Category Archives: History

Conquering California, Part 3 of 17: Polk Salad

This is Part 3 of a 17-part series. If you’ve already forgotten what happened in the last part, you can follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.

To start at the beginning, follow this link.


 

POLK SALAD

 

In 1845, the Californios drove out their Mexico City appointed governor, and appointed two governors of their own. This was a big event for them. But there was another big event happening in 1845, of which Californios may have only been vaguely aware. And yet it would affect them profoundly. James K. Polk had become the 11th president of the United States.

Daguerreotype of James K. Polk. This is the first surviving photo of a sitting president, taken on February 14, 1849, by Matthew Brady. Polk died just four months later, about three months after leaving office.

Polk is one of the uncelebrated presidents of U.S. history. I mean, who talks about James K. Polk? His name sounds sort of like music you’d play with an accordion. Or a funny pattern for a clown outfit. Or a poisonous weed from the South that you can turn into a salad.

And yet in my opinion, he was one of our greatest presidents. Not for his moral leadership, which is debatable, but for the magnitude of what he accomplished. He only served one four-year term. But in those four eventful years, James K. Polk increased the size of the United States by more than a third.

Polk believed he was elected with a mandate to expand the size of our nation. And he intended to do so by admitting Texas into the Union, and by acquiring the northern territories of Mexico.

Of course, this raised tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, as Mexico still claimed Texas as its own, and had threatened war if it were to become a state of the United States. And Mexico wasn’t about to let go of any of its northern territories. Not even after Polk offered to pay for them.

This tension resulted in a lot of suspicion about all the illegal immigrants pouring into Alta California from America. The xenophobic folks in Mexico City decided that maybe their open border policy wasn’t such a great idea after all. And they decided it was time for immigration reform.

They didn’t have enough money to build a big-assed wall, and America sure as hell wasn’t going to pay for one. But they did have the ability to issue edicts.

So they issued one of their infamous edicts. Edicts that Californios liked to proclaim, but never follow. This edict was to deny Mexican citizenship to any new immigrants to California, and also deny land grants, sales, or even the rental of land to non-citizen immigrants already in California.

The edict worried and infuriated new arrivals from America. They had expected to quickly become Mexican citizens, and enjoy all the rights afforded any Californio. Now they were afraid they’d be driven back out of California, and be forced to fend for themselves amongst hostile Indians in the Nevada desert.

But not all Californios supported the edict. Governor Pio Pico did, in Los Angeles. He firmly believed in keeping Alta California out of the hands of Americans. But his jurisdiction in southern Alta California didn’t have many immigrants anyway, so the edict was nothing to make a big deal over.

Commandante General Jose Castro, in Monterey, was one of those who did not support the edict. There were many American immigrants in his jurisdiction of northern Alta California. And he was feeling the heat from them, as they remonstrated against the edict. Also, Castro kind of favored being annexed by the United States, unlike his anti-American co-governor in Los Angeles.

In March 1846, Castro issued a message reassuring all who had recently arrived in Alta California that they could stay, and would not be driven out. Thus began a long history of sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, in California.

The problem for Castro was that the immigrants weren’t so sure they could trust him. Especially since there was a scent of war in the air.


Come on back in a few days, for Part 4: The Instigator.

Conquering California, Part 2 of 17: Alta California

This is Part 2 of a 17-part series. If you’ve already forgotten what happened in the last part, you can follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.


 

ALTA CALIFORNIA

 

The Bear Flag Revolt roared through California 173 years ago, this month. But to understand why all those Bears were so revolting, it helps to go back to when the Mexicans were revolting. That began 209 years ago, in the year 1810.

They fought for 11 bloody years against Spain, and in 1821, finally won their independence. Mexico became a brand new country, stretching from the current Oregon border, all the way south to Central America.

That’s a mighty long spread. It’s about 2,700 miles, as the buzzard flies.

Their most northern territory was Alta California. Alta, by the way, means Upper. There was also a Baja California, and Baja means Lower. The separation point between the two Californias was right around where it’s at today, at the current international border, between San Diego and Tijuana.

At that time, Alta California covered a huge-assed amount of territory. It consisted of what are now the states of California, Nevada, Utah, much of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Yeah, it was even bigger than Texas. So take that, Texas.

The boundaries of Alta California and other Mexican territories, states, and claimed lands, in 1842. At this time, Mexico still had not given up on Texas, and this would help spark the Mexican-American War, that began in 1846.

But most of this humongous territory was unoccupied, except by Native Americans. The Mexican inhabitants were known as Californios. And almost all the Californios lived west of the Sierra Nevadas and Colorado River, in what is now the state of California.

Did Mexico appreciate owning this vast amount of real estate? Not hardly. Mexico’s capitol, Mexico City, was over 1,800 miles away from Alta California’s traditional capitol of Monterey. And the Mexican government was bogged down in all kinds of political intrigue. They didn’t have the time, attention span, or political will to bother themselves much with their faraway land up north.

Alta California was like a latchkey kid that had to fend for itself and survive independently, the best it could. This allowed it to evolve into a semi-autonomous region, where local rule prevailed over federal rule. Californios became frustrated with Mexico City. They even debated as to whether they should remain with Mexico, seek independence, or allow Great Britain, France, or the United States to annex them.

Oh sure, sometimes the politicians down south would pay token attention to their lonely child up north. Like a parent who hollers from another room, the central government in Mexico City would issue edicts to Alta California. And like a passive-aggressive child who hollers back reassurances of cooperation, these edicts were acknowledged by Californios and supported with public proclamations.

But they only enforced the edicts they liked.

Finally, in 1842, the central government decided that Alta California was becoming too upstart and independent. So they appointed a tin god named Manuel Micheltorena to be the new governor. And they recruited a small army of thugs to go up there with him, and show those recalcitrant Californios a thing or two.

This army consisted of men who’d been convicted of crimes and given a choice of going to jail, or going up north to help the new governor. They were derisively referred to as cholos.

The cholos enabled Micheltorena to travel to Alto California with all the swagger and pride of a gangster. When he arrived and assumed the governorship, the only pay he gave the cholos was what they could rob from the citizens.

And so a reign of terror descended upon the Californios, as the cholos raped and pillaged and ravaged the countryside, all under the approval and supervision of the new governor.

By 1845, the Californios had enough. They formed a militia and fought back, and in the Battle of Providencia, forced Micheltorena and his thugs to flee back to Mexico City.

The victorious militia decided they weren’t going to accept anymore governors appointed by Mexico City. Instead, they replaced Micheltorena with two Californio governors they appointed themselves.

Pio Pico was to govern southern Alta California. He made his capitol The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Porciuncula River. And if that sounds like a mouthful to you, then just call it Los Angeles. Or, even better, call it L.A.

Commandante General Jose Castro was to govern northern Alta California, with headquarters near Alta California’s traditional capitol of Monterey.

The naming of their own governors was a big event in Alta California. And Mexico City wisely gave in, shrugged their shoulders, and decided to support it.


Come on back in a few days, for Part 3: Polk Salad.

Conquering California, Part 1 of 17: Introduction

INTRODUCTION

“When America sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing guns. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some of them, I assume, are good people.” ~ Mexican El Presidente Don Juan Trompeta, 1845.

Okay, maybe there really wasn’t a Don Juan Trompeta. But if there had been, I’m sure he would have said something like that, about Mexico’s illegal immigrant problem.

It happened during the first half of the 19th century. Illegal immigrants from America were pouring into Mexico.

At first Mexico welcomed us with open arms. They made it easy for us to become Mexican citizens. And they allowed us to work, and buy land, and participate in the growing economy.

How did we thank this country? In Texas we banded together and rebelled. And in 1836, we took Texas away from Mexico and made it an independent republic.

Mexico sensed that California was next, and began clamping down on illegal immigration. This is a story about how that worked out for Mexico. It’s a tale about how a ragtag band of illegal immigrants from the United States took up arms against their host.

Today, America goes to great lengths to keep Mexicans out. But at one time, it was the other way around. (This photo depicts the beach at the U.S.-Mexico border, from the side of Tijuana, Mexico. Photo from Wikipedia, created by James Reyes on 10/22/06.)

It won’t be a pretty story. Because what you read here won’t bear much resemblance to what you may have read in public school history books, that tend to glorify our country and gloss over our atrocities and bumbling.

But it’s a true tale, as best as I could glean from multiple sources on the internet. And also from what I can remember from a California History course I completed many years ago, in college.

I found a lot of information, and couldn’t resist writing a 10,000 word post. But no one wants to read a 10,000 word post. Not even me. So I’ve decided to break this down into a 17-part series of posts, to serve more easily digestible portions. Chasing Unicorns will be stringing out this series over the summer.

Yep, I’ve done written a mini-book. But I’ve tried to make it an interesting and fun read. And coherent. One thing I’ve noticed about this subject is that there is little coherence. Not even in Wikipedia. Instead, there’s a lot of conflicting information and confusing segues that leave you with more questions than answers.

You can’t get a clear picture of how California became a state unless you take snippets of information from multiple sources, look for a pattern, and then arrange them the way you’d put a jigsaw puzzle together.

But I warn you, this jigsaw puzzle may leave you wincing at times. I love my country. And what I love most about my country is that I can shine an honest light on it without fear of going to jail. So I will present to you the raw, unvarnished truth. All the ugliness and glory combined. The true tale you never read in public school.

This is how the West was really won. This is the true story about illegal immigrants from America, and the conquering of California.

Come on back tomorrow, for Part 2: Alta California.

 

The Golden Gate Strait State

Note: All photos in this post were taken from the Marin Headlands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, and at the time was the longest and highest suspension bridge in the world. It spans 4,200 feet, and towers 746 feet high. It’s regarded as the most beautiful and most photographed bridge in the world. It’s also the second-most used bridge in the world for suicide, after the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. With a deck level of 245 feet, it takes just four seconds for a jumper to go from the Golden Gate to the Pearly Gates.

The Golden Gate is a narrow strait of whirlpools, eddies, and undertows, that will suck you under, twirl you around, and spit you out onto the teeth of sharp, wave-battered rocks. It connects the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. It’s often used to symbolize the state of California, and I believe it’s an apt symbol.

The treacherous currents that guard the Golden Gate are symbolic of hardships newcomers tend to encounter, after being lured here by promises of sunny weather, fame, or fortune.

Fort Point is a Civil War era fort nestled beneath the southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. It nearly saw action in August, 1865, from the Confederate warship CSS Shenandoah. But as the ship approached, the captain learned that the war was over and broke off his planned attack. This is different from today, where many Confederates still fly the Stars and Bars, celebrate monuments to rebel Generals, and apparently haven’t heard that the Civil War is over.

It was dubbed the Golden Gate by U.S. Army Major John C. Fremont, in 1846, shortly before he usurped military control of the new California Republic. This was nearly two years before gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, so the name had nothing to do with the gold rush.

Fremont envisioned golden riches pouring in from the Asian empires of Japan and China, and saw this strait as “a golden gate to trade with the Orient.”

Alcatraz Island lies just beyond the Golden Gate.

This Golden Gate was difficult to discover. Spanish explorers blithely sailed past it for two hundreds years, often anchoring in Drake’s Bay, just 30 miles north. They never imagined they were so close to the largest bay on the Pacific side of the Americas.

Shrouded in fog, and guarded by rocks and unpredictable currents, Spanish sailors had avoided the area of this golden entrance, and thus never encountered it. It was finally discovered by a land expedition, in 1769.

A zoom view of Alcatraz Island. Here, many newcomers to California were given a solidly built home with no chance of eviction, a steady job, and three square meals a day.

In the same way, those who dream of California are often deterred by the foggy mystery of trying to find a decent paying job, and by the dangers of high rent, long commutes, and outrageous gas prices.

I had a similar experience. I left California when I was 17, seeking fortune in easier lands. I returned five times, and struggled until I was 40, before I finally gained a solid footing in this, my home state.

The mouth of the Golden Gate, with San Francisco across the strait.

More than a hundred ships have gone down, attempting to navigate the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay. The most common cause of shipwreck has been a loss of power that allows the strong currents to pull vessels into rocks, or onto the shallow waters of sandy beaches. If you come to California, be sure to bring plenty of reserve power with you, lest our treacherous economy beach you on the shores of financial ruin.

This zoom view of the rocks, waves, and currents at the mouth of the Golden Gate shows the strait’s treacherous navigation conditions.

California has always been deluge and drought, boom and bust, growth and wildfires. Be warned. If you wish to migrate to this hyped-up “paradise”, exercise caution. Test the wind. Trim your sails. Then stand by close to a lifeboat before daring passage through the Golden Gate.

The Gatlin Brothers can tell you a little bit more about All The Gold In California:

The Winchester Mystery House

Sarah Pardee was born in 1841, to middle-class parents, in New Haven, Connecticut. Just 40 years later she became one of the richest women in the world.

In 1862, she married William Wirt Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester. Oliver Winchester owned the New Haven Arms Company, and was getting rich selling the Henry rifle.

In 1866, Oliver renamed his business the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and the first Winchester repeating rifles began production. The Winchester quickly gained popularity, especially with pioneers, and eventually became known as the gun that won the West.

Oliver earned a fast fortune running this company. And when he died in December, 1880, Sarah’s husband, William, inherited much of it. Then, just three months later, William died of tuberculosis.

This left Sarah with an inheritance of $20 million dollars, which was the equivalent to over $500 million, today. She was also left with a near 50% holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which allowed her to rake in $1,000 per day in dividend income. That’s the equivalent to over $25,000 per day, or more than $9 million per year, in today’s money.

You may envy her, but the widow Winchester was no stranger to tragedy. In 1866 her only child, Annie Pardee Winchester, died just 40 days after birth. And of course her husband, a man whom she truly loved, died 15 years later. No amount of money could dissolve her lifelong grief over these losses.

Much of Sarah’s life, after her great inheritance, remains a mystery. But it’s commonly believed that she was an occultist, who held seances and tried to communicate with the dead, including her late-husband and daughter.

It’s believed she once visited a famous Boston medium named Adam Coons. And it’s said that Coons warned her that she was cursed by the Winchester fortune, due to the many people who’d been slain by the Winchester rifle.

Coons allegedly relayed instructions from angry spirits, telling Sarah to move to California and build a great house for all the ghosts of those who had been gunned down. And he told her to never stop building, as the sound of all the construction noise would confuse the spirits and keep them from harming her.

And so, in 1884, Sarah Winchester purchased an unfinished farmhouse south of San Francisco Bay, in what is now San Jose, California. And she commenced a never-ending job of finishing it.

She hired a crew of contractors and paid them three times the going wage. They remained very loyal to Sarah, and set to work, continuously building room after room, addition after addition, round-the-clock, for the next 38 years.

By the time she died in 1922, her farmhouse had expanded to 161 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, 17 chimneys, two basements, and three elevators. And this was after part of the house had been destroyed by the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

It had many toilets, but only one was functioning. The other restrooms were built as decoys to confuse the spirits. In fact, much of the construction was intended to confuse these victims of the Winchester rifle. Every pillar, inside and outside, was installed upside-down. Hallways led to dead ends. A staircase led to a ceiling. Doors opened to steep drop-offs, or to bare walls. A skylight was installed in a floor. Other skylights were covered by roofs.

The front of the Winchester Mystery House. Or is it a side? There are so many entrances, it’s hard for a ghost to know. Notice the upside-down porch pillars?

She decorated the house with beautiful Tiffany stained glass and crystal windows. And many windows were designed with the number 13 in mind, as this was Sarah’s favorite number. So some windows had 13 panes, or a design would repeat 13 times within a window.

Her will, in fact, contained 13 parts, and was signed 13 times.

Another outdoor photo of the Winchester Mystery House. A sign near the entrance warned that photography was forbidden inside the house. I hate snooty policies like that. So after snapping a number of outdoor photos, I returned my camera to the car. But when the tour began, our guide told us that photography really WAS allowed inside, just not flash photography. I could have kicked myself. Or the guide. Someone needs to change that sign.

She died in her sleep at age 81, from heart failure. Or who knows, perhaps one of the spirits finally managed to exact revenge upon this Winchester gun heiress.

When her workers heard of her death they immediately halted construction, leaving nails half driven into walls. They knew the end had come for their fat paychecks.

Sarah was the architect of all the additions and remodelings. And she left no blueprints. She employed a gingerbread architectural style, which is fairly common to Victorian-era buildings in the United States.

Sarah bequeathed all of her possessions, except her sprawling mansion, to her niece and personal secretary. She made no mention of her mansion, in the will. So her niece emptied the house, trucking most of Sarah’s possessions to an auction. And it supposedly took six trucks working eight hours a day for six weeks, to remove all the furniture from the home.

The Foreman’s house, which is one of several outbuildings behind the Winchester mansion. The guy who lived here must have kept very busy.

Appraisers were confounded, and considered the mansion worthless. Nonetheless, it sold at auction for $135,000. The investor leased, then sold the mansion to John and Mayme Brown, who opened it to the public as a tourist attraction, just five months after Sarah’s death.

The horse stable, which is connected to the house. It was designed so that Mrs. Winchester’s carriage could be driven indoors, thus alleviating her from being soiled by raindrops, blowing dust, or other weather-borne unpleasantries.

Today it’s dubbed the Winchester Mystery House, and for an adult ticket price of $39, you can visit and explore many of the rooms of this odd mansion. The house is reputed to be haunted, and occasionally tourists and tour guides report strange happenings, such as swinging chandeliers, apparitions, and ghostly voices.

So it’s quite popular with tourists around October 31st.

Click here to learn more about the Winchester Mystery House.

This weather vane is one of the few remaining parts of the original farmhouse, that are identifiable. The farmhouse was renovated and added onto so extensively, that most of its original structure belies location and identification.

The Craziest Idea

“That’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard!” laughed Bob McCulloch. He was the same McCulloch who’d made a fortune in manufacturing McCulloch chainsaws, so he knew the difference between a good idea and a crazy one. Nonetheless he cogitated on it for a while, and it grew on him. It occurred to him that sometimes crazy ideas can also be good ideas.

He’d come to Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River, to compete against his brother-in-law, Ralph Evinrude. Bob had excelled in chainsaws, and wanted to do the same with outboard motors, just like his B-I-L, Ralph. He planned to test the motors he developed, on the waters of the lake.

Little did Bob realize that his venture into outboard motors would drift over to real estate, and eventually take him to London.

The federal government had closed a military base at this lake, and returned the land to the state of Arizona. And the Arizona government was stuck trying to figure out what to do with these 26 square miles along the shore.

But Bob got an idea, he offered to purchase the land for less than $75 an acre, with a promise that he would develop it. In 1963 he cut a deal with the state, and suddenly found himself in the real estate business.

And now he faced the challenge of attracting buyers. Turned out, almost nobody wanted to live in that hell hole. Lake Havasu sits in the broiling hot, miserable, low desert. The average high exceeds 100 degrees from June through September. The record high is 128. And the waters from the lake make it a humid, sticky heat.

And besides, it was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing going on at Lake Havasu except howling coyotes, sunbathing lizards, and chirping crickets. Few came to look. And most who did, left without buying any of McCulloch’s developed parcels.

London Bridge in the late 19th Century.

Meanwhile, in England, London Bridge was falling down. This famous, historic bridge had been built in 1831, and right from the start began sinking at the rate of one inch every eight years. Furthermore, it had not been designed to withstand 20th century motor vehicle traffic. The weight of such traffic accelerated and distorted the sinking. By 1924, the falling down London Bridge was three to four inches shorter on its east side, than on its west.

In 1967 the city of London decided they’d better build a new bridge, before the old one sank completely below the surface of the river Thames. But rather than demolish the old bridge, they put it up for sale.

And that’s when Bob McCulloch heard the craziest idea that ever encountered his ears. His real estate agent, Robert Plumer, suggested that he buy London Bridge and move it to Lake Havasu, as a way to attract curious tourists and potential customers.

McCulloch won the bid, at $2.46 million dollars. The historic structure was meticulously dismantled, and each stone was numbered, to assist in reconstruction. It was shipped through the Panama Canal, to Long Beach, California, where it was then trucked to Lake Havasu.

London Bridge at Lake Havasu, as it appeared from a paddle boat we rented last month. Many homeless ducks live here, that shamelessly panhandle for crackers from soft-hearted people such as my wife.

London Bridge was reassembled, by the numbers, on a peninsula that jutted into the lake. Then a canal was dug that passed beneath the bridge, and that turned the peninsula into an island, with the bridge connecting the newly-formed island to the Arizona mainland. And since it was reconstructed on solid earth, and fortified to withstand motor vehicle traffic, London Bridge would no longer be falling down.

Swallows make their mud nests beneath the edges of London Bridge. There are also divots in the stonework of the bridge, caused by Nazi strafing during the Blitz.

On October 10, 1971, London Bridge was officially rededicated, before a gobsmacked public. News of this incongruous relocation spread coast-to-coast. Curious, prospective buyers flooded in on free flights offered by McCulloch, to stand on this newsworthy bridge and take a tour of properties for sale. Soon, McCulloch recovered the entire cost of the bridge, in land sales, and transformed his red ink into a diluvium of black.

The underside of London Bridge. Rumor has it that unicorns have been sighted here.

In 1970, one year before the reconstruction of the bridge, Lake Havasu City had a population of just over 4,000 hardy souls. By 1980 it had swelled to 15,000. And today it boasts more than 53,000 residents.

Modern cars can now pass over the top of London Bridge, without creating a sinking feeling.

Bob McCulloch was almost sunk, from his purchase of worthless desert land. But a sinking bridge connected him to success. Sometimes, when you’re desperate, you have to strive very hard to dig yourself out of a hole. Sometimes you just have to be lucky.

An antiquarian lamppost atop the bridge, with Lake Havasu City in the background.

And sometimes you have to try the craziest idea you ever heard.

Here’s another crazy idea. You can bring your significant other to London Bridge, and lock your love together, at this railing.

A Rock to be Thankful For

A developer planned to build a wharf. But town residents protested. Why, this was a historic landmark! Sacred ground, they claimed. And so the planned development became mired in public debate. Sound familiar? Sure, this sort of thing happens to developers all the time in our country. And some of us feel glad about that.

But this particular town was Plymouth, Massachusetts. And the year was 1741.

The foremost protester against the wharf development was a 94-year-old elder of the Puritan Church, named Thomas Faunce. He had been born in Plymouth in 1647, and remembered many of the original pilgrims who had arrived on the Mayflower.

Elder Faunce claimed that the pilgrims landed on the very spot where the wharf was planned. And he pointed out a rock, which he claimed had been stepped upon by these pilgrims as they came to shore. He wept during his public protest, his tears splashing upon the hard surface of the rock, as he contemplated aloud the thought of the wharf covering it up.

The Landing of the Pilgrims, Henry Bacon, 1877.

Many who witnessed this protest felt moved. And who could doubt him? He claimed that this is what he’d been told by the very people who landed there. And nobody else alive had lived long enough to know any better. Plus, Faunce was a revered, respected elder of the church.

Just the same, Faunce’s protest failed. He was shoved aside, and the wharf was built in spite of his story. And in spite of the fact that everyone believed the story. Progress is progress, you know. We mustn’t stop our holy quest for progress.

But as a show of good faith the developers compromised, and preserved the rock uncovered, that Faunce had championed. From then on, this boulder became known as Plymouth Rock. It gained fame, and began attracting curious visitors.

In 1774, the good citizens of Plymouth split the famous rock in half. They then moved the top portion to their meeting house, to stand upon and deliver fiery speeches advocating independence from Britain. Over the years it was moved around some more, until 1867, when it was returned and rejoined to its lower portion. That’s when “1620” was chiseled upon it, commemorating the year the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth.

Plymouth Rock reunited with it’s other half, and properly date-stamped.

Souvenir hunters have, over the centuries, chipped away at this rock that Thomas Faunce made famous, so that now it’s only about one-third of its original size. Today it only measures about six feet long and three feet wide.

Now it sits on public display on the Plymouth beach, ensconced within a memorial at the spot where Faunce said the pilgrims had landed. And the wharf was finally torn down, so Faunce finally won out in the end. Today, Plymouth Rock continues to attract tourists from far and wide, to this unwharfed location.

Plymouth Rock at the shoreline where the Pilgrims landed, according to Thomas Faunce. Notice there’s no wharf in the background?

I don’t know if this is where the movement actually began in America, to conserve public lands and curtail development. But I like the story. It seems that deep within the heart of many Americans, both young and old, we treasure that which is pure and pristine.

Thomas Faunce was 94 years old. So his protest could not have been for himself. It was for future generations. I’m thankful for people like him. Because of such magnanimous activists of our past, today we can enjoy National Parks and historic landmarks.

If most tourists are anything like my wife and me, they leave Plymouth Rock with amused disappointment. We imagined this fixture to be some sort of majestic, Gibraltar-style edifice, jutting into the sea, with waves lapping upon its rugged, granite face. We had no idea it was just a puny stone, barely larger than a welcome mat.

My legs offer a little scale as to the size of Plymouth Rock. As you can see, it ain’t no Gibraltar.

But I’m thankful for Plymouth Rock, anyway. It reminds me of Thomas Faunce, one of the first American protesters against development. And it reminds me of the pristine seashore he sought to protect.

Faunce was a Puritan. And his religion was marred with many flaws that made it anything but pure. But I believe Faunce was an exception. He was one Puritan who understood the true nature of purity.

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