PROLIFIC LIFE WITH WIRES: WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Daily Post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: PROLIFIC

This has not been a prolific April. It’s just plain cold. It’s the 18th today and it is not supposed to be this cold. Wet? Maybe. It rains a lot in the spring in these parts. But we shouldn’t have needed another oil delivery this morning. We got one anyway, and probably for the first time in MANY years, we are actually behind in our payments for oil.

We pay all year round to avoid catastrophic single payments, but this year has not been a normal year.

Below, a few very different looks for “prolific.”

Profusion of mics and prolific wires

Prolific wires!

The canal is most prolifically covered with fallen leaves

Violets and dandelions cover the back yard in early spring. And, should we ever have one, I’m sure they will again.

Wild growth on picket fence

Wild profusion of lilies … last spring …

Goldenrod by Roaring Dam

Prolific woodpile

THE 7-DAY BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – DAY 3 – A SECOND ROUND

Sue Vincent from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo, a wonderful site and definitely a thinking person’s website. Anyway, she hailed me to come join this challenge. Again. And I said yes. Why not?

I did this first time around on behest of Judy Dykstra-Brown. Sometimes, getting roped into something is just what we need. My black & white photography never got the energy and effort I’ve used for color photography. This project improved my work.


“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life.
No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”


Having directly or indirectly finagled more than a few people to join this challenge a few weeks ago, I’d feel a bit bashful asking them again, but I invite you to consider giving this challenge a go, even if you’ve done it already. A push to do better work is always good for your art. Moreover, finding a good black & white picture that represents “you” in some interesting visual way poses an interesting mental challenge — an artistic double-whammy, so to speak. At least one of the pictures I used in the first round of challenges turned out to be one of my most popular-ever posts.

Who’d have thunk it.

AUTUMN AT THE BLACKSTONE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I wasn’t feeling well, but Marilyn was insistent. “Autumn is short,” she pointed out and urged me to take a couple of hours and come out. Autumn is a flash of color and then, it’s gone.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

After all, tomorrow, it might rain. I agreed.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We both took pictures — enough to last a while. Autumn will be longer on Serendipity than this brief season will be in New England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

BORN ON THE BLACKSTONE

America: Born Bankrupt


America was born bankrupt. We won the revolution, but lost everything else. Our economy was dependent on Great Britain. We produced raw material, but Great Britain turned those materials into goods for the world’s markets.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

Not merely did we depend on the British to supply us with finished goods we could not produce ourselves, we depended on British banks, British shipping, and British trade routes.

Everything has a price and we had no money. We had hoped we could reach an agreement with England short of war and had there been a less intransigent monarch on the throne at the time, we might have been able to do so. Despite the Massachusetts “Sam Adams faction” who were hellbent for battle, most colonists felt at least some allegiance to England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We had no “American identity” because there was no America with which to identify. Nor was the yearning to breathe free burning in every heart. What the colonists of North America wanted was simple. They wanted the rights of free Englishmen. We wanted seats in British Parliament. We wanted the right to vote on taxes and other policies that affected colonial life. A deal should have been reached, but George III was not a sensible, reasonable or judicious king.

The result was war, the staggering loss to England of their wealthiest colonies and birth of a new nation.

That we won the war was astonishing. We had little in the way of arms and no navy. We were sparsely populated. Existing militias were untrained, undisciplined, little better than rabble. That George Washington was able to turn this into an army was no mean feat. No wonder they wanted him to be the first President.

French military support enabled us to beat the British. It was a loan, not a gift. We agreed to pay it back, so the French revolution was an unexpected and deeply gratifying development. It was like having the bank that holds your mortgage disappear taking your mortgage with it. It vastly improved our debt to income ratio. When Napoleon came to power and suggested we repay our war debt, we said “What debt?”

Our shipping industry was in its infancy. We had few ships or sailors, minimal access to world trade. The British ruled the seas and being soreheads, refused to share it with us. It would take many years before we could challenge their ascendancy on the seas.

What Did We Have?


Slaves and land. Sugar and rum.

If you who think slavery was an entirely southern institution, you’re wrong. Although slaves lived mostly in the southern colonies, they were brought to these shores by New England sea captains, held in New York, Boston, and other northern cities, sold to slavers at markets in the north, then sent south to be sold again to individual owners. The entire economy of the nascent country was based on slaves and their labor. The institution of slavery could not have persisted had it not been supported by business interests in the north.

The new-born United States had, for all practical purposes, no economy. We were pre-industrial when European countries were well into the modern industrial period. We had no factories. We had no national bank, currency, credit, courts, laws or central government. Our only thriving industries were rum and slaves.

Although there was an abolitionist movement, it was tiny, more sentimental than real.

North and south, slaves made their owners rich. North and south, fortunes were made selling human beings, then profiting from their labor. When it came time to write the Constitution and transform a bunch of individual colonies into one country, the Devil’s compromise was needed. Abolishing slavery would doom any attempt to pass the constitution … so slavery became law. The groundwork was laid for the bloodiest war America would ever fight.

It would twist and distort American history, shape our politics, society, culture, and social alignments. Its legacy remains with us today and probably always will.

So How Come We Didn’t Find a Better Way?


Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in civil war. In other words, they did knew it would bite us in the ass. They could keep slavery and form a strong nation — or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.

Was it the lesser evil? Hard to say and it’s a bit late to second guess the past. It was clear from the get-go there was no way we were going to form a nation if slavery was made illegal. From private writings by members of the continental congress, it’s clear they knew the issue of slavery would eventually be resolved by war. Long before 1776, slavery was the polarizing issue in the colonies. So “The Great Compromise” was put into place, the Constitution was approved and a later generation fought the war.

The Right Thing went head-to-head with The Bottom Line. The Right Thing lost. Imagine that!

Eighty years later, 630,000 lives (more or less) would be the butcher’s bill for the compromises made in 1789. An ocean of blood would be the cost of ending America’s traffic in human lives. Many more years would pass before this country’s non-white population would see anything remotely resembling justice, much less equality.

When you dine with the Devil, bring a long spoon.

So About Those Mills …


Slaves, rum, and sugar — the triangle of trade that kept America’s economy alive — was profitable for plantation owners, sea captains, and other slave traders, but it didn’t generate a whole lot of entry-level job opportunities for average working people. A lot of people needed work, even more needed trade goods and dependable sources of income.

Most people didn’t own ships and if they did, were disinclined to take up slaving. It was never a profession for “nice folks” and a fair number of people found it distasteful. Decent people might live off the labor of slaves, but the actual process of buying and selling human beings was more than they could stomach.

So as great political and legal minds gathered in Philadelphia to draft a document to build a nation, other great minds were seeking ways to make money. It’s the American way.

Renovated into elderly and affordable housing, the old Crown and Eagle mill in Uxbridge is beautiful today.

The Crown and Eagle Mill today, renovated into elderly, affordable housing.

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Slaterville Mill -- oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

Slaterville Mill — oldest mill in the Blackstone Valley

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

The Blackstone Canal


On the Blackstone, mill owners urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. the trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

Slow moving water in the canal …

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

What Does This Have To Do With Slavery?


Mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads. Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a top dog on the international scene.

Building the Canal


The Blackstone Canal took 4 years to build, from 1824 to 1828. The main canal runs alongside the Blackstone. In some places, the canal and the river are one. There is an extensive network of small canals, many on tributary rivers like the Mumford. The main canal was designed to handle large barges. It travels in a relatively straight line from Worcester to Providence.

The smaller canals allowed mills to move goods to places not immediately on the Blackstone. Small barges could move cargo between towns and mills.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Big barges were faster and cheaper than horse-drawn wagons. A single barge could haul as much as 35 tons of cargo and only needed two horses going downstream.

The canal system remains largely intact. Trails along the canals where horses towed barges have become walking paths. The barges are gone, but small boats can enjoy the open stretches of canal and river.

Railroads


Ultimately, railroads were the game-changer. As soon as rails from Worcester to Boston, and Worcester to Providence were built, the canals were abandoned. Business boomed.

The Blackstone River was lined with mills and factories at the end of the 1800s. The Blackstone supplied the hydro power and in return, the river was used to dispose of industrial waste and sewage.

75-Train-NK-014a

Photo: Owen Kraus

By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. Fortunately for the river, though not necessarily for the valley’s residents, this was also the beginning of the end of the textile industry in the northeast.

As of 1923, the majority of nation’s cotton was grown, spun and woven down south. Without its mills and factories, the valley’s population began to shrink.

Pollution


In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. It was time to clean up the mess.

We’re still cleaning up. Although not as polluted as it was, the watershed has a long way to go. The river’s tributaries are less polluted than the Blackstone itself because against all logic and reason, waste-water is still being discharged from a sewage treatment plant in Millbury. It’s hard to fathom what reasoning, if any, those who favor pouring sewage into our river are using. The fight never ends.

72-Heron_145

Good news? The birds and fish are back.

American eagles nest in my woods. Herons and egrets wade in the shallows to catch fish that breed there. The river is alive despite man’s best efforts to kill it.

BLACKSTONE AND MUMFORD CANAL LOCKS

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Gears and Engines


Photo: Garry Armstrong

Despite many attempts, the machines used to open and close the locks at the Blackstone Canal in Uxbridge are simply not photogenic. Despite that, they are interesting. These are pretty large locks, too as this canal was intended to deal with full-sized barges coming down the river.

Locks on the Mumford – much smaller for a really narrow canal

HERITAGE AND THE PAST IN THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: TRACES OF THE PAST Y3-05


The entire Blackstone River Valley is a National Historic Corridor. A lot of people don’t realize that we are “one step removed” from a national park and have a good many of the same protections. Many of these opportunities are not enforced, though not from unwillingness. More like “not enough money.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

One of the most lovely and historic parts of the valley is the Blackstone Canal.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong  – The trail along the canal was originally the path used by horses while pulling barges

The Blackstone river was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. In the early 1800s, it was, mile-for-mile, the busiest, most hard-working river in America. Over its 46-mile course, it drops 438 feet — farther than the Colorado River falls through the entire Grand Canyon. By 1790 the Blackstone’s waters powered the pioneering cotton mill of Samuel Slater at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It was America’s first mechanized cotton factory.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Waterfall to the river; straight ahead to the canal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Capital accumulated. Technical specialists gathered. Villages were built. This rapid growth created a need for an improved way of moving materials — other than the rutted dirt roads which had served the area thus far. The Blackstone River has too many twists, turns, falls, shallows, and rapids to be navigable, so during the winter and spring of 1821-2, plans were made to create a canal which would carry goods from mills to the world.

About the Canal


Financed by Yankee entrepreneurs and dug by Irish laborers, it was inaugurated in 1828. The canal follows the course of the Blackstone River and bypasses rapids and shallows using locks.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Over the course of its short 20-year history, the canal spurred commerce and development through the Valley, eventually known as “The Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

It attracted the attention of Boston and brought a rapid entry of trains to the area, making the canal attractive, but no longer workable. Much of new railroad was built along the tow-path of the canal.

The area was (fortunately) bypassed by most urban renewal. It has held onto much of its historic buildings. Its proximity to I-290 and Union Station made it an easy destination for out-of-towners — and more recently, an attractive place for housing and suburban re-investment.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The Canal is a locus of parks ranging from tiny to quite extensive. Now that the canal and river are so much cleaner, you can see many areas where fishing is encouraged as well as canoeing, kayaking and even — where the snapping turtles are in low supply — swimming. This time of year, it is quite simply, beautiful.

Additional historical information in THE HISTORY | THE CANAL and the Blackstone River and Canal National Heritage Park (Gov. Massachusetts)

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017