Sep 082017

Leland bought this book, Looking for Lenin, intrigued at the possibility that it would shed some light on the recent controversy over statues of Confederate soldiers. The book did indeed provide insight, if not solutions, to the violent disagreements over what to do with these relics, which opponents claim are racist and defenders claim are historical artifacts.

Not all Confederate statues have the same esthetic merits. Many are hollow zinc, off-the-shelf items which contrast with one-of-a-kind bronzes by academically trained sculptors. Springfield has a one of the latter in a Civil War cemetery surrounded by headstones of rebel soldiers killed at the battle of Wilson’s Creek in 1861. A young man in a non-militaristic pose tops the monument. A bas relief bust image of portly General Sterling Price is on the side of the marble plinth. The total effect is not militaristic, yet red paint was splashed on it last week. This in spite of guards hired from the Springfield Police by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration. They say they were there, but didn’t see a thing.

We used this image in Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, our book about Father John Joseph Hogan’s colony of Irish immigrants in Oregon and Ripley counties in the deep Ozarks. The settlement failed because of the disruption and violence the Civil War. This particular monument seems appropriately placed, in an elegiac setting. Some apparently do not agree.

Leland’s review on Lenin vs. Lee

This modestly priced, smartly written, and beautifully photographed and designed book on the purge of Communist symbols has given me some insight into the assault on Confederate statues and monuments. The toppling of Vladimir Lenin’s statues in the Ukraine is admittedly dissimilar to the campaign to get rid of Confederate Generals, principally in the southern United States. One difference is the enemies of Lenin monuments are far right, not far left as they are in America.  Both groups however fulfill Yeats’ prophecy in “The Second Coming”: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity.”

Another similarity is that there doesn’t appear to be any consensus among Ukrainians as to what it all means. A difference is that Lenin has been much more brutalized than our now discredited icons. With one exception that I know about, our Confederate monuments are merely moved or in some cases splashed with paint. Many times, the Ukrainians chop them up and leave their parts scattered about a very disheveled landscape. Artists incorporate parts into bizarre sculptures. To keep large bronze examples from scrap metal pillagers they must be hidden. There is a collector trade in smaller Lenin statues and busts.

Our tributes to rebel generals are a bit better-crafted and more individual than the dull, repetitive, uninspired sculptures of Comrade Lenin. American Beaux Arts works may not be trendy, but they are esthetically superior to the products of the communist propaganda workshops.

Niels Ackermann’s sharp photographs imaginatively juxtapose these cast-off symbols of tyranny in a disordered environment. The running transcriptions of the overall puzzlement of Ukrainian citizens written by Sebastien Gobert are at times hilarious and parallel American puzzlement. A few Ukrainians, like Yevgenia Moliar, curator of art projects of Kyiv Foundation, thoughtfully point out the unanticipated consequences of statue toppling. Officials in favor of statue destruction censor discussion of the subject: “They’ve tried to create a state ideology that condemns any form of criticism.” This, ironically, has caused a renaissance of support for these relics: “In my opinion, nothing did more for the popularity of Soviet symbolism than the current process of decommunisation.”

What I got most of all out of this was a similarity in the diversity of responses to both decommunisation in the Ukraine and purging the memory of slavery in the U.S. Whatever the justification, both campaigns will leave an empty public space with nothing to replace the banished statuary. “The Second Coming” wrote in the beginning essay, “Leninfall is not just an act of violence against history. The empty plinths that litter the towns and villages of Ukraine today, much like the stumps of felled trees, attest to its destructiveness. They become points of convergence for contending visions of national representation, posing the question: What’s next?”

Congratulations to the publisher, Fuel. Last Christmas I gave copies of their provocative book, Soviet Bus Stops, to my wife and two sons. It was well received by this generally critical group. I’ll be purchasing multiple copies of this intriguing book for next Christmas.

The book is available on

Jul 202017

Today’s soon-to-be parents research names for the next scion of the family from lists of  trendy baby names, popular fiction, rock/pop stars or the hottest chick flick of the season.  “Apollinaris” hasn’t made any of these lists for a long time. But in the mid-nineteenth century, naming sources were more limited. Family Bibles, occasionally Shakespeare’s characters, or – in this case – the early saints names were tapped.  Today, July 20, on the Catholic calendar is the feast day of Apollinaris, a Syrian saint of the second century, named bishop of Ravenna, Italy by St. Peter himself. He was the first of several Appollinarises who achieved sainthood over the early centuries of Christianity. An auspicious lineage for the name of a miller on clear stream in the mid-nineteenth century Ozarks

In the fall of 1857,  John Joseph Hogan made his first exploratory trip to the Ozarks in search of “land for people of small means” (poor Irish immigrants). He and a surveyor explored  from Greenville to west of the Eleven Point River and back. Near the Current River they came across a mill, owned by one Appollanaris Tucker:

Traveling by way of Brunswick, Jefferson City, St. Louis, Old Mines, Potosi, Iron Mountain and Frederick Town, I halted at Greenville, in Wayne County, where I hired a surveyor familiar with the country. I examined the lands on the head waters of Little Black River, Cane Creek, Brushy Creek, in Ripley (now Carter) County, and entered four hundred and eighty acres in a body on Ten Mile Creek, making arrangements at once to put men thereon, opening and cultivating it.

With the surveyor I rode westward, across the Current River, by Van Buren, up Pike Creek, thence southward over the great divide east of Eleven Points River as far as the head waters of Buffalo Creek, thence eastward along Buffalo Creek and its tributaries to a ford on Current River. At this place there was a mill and homestead owned and occupied by a man named Appollinaris Tucker; he and his family were the only Catholics known to be residing at that time in that district. At the time of my arrival, Mrs. Tucker was in the last stages of her mortal illness, in which it seemed God’s Holy Will that she should linger until her longings could be gratified to receive the last Sacraments; and, as it happened, from the hands, of the first priest known to have come into that region of country. After Mrs. Tucker’s death, I returned homewards, by way of Iron Mountain, St. Louis, and Hannibal, to Chillicothe.

Mystery of the Irish Wilderness

We tracked in our Jeep the areas that Hogan covered on horseback when we were working on Mystery of the Irish Wilderness. We did find record of the Tuckers’ land purchases, but little else.  One of the largest springs in Missouri is Tucker Bay Spring in Ripley County. Its average flow is 24 million gallons a day. Jo Schaper notes that “very little is known about this spring, either geologically or historically. The spring is a boggy, low area (locally known in the Ozarks as a ‘bay’).”

Appollinaris and Ellen Tucker purchased government land in 1854 and 1856 in Ripley County.  . . .  There is no record of the mill after the Civil War or what became of Appollinaris. Tucker Bay Spring, large … but curiously unstudied, flows into the Current River.”

 Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, caption, page 25