#healing View from the Breakers Vanderbilt summer house in Rhode Island.

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View from the Breakers Vanderbilt summer house in Rhode Island.
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Image by denisbin
Newport Rhode Island. RI was one of the original 13 colonies to declare independence. It is the smallest US state. Roger Williams established the colony of Providence and Anne Hutchinson and others established a small settlement at Newport on Aquidneck Island. Williams and Hutchinson were Puritans expelled for Massachusetts for their religious ideas. In 1644 the 2 settlements united to become the colony of Rhode Island (after the isle of Rhodes in Greece.) RI was the first colony to renounce allegiance to the British King but the last to ratify the US Constitution – it waited until May 1890 for assurances that a Bill of Rights would be added.

The Robber Barons and Newport. During the Industrial Revolution in America after the Civil War a small group of men and families came to dominate US business. They were the leaders, the first to develop and use new technology and materials, just like Bill Gates in this modern era. They built the railroads, were the first to use the new Bessemer steel making process, they developed the telegraph, the telephone, and they discovered oil and extracted kerosene to replace whale oil as the main burning fuel. Later, men like Henry Ford developed the motor car at an affordable price for middle class Americans, and he also introduced assembly line production system. They were the first to take control of these new industries and establish either regional or national monopolies by buying out all competitors. There were no US laws to restrict cartels and monopolies at that time. They got control of the natural resources- the oil wells, the means of transport- the railroads and oil pipelines, and they manufactured – especially steel. They also owned the coal mines. So they owned everything from the natural resources to the produced item and they controlled the marketing, the prices and the sales. They were known as the ‘Robber Barons’ and their influence on American is still great today despite decades of anti-trust (monopoly) legislation. Fortunately for the US they started the tradition of massive donations as their personal and company tax rates were so low. Their family names are especially linked to Bar Harbor, Newport and New York City. They were an exclusive group. To ‘make it’ in NY you had to be part of the 400, the 400 people Mrs. Astor could fit into her ballroom.
The Astors: of German descent and they made money from the fur and opium trade and were known as the landlords of NY. They lived where the Empire State is now built. They owned huge areas of NY and had their summer house at Newport. They donated the NY Public Library to the city.
The Vanderbilts: were original Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam. They owned much of Fifth Avenue where they lived near the Astors. They built a railroad and shipping empire to make them even today one of the wealthiest families. They owned and built Grand Central Terminal in NY, the largest train station in the world with 75 platforms.
The Carnegies: Andrew went into steel making and created the US Steel Company. He then invested in oil wells, railroads, and coal mining and became the second wealthiest man after John Rockefeller. He endowed Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh – his steel making city. He endowed Carnegie Music Hall in NY. He was a financial backer of Booker T. Washington the great black leader of the 1890s who founded Tuskegee University for Black Americans. You might see Carnegie Hall in NY.
The Morgans: John Pierpont became the banker to the Robber Barons. He then developed General Electrics but he was the banker to all the main railroads, steel works, telegraph companies and he was the investor behind the White Star Line of Titanic fame. On your free day in NY you could visit his home and the Morgan collection of books etc.
The Rockefellers: John was the man who established the Standard Oil Company but he owned the oilfields, the pipelines, and the refineries. He had 100,000 employees and lived near the Vanderbilts. His philanthropic interests included health, hospitals, sewerage and education. The Rockefeller Centre in NY is still owned by the family.
The Fricks: Henry Clay Frick was a steel magnate with works in Pittsburgh and New York. His art collection, the Frick Collection of old European masters is housed in his Fifth Avenue home which was designed to make Andrew Carnegie’s home look like a shack. You can visit this collection on the free day in NY if you want.

The Breakers – one of the Ten Mansions open in Newport. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s grandson had this mansion built in 1893. It is a 70 roomed Italian Renaissance style palace built as a summer house only. The house has been publically owned since 1973. It cost more than million to build. Its furnishing and the building materials are lavish. The gardens are superb and sweep down to the cliff top edges, hence the house name, the Breakers.

The Marble House. This house was built for William Vanderbilt as a summer cottage between 1888-92.It was inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Mrs Vanderbilt saw it as her ‘temple to the arts.’ It cost million to erect with million going on marble. William gave it to his wife as a 39th birthday present! To ‘relive’ the Newport experience read the novels of Edith Wharton, herself a NY aristocrat who had a summer residence at Newport. She was a great friend of the Vanderbilts. She is the American Jane Austen. Read The Age of Innocence 1921; or The House of Mirth 1905. Both novels have been made into films the Innocence in 1993 and the Mirth in 2000.

Fort Travis
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Image by Life Lenses

History of Fort Travis Seashore Park

The Bolivar Peninsula has a long history of fortifications. Many of them were built on the site of the present Fort Travis Seashore Park. In 1816, Frances Xavier Mina, while on an expedition for Spain, constructed an earthen levee to protect himself and his men from the Karankawa Indians.

In 1818, Dr. James Long, his wife, Jane (a beautiful former debutante from Natchez, Mississippi) and 300 troops came to Texas to free Texas from Spain. Dr Long established his base of operations at Port Bolivar in 1820. He wished to secure the services of Jean Lafitte who occupied Galveston Island. Lafitte would not help. He had given verbal allegiance to Spain, Mexico, and the United States, but carefully remained aloof from entanglements that might curtail his privateering enterprises. Finally, without aid from any source, Dr. Long and his men set out to capture Presidio La Bahia.

Long left Jane, their daughter, and a maid at the rude fort with a few men to protect them. The winter of 1821 was bitterly cold: the "protection" left. Jane Long fired a cannon every morning to let Galveston know the fort was still defended. But who was the enemy? Was it the Spaniards, Mexicans, Lafitte’s pirates or the Karankawa Indians?

The Karankawas had a bad reputation that survives to this day. They were a tall, nomadic people who refused to be tamed. They kept mosquitos (and the rest of society) at a distance by smearing their bodies with alligator grease and fish oil. The stories of the Karankawas being cannibals are not entirely accurate. They did, at times, consume human flesh during special ceremonies, but not as a regular practice.

During the time she was defending the fort. Jane, age 20, was expecting the birth of her third child, In December, during a raging storm, the food ran out, the slave girl became delirious from an illness and Jane delivered her own child. The baby was named Mary and was the first baby of English descent to be born in Texas.

Because of her heroism, Jane Long is often called "The Mother of Texas". Jane refused to leave until the following July when she received word that her husband had been killed. She later ran a rooming house in Richmond. During the Civil War the fortification on Bolivar Point was Fort Green — for the Confederate soldiers.

In 1898, along with federal development of the Port of Galveston, construction on the present Fort Travis was begun. The fort was completed in 1899. The fort was heavily damaged during the 1900 storm. Repairs included the present 15 foot sea wall around the fort. During World War I Fort Travis garrisoned troops defending the Port of Galveston and its approaches.

In 1942, the fort was enlarged and 2,500 troops were stationed there. Several sizes of guns were installed, from anti-aircraft up to 16 inch long range rifles. When the war ended, Fort Travis was declared surplus property, dismantled, and in 1949 sold to private interests. The 60 acre park was acquired through a Moody Foundation grant in 1976 and is operated by the Galveston County Beach and Parks Department.

Today, the park includes the seawall, broad grassy areas, oleanders, winding roads, well equipped play grounds, picnic tables and bar-b-que grills. Cabanas and campsites are available for rental.

Hindmarsh Island. At the Murray River mouth. Shacks and jettties.
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Image by denisbin
Hindmarsh Island.
Our access to Hindmarsh Island from Goolwa is via the bridge which opened in 2001. The bridge is 319 metres long and 19 metres high. Hindmarsh Island leads to the Murray River Mouth beside Mundoo Island and the start of the Coorong. It is 15 kms long and about 6 kms wide and roughly one third of the island is now part of the Coorong National Park. In 1990 the SA government passed an act of parliament allowing the developers to construct a bridge so that the developers could create a marina and housing development on the island. But the SA government accepted legal liability for the financing of the bridge. The bridge became one of the great fiascos and controversies in South Australian history. Some members of the Ngarrindjeri people objected to the proposed bridge in 1994 on the basis of the water channel being part of “secret women’s business” and it being a sacred site. The controversy ended in a Royal Commission and the decision that “secret women’s business” was a fabrication. The Ngarrindjeri group then took their case to the Supreme Court in Canberra which doubted that “secret women’s business” was a fabrication but did not endorse it. The Keating federal government then banned construction of the bridge because of this Supreme Court finding. A few years later the Howard Federal government legislated for the bridge to be constructed. The controversy became a conflict point with much conflict and many competing interests. It involved state and federal governments, locals and outsiders, white and non-white Australians, men and feminists, developers and anti-development people, lawyers for and against it, anthropologists for and against it and much secrecy about the significance or otherwise of the bridge site. This conflict point mainly had direct impacts on the local people – the town of Goolwa was divided over the issue as were the inhabitants of Hindmarsh Island, the Ngarrindjeri women were divided as some opposed the concept of “secret women’s business” and others said it was nonsense. The main people to gain were the developers who had eventual success with their marina and housing estate. The “outsiders” including professors, archaeologists, anthropologists, politicians, bankers and lawyers all made gains – in monetary, publicity or humanitarian rights terms. Their moments of glory seldom acknowledged the difficulties the whole controversy had caused for the Ngarrindjeri people. Ngarrindjeri people have accepted the outcome of the conflict point and whilst they still maintain that the area is a sacred site for Ngarrindjeri women and their “secret business” they allow their people to use the bridge to gain access to their cultural lands.

Captain Charles Sturt on his epic voyage down and up the Murray River in 1829/30 named Point McLeay after one of his officers on their rowing boat and Point Sturt after himself both on the edges of Lake Alexandrina. The large island near the Murray Mouth was named later by Captain John Blenkinsop after the first SA Governor Sir John Hindmarsh. Captain Charles Sturt later became an early settler in Adelaide. After he resigned his commission with the British Military Service he was granted 5,000 acres in NSW in 1835 near what was to become Canberra much later. He purchased a further 1,950 acres in NSW at Mittagong. Two years later he purchased a further 1,000 acres near Sydney where he intended to make a new home. He then overlanded cattle from NSW to South Australia in 1838 to revive his fortunes. This did not work but he was feted in Adelaide as a hero and so he sold all his lands in NSW to accept a government appointment as Commissioner of Lands in South Australia in 1839. He was soon after demoted by the Governor to Assistant Registrar. In 1844 Sturt led an expedition to the Barrier Range area of NSW and he went further trying to cross what was named Sturts Stony Desert. When he returned in 1846 he was made Colonial Treasurer which was a much higher paying position. He returned to England in 1847 to receive the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in London for his inland explorations. Sturt returned to SA and lived on his 380 acre farm and orchard on the Port River near Grange Beach. This was where he had built Grange cottage in 1841. He returned to England permanently in 1853 so his children could be educated in England. The Grange was sold by members of his family in 1877 to finalise his estate as Sturt had died in 1869.

Early pastoralists recognised the value of Hindmarsh Island as a well-watered spot surrounded by water supplies so Dr John Rankine of Strathalbyn took out occupational licenses on most of Hindmarsh Island in 1844. He had a boat as a ferry at Clayton to cart his sheep back and forth across the channel. But in 1851 the Hundred of Alexandrina was declared and surveyed into 80 acre sections for sale to farmers. The land was quickly taken up when made available for sale in 1854 and the wealthy of Strathalbyn including the Rankins, Gollans and Maidment family bought some land. One of the early farming settlers was Charles Price. Price and his family arrived in Melbourne in 1853 when he was aged 48 but he decided he did not like Melbourne and he voyaged to Port Adelaide. From here he took up land on Hindmarsh Island in 1853 against the wishes of Dr Rankine and he was the first to import cattle from his home county Hereford in 1866. He was also the first to import Shropshire sheep from the neighbouring county of Hereford earlier in 1855. He ran his Hereford cattle stud on the island from 1867 till his death in 1886 and during this time he sold prized stud cattle to George Fife Angas and John Riddoch. His 983 acres were sold at £5 per acre and his son moved on to Eyre Peninsula. Charles Price was buried in the Island Cemetery. Not far away is the Hindmarsh Island School which started in 1880 and closed in 1954. The building is now a part time café of sorts. Next to that is the island butter factory with grand buttresses. It operated from the late 19th century until 1936. Not far away is the Murray Mouth. There was also a Wesleyan Methodist Church on the island which opened in 1857 and closed around 1887 and was then demolished.

The local residents erected a stone cairn memorial to Captain Charles Sturt on the island in 1930 one hundred years after his discovery of the island in 1830. It is also a memorial to the other early explorer of these parts Captain Collet Barker (1784-1831) who explored here in 1831 just after Sturt. As a military officer he had served in India and explored areas in WA including King George Sound where Albany is located. Here he was in charge of the settlement at Raffles Bay with a group of convicts to control. His name was later used for the inland settlement of Mt Barker north of Albany. He was recalled to Sydney with the convicts in 1831 and Raffles Bay settlement was closed down. The Governor of NSW told him to explore the Fleurieu Peninsula region on his way back to Sydney. In SA he climbed Mt Lofty which had been named by Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802. Barker named the Sturt River which he discovered. Collet Barker then explored areas from Cape Jervis to the mouth of the Murray River. Here he was speared by local Aboriginal people. There is a fine memorial to Collet Barker in St. James Anglican Church in Sydney from his fellow officers. Barker’s journals were especially important as they convinced Sturt that the mountain he had seen from Lake Alexandrina was not Mt Lofty but another mountain. Sturt altered his maps and charts and named the second mountain after Collet Barker. This was done by Sturt in 1834.