The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday Uncle Sam

As we celebrate our Independence Day, it might surprise you to know that though we view Uncle Sam as a fictitious national symbol, there truly lived a man named Uncle Sam.

Samuel Wilson was born on Sept. 13, 1766, in Menotomy, Mass., which is now Arlington. He was eight years old when Paul Revere traveled past the Wilson home yelling, “The British are coming.” The next day, supply wagons, accompanied by 18 British troops, took a wrong turn in the area unfamiliar to them and arrived in the town of Menotomy and not Lexington, where they were headed. They were captured; their supply wagons taken down a ravine on the Wilson property and turned over. All of this had to have produced great excitement for Sam and his 12 siblings, giving them events they would never forget.

When Sam was 14, the family moved to New Hampshire, where they were living when they welcomed home two sons from the Revolutionary War. It was also from here where Sam, now 22, set off for the West with his brother, Ebenezer, 27. This began the journey which would give us our country’s Uncle Sam. The west to them was Troy, N.Y., on the east side of the Hudson River, a navigational destination point. The brothers set up a brick-making business and with that business flourishing, they opened a meat packing operation, building a dock on the Hudson River for easy transport of their processed beef and pork, which they also raised. These very enterprising men advertised in 1805 that they could “butcher and pack one hundred fifty head of cattle per day.” They were able to do this as they made their own barrels for their salted meat, and by also dealing in salt, they had easy access to the amount needed.

As luck would have it, their meat packing business was so successful they were able to bid on, and were awarded, a government contract when the War of 1812 broke out. The contractor for the government was Elbert Anderson, and it was then the casks of meat from the business of the two brothers, E. & S. Wilson, were stamped “E. A. – U. S.” At this time Samuel Wilson was known within the community as Uncle Sam because of his large number of nephews and nieces. It was easy for the employees of their meat packing business for the stamped “U.S.” to mean Uncle Sam rather than United States. It wasn’t long before the soldiers was referring to all government property as Uncle Sam’s. By 1814, the name “Uncle Sam” was referred to in print, and the nation was viewing the birth a new national symbol.

As truth is always stranger than fiction — through an ironic coincidence, Betsey Mann, Uncle Sam’s wife, was a cousin of John Chapman, who became an American icon known as Johnny Appleseed.

Have a Happy Independence Day!

Sue Parrish is a retired museum director and author of the book, “Days Gone By.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Bill OK'd for data recovery OTTUMWA — Almost a month ago, the city’s Engineering Department’s server failed. After receiving and installing the necessary parts, attempts to restart the server failed, resulting in a drive being shipped to Data Recovery Services in St. Louis in h

    July 21, 2014

  • Man killed in Wapello County BLOOMFIELD — A man was discovered dead Monday of a gunshot wound in rural Wapello County. However, no further danger related to the shooting is expected. Authorities aren't giving full details of the incident, but a press release said that at 1:21 a.

    July 21, 2014

  • Forensic scientist: Residue doesn't determine who fired gun DAVENPORT — A forensic scientist who testified today in the trial of a Wapello County man accused of murdering his wife said that gun residue should be collected if possible. Seth Techel, 23, is on trial in Scott County, Davenport. He faces charges o

    July 21, 2014

  • Welding academy at Cardinal becomes reality ELDON — Many high school seniors find themselves making the decision to pursue college coursework or enter the work force upon graduation. A new program at Cardinal High School (CHS) eliminates this decision by offering courses that will allow studen

    July 21, 2014

  • 0722 stick horse color photo -L -T -M 4-H Expo encourages creatitivy OTTUMWA — Typically during the 4-H Expo, horses are kept at the horse arena in Ottumwa Park, but Saturday kids galloped around Bridge View Center on homemade stick horses. Children at the expo spent Saturday morning creating their own cowboy vest and

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Water requires extra caution OTTUMWA — Two area drowning deaths in two weeks have authorities focused on the topic of water safety. The Ottumwa Fire Department's Master Firefighter Bill Keith has trained with watercraft and performed multiple river rescues. This week, he said, h

    July 16, 2014

  • Plea settles kidnapping case OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa man originally charged with kidnapping will not serve prison time after a plea bargain to a lesser charge. Adem Anota received a sentence of one year in jail with credit for time served and the balance suspended after pleading gu

    July 16, 2014

  • Gunshot victim found dead BLOOMFIELD — A man was found dead of a gunshot wound in rural Wapello County. However, no further danger related to the shooting is expected. Though authorities aren't giving full details of the incident, a press release said at 1:21 a.m. Monday the

    July 21, 2014

  • NEST program educates parents OTTUMWA — With any new job, you typically go through a training period that prepares you for the future. The Wapello County Iowa State Extension Office is offering both first-time and experienced parents helpful training through its NEST program. NES

    July 21, 2014

  • 0722 OTT hottest day map Heat arrives, but won't linger OTTUMWA — As hot as Monday and Tuesday seem, it’s not really a surprise. This is July, after all. A heat advisory went into effect at noon Monday and will remain in effect until 7 p.m. Tuesday. Forecasters think a front Tuesday night will bring much

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook