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Blennerhassett Island in Wood County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
 

Blennerhassett Island

 

— Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park —

 
Top of the Two Blennerhassett Island Benches image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
1. Top of the Two Blennerhassett Island Benches
The inscription is on polished granite benches that face each other across the gravel walkway from the mansion to the Blennerhassett graves.
Inscription.  Blennerhassett Island, the most famous of the Ohio River islands, was for countless generations the home of Native Americans. It first appeared in written records in 1766 and became immortal in American history as the 1805-1807 base of operations for Aaron Burr’s military expedition against Mexico.

In 1797, Harman Blennerhassett, Sr., and his wife, Margaret Agnew, settled on this island, for eight years making it their home. Here in the wilderness they cultivated the arts, cared for their neighbors, and built a great home which became the wonder of its time.
 
Erected 2004 by the Dennis and Ruby Farley Charitable Foundation, the BB&T Foundation, and the North Parkersburg Kiwanis Club.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicSettlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1766.
 
Location. 39° 16.309′ N, 81° 36.047′ W. Marker is in Blennerhassett Island, West Virginia, in Wood County. Marker can be reached by sternwheeler riverboat passenger ferry ($12 round trip) from Point Park
First Bench, on the left image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
2. First Bench, on the left
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on 2nd Street in Parkersburg between May 1st and early October. Ferry departs on the hour from 10 AM to 5 PM. Last ferry departs the island at 5:30 PM. Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park is closed Mondays (except Memorial Day and Labor Day), Tuesdays in September and October, and for the winter after the last weekend in October until the first weekend in May. You should call ahead to verify this information at +1-304-420-4800 or 1-800-CALL-WVA. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Parkersburg WV 26101, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pleasure Garden (a few steps from this marker); Flower Bed (a few steps from this marker); Arbors (within shouting distance of this marker); Paling Fence (within shouting distance of this marker); Blennerhassett Wash House (within shouting distance of this marker); Blennerhassett’s Well (within shouting distance of this marker); Blennerhassett Kitchen Garden (within shouting distance of this marker); Fishpond (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Blennerhassett Island.
 
Regarding Blennerhassett Island. Aaron Burr and the Blenerhassetts fled in great haste as the Wood County militia, under orders from President Thomas Jefferson, were rowing to the island to arrest Burr and Harman Blennerhassett for treason in connection to their “Mexico” scheme. They were eventually caught in Kentucky, stood
Second Bench, on the right image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
3. Second Bench, on the right
trial, and were acquitted. The Blennerhassets never returned to their island.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .  Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. 2020 article by Kristopher Baisden and others published online in Clio: Your Guide to History. Excerpt:
Although Blennerhassett and his wife put in a great deal of hard work and dedication into building such a magnificent home, they fled their home after he became entangled in the Aaron Burr's expedition plans. Blennerhassett opened his island to Burr to hold base there while trying to expand his plan and gave Burr large amounts of money.

In 1806, Harmon Blennerhassett and Aaron Burr were accused of working together and planning a scheme to have the westernmost parts of the United States secede from the Union. However, when rumors crossed the ears of the Federalists, they began to seize Blennerhassett’s estate and property on grounds of treason. Blennerhassett fled to Lexington, Kentucky, but he was arrested, and eventually, released.
(Submitted on July 14, 2021.) 
 
Additional commentary.
1. 1996 Blennerhassett Reinternment
Harman Blennerhassett’s wife Margaret and their son Harman were originally interred
The Benches Face Each Other Across the Path image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
4. The Benches Face Each Other Across the Path
The two gravestones are enclosed by the low hedge.
in New York City, in lower Manhattan. Their remains were moved to the island now bearing their name in 1996 through the hard work and perseverance of the North Parkersburg Kiwanis Club and others, who began their efforts in 1992. The gravestones (photographs 5 and 6) were dedicated in 1998, and the benches added later. This information was gleaned from an excellent monograph of Blennerhassett Island and the Blennerhassets by Ray Swick, Historian, West Virginia State Parks, published by the State Parks system and titled “An Island Called Eden: The Story of Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett.”
    — Submitted July 16, 2021.

2. The Desert Isle
Poem by Margaret Blennerhassett, the first published poet from West Virginia. Published in Montreal, Quebec in 1822 in the collection The Desert Isle and Other Poems. It references her beloved island, no longer hers and now deserted.
Like mournful echo from the silent tomb
That pines away upon the midnight air,
Whilst the pale moon breaks out with fitful gloom,
Fond memory turns, with sad but welcome care
To scenes of desolation and despair,
Once bright with all that beauty could bestow,
That peace could shed, or youthful fancy know.

To the fair Isle reverts the pleasing dream,
Again
Grave of Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
5. Grave of Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett
“Sacred to the memory of Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett, born in England, 1771, died New York City, 1842. West Virginia’s first poet and a heroine of the Ohio Valley frontier.”
thou risest in thy green attire,
Fresh as at first thy blooming graces seem,
Thy groves, thy fields their wonted sweets respite,
Again thou’rt all my heart could c’er desire
Oh! why dear Isle art thou not still my own?
Thy charms could then for all my griefs atone.

The stranger that descends Ohio’s stream,
Charm’d with the beauteous prospects that arise,
Marks the soft Isles that ’neath the glist’ning beam
Dance in the wave and mingle with the skies,
Sees also One that now in ruin lies,
Which erst, like fairy queen tow’red o’er the rest,
In every native charm by culture dress’d

There rose the seat where once, in pride of life
My eye could mark the queen of rivers flow,
In summer’s calmness or in winter’s strife,
Swol’n with the rains or baffling with the snow,
Never again my heart such joy shall know:
Havoc and Ruin and rampant War have past
Over that Isle with their destroying blast.

The black’ning fire has swept throughout her halls
The winds fly, whistling thro’ them, and the wave
No more in spring-flood o’er the sand-beach crawls.
But furious drowns in one o’erwhelming grave
The hallow’d haunts it water’d as a slave:
Drive on destructive flood and ne’er again
On that devoted Isle let man remain.

Too many blissful moments there I’ve known,
Too many hopes
Grave of Harman Blennerhassett, Jr. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
6. Grave of Harman Blennerhassett, Jr.
“Sacred to the memory of Harman Blenner­has­sett, Jr., fourth child of Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett. Born on Blennerhassett Island, 1803, died in New York City, 1854. Stranger, remember this man who was an artist, his family’s historian, and a devoted son.”
have there met their decay,
Too many feelings now forever gone
To wish that thou would’st e’er again display
The joyful colouring of thy prime array
Buried with thee let them remain a blot,
With thee their sweets, their bitterness forgot.

And oh! That I could wholly wipe away
The memory of the ills that work’d thy fall
The memory of that all-eventful day
When I return’d and found my own fair hall
Held by the infuriate populace in thrall,
My own fireside blockaded by a band
That once found food and shelter at my hand!

My children (Ah a mother’s pangs forbear,
Nor strike again that arrow thro’ my soul)
Clasping the ruffians in suppliant prayer
To free their mother from unjust controul,
While with false crimes and imputations foul,
The wretches — vilest refuse of the earth
Mock-jurisdiction held around my hearth!

Sweet Isle! Methinks I see thy bosom torn,
Again behold the ruthless rabble throng
That wrought destruction taste must ever mourn
Alas I see thee now — shall see thee long
Yet ne’er shall bitter feeling urge the wrong
That to a mob would give the censure due
To those who arm’d the plunder-greedy crew.

Tyrants of Liberty (name so ador’d
By crowds to lawless demagogues a prey,
Who, cheated by the ever-echoing word,
Feel not their liberties are filch’d
Harman Blennerhassett, Sr. (1765-1831),<br>and Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett (1771-1842) image. Click for full size.
Unsigned portraits hanging in the mansion
7. Harman Blennerhassett, Sr. (1765-1831),
and Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett (1771-1842)
away,
Themselves the tools of base Ambition’s sway,)
’Twas yours to loose “the dogs of war,” and cry
“On — On the Traitors! Strike for Liberty.”

Thy shores are warm’d with bounteous suns in vain,
Columbia! Of spite and envy spring,
To blast the beauty of mild nature’s reign:
The European stranger who would fling
O’er tangled woods refinements’ polishing,
May find (expended every plan of taste)
His works by ruffians render’d doubly waste.

Self-dubb’d philosopher — the mob’s delight!
Thy looming Science like thy mammoth’s bones
From quiet earth shall ne’er be dragg’d to light.
Then pray (if thou canst pray) in humble tones,
That trying Death who no distinction owns
From Freedom’s shore may sweep thy coward name,
And save Columbia such blot of shame!

For thee no patriot lyre shall e’er be strung,
Foul stain of Liberty the rabble’s choice!
Not e’en thy bombast from the chair that rung
Shall live in future generations’ voice,
Thy baleful slang no more make fools rejoice
For who would sound the blessings of thy reign,
Confed’rate vile of Atheists and Tom Paine!

Great shad of laurel’d Washington arise!
Methinks I see thy halo’d frowning brow,
indignant see thee turn thy piercing eyes,
Thy voice exclaims — “Where are the heroes now
Who bled for Freedom, that the
Blennerhassett Mansion image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
8. Blennerhassett Mansion
This is the 1980 replica of the mansion, which burned to the ground in 1811. Through historical and architectural research, the mansion has been recreated at its original site for visitors to see. The gravesite described on this page are behind the mansion and can be reached through the portico visible to the right of the main building.
rabble low
Dare thus uncurb’d, on Freedom’s sacred shore,
Their vengeance on defenceless woman pour.”

Thine was the soul that knew no base intent
By cringing arts to win the mob’s applause;
Thy purpose on thy country's welfare bent,
In arms thou’rt foremost to maintain her cause,
And having freed establish’d her with laws.
How must thou weep illustrious shade — to see
Thy plans perverted by Democracy!

Freedom no more — wild Anarchy restrains,
With jarring interests the levelling throng,
Busy Ambition every effort strains,
The fangs of tyranny to plant among
The very mob by whom his curse is rung.
Spare — spare me from that phantom of equality
That equals men in knavery and brutality!
    — Submitted July 19, 2021.

3.

1½ minute video of the historic state park by the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
    — Submitted July 20, 2021.
 
Blennerhassett Mansion Gate Stones image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, August 13, 2022
9. Blennerhassett Mansion Gate Stones
On display at the Blennerhassett Museum in Parkersburg proper. This museum card reads, “These stones are all that remains of the original gate constructed by Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett to their island estate circa 1800.”
A nearby card continues,
The gateway consisted of two tall square-cut pillars of stone between which extended a double wrought iron gate. A flight of cut stone steps stretched from the gate down the island’s bank to the water’s—a distance of over thirty feet. The gate and stairs together formed the formal entrance to the Blennerhassett mansion. For the convenience of their guests, the Blennerhassetts operated a ferry boat, rowed by their slave Moses, that ran across the Ohio from the gate to the Belpre shore.

After the Blennerhassetts fled downriver in December 1806, their estate fell into neglect and then ruin. When a United States Army wife named Lydia Bacon visited the island in 1811, she wrote in her diary that the gateway “was choked by bushes.” Gradually, a number of the fine cut stone were removed by unknown persons to be used in the construction of buildings in the area. Sometime later in the 19th century, what remained of the gate stones were carried over to the site of the right wing building the mansion (which had burned to the ground in 1811) and utilized as steps for a small house that had been built there in 1834. Toward the end of the 1800s, as interest increased in preserving Blennerhassett relics, the gate stones were gathered up once more and stacked against a nearby tree. An iron cage-like barrier was placed around the stones to protect them from being chipped away by souvenir hunters.

Here the gate stones remained until 1984 when they were removed and replaced in storage on the island. (This was necessitated by the start of reconstruction of the Blennerhassett mansion on the site.) In 1990, for their better preservation and in order that the public could view them, these priceless relics were transported to Parkersburg and put on exhibit in the Blennerhassett Museum.
Harman Blennerhassett’s Telescope image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, August 13, 2022
10. Harman Blennerhassett’s Telescope
At the Blennerhassett Museum in Parkersburg proper. The museum card reads,
After buying it in London in 1796, Blennerhassett soon begins using this telescope at his Blennerhassett Island estate where he settled in 1798. He set it up on a specially-built viewing platform atop the roof of his mansion’s center section, the highest place on the island where it could be carried.

When Harman and his family fled downriver in December 1806, due to his involvement in Aaron Burr’s mysterious western expedition, the telescope had to be left behind. It soon was sold, for a fraction of its worth, at one of the 1807 public auctions that dispersed the wealthy Irishman’s property.

The telescope disappeared for nearly a century until surfacing in New York in 1902, when it was donated to the Buffalo History Museum. In 2016 that institution generously sold this rarest of Blennerhassett relics to the Friends of Blennerhassett so it could be exhibited in this museum for the public’s enjoyment and eduction.
The <i>Island Belle</i> image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2021
11. The Island Belle
State Parks passenger ferry returning from Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 27, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 14, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 236 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 14, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   4. submitted on July 19, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   5, 6. submitted on July 16, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   7. submitted on July 19, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   8. submitted on July 14, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   9, 10. submitted on August 21, 2022, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.   11. submitted on July 15, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Feb. 3, 2023