Saturday, July 28, 2012

Early American Elections

Elections have long been a part of the American landscape -- long before the Revolution, actually.  Drawing upon the customs of England, with her House of Commons, many of the New World English colonies boasted elected assemblies.  The oldest, that of Virginia, dated to 1619AD, only a few years after the foundation of the colony in 1607.  The long standing tradition of elections in English America was expanded and continued after independence!

File:Patrick Henry Rothermel.jpg
Patrick Henry in the House of Burgesses, by Peter Rothermel (+1895)

For today's post I am simply sharing a link to a splendid site that has copious records of some of the early elections of the new American Republic.  This is a great resource:

An interesting point of trivia on the matter of American elections -- during the 1800AD Presidential Election, when the Federalist John Adams of Massachusetts ran against Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, "Turnout in Virginia, 25 percent of the eligible electorate, was the highest yet for a presidential or congressional election adn was higher than it would be for another thirty years." (From Old Dominion, New Commonwealth)  That was in an era where ownership of property, and being a white male, was required to vote.  So, it seems that low voter turnout is a tradition in the American Republic!

Live well!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Two great Olympic moments

With the start of the 2012 Olympics in London upon us, it seems a fine moment to recall a couple of the great moments in Olympic history.

First, from the 1972 Summer Olympics: Dave Wottle of the USA winning the 800m finals.

If you have never seen this race, you should.  It is hard to forget that hat, and the amazing way in which he won this race.  Enjoy!

Another incredible moment came with Franz Klammer of Austria and his gutsy ski run in the 1976 Winter Olympics:

Live well!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Livebearing Fish & Genetics

I have always been captivated by the freshwater fish that give birth to live young -- the "Livebearers."  Several species of aquarium fish belong to the New World livebearing family of Poecilidae, the so-called tooth carps, including the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata), the Molly (Poecilia sphenops or velifera), the Play (Xiphophorus maculatus), Variatus Play (Xiphophorus variatus) and the Swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri).  This site gives more information on the keeping of aquarium specimen:

In the United States, our own common and pugnacious species, the Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis & holbrooki) also hail from this family.

The following images of a Guppy and Platy are of specimens from the aquarium trade, while the Mosquitofish is in its native and wild glory.

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Guppy (Poecilia reticulata), female on left, male on the right.

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Play (Xiphophous maculatus), male.

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Western Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), male.

These fishes make easy-to-keep aquarium dwellers and almost automatically breed in most any tolerable aquarium conditions.

The Platy and Swordtail, members of the genus Xiphophorus, are, in the captive aquarium fish trade, rather hybridized.  This is the case to the point that often in the aquarium trade the only thing to distinguish these three main "species," is that a Swordtail has a pointy extension to the caudal fin, and the Platies do not, with the variatus Platy being a bit longer than the standard maculatus specimen.  The genetics of these Central American species are mixed to a staggering degree.

That brings us to today's unique website.  The members of this genus are easily to keep, readily cross-breed, have many generations in a short time, and have distinctive external features.  All of these traits make them ideal for genetic studies.  The following link if for a whole lab based on the live-bearing fish of the genus Xiphophorus, maintained for the purposes of genetic studies.  Notice how plain the very same species of the aquarium trade are in their wild genetic forms.  Enjoy!

Today is a great day to look back over the genetics of Gregor Mendel (+1884)!

File:Mendelian inheritance.svg
Figure 1: Dominant and recessive phenotypes.
(1) Parental generation. (2) F1 generation. (3) F2 generation. Dominant (red) and recessive (white) phenotype look alike in the F1 (first) generation and show a 3:1 ratio in the F2 (second) generation.

[This last figure and caption from wikipedia.]

Live well!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heat Index & Water Levels

With the summer heat in full force, and with droughts impacting so much of the United States, these resources might be useful.

This great dynamic map shows monthly mean temperatures worldwide.

In the first place, this handy heat index calculator let's you figure out how warm, exactly, the heat index is where you are.

Also, though I posted it earlier, the US Drought Monitor is a good resource for keeping up with the dry conditions in the United States:

Finally, in contrast to the Drought Monitor, this is an excellent tool allowing you to tap into the readings of river water gauges all across the United States.  Tidal waters are rather easy to notice:

Live well!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Funeral of Otto von Hapsburg

Last summer, in July, Otto von Hapsburg, son of the last Austrian Emperor, Blessed Charles I (reigned 1916-1918, +1922) died.  His death marked the end of an era, and actually reminded me very much for a short story by Roth, "The Bust of the Emperor."  Its text is found here:

File:Wappen Kaisertum Österreich 1815 (Klein).png

The funeral Mass and ceremonies surrounding the death of Otto were rich in artistic, religious, and historical significance and beauty.  I offer a couple of examples here:

This video clip shows the introit of the funeral Mass of Otto von Habsburg at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria, composed by Michael Haydn (+1806), brother of the more famous Franz Joseph Haydn:

The following clips shows after the funeral, the procession arriving at the Capuchin Church, site of the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. The Herald knocks and a Capuchin asks “who demands entry?” The Herald responds with the name & titles of Otto. The Capuchin replies: “we don’t know him.” The procedure is repeated with other honors of Otto, with the same response. Only on the third try, when the Herald replies “a sinful, mortal human”, are the doors opened.

Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Otto von Hapsburg.  What you are now, he once was; what he is now, you soon shall be.

Live well, so that you, too, may die well.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

151st Anniversary of First Manassas

Today is the 151st Anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the first major battle of the American Civil War. In the end, the Union army under the command of US General Irvin McDowell collapsed, with 2,896 Union casualties out of 35,000 men and the Confederate armies of CS Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston secured victory with 1,982 casualties out of 33,000 in their two armies.

Capture of Rickett's Battery by Sidney King, 1964AD.

The Union attempt to break the Confederate lines along the Bull Run with a direct attack had failed a few days before at Blackburn's Ford, 18 July 1861, hence the flanking movement around the Confederate left that precipitated the battle of First Manassas.  Here is a link to some images and information about that fight at Blackburn's Ford:

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First Manassas (Bull Run) on the morning of 21 July 1861.  [Map by Hal Jespersen,]

The Union flank march was spotted in the early morning hours of 21 July 1861 from Signal Hill [see below], and the battle would unfold in three general phases: 10AM-11:30AM, Union victory on Matthews Hill; 1PM to 4PM, costly but inconclusive fighting on Henry Hill (though CS General Jackson earns his title of "Stonewall"); 4PM to dusk, the arrival of more Confederate brigades extending the fight to Chinn Ridge, and the Union army collapse.

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The climax of the fight at First Manassas, afternoon of 21 July 1861.  The arrival of more Confederate brigades would extend the fight to Chinn Ridge, and overtax the Union line.  [Map by Hal Jespersen,]

This video clip is attempting to show the moment in the battle when Stonewall Jackson's brigade arrives and stabilizes the Confederate army on Henry Hill after the initial setback on Matthews Hill that morning:

Below is a link to the marker at Signal Hill. It was from here that Porter Alexander spotted the Union force marching around the Confederate left flank at First Manassas, and sent the message: "Look out for your left, you are turned."

Live well!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Napoleonic Wars Timeline

One of the most momentous and significant series of conflicts in the history of Europe were the Wars of Napoleon.  They involved not only tremendous loss of life and massive destruction, but amazing displays of strategic and tactical genius.  Above all is the larger-than-life character of the egotist, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps, by Jacques Lloyd-David, 1801AD.

The idea of this post is to present an outline of the conflicts that I put together, interspersed with a few clips from the mini-series Napoleon, that portray, with acceptable accuracy, some of the great battles and moments in the career of Napoleon Bonaparte.  They are all in French, but you should get the idea, even if you can't follow all of the dialogue.

The Wars of Napoleon

French Directory (1795-1799)

  • 1796
    • Mar: Napoleon “marries” Josephine.
    • Mar: Napoleon appointed commander of French forces in Italy.

Napoleon commanding French troops at the Battle of Arcole against Austrian forces in Italy.

    • Aug: Spain allies with France.
  • 1797
    • Jan: Napoleon defeats Austrians at Rivoli in Italy.
    • Feb: Spanish defeated at sea at Cape St. Vincent.
    • Oct: Treaty of Campo Formio: Austria leaves the war.  End of the First Coalition.
  • 1798
    • May—Aug: Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt.
    • Aug: Nelson defeats French fleet at the Battle of the Nile.
    • Aug: Pius VI dies.

French Consulate (1799-1804)

  • 1799
    • Second Coalition against France takes to the field.
    • Nov: Napoleon takes power in France as First Consul.
  • 1800
    • Mar: Pope Pius VII elected in Venice.
    • June: Napoleon defeats the Austrians at Marengo in Italy.
  • 1801
    • Treaty of Lunéville: Austria leaves the war.  Effective end of the Second Coalition.
    • Concordat of 1801: Treaty between Pope Pius VII and Napoleon.
  • 1802
    • May: Treaty of Amiens: Tenuous peace between the United Kingdom and France.
  • 1803
    • May: Resumption of war between the United Kingdom and France.  Third Coalition formed.

French Empire (1804-1815)

  • 1804
    • Dec: Napoleon crowned Emperor of the French, Napoleon I
  • 1805
    • Oct: Austrian army under Mack surrenders at Ulm in Germany.
    • Oct: Nelson smashed Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.
    • Dec: Napoleon decisively defeats Austro-Russian army at the Battle of Austerlitz.
The Battle of the Three Emperors: Austerlitz.

    • Dec: Treaty of Pressburg: Austria leaves the war.  Effective end of the Third Coalition.
  • 1806
    • July: Napoleon forms the French-allied Confederation of the Rhine to replace Holy Roman Empire.
    • Aug: Francis II resigns as Holy Roman Emperor, remains Emperor of Austria as Francis I.
    • Fourth Coalition formed to oppose these changes.
    • Oct: Napoleon defeats the Prussians at Jena & Auerstädt.
    • Nov: Beginning of the Continental System.
  • 1807
    • Feb: Napoleon blocked by Russians in draw at Battle of Eylau.
The Battle of Eylau

    • June: Russians decisively defeated at the Battle of Friedland by Napoleon.
    • July: Treaty of Tilsit: Peace between Russian and France.  Fourth Coalition at an end

The meetings of Napoleon and Czar Alexander of Russia at Tilsit.  The only clip I found in English!
  • 1808
    • Mar: Charles IV of Spain abdicates.  Replaced by his son, Ferdinand VII.
    • June: Joseph Bonaparte the new king of Spain.  Peninsular War (1808-1813)
    • Aug: British army under Wellesley lands in Portugal.
  • 1809
    • Apr: Fifth Coalition proclaimed & Austria invades Bavaria.
    • May: Napoleon takes Vienna, but blocked by the Austrians at Aspern-Essling.
The Battle of Essling.

    • June: Napoleon excommunicated for annexation of the Papal States.
    • July: Napoleon decisively defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram.
    • July: Pope Pius VII arrested by order of Napoleon.
    • Oct: Treaty of Schönbrunn: Austria leaves the war.  End of the Fifth Coalition.
  • 1810
    • Jan: Napoleon divorces the Empress Josephine.
    • Mar: Marriage of Napoleon to the daughter of Francis I, Marie Louise.
  • 1811
    • Apr: Birth of Napoleon’s son, Napoleon II, “King of Rome.”
  • 1812
    • Sixth Coalition formed against France.
    • June: United States declares war on the United Kingdom.
    • June: French army crosses the Niemen – the beginning of the invasion of Russia.
    • Sept: Napoleon defeats the Russians at Borodino & enters Moscow.
    • Dec: Last of the Grand Army reach the Niemen River ending the Russian campaign.
  • 1813
    • Feb: Russians capture Warsaw.
    • Mar: Prussia declares war on France and joins Sixth Coalition.
    • Jun: French under King Joseph defeated by Wellington at Vitoria.
    • Aug: Austria declares war on France and joins the Sixth Coalition.
    • Oct: Sixth Coalition defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig.  Saxony and Württemberg join the coalition.
    • Dec: Coalition troops cross the Rhine into France.
  • 1814
    • Jan: Kingdom of Naples under Murat join the coalition.
    • Mar: French troops at Paris surrender.
    • Apr: Napoleon abdicates.  Treaty of Fontainebleau gives Napoleon Elba.  Return of King Louis XVIII to France.  Treaty of Paris ends the war.
    • Nov: Congress of Vienna convenes.
    • Dec: Treaty of Ghent signed, ending the War of 1812.
  • 1815
    • Mar: Napoleon returns from Elba & Naples under Murat declares war on Austria.  Seventh Coalition formed to stop Napoleon.  “The Hundred Days” begin.
    • June: Wellington and allies defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.  Napoleon abdicates once more.
    • July: Allies seize Paris and restore Louis XVIII
    • Aug: Napoleon exiled to St. Helena.
    • Nov: The Second Treaty of Paris signed.

Live well!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summary of Lichens

As you spend time outdoors this summer, you will, no doubt come across those splendid examples of sybiosis -- the Lichens.  These algae-fungi duos are rather interesting.  Here is a brief summary of these critters that I put together:

Summary of Lichens
Lichens are a symbiotic structure, consisting of a Fungus, or mycobiont (80% are members of the Fungal Phylum Ascomycota) and an Alga, or photobiont, species (usually a member of Division/Phylum Chlorophyta [Green Algae], with 75% being from the genus Trebouxia).  For the purposes of classification, they are listed under their fungal phylum.  All examples below are Ascomycetes.

Lichens are found in three general structural forms, based on the shape of their thallus (body):

Crustose, which are flat and crust-like. Cf. the Orange Sea Lichen (Caloplaca marina), seen below:

File:Caloplaca marina.JPG

Foliose, which are flat and leaf-like. Cf., the Common Greenshield Lichen (Flavoparmelia caperata), seen below:

File:Flavoparmelia caperata-5.jpg

Fruticose, which are coral- or branch-like.  Cf. the Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina), as below:

File:Cladonia rangiferina 205412.jpg

Live well!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Imperial Electors

File:Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806).svg

One of the more unique and enduring features on the map of Medieval and Early Modern Europe was that of the Holy Roman Empire.  From its "formation" in 800AD with the coronation of the Frankish King, Charlemagne, by Pope St. Leo III in Rome, to its dissolution during the Napoleonic Wars, this Empire encompassed the modern nation of Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, and at times part or all of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, and Italy. [No, that is not an exhaustive list!]

File:HRR 1789 EN.png
A wonderful image of the Holy Roman Empire in 1789AD -- not long before its demise.  One gets a good sense of how many micro-nations existed within the Empire.  Liechtenstein is one of the last examples of such polities.

This dynamic map shows the territorial progression of the Empire from the reign of Otto the Great in 962AD to the defunction of the Empire in 1806AD.  Yes, this is a wikipedia acquitition.  It was too nifty to pass up, however.

Much could be said about this entity which was envisioned to be an empire that protected and worked with the Church -- hence the "Holy" adjective in its name.  I will ignore the snide, and oft-quoted saying by the worthless leftist (whose name I don't feel deserves mention here) regarding the title Holy Roman Empire.  Suffice it to say -- the title was an apt one.  It was surely a Holy Roman Empire in its origins, Holy, having been founded with a mission to work with the Church, and sealed with a coronation by the Pope; Roman, having being founded with the blessing of the Bishop of Rome, and initially including the city of Rome; and surely an Empire, for even at its low ebb included dozens of nationalities, languages, and modern states.

In practice, Church-State tensions were an issue during its course, whether from the likes of Frederick II or Joseph II.  Still, the Empire had its great heros -- Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Charles V, and, arguably, a number of others.  While the House of Hapsburg is most closely associated with the rule of this Empire in its later years, it actually saw several royal houses reign -- from the Carolingians, to the Hohenstaufen, the Luxemburg, and even a couple Wittelsbach.  It was the procedure promulgated by a member of the House Luxemburg that we note today.

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Parchment with the Imperial Electors, from 1341AD.  Notice the zucchetti on the three sacred electors on the left.

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (reigned 1347-1378), crowned in 1355AD in the Eternal City of Rome, promulgated the “Golden Bull of 1356” which officially laid down the steps for Imperial elections, codifying what had already been common practice.  Yes, elections.  The Holy Roman Empire was an example of an elected monarchy.  While the heir of the previous Emperor was usually selected, such was not always the case.  This election procedure would be forever codified in the Golden Bull, and this procedure would remain in effect, at least in large part, until 1806AD.  You can read this Bull, a kind of early constitution, in its full text here:

Magnificent image of the Imperial Electors, with the Holy Roman Emperor in the top center.

It called for seven electors: 3 sacred, 4 secular.  They were -- with their shields and titles in the Imperial household:

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Archbishop of Cologne [Archchancellor of Italy – he was entrusted with the Imperial crown]

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Archbishop of Mainz [Archchancellor of Germany – he called the Imperial elections]

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Archbishop of Trier [Archchancellor of Burgundy]


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Elector (Duke) of Saxony [Arch-marhsall - keeper of the Imperial sword; hence the crossed sword augment to the Wettin family crest]

File:Wappen Mark Brandenburg.png
Elector (Margrave) of Brandenburg [Arch-chamberlain - keeper of the Imperial scepter; notice the scepter augment in the center of the shield]

File:COA family de Kurpfalz.svg
Elector of the (Count) Palatine of the Rhine [Arch-steward until 1623 - keeper of the Imperial orb; After 1648, Arch-treasurer]

File:Wappen Königreich Böhmen.png
King of Bohemia [Arch-cupbearer].

Added later were two more secular electors:

File:Armoiries Bavière.svg
Elector (Duke) of Bavaria [Created in 1623 to replace the Count Palatin of the Rhine; Arch-steward; This crest, of the Wittlesbach family, should remind you of the emblem of BMW, the Bavarian Motor Works].

File:Coat of Arms of George I Louis, Elector of Hanover (1708-1714).svg
Elector of Hanover (Duke of Bruswick-Luneburg) [Created in 1692; Arch-bannerbearer after 1708].

We will despense with noting the short-lived electorships created in the last ten years of the Empire.

Live well!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Concerning Milkweed

Some weeks back, I posted about common roadside weeds.  Aside from the feeling that I should have included Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), it seemed that more could be said about the unique Milkweed Plant (Asclepias syriaca).  A walk alongside Milkweed plants both flowering and with seed pods recently convinced me that I should do exactly that.

File:Asclepias syriaca.jpg
The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), a rather distintive plant if ever there was one. The pinkish ball-shaped flower bundle, the round-wide leaves, and the rather milk sap.

File:Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca Plant 2000px.jpg

The seed pods, which one might be able to find this time of year, are quite distincitve, as the following photo demonstrates:


The Milkweed is also interesting for the several species of insect that rely exclusively or primarily on this plant for food and shelter. These include the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), the Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus), Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

File:Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus Vertical Caterpillar 2000px.jpg
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar.

File:Tetraopes tetrophthalmus-1.jpg
Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus)

Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

The Milkweed's genus name is in honor of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.

The genus also includes the rather splendid, and notably orange, Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa):

File:Butterfly Weed Whole Flowering Plant 1676px.jpg

These sites give a bit more information about this noble weed:

I have even found a short video, though a bit corny, on the Milkweed.  Enjoy:

Live well!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Established Parishes of Colonial Virginia

Few are aware of the particular role occupied by the established parishes of pre-Revolutionary Virginia.  Indeed, for Virginia, the disestablishment and secularization of the parish was perhaps the most radical result of our Revolution, aside from the more obvious casting aside of King and Parliament.

As a side note, while the Established Anglican Church was disestablished in Virginia and the South during the Revolution, the Established Congregationalist Churches remained in place as official taxpayer funded institutions some time longer in New England -- until the 1830s for Massachusetts.

File:Newport parish west facade.jpg
St. Luke's Parish, Smithfield, Isle of Wight County, Virginia

File:Newport Parish Chancel.jpg
Interior of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Smithfield, Virginia.

The following is an excerpt of a paper on Parish government in Colonial Virginia, written with a focus on Southam Parish in what is now Cumberland County, Virginia:

"Writing in 1780 to representatives of the French royal government interested in the character of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, observed that:

The state, by another division, is formed into parishes, many of which are commensurate with the counties: but sometimes a county comprehends more than one parish, and sometimes a parish more than one county.  The division had relation to the religion of the state, a Parson of the Anglican church, with a fixed salary, having been heretofore established in each parish.  The care of the poor was another object of the parochial division.[1]

Indeed, the parishes of Virginia formed a parallel “government” that operated alongside the county government and even included many of the same officials as the county.  Until the disestablishment of the established church in October 1784,[2] the parish not only ministered to the spiritual needs of the inhabitants, but tended to a number of their physical needs, which later became the concerns of the state.  The erosion of the prominence and power of the established parishes began with the coming of the Revolution itself, but was not finally completed until the disestablishment after the Revolution.  The parish, however, prior to the great upheaval was an important and notable government body in Cumberland County, as in the rest of Virginia.  Although the men that operated and oversaw the parishes were virtually the same as those on the County court, those conditions and principles of the Revolution that made union with King George III impossible, also made the presence of a legally established church supported by the taxpayers at large no longer desirable or tolerable, even to the Anglican faithful.  Hence, where civil government in the form of the county remained virtually unaltered by the Revolution, the parish was not only altered, but dissolved for all but its spiritual functions.  Indeed, the parish that had long been the companion of the county in governing Cumberland County, “became a private incorporated body”[3] during the course of the Revolutionary era.  Thus, the parish is really the epicenter of change in the new Commonwealth where the county may be taken as a symbol of the continuity of the Revolutionary age.
              In his study of the colonial Anglican church of Virginia, John Nelson notes that in the Southside of Virginia, which includes Cumberland County and Southam Parish, the average county levy was at a rate of eleven pounds, versus the twenty-eight of the parishes of the region.  Indeed, the average annual expenses of the parish exceeded those of the county in every part of the colony.[4]  Here it becomes all the more evident that the parish was very much a public governmental body that demanded more from the freeholders in terms of revenue than the county.  Church and state in colonial Virginia both sought and received their share of funding to fulfill their responsibilities to the common good.

            These expenses, of course, went to the upkeep of the parish and the care of the poor or disadvantaged.  The vestrybook of Southam Parish is replete with the cost figures for these expenses.  Included in the upkeep of the parish is, of course, the salary of the minister, but also recompense for the clerks and sextons of the chapels.  In 1771, for example, the following items were listed in the parish budget of 20 March:

                        Southam Parrish                                              Dr.                   Neet Tobo.

To the Revd. Robert McLaurine Minister                                16000

To John Barns Clk Petervile Church                                       1040

To Gideon Glen Clk Tarwallet Church                                   1040

To Amey Hill Sexton of Petervile Church                              500

To Avis Tayler for keeping & Clothing Winfield Sanders     1500

To Daniel Wilmore for keeping Elizabeth Howl                    800

To Elenor Sutlief a Poor Person of this Parrish                      600

To Thomas Strange for the support of his two unfortunate

            children                                                                       800[5]

 [The amounts here are in tobacco, which, with coin, was currency in colonial Virginia]

The paid officials of the parish, the minister, the clerks, and the sextons, always appear in the rolls of expenses, but are never as prominent as the items for the upkeep of poor persons or “unfortunate children.”  The parish, rather than the civil government, was the body responsible for the underprivileged in the county of Cumberland, charity for the poor was an ecclesiastical and not civil responsibility in colonial Cumberland.  A brief mention is made in the vestry records of Southam about the erection of a poor house for the disadvantaged of the parish.  This 15 February 1770 order indicated that, “Littlebury Mosby Wm. Fleming & George Carrington Jur. Purchase a Tract of Land Not Exceeding one hundred acres and to Employ Persons to Erect Necessary houses thereon for the Reception of the Poor of this Parrish…”[6]  No further mention is made, however, of this humanitarian project.  The £36.9.4 allotted to Doctor William Cable “for keeping and trying to Cure Stephen Holland for a cancer in his mouth”[7] on 20 March 1771 might qualify as an early form of medicare.  This function as caretaker of the poor of Southam Parish would be transferred to the county government after the Revolution.

          The majority of the pages of the vestrybook are not occupied, however, with poor relief or parish upkeep, but, rather with the processioning records.  This unique capacity of the parish saw to it that every four years “the boundaries [or property] were walked around by an official of the parish, probably accompanied by the owners, the marks officially observed and renewed when necessary, and the results recorded.”[8]  This process was the official means by which property lines were confirmed and finalized.  For this purpose, the vestry would “divide the parish into precincts and … appoint two freeholders in each to see that the processioning was performed.”[9]  After three processionings in which all parties were in agreement, the boundaries were finalized, and no longer subject to the process."

[1] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. Frank Shuffelton (Paris: 1785; reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 114.
[2] Albert Ogden Porter, County Government in Virginia: A Legislative History, 1607-1904 (New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1966), 144.
[3] Ibid., 147.
[4] Ibid., 326.
[5] The Vestry Book of Southam Parish, 204-205.
[6] Ibid., 204.
[7] Ibid., 205.
[8] Porter, County Government in Virginia, 96.
[9] Ibid.

Lest the reader be confused, the currency of the day was either in pounds sterling, or pounds tobacco. If pounds sterling, 1 pound, or £1, was equal to 20 shillings, and 1 shilling was equal to 12 pence. Thus, £29.11.10 is the shorthand way of writing twenty-nine pounds, eleven shillings, and ten pence. For what its worth, the penny was divided into four farthings.
[From,"To declare for an Independency": Cumberland County, Virginia and the Revolution: 1749-1789 / by Thomas Eric Cole;]

Live well!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pines of the Eastern United States

For those interested in trying to learn the species of trees that they find around them, the members of the genus Pinus, the Pine trees, are perhaps some of the more simple in the Eastern United States.

These gymnosperms are unique insofar as their needles grow in bundles, or groups, which immediately help to distinguish one species from another.  Spruce and Fir, while superficially resembling Pine, and belonging to the same family of plants, Pinaceae (which includes pine, spruce, fir, cedar, hemlock), have single needles growing from their stems.  The image below gives you an idea of what these bundles look like up close:
File:Pinus sylvestris Sturm01.jpg
Notice the needles on ths botanical plate of a Scotch Pine (P. sylvestris) come off the stems in pairs of two -- these are the bundles referred to below.

To identify a pine tree, a knowledge of their range certainly helps, but then simply narrow your options based on the number of needles per bundle and needle length.  If needed, the cone can be a helpful indicator, as, for example, with the massive spine-covered cone of the Mountain Pine (P. pungens) of the Appalachians.  Perhaps the easiest to identify, the White Pine (P. strobus), the state tree of Maine, is immediately distinctive with not only its color and shelf-like appearance, but its fives needles per bundle.  Now for the species that you might find in the Eastern United States, with common introduced species with an * :

Pine Species                          Bundle #     Needle length        Cone length

Two in Bundle Species

Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana)               2                      ¾ -1½”                        1¼-2½”

Sand Pine (Pinus clausa)                    2                      2-4”                             2-3½”

Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)          2 or s. 3           2¾-5”                          1½-3”

Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)                   2 and 3           5-11”                           2½-6”

Spruce Pine (Pinus glabra)                 2                      1½-4”                          1-2½”

Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra)*               2                      3-6”                             2-3”

[Table] Mountain Pine (P. pungens)   2                      1¼-3”                          2-4”

Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)                   2                      4-6½”                          1½-2½”

Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)*            2                      1½-3”                          1¼-2½”

Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)         2                      1½-3”                          1½-3”

 File:Pinus virginiana.jpg
Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)

Three in Bundle Species

Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)           3                      8-18”                           6-10”

Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida)                     3                      3-6”                             1-3”

Pond Pine (Pinus serotina)                 3                      4-8”                             2-3”

Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)                3                      5-9”                             3-6”

 File:Loblolly Pines South Mississippi.JPG
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)

Soft Pines

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)    5                      2-5”                             3-8”

File:Pinus strobus trees.jpg
White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Sources: National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region by Little; and Eastern Trees by Petrides.

For further information, check out this web resource:

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