Youngsholm at Charles Young National Monument
Wilberforce and Dayton, Ohio
We chose this campground primarily because it was in the middle of nowhere. Or, a better way to put it, in the middle of everything we wanted to see in this part of Ohio. Staying here for a while allows us to make day trips out and back to a number of things that were on our list.
We decided to start with the closest one yesterday, and that took us pretty much due north about twenty-five miles, first through a town called Xenia (always wanted to visit a town that starts with an X) and then a bit further north on a two-lane road called Wilberforce. Although I didn’t get the history exactly, Wilberforce is the home of two colleges - a private school called, naturally, Wilberforce University, and a branch of the Ohio public system, Central State College. We ate a picnic lunch at a delightful town park that just sort of appeared while we were driving about. It really is a very pretty place.
But we weren’t there for the schools. Instead we were visiting the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. This is one of the newer parks, created by
Barack Obama in 2010. Like Pullman National Monument in Chicago, they are still struggling to find their mission and define how they want to present their material. Based on the name, and some of the other history, of this monument, I suspect that eventually it will include exhibits that include material on the Underground Railroad and more about the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ down through time.
At the moment, though, this monument focuses on just one single person and just one place from his life, his home where he lived most of his later life just outside the town of Wilberforce. And that person just happens to share a last name with me, although I’m doubtful we are related.
Charles Young was an remarkable man of many outstanding talents. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect to his personality, though, was his determination to succeed even in the face of staggering racism that confronted him most of his life. Against all odds, he was still able to make contributions in the fields of military strategy, diplomacy, education, and he even found time to compose a little music.
When we went to Tuskegee Institute and the Airmen’s Historic sites in Alabama last
year, we learned how the black airmen at Tuskegee fought as bravely as any white soldiers and were the springboard for racial integration of the Air Force. But Charles Young fought discrimination even earlier. He was an outstanding student and placed second on the exams for his district’s candidates to West Point. When the number one candidate suffered a medical problem and was unable to enroll, the opportunity passed to Young, who was only the seventh black person to enroll at West Point, in the 1880s. Although his superiors, and many of his fellow cadets, weren’t interested in him succeeding, he graduated after five years of study and became just the third black to graduate from West Point. He received a commission and eventually rose to the rank of Colonel, serving in various military functions including battles of the Spanish American War.
He served as the military attaché to diplomatic missions in the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and Liberia. While in the Dominican Republic, he wrote a significant paper that outlined the military opportunities of the island. His academic predilections eventually got him an appointment as professor of military sciences at Wilberforce University, where he eventually made his home.
During this long career, he also led a group of black men in taming the western plains and it was there, I learned, that the term ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ came about for two reasons - one was the bravery of the men, but the other was because their curly hair was similar to the manes of the buffalo itself. Young was also the park superintendent for three years at Sequoia National Park and was responsible for building many of the roads that are still bringing visitors into that park. Later in life, he found time to compose music to accompany the poems of his friend, Louis Dunbar, another black man from the Dayton area.
So we learned all that from the movie at the visitor center, the house full of pictures and descriptions, and the young man, a graduate of the local college, who showed us around Youngsholm. One warning about this park, though - you need to call and make an appointment for a tour. It might be possible to get a tour on the same day you call, but you need an appointment. It also won’t take more than an hour to hear the story and see
what there is to see. Definitely don’t plan a full day for this park.
Since we still had most of the day left, we decided to drive over to Dayton (only about twenty minutes), and take in one of Joan’s rebellion items - the Dayton Art Institute. After visiting two of Chicago’s mega-museums, we were a little relieved that the Dayton museum presented a more human scale. It really can be seen all in one day and the setting, on the hillside with a stunning view of the Dayton skyline and the river is very pretty. The grounds are well kept, and there are sculptures scattered among the trees which add to the pleasure.
Let’s face it, Dayton is not Chicago. I looked it up and the metro population is even smaller than Albuquerque’s by a 100,000. And it is less than a tenth the size of Chicago. With fewer people to support a museum, you can’t expect it to have the same quality of its holdings. But I enjoyed what Dayton did have. They had good solid examples of major artists, like Manet, Warhol, Judd, and Hopper. But they also had good works by second-tier artists, many
of whom I had never heard of, but which were still good examples of their styles. (At least as well as I can judge.). There was also a terrific collection of glass art work that they had in a special exhibit. I’ve included a couple of pictures from there, although, as usual, pictures don’t measure up to the real thing.
So we knocked two things off our list for this area. I can tell we will be back to Dayton. It is also good to know that we can navigate in and around the city a little bit easier than Chicago. But we keep getting told to expect a massive influx of people into our campground this weekend - apparently every site, nearly 300 of them, is reserved. So we are going to get a few errands done to beat the crowds. If we can minimize our needs this weekend, maybe we can avoid competing with everyone.
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