Newspaper history is full of myths, “viral” stories, and tall tales. Folklore and journalism are often close cousins, especially the colorful “yellow journalism” that sold outright lies to rake in subscriptions. In the annals of Hoosier and American journalism, one persistent, tantalizing tale continues to baffle the sleuths at the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Who wrote the famous slogan “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country”? It’s one of the great catch phrases of Manifest Destiny, an exhortation that echoes deep in the soul of Americans long after the closing of the frontier. But when you try to pin down where it came from, it’s suddenly like holding a fistful of water (slight variation on Clint Eastwood theme) or uncovering the genesis of an ancient religious text — especially since nobody has ever found the exact phrase in the writings of either of the men who might have authored it.
“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” –John Muir in a letter to his wife Louie in July 1888
John Muir has inspired Yosemite’s travelers to see under the surface through his poetic imagery: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” Muir, who came to California seeking the solitude of nature, decided to stay—dabbling as a glaciologist, a wilderness activist, and a writer who published persuasive ecological articles with a quill made from a golden eagle feather found on Yosemite’s Mount Hoffmann.
Fort Ross, once shown on maps as “Fort Russe”, is a remnant of the Russian effort to build a thriving fur industry. This southernmost settlement of the Russian empire was supposed to grow wheat that could be shipped north to Sitka. A secondary goal was to provide an additional source of pelts after the population had been decimated by overharvesting of squirrels, sea lions, otters, and foxes.
Imagine being the first person to go down the Colorado River and explore the Grand Canyon. That feat was accomplished by John Wesley Powell, a one-armed, former Civil War general. This article by New Mexico author Rich Holzin first appeared in The Daily Kos.
For those who are interested in late 19th Century Western history, today begins an abridged account of one of America’s most outstanding explorers of the Colorado Plateau’s canyon country, and with the proviso a man who certainly was ensnarled with allegations of duplicity given his role in his surveys of the canyon country defined by the Green and Colorado rivers. I am not a typical Powell biographer in the sense I defend the man’s character by turning a blind eye to the charges that were later levied against him by some of his 1869 crew members and the public who, some of them, felt betrayed by his writings. Still, I rise to his defense in some ways, while acknowledging, as he did in his later years, some rather glaring mistakes that he made.
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