Monday, February 15, 2021

Discovering Robert Dale Owen

Just for fun — I'm a barrel of laughs at social gatherings — I went to to find its oldest clipping that references my new town of Florence, Arizona. It came at the bottom of Page 1 of the August 21, 1869, edition of The Weekly Arizona Miner of Prescott, Arizona, and you can see it in its entirety above.

And who is this progressive-sounding Robert Dale Owen that L. Anthony of Florence writes of? Owen is a political figure about whom I was not aware, and a fascinating one at that.

Per Wikipedia, Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877) "was a Scottish-born Welsh social reformer who immigrated to the United States in 1825." After becoming a U.S. citzen, he became involved in Indiana state politics and later represented Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives for four years. His legacy includes:

  • He helped oversee the peaceful commune of New Harmony, Indiana, which was first settled in 1814 by members of the Harmony Society who had come west from Harmony, Pennsylvania
  • He was a strong advocate for women's rights, laying the groundwork for provisions in the Indiana state constitution related to women's property rights, voting rights and freedom in divorce. (Some of this was done in conjunction with Sarah T. Bolton.)
  • In 1862, he wrote a series of letters "that favored the abolition of slavery and supported general emancipation, as well as a suggestion that the federal government should provide assistance to freedmen."
  • As an Indiana state legislator, he helped build the framework for a taxpayer-supported system of free public schools.
  • In Congress, he introduced the bill to establish the Smithsonian Institution.
  • He wrote a book titled The Debatable Land Between this World and the Next. He was a Spiritualist who raised questions about the authenticity of the Bible.
Owen is one of the peripheral figures in Garrett Epps' book Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America. When I looked this book up, I discovered I had already marked it on Goodreads as something to check out. The Washington Post's 2006 review mentions Owen and his involvement with the 14th Amendment.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sunday night stream of consciousness from Saguaro-vania

Superior, Arizona. About 30 minutes northeast of our new home. (Photo by me) 

We arrived at our new home in Florence, Arizona, last week after a 3½-day drive that took us through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and then into Arizona. That dash across the country in the Honda Civic has already become somewhat of a blur in my mind. I have no recollection of anything in Ohio, possibly because we were enjoying a Jim Steinman playlist. We had dinner and spent a night in Indiana. We had a sunny morning and nice drive in Illinois. In Missouri, the roads around St. Louis were the worst of the trip. As we continued through Missouri, we had hundreds of miles of billboards touting either caverns or raunchy roadside attractions. Oklahoma was flat and lovely and we could drive very fast on the toll roads. But after a night in Oklahoma, we found ourselves delayed the next morning by freezing rain in Oklahoma and Texas — part of a multiday Deep South winter weather system that has now led to a Federal Emergency Declaration for Texas. 

After we made it through that, the weather warmed up greatly in western Texas. We made a short pit stop in Vega, Texas, for Munzees and to snap some pictures that I'll feature in a future post. In the flat, hot nothingness of New Mexico, we made stops in Route 66 favorite Tucumcari, which I'd like to visit again someday, and Clines Corners, which has a Rest Stop Extraordinaire but little else of note. As darkness fell in New Mexico on the third day of driving, we had a slow, winding driving through the El Malpais National Conservation Area before crossing into Arizona. Our final night on the road was spent in Show Low, Arizona, where there was snow on the ground! We passed many "Elk Crossing" signs, but saw no elk. 

On our final morning of driving, between Show Low and Globe, we traversed the Salt River Canyon, which was simultaneously one of the most breathtaking and white-knuckle drives of my life. Once was enough. At least it was in broad daylight and the roads were excellent.

The moving van is supposed to arrive here in Florence tomorrow. Inside, there will be many boxes of books, old photos, postcards and ephemera. In a way, it will be like starting the Papergreat exploration/excavation all over again, with fresh eyes. That seems both exciting and daunting. I want to this blog to be fun, not stressful or something that feels like an obligation. So I hope the time and inspiration strike me in sufficient measure in the coming weeks and months, as I also take time to adjust to life in the Western U.S. 

My great-grandparents, Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988) and Howard Horsey Adams (1892-1985) were in their mid to late 50s when they moved into their oft-mentioned house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, circa 1951. (Mental note: Get that exact date and put it in a post.) That ended up being a house crammed with decades of family history. To me, it just seemed like they always lived there; and I got to be the one to clean it out in the 2010s. 

Being age 50, it kind of feels late to be starting over in a blank slate of a house and a blank slate of a community, but I'm years younger than Greta and Howard were when they moved to Oak Crest Lane. There's plenty of time for seeding this desert dwelling with memories and ephemera.
Soon, the books in this room will outnumber the cats. We hope.