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The History Of The Leander James McCormick Observatory At The University Of Virginia

Photograph of Leander James McCormick.

In 1870, Leander James McCormick, the brother of Cyrus McCormick the inventor of the reaper, considered donating a telescope to an institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A portrait of Washington College President Robert Edward Lee.

In 1870, Leander James McCormick considering gifting the telescope to Washington College, during Robert Edward Lee’s last year as president of that institution. President Lee wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institute letting that organization know of McCormick’s plan to have a telescope given to an institute of higher education. During the aftermath of the Civil War, Washington College did not have the funds to build a new observatory on campus.

Photograph of Cyrus McCormick.

Leander James McCormick would reconsidered gifting the telescope to another college, further away from his brother’s farm in Raphine, Virginia. In 1877, the decision was made to donate the telescope to the University of Virginia that Thomas Jefferson founded.

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1878 – The Men Who Discovered Luray Caverns Obtained The Land Within “Cave Hill” By A Page County, Virginia Court Auction

In 1804, Meyer’s Cave, which is south of Harrisonburg, was discovered by and became the first ever “Show Cave” in the United States of America. In 1878, Andrew Campbell, Billy Campbell and Benton Stebbins discovered the grand Luray Caverns, which proved to be larger than most other caves that had been discovered previously. The three men kept the cave a secret, until a court auction was held, for the land located along “Cave Hill”.

At the auction the men purchased the land for 17 dollars per acre and set up plans for a “Grand Illumination”, which newspapers in New York and other states reported on.

On April 21st, 1881, in a unanimous decision in the Merchants Bank v. Campbell case, the judges decided that original sale of the cave property was not an “arms length” transaction. Furthermore, it was deemed that there was “superior knowledge of the existence of a cave” during the time of the auction. In a mere three years after the discovery of Luray Caverns, the three men who discovered the cave lost all property ownership of it to William T. Biedler.

In present day, the Luray Caverns continues to be the main attraction for Page County, Virginia.

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The Rappahannock Historical Society

In 1966, the Rappahannock Historical Society was established within a historic building, that was built in 1820, in the town of Washington, Virginia.

Within the second floor, of the exhibits, is a set of newspaper articles about the election of the first ever all female town council in the state of Virginia. Starting in 1950, a female mayor and five other female councilwomen have managed the affairs of Rappohannock County, for over two decades.

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Walter Crockett – A Former Member Of The Virginia House Of Delegates Who Was In The Point Pleasant Expedition During Lord Dunmore’s War And Who Was In Virginia’s Convention To Ratify The U.S. Constitution

Walter Crockett began his military career as a member of the militia for Augusta County, Virginia. After attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Walker Crockett served in the militias within Botetourt and Fincastle county. Later, after Fincastle county was dissolved, he served in Montgomery county. Walter Crockett served in the Point Pleasant expedition of 1774, during Lord Dunmore’s War and during the Revolutionary War he served in the military in Southwest Virginia. During the American Revolution, he also served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Montgomery County, and he was at Virginia’s convention to ratify the United States Consitution. In 2001, a historical marker was dedicated to former Virginia House of Delegates member Walter Crockett.

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My Mother’s Day Visit To Montpelier – President James Madison’s Home In Orange County, Virginia

On Mother’s Day 2021, I had the oppurtunity to visit the vast grounds of James Madison’s Montpelier for my first time.

President James Madison is buried, along with his wife Dolly Madison, within the grounds of the home.

Author’s Note:

At the Montpelier Train Depot, there is a historical marker dedicated to General Lafayette’s visits to Montpelier in 1824 and 1825.

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The Historic Blenheim House

The Historic Blenheim House was constructed in 1859, shortly after another home on that same property had burned down. During the United States Civil War both the Confederacy and the Union occupies the home.

The Blenheim House is one of the multiple locations where soldiers drew art on the walls and is party of the “Civil War Graffiti Trails”. A replica of the Union Solider graffiti art, in the ceiling of the Blenheim House, is in the visitors center.

Author’s Note:

On October 6, 2020 author Philip Andrew Hamilton got to meet one of the members of a citizen committee who helped convince the City of Fairfax to preserve the Blenheim House as a historical home, rather than converting it to a nursing home.

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Slab City – The Most Unique Unincorporated Town In The United States

The site of the town “Slab City” is located on the former Durlap Army Camp that was utilized as a training facility for soldiers during World War II. After the Army removed the buildings, concrete slabs remained and many homeless from the railroad intersection nearby moved to live there. Over the decades, the town has had art installations, such as “Salvation Mountain”, added to the residents built there.

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The Pyramid Lake Museum

On August 26, 1998, the Pyramid Lake Museum, which is located outside of the largest desert lake in the world, first opened to the public after the construction of a new pyramid shaped building in Nixon, Nevada. The area of Nixon, Nevada was named after former Nevada state senator George Stuart Nixon, who owned the Nixon Mansion.

The Pyramid Lake Museum was established within the boundaries of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Reservation and gives an extensive history of the Northern Paiute People.

The museum exhibits a Northern Paiute Native American story about how the natives believed that the Pyramid Lake formed.

The museum has multitude of photographs of the diverse geography of the lake itself. Interestingly, once every seven years an algae bloom causes the water in Pyramid Lake to turn into a dark turquoise.

The Pyramid Lake War, also known as the Paiute War, the Washoe Indian War and the Pah Ute War, forced the Paiute Natives into reservations, located in Pyramid Lake, the state of Oregon and the Washington Territory, after they lost the Second Battle of Pyramid Lake.

During the journey to reservations within the state of Oregon and the Washington Territory, hundreds of Northen Paiute Indians died, from the harsh winter conditions that they faced.

In addition, the museum has an exhibit on the Ranch Rock festivals that occurred on Pyramid Lake in the 1980s and Burning Man, after it moved from Baker Beach, California to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

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San Jose, California Established As The First Capital For The State Of California

In 1849, the California State delegation in Monterey, where the former Mexican capital of California was, established the city of San José as the first capital of the state of California. After he capital was moved to Vallejo, Benicia and to Sacramento the former San José Capital Building was abandoned and eventually demolished.

In 1923, the Native Sons of the Golden West placed a plaque in a park where the capital building once stood.

The State Capital Building in Benicia is the only former state capital building that presently exists.

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Febuary 1, 1861 – Texas Becomes The Seventh State To Secede From The United States

Texas, an area involved in the Mexican War for Independent From 1810 to 1821, the Texan Independence Movement from Mexico in 1836, which allowed the Providence to become its own country, and a mere sixteen years after becoming a state, decided to revolt again by seceding from the United States on Febuary 1, 1861.

Photograph of Sam Houston.

Texas joined the Confederate States on March 2, 1861, after it replaced its governor, San Houston, who wanted to remain with the union and refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.