1925 and completed his mandatory year in the service. By the time the year was over, Hayha was a corporal. When the Red Army invaded in 1939, Hayha was called up to serve with the 6th Company of JR34.  He served on the Kollaa River during what became known as the "miracle of Kollaa." The Finnish Army was grossly outnumbered and yet the area was held for the duration of the conflict.

During the winter of 1939-1940, Simo Hayha served primarily as a sniper. He has said that his weapon of choice was a Mosin-Nagant Model 28. However, he has been photographed with a Mosin-Nagant Model 28/30. Either way, his sniper rifle was iron-sighted. This means that he did not use a scope, but essentially a couple of prongs of metal lined up on the top of the barrel. With this, he reportedly killed many Soviet soldiers, possibly hundreds, at a distance of more than 400 yards.

Another weapon that Simo Hayha was talented with was a Suomik 31 SMG (sub-machine gun). He is credited with killing roughly 200 men with this weapon. Nonetheless, Simo was a much more accomplished sniper. His skill and technique are still amazing us 70 years later.

Simo Hayha had hunting Soviets in Finland down to a science. He knew it was cold and that the bright sun will glint off glass, so he opted out of using a scope. The cold could have broken or fogged up the glass in his scope and the glint would have given away his position. In fact, this is how he spotted many of his targets. He would also pack his mouth with snow to keep his hot breath from giving him away in the freezing cold Finland winter. Simo Hayha was working in temperatures that were consistently below zero, after all. Another technique Simo had was to shoot from a sitting position. This is odd for a sniper, but he says it helped because he was so small.

Simo Hayha was so good at his job that he became known as the "White Death." His white camouflage (suitable for snowy battlefields) and insane kill count led to this arguably intimidating moniker. What kill count can be considered insane, you ask? Well, Simo Hayha is credited with killing at least 705 Soviet soldiers with his sniper rifle (remember, he killed roughly 200 with his SMG). This makes him the most successful sniper in history. Moreover, he was only fighting for close to 100 days. That means he killed an average of seven men per day with his sniper rifle alone.

The killing streak ended for Simo Hayha on March 6, 1940, when a Red Army sniper shot him in the face with an exploding bullet. Teams of snipers had been sent to kill Hayha before then and the Red Army had even resorted to using artillery against him. They had not so much as injured him. However, the exploding bullet that hit him in March tore off part of his face. He was carried away by his fellow soldiers, but not before killing the man who shot him, according to Hayha. He then drifted into a coma for a week. The day he woke up, March 13, 1940, was the day the Winter War came to an end.

Simo Hayha spent his later years breeding dogs and hunting moose. He died on April 1, 2002. He was 96-years-old.


Tuco, Simo Hayha, retrieved 8/4/10

Monday, September 12, 2016

Josiah Quincy: Lawyer, Politician and Abolitionist

Josiah Quincy
Josiah Quincy was a lawyer, politician and abolitionist. As a lawyer, he rarely practiced. As a politician, he was largely disregarded, except for his time as "The Great Mayor" of Boston. As an abolitionist, he wrote papers on the subject and supported his abolitionist son Edmund. He is most famous in his hometown of Boston where his policies changed the face of the burgeoning city. Even today, nearly 200 years after his death, his contributions are a part of Boston.

Josiah Quincy (not to be confused with the many other Josiah Quincys in his family) was born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 4, 1772. He was the son of Josiah Quincy Jr. and Abigail Quincy nee Phillips. Both of his parents came from wealthy and influential families. The Quincy family was full of influential politicians, teachers and military (militia) men. His father was a well-known patriot who aided John Adams in the defense of the British soldiers involved in the "Boston Massacre."

When he was in his early thirties, Josiah Quincy Jr. died of tuberculosis. His son was just a toddler at the time, but he was left in the capable hands of Abigail and his grandfather--Josiah Quincy. He began attending the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts when he was six-years-old. Even there, he was under the influence of his family. His uncle, Reverend Samuel Phillips, was his teacher. From there, he went on to study at Harvard University like most great men in Boston at the time. He graduated from Harvard in 1793, but that was not the last he would see of the revered school.

After graduation, Josiah Quincy began his apprenticeship in law. He became a lawyer, but decided to spend his life in politics. Two years after his graduation from Harvard, Josiah Quincy was elected to the Boston Town Committee. (He was a Federalist.) He remained in that position for five years before running for Congress. He was not successful his first time around. However, he was elected in 1804 and he left for Washington, D.C.

While Josiah Quincy was a member of the Boston Town Committee, he married Eliza Susan Morton. The couple would go on to have seven children together, notably Edmund Quincy and Josiah Quincy Jr. (Yes, another one.) Edmund would go on to become a famous abolitionist periodical editor. Josiah Quincy Jr. would follow in his father's footsteps and become Mayor of Boston.

Things did not turn out well for Josiah Quincy in Washington. His ideas were becoming passé and his time in Congress was not noteworthy, except for his departure. In 1813, Josiah Quincy disagreed with the United States' latest war with England, so he returned home to Boston, where he was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate. He spent 12 years in that position. He was also a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820 and a Massachusetts House of Representatives Judge in 1821. In 1823, Josiah Quincy was elected Mayor of Boston.

Josiah Quincy made Boston a cleaner, safer place to live. He focused on juvenile delinquent reform. He brought municipal water and sewage to the city. He organized the fire department and more. Most notably, he cleaned up the area where Quincy Market is today and established the market, which still stands facing Faneuil Hall. In a modern city, it is a rather awkward position for the building, but it makes for great historical atmosphere and street performer fun. Mr. Quincy probably never imagined Quincy Market as it is today, but he would surely be pleased to see how beloved it is by the city's residents.

Josiah Quincy served as Mayor of Boston for five years. On June 15, 1829, he became President of Harvard University. Despite his best efforts, his time there was marked with unrest in the student body. There were violent protests and the students openly disliked Josiah. Quincy did his best to punish the students responsible and put his efforts toward making the school better. He did make some great changes to the school, but he never did win over the students. He retired from his post on August 27, 1848.

In Josiah Quincy's twilight years, he wrote a great deal about the history of some famous Boston institutions. He also wrote about his son Edmund's passion, abolitionism. He died on July 1, 1864 and was interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Josiah Quincy, retrieved 10/27/10,

Josiah Quincy, retrieved 10/27/10,

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Albert Cashier: Crossdressing Civil War Soldier

Albert Cashier was a member of the 95th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. He was present at many battles and marched thousands of miles with his comrades during his three years of service in the Union Army. He was known his bravery, despite being the smallest soldier in Company G. In fact, he was the shortest soldier in the entire regiment. However, Albert Cashier had a secret–a big secret. Albert Cashier was actually Jennie Hodgers. Yes, this brave soldier of the Union Army was born a woman.

Not much is known about Albert Cashier’s early life. We do know that ‘Jennie Hodgers’ was born in Ireland. She immigrated to the United States from Clogherhead. She was five feet tall and illiterate. There weren't many jobs she qualified for, unless she wanted to be a laundress or something of the sort. This is probably one of the reasons that Jennie Hodgers decided to dress herself as a man and join the Union Army.

During the Civil War, physical examinations for soldiers were perfunctory, at best. In fact, Albert Cashier was nowhere near the only soldier who was a woman masquerading as a man. However, he was one of the very few, that we know of, who wasn’t discovered while in service. A great sense of patriotism must have driven these women, as well as the promise of regular wages. The battlefields of the Civil War were notoriously savage. It had to have taken a very brave soldier to enter the battlefields voluntarily, regardless of whether that soldier was male or female.

During the war, Albert Cashier was present at the Siege of Vicksburg, the surrender of Mobile, the Red River campaign and Guntown, Mississippi. His comrades later told stories of his bravery on the battlefield. However, they also told stories about his private nature. It would seem, and this makes perfect sense, that Albert didn’t like to be alone with the other men very often. He didn’t share bunks with his comrades the way the others sometimes would. It was the only indication any of them ever had that he was a woman, though they never suspected.

Albert Cashier was discharged from the Union Army in 1865. After the war, Jennie Hodgers did not want to give up her newfound freedom as a man, so she continued to masquerade as Albert Cashier. With this identity, she could earn better wages and keep in touch with her war buddies. She even voted. Albert Cashier eventually moved to Sauremin, Illinois, where he picked up odd jobs and lived in a modest home.

Albert Cashier kept his secret for the next nearly fifty years. He would have kept it longer, but he was involved in an accident that occurred while he was working on his boss’ car. The injuries he sustained were crippling and when a doctor looked at him, the ruse was up. Despite his deceit, he was allowed to live at the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home for three years. However, his mental and physical health continued to decline and so he was sent to a state hospital in 1914.

While in the state hospital, workers forced Albert Cashier to wear skirts. This was very uncomfortable for him, obviously. However, he didn’t have to suffer for long. Albert Cashier died at the state hospital in October of 1915. Jennie Hodgers’ true identity is carved on her gravestone, which reads ‘Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.’


Davis, Rodney O., Private Albert Cashier, retrieved 1/7/10,

Paul, Linda, In Civil War, Woman Fought Like a Man For Freedom, retrieved 1/7/10,

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Subhas Chandra Bose: Vanished Indian Activist

Portrait of Subhas Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist who spent years as an activist and rebel leader while Britain was still in control of India. During World War II, he was first put on house arrest by the British and then escaped to seek help from the Nazis. His years of trying to make India an independent country and running from its foreign rulers eventually led to his mysterious disappearance.

Subhas Chandra Bose was born on January 23, 1897. He was one of 14 children. Despite this, he got a decent education from an early age and went on to study at Presidency College. However, he did not complete his studies. He attacked a professor who reportedly spoke out against India. Bose was expelled for the incident. He then studied philosophy at Scottish Church College and managed to secure a B.A. with assaulting anyone.

After graduating, Subhas Chandra Bose moved to Britain and attended Fitzwilliam College. He came home rather quickly because he did not want to work for Great Britain. His early sentiments foretold his future. He became involved in nationalist activities and found himself in tumbles with British authorities. While in jail in 1925, he came down with tuberculosis. This did not stop him from continuing his rebellious activities.

In 1927, Subhas Chandra Bose began working with the Indian National Congress as their general secretary. This led to even more trouble with the law, but did nothing to curb his success. He became mayor of Calcutta in 1930. He was even briefly president of the Indian National Congress. However, opposition from Mohandas Gandhi led to his resignation. It was not this, but rather his frequent protesting, that saw him put under house arrest by the British. Once he escaped, his strategy was to turn to Britain's enemies–the Axis powers.

Subhas Chandra Bose went to the Nazis for help, which only deepens the mystery surrounding his final years. With the help of many connections, he made it out of India through Afghanistan, Russia and Rome before he finally arrived in Germany in April of 1941. There, he had a great deal of support, or so it seemed. He was allowed to start the Special Bureau for India and raise an army of 4,500 Indian prisoners of war.

The soldiers of Subhas' army answered to Hitler. Their allegiance was to him, but they recognized Subhas Chandra Bose as the ruler of India. Though he had very little real power, he did manage to make many connections. He met with men like Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler himself. Bose discovered through these meetings that his German support was for appearances. They were very unlikely to help him invade India and win it back from the British. Those of us who can see this in hindsight may find it surprising that it took him nearly three years to realize that. With Axis powers stretched to the brink and India being a much lesser target than the Soviet Union, it would have been foolish for the Nazis to invade there. Furthermore, it is surprising that a nationalist who loved his country would want the Nazis to invade it. They were not exactly known for quick withdrawals.

In response to his discovery that his work in Germany was in vain, Subhas Chandra Bose snuck away to Japan, leaving his small army behind. By a stroke of luck or genius, he was able to take control of the Indian National Army, which had already been formed in Japan. Unfortunately for him, that army's fate was tied to that of Japan. As Japan suffered defeat and surrendered, so did the Indian National Army. Then, suddently, Bose disappeared.

Subhas Chandra Bose's alleged disappearance only lasted five days before there was an explanation, but it was a shoddy one. It is said that his plane crashed in Taiwan. He survived the crash, but did not survive his injuries. Once he passed away, he was cremated, and the Japanese took him to the Renkoji Temple. Skepticism was immediate, though his death was confirmed by a British spy whose name has not been revealed. Is that really evidence?

Those who believe Subhas Chandra Bose lived fall mainly into two camps. Some believe he went into hiding in Russia and faked his own death. Others believe he was imprisoned in Russia. Bose certainly had a lot of friends and enemies in a lot of places. Either scenario is possible. Nonetheless, he is certainly dead by now.


67 years on, govt can't continue sitting on secret Bose files, retrieved 8/18/12,

Monday, June 27, 2016

Robert Smalls: Former Slave Turned Congressman

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls was one of the most influential African-American men to fight for freedom during the Civil War. He was born a slave and died as something of a national hero. His bravery and intelligence put him in the position to prove that not only were African-Americans capable of fighting for their own freedom, but that they were the equals of any white man who did the same.

Robert Smalls was born in South Carolina on April 5, 1839, in the back yard of the home where his mother was kept as a slave. Because his mother was a slave, he was born into slavery, even though he was the son of a white man. Who that white man was is not certain. He may or may not have been the boy’s own owner. Robert worked as a house slave until the age of twelve, when he was sent to Charleston to seek out paying work.

While in Charleston, Robert Smalls was able to find odd jobs as a laborer. He was allowed to keep one dollar of his wages. The rest was sent to his owner. However, when Robert turned eighteen, he was able to make a deal with his owner and from then on, he only had to send the man fifteen dollars per month. Smalls also met his wife, Hannah, while living in Charleston. He married her on December 24, 1856. He was seventeen years old. She was thirty-two.

Soon after Robert Smalls married Hannah, the couple had a child. Hannah was still the property of Samuel Kingman and therefore, so was their child. Robert saved up $800 and purchased his family from Mr. Kingman (if you can imagine such a thing as having to buy your own family). Not long after, they welcomed a son into the world, Robert Smalls Jr.

The same year that Smalls’ son was born (1861), Robert began working in the trade that would change his life forever, He became a deckhand on a transport steamer called Planter. He was soon promoted to pilot. In this capacity, he learned a lot about the Charleston harbor and about captaining a ship, both of which would come in handy the following year.

On May 13, 1862, the Planter’s officers were asleep onshore in Charleston when Robert Smalls and his family boarded the ship in the night. Also, on board was a crew of twelve slaves. With the help of the crew, Robert Smalls bravely took command of the ship and sailed it right out of the harbor, under the noses of all of the Confederates in the area. He then took the ship to the Commanding Officer of the Onward, a Union ship. Admiral Samuel DuPont accepted the ship as a gift for the Union, which was how Smalls and his men had presented it. They were all rewarded monetarily for their bravery by Abraham Lincoln.

In the fall of 1862, Robert Smalls, now working for the United States Navy, went to Washington, D.C. with a colleague. He and his colleague met with Secretary of War Stanton and President Lincoln and asked if they could recruit 5,000 black men for the cause. They were soon given permission to complete the task.

Robert Smalls became the first African-American to captain a United States Navy ship on December 1, 1863. His wife gave birth to a daughter that very same day. He served in this capacity for the remainder of the Civil War. After the war, he returned to the state in which he had been born and enslaved. He came back to South Carolina with a new found freedom and the intellect to do something with it.

Smalls became a major general in the South Carolina militia soon after his return. He served in the North Carolina Senate from 1868 to 1870. He was elected to Congress in 1875 and reelected five times. Following his time with Congress, he became a U.S. Customs Collector in South Carolina. While employed in this capacity, he lived in the very Beaufort home in which he and his mother had served as slaves. However, this time around, he was the master of the house. He passed away at the age of 75, on February 23, 1916.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Virginia Hall: World War II Spy

Hall receives the Distinguished
Service Cross
Virginia Hall was a spy for the U.S. and England during World War II. She conducted undercover operations that assisted the resistance in France and she aided in sabotage missions near the end of the war. She is known for being brave, resilient and intelligent. Despite her gender and a significant disability, she never walked away from her chosen profession.

Virginia Hall was born on April 6, 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was the youngest daughter of theater owner Edwin Lee Hall and his wife, Barbara. Virginia’s early life was rather typical of a child of relatively wealthy parents. She attended Roland Park Country School and then decided that she wanted to study language in college. She first attended Radcliffe College. She went on to enroll in Bernard College and took classes there from 1924 to 1926. She became fluent in German, French and Italian.

Virginia Hall got her first government job in 1931. She went to Warsaw, Poland to work as a clerk at the American Embassy. While working in this capacity, she traveled to Tallin, Estonia, Vienna, Austria and Izmir, Turkey. Virginia was hunting in Turkey when she accidentally dropped her shotgun, which discharged into her foot. By the time medical help arrived, the wound was gangrenous. Her leg was amputated, and she was fitted with a wooden one.

Virginia Hall did not want to give up her work with the government, but the State Department had a policy that did not allow them to employ people with amputated limbs. She resigned in May of 1939. She went to work in France with the French Ambulance Service Unit. She had to leave the country when the Nazis invaded in May of 1940. She went from France to England, where she began working as a clerk at the embassy there.

While Virginia Hall was working in England, she was recruited for the Special Operations Executive. The SOE was a British group designed to infiltrate countries that were under the control of the Nazis and conduct spy operations, among other things, from the inside. The SOE sent her back to France. There she pretended to be a reporter for the New York Post while staying in Vichy. What she was really doing was aiding the organization of French resistance movements. She later went to Lyons and stayed there until 1942 when the Nazis began searching for her.

From France, Virginia Hall traveled to Madrid, an arduous journey done largely on foot. This must have been quite a trying task for a woman with one leg. Once she got set up in Madrid, she resumed her work as a spy. This time, she posed as a Chicago Times reporter. She disliked being there and asked her superiors if she might return to France. They sent to her back to England instead where she received further training. At the close of her training, she was moved to the U.S. Office of Strategic Services.

The OSS sent Virginia Hall back to France. This time she operated out of Haute-Loire. The Nazis had not forgotten the “woman with a limp,” however, which perhaps the OSS should have anticipated. Hall had to outsmart the Gestapo to avoid getting caught. Nonetheless, she managed to assist the resistance in the area and be the first person to report the change in location of the German General Staff Headquarters from Lyons to Le Puy to the Allies. In August of 1944, she became part of a team controlling three battalions of French forces. They were charged with sabotaging enemy communications. Virginia Hall and her comrades were successful.

Following her brave efforts in France, the OSS' European Theater Commander, Colonel James R. Forgan, nominated Virginia Hall for the Distinguished Service Cross. She was awarded the medal in 1945. Six years later, at the age of 45, Virginia Hall enlisted in the CIA. She worked for the CIA until her retirement in 1966. She passed away in 1982 at the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Washington, D.C. She was buried in the Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pat Garrett: Wild West Sheriff

Pat Garrett
Pat Garrett is the legendary Wild West sheriff who killed Billy the Kid. There is a lot of controversy regarding whether or not Garrett truly was responsible and, if he was, if the killing was an act of cowardice. Nonetheless, this is what Pat Garrett is best known for and it is highly likely that he did kill Billy the Kid. Much of the derision regarding the death of Billy the Kid may have stemmed from the fact that the lanky lawman was known to have a surly demeanor and a sarcastic sense of humor. He was also known as a drunk, a gambler and a man who often embellished, if not outright lied.

Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett was born in Chambers County, Alabama, on June 5, 1850. His parents were John Lumpkin Garrett and Elizabeth Ann Jarvis. He had seven siblings. In 1853 the Garrett family acquired a plantation in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. The family moved there when Pat was three years old. He spent the rest of his childhood there.

In 1867, Pat Garrett’s mother died followed by his father the next year. The estate of Pat’s deceased father was handled by his brother-in-law. The house and land were sold and there was nothing left to keep Pat and his siblings. So, Pat Garrett left Louisiana for Texas on January 25, 1869. He was eighteen years old.

He found a job in Texas as a cowpuncher and a buffalo herder, among other things. By 1877, he was working as a buffalo hunter with a young man named John Briscoe. One day, when the men were in camp, John got angry at Pat and chased him with an ax. Pat attempted to avoid the man, but was forced to shoot him. By all accounts, Pat was remorseful. He turned himself over to authorities and was not charged with murder.

The next year, Pat Garrett moved to Fort Sumner. There, he began working for a man named Pete Maxwell. He also met William H. Bonney there. William H. Bonney is one of the several aliases used by Billy the Kid. It is known that the two men were acquaintances, but there is debate over whether they were friends or not and if they were, how close they were. Not long after they met, Billy and his gang became some of the most notorious men in the Wild West.

In 1880, Pat Garrett moved to Roswell, New Mexico and ran for sheriff there. He was twenty-nine years old. That same year he married his wife, Apolinaria, with whom he would have nine children. He became the sheriff of Roswell on November 2, 1880 and began searching for Billy the Kid shortly thereafter. He managed to capture Billy and two of his gang members in December, but after spending a few months in jail, Billy escaped.

Pat Garrett quickly arranged for the help of Pete Maxwell, who supposedly agreed to lure Billy to his home. When Billy arrived at the house on July 14, 1881, Pat reportedly shot him twice from the shadows when he opened the door to the darkened room in which Pat had waited for him. Opinions varied as to whether Pat should have fought Billy face to face or if he was a hero for killing the outlaw when he had the chance. Regardless of if it was brave or cowardly, the deed would follow Garrett for the rest of his life.

Pat didn’t return as the sheriff of Lincoln County after that term. In 1896, he went to Dona Ana County to serve as sheriff there. A politician and his son had been murdered and it was thought that the famous Pat Garrett could help solve the case. He was unable to help and the case remains unsolved. He never ran for sheriff anywhere again.

In 1901, Garrett went up for a job as customs collector in El Paso. President Roosevelt caught wind that Pat was a drunk and a gambler. However, Theodore Roosevelt himself recommended him for the position and he got the job on January 6, 1902. After a series of mishaps and possible deceptions, Roosevelt decided not to reappoint Garrett for another term. After the loss of this job, Garrett decided to go stay at his ranch in the San Andreas Mountains.

Soon after Pat returned to his ranch, he was forced to rent it out to a man named Wayne Brazel so that he could afford his mortgage. The men disagreed on what kind of livestock should be kept at the ranch and so Garrett found two other men to rent the property. Brazel refused to leave and so Pat went out to talk to him on February 28, 1908, with the two other men. An argument ensued, during which, Pat turned his back on two of the other men and was shot twice. His wounds were fatal.

Brazel confessed to the murder of Pat Garrett, but was later let off as it was deemed self defense. What exactly happened that day is still unclear and may never be known. Pat Garrett’s final resting place is in the Odd Fellow Cemetery in Los Cruces, New Mexico.


Perez, Antonio & Villalobos, Angel & Miranda. Jeremiah J., Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy, retrieved 10/9/09,

The Alleged Killer of Billy the Kid, retrieved 10/9/09,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

William Chester Minor: Dictionary Contributor, Surgeon and Mental Patient

William Chester Minor was a surgeon who contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary. He was also severely mentally ill. He is remembered for the latter, but his contributions to the Oxford English Dictionary were significant, particularly given that he made those contributions from his room in an insane asylum.

William Chester Minor was born in June of 1834. He was born on the island that is currently Sri Lanka. He was one of two children that were born to a pair of Congregationalist Church Missionaries from New England. W.C.’s mother died of consumption when he was three years old. His father eventually remarried, a union which gave William at least one stepsibling–a brother. When he was fourteen years old, W.C.’s father sent him to New Haven, CT, where he moved in with his uncle and began attending Yale University.

William Chester Minor studied to be a surgeon at the prestigious school and graduated in 1863. He used his skill to become a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. It is sometimes thought that his experiences during the war contributed to his mental illness. Whether or not this is true is a matter of debate. However, the symptoms of his disease were first noticed shortly after the war had ended.

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, William Chester Minor was stationed in New York City. Apparently, he developed an affinity for prostitutes while there. The Army did not consider this appropriate behavior, so they transferred him to a post in Florida. His behavior became even stranger (or more obvious) when he got there. He suffered paranoid delusions of persecution from other members of the military. The year after his arrival at his new post, he was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

It took the staff of the hospital roughly a year and a half to decide that William Chester Minor was not going to get better anytime soon. In 1871, he was allowed to leave the hospital and the military. He was given retirement pay. Soon after he was discharged, he made his way to London. William’s paranoid delusions became a big problem for him there. At one point, he made a complaint at Scotland Yard that someone was breaking into his room and attempting to poison him at night. His complaint was dismissed because W.C. was obviously a madman.

On February 17, 1872, Minor shot and killed a man named George Merrett. At the time of his death, George had six children and one on the way. He was on his way to work when William murdered him. William was arrested on the spot. He told the police that he had mistaken George for the man who had been entering his room at night. A jury found William not guilty by reason of insanity.

William Chester Minor was taken to the Broadmoor insane asylum on April 17, 1872. He was placed in a nice area of the hospital because he was not seen as dangerous. He was also given the privilege of purchasing books with his retirement pension. He took advantage of the privilege and built up a small library for himself. It was this small library that led to his work on the Oxford English Dictionary.

The makers of the Oxford English Dictionary sought volunteers to help them gather instances of word usages and the like for use in the famous dictionary. William Chester Minor somehow heard of this and volunteered. He meticulously collected word usages from his books and sent them into the editors of the dictionary. Quite a lot of what he collected was used in the making of the dictionary. Unfortunately, despite this productive spell, W.C.’s delusions continued. In fact, they grew ever more grandiose.

The delusions of nighttime attacks continued and they gradually became not only threatening, but sexual in nature. William Chester Minor began complaining that men were sneaking into his room at night and raping him. Sometimes more than one man was present during these imagined attacks. Eventually he began to include women and even children in his delusions. He was never the attacker or a willing participant in these acts. He always explained them as forced and unpleasant.

The delusions got the better of him in time, and on December 3, 1902, he cut off his penis. William Chester Minor’s horrific act of self-mutilation did not stop the paranoia that he suffered or the imagined nightly sexual attacks. At the age of 68 and lacking a penis, the man continued to believe that he was being sexually assaulted.

Eight years after the incident, Minor was given into the custody of his stepbrother so that he could be taken back to St. Elizabeth’s. The date was April 15, 1910. He stayed there for nine years and was diagnosed with schizophrenia during that time. He was moved to the Retreat for the Elderly Insane in New Haven, CT in 1919, so that he may be closer to his family in his old age. He died there on March 26, 1920.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ned Kelly: Australia's Most Memorable Outlaw

Edward (Ned)Kelly is the most infamous outlaw in Australian history. He was the leader of a four-man revolt against the colonial police in Victoria during the 1870's. Ned had two reputations. On one side he was a hero that stood up for the rights of his family and friends. On the other he was a horrible villain that would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Either way you look at it, Ned Kelly led a very adventurous life. The question is whether it was a life he chose or was it a life he was forced into.

Ned Kelly was born in Victoria, Australia in 1855. He was the first-born son of John (Red) Kelly and Ellen Kelly. Ned’s was a humble family, and his father was not popular with law enforcement. Red had been in some trouble before he moved to Australia from Ireland and he wasn’t having much luck in his new home either. He passed away when Ned was only eleven, but it seems his unlawful lifestyle rubbed off on his eldest son.

After Red died, Ellen was left alone with eight children to feed and clothe. She moved the family to Eleven Mile Creek. Not long after the move, Ned and some of the other men in his family began getting themselves into trouble. Ned was arrested several times before he was even fifteen, but the charges were always dropped. Ned Kelly fans believe this was because the police were persecuting him for no apparent reason other than that he was Irish. Eventually his luck ran out and he was sentenced to six months in prison when he was fifteen.

Less than a year after Ned was released, he was arrested for stealing a horse. He denied stealing the horse and told the police that he was watching it for a friend. The friend was likely the man who stole the horse. Ned fought with the policeman who arrested him and allegedly embarrassed the man in the street. This probably didn’t help his case much. He was sentenced to three years in prison.  He was only sixteen at the time.

Ned Kelly returned home from prison when he was nineteen and led a quiet life for a short time. Soon after, his mother remarried and Ned supposedly began stealing horses with his stepfather. This is most likely true. Many members of the Kelly family had been arrested for stealing horses by that time. It was not an uncommon practice then. Money was tight and relations between common people and the government were strained.

Nearly three years after his release, Ned was accused of shooting a police officer. The officer, whose name was Fitzpatrick, reported that he had been at Ellen Kelly’s house and that Ned had shot him in the hand. The only other witnesses to his accident were the Kellys. They told authorities that Ned Kelly was not even home at the time. They also said that the man had been hurt in an altercation had taken place because he was being inappropriate with Ned’s sister. Neither story has been authenticated, but Fitzpatrick was later released from the force for being untrustworthy in an unrelated incident.

Ned was forced into hiding with his younger brother Dan, who was also implicated in the supposed shooting. While in hiding, Ned and Dan were joined by their two good friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. The four stayed in hiding in the Australian bush and were rather successful at evading authorities for some time. During this time, Mrs. Kelly had been sentenced to three years in prison for her involvement in the Fitzpatrick incident. This lent fuel to the fire that was Ned’s hatred of the law.

It wasn’t until a few months later that the men had their first run in with the police. Four policemen had set up camp near Stringybark Creek while in search of Ned’s gang. Unbeknownst to the police, Ned Kelly and his men were camped nearby and were aware of their presence. When two of the policemen left to patrol the area Ned Kelly’s gang ambushed the camp. One man was shot dead and the other surrendered. The two men who were out patrolling then returned and refused to surrender to Ned. When they opened fire on Ned and his gang, the gang returned fire. Both men wound up dead. During the melee, the officer that had surrendered managed to escape and alert officials.

In November of 1878, Ned and his gang were officially outlawed and a hefty reward was offered for each of them, dead or alive. This did not deter the group in the slightest. The very next month, they robbed the National Bank in Euroa. In February of 1879, Ned Kelly’s gang robbed the Bank of New South Wales. This time, they were dressed as policemen. During the second robbery, Ned gave a letter to a man that was meant to be delivered to the authorities. In it was his side of the story. It later became known as the Jerilderie letter.

Following the robberies, the reward offered for the members of the Ned Kelly gang increased. The new reward was reportedly the highest reward ever offered for a criminal in Australia at the time. The new reward was so high in fact that one of Joe Byrnes’ childhood friends made a deal with the police for the reward. Joe heard of his treachery and shot him down at his front door while four policemen cowered inside the man’s house.

Immediately after the killing, Ned Kelly and his gang removed to a hotel in Glenrowan. They kept around sixty hostages inside. The gang had heard of a train filled with lawmen that was on its way to Glenrowan. They had seen to it that a length of track was dug up so that the train would derail. The plan was to wait it out at the hotel, but Ned had made a fatal mistake. He had allowed a schoolteacher, by the name of Thomas Curnow, leave the hotel with his family. The man immediately signaled the train and all was lost. The police arrived at the hotel that evening and surrounded it.

The Ned Kelly gang was as prepared for such an attack as they could be. They had constructed heavy bulletproof armor and each man had his own set with some variations. This was rather ingenious work at the time and the police were stumped by it. The men went out into the night wearing these suits, but they were very heavy and left their legs and arms exposed. Both Ned and Steve were shot, but neither was seriously injured.

Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart retreated into the hotel while Ned Kelly went off into the bush, undetected by the police. The police continued to shoot into the hotel throughout the night. Nonetheless, many hostages were able to escape. Two hostages were shot and killed by the police and Joe Byrne was supposedly shot and killed while standing at the bar having a drink.

Early in the morning, Ned came out of the bush, still wearing his formidable armor. The police were only able to take him down by shooting him in the legs. Early that afternoon the police set fire to the hotel. When they went into the hotel later, they found Dan and Steve dead inside. Reports vary greatly as to the cause of these young men’s deaths. Some say they poisoned themselves while the hotel burned. There is no way to be sure what really happened, as there was no official investigation.

Ned Kelly survived the battle and was subsequently put on trial. He was tried for the murder of Thomas Lonigan at Stringybark Creek and found guilty. His was sentenced to hang. This sentence was carried out on November 11, 1880. Ned Kelly was only 25 years old when he died. He may have been a criminal or he may have been a victim. Either way, he remains a heroic symbol of hope against tyranny to many Australians to this day.


Kelly, Edward (Ned) (1855-1880), retrieved 7/11/09,;kelly

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

William Franklin: Loyalist Son of Benjamin Franklin

William Franklin was the last Royal Governor of New Jersey. He was also the illegitimate son of famous statesman and inventor, Benjamin Franklin. He spent most of his life under the watchful eye of his caring father. However, he and Benjamin parted ways when William remained loyal to the crown while his father became one of the most active participants in the political side the American Revolution.

William Franklin was presumably born in 1730. No one is quite sure who is mother was, but Benjamin and his common-law wife, Deborah Reed, raised him. Deborah Reed was made Benjamin Franklin’s common-law wife in September of 1730. There is some speculation that William was actually her son, but that Benjamin wanted to spare Deborah the embarrassment of having mothered a child out of wedlock. There is also the possibility that William was the son of one of Ben’s servants or a prostitute. His father was known to have had relations with these types of women.

His father cared for William as if he were a legitimate son, which seems normal enough now, but wasn't necessary then. There is no reason to believe that William was treated any differently when Deborah gave birth to a son in 1732, either. William’s younger brother died of smallpox in 1736. In 1742 William became an older brother again when his sister Sarah was born. There have been rumors that Deborah treated her husband’s son with contempt, but this may not have been true. Either way, there appear to have been few problems in the Franklin household with regard to the young man.

William grew up in a home where it was commonplace for brilliant men to come and meet with his father and discuss all sorts of interesting topics. Without a doubt, William Franklin spent his childhood immersed in the issues of the day and surrounded by the ideas and philosophies of great men. He spent a lot of time with his father and was quite like him, in many ways. In fact, when William was fifteen-years-old, he tried to run away and go out to sea. His father had done the very same thing. He also managed to stop William, but there was no keeping the boy from having an adventure.

In June of his fifteenth year, William Franklin joined the military. He spent roughly two years in the military and even became a captain. He subsequently spent more time on a brief expedition before coming home and leading a very social life before settling into more responsible roles. William Franklin was like his father in that he liked to run in groups of like-minded and forward-thinking men. He became a mason, like his father. He also was a member of New Junto and the American Philosophical Society.

At the age of 24, William Franklin became engaged to the seventeen-year-old daughter of Doctor Thomas Graeme. Her name was Elizabeth. Not long after their engagement, Benjamin asked his son to accompany him to England while he was on business there. He told William that he would fund his education in law if he did. William accepted. Benjamin also named him his heir when the decision was made for him to come. That would change later in their lives, when the close pair became estranged.

While in England, William studied law and became more involved in politics while meeting his father’s contemporaries there. He maintained correspondence with his fiancé for a while, but the love seems to have fizzled out for him in the six years that they were apart because on September 4, 1762, William married a woman named Elizabeth Downes. Not before he was presented with an illegitimate son of his own, however. The boy’s name was William Temple Franklin. His father left him in England when he was sworn in as Governor of New Jersey in 1962 and sent back to America. His son would not come to America until 1775 and the two were never close in the way Benjamin and William had been.

William Franklin was the Royal Governor of New Jersey during one of the most tumultuous times in American history. Colonial resistance to British rule peaked during his years in office. Because William remained loyal to the crown, he became a target for rebels. His father tried to convince him to change sides, but William felt a strong sense of loyalty and duty. It was admirable, really, but it destroyed his relationship with his father and caused William to be arrested and deposed in 1776. He was allowed to stay in private homes under the stipulation that he could not leave town and he could not contact any other loyalists. He broke those rules in June of 1776 and was officially jailed. He was not freed until October of 1778. His wife had died while he was incarcerated.

William returned to England in the early 1780's. He hadn’t spoken to his once beloved father in more than five years. His father had once overseen his career and gave him positions as a postmaster in Philadelphia and later the comptroller of the North American Postal System when William was in his twenties. Benjamin had helped his son to become a politician by funding his schooling and introducing him to all the right people. William had even been with his father during the famous ‘kite experiment’ and is thought to have been holding the kite. However, none of these memories of fondness were enough to reunite father and son. Benjamin and William Franklin saw each other briefly one last time in 1885. By the time Benjamin died, he had removed William as his primary heir.

William Franklin died in 1813, after having remarried and losing a second wife. He never did return to America and if he ever knew whom his real mother was, his secret died with him.


William Franklin: New Jersey’s Last Royal Governor, retrieved 3/7/10,

William Franklin and Elizabeth Graeme, retrieved 3/7/10,