Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visiting Independence and Kansas City, Missouri (Sept. 27-28, 2009)

After completing the Santa Fe Symposium in Arrow Rock, the next morning I continued west. I visited and photographed more SFT sites from Grand Pass to Independence, Missouri. When I arrived in the area on Sunday afternoon, I drove through Independence into Kansas City, Missouri to visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum. On earlier journeys I had visited steamboat museums in Keokuk, Iowa; Sioux City, Iowa;
DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Blair, Nebraska: Brownville, Nebraska; Louisville, Kentucky; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Arabia Museum was by far my favorite.

The museum discusses the recovery of the wreckage of the Steamboat Arabia. It displays much of the cargo which was on board when in sank in 1856 along with some of the actual remains of the steamboat itself. It is all displayed in a very interesting educational way. I strongly recommend this museum!!

While there I asked for directions to a Lewis and Clark monument was installed on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers near where Lewis and Clark camped on their journey to the west. I located and photographed that site before returning to Independence for the night.

In Independence I stopped by the National Frontier Trails Museum. Since I was scheduled to visit the site the next morning, I visited the Chicago and Alton Railroad Station located just behind the Trails Museum. It was open and I took an interesting tour of this 1879 station. My volunteer guide was informative and enthusiastic and made the tour very enjoyable.

The next day I was to tour Independence, Missouri historic sites. As a result of my article on the "Sante Fe in Missouri" article mentioned in an earlier blog, I was contacted by the Media Relations Director for the Independence Tourism department (I won't mention the names of my guide because I did NOT ask their permission to do so). She arranged for some local one-on-one tours with the directors of the sites for Monday morning, Sept. 28).

First I visited the National Frontier Trails Museum. I had visited on my own two or three times in the past and found it to be a source of a tremendous amount of information of the trails which passed through Independence (which included Lewis and Clark, the Sante Fe Trail, the Oregon-California Trail, and the Mormon Trail). The director took me around the facility and discussed its history, how it is organized, and even took me to an area housing collections that are not always accessible to the public.

From there I traveled to the 1859 Jail, Marshall's Home and Museum near Independence Square. Again the Director (who was also Executive Director ofthe Jackson County Historic Society) gave a wonderful tour telling the history of the facility which included housing Frank James and William Quantrill for brief times.

Outside of the Jail and Marshall's Office I boarded a covered wagon for a historic tour of Independence offered by the Pioneer Trail Adventures. I had taken the tour in the past and highly recommend it for anyone visiting Independence. On the journey around Independence Square and beyond we passed Truman sites, historic trail sites, Independence Civil War battle sites, and heard stories about the fascinating history of this community. It was a great tour. They offer a CD of the narrative of the tour; I bought one on my last visit and again I strongly recommend it for history buffs.

Following my Covered Wagon trip, I was treated for lunch at Ophelia's on the Square, a wonderful bistro on Independence Square. During the wonderful lunch the Director offered to take me to the Truman Library for a personal tour. While I had not originally planned to visist Truman sites on this visit, I could not refuse. She did a wonderful job of showing me though the museum and its grounds.

It was a WONDERFUL day. Independence, Missouri has so much to offer. I have visited three times previously, but there are still many interesting sites that I look forward to visiting. Believe me, I will be returning to Independence early and often. THANKS to all who contributed!!

2009 Santa Fe Trail Symposium: Day 3 (Sept. 26)

On the third day there were three morning speakers for the symposium

1. Kathryn Red corn is the Director of the Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma
She talked with us about the history and present status of the Osage tribe which was one
the major tribes in Boonslick Country during the SFT days. Her talk was entitled "The Osage Tribe: the
Boonslick's First Nation".
2. Dr. Maryellen McVicker, a local Boonslick resident and history professor discussed "Don't Forget the
Boonslick in the Rush to Santa Fe". She discussed research she had done on the life and family of
a local Santa Fe Trail trader about whom little was known. She gave us insight about the challenges and
successes she had while seeking information about the family.
3. Dr. Timothy Baumann an anthropologist and former resident of Arrow Rock talked about the historic
restoration of the John Sites Gunshop in Arrow Rock. His talk "Guns Along the Santa Fe Trail: The John
Sites Gunsmith Shop in Arrow Rock, Missouri".

Again following lunch we took another tour. This morning my group toured sites West of Arrow Rock along the Santa Fe Trail (from Arrow Rock to Grand Pass, Missouri). Due to recent rainy weather we were unable to take our new bus to a couple of the more less accessible site along the route.

We began by walking to the Todd's Ferry site a few hundred yards behind the Lyceum Theater. Research suggests that this site is where an early ferry boat was used to cross the Missouri River during the early years (it is likely where Becknell crossed during his trip west (though the ferry was NOT in operation at the time). Local resident and SFTA board member has purchased the land and is the process of restoring the site.

He has brought in replica wagons and placed them along the site (including the chuck wagon on the left).

Following our visit to the Ferry Site, we boarded the bus and traveled to various sites with DAR SFT markers along the SFT Trail. We saw markers at Chestnut Hill, in Marshall, Kiser Spring, Malta Bend, and at Grand Pass.

At a cemetery across the road from the Grand Pass marker we were able to see wagon swales traversing the lawn.

We also visited Van Meter State Park which hosts Missouri's American Indian Culture Center. This is a small museum with displays discussing fourteen or fifteen of the tribes which were inhabitants of Missouri before the coming of the European settlers. It was a fine museum.

We then returned to Arrow Rock. We had dinner at the historic J. Huston Tavern before adjourning to a tent on the Huston Tavern lawn for an evening of awards and goodbyes. Another local artist entertained us with period fiddle music.

All in all it was a very interesting and informative meeting. I hope to attend the biennial Rendezvous next fall in Fort Larned, Kansas as well as the next symposium to be held in 2011 in Dodge City, Kansas.

2009 Santa Fe Symposium: Day 2 (Sept. 15)

Next morning I drove from Boonville back to Arrow Rock for Day 2 of the SFT Symposium.
The morning schedule featured two excellent speakers.

We met in the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre. Formerly a Baptist Church in Arrow Rock, it now is the site where professional troupes present plays throughout the season.

After a welcome and official opening by SFT Association leaders, Jim Denny gave a talk about the history of the Boonslick region ("The Boonslick: A Unique and Special Region"). It gave a great deal of perspective in understanding the trials and tribulations of the early area settler. Dr. James Harlan followed with a lecture/PowerPoint program entitled "It's All About Geography: The Impact of the Missouri River on Settlement Patterns and Santa Fe Commerce". Dr. Harlan has studied land surveys past and present throughout the state of Missouri and discussed their challenges and historic significance. After the morning talks we enjoyed a boxed lunch at the theater before boarding buses from tours of the area. This morning I was on the East Tour which took us to Franklin, New Franklin, Boonsville, and the Boon's Lick Salt Spring State Historic Site. At the site of Old Franklin we visited the location of the historic town where the Santa Fe Trail officially began in 1812. At that time, this town was the second largest community west of the Mississippi River in Missouri. Town resident, William Becknell left to seek western trade. A few weeks later following trading in Santa Fe, he returned with bags of Spanish coins. Word of his success spread and Santa Fe Trail commerce began.

However in the 1820's Franklin was destroyed by massive Missouri River floods. Today all that remains are a flagpole and some plaques honoring the past importance of this site.

We then drove along Route W toward the Boone's Lick Salt Spring historic site. As we traveled along this route, it was the same route followed by Becknell and those that followed him until Franklin disappeared. We arrived at te Boone's Lick Salt Spring Historic Site and hiked down the hill to the actual site of the spring. Not much remains of the equipment used to remove salt from the water in the spring (an excellent diorama of the mechanics of the salt spring is on display at the Arrow Rock Visitor Center).

From the Salt Spring we drove the New Franklin, Missouri. When "Old Franklin" faced flooding problems, some of its residents moved a few miles north of the river and established this town. It's downtown area features a DAR SFT plaque which says
"Beginning of the Santa Fe Trail". We visited that site.

We also visited the nearby "Hickman House" which is the oldest surviving building in the Boonslick County. Local members of the historic Society provided tours and treated us to lemonade and cookies. We also visiting the Historic Society building in New Franklin which they opened for us. Some of the floor joists in the house are believed to have come from the remains of historic fort which was built in the area during the War of 1812.

We returned to Arrow Rock (via Boonville). In Boonville is a wonderful overlook of the Missouri River (in Harley Park). The size of our bus prevented us from stopping, but I have visited it in the past.

That evening participants drove back to Boonville for a barbecue dinner at the historic Turner Hall (again a former church). We then walked across the street to Thespian Hall (the oldest operating theatre west of the Allegheny Mountains. There we were treated to a performance of a play seen in the SFT period entitled "The Lion of the West". We were also entertained by two excellent musicians who again played period music.

2009 Santa Fe Symposium: Day 1 (Sept. 24)

In 2006 I attended an Elderhostel program in Council Grove, Kansas. One of the themes of this Elderhostel was the Santa Fe Trail since Council Grove was one of the last outposts of civilization before heading toward Santa Fe, New Mexico (then a Spanish colony). After reading about the history of the SFT I decided to take an extra few days while traveling to Council Grove. I visited and photographed important SFT sites throughout Missouri and eastern Kansas. As a result of this endeavor, I wrote an article about "Traveling the Santa Fe Trail" in Missouri. That article was published in the Sept.-Oct, 2009 issue of AAA Midwest Traveler Magazine (this was my10th article to be published.

In Sept., 2009 the Santa Fe Trail Association held its 12th Symposium in Arrow Rock, Missouri. The symposium was entitled "In the Beginning....Boonslick and Beyond" because the first trips to Santa Fe originated in Franklin, Missouri (in the middle of Boonslick country). On Thursday, September 24,
I drove from my home to Boonsville, Missouri and then to Arrow Rock, Missouri.

Arrow Rock is a wonderful historic community with wonderful sites which date to the early to late 1800s. I spent the afternoon exploring the town. They have a wonderful Visitor Center with one of the finest small museums describing the early history of the area that I have visited. Arrow Rock is in the center of Boonslick region. Members of the Daniel Boone family discovered a nearby salt spring and built an operation for removing the salt and shipping it east toward St. Louis and St. Charles the largest Missouri
communities of the time.

I walked aroud the town and visited some of shops and such historic sites as the Huston Tavern where many SFT travelers found rest and food, the Big Spring where SFT travelers watered their animals and themselves, and the site of the Missouri River landing where steamboats stopped for rest, wood, and passenger services.

This is an overview of the downtown Arrow Rock community.

Here is the historic Big Spring (also called Santa Fe Spring).

In the afternoon, I joined a one-mile hike dow the "Arrow Rock Historic
River Landing Trail". The trail took us by the original landing site
and finally to the Missouri River itself (left). Gradual movement of the river now puts it a mile away from Arrow Rock.

In the evening there was a "get-acquainted" social at Prairie Park, an antebellum
mansion built and owned by William Sappington who was involved in the SFT trade.
During the evening we samples hard hors d'oerves, toured the mansion, and enjoyed period music by local quintet.

I drove back to Boonville for the night.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sept. 20: Covered Bridges of Indiana

This morning I decided to make the 100 mile trip from my home to Parke County, Indiana. Parke County has over 30 covered bridges. During the second and third weeks in October, the county hosts an annual Covered Bridge Festival when thousands of tourists visit the county experiencing its covered bridges and the many yard sales/ flea markets which abound during the festival.
I have attended the festival previously (including attending an Elderhostel program during the festival last year), but this year I wanted to avoid the crowds. The question each year is "Will the festival correspond with the change in foliage so typical of the midwest in early fall?". This year I hit it almost right. Due to a great deal of construction along route 36, the trip took a little longer than the usual two hours. In the morning I visited bridges in the northwest corner of the county which included Turkey Run State Park.

The first bridge I visited was Melcher Bridge. In past years the vegetation
along the approach road to this bridge made this very good photographically.
This year was OK, but not great.

I drove and photographed throughout the northwest county in the morning.
Sugar Creek is a large creek (river?) which flows under many of the bridges in
this part of the county. Here I photographed Sugar Creek from inside the West
Union Bridge which the longest bridge in the county.

One of my favorite bridges to photograph in the county is Bowsher Ford
bridge. The approach road winds around the valley before entering the
bridge providing many photographic opportunities as you drive toward
the bridge.

Around Turkey Run State Park are three covered bridges. My favorite is
the Cox Ford bridge just west of the entrance to the state park.

While most of bridges are traditionally painted red with white trim,
Jackson Bridge is all white. In this photo I captured a family as they
passed through that bridge.

Following lunch at Rockville, Indiana the county seat of Parke County, I explored six or seven bridges in the southern part of the county.

My destination included the Bridgeton Bridge in Bridgeton, Indiana.
This bridge is the centerpiece of the county's collection of these historic
structures. A few years ago, this bridge was destroyed by an arsonist. The
people of Bridgeton and Parke County immediately began seeking the
money and resources to restore it soon as possible. Today it has
been completely rebuilt.

For the day I visited 20 of the bridges in the county and took over 150 photos. The weather was cool, sunny (not always the best photographically) and very pleasant. The crowds were gone so my photo journey was relaxed and very enjoyable.
I encourage any of you in the area to make plans to spend a day or two visiting the Covered Bridges of Parke County. It is a trip worth remembering.