Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Horse Story from New York

Horseheads, NY - There is definitely a heart breaking horse story here. In 1779, American Revolutionary War hero, Major General John Sullivan was leading his army of 5,000 men and a large number of military pack horses through a 450 mile march back into in this area. He was now fighting the mighty Iroquois Indians and it was essential this equipment and his force of men return to confront this enemy. The military horses were so decimated from the journey the General ordered the horses be put out of their misery at the end of their journey. Years later, the few remaining Indians in the area used the skulls of these horses to mark the trail and scare off would be white visitors to the area. The early colonists were so outraged by this savage behavior they settled in this area and immediately started a community. They named their town Horseheads in honor of the fallen military horse heroes. Today, the area claims the largest memorial to the American Military Horse.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

San Juan Capistrano, CA

Father Junipero Serra started a mission here around 1775. He convinced a Spanish Captain that a settlement was needed between the long journeys from San Diego to San Gabriel. Father Serra named his new mission after Saint John of Capistrano, Italy. Shortly after, local Indians attacked the nearby settlement of San Diego. Father Serra quickly buried the Mission’s bells to secure them from an anticipated Indian attack. A year later, Father Serra dug up the bells and friendly Indians helped build his church and other buildings for the community. San Juan Capistrano is famous for the annual return of swallows. Legend has it the swallows were scared off by an innkeeper who hated these birds. The swallows were known for building mud nests. The innkeeper destroyed all of their nests and the swallows took refuge in the mission. October 23rd is San Juan Day. This is a holiday when the citizens celebrate the leaving of the swallows. The swallows return around March 19th. During this time, the mission rings its bells and many visitors and local residents gather to celebrate their return.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Towns named from new found freedoms

Amerigo Vespucci – Way to go Amerigo!

In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci discovered a new continent when he landed in present day South America. During this time, map makers were trying to decide on a new name for Vespucci’s continent. Famous German map maker, Martin Waldseemuller, created a map signifying this new continent as “America” in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. The map maker chose the Latin version of Amerigo because he wanted to have the new name of the continent end in an “a” similar to other continents like Africa and Asia. The name “America” and other derivatives of Amerigo caught on and became very popular in the naming of the “New World”. Names like Americus, Liberty and Independence followed and became synonymous with the spirit of freedom being found in this new land.