Point Pleasant, OH: Pop. 76

“Some folks say it’s haunted. If there are ghosts here, they’re friendly because they don’t hurt anyone.”

Twenty-five miles east of Cincinnati, in Point Pleasant, an unincorporated community of 76 at the mouth of the Big South Forth of the Cumberland River, lies a tiny, 194-year-old cottage that once toured the country, and Ohio State fairgrounds, on a railroad flatcar.

There’s something humbling about these abandoned surroundings that more closely resemble a movie set. There’s a bitterly vandalized general store demanding “CASH ONLY FOR FISHING LICENSE AND HUNTING LICENSE PERMITS.” A historical cannon and Grant Memorial Bridge. A small baptist church imploring us to “GOD BLESS AMERICA AND OUR MILITARY AMEN.” A strip of trailers whose inhabitants quietly eye me and Rachel like the intruders we are.

And the humble, white cottage where,  in 1822, Ulysses S. Grant—commanding general of the Civil War and eighteenth president of the United States—was born.

http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/283206_256786911005472_100000224947540_1236568_3037005_n.jpg

The modest, one-story structure was built in 1817 as a single-room cottage, which it remained when Grant was born in 1822 (and when the family moved to Georgetown, OH the following year).

By the latter half of the century, it was touring the country by train. (These birthplace cottages, they are never static.) By 1927, it was back in Point Pleasant. Less than 40 years later, Loretta took up her post where, today, she comprises a staff of one.

“I think it’s wonderful and I really don’t want to move anywhere else, even if I do retire. And I can sit at my dining room table and watch the boats go down the Ohio River.”

Loretta, who hopes to remain at the Grant birthplace for a full 48 years to match her husband’s tenure at his job, spoke to me at great length about the cottage’s eclectic past, the travelers she meets coming through—and her great respect for and gratitude towards the president whose humble origins she almost single-handedly preserves.

“And I feel like if it wasn’t for Grant, we may not have a country today because we kept all the states united and there wasn’t any more secession.”

An excerpt from that interview is below. It was recorded on a shaky, $80 flipcam. Expect nothing more.

Photos, too.

* * * * *

NOTES:

Current location: Evansville, Indiana

Local time: 9:31 AM

Temperature: 90 F

Destination: Springfield, IL (not quite a birthplace, but not worth missing, either. I am even growing a beard because I haven’t shaved in weeks for the occasion)

Coming soon: reports from the Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis birthplaces, both of which I visited yesterday during my own single-day Civil War-themed Kentucky derby. Suffice it to say that I have never before heard an impassioned analogy drawn between the first and only president of the Confederacy and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

Dumbest thing I’ve done in a chain hotel complimentary breakfast bar all week: mistook a massive butter dispenser for batter, absentmindedly began dispensing it liberally on the waffle maker

Unrelated: the AP has picked up on this project.

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