Top 10 Worst Historical Sites in the United States

Fact & Fiction

Mr. Loewen is author of Lies Across America.

These are my"Top Ten Silliest Historical Sites." Be warned, however, I use the word"silliest" in a very reserved sense. On one hand, these sites are indeed silly -- they distort and mangle the historical truth. On the other hand, however, they are also harmful and dangerous to those who accept their teachings as fact and truth. You have been warned.

#10 A Three-Month War Gets Five Years

In Dover, New Hampshire, and across the United States, stand more than 50 statues of"The Hiker." He represents the Spanish-American War much as"the doughboy" represents World War I. Almost every monument also includes a Maltese Cross in a circle, the symbol of the war. But why do these monuments say"Spanish-American War Veterans, 1898-1902," when the Spanish-American War lasted only about three months? The answer is, because these monuments are not really about the Spanish-American War, at least not primarily. They commemorate our war against the Philippines, which began in 1899, when we attacked our ally the Filipinos in the suburbs of Manilla. Teddy Roosevelt declared that war over on July 4, 1902, although army historians note that guerilla warfare dragged on for several more years. The Dover hiker even claims we fought"to succor the weak and oppressed against foreign tyranny and to give Cuba and the Philippines a place among the free peoples of the earth." Actually, the Spanish-American War did begin with some anti-imperialist sentiment, but in the Philippine-American War we were the"foreign tyranny." That's why our monuments to it bear the name of a much nicer war.

#9 Those Stupid Indians! -- Selling Manhattan for $24 Worth of Beads!

At the bottom of Manhattan, there's a statue that shows a Dutchman buying the island for $24 worth of beads in 1626. The truth is nothing so sweet. The Dutch gave perhaps $2400 worth of trade goods -- metal kettles, steel axes and knives, guns, and brightly colored wool blankets -- to the Canarsies, who lived in Brooklyn and had no claim to Manhattan. The Weckquaesgeeks, who did live on Manhattan, were not amused. Then in the 1640s, with help from the Canarsies, the Dutch exterminated most of the Weckquaesgeeks. Ever since, the $24 myth has made Indians look silly, because telling what really happened might make the Dutch look immoral.

#8 George Washington Prays for God's Help at Valley Forge

The largest building on the tour of Valley Forge National Park is the Washington Memorial Chapel, begun in 1903. Its dominant characteristic is its two matched sets of dazzling stained glass windows, one depicting the life of Jesus Christ, the other the life of George Washington."Washington in prayer at Valley Forge is seen in the central opening over the door," explains the handout given to visitors. Next to a bush, the general kneels in prayer to Almighty God, seeking God's assistance when it seemed only He could rescue our troops, starving and freezing at Valley Forge. The prayer story derived from none other than Parson Weems, promulgator also of the cherry tree myth. Actually, Washington never prayed for God's aid, and for that matter, the troops were never starving or freezing at Valley Forge. In addition to the chapel, Washington also kneels in prayer in bronze at the nearby Freedoms Foundation, in a painting in the Valley Forge Historical Society Museum, and on stamps issued by the United States Postal Service for the 150th and 200th anniversary of the 1778 non-event.

#7 The Jefferson Memorial Misquotes Thomas Jefferson

The Jefferson Memorial, dedicated in Washington, D.C., in 1943, makes six errors in its quotation of the Declaration of Independence! Worse is what it does to Jefferson's words on its third panel, described by the National Park Service as"devoted to his ideas on freedom of the body and to his beliefs in the necessity of educating the masses of the people." This panel juxtaposes fragments from widely scattered writings of Thomas Jefferson to create the impression that he was very nearly an abolitionist. In their original contexts, the same quotations reveal a Jefferson conflicted about slavery -- at times its harsh critic, often its apologist.

#6 Hodgenville, Kentucky: Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace Cabin - Built Thirty Years After His Death!

Long ago, a lad at the University of Wisconsin answered a class assignment with the now famous blooper,"Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands." The reality is even sillier: Abraham Lincoln had been dead for thirty years when his birthplace cabin was built! This cabin then journeyed to a world's fair, to Coney Island, and even got commingled with logs purporting to be the birthplace cabin of Jefferson Davis! Nevertheless the National Park Service solemnly tells tourists not to use flash photography, lest they somehow damage the historic logs!

#5 Muscatine, Iowa, Honors Red Men Who Can't Join

If we go straight up the Mississippi River to Iowa, eventually we will reach this statue in Muscatine's Riverside Park. A half-clad male Native American gazes toward the Mississippi. It says"Presented to the city by the Muscuitine Tribe #95, Improved Order of Red Men" and"dedicated to the Mascoutin Indians in 1926." Not only did Native Americans have nothing to do with the statue, but for more than half a century after its dedication they were not allowed to join the society set up to honor them! When the statue went up, there were two Red Men for every Native American, and it looked like American Indians were a vanishing race. Today the Red Men are down to just 28,000, while Native Americans total more than two million. Now, however, Native Americans can join the Red Men, although the organization does not know if any have ever done so.

#4 Confederate Dead Are Everywhere

Heading east from Texas, we reach Cleveland, Mississippi, a hundred miles below Memphis. A typical Confederate monument dominates the lawn of the courthouse, the usual bronze sentry on a pedestal, on whose base are the words:"Bolivar Troop Chapter U.D.C. / C.S.A. / To the memory of our Confederate dead / 1861-65." But Cleveland never had any Confederate dead, because Cleveland did not exist during the Civil War or for some decades afterwards. All across America, from Helena, Montana (!), to Rockville, Maryland, stand"loving tributes to our Confederate soldiers." As a result, states that were predominantly Unionist now look Confederate. Kentucky, for example, did not secede. In all, some 90,000 Kentuckians fought for the United States as against 35,000 for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, today the state boasts 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones!

#3 Pittsburg, Texas, Where Flight Began

All ye who learned that the Wright brothers invented the airplane and first flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, hark! The State of Texas tells quite a different story. In downtown Pittsburg an official Texas marker announces:

The Ezekiel Airship
Baptist minister and inventor Burrell Cannon (1848-1922) led some Pittsburg investors to establish the Ezekiel Airship Company and build a craft described in the Biblical book of Ezekiel. The ship had large fabric-covered wings powered by an engine that turned four sets of paddles.

The marker goes on to tell that the plane"was briefly airborne at this site late in 1902, a year before the Wright brothers first flew." It does not tell what is plainly visible in this drawing, part of the official logo of Pittsburg: the"four sets of paddles" rotated vertically! Such paddlewheels work fine on a river, where a clear demarkation exists between water and not-water. In an airship, after a paddle moves down, generating lift, and backward, generating forward movement, it unfortunately moves up, negating any lift, and forward, nullifying any forward motion. The Ezekiel Airship never got off the ground, despite the claims of the Texas Historical Commission. Rev. Cannon eventually conceded as much, concluding,"God never willed that this airship should fly."

#2 A"Most Horrible Indian Massacre" in Almo, Idaho

Almo, Idaho, boasts the most deceitful historical marker in the United States, commemorating a"most horrible Indian massacre, 1861." It is also perhaps the most beautiful, carved into the shape of the state of Idaho. Only trouble is, the massacre never happened. Thus this marker teaches us that every historic site is a tale of two eras -- what it is about and when it went up. And this marker tells us something about 1938, when it went up, but nothing whatever about 1861, when nothing happened in Almo, so far as we can tell.

#1 Columbus Discovers Sacramento

A huge statue of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain dominates the ground floor rotunda of the California Statehouse. As far as we know, Columbus never got to Sacramento. Even sillier, he holds up a sphere to persuade the Queen of the roundness of the earth. Actually, novelist Washington Irving, who invented Rip Van Winkle, popularized the flat-earth fable in 1828 in his best-selling biography of Columbus. Writers of American histories soon picked up the story, and since textbooks tend to be clones of each other, Irving's little hoax persists in some books to this day.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Jonathan Dresner - 10/16/2010

Did you actually look at the results? The first one is to a book. A relevant and scholarly book, even. You can improve the search somewhat by doing it in Google Scholar.

Ronald R. Bromund - 10/16/2010

Come on...I'm looking for an academic journal article or a good sound historical research based book. Sorry I didn't specify. Go figure, I didn't even think to use the Power of Google...

Jonathan Dresner - 10/15/2010

Try google and see what comes up.

Ronald R. Bromund - 10/15/2010

Mr. Loewen stated, "Actually, Washington never prayed for God's aid, and for that matter, the troops were never starving or freezing at Valley Forge."

I guess I can understand, somewhat, the debate over whether or not Gen. Washington actually prayed for God's aid at Valley Forge, but what I would like some clarification on, is the comment about the troops never starving or freezing at Valley Forge. Can you please elaborate. How would you describe the conditions at Valley Forge then? If possible, can you give me the best reference book/article to set my previous beliefs about what really happened at Valley Forge.

James W Loewen - 10/7/2007

Coming upon this comment for the first time today, 5 years after it was written, my wish for Mr. Miller is that he relax a bit, ESPECIALLY in his use of parentheses. In one short paragraph he uses 9 ('s and 7)'s! Something about my list of silly sites struck a nerve, and it wasn't to Miller's funnybone. Pity.

Georgie Porgie - 5/11/2007

For your information you dont know crap about the Ezekiel Airship or Pittsburg. So next you want to post stuff that is not true do your research first.

Kevin J Trotman - 3/12/2007

If you had bothered to find out how the Ezekiel Airship's paddles worked, you would find out that they go vertical on the upstroke, therefore NOT countering any lift achieved during the down stroke... therefore negating your argument.

John Edward Philips - 10/11/2005

a world wide survey of worst historical sites?

richard j rule - 8/19/2004

i am not having any luck finding out about a massacre at loveland co. larimer county " indian creek" do you have any info or can anyone help. thanks

Daniel E. Rosenthal - 8/12/2004

There were many more than 6 major Indian massacres in the far west--many of them in California. There were more than a dozen such incidents on the great plains in which
more than 75 native people were killed:

1. 1855 Ash Hollow. 86 Lakota killed.
2. 1858 Antelope Hills. 76 Comanche Killed.
3. 1859. Rush Springs and Crooked Creek. 105 Comanche
killed in attacks on 2 villages by same army unit.
4. 1863 Bear River. 278 Shoshone killed.
5. 1863 Whitestone Hill. About 150 Lakota killed.
6. 1864 Sand Creek. 163 Cheyenne and Arapaho killed.
7. 1868 Washita. 111 Cheyenne killed.
8. 1870 Marias River. 176 Blackfeet killed.
9. 1871 Camp Grant. 85 Yavapai-Apache killed.
10. 1877 Big Hole. 87 Nez Perce killed. The soldiers
were eventually driven away.
11. 1890 Wounded Knee. About 153 Lakota killed.

There were many "smaller" massacres as well; e.g.
Sappa Creek in 1875 where 27 Cheyenne were killed.

James W Loewen - 2/3/2004

Shows what I know: I thought African Americans did have something to do with the traffic signal and a machine that helped to shape shoes. If they did not, would you email me privately (jloewen@zoo.uvm.edu) or here to disabuse me?

James W Loewen - 2/3/2004

I should never have written that GW never prayed. Forgive me.

The Red Men (that's not their full formal name) are a club, like the Odd Fellows. I had thought that was clear from the ironically written entry.
In Almo, NO ONE was massacred. It never happened. Check out my book (LIES ACROSS AMERICA) for more on all three of these sites.

James W Loewen - 2/3/2004

Jefferson's writings about black inferiority are surely an apologetic for slavery. At times, to be sure, TJ wrote against slavery, at times for it. Seems to me, he was increasingly for it as he aged. His correspondence with Edward Coles shows this, I think. Coles tries in the nicest way to enlist Jefferson to take some kind of stand against slavery and he just won't.

carrie palmer allen - 11/28/2003

being an avid reader of historical events i am searching the internet for all indian massacres and ran across this one it is presented very very well and i enjoyed it and have printed it off for my own benefit thanks for a job well done carrie palmer allen karia32@yahoo.com

sonja bailey - 11/28/2003

Can you tell be about the indian massacre that took place in Murrqay County tennessee in the 1800's.

Paul Brown - 7/30/2003

Perhaps the sign at Almo is only wrong by a couple of years and is displaced a couple of hundred miles in a westward direction. Oh, and it was a massacre OF Indians, not a massacre BY Indians:

Brigham D. Madsen
Utah History Encyclopedia

[Bear River Massacre Site]

Bear River Massacre site, looking east for the Shoshone camp. General Connor came down the slope

On 29 January 1863 Colonel Patrick Edward Connor and about 200 California Volunteers attacked a Northwestern Shoshoni winter village located at the confluence of Beaver Creek and Bear River, twelve miles west and north of the village of Franklin in Cache Valley and just a short distance north of the present Utah-Idaho boundary line. This band of 450 Shoshoni under war chief Bear Hunter had watched uneasily as Mormon farmers had moved into the Indian home of Cache Valley in the spring of 1860 and now, three years later, had appropriated all the land and water of the verdant mountain valley. The young men of the tribe had struck back at the white settlers; this prompted Utah territorial officials to call on Connor's troops to punish the Northwestern band. Before the colonel led his men from Camp Douglas at Salt Lake City north to Bear River, he had announced that he intended to take no prisoners.

As the troopers approached the Indian camp in the early morning darkness at 6:00 a.m., they found the Shoshoni warriors entrenched behind the ten-foot eastern embankment of Beaver Creek (afterwards called Battle Creek). The Volunteers suffered most of their twenty-three casualties in their first charge across the open plain in front of the Shoshoni village. Colonel Connor soon changed tactics, which resulted in a complete envelopment of the Shoshoni camp by the soldiers who began firing on the Indian men, women, and children indiscriminately. By 8:00 a.m., the Indian men were out of ammunition, and the last two hours of the battle became a massacre as the soldiers used their revolvers to shoot down all the Indians they could find in the dense willows of the camp.

Approximately 250 Shoshoni were slain, including 90 women and children. After the slaughter ended, some of the undisciplined soldiers went through the Indian village raping women and using axes to bash in the heads of women and children who were already dying of wounds. Chief Bear Hunter was killed along with sub-chief, Lehi. The troops burned the seventy-five Indian lodges, recovered 1,000 bushels of wheat and flour, and appropriated 175 Shoshoni horses. While the troops cared for their wounded and took their dead back to Camp Douglas for burial, the Indians' bodies were left on the field for the wolves and crows.

Although the Mormon settlers in Cache Valley expressed their gratitude for "the movement of Col. Connor as an intervention of the Almighty" in their behalf, the Bear River Massacre has been overlooked in the history of the American West chiefly because it occurred during the Civil War when a more important struggle was taking place in the East. Of the six major Indian massacres in the Far West, from Bear River in 1863 to Wounded Knee in 1890, the Bear River affair resulted in the most victims, an event which today deserves greater attention than the mere sign presently at the site.

See: Brigham D. Madsen, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (1985).

Paul Baylis - 2/22/2003

Take a look at this website when you get a chance:
http://www.medugorje.com/misc/secrets.html. To know more just type "Medjugorje" in google search box. Or follow the links.

Take care,

Paul Baylis

Andre Vaughn - 11/20/2002

The top 10 worst historical sites is pretty good! Just goes to show the outright lies we have learned through schools & books.

It is about time we all learn the "truth" about historical inaccuracies!

Now, if you could bring to light other inaccuracies such as the inventions of blacks in america which includes: The elevator, the traffic signal, refrigeration, and shoe lastings!!

Nick Mallory - 10/11/2002

The day a leader says 'God doesn't exist, there's no supernatural diety up there looking out for us, it's up to us. We have reason, rationality and science on our side. Let us trust to our own efforts, our own hearts and brains, our fellow man to aid our cause. There is no heaven, there is no hell, heaven is here and now. We have the power to create a better world if we have the will. Leave superstition to the past, let humanity grasp the future' is the day i'll call him a great leader. That's also the kind of attitude that might achieve something. Tyrants are stopped by armies, not priests.

David Salmanson - 7/9/2002

The Order of the Red Men were (and apparently still are) kind of loke the Elks except they base their rituals (or they used to base their rituals) around made up Native American themed stuff. Washington may well have prayed for guidance at Valley Forge, but he left no record of it if he did, and the troops at Valley Forge were not in combat and busy being shaped into an army by Baron von Steuban (who had quite the liquor cabinet. It's at the Fraunces Tavern Museum in NYC, although probably not on display.)

Michael Ondrusek - 7/9/2002

There are a few accounts that don't do much for me. One is # 8 dealing with Washington praying to God. Is it true that Washington NEVER prayed to God? Not once?? Ever?? How do are we to know this? I'm not one to pray to God either, but I think there should be included some explanation for this. Also, his troops were NEVER hungry or freezing?? In the winter time?? I'd think that all troops, engaged in battle, anywhere were generally always hungry.
In # 5 the description of the Muscatine Riverside Park I get no understanding of who the Mascoutin Indians were/are, nor do I understand who the Red Men were/are. What is the society of Red Men and who, if not them, belonged to it?
#2 tells of a marker commemorating a "Most Horrible Indian Massacre". Who was massacred, Indians? White settlers?? The U.S. Cavalry?? Then, we are told that: "this marker teaches us that every historic site is a tale of two eras -- what it is about and when it went up. And this marker tells us something about 1938, when it went up, but nothing whatever about 1861, when nothing happened in Almo...." Well, I understand that this is summertime and a lot of people are on vacation, but Mr. Loewen, whose work I immensley appreciate, should understand that people are still reading this site and would like just a bit more to fill in the many blanks offered up here. Thanks.

Clayton Cramer - 7/9/2002

Mr. Loewen asserts "Actually, Washington never prayed for God's aid, and for that matter, the troops were never starving or freezing at Valley Forge."

I suggest that Mr. Loewen's claim is, at best, unlikely, when you read what Washington actually wrote as general orders during the war. Here's just one example from his May 15, 1776 General Orders, which you can find (very easily) at the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress web site:
The Continental Congress having ordered, Friday the 17th. Instant to be observed as a day of "fasting, humiliation and prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the Arms of the United Colonies, and finally, establish the peace and freedom of America, upon a solid and lasting foundation"--The General commands all officers, and soldiers, to pay strict obedience to the Orders of the Continental Congress, and by their unfeigned, and pious observance of their religious duties, incline the Lord, and Giver of Victory, to prosper our arms

Keith Miller - 7/9/2002

SITE meant as per Mr. Loewen's essay; mis-typed as "cite." Sorry about that! Keith Miller

Keith Miller - 7/9/2002

I am prompted to present this comment (and I used word "sight," not "cite" purposely. The worst "sight" then is reading the essay above by Mr. James Loewen (a "capsule" look no doubt into his one-dimensional view (as usual for him) of American history. Evidently Mr. Loewen has never made use (learned from, I really mean) the Harvard Guide to American History (either 1954 or 1963 editions)--articles pertinent for writing balanced, even-handed accounts of America's past. So, I would make here such essays as those, reading assignments for him (as for those people unfortunately deluded by his warped interpretation(s) of our past). To which I would add for all, including Mr. Loewen, who (pro and con) might also be interested, to wit--"A Challenge to Prevailing Points of View in the Ivory Tower": written by me, and scheduled for issuance this month (July) in The Western Forum of Journal of the West. "I'm leaving now good-bye," from lyrics of Ridin' That Midnight Train. Keith Miller

Clayton Cramer - 7/9/2002

Jefferson was indeed conflicted about slavery, but if he was a supporter for it, could Mr. Loewen give some examples? Jefferson had misgivings about abolition, not because he supported slavery, but because he concerns about the probability that whites and blacks could live together in harmony. He perceived that both black resentment about slavery, and white fear of revenge for the wrongs of slavery, would prevent any peaceful coexistence. When you look at the history of the United States, and how racial demagogues both black and white have played the race card, it does not appear that Jefferson's fears were completely irrational.

To say that Jefferson was skeptical that freedom would work would be accurate. To call him an apologist for slavery seems, from what I have read by Jefferson on the subject, seems quite incorrect. By the late antebellum period, Jefferson's writings on slavery had made him an increasingly pariah figure to many Southern firebrands.