MARSHALL: Sometimes, our best opportunities come wrapped in our worst problems,
Mr. Washington. It’s
always been my belief that the only way to safeguard the Constitution was to
put it in the hands of the judiciary.
that landmark supreme court case, Marshall traded in
his judicial robes for a spy glass and a survey chain.
government hired him to lead a survey expedition through the rivers of western Virginia, which was
still basically wilderness.
the trip was a big question—would it be crazy, awesome, or even doable, to
build a canal over the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River?
In Sept. of
1812, Marshall and his crew boarded a small wooden boat called a batteau,
determined to find out.
AVERILL: Anyway, this is the title of the map—A survey of the headwaters of
the James River and the Greenbrier and Jackson River and the Great Kanawha or
New River, and the High Road Between them.
Commencing at Lynchburg and ending
at the falls of Kanawha in the
state of Virginia.
I caught up
with him at his mountaintop farm outside of Hinton, WV.
ARRIVAL AT JON’S HOUSE]
Jon has done
a lot of research on the Marshall Expedition and the detailed survey map that
would be sending people from the party out in different directions, especially
if there was a rock outcropping, someplace where they could get a clear
sighting. They would be doing a lot of preliminary drawings, calculations and
things. They would have a little book they would be writing in, using the
instruments of the day, a lot of triangulation to get the measurements.
familiar with the river route from Lynchburg to Kanawha Falls knows that Marshall’s survey
would face at least two major challenges. One: the Allegheny
Mountains. Two: the Lower New River Gorge, known today for its wild
whitewater. So why go to all this trouble to chart a treacherous waterway?
Washington was the one who had the vision for connecting western lands. It
would have really benefitted Virginia. The idea
was to have for Virginia this link
westward that would eventually link with New
Orleans. It would be this amazing trade
really the interstate highways of their day. In a young nation with few good
roads, they were hwat made trade happen.
famous quote is smooth the road and make easy the way.
you think when he wrote ‘smooth the road and make easy the way’ he knew what
was in the Lower New?
Well, actually Washington did know
the territory because he did surveying in the Kanawha Valley.
was an ambitious man.
To build a
canal way over the Alleghenies would have required using all manner of
technology to defy gravity. Here’s a good example.
the New River Gorge Marshall talked about a
series of three tow paths, one above the other. So the river rises, you just
put the horse up one level. Then they would have rings through some of the
rocks so you could just put a rope through them and pull the boat. They were
going to get rid of a lot of those rocks.
work would have come at a human cost too. They may not have had dynamite back
in 1812, but they did have slave labor.
years later, another bold explorer enters the scene.
I’m Andrew Shaw and I’m the trip leader of the Marshall Expedition.
recent college graduate, built a batteau of his own and decided to retrace the
entirety of Marshall’s survey
really think Marshall’s trip is a
testament to the lengths that our founders were willing to go to affect
development in this country. I mean you think about a guy who turned 57 on a
trip to go on a journey that arduous I think is really remarkable.
With a grant
from National Geographic under his belt, he set off with his crew of six
friends, seeking a classic American river adventure.
batteau, the Mary Marshall, is basically a long skinny barge. The
flat-bottomed boat can cruise downstream with heavy loads, but when it’s time
to reverse direction, he and his crew must laboriously pole the boat upriver
with long wooden poles, which they did, for hundreds of miles. Here’s the
started in Richmond on April 5th.
Came upriver for 225 miles, 200 of which was on the James and then 25 of which
was on the Jackson to Covington. That took us through the Piedmont and into
the heart of Appalachia. We then
crossed over the Alleghenies and put in basically exactly where Marshall did on the
Greenbrier. And since then we’ve been living the high life. No more 14 hour days
poling until midnight eating
nothing but peanut butter and nutella. We’ve been enjoying the hospitality in
WV. A lot of good food, bacon and eggs in the Dutch oven every morning in the
fire pit on the boat. Life is good.
When I first
caught up with Andrew, he and his crew had just dropped anchor in Talcott,
along the Greenbrier River. A group of
excited school kids has come out on a rainy day for a parade around the boat
Virginia has been awesome. Everybody here
has been really fired up about the project. People on the bank are excited to
see us, excited to learn about the boat. We got a great reception in Alderson
yesterday. Had an Alderson hearts Batteaux sign on the bridge. We really have
had a great time meeting new people. It’s fun to be in a place where people
appreciate your work.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS: These are early woodworking tools that anybody building a
bateau he was very familiar with all these schools…I’m a retired river guide
with 20 years on the New and the Gauley River…We’ve come a long way in
transportation here but the river has always been a corridor…We have a great
big history around here of river travel.
As the Mary
Marshall moved closer to its New River descent,
locals came out of the woodwork to show their support and share their own
knowledge of river history. Just as it was 200 years ago, says Jon Averill.
I think people would have ridden and told their neighbors that this boat was
coming and that these distinguished people were coming. I imagine as slow as
this boat progressed down the Greenbrier River that
everybody knew about it. I think it was probably a big event to these settlers.
SCHOOL KIDS: BYE! THANKS FOR COMING!]