I lived in Lynchburg, Virginia during the 1960s while in high school and college. I left after graduating from Lynchburg College in 1968. I returned eleven years later for a brief four years. During those four years I discovered things about Lynchburg’s history that I was unaware of while living there in the sixties.
I did not know, for example, that Thomas Jefferson’s summer home, Poplar Forest, was located in one of the city’s western suburbs. Neither did I know that a large house up on one of the hills overlooking the city was once the home of the doctor who gave Patrick Henry a fatal dose of mercury medicine. Dr. George Cabell warned Henry that it might be fatal, but Henry insisted on taking it. He died.
Both Popular Forest and Point of Honor are now tourist attractions; neither was when I lived in the area. My point is simply this. We often live near locations of historical significance without knowing it, often because no one ever bothered to erect a marker.
Andrew Carroll‘s very interesting book, HERE IS WHERE: DISCOVERING AMERICA’S GREAT FORGOTTEN HISTORY (New York: Crown Archetype, 2013), brings to light many interesting, and often overlooked, individuals and events in America’s history. Carroll does so by visiting the sites associated with the people and events. Often those living nearby were unaware of what took place there until Carroll showed up asking questions.
The stories uncovered by Carroll are more interesting than they are of historical importance. A visit to some “lush green bean fields” in western Indiana is the setting for an account of Horace Greeley’s involvement in an attempt to establish the utopian community known as the Grand Prairie Harmonical Association. Like other such attempts in America, and there were quite a number, GPHA failed. Nothing is left of the community, or should we say commune, except bean fields.
Not everyone would be happy with Carroll’s reviving memories of individuals or events many Americans, especially those living in their shadow, would rather remain hidden in the back of history’s closet. One example is Carroll’s visit to California’s redwoods in search of any tribute to Madison Grant, one of America’s early conservationists.
Given the popularity of environmental issues today, it is remarkable that almost no one is aware of the fact that one of the three men responsible for saving the giant redwoods of California was a man named Madison Grant. In fact, there is only a small bronze plaque in California’s Redwoods State Park that pays tribute to this great conservationist and defender of America’s natural beauty. There are three names listed on the plaque. They are Madison Grant, John C. Merriam, and Henry Fairfield Osborn, founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League.
Most of those who by some accident happen to see the plaque and read it have no idea who any of the three men were. A few do, and some of them are aghast at any mention of Madison Grant, especially in a favorable light. Why? Not only was Grant a conservationist, he was also the author of a very popular book advocating the now discredited pseudoscience known as eugenics. Eugenics was an attempt of give scientific credibility to the idea of breeding a “master race.”
Madison Grant’s book, THE PASSING OF THE GREAT RACE (1916) was not only widely read in America, but also in Germany. Many Nazi leaders and intellectuals used Grant’s book, as well as Henry Ford’s THE INTERNATIONAL JEW (1920), to give respectability to their racist theories.
HERE IS WHERE includes a great many little known historical points of interest. Not everyone will find every article equally interesting, but there is more than a little here for anyone who enjoys reading about one of the most interesting of topics, history.
HERE IS WHERE: DISCOVERING AMERICA’S GREAT FORGOTTEN HISTORY is an easy and most enjoyable read. Thank you Mr. Carroll.
Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.
- Historian seeks out forgotten people, places in ‘Here is Where’ (miamiherald.com)