Location of 2006 Annual Meeting of the ABA
Bicentennial Commemoration of the Journey of Aaron Burr and his followers out West.
August 31 marks 200 years that Aaron floated down the Ohio River with the Pioneers.
He was on the island as we all were on Sept. 1.
Here is the rebuilt mansion.
Main Characters who were there 200 years ago:
* Col. Julien DePestre of New Jersey - chief of staff -with Burr in Pittsburgh August 21, 1806.
* Morgan Neville - young man.
* Comfort Tyler of Herkimer, NY Quartermaster.
(His descendents are David Sitomer, Esq., an active ABA member, attended last year's annual meeting in Valley Forge.
And David's mother Lea Etta Canter, also at VF and an ABA member for at least 15 years )
* Major Israel Smith of Cayuga, NY.
* Sam Swartwout (John's brother?)
* A.B. was there for only two days. He departed down river Sept. 1.
In September arrived Joseph Alston, Theodosia, and their son Aaron Burr Alston (Gampy).
We were all thrilled to be where Gampy had played as a young (four year three months old) child.
Hosts were Margaret and Harmon Blennerhassett, owners of the island. Margaret's re enactor Debra Conner welcomed us.
She was especially gracious and entertaining, as seen with us on the evening television news that night.
The ABA commemorated the bicentennial with a ceremony on Blennerhassett Island. Reception speech delivered from the podium above:
We gather together this morning to commemorate the important event that occurred on these hallowed grounds exactly two centuries ago. For it was here on Blennerhassett Island that the United States began its true settlement of the West.
Led by former vice president Aaron Burr, the industrious, adventurous and freedom loving pioneers joined in a quest to use all the land God gave us from sea to shining sea.
On the shoulders of people who yearned for a better life rode Aaron Burr. Prominent women's rights leader of his time, elegant statesman and attorney, the vice president had just given us separation of the judicial and executive branches.
Here on Blennerhassett Island, he assembled his expedition to help our country in the expected war with Spain, or to settle the Bastrop tract in Louisiana if there were peace.
Was there ever a more loyal patriot than this Revolutionary War hero?
But like the tragedies since Grecian times, evil used its power to thwart him.
Aaron Burr was the most radical abolitionist of his time. We read his correspondence with his freed black servant Peggy, who asks him to pay her tuition which he does.
The Southern slave abusing plantation owners who pulled the strings of their puppet Thomas Jefferson were incensed with Burr and his followers.
The underground railroad was to be revolutionized if Aaron Burr created an oasis in the strategic heart of Louisiana connecting the slave dominated South with the empty West.
When I visited the Bastrop tract earlier this year, north of Monroe, Louisiana, I saw the still fertile cropland that Burr split up to make cotton picking impossible for the freed slaves he and his supporters welcomed.
Our luncheon speaker tomorrow Joseph Wheelan sums up the Burr adventure concisely on page 148.
"Southern Republicans disliked the idea of an avowed abolitionist, Burr, on the loose in the West and possibly closing off Louisiana and the Southwest to the expansion of slavery. Having exhausted the soil in their home states with relentless cotton cultivation, plantation owners did not want to find their westward migration barred by free territories. Finally, Burr's conspiracy had revived Jefferson's ancient antipathy toward his former rival."
Although found innocent in all three trials, Aaron Burr was ruined by the full force of Jefferson's misuse of presidential powers. Slavery thrived until the Civil War ended it.
Following the Commemoration ceremony, we toured the rebuilt mansion.
Our tour guides were Dianne Anderson, Chairman of the Blennerhassett Historical Foundation shown above,
and Dr. Ray Swick shown with her in the museum in Parkersburg.
Here is a painting of Harmon on the wall of the mansion.
Before leaving this island paradise, we toured it in horse drawn wagons.
Then back to Parkersburg in style aboard this river cruiser.
Our visit to Blennerhassett Island for the Bicentennial is one we will never forget.