Daniel Rolph

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June marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. Here in the Delaware Valley area, many are familiar with some of the more-famous War of 1812 events, such as the bombing of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland; the burning of the Capitol at Washington, D.C.; Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and various maritime battles.  Yet few recall the seminal skirmishes or major battles that occurred within the Old Northwest during the conflict.

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Many events that occurred during the War of 1812, like so many other periods in American history, are now largely forgotten and unknown to the general public. Atrocities or barbarities perpetrated against the Indians by settlers are well attested facts, yet the opposite is often ignored in current histories pertaining to the time period in question. The Fort Mims Massacre is one such account that transpired on August 30, 1813, in Baldwin County, Alabama.


Cholera! The very name in 19th-century America brought justifiable fear and the dread of certain death among many of our nation's citizens. It usually killed quickly, often within four hours of contamination. The death toll from the disease rose into the thousands, specifically in 1832, 1849, and 1866. Many members of my own family in Kentucky left the state to escape its wrath.


Just recently, Penn Treaty Park on Delaware and Columbia Avenue in Kensington was listed officially on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the site where William Penn and the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians purportedly gathered under an elm tree and signed or at least worked out a mutual agreement. The Treaty of Friendship or Treaty of Shackamaxon of 1682 created a large amount of debate and controversy regarding its occurrence, date, and exact location.


On May 5, 1829, while digging in the Durham section of the Delaware Canal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, contractors Porter & Hough uncovered a remarkable burial. Beneath three feet of earth, a “pile of 18 cannon balls was found, and directly underneath, the bones of a human being.” As can be imagined, such a discovery gained a significant amount of public attention, as reported in a number of local newspapers, including an account published in The Ariel, a Philadelphia periodical of the time.

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Violence and mining were practically synonymous terms within the United States for many decades. From the activities attributed to the famed Molly Maquires of the anthracite coal sections of Pennsylvania, to that of the Lattimer Massacre near Hazleton, PA, on September 10, 1897, the Commonwealth state has seen its share of conflict.

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When one thinks of the Civil War and its participants, most individuals are aware that thousands of foreigners, such as the Irish, Germans, English, and other non-citizens were involved on both sides of the conflict. Ella Lonn's classic work, Foreigners in the Union Army (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951), reveals a host of persons from various European countries who filled the Federal or Union ranks. However, few are aware that a number of men from Asia or China were also engaged in the "War Between the States."  One such person was John Tommy.


When one researches primary source material for the 19th-century American South, occasionally one finds enigmatic references to 'white slaves,' or individuals who were in reality Caucasians, but were sold or held in bondage, by crooked masters or slave-dealers, for a variety of reasons. A number of publications exist on the subject today, but one wonders exactly how many whites were in reality enslaved, since cases or accounts of such incidents are numerically significant.


This appeared in the December HSP email publication, History Hits: Collecting & sharing the stories of Pennsylvania.

The Christmas holiday season has generated much interest from both a personal and commercial perspective within the United States for many years.