Denning’s Point Musings 12
Another “Blue Pencil” special for some hystorical (sic) fun
The Denning’s Point trails are closed for the winter to protect the American Bald Eagle foraging, perching and roosting habitat. This winter-time closing is essential if we’re to be environmentally-conscious stewards and coincidentally provides some delightful “down time” for me as a Point tour leader and author-lecturer. You are invited to enjoy the whimsical fruits of my “blue pencil notes” made during the course of my Denning’s Point research when I pulled out my blue pencil and scribbled a few facts from intriguing newspaper articles describing simultaneous events elsewhere. These “blue pencil” wanderings provided a much-needed break for me, but had no other redeeming value for they had nothing to do with Denning’s Point. However, they brought smiles to my face and I always resumed researching Denning’s Point stories with restored vigor. As we plod through this cold, snowy winter together perhaps you, too, will find them a source of smiles and renewed energy.
By 1866 William H. Denning, the last of the male family members had passed away and management of the Denning’s Point estate had fallen to his mother and sisters. The main line railroad to NYC already bordered the island and the future of Denning’s Point was looking precarious. With railroad maps, engineer sketches and newspapers piled high I escaped with a few choice blue pencil jottings. Did you know that on February 13, 1866 Jesse James committed the first peacetime daylight bank robbery in US history in Liberty, Missouri? Jesse James, was no "Robin Hood" as my childhood fantasy had imagined him. He was a rebel scoundrel during the Civil War and it was no accident that the bank he and his gang robbed was owned by a former Republican militia officer. The "James boys" rode out of town, guns blazing, killing a bystander. In one of those strange quirks of history, the man killed happened to have been a student at William Jewell College which James' father had helped to found.
For another decidedly human touch for 1866 I discovered that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in 1866 in New York City by Henry Bergh (August 29, 1811-March 12, 1888). Bergh was also instrumental in the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He was the first to successfully challenge the prevailing view that both animals and children were property with no rights of their own. Because of him, it is now accepted that abuse of animals or children is an offense to both human sensibility and established law. Bergh founded the ASPCA using his own funds and he was dogged (so to speak) by his own success as he was soon inundated with dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and many other abandoned beasts. Sounds as if the ASPCA was as overloaded then as it is now, over 150 years later. To add its own twist of unrelated irony, in 1866 Alfred Nobel, philanthropist founder of the Nobel Peace Prize, invented Dynamite! A Peace Prize and a stick of dynamite seem to make for strange bedfellows.
Join me as I muse my way over the next few months through some more “blue pencil” surprises enjoying tidbits of history: sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes thought-provoking, but always merely coincidental to my research on the lives lived and events occurring on Denning’s Point. Maybe you, too, will happily proclaim that history can be explosive on a blusteringly cold winter day!