Wow! What an inspirational moment just after sunset on December 1st in a little town in East Central Ohio. This is the America we all hold dear in our hearts.
I stopped in Newark, Ohio on a trip through Ohio for Thanksgiving. I specifically made my way through Newark for the must-see event of the annual lighting of their City Hall/Courthouse on December 1st, 2013. The attached photograph was taken as the Courthouse was spectacularly and lovingly illuminated to celebrate the holiday season.
Man, I love the original Northwest Territory Western Reserve towns settled by former Revolutionary War officers, risk-taking business people, and families willing to sacrifice everything to build a new life for themselves. These towns inspire me with their independent thinking, get-it-done attitude, and absolute love of country and their faith.
The privately written and privately financed Northwest Ordinance of 1787 organized, pre-planned the infrastructure and land-use, and opened up the Great Lakes area of the fledgling United States as a massive new territory north and west of the Ohio River. The Ordinance was the first document in world history to decree that slavery and indentured servitude was illegal forever; and it was written by well-educated, former Revolutionary War officers as private businessmen preparing to expand post-revolutionary America.
Private property rights, private industry, the rule of law, individual liberties, and well-understood natural rights were forever written down on this paper at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern near Boston to codify that each individual could and would be successful if they were industrious enough to stand on their own two feet and work hard. Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler founded a private company called the Ohio Company of Associates and proposed the development of the lands north and west of the Ohio River as a business enterprise.
The Northwest Ordinance was modeled after the original constitution/treaty between the Native American Iroquois nations and became the model document from which our United States Constitution was created two years later. The first settlement in the Territory was built in Marietta, Ohio and included the largest number of former Revolutionary War officers anywhere in America. Interestingly, they used the surveying papers of former British officer George Washington to layout the territory in six-mile squares which would eventually become all of the cities of the Great Lakes states. Most of these former officers and entrepreneurs are now buried in Mound Cemetery in Marietta, Ohio near their first settlement called Campus Martius. Note that they named the town after Marie Antoinette in tribute to her determined financial support of the Revolutionary War effort. Mound Cemetery has more Revolutionary War officers buried there than any other cemetery in the United States. The officers built the cemetery around a large 2000 year old, 80 foot high, ancient conical burial mound out of respect and reverence for the many peoples whom came and settled the area before them.
On the lighting of the Courthouse and its meaning to the people of Newark, Ohio:
I had to arrive quickly after sunset on the first day of Advent to catch the official lighting of the City Hall/Courthouse and grab about 20 spectacular photographs.
Immediately after I was able to take the photographs (before the official celebration), the town square surrounding the building was opened for many people and cars to continuously parade around the square to photograph and celebrate the beginning of the season of giving and rebirth. Each of the parading adults, children, and cars donated gifts of food, clothing, and money for local people who were less fortunate than them to awaiting volunteers placed around the square. There is rampant poverty in the once bustling and wealthy Newark and many other small towns of the industrial Great Lakes. If you don’t remember, the formerly powerful and wealthy Great Lakes invented and produced much of what grew this nation for 200 years and made America what it is today. Those who have done well and are still living in the Great Lakes are giving extensively of themselves to their communities and working diligently to develop and foster a new resurgence of small-town America.
Newark, Ohio and hundreds of other small formerly industrial communities have been desperately wounded by the transfer of most of our “Made in America” industry to Mexico, India, Brazil, and China over the past 30 years; but they are doing everything they can to support budding entrepreneurism to revitalize their micro-economies. Their faith in one another, private enterprise, tradition, hard-work, innovation, charity, extensive private and government-sponsored retraining of people for the new global economy, and in their God are going to be the catalysts for their recovery as communities. This is happening all over the Great Lakes in so many desolate and injured small towns. They are attacking depression and hopelessness like economic warriors with a new-found desire to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and start over. They are relying on individual entrepreneurism and community intrapreneurism.
Small towns in the Great Lakes such as Newark are using numerous methods to bring innovation back to their people by leveraging the original tenants of the Northwest Ordinance: common-sense management, efficiently managing the size and scope of their government and regulations, promoting the renewed concept of free-enterprise, creating public-private partnership between new business and government, respecting the natural rights of their fellow man, and many other rediscovered creative approaches. They have a long way to go, but the seeds of prosperity have been planted in the ashes of despair.
It is my hope that the attached photograph will inspire and motivate you to give back and be part of the solution and the productive future of your communities.
All the best to you and yours during this holiday season.
In Liberty, Fraternity, and Peace,
William H. “Ham” Oldfield
(a 40 year, born and raised “buckeye” through and through)