As we sat high up in Autzen Stadium I painted more of a historic picture for my kindred and friend who was a logger up in Blue River. In 1972 Michael Dundon bought about $600 dollars worth of art supplies for Christine Rosamond Benton who in two years would become the world-famous artist known as Rosamond. If Michael had not encouraged my sister to paint, she may never have married Garth Benton, the cousin of the world-famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton, the grand-nephew of the author of Manifest Destiny. Senator Thomas Hart Benton was the father-in-law of John Fremont ‘The Trail Blazer’ and first presidential candidate of the Republican Party he co-founded. Michael and I share a nephew, my sister Victoria having married Jim Dundon and born him a son, Shamus Dundon.
It is still up for grabs as to who found the Oregon Trail. The Astorians give Robert Stuart (Stewart) of Scotland credit, he sent West by his business partner, John Astor, who Astoria Oregon is named after.
Senator Benton was the proprietor of the Oregon Territory, and straddled the fence when it came to being an Abolitionist. The British were trying to capture Texas and Oregon in order to stop slavery from spreading west. Benton’s kindred were the Flower of the South and needed their political backing in order to expand the United States west of the Mississippi and Missouri River. Here is the equivalent of the Norman Invasion of Britain. John Fremont is William the Conqueror with his wife, Jessie Benton, by his side, or at home weaving the tapestry that would change the map of the United states forever.
The Artist, Benton, was a muralist who rendered the conquest of the West. Thomas also paid homage to the Ozark Hill People, as did my grandfather, Royal Rosamond, in his poetry and novels. Here is America’s Artistic Dynasty that has overcome the West and is prepared to launch America in a new direction. Garth looks like Senator Benton. Fremont was his Standard Bearer. One can say the Norse Grail has come to America, as well as peace, a deserved rest.
Thomas Hart Benton
Born April 15, 1889 and growing up in Neosho, Missouri, only several decades after the Civil War, Thomas Hart Benton remembered many stories of Union and Confederate veterans and the old settlers from the hills of the Ozarks. These characters made for colorful celebrations in the isolated little town.
Politicians were significant in young Benton’s life. He was named for his legendary grand-uncle, a Democratic senator when Missouri entered the Union. The politics played out by Benton’s father, a lawyer and congressman, gave Benton an intense concern for the American land and its destiny. From early childhood, he traveled with his father on political tours, observing the country. These early experiences deeply rooted in him a respect for rural and small town people, only to resurface at a later time and come into full bloom with the art of the Regionalists.
Benton also supported all legislation that aided settlers and favored the development of the West, including reduction in the price of government lands, suppression of land speculation, westward removal of the Native Americans, and internal improvements. He advocated government support of Western exploration, with which he was intimately connected through the expeditions of John Charles Frémont, who married one of his four daughters, Jessie Benton Frémont. The Oregon country especially interested him, and he protested the joint occupation with Britain. Yet he insisted that the 49th parallel (the line established) was the only boundary the United States could rightfully claim and deplored the Democratic campaign slogan of 1844—”Fifty-four forty or fight.” As to Texas, although he had protested the 1819 treaty with Spain as one in which the United States gave up its rights to that region, he could not acquiesce in the intrigues that led to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War.
Benton had early come to favor the gradual abolition of slavery, and with the ascendancy of the proslavery Democrats he lost influence in the party. His antislavery sentiments ran counter to majority opinion in Missouri at that time, and with his opposition to the proslavery features of the Compromise of 1850 he was defeated for a sixth term. He returned to Congress as a U.S. Representative (1853–55) but after voting against the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 he was again defeated for reelection. In 1856 he was also defeated for the governorship of Missouri.
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According to his father, the only occupation for a Benton son was that of a lawyer, as only responsible and intelligent men entered the field, and it naturally led to political power. Understandably the elder Mr. Benton could not appreciate his son’s penchant for drawing. In his autobiography, An Artist in America, Benton recounts, “I had drawn pictures all my life. It was a habit and Dad’s disapproval didn’t affect me in the least. I didn’t think of being an artist. I just drew because I liked to do so.”
And draw he did. Benton’s artistic career began early in his youth as a cartoonist for a Joplin, Missouri newspaper. The following year, he enrolled at The Art Institute of Chicago where the exposure to great artists broadened his perception of the art world. This inspired him to pursue his training in the art capital of the world at the time. Paris, Benton said, put young men in highly romantic and emotional states of mind.
Disillusioned, as so many artists before him, with the tedious task of copying from casts and following the formulas laid down by the Paris schools, Benton gave them up to work independently in his studio. Unable to formulate any particular style, he experimented with many of the Parisian modernisms, more specifically, the colorist theory of the Synchromists. Here, the formula was simply form derived from the play of color.
With the onset of World War I, Benton returned to American, locating in New York City. Fresh with knowledge of the classics, familiar with the new conventions, it took one more step for Benton to realize the direction his art ultimately would take him. Circumstances of the War provided this step.
In line for the draft and not wanting, as Benton confessed, to interfere with the progress of any German bullets, he enlisted in the navy. In 1918 he was assigned to the new naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, where he worked as a draftsman, making drawings of the base as records for the architects. For Benton there was a distinguishable contrast in the affected people of the New York and Paris art worlds, and the young men on the base from the hinterlands of America. In the latter, he found a common ground, a return to his rural values. Therefore, as an artist, Benton could not deny the lure of his own family’s history and sought a style that conveyed these emotions.
When he returned to New York, Benton had enough self-confidence and cockiness to scorn the pretentious art community and to pursue a representative art that would be of his own and of his country. At this time, he began his summer treks to a little Massachusetts island. This summer ritual was carried on for more than 50 years. In Benton’s words, “It was in Martha’s Vineyard that I first really began my intimate study of the American environment and its people.”
The time was right for Benton. His life experiences, his background training in art, and the renewed interest in the American tradition after the War by the creative community allowed Benton to develop as an artist.
In 1922 Benton married Rita Peacenza, a talented, beautiful Italian with a flair for the dramatic. She handled all aspects of his life which allowed him the time to develop and work as an artist. They met when she was a student in an evening art class at a neighborhood public school that Benton was teaching. Their son, Thomas, was born in 1926 and their daughter, Jessie, was born in 1939.
In Polly Burroughs’s biography of Benton, she relates this amusing anecdote of the famous painter and teacher Robert Henri who spent part of his childhood in Nebraska.
…Rita mentioned to Robert Henri, a very influential force in the New York art world at the time, whom she met through Tom, that she was taking art lessons from Benton.
What do you think of his work?’ she remembered asking him.
‘Oh, he’s too Michelangelese,’ Henri replied, and dismissed the subject. But it didn’t affect her interest in her teacher or the lessons…
Sometimes controversial, always vocal, Benton gained a reputation as one of America’s foremost painters. Even though critics and peers were harsh, newspapers and magazines throughout the world reproduced and published his work.
In 1935 Benton turned his back on the eastern art establishment, moved permanently to Missouri, and continued to cultivate his grass roots style of art called Regionalism. He became an instructor of drawing and painting at the Kansas City Art Institute where his most famous pupil was the Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock; his well known Nebraska students were Aaron Pyle and Bill Hammond. Regionalism reached its height of popularity in the 1930s with Benton as its chief proponent. Forming a triumvirate, Grant Wood from Iowa, Kansan John Steuart Curry, and Benton rose from the heartland to tell the story of middle America. Benton recalled,
Actually the three of us were pretty well educated, pretty widely read, had had European training, knew what was occurring in modern French art circles, and were tied in one way or another to the main traditions of Western painting. What distinguished us from so many other American painters of our time was not a difference in training or aesthetic background but a desire to redirect what we had found in the art of Europe toward an art specifically representative of America.
Although the movement was short-lived, the country was now conscious of its rich diversity of customs and people.
Thomas Hart Benton can be considered a visual historian. In his long and turbulent art career, he had witnessed vast changes and growth in the land and its people. Yet he recorded and preserved the rural scene all across America. He painted what he saw, as it was, without an idyllic cover. He died January 19, 1975 in his Kansas City studio.
Thomas Hart Benton provided the world with a visual legacy which earned him an important position in the history of American art. As a writer, he left numerous essays and several autobiographies. An Artist in America is personal, full of his wonderful wit and sarcasm; An Artist in America surveys his growth professionally and technically. To read these books is to see the struggle, the influence, and the growth to maturity which is reflected in his style, the style which makes him stand above others, where the world takes notice and pays homage.
The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman
Francis Parkman, author of The Oregon Trail, a proper Bostonian and Harvard graduate of 1844, promptly pursued his interest in the history regarding Indians and the wilderness by traveling west to the Rocky Mountains. He began his journey at St. Louis, first going to Fort Laramie via the Platte River through Nebraska, to Bent’s Fort in Colorado and then back to the river town where he started. From this overland journey, he wrote of the large herds of buffalo, the Indians who hunted them, and his experiences observing this drama. The Oregon Trail was first published in 1847 and 100 years later Thomas Hart Benton took Parkman’s word pictures and turned them into 28 watercolors.
Both Thomas Hart Benton and Francis Parkman had an inherent love for the land and waterways of their homeland. When Benton traveled the back roads and rural areas of the country, he filled his sketch books with material for his paintings. Parkman, as an historian, also went to the American wilderness, filled his diaries with research material, and wrote extensively on the native and foreign inhabitants to North America.
Benton made only a short reference in his autobiography to his work as an illustrator of books. “During this time I also illustrated a number of books, but these also dealt mostly with happenings of the past.” In actuality, he was a renowned book illustrator, doing books for a variety of authors from H.L. Mencken to John Steinbeck.
Through the years, The Oregon Trail was illustrated by a variety of artists. First serialized in The Knickerbocker magazine in 1847-1849, later book-length editions of The Oregon Trail feature illustrations by renowned artists. Frederic Remington provided over six dozen black-and-white sketches for the 1892 edition. These were replaced by color paintings by N.C. Wyeth in 1925 and William H. Jackson in 1931. In 1943, color paintings and line drawings by Maynard Dixon illustrated the text. Thomas Hart Benton’s watercolors accompanied the 1945 edition of the book. [Western American Literature 43.4 (Winter 2009)]
The Museum of Nebraska Art holds 31 works by Thomas Hart Benton, 28 of which are the original watercolors commissioned as illustrations for Francis Parkman’s book, The Oregon Trail. (Full text of the book is online here.)
John C. Calhoun centered his political career around the defense of slavery and the Southern planter way of life. For Calhoun, the specter of a cotton-producing free Texas under British control was an intolerable threat to all that he cherished. Courtesy United States Senate.
John C. Calhoun went much further. Once he had dreamed of becoming president himself, but he knew that his many controversies had probably ended his prospects. Still, Calhoun wanted to shape the 1844 campaign his own way with a popular issue that would unite the South and marginalize Van Buren or any other contenders who might tamper with slavery. Without regard for Tyler’s hopes, he made public a lengthy letter he had written to Lord Aberdeen, the British Foreign Secretary, in which he wrote passionately of Texas annexation in terms of the preservation of slavery and the extension of Southern power.
In the letter, Calhoun brought his powerful intellect to bear in an argument that was later summarized in the campaign slogan, “Texas or Disunion.” As far back as 1831, Southern radicals like Calhoun had spoken of seizing Texas and making it part of the great cotton kingdom. Now, Calhoun wrote, it was going to happen—one way or the other. If Texas annexation were rejected, the South would not stand by and allow Texas to come under the domain of Great Britain. Rather than let that happen, the Southern states would secede and join with Texas in a new Confederacy.
Did the annexation of Texas lead to the Civil War?
Calhoun intended to scare off the opposition by threatening to wreck the country if Texas annexation was defeated. (He would not live to see the Confederacy become a reality 17 years later.) Instead, he ignited a firestorm. Texas annexation was no longer a mere question of expansion, something the United States had been doing since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Nor was it only a partisan issue involving the election hopes of an unpopular president. Now it was a dispute about the very permanence of the American Union itself.
Though he was known as a supporter of both slavery and of westward expanision, Thomas Hart Benton believed southern politicians like Tyler and Calhoun were recklessly provoking sectional conflict in pushing for Texas annexation. Putting his concern for the Union above other considerations, he led the fight on the Senate floor against the measure. Courtesy United States Senate.
Debate began in May on the Senate floor. Opposition to annexation was led not by a Yankee abolitionist like John Quincy Adams, but by Thomas Hart Benton, the Missouri senator who was a well-known expansionist. As a westerner from a slave state, Benton might have been expected to support annexation. Instead, the brawny, verbose Benton was so offended by the cynical maneuvering of Tyler and Calhoun that he marshaled the arguments against the measure. The Texas debt, high risk of war with Mexico, the threat of disunion, and distaste for imperialism all came into play.
Supporters countered with a sensational letter from the beloved and ailing former president Andrew Jackson. With the fervor of a holy warrior, Jackson wrote from the Hermitage that “men who would endanger, by a postponement, such great benefits for our country, for political objects, have no patriotism or love of country, and ought to be publicly exposed—the people of the South and West will withdraw all confidence from them, and send them to their own native dunghills, there to rest forever.”
As debate raged on, the Democratic convention was held in Baltimore. Forced to take some kind of stand on Texas, Van Buren tried to straddle the fence, saying he believed that annexation would come “some day,” but that it was not worth a war. This equivocal stance was unacceptable to a large percentage of the delegates, particularly those from the South. What was to have been a coronation for the former president became a circus of confusion and hostility. James K. Polk, the governor of Tennessee who had been considered the leading candidate for vice-president on a Van Buren ticket, noted that “Fortune is a frolic and there is no telling what may happen.”
Polk’s words were more prophetic than he knew. A thousand Tyler supporters converged on the city and held their own rival convention, convinced that the deadlocked Democrats would turn to the president to unite the party. They were dreaming—the bitterness against Tyler ran too deep for that. Eventually, it was Polk himself who emerged as a compromise candidate.
The hard-working and dedicated Polk lacked the personal charm of Van Buren or Clay, but he was known as a cool and competent politician with close ties to Andrew Jackson. Many historians believe that the nomination of James K. Polk saved the Democratic Party from complete destruction in 1844. (Like Calhoun, Polk would not live to see the party and the nation dissolve in the cauldron of the Civil War.) On sectional issues, there was still room for compromise: to please the southern wing, the convention adopted a plank favoring Texas annexation along with that of the Oregon country, a move calculated to please western voters. As for John Tyler, he was on the outside looking in.
In the wake of this political maelstrom, it came as no surprise on June 8, 1844, when the Senate rejected the annexation treaty 35-16. The needs and desires of the people of Texas never even entered into the debate. It must have been hard for Sam Houston not to say, “I told you so.”
During his years as a senator, Benton became concerned that the issue of slavery would divide the country. He had pushed for Missouri to be admitted as a slave state, viewing the abolition of slavery as dangerous to the union and harmful to blacks.
Around 1835 Benton slowly began to change his views. While he did not view slavery as wrong or wish to abolish it completely, he did not want to see it spread into the territories.
The Sad Parting Between Two Old Friends, 1851
In 1849 Benton traveled around Missouri delivering speeches on slavery. In Jefferson City, he declared, “My personal sentiments, then, are against the institution of slavery, and against its introduction into places in which it does not exist. If there was no slavery in Missouri today, I should oppose its coming in.”
Aside from Texas, Polk was faced with the issue of Oregon. He proposed that the British and Americans divide the territory at the 49th parallel. The British had long desired a split, but had suggested the Columbia River, far south of the 49th, as the point of division. Though the US had far more settlements in Oregon, the British claimed that discovery and exploration made it theirs. In 1846, Polk and Congress notified the British that they had terminated joint occupation of the territory, and that Britain could either go to war over all of Oregon or negotiate a division. Britain chose the latter, and the division was set at the 49th parallel.
Just as the issue of annexing Oregon was being quietly settled, the issue of annexing Texas flared up. In February 1845, both houses of Congress voted to annex Texas. The Mexican government, for its part, had never officially recognized Texan independence, and declared that it would consider any agreement to join the US an open act of war. Reassured by American agents, a Texas convention voted to accept annexation despite Mexico’s warnings, and was admitted to the US as a state in December 1845. In anticipation of conflict, Polk ordered troops under Zachary Taylor to the border of the disputed territory.
In 1841 Congress appropriate $30,000 to pay for a survey of the Oregon Trail and named Lt. John C. Fremont to head the expedition. Guided by Kit Carson and assisted with mapping by German-born cartographer Charles Preuss, Fremont conducted the first of two surveys from mid-June to mid-October of 1842. Upon his return to Washington, DC, he and his wife, Jesse Benton Fremont, prepared the official report to Congress.
Jessie was the daughter of Senator Thomas Hart Benton who was anxious to have the U.S. expand beyond the Great Bend in the Missouri River at Kansas City. She was bright and beautiful and instrumental in helping Fremont draft a document that soared with rhetoric and symbolism.
Fremont led five expeditions to explore the West between 1842-1853. The 1842 trip was in some ways most significant, because it outlined the Platte Valley South Pass route that would be used by most California-and Oregon-bound emigrants. Seven maps were drawn that traced the 1842 journey. Printed in 1846, the maps are based on Fremont’s field journal, as well as sketches and notes by topographer Charles Preuss.
Section II of the seven-map set depicts “the Great Platte River Road” from present-day Grand Island to beyond what’s now North Platte. Even more fascinating than the thin line of river and surrounding topography, are the comments printed on the map. For example, he remarks, “Timber is extremely scarce, except on the islands. Some driftwood and buffalo excrement makes the fuel, as that of camels does in the deserts of Arabia.”
Dec. 22, 1765, Scotland
Oct. 18, 1853
Per Death Records, Elmwood Cemetery, Michigan Works Progess Administration, Vital Records Project, Vol. 1-2: David Stuart (spelled David Stewart, while marker spells it STUART), was born in Balquither, Scotland and died in Detroit, Michigan on 18 Oct 1853, at age 87 years.
Per Records, plot includes:
*David Stuart (David Stewart) (b. Brooklyn, NY, d. 12 Sept 1868, Detroit, MI at age 52)
*David Stuart (David Stewart) (b. Balquither, Scotland, d. 18 Oct 1853, Detroit, MI,at age 87)
*John Stuart (John Stewart) (b. Mackinac Island, d. 27 Oct 1853, Detroit, MI, at age 31)
*Robert Stuart (Robert Stewart) (b. Scotland, d. 29 Oct 1848, Chicago, IL, at age 63)
*Wife of Robert Stuart (Robert Stewart) (b. NY; d. 26 Sept 1866, Detroit, MI, at age 73)
*Robert Stuart (Robert Stewart) (b. Detroit; d. 22 Apr 1854, Detroit, MI at age 10 years 10 months)
*George F. Turner (b. Mt. Haven, CT; d. 2 July 1850, at 2 years)