The National Heritage Areas Podcast returns in 2019 with a third season. Discover how National Heritage Areas (NHAs) tell all Americans' stories through programs, events, exhibits, and more. In each episode, NHA Communications Coordinator (Northeast Region) Jules Long speaks with a different NHA across the country to learn about a lesser-known story and why it's important for everyone to remember that history. NHA Northeast Region Program Manager Peter Samuel adds his own insights into the role of NHAs.
Stream, download, or read the transcripts of Season 3 episodes of the NHA Podcast below.
Enjoying the podcast? Be sure to check out the other seasons!
Episode 3.0 - Recap and Introduction to Season 3
Episode 3.0 - Recap and Introduction to Season 3
In episode 3.0, Jules and Peter briefly recap what National Heritage Areas are, announce some big news for the program in 2019, and introduce the theme of season 3: Telling All Americans' Stories.
- 8 minutes, 19 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Northeast Region
- Date created:
[National Heritage Areas Podcast
Episode 3.0: Introduction]
Peter: Hello everyone, this is Peter Samuel. I'm the program manager for the National Heritage Areas Program of the National Park Service in the Northeast Region in Philadelphia. Today I'm here with Jules Long, who's our communications coordinator, and she's going to be talking with us about the podcast series. Welcome, Jules.
Jules: Thanks, Peter. Yeah this is Jules Long, working on season three of the podcast. Pretty excited to do that.
Peter: So before we get started on our first episode, we just wanted to review where we've been and talk a little bit about where the program is right now. The big news for us in the National Heritage Areas Program is a couple weeks ago a bill was passed that designated six new [National] Heritage Areas all across the country.
Jules: Yeah, it's exciting to have new heritage areas. That brings us up to a total of 55. We've got now better representation from the West, where that weren't as many heritage areas before.
Peter: Yeah, it's great. Two in the Northeast Region and three out in the Pacific [West] Region and then one down in the Intermountain Region.
Jules: I just thought it might be good to give a brief overview to kind of remind our listeners what National Heritage Areas are.
Peter: Oh, okay.
Jules: A lot of people are not very familiar with National Heritage Areas. Some people don't even know that they live in one, so I thought that might be a good—
Peter: Yes, that's true. Usually what I say—and I know Jules has been picking up on this as well—is a National Heritage Area is sort of like a national park unit in that that has similar objectives as a national park, which is to protect and conserve resources: natural, cultural, and historic, and recreational resources. But they do it as a partnership. So they are designated by Congress. They receive federal funds from an appropriation by Congress which comes to them through the [National] Park Service. So the Park Service oversees and manages the program but the heritage areas themselves are managed generally by nonprofit management entities and the funds that they receive through us they have to match.
Jules: Yeah, I think that something that's really great about the National Heritage Areas is it's really community based.
Jules: These are places that are important nationally. These are stories that are relevant to all of America, that are important to know—resources that are important for everybody—but it's really the community that is managing these resources—the history, the nature. It's not the federal government telling them what to do. They are organizing a lot of grassroots communities [organizations], [and] local nonprofits, local city governments, different entities like that, that are really working together, finding out what's best for that particular area. Because what's best for one area may not be the best for another area.
Peter: True. Yeah, that's very well put, Jules. You know the other thing that we try to do here in the Park Service is where we can connect a heritage area up with a [national] park unit. Often, you know, parks are—their strength isn't really reaching out to communities. Whereas, you made a good point that heritage areas are really about community involvement. And often if a heritage area is associated with a park, they can really help that park reach out into the community and, you know, engage with folks who could become stewards of those resources in the future. And often, you know, the other things we like to encourage is that heritage areas develop youth programs, so that they can really engage with young people. Because we do know that the youngsters today are the ones who will really be, you know, helping them conserve and protect these resources in the future.
Jules: Yeah, I've been learning about a lot of those programs that the heritage areas are doing for kids, for students, which are fantastic, because some of them sound really fun. Also really educational and just really great opportunities for kids that wouldn't always get those opportunities, as well.
Peter: Yeah. So, Jules, you're working on season three of the National Heritage Areas Podcast. We've had two great seasons so far. Tell us a little bit about this season.
Jules: This season we'll be focusing on telling all Americans’ stories. This is one of the themes of the National Park Service. So really focusing on those untold stories, or at least stories that are not talked about often in public history, in public memory. We really want to dig into that to share all those stories from all the National Heritage Areas.
Peter: And some of it I guess will be what we call difficult history, which is, sometimes, stories that people may have missed. And sometimes it's a history that is new to people.
Jules: Yeah. Sometimes, you know, that's why a lot of these stories aren't told, because they are difficult. Sometimes it deals with topics like slavery or the Japanese internment during World War II. Those are stories that are really tricky. They’re things that, you know, we're not proud of as Americans. But I think it's really important that as a country we remember that history and act on it as we move forward.
Peter: So I just wanted to review where we have been through the last couple of years with the podcast. In the first year, we really focused on looking at the program overall.
Jules: Yeah, season one really focused on what National Heritage Areas are and how they work. It talked about the purpose of National Heritage Areas, to share and protect natural and cultural resources, everything from history and historic buildings to nature and recreation, and also to promote local economic development and sustainable tourism in the communities within the Heritage Area.
Peter: Yeah, and then last year, although we sort of started out talking about some different projects— trails and an art program up in the Upper Housatonic Valley—the last few episodes were really about immigration and social justice.
Jules: Yeah, season two dove a little bit more into the programs and the initiatives of the National Heritage Areas, a little more detail on that. Trail projects, art programs, different projects related to social justice, like the Underground Railroad Center up in Niagara Falls.
Peter: Oh, right, yeah.
Jules: And of course the immigration history in Baltimore. So how these heritage areas are able to share and advocate for this history, why it's important, as well as these other activities: nature, recreation, conservation, those sorts of things.
Peter: Yeah. Yeah, so I think the notion to tell some different histories and stories this year, you know, connects well with what we did sort of at the end of last year's season. It will really be a good continuation and a deeper exploration of stories within heritage areas. The other thing I just want to note is that while we're located here in Philadelphia and focused on the Northeast Region, we really try to look at the whole program and heritage areas all around the country. I'm certainly hoping we will, you know, maybe be able to spend a little time looking at some of those new heritage areas that were designated, and kind of get an idea of some of what their themes and stories will be as they get developed in their management plans.
Jules: Yeah, that would be great. I'm already talking to some heritage areas in the Southeast, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, working on an episode for that. Also one in the Great Basin National Heritage Area, which is out in Nevada and Utah, so we'll be able to get some more coverage from across the country. And it would be great to have some of those new heritage areas involved as well.
Peter: Yeah, that's great.
Jules: We hope you enjoy season three of the podcast.
Jules: We'd like to thank James Farrell for writing and producing our theme song. This introduction was recorded at the National Park Service Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia,
Episode 3.1 - Black Soldiers in the American Revolution
Jules visits the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in New Jersey to learn about black soldiers in the American Revolutionary War. She speaks with Daryian Kelton, a historical reenactor and educator at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, who explains the role black soldiers played on both the American and British sides during the war.
Daryian tells the story of Colonel Tye, a formerly enslaved man who became the leader of the “Black Brigade,” a band of men who raided the countryside of New Jersey on behalf of British Loyalist forces. Daryian describes his experiences roleplaying historical figures such as Colonel Tye for educational programs with local school groups.
Jules also sits down with Janice Selinger, Executive Director of Crossroads of the American Revolution NHA, to hear about some of the programs that the NHA has helped to develop. These include programs for the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution, the Revolutionary Neighbors program, and a project to bring local students to the Old Barracks Museum to learn about the history that happened in their own backyard.
Episode 3.1 - Black Soldiers in the American Revolution
In Episode 3.1, Jules sits down with Daryian Kelton and Janice Selinger from the Crossroads of the Revolution National Heritage Area to learn about black soldiers in the American Revolutionary War and how the NHA helps share that history.
- 23 minutes, 42 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Northeast Region
- Date created:
[National Heritage Areas Podcast
Episode 3.1: Black Soldiers in the American Revolution]
Peter: Hello, this is Peter Samuel. I'm the National Heritage Areas Program Manager in the Northeast Region for the National Park Service. I'm here today with Jules Long. Jules, tell us about what you did.
Jules: So for this episode I went out to the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. That's out in New Jersey. And this Heritage Area is pretty cool because it has a theme. That's the American Revolution really focuses on the history of the Revolutionary War and the impact of that— that's because there is so much of that history there in New Jersey.
Jules: I went out there to meet with Daryian Kelton, who works as an educator at the Old Barracks Museum. He's also a historical reenactor, which means he gets to wear cool historical outfits, dress as a Revolutionary soldier, and even act in first-person, be able to talk as if he were an actual historical figure, which the kids really like—we'll talk a bit more about that as well. And he told me a little bit about black soldiers in the American Revolution. The reason why I wanted to go out there and talk about the story a little bit is that this is history that I really didn’t know about until recently. I didn't realize there were black soldiers in the war. Somehow that was missed in my education.
Peter: Well, I'd say it's probably missed in a lot of people's education.
Jules: Yeah, as we learn in this episode there were about 20% of the Continental Army, the American soldiers, during the Revolutionary War, who were black, had African descent. These were both free people as well as people who had been enslaved. It was an integrated army, although it didn't quite start out that way. And there were many who also fought for the British side, for the Loyalists.
Jules: One of those black Loyalist soldiers was a man named Colonel Tye, who has a pretty cool story that Daryian’s going to tell us about.
Colonel Tye’s also featured as one of the Revolutionary Neighbors, which is a program that the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area puts on. I was able to talk to Janice Selinger, the executive director of the Heritage Area. She'll tell us about Revolutionary Neighbors and other programs that the Heritage Area is working on, including one that brings the kids from Trenton to experience the history that happened in their own backyard.
Peter: Yeah, Janice is great. I've been working with her for a couple of years as the director of the Heritage Area. She's doing some terrific work out there.
Jules: All right, let's get to it.
Jules: Before we start, I do just want to comment that when we recorded this, there were only 49 National Heritage Areas. Since then, there have been 6 new National Heritage Areas designated, bringing the total to 55.
Jules: This is Jules Long with the National Heritage Areas Program of the National Park Service. Today I am here in New Jersey at the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, here at the Old Barracks Museum. We're going to learn specifically about black soldiers serving in the American Revolution. I'm here with Daryian Kelton, who is a historical reenactor, and he's going tell us about somebody I've been hearing a little bit about, and that is Colonel Tye. Daryian, who is Colonel Tye?
Daryian: So, Colonel Tye is like really, really cool. He's one of the people that is not on the American side of the war but he's on the British side of the war. And he's kind of like this vigilante leader, able to pull together a bunch of black soldiers, and other types of soldiers, together to fight on behalf of the British line. He's given his freedom through the Lord Dunmore's Proclamation, which is basically stating that any enslaved black soldier that comes into the British line, they're able to receive their freedom through service. And also they'll be paid, they'll be fed—there's a lot of perks that come along with that. Colonel Tye comes up and he's this leader and now he’s under his manumission from the British. He's wreaking havoc as this this really cool leader figure, and he’s given the name Colonel Tye, and he has this really great reputation.
Jules: So, Colonel Tye—you said he was originally enslaved. Were there a lot of people who took that opportunity, a lot of enslaved people, to fight for the British and gain their freedom?
Daryian: Yeah, of course the slaves are looking at it as, ‘Well, I would like to be free, so yes, thank you very much,’ and a lot of people thought that this was something that was take advantage of. There’s somewhere around 10 to 11,000 African soldiers fighting in the British Army throughout the war, so that speaks volumes, because that's the contrast of about 9,000 that are serving in the Continental [American] line.
Jules: What was the response of the American army, the Continental Army? George Washington was leading the troops at the time. How did he respond to this event, to Dunmore's Proclamation and black soldiers joining the British lines?
Daryian: So it's kind of funny. So, originally when we think about Washington—remember Washington's a Virginia slave owner, so putting a gun in the hands of one of his slaves—who do you think you would be more likely to turn the gun on? That was something really something he had to weight out in his mind, at least in the early parts of the war. Now most of the population is made up of the slave population, so you're literally not using manpower that's already here. Once the Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation comes out, and he also realizes that there aren't a lot of able-bodied white men who really want to go out and fight for this cause, and the Continental line is really hurting for numbers—he has to change his mind. He starts saying, ‘Okay, fine, you can all start to join the army.’ Because they need the bodies, they need the numbers. Because now, like I said, with the 11,000 [black soldiers] kind of boosting the presence of the British soldiers here in North America, it really changes the dynamic because now it's really easy for the British to outnumber everyone here. So it only made enough sense for Washington to say, ‘Yes, absolutely, you can join the army.’ And you'll have them serving in the 4th Connecticut [Regiment], you have several drummers serving in the Philadelphia Associators with the 2nd Pennsylvania line that were actually here at the Battles of Trenton. You also have them serving in many other different capacities as well, in many other different regiments throughout the war. That's kind of due to that fact that Washington starts to change his mind about the whole thing.
Jules: So it sounds like the black soldiers were serving alongside white soldiers in these regiments, is that correct?
Daryian: Absolutely. This is actually going to be the first [only] time that you'll see an integrated army all the way up until the Korean War, which is a really long, really long time to have the segregated army that’s actually going to come about. So you're going have many major conflicts where we have this segregated army, at least for the American culture, all the way up until then. So it's kind of really mind-boggling to see that everyone's kind of standing side by side here in the American [Revolutionary] Army.
Jules: Wow, that's pretty cool. It’s history that I wasn't aware of until just recently. In fact, I heard that ten to twenty percent of the American Continental Army was black?
Daryian: Yep. You even have during the later part of the war, in the 1780s, you have a regiment known as the 1st Rhode Island Regiment that will come about. They will remain about 80% percent black all the way up to the end of the war. Which is kind of really neat.
Jules: Yeah, that is really cool.
Jules: Let's go back to Colonel Tye. He was attacking the Americans, right? He was doing that on behalf of the Loyalists—the British Army essentially.
Daryian: Colonel Tye is just a natural-born leader. He kind of inherits the “Colonel” as a nickname. So like, he's leading all these guys in all of these raids and they pick up the name “Raiders” and they were kind of ruthless.
Jules: Who were these other raiders?
Daryian: It's kind of like a rough regiment. Mainly, a bunch of other like-minded Loyalist individuals who are also kind of seeking their freedom as well, because some will be black that join up under Colonel Tye. The nickname the Raiders kind of speaks for itself! They did not care about 18th-century war time rules. They were just on their own accord. And you know what? It kind of worked. Like I said, it was kind of unconventional, but they were taking over rebel land and getting rid of all these slave owners—so you have slavery happening in New Jersey, contrary to what we may think. These guys are just really cool. I kind of want to do that. I think I might start doing that! I might start being like Colonel Tye and get a group of guys together just going out and wreaking havoc on the fields.
Jules: Well, you do that sometimes right? I mean, I don't know about wreaking havoc, but you do play Colonel Tye, right?
Daryian: Yes, there's a time I did do Colonel Tye. I was about, like, 20 pounds lighter when I did Colonel Tye, and I looked a little bit meaner. But now I look too jolly. I need to get meaner again so I could look like a nice respectable man from New Jersey who's leading a group called the Raiders. It's really fun to do Colonel Tye, or even to do anyone from the 18th century, because you have to shift your whole thinking. Now you kind of have to carry yourself in this other sort of way and it was really fun, kind of doing that as a different person, being looked at as a different person.
Jules: So during this Revolutionary Neighbors program, you're playing Colonel Tye. How did the kids respond to you as Colonel Tye?
Daryian: Most times, when we get a third and fourth graders that come to the [Old] Barracks and we ask them questions and are trying to talk to them—most times you get this kind of generalized idea that the Americans are the good guys and the British are the bad guys. So we don't tend to really care about the bad guys, we just know that they were here and they did stuff. Not many kids like someone that is a Loyalist ever—ever, ever, ever. So in in order to kind of make it work a little bit better so that they don't hate me, you have to kind of paint the picture of why that person would be doing those things. Like, what are the reasons why? You have to give this understanding, which is really hard because there are really complex ideas that you have to kind of truncate into like a sentence. And you have to get them to understand in kind of in a roundabout way rather than like giving them a novel’s worth of information where you're trying to talk to them, so that they understand why this person did what they did. And a lot of the time you have to get them, like, really riled up and excited first for them to really understand your point of view, and how what they think might be right in terms of like, you know, ‘Oh, the Americans are great’—well, it doesn't seem all that great when you really start to unpack some of those other issues. And now they kind of get a light of ‘Well, I could understand why you would want to go do this. Now I understand this person a little bit more than I did when I first got here.’ And that's kind of the cool thing to kind of see with you know even third and fourth graders. They get that ‘aha’ moment, and that's pretty much what I live for. Because once they get to that point, now you can hand them a book and they’ll go explore on their own and they’ll probably find things that you'll never find. But it's that initial kind of breaking point, where you got to get them to think differently.
Jules: That’s pretty cool. So what happened to Colonel Tye after the war?
Daryian: So for this guy that's got this this legacy going for him, and things are starting to go well—he gets shot, he dies of gangrene. He ultimately dies in the war, that's as simple as it is. It's really heartbreaking to see. It’s kind of like, ‘No, that's it? Oh man!’
Jules: But you're keeping his memory alive. The Crossroads of the American Revolution is keeping the memory of Colonel Tye and other black soldiers alive through their programming, which I think is really cool. What would you say the main takeaway is from Colonel Tye's story?
Daryian: This one man, who is an African, who was an African slave who's now let go, and now he's leading underneath the British rule like here in America—that's a lot to kind of take in and digest. There’s a lot going on there for me. For me, I'm only 25, so like for me it's just kind of taking whatever situation you're in, and no matter how bad and bleak it may be, you can always turn it around to be whatever you want it to be. I mean, Colonel Tye certainly turned his entire life around, and he wound up leading a bunch of men on behalf of one of the richest countries, one of the largest land-owning countries—or rather, empires—in the entire world. So I don't have any excuses now on why I can't you know do that one thing I've always wanted to do. I mean, you have to strive to do it.
Jules: Thank you so much for meeting with me today, and keep up the great work!
Daryian: Yeah, I'll go outside and freeze now. [laughter]
Jules: Stay warm!
Jules: Also here with me is Janice Salinger, the executive director of the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. Tell me a little bit about this program, this Revolutionary Neighbors program.
Janice: Well, one of the things that Crossroads wants to do is make sure that we provide education and materials that students and the public would be interested in. So we have a portion of our website which is the Revolutionary Neighbors, and they are stories of everyday people. Some of them were Loyalists, some of them were fighting, some of them were tavern owners, just everyday people from the Revolution. So we work with historians to make sure that the stories are authentic and provide interesting information. That's basically the Revolutionary Neighbors project. We add to them every year with a few more neighbors, a few more interesting stories. We find that students are really excited about this. We have buttons and magnets and other things that help tell the story, in addition to— obviously sometimes there's photos, sometimes there's videos about the Neighbors.
Jules: Yeah, I saw a button earlier with Colonel Tye on it, which was pretty cool. It was a picture of him, kind of a cartoon character with his name. I understand a lot of the other characters have those as well. And there's a video about Colonel Tye on your website, the Crossroads website, that gives a little more information about his history.
Jules: So Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area is one of the 49 heritage areas, but it is the only one dedicated to Revolutionary history. Can you talk a little bit about that and what you do here?
Jules: Right, we're the only one specifically designated because of New Jersey's rich Revolutionary history. And you know, most people might not think about New Jersey in that way, but more things happened related to the Revolution here in New Jersey than in any other part of the country. So you know we were between the American capital of Philadelphia and the British headquarters in New York, so there was a lot of fighting that took place here in New Jersey.
Jules: Yeah, George Washington spent most of his time during the war in New Jersey, correct?
Janice: That is absolutely true. So we're very pleased to be able to work with about 140 heritage partners throughout the state to help promote and tell the Revolutionary story. The Old Barracks [Museum] is one of those partners, and it's also where we have our offices.
Jules: How do you work with the Old Barracks?
Janice: Well, we've worked on, you know, helped to promote some of their activities as we do with a number of our other heritage partners. What we recently did was we were finding that the Old Barracks was getting students from all around the state to come for class trips. But they were not getting students from Trenton, which is where they're based. And so we came up with a project to bring a hundred students from a fourth grade class in Trenton to come to the Old Barracks. They had an opportunity to come here to learn about what goes on here at the Barracks. One of the interpreters that spoke to them was Daryian, and he was talking to them about drumming. So that was something that the students really could relate to. So it's something that the students, I think, really didn't realize that this happened right in Trenton. . They enjoyed finding out what happened in the Revolution in their own backyard. And so the opportunity—we brought a couple of the reenactors to the school ahead of time, to prepare them and get them excited about coming. We also worked with them on using iPads. Because the idea of this project is not just that they come to visit the Barracks, which is a wonderful thing and we hope that they'll come back and do again, but it's also that they find out something that excites them about the Revolution and they decide to create their own five-minute videos.
Jules: Very cool. That combination of history and technology—it sounds like the kids were pretty engaged in this project
Janice: Oh, they were. I mean and they had you know a series of teams of students that wanted to do the video work they came here and recorded the day that they were here. They were recording when the presentation took place in the classroom. We're going to be bringing other projects to them we have a project with a George Washington and a Ben Franklin coming. We also have someone who does revolutionary medicine from East Jersey Old Town, which is another one of our partners up in Piscataway. They're going to be coming to the school. And we have, I think, a third program that we're going to be doing. Then in the spring, the students will have a chance to show their videos that are special premiere screening that we'll have at the school.
Jules: Oh wow.
Janice: Which, you know, I think they're excited about it. The teachers you know we're particularly excited about working with their students this way and, you know, obviously taking something that they're studying in fourth-grade history but making it real for them. You know to see something that took place right in their own backyard here in Trenton.
Jules: Yeah, that's really cool that they had that opportunity. Why do you think it's important for people to know about this history?
Janice: Well, you know, I think now in particular it's important because we're leading up to the 250th [Anniversary] of the American Revolution in 2026. And actually with all the things that went on in New Jersey 2026 was just the beginning—it goes through 2033 with a lot of activities. But, you know, I think it's important to understand what happened. There's stories that were important stories. You know, one of the things going back to what we have on our website with Revolutionary Neighbors is that—you know, there's short biographies about how people from all walks of life lived in New Jersey back then. And they had certain struggles and were dealing with things. And you know we have struggles today, and so I think we can learn a lot about what happened then and apply it to what's happening today. I think one of the things that we hope to do at Crossroads is to make this be something that means something to everyone. You know, some people might say, ‘Well, I'm not, you know, a Daughter of the American Revolution or a Son of the American Revolution, you know. I've come to this country, or my family's come to this country, recently.’ And what we find with a lot of our heritage partners is when the students come with their schools, they then bring their parents. And so the Revolution becomes real and they can understand why the founding of this country, and what happened for liberty and all that is important to them
Jules: Yeah, it seems like the story of the early fight for freedom and liberty during the American Revolution, that has continued throughout history. You see how that continues even today, all the ideas of freedom in the Constitution, in American democracy. It really helps us to understand what that means when we look at where it came from.
Jules: Thank you so much for meeting with me today.
Janice: Thank you very much for including us in this.
Peter: Wow, that was terrific. Thanks, Jules. You know, just as a follow-up: we've been working with Crossroads for a long time. Tell us a little bit more about their involvement with the 250th Anniversary.
Jules: Yeah, so “Rev 250” is the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution we like to say that 1776 that was the big year because that was the Declaration of Independence. But the Revolutionary War started before that, in 1775, and there were all these other events that led up to that such as the Boston Massacre. So over the next few years so from now until 2026, all these anniversary events are happening. So Crossroads is involved with that, as well as many of their partners.
Peter: Right. You know, you mention partners. I know that Morristown National Historical Park, they've always been a really strong partner. I know they do projects together and programs together.
Peter: And, you know, just to follow up on the Revolutionary Neighbors program…
Jules: Yeah, the Revolutionary Neighbors program, that is something that Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area works on and they've really taken spotlights, biographies, of different people from the American Revolutionary time period. People from all different walks of life not only soldiers but this also tells the stories of regular people, everyday people—workers and farmers and tavern owners—and all these people they were affected by the Revolution, not just the soldiers. So this program revolutionary neighbors it puts features about them on the website or the Crossroads mmm heritage area you can read about them some of them even have videos.
Peter: Yeah, that’s cool.
Jules: A lot of them have little like cartoon images, because a lot of them we don't have historical pictures of.
Jules: So they were able to commission images of them and make them kid-friendly, right. They want kids to be able to engage with this history because they use this program a lot for kids they even have little buttons and stickers and magnets that have to do with all these people.
Peter: Oh wow.
Jules: And these are real people, not just characters that are made up, but real stories.
Jules: And Colonel Tye is one of those Revolutionary Neighbors.
Peter: Yeah, that's great. Anytime you can make history accessible to youngsters and make them, you know, really get engaged with it, I think that's a—that's a huge win for the program.
Jules: And that history is still relevant today because that's still the laws, right, the Constitution that we use. Happened a little bit after but it's still part of that Revolutionary time period, our independence, that happened in the 1700s. And all these principles of freedom and liberty, we still talk about and so I think it's important to remember where that came from, to have that context in history, and to know some of these stories that haven't been shared throughout history as well, like the stories of black soldiers. You know, there have been time periods where public history was not talking about that—for a reason, right, they wanted to suppress that history. But I think bringing out that history and understanding what actually happened and how people were able to use those principles of freedom to take them and apply them to their own lives—and also how freedom was denied to certain people. I think that really helps us understand why it's so important to talk about some of these problems so that we can, you know, continue to encourage and support all of these American ideals.
Peter: Great, great. Well, terrific episode and I look forward to the next one. Thanks Jules.
Jules: This has been episode 1 of season 3 of the National Heritage Areas Podcast. It was recorded on site at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, New Jersey, at the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area office. The recordings with Peter and I talking [were] recorded at the Northeast Regional Office of the National Park Service in Philadelphia. We'd like to thank James Farrell for creating the music.
Episode 3.2 - Watch Night (Freedom's Eve) in Gullah Geechee Communities
In Episode 3.2, Jules speaks with Heather Hodges, Executive Director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, about efforts in the Corridor to support and revive Gullah Geechee Watch Night traditions.
Spanning 425 miles of coastline and sea islands from North Carolina to Florida, the Corridor's mission is to support and celebrate the culture and history of the Gullah Geechee people, who are descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. One of those traditions is Watch Night, also known as Freedom's Eve. In the midst of the Civil War, people gathered together in churches on the night of December 31, 1862, to await midnight, when the Emancipation Proclamation was to free millions of enslaved people in the South.
Over the years, many African American churches have continued to hold Watch Night services each year. However, over time the connection between the New Year and the Emancipation Proclamation was largely forgotten. Heather explains how the Corridor has recently been working with community partners to reestablish Watch Night’s historical ties and revive its Gullah Geechee traditions.
Episode 3.2 - Watch Night (Freedom's Eve) in Gullah Geechee Communities
In Episode 3.2, Jules speaks with Heather Hodges from the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor about Watch Night, or Freedom’s Eve, church services first held by people in anticipation of the Emancipation Proclamation going into effect on January 1, 1863. Heather explains the significance of Watch Night services to the Gullah Geechee people, and she describes how the Corridor is working to revive the history of Watch Night and to preserve and sustain Gullah Geechee traditions.
- 23 minutes, 48 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Northeast Region
- Date created:
National Heritage Areas Podcast
Episode 3.2: Watch Night (Freedom's Eve) in Gullah Geechee Communities
[Intro music – Instrumental]
Peter: Hello, this is Peter Samuel with the National Park Service. I’m the Program Manager for the National Heritage Areas Program in the Northeast Region. I’m here today with Jules Long, my Communications Coordinator. Hi, Jules.
Jules: Hi, Peter.
Peter: So, I’m really interested in this series and today’s episode on the Gullah Geechee. Maybe you can just tell me a little bit how you got going on that.
Jules: Yeah, so, a few years ago I was doing research on an abolitionist in Boston. And I found out there was a big party, or celebration, the night before the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect during the Civil War, January 1, 1863. And when I started this job with the National Heritage Areas Program, I heard about similar gatherings in a way that were happening down in the South in the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. But these were the Gullah Geechee people. So at the time, in 1862-1863, these were people who were enslaved, and they heard about the Emancipation Proclamation and held church services. They call it a Watch Night or Freedom’s Eve. And I thought that was really interesting. That was something that happened in history, but it’s kind of something that has been continuing through the years, and it turns out that the heritage area down there has been working to bring back this history, remind people of it, and keep the Gullah Geechee people’s traditions alive during this celebration.
Peter: Yeah, that’s great. It’s pretty amazing history and I know there’s a lot of music associated with it and they’re connecting in with a lot of churches as part of that.
Jules: Yeah, a lot of cool stuff, and Heather will tell us all about that.
Peter: Well, terrific. I can’t wait to hear it and let’s get going.
[Music – Gospel hymn with choir. Vocals: “I am free / Praise the Lord / I’m free / I’m no longer bound / No chains holding me / My soul is resting / Counting the blessings / Praise the Lord”]
Jules: Hi, this is Jules Long with the National Heritage Areas Program. I am talking to Heather Hodges, the executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. We'll be talking a little bit about an initiative they've been working on: Watch Night, which ties into some interesting history. So Heather, welcome. Where is the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor?
Heather: The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor stretches from Pender County, North Carolina, to St. Johns County, Florida; from the Atlantic Ocean 30 miles inland. So all together it is 12,000 square miles of the Atlantic coastline.
Jules: That's pretty big, a pretty big area. Why is that a heritage area?
Heather: It is a National Heritage Area you know because it is believed that the Gullah Geechee people and their historic and cultural contributions are important American treasures. And so the corridor exists as a National Heritage Area to provide a platform to allow us to share this history heritage and culture with all Americans now who are the cool Iguchi people can you tell us a little bit about that the Gullah Geechee people are the descendants of the West Africans who were trafficked into the Low Country, primarily to work on rice plantations between 1750 and 1850. Enslaved Africans trafficked into the Low Country came from the rice growing region of West Africa so those are countries with the recognized today as Senegal, Liberia, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau—all cultures which had a long tradition of growing rice. And so when planter[s] here in the Low Country decided that they could commercially cultivate rice, when they went looking for enslaved Africans for their plantations, the people who were most in demand were those Africans who came from those places in West Africa where they already had a tradition of that form of agriculture. So the Gullah Geechee people are descended from those enslaved Africans, giving them a shared common heritage and ancestry. The other thing that is special, and that distinguishes the Gullah Geechee people from other African Americans, is that because of the conditions of their enslavement on rice plantations and later Sea Island cotton plantations, which were fairly isolated from the rest of the Low Country, they were able to maintain on these plantations and islands a lot of their West African cultural practices. So of all African Americans, the Gullah Geechee people carry the broadest and deepest set of West African cultural retentions. And those retentions manifest today in places like the Gullah Geechee language, which is a creole language spoken nowhere else in the world, that is replete with Africanisms in African words and traditional practices. Art and crafts, for example like coiled sweetgrass baskets that many people are familiar with—that is a craft that they brought with them from West Africa. Originally those baskets were used on the rice plantation, they were utilitarian farm implements. They’ve become more decorative now, but they still are rooted in the West African societies that the Gullah Geechee people's ancestors originally came from.
Jules: Now, we're going to jump back in time a little bit back to 1862. That year, that was in the middle of the American Civil War. It had begun about a year earlier when states and the South seceded from the United States to form the Confederacy and uphold slavery. What was going on in the South?
Heather: Remember where we are, or I am, sitting right now is in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina, among all of the states, were among the most aggressive in taking a position on secession. The first skirmishes of the Civil War actually happened not too far from where I'm sitting here on John's Island [South Carolina]. So South Carolina, Georgia—these were states that were in open rebellion from the very beginning of the Civil War. And in 1862—September of 1862—President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It was a war measure. It was designed to try and get those states that were in open rebellion and did have enslaved people to give up the effort and to rejoin the Union. So in September, this Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation had been issued. So by the time you get to December, everyone is well aware of the fact that there is a possibility that on January 1st, 1863, when this Proclamation was meant to go into legal effect, that the enslaved people in the Southern states still an open rebellion would be free. So there was a great deal of anticipation around what exactly would happen on January 1st.
Jules: So December 31st, the night before the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, what did that look like?
Heather: All across the country, not just in the Low Country, not just in the South, but in places like Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, black people, abolitionists, a wide range of people gathered together, a lot of them in churches, in praise houses and meeting halls, to stay up to midnight to celebrate what they anticipated would be the coming of freedom of people held in bondage. So the night over time has become known as Watch Night, but some people also refer to it as Freedom's Eve. It was a time when many people across this country, many Americans, gathered in churches and meeting places to await President Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. So the tradition of using the New Year's Eve service, the Watch Night service or the Freedom’s Eve service, as a prelude to the recognition and the celebration of Emancipation Day (or ‘Mancipation Da, as it's sometimes referred to in the South) was for a long time a significant holiday in our country, particularly in our Gullah Geechee communities.
Jules: So what is entailed in a Watch Night or Freedom’s Eve service? What happens?
Heather: So what we've learned, since we started doing this tradition, is that that experience in 2019 is greatly based on custom and practice and individual churches. But tradition holds that these services usually involve specific hymns that are sung, a traditional liturgy, a religious service and contemplation of what has passed, followed by testimonials, reconciliations, and resolutions for the coming years. So that typical New Year's Eve service, the kind of happens in a lot of churches across America. What's different about the Watch Night service is that while all this is happening, the Watchmen, who are usually elders in the community or deacons in the church, will begin counting down to New Year. So they will collectively let people know when midnight is near. And when midnight comes, at that time, in general practice the congregation would kneel in prayer or contemplation and to welcome the New Year, and also to collectively reflect how on January 1st, 1863, that New Year also meant a lot for freedom for their ancestors. But we're learning more about these traditions as we work with the different churches. They all will do something slightly different. At some services, they will turn out the lights at midnight for a moment of silence. At other services they will do historic reenactments. Some communities like Charleston [South Carolina] and Jacksonville [Florida] have community-based Emancipation Proclamation societies that will conduct separate worship services and programs actually on January 1st. And here in Charleston, they actually have an Emancipation Day parade on January 1st that's hosted by our Emancipation Proclamation Society. Because it was very difficult, as you may understand, for people who were enslaved in the city of Charleston to gather together on December 31st, 1862. So their celebrations were deferred until after the war ended. And so they had a parade in 1865, and that parade tradition has continued in Charleston. Currently they host the longest-running—continuously running Emancipation Day parade in the country.
Jules: Wow, that's really cool. Now you mentioned earlier that you're working with churches to help keep this Watch Night service vibrant—is that how you would describe the work that you're doing?
Heather: Yes, this is a tradition that unfortunately has faded over time in certain communities in certain congregations, so we are trying to reacquaint all our communities and all Americans with the tradition of using the Watch Night service to recollect and reflect on the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Jules: So you've been working with these churches. What are some of these specific things you've been doing with them?
Heather: The very specific assistance that we can give to them are materials that they can use and directly integrate into a Watch Night service, to start to reconnect to this history around the Emancipation Proclamation. For example, sample one of the most helpful things we found that people request is ways to bring Gullah Geechee cultural expressions into those services. So we can provide them with a list of hymns that we know were traditionally sung in the 19th century on Watch Night. We also have a Gullah translation of the Bible, so for those pastors and priests who want to quote passages from the Bible but do so in the Gullah language. Last year we purchased and mailed to all of our participating churches a copy of that. We also, for the first time in 2018, we collaborated with a church here in Charleston, Morris Brown AME, and one of our plantation sites, Magnolia Plantation, to host a Watch Night service that would be an opportunity for people who are still curious about what these services look like, to participate in one. And it went fantastic. We were overwhelmed by the response from the community and the number of people who showed up. It was a program that featured history talks. There were performances of traditional Gullah Geechee spiritual music by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters from Darien, Georgia. There was of course a religious service. And we were honored that the descendants of some of the people who were formerly enslaved on Magnolia Plantation could join us, because they embody and represent a direct connection to the Gullah Geechee people who lived through Watch Night in December 1862, and whose descendants have preserved this tradition.
Jules: Yeah, that's incredible that they could be there. It’s always cool to have that connection with people descended from the people who were in those places where you're doing these things. Why do you think it's important to remember this history, and to keep the Watch Night service alive?
Heather: January 1st, 1863. We celebrate New Year's Eve every year in this country, but that year is incredibly important for our country. It meant the beginning of the end of centuries of bondage and suffering for millions of African Americans. And so we think that celebrating the Watch Night service, remembering the import of the Emancipation Proclamation, provides a platform for us all to share in that important history, and for everyone to learn more about slavery in the United States, and [about] these traditions that have taken root around the celebration of freedom and emancipation.
Jules: So if there are any churches that are interested in getting involved and also holding Watch Night services, how can they get in touch with you?
Heather: We welcome any church, any historic site, any heritage site, any National Heritage Area, that wants to help us tell this story or is currently engaged in helping Americans better understand this period of history, to reach out directly to me to figure out how we can get you involved. You can find my contact information on our website [www.visitgullahgeechee.com]. We realize that in the first instance what's usually required is to have me or someone from our office come out and share what you know about this tradition, and to help you figure out how you make it a part of your Watch Night church service or the interpretive work that you are doing in your sites. So it doesn't require anything more than giving me a call or sending me an email and letting us know that you want to learn more and that you want to be involved.
Jules: And that offer stands for anybody in the country or just people within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor?
Heather: Anybody in the world. We think this is important history. A lot of people tell different parts of the story of slavery in the United States, including people doing work in West Africa and the Caribbean around the transatlantic slave trade, and of course the ancestors of the Gullah Geechee people come from West Africa so it's part of their story as well. So no matter where you are in the world, if you want to help us tell this story, to celebrate this history, we encourage you—I encourage you—to reach out to me.
Jules: So this is not only a national story but a world story. Now, what other projects is the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, and the Commission that runs it and you're a part of, what are some of your initiatives that you are working on?
Heather: Our primary charge as a National Heritage Area is to help educate all Americans about the cultural and historic contributions of the Gullah Geechee people. And we do a lot of that work through public programs, community-based education programs about the Gullah Geechee people. Most of those programs occur here in the Corridor, and people can find out more information about them from our website [www.visitgullahgeechee.com]. We're also interested in and charged with helping to identify sites in the Corridor for historic preservation and documentation purposes. So the Watch Night and Emancipation Proclamation initiative actually falls into that work as well, because not only are we raising awareness about the tradition, we're also helping to try a better document. For example we commissioned three documentaries about this tradition so that we have some record what that tradition looks like now, and what people who are alive now can share with us about how they have experienced those traditions over the course of their lifetime. The other thing that we are charged with doing is helping to facilitate heritage tourism, those individuals who want to actually come into the corridor and visit sites where they can learn more about Gullah Geechee history and culture. That's another role that we play. People can visit our website to find information about where those sites are. We have an interactive story map: you can click on a particular site and information will pop up about how and why it's relevant to Gullah Geechee history and heritage. So all of our work is designed to create opportunities for people to better understand Gullah Geechee people in this country.
Jules: Yeah, that's great, that's really cool history that I don't think that everybody is aware of. I knew that I wasn't aware of the Gullah Geechee people before I started working this job and investigating this topic, so I think it's really great to have you working on that and be working with community partners to spread the story of the Gullah Geechee people.
Heather: Thank you.
Jules: Now, I heard something about a documentary you were working on. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Heather: We've actually commissioned three documentaries and people can see them right now. You can go to our YouTube channel for the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission and they're right there; you can stream them at any time. And in them we conduct interviews with members of the community. We talk about the Watch Night and Emancipation Proclamation tradition, as well as what that tradition has historically meant to the Gullah Geechee people. Because unfortunately not a lot has been documented about this tradition, so that is why we think it's important that as we seek to encourage people to help us preserve and sustain it, that we also help with the work of trying to document it as well to uncover what material may be out there about the tradition we don't know, and to encourage scholars to see it as a potential site of research so that we can better understand this important tradition.
Jules: Great. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the work that you're doing or about the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor?
Heather: People who are interested in helping us with our work or following along and figuring out how they can support us, or just staying informed about programs and projects like the Watch Night and Emancipation Proclamation initiative, are encouraged to follow us on social media, and also to visit our website [www.visitgullahgeechee.com] and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. In that newsletter, we send out updates about our work. We share information about the Gullah Geechee people, their culture and heritage, and if there are educational programs happening, either sponsored by us or by partners such as the National Park Service, other National Heritage Areas, or community groups. We share event information there as well, so it's a very useful way to get regular updates from us about all the work that's being done to help preserve and sustaining Gullah Geechee heritage.
Jules: Thank you so much, Heather, for being willing to talk to us today.
Heather: And thank you for having me.
[Music – Gospel hymn with choir and audience singing. Vocals: “Praise the Lord / I’m free / I’m no longer bound / No longer bound / No more chains holding / My soul is resting / Counting the blessings / Praise the Lord” ]
Peter: Jules, that was terrific. I really enjoyed that. I hope one day to get down to Charleston and participate in these events. Have you ever been able to get down to Charleston or Georgia or any of those places.
Jules: No, I’vve actually never been to the South.
Peter: Oh wow, we’ll have to put that on your list of things to do.
Jules: Yeah, I’d really like to.
Peter: So this is a great project that’s been supported by the National Park Service. The Park Service has been very involved n the Gullah GEechee heritage area. When they were designated by Congress, a federal commission was created to oversee the work. And as mentioned earlier, it goes through four states, so it’s quite a long Corridor. But it’s supported every year by an appropriation from Congress and it helps them to do great work throughout those four states.
Jules: Yeah, they do a lot of great things.
Peter: And also as mentioned by Heather, there are documentaries that people can see to get more information and you can see those on their YouTube site.
Jules: Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff that the Commission has put out for the heritage area, for their website [www.visitgullahgeechee.com], on YouTube [Gullah Geechee Corridor], on Facebook [www.facebook.com/visitgullahgeechee/]. If you just search for Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor it will show up, or go to the website visitgullahgeechee.com – and that’s spelled G-U-L-L-A-H G-E-E-C-H-E-E.
Peter: Great. Alright, well thanks a lot, and see you next time.
Jules: Take care.
[Music – instrumental]
Jules: This episode was recorded at the National Park Service Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia. We’d like to thank James Farrell for producing our theme song. The other music you here is the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters of Darien, Georgia. That’s from their performance at the Watch Night Service at Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Thanks for listening.
Episode 3.3 - Canal Boat Families, Mules, and More in the D&L Corridor
In Episode 3.3, Jules visits the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L Corridor) to learn about the canals that revolutionized industry and transportation in the United States in the 1800s—and about the canal boat families whose daily labor on the canal made that happened.
The D&L Corridor in Pennsylvania stretches more than 150 miles, from the mountains of Carbon and Luzerne counties along the canals that once transported anthracite coal to the Delaware River north of Philadelphia. In the 1800s and early 1900s, coal was transported via mule-drawn canal boats, which were operated by families who worked and lived on the boats. Frequently it was the responsibility of the children to take care of the mules.
Jules talks to historian Martha Capwell Fox about why anthracite coal was so important and about the lives of the families who worked along the canal. She also sits down with education manager Dennis Scholl, who is in charge of D&L Corridor’s education programs such as the award-winning Tales of the Towpath curriculum and field trips that immerse students in local history and its relevance to today.
Episode 3.3 - Canal Boat Families, Mules, and More in the D&L Corridor
In Episode 3.3 of the National Heritage Areas Podcast, Jules visits the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor to learn about life on the canals of eastern Pennsylvania in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and about the many exciting educational programs of the Corridor.
- 25 minutes, 41 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Northeast Region
- Date created:
[National Heritage Areas Podcast
Episode 3.3: Canal Boat Families, Mules, and More in the D&L Corridor]
Peter: Hello, this is Peter Samuel. I’m the National Heritage Areas Program Manager in the Northeast Region of the National Park Service. And I’m here with Jules Long. Hi, Jules.
Jules: Hi, Peter. We have a fun episode coming up. We were just visiting the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, located in eastern Pennsylvania.
Peter: The Delaware & Lehigh, we call it the D&L [Corridor].
Jules: The offices are located at the National Canal Museum.
Jules: In between the Delaware Canal and the Delaware River. And that’s really what the heritage area focuses on, is telling the story of the canals. They also have tons of trails—recreation, bikes, running, walking, casual exploration.
Peter: Yeah, they’ve been doing amazing work. I think it’s, what, over 150 miles of trails eventually when they connect them all up.
Jules: Yeah, yeah. And their getting close.
Peter: That will be a great experience. Yeah. We were there on a beautiful day. And I think one of the first things we saw when we got out of the car were the mules.
Jules: Yeah. They were—they were pretty cool. I am an animal person.
Jules: For the podcast, I interviewed Martha Capwell Fox, the historian for the [National Heritage] Area.
Peter: Yeah. The really interesting thing, I think, is what drove the whole canal system was anthracite mining.
Jules: Yeah, she talks about how it really began the Industrial Revolution here in Pennsylvania. I think there are some regional debates about where the Industrial Revolution began, but down here the coal really kind of jumpstarted that kind of work.
Jules: Martha tells us a lot about that, and about the canals, and how they work—and also the mules, of course, because they’re great. And if you haven’t seen them, check out the pictures at the website that goes with the podcast at NPS.gov. [more at https://www.nps.gov/articles/nhapodcast3-3.htm]
Jules: And I also talked to Dennis Scholl, who is the education manager, and he’ll tell us some more about the fieldtrips, the programs, what they do. They have a couple of different types of programs. The two fieldtrips are based on the Tales of the Towpath for elementary school students. And that is a book that D&L has put together. It’s an entire curriculum that kids follow: social studies, writing and reading, social studies, put together.
Peter: It’s a great way for kids to really get exposed to history at a young age.
Jules: Yeah, it’s an award winning program. And pretty cool stuff.
Jules: Alright, we’ll get started.
Jules: This is Jules, I'm here in Easton, Pennsylvania, and I'm sitting down with the historian of the [National] Heritage Area here. Can you introduce yourself?
Martha: My name’s Martha Capwell Fox and I'm the historian and the archives coordinator for the National Canal Museum and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Jules: Now, Martha, when I walked up to the museum, I saw something very different. I saw two mules, and they were pulling a rope that was attached to a boat full of school kid on a canal….
Jules: What is that?
Martha: The mules are our favorite boys, Hank and George. They are pulling our canal boat, the Josiah White II. We are very fortunate to have the only fully restored section of the Lehigh Navigation, an actual functioning canal section about two and a half miles long.
Jules: Very cool.
Martha: Because of the canals, this part of Pennsylvania—the Lehigh Valley—is where the American Industrial Revolution began.
Martha: The cool thing about where we are right now, and the reason that the Canal Museum is located here in Easton, is that beginning in about 1834 or so, Easton became the only place in the United States where three canals came together. So for a bit of time, Easton was the hub of the energy transport network in the United States.
Martha: It’s kind of a step-by-step story. The canals were built to carry anthracite coal from the mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Martha: In fact, all of this started because in the early 19th century, the United States was actually experiencing its first energy crisis. The fuel that was short at that point in the early 1800s was wood. It's hard to believe, when you look around and see the forests and the woods, that in the early 1800s this had basically all been clear-cut. And wood was becoming very expensive and so that was a problem for people to heat their houses and to cook with. And it was also a huge problem for people who were attempting to do things like make iron.
Martha: There were a lot of educated Americans who realized this, too. Among them were people from Philadelphia, and they were the first ones who attempted to mine anthracite coal up in the counties that are now Carbon County, Luzerne County, and Schuylkill County. Anthracite is hard coal, as it's sometimes known, and it makes a very, very hot fire because it's very high in carbon. And so it was cheap and it was effective, and people loved it.
Martha: Anthracite’s not common. It's only found in a few places. But the world's largest single deposit is in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Jules: Right here.
Martha: Exactly. Right here. Then they needed a way to get it to market. And the only way to move coal in those days was by water. The trouble there with trying to move stuff by water was that the rivers that were the closest to the coal mines, the coal fields, were not navigable.
Martha: Once the Erie Canal was completed, in 1825, that was really the first time that there was enough engineering knowledge in this country to build canals. So with the Erie completed, the two men in Philadelphia who had bought the coal fields up in what's now Carbon County—they were named Josiah White, and Erskine Hazard was his partner. Josiah White devised a way to make the Lehigh River navigable. But they still weren't willing to take the chance on going into this business because lots of people had to tally lost all their money in the anthracite business for the previous like 20 years. So they went to the Pennsylvania Legislature in Harrisburg, and they said: ‘Look, if we can move this coal down to places where people can use it, it's going to be good for the United States, it's going to be good for Pennsylvania, it’s going to be good for our company; so you have to help us. You're going to give us the Lehigh River.’ And the Legislature said, ‘Oh sure, take the river. You can have the rights to all the water power, you can have the rights to the tributaries, you can have the rights to the land on either bank. You know you're going to lose your money. We'll get the river back in nothing flat.’ Well, the Lehigh remained the only privately owned river in the United States until 1966, from 1818.
Martha: So with a river in hand and a coal mine up in Carbon County, they started to bring the coal down and ship it down the river. Then after the Erie [Canal], as I said, that led to the building of the canals—the navigations, actually, because the rivers was incorporated in the navigation. And so that was completed in 1829. After that, they began to move literally tens of thousands of tons of coal. They weren't the only company, but that was what kicked off the easy transportation of the coal. Basically what they did by making this incredibly high-energy source of fuel available to this country was to transform the energy economy of the United States from a wood-based system to a coal-based system in about 20 years. By the time of the Civil War, the Northeast was this manufacturing powerhouse. There was a tremendous amount of iron goods and other products being made.
Martha: It didn't take too long before people started making steam locomotives and train tracks; they had some advantages in terms of speed. But, nevertheless, the canals, particularly the Lehigh and the Delaware system, persisted all the way through the 19th century and well into the 20th century. Because they were still an economical way to carry heavy, bulky cargo, like stone and coal and things like that.
Martha: So it was pretty remarkable and it stayed that way right up through the 1920s. The boats never were powered. They were always towed by mules. They had no electricity. We actually have film that was shot in the late 1920s on the Delaware Canal. Apart from the fact that every once in a while a car goes by, it could be 1868 instead of 1928. Because it's exactly the same way. Mules, no power, just pulling along at their two and a half miles or so.
Martha: The interesting thing about the way the system worked here in this part of Pennsylvania was [that] the boats in the 19th century were largely run by families.
Jules: And these were the canal boats?
Martha: These were the canal boats, yes. You know, a 90-foot or so long canal boat pulled by mules. Very often had a whole family aboard as the crew. Some people owned their own boats, but it was more common for people to lease a boat for a season from the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company.
Martha: The father of the family—most likely the father, the top man of the family—would be the person who only would be able to sign a lease agreement with the canal company in the 19th century.
Jules: Yeah, women didn’t have the right to do that.
Martha: Women’s didn’t have the right to do that. The dad was the captain. Probably did most of the steering. Kept track of what they delivered. You had to keep a log, you know, what you were carrying, obviously where it was delivered, if you paid tolls, collected tolls, paid money, whatever. So that meant that these people had to be at least basically literate.
Martha: The mother of the family probably also helped with that sort of job, where she could. She also helped to steer the boat. And then the thing that's amazing to me is that they're in a ten and a half foot wide boat with a ten by eight foot cabin underneath it. She also did everything that a mom would do on land. You know, fed everybody; tried to keep them reasonably clean, which couldn't have been very easy; took her turn steering—because we have a lot of pictures of women at the tiller—and kind of acted as the family doctor too, and also a sort of the family vet. Because the mules belonged to the people. You leased the boat, but you had to buy the mules from the Lehigh Coal & Navigation. You also had to provide all your harnessing, your towing gear, ropes, things like that. So that meant that people took good care of their mules, because it was like having a car. But the other thing that's sort of funny when you think of that, the mules being like your car, is that nowadays we wouldn't hand our cars over to our eight-year-olds. [laughter] In the 19th century, a tremendous amount of the responsibility for taking care of the mules rested with the kids. So from the time they were, like, maybe seven or eight, they were the ones who, you know, got up at in the morning at 3:00, 3:30—because the canal opened at 4:00—and cleaned the mules, harnessed them, fed them, checked their hooves to make sure that there was nothing in their shoes or in the soft part of their hooves You know that would keep them from from walking comfortably, brought them out on the towpath, hitched them up to the boat, then off they went. And they did this for an 18-hour day.
Jules: Wow. So the kids were the mule whisperers.
Martha: Yes, the kids were the mule whisperers.
Jules: Yeah. I'm just thinking of the kids pulling those mules. And the mules I saw outside, they are huge. They are big animals.
Jules: Is that how big they would have been historically?
Martha: They may or may not have been. Our previous team was a lot smaller than Hank at George.
Jules: Even if they weren't—I mean, horses are a lot bigger than kids.
Martha: Yes, horses are a lot bigger. Mules are really a unique story. The thing is with mules is that they are ideally suited to this kind of work because they are, pound-for-pound compared to horses, they're stronger. They actually eat a bit less and they are capable of longer sustained work. What we like to say is that although the saying is “stubborn as a mule,” we like to say it’s “smart as a mule.” Because with a mule, if they are too hot, too dehydrated, too sick, too injured, too “anything” to interfere with them being able to work, and maybe possibly even endangering their lives or their ability to work, they will stop. And you cannot make them go again until you fix the problem.
Jules: Smart mules.
Martha: Smart mules. Exactly The other thing about mules, which is sort of funny, too, is that no matter how hot or thirsty they are? They will not attempt to go in the water.
Jules: Yeah, one of the guides outside was telling me that the mules won't step in the puddles.
Martha. They will not step in a puddle. It is hilarious to watch an 1100-pound mule very carefully almost tiptoe around a puddle. We do have a little bit of film in that 1928 film and a handful of pictures of mules walking through the water on the sides of some of the aqueducts down on the Delaware Canal. But I think that was just a matter of repetition, but I can't see Hank and George ever doing that.
Jules: Maybe Hank and George are a little bit spoiled?
Martha: Oh, Hank and George are the luckiest mules in Pennsylvania, if not the United States.
Martha: From the stories that we've read about people, especially when people started out with a mule team when they were children—people were very attached to their mules. And on this canal they did take care of them. Because if, you know, the mules don't go, you don't go.
Martha: You don't go, you don't deliver your stuff, you don't get paid.
Martha: We have pictures around here of a couple of people who we know who they are, and there they are in, you know, 1905, 1910, with their mule, you know, at a pretty young age .
Martha: It was a kind of a peculiar way of life. But especially in the 19th century, when you think about it, even though it was it was not an easy life but , you know, but, you know, where would you rather have your kid? Would you like them out in the fresh air and sunshine, where you can see them, or do you want them in a coal breaker? Or a mine, worse, even worse? Even though even the factory kids were working in the mines in the mine.
Jules: That’s true. Yeah, because kids were working in the mines.
Martha: Or a factory.
Jules: Ooh, yeah.
Martha: Factory work wasn’t safe. And even a family farm was not necessarily the safest place to be. And so, you know, from that standpoint, I mean the family was together and so it was a family enterprise. It did not allow for a tremendous amount of opportunity for education. But those kids actually did get to go to school because the canal closed around the end of November and didn't open until the end of March or early April because they would drain the canals. You can't let ice buildup on the canals because it's bad for the banks and the locks and all the structures.
Jules: Oh, okay. The ice would destroy it.
Martha: Plus the fact that you're not going to drag a boat through icy water, you know.
Martha: Those children at least got the chance to get some basic education. And we know from oral history that was done in the 1960s and 70s with the last of the people who had lived and worked on the canals that that particularly folks on the boats, as well as locktenders, tended to keep this job in families for generations.
Jules: So the locktending families, these are the ones that were living in houses next to the [canal] locks and they helped out with the locks? What was that process?
Martha: Okay, well, they actually ran the locks.
Jules: I'm from a place where there are no canals and so to me canals in general are brand new, but also the idea of a lock with the water filling to raise the boat up—it's just so new to me to watch.
Martha: Locks are basically water elevators. And we also had a very unique system on this canal of the way the lock mechanisms work. On most historic canals, the locks are opened and closed by means a balance beams—long, long, heavy pieces of lumber. And basically what you have to do to open or close the locks is to lean on them and then swing them. But on this canal, a canal engineer, whose name was Edwin Douglas, invented a rack and pinion system that involves a bunch of gears. The gear system is attached to the top of the lock. So even women and—not tiny kids, but, you know, 10 to 12-year-old children can actually open and close lock gates, even when they weigh like six or seven tons, because of the rack and pinion system. So that meant that on this canal, rather than a canal company employing three or four big guys at every lock, they could install families in their locktender houses. It didn't pay much, but it got you a house. Locktending wives and mothers tended to be able to do other things so that they could make some extra money, and also help service the folks who were living on the canal boats, like taking in laundry, for instance.
Martha: Again, you know, the father of the family would be the official employee but the whole family would be there and then they could share the duties of maintaining the lock. And that was pretty demanding too. Because like I said the canal opened at 4:00 a.m and it closed at 10:00 p.m. at night. So at the height of the canal era, in the 1850s, there were 2,000 boats on this canal network of the Lehigh, the Delaware, and the Morris.
Martha: That's a lot of boats.
Martha: And that's a lot of people showing up at every lock all day long and into the night.
Martha: you know, it was a very unusual way of life. But people did—did do it for, you know, many, many years.
Dennis: My name is Dennis Scholl. I'm the education manager for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
Jules: So I saw a bunch of kids outside the museum today when I came. They were clearly on a field trip. What kind of field trip was that?
Dennis: They are students who are studying Tales of the Towpath curriculum in the classroom. This is a curriculum we developed approximately 10 years ago. They've read their story book they've done lessons about the canal and life in the 19th century and today they are here to experience parts of it.
Dennis: Their activities include a ride on the Josiah White II canal boat. This is probably the first time any of them has been on a canal. They hear a lot of anecdotal information about life on the canal, things lock tenders would have done, responsibilities that the children would have had when they get off the canal boat they break into four groups and go to four lesson sites there is a lesson site on geology and blacksmithing, where they learn about the importance of iron and how it was made and then get a hands-on blacksmith activity and go home with a little iron rod that becomes an S hook that can hold their clothing or knapsack or whatever they want to hang on it. They go to “Canal Life,” where they learn how to wash clothes like kids did in the 19th century, and they blow a conch shell which was the horn of sorts a natural horn that was used on the boats to announce a boat's presence at a lock . They also get to harness a mule if time allows we have two large life-size fiberglass mules and harness sets and they work in teams and learn the responsibilities that their 19th century counterparts would have had. The final lesson is simple machines where they get an idea of how the canal was built, basically using shovels and picks and wheelbarrows—human and animal power back in those days so it's a pretty full day. By the time they get back they will have many visual experiences that they can tap into as they read the rest of their book
Jules: Now I know you have another location where you do other educational programs?
Dennis: Freemansburg was a very important canal town back in the 19th century. It's a really good field trip. A lot of good information through hands on activities about the life of children living in a locktender’s family in the canal days. They get to do everything there, make sauerkraut, explore at the grist mill ruins for artifacts. And we do find a lot of stuff down there. We find coal, which is a treasure to them, almost as important as a diamond. We have them go inside the locktender’s house—it's one of only two remaining on the Lehigh Canal system. So they can see what life was like in a small building, where the family might have been upwards of 10 to 12 people with all the children. And they learn what kids of their age would have done at 3:00 in the morning when they got up to get the canal boat captain's mules ready for a day out on the towpath. They learn how to harness the mule, they would learn how to groom the mule and get it ready for the boat captain. So all in all they're getting a very good look at the life of a ten-year-old kid back in the 1850s.
Jules: Yeah, sounds like a really great hands-on experience. That sounds really fun.
Dennis: It’s definitely a lot of work, but fun.
Jules: Yeah? What do you enjoy the most about it?
Dennis: The sauerkraut experience.
Dennis: We focus on sauerkraut because that is one of the primary foods that people who lived in these locktender’s houses, who were primarily Pennsylvania Germans. The kids learn about food preservation. You know, today they're so used to opening a refrigerator and getting out what they want or going to a grocery store. That wasn't the way it was back then. The people who lived at the locktender’s houses were poor. They had their own gardens to grow their own fresh produce, and they bartered with neighbors to get meats and milk or cheese. But the concept of keeping these food products fresh—food was stored in root cellars back in those days, which is brought out in Tales of the Towpath, but until they [students] get down there and they understand, ‘Hey, there was no electricity here. Oh my gosh, no refrigerator, no freezer. Where did they keep this stuff?’ So we cover the food aspects, we tell them how food was preserved, they get up and help us shred the cabbage, they help us pack the containers with it and get it ready for about six weeks of fermentation. They learn the scientific principles behind that. They take a tour through our 19th-century garden.
Jules: Very fun. What kind of impacts does this experience have on these kids?
Dennis: So it's exposing children to history. We feel that if they don't have a grasp of history, they're not really going to understand the growth of their communities, the growth of society, and where we are as Americans today. So with Tales of the Towpath, we felt we were providing a good solid local history curriculum that focused on the story of the D&L Corridor [Delaware & Lehigh NHA], and that is the building of the canals and the transportation of anthracite coal to the markets. It's well received. The kids get to do a lot of hands on stuff with this curriculum. The teachers like it because it’s local history. And that the districts are sticking with it—to have a social studies curriculum in a district for ten years is unusual, and we're very happy to say that ours has withstood the test of time.
Jules: That's great, especially that you worked with teachers so much. I hear that you're working on another project as well
Dennis: We are, we’re in our fourth year. So cultural ecology of eastern Pennsylvania is hopefully the next curriculum of impact that we come out with.
Jules: That's excellent. Thanks so much for sitting down with me today Dennis and sharing all of these cool educational programs that the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is working on.
Dennis: Oh, you're very welcome, Jules.
Peter: Wow, that was super interesting.
Jules: Yeah, hope you enjoyed all the mule talk.
Peter: Oh, I love hearing about Hank and George.
Jules: I had to cut out a lot of that because we spent a lot of time talking about the mules, I won’t lie.
Peter: But you know they are pretty interesting. And Dennis, he’s really done amazing work up there with the Tales of the Towpath.
Jules: Yeah, they do a great job with their education programs.
Peter: They’re also looking at expanding the curriculum into high school and college.
Jules: Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about that, but they are working on that new curriculum. They’re testing it right now. Talking about the history all the way from the Lenni Lenape people, the Native Americans, and how the landscape has changed, how the science works in the region, these places the students are experiencing.
Jules: And they work hard on the trails. And lots of great trails that everyone can enjoy. And everyone is also welcome to visit the National Canal Museum.
Peter: It’s got its own park around it, so it’s a great location.
Jules: Yeah, it’s nice for a stroll just to look around, you can watch the canals, or you can take your own canal boat ride and can go inside the museum as well. They also have different art exhibits that are fun to check out.
Peter: Great. Well, thanks a lot, Jules.
Jules: Thank you.
Jules: The interviews in this episode were recorded onsite at the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor office at the National Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania. We’d like to thank James Farrell for producing our theme song. Hope you enjoyed the episode!
Episode 3.4 - Early American Indian History in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area
In Episode 3.4, Jules visits Lancaster and York Counties in Pennsylvania to learn about the early American Indian history of the Lower Susquehanna River and the partnership between the newly designated Susquehanna National Heritage Area and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
People have lived along the Lower Susquehanna River for generation upon generation, since long before European colonists arrived. More than 1,000 petroglyphs have been identified along a 23-mile stretch of the river, the highest concentration of American Indian rock art in the northeastern United States. Jules speaks with Paul Nevin, Manager for the Zimmerman Center for Heritage and local petroglyph expert, to learn more about these unique petroglyphs and what we know about the American Indians who created them. She also learns about the later Susquehannock tribe that lived in the area in the 1600s. Paul describes field trips at the Zimmerman Center, which include a hike to Native Lands County Park, site of the largest Susquehannock community.
Later in the episode, Jules interviews Jackie Kramer of the National Park Service to learn more about the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Jackie talks about the Trail's themes and its partnership with the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, which began even before the heritage area's national designation in 2019.
Episode 3.4 - Early American Indian History in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area
In Episode 3.4 of the National Heritage Areas Podcast, Jules visits the newly designated Susquehanna National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania to learn about the early American Indian history of the Lower Susquehanna River and find out more about the National Heritage Area’s partnership with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
- 27 minutes, 32 seconds
- Credit / Author:
- NPS Northeast Region
- Date created:
[National Heritage Areas Podcast
Episode 3.4: Early American Indian History in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area]
Peter: This is Peter Samuel. I’m the Program Manager for the National Heritage Areas Program of the National Park Service here in the Northeast Region. Today I’m here with Jules Long. Hi, Jules.
Jules: Hi, Peter. I was just out in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, here in Pennsylvania. It is a brand new National Heritage Area.
Peter: You’re right. Brand new. We had six new National Heritage Areas in the bill that was passed [signed] in March .
Jules: It’s located down in York County and Lancaster County, and the name ‘Susquehanna comes from the Susquehanna River, which runs right between them. So this area was actually designated a Pennsylvania state heritage area all the way back in 2001.
Jules: It’s managed by Susquehanna Heritage, which is a nonprofit organization.
Peter: Yeah, I was invited down to the Susquehanna Heritage Area in 2006 because they were interested in becoming a National Heritage Area. And from that point on they were trying to get designated as a National Heritage Area—it took them almost 13 years to get designated, which is pretty amazing.
Jules: Yeah, definitely. I really wanted to go down there and see what they have been doing, how things will change now that they are a National Heritage Area, and also to find out more how they’ve been working with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. So they actually started working with the National Park Service before becoming a National Heritage Area, kind of a cool story there. It’s got lots of cool history, also the river is gorgeous.
Peter: It is, it’s beautiful.
Jules: So I was able to meet a bunch of people there at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage. That’s the visitor center for both the National Heritage Area and the National Historic Trail. I talked to Paul Nevin with Susquehanna Heritage, and Jackie Kramer with the National Park Service.
Peter: When you were recording, I know you were outside, right by the river, and there’s some great natural sounds in the background with your recording.
Jules: Yeah, all the happy birds. They were really happy to be out there by the river, and it was beautiful.
Peter: It was. So let’s go.
Jules: First, we’ll here from Paul Nevin, manager of the Zimmerman Center for Heritage.
[Ambient outdoor noises throughout: birdsong, leaves rustling, and occasionally automotive traffic]
Jules: So, we're sitting here along the side of the Susquehanna River, which is quite a large river—I'm kind of surprised, it's a lot larger than what I'm used to seeing—next to this beautiful old bridge that connects the towns of Columbia in Lancaster County to Wrightsville in York County. And this land has been home to people for thousands and thousands of years. And I’ve learned that there’s something especially unique about this part of the Susquehanna River, it’s the Lower Susquehanna.
Paul: It has a different character than the rest of the Susquehanna River. It runs most of its length very slow and shallow. When it gets to this last part, the last 50 miles before it enters the Chesapeake Bay, the topography changes drastically. The river flows fast, it runs deeper, it has high hillsides.
Jules: It’s beautiful and green right now. A great place to live and to find all those things you need to live. Some of the early people who lived along the river, they left behind something pretty cool. And not a lot of people know about this: Petroglyphs.
Paul: For some reason, people chose this short stretch of the Susquehanna to create rock art, or petroglyphs, which are images that are carved into the surface of a rock. When most people think of petroglyphs, they think of the American Southwest. They're fairly common out there. When you get to the Northeast United States, they're very rare. To give you an idea of how unique this this area is, the Susquehanna River is 444 miles long. All of the petroglyph sites are within a 25- mile stretch of river, within the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.
Jules: Only 25 miles.
Paul: 25 miles, on the river, nowhere else.
Jules: And there are hundreds of them, right?
Paul: There have been literally thousands of them recorded.
Paul: Two of the three major sites are now submerged, but there is still one significant site that can be visited today. And that’s one of the most significant sites in the Northeast.
Jules: So to get to that area, I understand you have to take a boat, a canoe?
Paul: Right. The petroglyph sites were never easy to get to. Before the dams were built, the water was swift, fast, really could be a very hazardous place to be. The nature of the river protects them because they're not easy to access,
Paul: But we're fortunate that because of the placement of the dams, there’s this one area that still retains its natural river level. This is the place that we can visit.
Jules: Describe what it looks like for me.
Paul: The petroglyph sites at Safe Harbor are an almost magical place. You're surrounded by the high river hills. You're in a basin. You have a great view of the sky. You're in this place where the earth, the water, the sky meet. It's a place that I think you can come and really feel close to nature, close to the earth.
Jules: That sounds really beautiful.
Jules: The petroglyphs themselves, are they patterns or pictures? Do we know what they mean?
Paul: We can’t read the rock art like a book. Most of what we gather from them is really just inferred from other sites that we can identify with. But our best guess with these is that they were probably made, created maybe 800 or 1,000 years ago, before the people who gave the river its name, Susquehanna, were actually even in this area. They seem to be have been made by Algonquin people. They're similar to rock art that you find up in the Great Lakes region up into the Canadian Shield. So we can get a little bit of an idea of what they mean, why they were placed there, by doing some ethnographic research on survivor communities in other parts of the Northeast United States.
Paul: Each one of these sites is a different style of designs, petroglyph designs, from very abstract to representational images of animals and humans, bird tracks, four-legged animals, other symbols. You know, things that were important to them.
Jules: So we're going to talk about the Susquehannock people, who shared that name with the river, the Susquehanna. But that was after these petroglyphs were created.
Paul: We have to remember that these generations of people were here on this land for so long before the folks who would write the history arrived. So we can only get little glimpses of who these people were. We think that the people who created the petroglyphs were either displaced or absorbed into the Susquehannock community. The Susquehannock community only arrived on the Lower Susquehanna in the 1550s, mid-1500s.
Jules: So we know that in the early 1600s, the Native American people who were here were not the same ones as those who created the petroglyphs. They were people that we know today as the Susquehannock. We know that name through European settlers, colonists, who explored the area—specifically John Smith from England, who explored the Chesapeake Bay region and came up the river, the Susquehanna River, and met quite a few different American Indian tribes, although not the Susquehannock themselves. What’s the story behind that?
Paul: John Smith is known for his explorations of the Chesapeake Bay. He made this wonderful map that features a Susquehannock man and his attire, the most prominent image on his map. But John Smith couldn't bring his boat up the Susquehanna. It was swift, it was rocky, it was shallow. As he was exploring the Bay, he would encounter from time to time American Indians who were already living on its shores. And these people often spoke of this mighty people who lived a two-day journey from the point where the Susquehanna empties into the Chesapeake. The American Indians along the Bay had been trading with these people for years for European goods. They saw them [the Susquehannock] as a formidable people. And John Smith wanted to meet them. The river was too shallow for his boat, it ran fast. He sent representatives a two-day journey just about to where we are sitting now. And there they encountered these people and invited them to the mouth of the river to meet with John Smith. The people along the Bay that John Smith encountered called this mighty group of Native Americans who lived on the Susquehanna “Sasquesahanoughs.” And that name is where the name Susquehanna, Susquehannock, is derived. We don't know what the Susquehannock people called themselves.
Jules: Why is that?
Paul: We get little bits and pieces of history. The only image that we have of the Susquehannock is the image on John Smith’s map. That's the only one. We only know a couple of the words in their vocabulary. We think that they may have called themselves something more similar to “Kanastoge,” which is the name of another river in this area, the Conestoga. The documents don't talk about daily life of these people, how they lived, how they dressed.
Jules: Because these were from the perspective of the European colonists.
Paul: The Susquehannock people left the scene so to speak so early on in this nation's history that there wasn't the time to learn more about these people. You know, John Smith encountered them in 1608. By 1680 they had been decimated as a people and left this place they had called their home, and came back and really lived as just a shadow of their former selves. They had gone from living in towns of 3,000 people to, when they returned and lived at the place we know of as Conestoga Indiantown, there were only a couple hundred. Conestoga Indiantown, even though it was a remnant group of the Susquehannock people, it was still an important place where representatives of the new American colonies would come for treaty sessions between various tribes in the Northeast up into New York [and] down into Maryland. And one of the most significant treaty sessions was one that was held in 1744. In that session, an Onondaga diplomat by the name of Canasatego offered some words of advice to the representatives from the Colonies who were gathered there. And what he told them was, ‘Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out one with another.’ And what he's saying is they had the Iroquois Confederacy, where a group of separate people joined together to become stronger. He was offering this advice to the Colonies. Canasetego spoke those words in 1744. In 1778, Continental Congress met in York, 20 miles from the 1744 treaty session, and they signed the Articles of Confederation, which was the first time that the words “United States of America” were used. This concept that had been offered those years ago by the Native people were finally heeded by the colonies.
Paul: For many years, there has been a ‘convenient’ ending to the story of the American Indians of the Lower Susquehanna. In 1763, there was a massacre of the final remnants of the Conestoga in Lancaster. And so it's easy to say that this was the point where the Susquehannock became ‘extinct.’ We know that's not true. We know that the Susquehannock people had strong cultural ties with the Five Nations, the Iroquois. And when things got really difficult for the Susquehannock people on the Lower Susquehanna, many of them traveled to the other nations and became part of those communities.
Jules: And there are still descendants of the Susquehannock people today. There's no descendant community—no tribe known as the Susquehannock—but there are Susquehannock descendants in the Onondaga tribe, for example, part of the Haudenosaunee people, the Iroquois Confederacy.
Paul: There are people here that can make that claim, legitimate claim, that they are descended from the Susquehannock people.
Jules: Still living in this area.
Paul: Still living in this area.
Jules: So now I understand that at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, students come in—come into the Center, and they learn about the history of this area, they learn about the river, and they learn about the Susquehannock people.
Paul: We have been—by we, I mean Susquehanna Heritage, have been very fortunate. We’re able to bring fourth graders from school districts on either side of the Susquehanna River to the Zimmerman Center to learn some of the stories that the river has to share.
Paul: One of the things that I really enjoy is to just be able to have the kids out in nature for a while. I've had students behind me say things like: ‘This is the first hike I've ever been on.’ ‘My parents don't like to come outside.’ We do a stream study where they can test the health of streams flowing into the river. They can examine some of the life that lives in the river. And we also expose them to the lives of the American Indians who occupied so much of the time that humans have been on the Susquehanna.
Paul: We share stories of how these people lived; that they didn't live in teepees, they lived in long houses. That they lived in towns. That in their society women were these leaders, women had the final say in in that society. The idea that they were farmers, that they weren't just going to the woods and living on nuts and berries; that these people practiced agriculture on a massive scale, that they ate more corn than deer and fish. That just dispels a lot of the preconceptions that they might have coming in. One of my one of my favorite exercises is to give the students a sense of how long people have been living on the Susquehanna River. I had a Native elder tell me one time that “to your culture 500 years is all of history. But to our culture, 500 years is just a flash of lightning.” What we do is we make a timeline. We take a trip into the past. We start at the present day, and we start walking through one of the trails at Native Lands County Park, the site of one of the Susquehannocks’ communities. And as we walk down the path, I say, “Okay, every inch that we walk, we’ll be going back one year in time. So, how old are you?” “I'm 10.” “Okay, let's go back to the day you were born. Stop. That is your lifetime.”
Jules: Ten inches.
Paul: “I'm a little older than you. Let's go back to the day I was born. That's a little longer, a generation. Let's keep walking.” We walk back 500 inches. Well, that's when John Smith met the Susquehannock. From here on out, this is the Native history, this is the history of the American Indians. And we keep walking for another 12,000 inches—almost four football fields.
Paul: And I say, “Okay, now let's think. Stand side-by-side, spread your arms wide. Each one of you is one generation. Just think, how many generations lived on this land before we arrived?
Paul: When you know the story of the land, you take ownership of it. You become better stewards of it. It's part of your life. You're not apart from nature, you're part of nature. And so this is a place where we can look at the past, see where we are today, and set a tone for where we want to go in the future.
Jules: Yeah, definitely.
Paul: It's a great opportunity for us to share the stories of the Susquehanna. It's not as well known as many rivers in the United States, but it is a wonderful river. It has stories to tell. It's an important river. And to be able to share those stories—I think it benefits the community that we live in, and it's inspiring to people who come to visit.
Jules: Yeah, I think it really is. Hopefully as a new National Heritage Area that will help these stories spread even more. Thank you so much for meeting with me today, Paul, and keep up the great work.
Paul: We will.
Jules: Now we’re hear from Jackie Kramer, who works with the National Park Service for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. She’ll tell us more about the trail, what makes it so special and the history behind it, and why this location in Pennsylvania is about fifty miles south of here.
Jules: So Jackie, tell me what you do.
Jackie: Well, I am an outdoor recreation planner. But I also do things like be a Park Ranger some days because of the relationship we have with Susquehanna Heritage and the activities that we do with them.
Jules: So you get to wear your Park Service uniform and lead the kids around on field trips?
Jackie: Yes, I do.
Jules: Cool. What do you think is the most important think about your work?
Jackie: For me, the most important thing is the fact that I have the opportunity to tell people who live in these communities—and actually who come from outside these communities—the importance of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Jules: So you’re working with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail—what is that?
Jackie: Well, the trail is the first National Historic Trail that's on the water, which is—makes it very unique. It has really three themes to it. The first one is the stories of the American Indians who lived here prior to the Europeans arriving. We concentrate on the stories of the American Indian tribes who were in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, primarily those in the major rivers or tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. The second theme is the voyage of Captain John Smith, his voyages that he took during 1607 and 1608 to learn more about the tributaries and the Chesapeake Bay. And then the third theme of the trail is the natural resources of the trail, of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.
Jules: It's great to have all of that: history, culture, and nature. I understand the Susquehanna—it’s a, you know, a very large river. It was a really important waterway with trade in the whole region from New York, where it begins, all the way down through Pennsylvania and Maryland to the Chesapeake.
Jackie: So the Trail includes all the major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. So, like, the James River, the York River, Potomac River. It includes the entire Susquehanna River, although Captain John Smith was only able to get to about where the Conowingo Dam is now because of the falls that are there. He met an Indian tribe called the Tockwoghs. And they had European good s and he asked them where they got them. They said, ‘Well, we got them from the Susquehannock.’ So the Tockwoghs went up to the Susquehannock village, which was right across the river from here [and] got the Susquehannock to come down to meet John Smith. And they become a major part of his journals. So the reason why the Trail includes the Susquehanna, the entire Susquehanna River, because of that American Indian story. The American Indian story is so important to our country's history. We have the opportunity to tell that story through the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.
Jules: The trail itself—the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail—the trail started working with Susquehanna Heritage before it became a National Heritage Area. How did that happen? How did that relationship start?
Jackie: Well, the Chesapeake Bay Office were looking to improve public access, have communities understand about the resources that were important to the Chesapeake Bay. So they created Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. As part of that system, Susquehanna Heritage created the lower Susquehanna River Water Trail. Basically what that does is help give people itineraries so that they know how to appropriately paddle the river and experience its resources and its history.
Jackie: The other thing that the Chesapeake Bay office started to do was create this interpretive signage program to, again, educate people about the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the importance of the rivers to the Bay and its health. So Susquehanna Heritage also got involved in that program, and the Chesapeake Bay Office funded a series of interpretive signs all along the Lower Susquehanna River.
Jules: Where the Park Service—where you work, where you have your base—it’s called the Zimmerman Center for Heritage, owned by Susquehanna Heritage. What's the history of this building?
Jackie: Zimmerman Center was built, they believe, sometime in the 1750s. We don't have an exact date. You have to realize that in the 1700s, this was the wilderness. It was one of the earliest homes built along the Susquehanna River. Eventually the Zimmerman family purchased the house, and they are the ones who undertook this restoration of the property to sort of bring it back to its 1750s roots. Susquehanna Heritage was looking for a location for their offices on the river, closer to Lancaster County. So to make a long story short, the Zimmermans decided that they wanted to gift the house to Susquehanna Heritage.
Jackie: The Chesapeake Bay Office decided to establish a visitor contact station here. It’s right on the river, and in addition to that, Native Lands County Park sits directly behind the Zimmerman Center. Native Lands County Park is the last known major settlement of the Susquehannock in this area. So it gave us the opportunity to tell the story about the river and tell the story of the American Indians right in one place.
Jules: Yeah, that’s great. Now the National Historic Trail and Susquehanna Heritage work together, doing field trips and the Junior Ranger program. Will anything change now that Susquehanna is a National Heritage Area?
Jackie: Well certainly that gives us more opportunities to reach out to other partners. It's just an opportunity for us to do more together.
Jules: Cool. Thank you so much, Jackie, for sitting down with me today and talking about your work.
Jackie: Thank you very much.
Peter: Thanks, Jules, that was a great episode. I really appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into that, and all the other episodes you’ve done. Unfortunately, we have to bid you farewell, and you’re moving on to other jobs, I know.
Jules: Thanks! I wish I could spend more time here. It’s been great getting to know all this time with the National Heritage Areas, learning about all the awesome things they do – they really are pretty awesome. But… the program will live on without me.
Peter: [laughter] Yes, indeed. Well, thanks a lot, and farewell.
Jules: Thank you.
Jules: The interviews in this episode were recorded on site in Wrightsville and Columbia in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania. The episode was produced by the National Park Service Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia. We’d like to thank James Farrell for providing the music. Thank you for listening to the National Heritage Areas Podcast.
Last updated: August 29, 2019