Francis Bellamy’s house in Mount Morris, NY
Who knew where this name came from? The Allegiance Bed & Breakfast in Mount Morris, New York, “upstate” to us Long Islanders, but actually mostly due west, the road dodging northern Pennsylvania, where there was a once a border sign that greeted motorists with the bold sentiment “America Starts Here.” In fact, further west you’d find yourself in the land of beef on weck, that glorious mess of a regional (read: Buffalo) sandwich.
So, allegiance. Maybe the owner of the inn is the retired president of an energy company? But downtown, you’ll also find Allegiance Antiques, one of many such stores in Mount Morris, and you’ll wonder.
We were there for a massive cross-country meet in the cornfields of Geneseo. “When you go for a walk,” the innkeeper said, “a few doors down is the house of Francis Bellamy, the guy who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s not a big house,” a- he says, standing in the lobby of his three-story, eight-bedroom Federal-style 1838 mansion, is doing something else, perhaps a Greek revival, with the later addition of huge columns in front, a White House, write smaller.
But even though he moved 150 miles east of Rome when he was still a child, around 1860 it is significant, and a fine house, Bellamy’s, in a village that has no shortage of them, well used and still used, inhabited by regular workmen of the people, apparently, two modest cars in the driveway, which Bellamy would no doubt smile on, with his Christian socialist background. The son of a Baptist pastor who himself took over a pulpit early in his career and yet ostensibly left any reference to God out of his pledge.
How strange, patriots believed in the separation of church and state back then. The “under God” part was added later, of course, under Eisenhower, in a gesture meant to reassure a country living in fear of the unbelieving Communist hordes, a not unheard of political mass hysteria.
“I pledge allegiance to my flag,” reads Bellamy’s original 1892 version, which is said to have been written while in the employ of The Youth’s Companion magazine, “and the Republic for which he represents” (he added the “to” later), “an indivisible Nation”, and the rest.
The occasion was the World’s Columbian Exposition, the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s arrival, and it turns out that Bellamy helped make Columbus Day a national holiday. They were different times.
Now, close followers of American history will have noted a New York Times article earlier this year questioning Bellamy’s hand – the Pledge may actually have been written by a Kansas child who submitted it. at The Youth’s Companion.
Nobody really knows. But legend, public relations and the complicated, even changing nature of truth is also the American way.