Goliath in the Land of Gilead


In the previous post I mentioned that Bezaleel Wells had come to Michigan with Bishop Philander Chase in 1832, at the time of the Black Hawk war.

Out of laziness I’ll put something here about a trip to Bishop Chase’s Michigan home that I posted on the phred bicycle touring list, back in August 2002.

I might get in one 4-day tour this fall to Gambier, OH, where I want to spend a day in the archives with the correspondence of Bishop Philander Chase, who left Kenyon College mad after he founded it, on account of a disagreement over control, and came to Michigan in time to get in on the disruption caused by the Black Hawk war. In his memoirs he said he had to get out and plant his own corn (maize) because the men he might have hired were gone with the militia. He tried to found a seminary but while he was in England, trying to raise money, it burned down.

Two autumns ago I went on a weekend trip to the area to see if I couldn’t better identify where that seminary had been. I had been there once before, but nobody I had talked to on the road knew anything about it. This time, on day 2 (or was it 3?) I was nearing the Old Testament Land of Gilead (Gilead Township and Gilead Lake were given their names by Bishop Chase) when Goliath came out to meet me. I knew the name was Goliath, because people along the road were shouting, “Come, Goliath, Come back here!” I didn’t understand Goliath’s language, but if he was asking , “Am I a dog, that you come at me…?” the answer was affirmative. (People who have gone to Sunday School with the King James Bible sometimes know enough to laugh at that point in the story.) This was no ankle-biting yap dog. I felt this one’s warm breath at shoulder level. A Great Dane, apparently. But Goliath and I parted ways without the usual mess involving slings, stones, and swords.

Less than a mile further, and I stopped by a farmstead I had ridden past on my previous trip to the area. It was in the right vicinity. It was on a slight rise in the ground, which would have made it a desirable building site. Why couldn’t this have been the site of the seminary? I stood there on the road a minute, looking up at it, and then looked down. There, right in front of me, was a historical marker identifying it as the site of Bishop Chase’s seminary. It wasn’t a big, official Michigan Historical marker, but a smaller one that had been placed there in the 1950s.

Sometimes, after a long ride, I find a historical marker at my destination, and I feel vindicated. Sometimes there is no marker, and the landowner hasn’t a clue about the history but is interested to learn about it. I enjoy that, too.

The trip to Gambier had to wait until Fall 2003, though. That September, On the way there I stopped again at the site of Bishop Chase’s abortive seminary and took a few photos.


The building above is a church, but it’s not quite at the old seminary site. It’s within a quarter mile or so, if memory serves. The road to the left of the church is the road along which I had come the time when Goliath joined me. In Fall 2003 there was no sign of him.


This was my rig back then. I travelled solo for two days. Then Myra joined me by car, and I threw most of my gear in the car.


This is the site of the seminary. Note that it is on a rise of ground in mostly flat country. The sign had fallen off its little post by this time.


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