My uncle, Larry Byer was the older of the three middle children of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, and a part of the three musketeers that included my mom, Collene Spencer and their brother, Wayne Byer. Uncle Larry was the older of the only two boys in the family, and with my mom in the middle, the three of them were into mischief a lot. While they were in trouble a lot, they were also best friends and allies. If one was in trouble the others tried to help…unless their mom was going to spank them, because they learned early on that you just didn’t mess with their mom.
Uncle Larry worked at the Texaco refinery for many years, and when they closed down, he was not at retirement age yet, so he took a transfer to New Orleans, Louisiana. He and Aunt Jeanette were gone for a number of years, and the whole family missed them, but several family members took the opportunity to visit them and had a great time in New Orleans. Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette treated each of their guests to the best the city had to offer. My parents took the opportunity to visit, and had a great time…once they got used to the heat. While they enjoyed every visit, I’m sure their favorite visitor, other than their children and grandchildren, was his mother. Grandma Byer went to visit, and they gave her the royal tour. The pictures of their visit were memories that Grandma would never forget. When the family went through Grandma’s things, they found he pictures of her visit among her things. They pictures were great, and you could tell that they both fully enjoyed the visit. It was one neither of them would ever forget.
Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette were still living in Louisiana when Grandma became ill, but she wanted to say goodbye to all of her children before she went home. She waited until Uncle Larry got home before she passed away. I know that Uncle Larry was always thankful that he made it home…and so was Grandma. Now both of them are together in Heaven, and I know that they are having a great time. Today is Uncle Larry’s birthday. He would have been 84 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.
The Spencer ancestry is riddled with names that have been passed down from generation to generation. So much so, in fact, that it can get confusing when researching one’s ancestry. Common names are William, Robert, Thomas, John, Allen, and Christopher. My dad’s family was no different than any other of the Spencer families. The boys in the family were William, named after his grandfather, William, who had a great grandfather named William, and many more I’m sure. My dad was Allen, who was named after his dad Allen, who was named after his grandfather Allen. And many of the children also used those same names, so there were cousins named William and Allen too. Most of the time it only created problems with the ancestry, mail, school things, and such, but when a man named Ethan Allen Spencer (relation, I’m sure, but just how I don’t know) decided that he needed a little bit of excitement in his life, he decided to go from a law-abiding farm family background to becoming a bank and train robber. Ethan Allen “Al” Spencer was born the day after Christmas in 1887 near Lenepah in Nowata County. He came from a law-abiding farm family. He married and soon was the father of a baby girl. So, why would he abandon all that to become a criminal.
“Al” Spencer became a criminal as the era of horseback riding was coming to an end, and modern motorized criminals were just getting started. That fact, made Spencer an almost forgotten outlaw. Spencer began his career in crime by getting caught stealing cattle in his early 30s. Then in 1919, he and two men burglarized a clothing store in Neodesha, Kansas. Detectives recovered most of the stolen property and arrested Spencer in La Junta, Colorado. The Kansas court convicted and sentenced him to five years in prison. Then the Oklahoma authorities gained custody of Spencer so they could try him on charges of cattle theft. Spencer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to 10 years in the Oklahoma penitentiary at McAlester. He began serving his sentence in March 1920. If you ask me, he should have stuck to farming, because he wasn’t very good at crime. Spencer became friends with another convict named Henry Wells and learned a great deal about crime…becoming better, I suppose…at least as long has Wells was with him. In the 1920s, it was not unusual for Oklahoma governors to grant convicts a leave of absence from prison…even some convicted of major crimes. Spencer was given leave on July 26, 1921, to attend to “some family business” supposedly. He returned to McAlester a month later and became a trustee and was trained to be an electrician. Early in 1922, he was assigned to do electrical work outside the prison in someone’s home. He completed the work, but then he packed up his tools and didn’t return to the prison.
Within a month, Spencer had hooked up with Silas Meigs, who had escaped in a similar fashion from the prison. The pair robbed the American National Bank at Pawhuska, making a “major” haul of $147. Soon the two men robbed a bank at Broken Bow, and this one netted a little more profit. They escaped with between $7,000 and $8,500. They forced a motorist to take them three miles north of town where they had left two horses. The robbers rode away. A few days later Meigs was killed in a gun battle with lawmen northwest of Bartlesville, where he had gone to visit his brother. Spencer remained hidden in the Osage Hills, a vast stretch of country with timber, rocky canyons and thickets of almost impenetrable scrub oak. Friends and relatives brought him food. Spencer later joined up with Henry Wells and two other criminals and robbed a bank at Pineville in southwest Missouri. Spencer soon hopped a freight train bound for Oklahoma. Spencer found three other men to help him burglarize a store in Ochelata south of Bartlesville. They were surprised by the town’s night marshal who was shot and killed before the outlaws fled in a car. On June 16, Spencer and another man robbed the Elgin State Bank in Chautauqua County, Kansas. They fled with about $2,000 in cash and $20,000 in bonds.
Exactly how many banks were robbed by Ethan Allen “Al” Spencer during the eighteen months following his escape is not known. Evidence suggests he probably robbed at least 20 banks in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. The end of his crime spree came on a Saturday evening, September 15, 1923, when he was shot and killed. There is, however, debate on just how he was killed. U.S. Marshal Alva McDonald, a veteran lawman and personal friend of Teddy Roosevelt, claimed he and other lawmen shot Spencer just south of Caney, Kansas. Another account reported that Spencer was killed about five miles north of Coffeyville, Kansas. The third account came from outlaw Henry Wells’ autobiography. Wells claims that Stanley Snyder, a friend of Spencer’s, killed the outlaw with a shotgun while Spencer was eating supper. Some friend he must have been, but then I guess there is no honor among thieves. Al Spencer’s outlaw days were over, nevertheless, and a new breed of bad men soon took his place using only automobiles. Spencer was the last major Oklahoma outlaw to use horses in his crimes.
When my parents moved to Superior, Wisconsin, which is where my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I were born, my mom was a young bride, who was experiencing the first days of marriage and the first time away from her family. I’m sure that was not really an easy time for her, but when she arrived in Superior, she was greeted by my dad’s family, who were the only people she knew there. If you have to move to a new city and state, it is nice to at least have someone that you know and can call family, as well as friend. My dad had a large family in the area with whom my mother became quite close, one of whom was my Aunt Doris Spencer, her sister-in-law, and my Uncle Bill’s wife. They spent a lot of time together, and really, had a number of “adventures” together.
As young women, they were always weight conscious, and always on the latest diet. I’m sure that they thought it would be easier to diet with a buddy, and many of us have thought the same thing, but as we all know, dieting is never ease, and inevitably, they found themselves starving!! So, as a way of easing the cravings until they could eat something again, my Aunt Doris handed gave each of them one kernel of puffed wheat and said, “Here, this will tide us over until dinnertime!” Now, as we all know that would be like literally eating air, and it would not ease hunger pains in any way, but as every dieter knows, it was worth a try, because they didn’t want to mess up their diet.
When we moved to Wyoming when I was a little over two years old, it was hard on a lot of people, but I think it was especially hard for my mom and Aunt Doris. While their “adventures” were sometimes silly and sometimes almost crazy, they always had a great time together, and they had become almost like sisters, not sisters-in-law. Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill visited us in Wyoming and we visited them in Wisconsin, but it was never quite the same. Then a few years ago, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom to Wisconsin for a visit. it was so amazing to see the two sisters-in-law/friends together again, and I know they felt like it was an amazing reunion too. It was the last trip my Mom would make, but my Aunt Doris is still alive and going strong. Today is Aunt Doris’ 94th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The long awaited birth of the third child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has finally arrived. It’s a prince. I am so excited to have a new royal cousin…my 16th cousin twice removed to be exact. Of course, we don’t know the baby boy’s name yet but he weighed in at 8 pounds 7 ounces, so he was a good sized boy. He is just perfect. It is always so exciting with one of my royal cousins has a new baby. There has been much speculation as to what the couple might name the little prince, with names like James, Phillip, and Arthur. The bookies have started the betting process, so everyone can be involved, Personally I like the names Michael, Phillip and Spencer. In fact I would like a some version of the three together. Time will tell, and until William and Kate inform the Queen of the name, no one else will get to know what it is, but from what I’ve read, the Queen will have no say in the baby’s name. As a grandmother, and soon-to-be great grandmother myself, while I have my own ideas about good baby names, I do not think it is my place to try to force my opinion, and in fact, when I have thought a name would not be the best on for the babies in my family, I have found out that each of their names seem to fit them perfectly. That said, no matter what the name is, it should be totally the decision of William and Kate. We just wish they would hurry up and tell us already!!
With the birth of this baby boy, history will be made again. This new baby will be 5th in line to the throne of England, following his grandpa, Prince Charles; his dad, Prince William; his brother, Prince George; and his sister, Princess Charlotte. In times past, Charlotte would have fallen after this new baby, but the law changed before her birth, and she now holds her line in the succession to the throne. Many people are not sure how they feel about that, but since her great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth has successfully ruled England for many years, it would be hard to dispute Princess Charlotte’s ability should that position ever arise. This baby also moves Prince Harry, William’s brother, to 6th place in the line of succession, which pretty much guarantees that he will never be the King of England, unless something huge happens, which I pray it never does…obviously.
So, as an eventful first day of life comes to an end for the little prince, who was born of Saint George’s Day, a big holiday in England, we go to sleep still wondering what this little man will be named. Not that he really cares either way right now. After all, he has had a busy day, and all he really wants is dinner and a soft bed. Happy birthday sweet little HRH Prince of Cambridge, which is his official title. We look forward to knowing your name very soon. Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We are so happy for you!!
We have long known that my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s family is related to the notorious Bat Masterson…gunfighter, gambler, lawman, and well-known Old West character, but I didn’t really know very much about Bat Masterson. William Barclay “Bat” Masterson was born on November 26, 1853 in Iberville County, Quebec, Canada. His father, Thomas Masterson was born in Canada and by occupation was a farmer. His mother, Catherine McGurk, was an immigrant of Ireland. Bat was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters. They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, and Illinois, until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas in 1871. During his boyhood years he became an expert in the use of firearms, and accompanied expeditions that went out to hunt buffalo.
In the Fall of 1871, when Bat was 18 years old, he and his 19 year old brother, Ed decided to head west to Kansas, looking for adventure by hunting buffalo. During this time, they camped with hunters working along the Salt Fork River in what is present day Comanche and Barber Counties in Kansas. It was during their visits to other buffalo hunting camps that the brothers met several men who would also become legends in western history, including Wyatt Earp, Billy Dixon, Tom Nixon, and “Prairie Dog” Dave Morrow.
Bat Masterson was one of the very few who lived during the lawless days of the Old West who wasn’t there to make a name for himself, or to count the notches on his belt. In reality, he was a genuine and honest man, who didn’t have a reputation for violence, but was loyal to the end, and would defend his friends, if necessary. The nickname “Bat” was given to him by his companions one day while out on one of these hunting trips, the name coming from Baptiste Brown, or “Old Bat,” whose fame as a leader, hunter, and trapper was well known in the generation that preceded Masterson upon the Western stage.
In the summer of 1872, Bat and Ed worked on a construction crew that was expanding the Santa Fe railroad to Colorado. That winter, they returned to buffalo hunting and were joined by their younger brother, Jim in their camp along Kiowa Creek southeast of Dodge City. In January, 1873, the Masterson brothers gave up buffalo hunting. Bat remained in Dodge City, but his brothers returned to the family farm in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Ed, after deciding that farming really wasn’t for him, was soon back in Dodge…just a month later, in fact. Ed went to work in the Alhambra Saloon. For a time, Bat returned to buffalo hunting, but the number of buffalo were becoming fewer and fewer. By 1874, the vast numbers of buffalo roaming Kansas had been slaughtered, so many of the hunters moved south and west into what was hostile Indian Territory.
While this venture would prove profitable, the Indians tribes in the area correctly perceived the post and the buffalo hunting as a major threat to their existence and attacks were being made on some buffalo hunters. The hostile environment didn’t stop Adobe Walls saloon owner, James Hanrahan, from leading a party of Dodge City buffalo hunters, including Bat Masterson, southward on June 5, 1874. Along the way, a band of Cheyenne Indians ran off their cattle stock about 75 miles southwest of Dodge City. The hunters soon joined a wagon train en route to Adobe Walls, arriving just hours before the Indian attack, known as the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, took place.
Early in the morning of June 27, 1874, a combined force of some 700 Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho warriors, led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and Isa-tai, attacked the buffalo camp. The 28 men, including Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon, took refuge in the two stores and the saloon. Despite being dramatically outnumbered, the hunters’ superior weapons repelled the Indian assault. After four days of continuous battle, about 100 men arrived to reinforce the post and the Indians soon retreated. Loss numbers vary, but as many as 70 Indians were killed and many others, including Parker, were wounded. The men at Adobe Walls suffered four fatalities.
Of course, the attacks brought retaliation in the form of an expedition against the Indians of the Texas Panhandle in what would become known as the Red River War. Masterson joined the expedition that was order by Colonel Nelson A. Miles, as a civilian scout and a teamster working out of Fort Elliot in what was then called Sweetwater, Texas (now Mobeetie). However, the next spring he was back to buffalo hunting and spending time at his friend Charlie Rath’s store, located about five miles from the fort, which had become the “headquarters” for the buffalo hunters. He was also a frequent visitor to the many saloons in the area. By early 1876, he was working as a faro dealer in Henry Fleming’s Saloon.
On January 24th, he became embroiled in an argument with Sergeant Melvin A. King over a card game and a dance hall beauty named Mollie Brennan. The argument quickly led to a gunplay and King was left dead. However, in the melee, King’s shot passed through Mollie Brennan’s body, killing her, and then hit Masterson in the pelvis. The injury caused Bat to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. After he recovered, Masterson returned to Dodge City, Kansas where he became a lawman along with his friend Wyatt Earp under Ford County Sheriff, Charles Bassett. These were the years that Dodge City was known as a “wicked little town.” Cattle drives had replaced the buffalo hunters as longhorn cattle were driven up from Texas along the western branch of the Chisholm Trail to the railroad. For the next ten years, over 5 million head were driven on the trail into Dodge City.
In July, 1877, Bat was appointed under-sheriff of Ford County under Sheriff Charlie Bassett. That very same month, his brother Ed Masterson became an assistant marshal in Dodge City. Just a few months later, in October, Bat announced in the Dodge City Times that he was a candidate for sheriff of Ford County, stating: “At the earnest request of many citizens of Ford County, I have consented to run for the office of sheriff, at the coming election in this county. While earnestly soliciting the suffrages of the people, I have no pledges to make, as pledges are usually considered, before election, to be mere clap-trap. I desire to say to the voting public that I am no politician and shall make no combinations that would be likely to, in anywise, hamper me in the discharge of the duties of the office, and, should I be elected, will put forth my best efforts to so discharge the duties of the office that those voting for me shall have no occasion to regret having done so. Respectfully, W. B. Masterson.”
Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life after the battle with King, but the story of the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City. He had certainly lived an interesting life.
Recently, I found out that my family is related to Alvin Cullum York, who was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of World War I. York is my 8th cousin once removed on my dad’s side of the family. York received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132. York’s Medal of Honor action occurred during the portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, which was led by the United States, and was intended to breach the Hindenburg line and force the Germans to surrender.
York was born in rural Tennessee on December 13, 1887, the third of eleven children of William and Mary (Brooks) York. His parents farmed, and his father worked as a blacksmith. The York children had minimal schooling because they helped provide for the family, which included hunting, fishing, and hiring out as laborers. After the death of York’s father, he assisted in caring for his younger siblings, and found work as a logger and on construction crews. York wen to church on a regular basis, but he also drank heavily and had a reputation for fistfighting. In 1914 he had a conversion experience, and vowed to improve. He became even more devoted to the Church of Christ in Christian Union.
Upon being drafted into World War I, York initially claimed conscientious objector status on the grounds that his denomination forbade violence. It was because of his internal struggle about whether or not war was the same as murder. York prayed about it for the better part of a whole night, before feeling led to proceed with his military assignment. York joined the 82nd Division as an infantry private, and went to France in 1918. He was a part of the group of soldiers know as dough boys. In October 1918, York was promoted to corporal, as one of a group of 17 soldiers assigned to infiltrate German lines and silence a machine gun position. After the American patrol had captured a large group of enemy soldiers, German small arms fire killed six Americans and wounded three. York was the highest ranking of those still able to fight, so he took charge. While his men guarded the prisoners, York attacked the machine gun position, dispatching several German soldiers with his rifle. By the time six Germans charged him with bayonets he was out of rifle ammunition, so he drew his pistol and shot them all. The German officer responsible for the machine gun position had emptied his pistol while firing at York, but missed. This officer then offered to surrender, and York accepted. York and his men marched back to their unit’s command post with more than 130 prisoners. York was immediately promoted to sergeant, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. After further investigation the award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. York became a national hero and international celebrity. He also received decorations from several foreign countries, including France, Italy, and Montenegro.
To reward their hero, some businessmen in Tennessee organized the purchase of a farm for York, his new wife, and their growing family. York later formed a charitable foundation to improve educational opportunities for children in rural Tennessee, as a way of giving back o his home state. In the 1930s and 1940s, York worked as a project superintendent for the Civilian Conservation Corps and managed construction of the Byrd Lake reservoir at Cumberland Mountain State Park, after which he served for several years as park superintendent. In his later years, York was confined to bed by health problems. He died in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 2, 1964 and was buried at Wolf River Cemetery in his hometown of Pall Mall.
There is a strange phenomenon that occurs sometimes, after someone we love passes away. I’m not talking about seeing their ghost, because I don’t believe in ghosts. Besides, the people I have seen, since the passing of loved ones, are real. I have noticed this after the passing of several people, and in some ways it is odd, but in other ways it is comforting, because it shows me that the person I love is still living in my memory files. In reality, I suppose it’s just me, finding characteristics in people around me that remind me of a lost loved one.
After my great aunt, Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper was killed in a plane crash, I used to see an older woman at the mall, just about every weekend. She reminded me so much of Aunt Gladys that I could almost imagine it was really her. Of course, the woman didn’t look exactly like Aunt Gladys, but she looked enough like her to bring back memories of years gone by, and a little sadness at the way she had passed. It seemed so senseless, so unbelievable that it could have happened in such a manner. One minute Aunt Gladys was fine and taking a trip to a family reunion, and the next, her life was over.
I find it strange that this phenomenon doesn’t seem to happen all the time. It only seems to happen in deaths that don’t make sense to me. I’m not looking for people who remind me of the person who died unexpectedly, they just suddenly appear. As I said, they are real people, please understand that. They just have similar features to my loved one who is gone. It doesn’t scare me, but rather it is just a strange reminder that my loved one existed. That their life was important. That their memory is, and always will be with me.
Since my 2nd cousin once removed, Jackie Morton passed away on March 9, 2018, I have thought about her many times. She was such a sweet, loving girl, and her passing simply makes no sense to me. One day she was fine, and the next day she was gone. Then, a few days later, while walking at the mall, I saw someone who really reminded me of Jackie. Had I not known better, I could have really thought it was her…though I knew it was not, for it could not be her. She has gone to Heaven now. Nevertheless, Jackie’s memory, like the memory of her great grandmother, my Great Aunt Gladys will always be with me.
I thought I saw you at the mall today. Though I knew it could not be you at all, for you are gone. I miss you so, and I wish you could still be here on Earth with us. But sadly, that is not to be, and never could be. You will always be with us in our thoughts, and in our memories…and we will always miss you so.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, my cousin Michael McDaniels and his wife, Deena took his mom, my Aunt Bonnie McDaniels to a celebration in downtown Casper, Wyoming, as part of her birthday celebration. That reminded me about the many times that my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I would run into Aunt Bonnie and her husband, my Uncle Jack at the fair with their grandchildren. They took them every year and the kids had a great time. We would run into them, because we still went to the fair at that time. I always thought it was great that they took their grandkids every year, because lots of kids don’t get to go. Either their parents couldn’t afford it, or just figured the kids could wait until they were old enough to go on their own. Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack’s grandkids didn’t have to worry about that, because they got to go every year.
Aunt Bonnie also loved attending the various events of her grandchildren, and I’m sure she was that way with her kids too. I usually saw her at the track meets at Grant School, where both of our grandchildren went to elementary school. Of course, Uncle Jack had to work in those days, so he didn’t get the pleasure of coming to the track meets. Aunt Bonnie was always so excited about the events, and spent the day cheering her grandson, Anthony McDaniels on to, hopefully, victory. For Aunt Bonnie, her family was everything. She wanted nothing more than to spend time surrounded by them. They were the product of the great love she had for Uncle Jack, and in them, her life was complete.
Aunt Bonnie has blessed many people in her lifetime. Her cakes have graced many a wedding, but it was her smile and her cheerful way that were the real blessing. Every time Bob and I ran into her, oddly most often while grocery shopping at Walmart, she and Uncle Jack were always pleased to run into us, and we always had a nice conversation…even if it was a short conversation. We just always enjoyed running into them. Things are different for Aunt Bonnie now that Uncle Jack has gone to Heaven, but it pleases me to see her kids taking her out to do the fun stuff. It’s almost like going full circle. What she and Uncle Jack did for their kids, they are now doing for her. And what a special treat it must be for her. She got to go to something she wouldn’t have done on her own. Today is Aunt Bonnie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The reasons that Britain decided to start a Penal Colony at Botany Bay, Australia are not fully agreed upon. Some say that that there were deeper motives than just a place to house their criminals. The soil at Botany Bay was perfect for growing flax. I suppose that the prisoners would need to be doing some kind of work as penance for their crimes. Nevertheless, Britain would be making a profit from the flax that was produced thee, and the bay was perfect for a port, which would be necessary to assist with trade. All in all, Botany Bay seemed like the best option for a penal colony for Britain, so the plans were put in place, and before long the penal colony became a reality.
When Governor Phillip arrived in 1788, he asked for carpenters, masons, bricklayers to help set up the colony, along with many tools of the trades. In January of 1788, the first 736 convicts banished from England to Australia arrived in Botany Bay. Over the next 60 years, approximately 50,000 criminals were transported from Great Britain to the Botany Bay in one of the strangest episodes in criminal-justice history. I think many of us have thought that some criminals should be place on a deserted island, but Britain basically did just that…with every criminal, it seems.
The accepted wisdom of the upper and ruling classes in 18th century England was that criminals were inherently defective. They did not believe criminals could be rehabilitated and that they simply required separation from the genetically pure, law-abiding citizens. Consequently, lawbreakers had to be either killed or exiled, because prisons were too expensive, and they criminals were not worth the money. With the American victory in the Revolutionary War, transgressors could no longer be shipped off across the Atlantic, so the English had to look for a colony in some other direction.
Captain Arthur Phillip, a tough but fair career naval officer, was charged with setting up the first penal colony in Australia. The convicts were chained beneath the deck during the entire hellish six-month voyage. The first voyage claimed the lives of nearly 10 percent of the prisoners, which remarkably proved to be a rather good rate. On later trips, up to a third of the unwilling passengers died on the way. These were not hardened criminals by any measure; only a small minority were transported for violent offenses. Among the first group was a 70-year-old woman who had stolen cheese to eat.
Although not confined behind bars, most convicts in Australia had an extremely tough life. The guards who volunteered for duty in Australia seemed to be driven by exceptional sadism. Even small violations of the rules could result in a punishment of 100 lashes with a whip. It was said that blood was usually drawn after five lashes, but they didn’t stop there. Convicts usually ended up walking home in boots filled with their own blood, if they could walk at all. Convicts who attempted to escape were sent to tiny Norfolk Island, 600 miles east of Australia. The conditions there were even more inhumane. The only hope of escape from the horror of Norfolk Island was a “game” in which groups of three prisoners drew straws. The short straw was killed as painlessly as possible and a judge was then shipped in to put the other two on trial, one playing the role of killer, the other as witness. I guess the only hope of escape was, in reality, death. There were no second chances for them.
When we think of our nation’s early wars, and really, up until the Persian Gulf War, soldiers were officially men only. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, any women who were in combat were disguised as men, or they were in non-combat roles, such as support staff and nurses. Few women were recognized for their service, much less honored for it, but on March 12, 1776, in Baltimore, Maryland, someone decided to change the way we looked at the effort made by women in wars. And when I say effort know that I include much sacrifice.
That day, a public notice appeared in local papers recognizing the sacrifice of women to the cause of the revolution. The notice urged others to recognize women’s contributions as well, and announced, “The necessity of taking all imaginable care of those who may happen to be wounded in the country’s cause, urges us to address our humane ladies, to lend us their kind assistance in furnishing us with linen rags and old sheeting, for bandages.” On and off the battlefield, women were known to support the revolutionary cause by providing nursing assistance. But donating bandages and sometimes applying them was only one form of aid provided by the women of the new United States. From the earliest protests against British taxation, women’s assent and labor was critical to the success of the cause. The boycotts that united the colonies against British taxation required female participation far more than male participation, in fact, the men designing the non-importation agreements chose to boycott products used mostly by women…how thoughtful of them!!
Tea and cloth are perhaps the best examples of these boycotted products. While most schoolchildren have read of the men who dressed as Mohawk Indians and dumped large volumes of tea into Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party, as a form of opposition to the hated Tea Act, few realize that women…not men…drank most of the tea in colonial America. Samuel Adams and his friends may have dumped the tea in the harbor, but they were far more likely to drink rum than tea when they returned to their homes. Conveniently, their actions actually deprived their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters, and not themselves. The colonists only resorted to an attempted boycott of rum in 1774, after Britain had closed the port of Boston. I guess it was time for drastic measures.
Similarly, when John Adams and other men in power thought it best to stop importing fine British fabrics with which to make their clothing during the protests of the late 1760s, it had little impact on their daily lives. Wearing homespun cloth may not have been as comfortable nor look as refined as their regular clothing, but it was Abigail and other colonial wives and homemakers, not John and his fellow men, who were forced to spend hours spinning clothes to create their families’ wardrobes. Thus, in 1776, when Abigail begged John to remember the ladies while drafting the U.S. Constitution, she was not begging a favor, but demanding payment of an enduring debt. And her husband, in good conscience could not deny her right, or her important request.