Dan and George Throop of 1844 School the 21st Century


KI + 2S —> KISS 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24″

I am fortunate that my Great Grandfather was a fair weather civil engineer because over a lifetime of winters he amassed an impressive archive of Throop genealogy. His most productive time was during the Depression, dozens of letters back and forth to Throop relations scattered about the country, before Ancestory.com and those creepy cultish Mormons thought to corner the market. Henry passed it on to my grandfather Ronald, who didn’t touch it, then on to David, my dad, who has an interest, but never took up the hobby to add to it. Now the treasures are in my hands and I continue to take advantage.  I have had the history bug on and off for years, and it is during the intellectual season when it can take hold of my imagination for a day, and I can easily see how ancestor worship has been practiced by cultures from time out of mind.

And I suggest it to anyone lucky to be employed half time at some lessor chore like painting or civil engineering.

Anyway, I have a book by a great, great cousin in Iowa, published in 1940, all about my line of Throops. From William in England, to Barnstable, Mass, to Lebanon, Connecticut, to Hamilton, New York, to me. The book centers mainly on the four generations of Throops in Hamilton, their lives and many letters, and it is like reading a primer in optimism and goodness among a real world of daily god-smiting. Why the great powerful who ruled from on high wouldn’t take an hour to teach a lesson on germ theory to his devoted subjects, is cause for further study into the many religions of woe. I know this: I would not be alive and well-minded today if it weren’t for the devotion and complete faith my forebears had for their god and religion. Death and dying made them humble and good and patient, nearly beyond recognition today. Pleasure slummers they were not, certainly not in the way we expect to be entertained. However, I am certain from reading these letters, that paradise was a human place, and it was a joy to work for one’s food.

I sent the book with my daughter to school to let her U.S. History teacher have a look. I am thrilled to find out he made a lesson for Monday out of letters from two Throop brothers (my 3x great uncles) that parallel the history presently being discussed in class. It’s a fascinating read. These were men who spent their boyhood on a hops farm, their education as simple and straight from the best teachers that very little money could buy back in the early 19th century. That would not stop a nation of nobodies from acquiring a faith, less in the obeyance of a smiting god, than in mankind’s imagination and ingenuity. Many people like Dan DeWitt and George Throop of the Burned Over District of central New York had great faith in the science of mankind. The greatest modern irony is our discounting their achievements as backward and quaint, when what they were is more than our culture will let us become. We’ve been duped into the lies of an industrial capitalism that pretends for its survival that any work is good work as long as it holds an iPhone at the end of a stick. No. Most work for money is stultifying, non-creative, and unnecessary to survival and enlightenment. My great grandfather was smart to stock up on potatoes and a box of genealogy for the long winter ahead. From his work and accounts of the lives before him, I have learned about the great lie that power perpetuates.

I live with it. We live in it. Thoreau wrote, “A living dog is better than a dead lion”. My revision: “A living dog is alive, and a dead lion is dead.”

And that’s about it.

If these men could see us now, twittering and facebooking our recycled ideas in the briefest memes, soundbites, and he-said, she-saids… Oh boy. Oh boy!

I am running for senator in the 48th District of New York State because of the following letters. Please do not vote for me if you cannot desire and dream now a modern rendition of these souls from way back: