When you live on top of the New Madrid Fault, which I did for 27 years in Caruthersville, the thought of an earthquake is never far from your mind. Nearly every day, there is at least a little shake. Most of them are below the threshold of feeling, but sometimes things do shake. In 1811 and 1812, the area experienced the largest earthquake in U.S. recorded history. The New Madrid Historical Museum has information about “The Big One” and much more. Learn more at NewMadridMuseum.com/. In addition to earthquake information, there are exhibits on Native American artifacts, and the Civil War Battle of Island No. 10.
Speaking of the Civil War, when Gen. Sterling Price made an attempt to capture Missouri for the Confederacy, his first major battle on his Missouri campaign was near Pilot Knob at Fort Davidson. Price technically won the battle but suffered huge losses. He began with 12,000 men and 10 percent of them died in the attack on the fort. After the first day, the 1,500 Union forces had lost only 28 men. They were running low on ammunition and during the night, they slipped away after blowing up their powder magazine. In September of 2017, there will be a reenactment of the battle. Read about it at MissouriCivilWar.net/reenactments/index.htm.
The losses caused Price to realize that he could not successfully attack St. Louis, but he did send Generals John Clark and Jo Shelby to attack my town of Glasgow (CivilWarOnTheWesternBorder.org/map/glasgow-missouri.) I often present a slide show about the Battle of Glasgow. The Confederates won this battle and captured weapons and clothing. Price had been the eleventh governor of Missouri and lived near Brunswick, just a little north of Glasgow, and General Clark was a resident of nearby Fayette. Price was defeated at Westport, near Kansas City, and retreated south after his failed campaign. The Westport Visitor Center in Swope Park has more information at BattleOfWestport.org/VisitorCenter.htm.
You could easily take the entire summer to visit Missouri’s many Civil War sites, but you may want to see some other things as well. On August 21, you can see a rare complete solar eclipse. The band of optimum viewing goes from coast to coast and the prime corridor in Missouri goes diagonally across the state. Kansas City and St. Louis are near the edge of this path. Glasgow is very close to the center and will experience total darkness a little after 1 p.m. for more than two minutes. To view a map that gives times for the eclipse, visit GreatAmericanEclipse.com/missouri/.
Use eye protection and do not look directly at the eclipse without it. Glasses can be obtained from many sources at low prices. DO NOT view the eclipse without them.
I know that you have heard things described as “...the greatest thing since sliced bread”. Sliced bread has only been commercially available since 1928, and it began in Chillicothe, Missouri. The Chillicothe Baking Company used a machine called the Rohwedder Bread Slicer to prepare bread for sale. You can read all about this mechanical marvel at ChillicotheCity.org/bread.html. You will find details of summer sliced bread festivals and can order sliced bread T-shirts and other sliced bread souvenirs including a candle that smells like fresh sliced bread.
I hope you have the greatest Missouri summer since sliced bread. If you see me at a Civil War battlefield, watching the eclipse or enjoying a toasted slice of bread, be sure to say hello. Until then, be safe in your travels on the road and online.
And then comes winter—nature’s resting time. While our children play in the snow and we shovel it from walks and driveways, Missouri’s plants wait for the next cycle of seasons as they rest peacefully.
Here in Glasgow, the nights have already begun to grow cold and the wind blows those beautiful leaves onto my patio as fast as I sweep them away. Winter is coming.
Unlike the plants, we humans still like to get out and move around to enjoy Missouri in every season. In order to help you do this, I’ve researched some Missouri destinations on the internet that can help you plan a trip or just travel from the comfort of your home.
I just returned from a visit to Kansas City where I presented a program on the Battle of Glasgow to a Civil War Roundtable group. While in the city I visited Union Cemetery, which can be found online at uchskc.org. The graves of George Caleb Bingham, Satchel Paige, Alexander Majors, Gen. Jo Shelby and Bloody Bill Anderson can all be found here in Kansas City’s oldest cemetery.
Alexander Majors was one of the three founders of the Pony Express. You can learn more about him at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph or visit PonyExpress.org. The Pony Express only operated for 19 months before the telegraph put it out of business. Majors, William Russell and William Waddell ceased operation on October 26, 1861.
Satchel Paige is perhaps the best known of the baseball players in the Negro Leagues. His large gravestone had many baseballs resting on it that had been left by admiring visitors. You can read more about him on the official Satchel Page website at nlbm.com or you can visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
John Donaldson was a great left-handed pitcher and a man of strong character and moral values. There is currently an effort to have the Glasgow native recognized in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame (MoSportsHallOfFame.com) and the MLB Hall of Fame (BaseballHall.org).
While in downtown St. Louis, I have often visited the Basilica of Saint Louis, King, more commonly referred to as simply “The Old Cathedral”. It is the oldest church in St. Louis, with a history that begins in 1764. Visitors of all faiths are always welcome to the Cathedral, which is an active church with masses, wedding, funerals and other services. Its website at OldCathedralStL.org includes some beautiful photos of the church, the history of the Cathedral, the weekly bulletin and a schedule of times you may visit.
In any weather, I love root beer. Some of the best root beer is made in Missouri by Fitz’s Premium Root Beer (FitzsRootbeer.com). When you visit the company’s Delmar Blvd location in St. Louis, you can watch products being bottled while enjoying a “bottomless mug”. If root beer is not your thing (I can’t imagine), the company bottles 12 other beverages, including key lime and pumpkin. I’ll just stick to root beer, thanks.
As always; when you travel either online or IRL, please use care and stay safe. If the night is snowy and cold, your best bet might be to stay in your home with a nice hot drink and travel on the information highway through your computer. You can plan for an IRL trip for the next sunny winter day.
We are ready for fall and some cool days and nights. Colorful foliage, football, apple cider and the promise of some quiet evenings looking into a campfire. Teachers, like my wife and sister-in-law, have worked during the summer to prepare for the first days of school. I look forward to November when my phone will finally stop ringing with political “surveys”.
Fall can be a wonderful time to travel in Missouri. The weather is almost always nice with comfortable temperatures, and we welcome some time away from our usual cares. To help you plan some fall trips, I’ve searched the Internet for places to go and things to see. If time is really short, you might prefer to simply visit online and see the sights through your computer screen.
A nice place to visit in any season is St. Charles. The city’s informative website at HistoricStCharles.com offers a lot of local and Missouri history accompanied by many stunning photos. St. Charles is just west of St. Louis and is easy to reach. I’ve visited there many times starting back in 1966 when I was a teacher in nearby Warrenton. However, I did not know that the original name of the city was Les Petites Cotes when it was founded in 1769. You’ll have to research the definition, but one of the city’s premier events is the Festival of the Little Hills.
St. Charles was the first state capital and the home of Daniel Boone. I think ol’ Dan lived almost everywhere. In fact, one of his homes is not too far from St. Charles at Defiance. You might be surprised at the house; it is pretty far from a log cabin. Check it out at DanielBooneHome.com. As pretty and impressive as the limestone home is with two-and-a-half-foot thick walls, Daniel spent a lot of time away on long hunting trips. The home actually belonged to Daniel’s son, Nathan. Daniel did much of the work on the construction, however, and he died in the home in 1820.
When you visit today, you can also tour Lindenwood University’s reconstructed historic town in front of the Boone house. It is all well worth a visit.
Way down in Southeast Missouri, Iron County was the site of the Battle of Pilot Knob (Missouri-vacations.com/missouri-festivals-events/reenactment-battle-pilot-knob.htm) which is reenacted every three years. The website shows events from the last one in 2014 and plans for the 2017 event. Gen. Sterling Price suffered a loss in that battle as he attempted to win Missouri for the Confederacy. His troops eventually won a battle in my town of Glasgow. Price went on to lose at Westport, Missouri, and then took the remainder of his troops south to Mexico. You can read more about the story at Missouri-vacations.com/missouri-civil-war/index.htm.
You can read more about Price and the Battle of Glasgow on the website of the oldest continuously-operating public library west of the Mississippi at LewisLibrary.org/BOG.html. The library was originally a college and was funded by the estate of Benjamin Lewis who died due to injuries received from Bloody Bill Anderson after the Battle of Glasgow.
Regardless of where you travel this fall, I know that you will find lots to see and enjoy. You will also meet some friendly people, and, perhaps we will cross paths either on the information highway of the Internet or on the IRL highways. If we do, don’t fail to say hello. That is how we roll in Missouri.
Summertime is also a time for vacations and travel in Missouri. We can use our computers to plan our trips and, on a hot afternoon, we can travel our state through the computer screen while resting in the cool of our own homes. I have searched for a few URLs to help you to do both.
Last issue I quoted a song (and miss-attributed the lyricist). I do like the blues and a lot of other music, and I am excited about a new museum in downtown St. Louis. The National Blues Museum just opened on the first of April, and it includes a theater, lots of exhibits and public programs. The aim is to educate and to entertain. You can learn more about them at the museum in this issue and at NationalBluesMuseum.org/.
The museum is pretty close to Busch Stadium so you might want to combine your visit with an afternoon with the Cardinals. If you don’t go to see a game, you might still enjoy the stadium tour. I’ve done it, and seeing the press boxes and all the behind the scenes things on the tour is a treat. Learn more at Cardinals.com.
I do know that there is another baseball team in Missouri, and they just happened to win the World Series. You can make a Royals visit at KansasCity.Royals.mlb.com. My wife is going in person with the second, third and fifth grades to catch a Royals game on her birthday. If you see her keeping up with a bunch of kids on “Kids Day” during the Royals-National game, wish her a happy birthday.
Did you have a treehouse when you were a kid? Lots of us did, but they likely fell far short of the luxury offered in these vacation lodgings at TreeHousecabins.com/. Tree House Cabins is located near Dora, not too far from the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. I won’t attempt to describe the cabins, but you can see photos on the website. They are beautiful.
I have visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder site in person, and I would recommend it, even if you were not a “Little House” fan. Lauraingallswilderhome.com/ includes a lot of information and photos. The museum is located at the final home of Laura Ignalls Wilder in Mansfield, where she wrote the “Little House” books.
St. Louis is the “last city of the East” and Kansas City is the “first city of the West”. A list of ten fun things to do in Kansas City can be found at ExploreKansasCity.com/10-things-to-do-in-kansas-city-just-like-the-locals/. They all look like fun to me. I’ve done some of them and am interested in most of the others. You can read about the Plaza, museums, a great zoo and the recovered steamboat Arabia. I can’t help it, I’m singing “Kansas City” while I’m typing this. “Kansas City” was written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. I like the Wilbert Harrison recording though many others covered it, as well.
Now for something a little different. If you are a fan of Santa Claus, you might want to go to Branson in July for the 10th annual Santa Claus convention. A discription is available at DiscoverSanta2016.com. They have many Santa-related activities and a red suit parade with “thousands of Santas”. I hope those are the lightweight summer suits. Regular readers know that I love Branson (and Santa), but it can get pretty hot there in July.
I hope you have a great summer in our beautiful Missouri. When traveling, either IRL or on the internet, please be careful and have a good and safe time.
I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm,
I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string,
I’d say that I had spring fever,
But it isn’t even spring.
If you are eager to get out of the house and do a little bit of travel, I have researched a few destinations for you to explore.
My friend John would enjoy visiting the Pythian Castle (Pythiancastle.com) which was built by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization, in 1913. The castle, located near Springfield, was intended as a retirement home for widows and children of the organization’s members. In 1942, the U.S. Military commandeered the castle and used it for rehabilitation of wounded WWII veterans, during which time many big name entertainers performed there. German and Italian POWs were also housed on the grounds. In 1993, the property was sold and renovated and is now open for ghost tours, weddings, murder mystery dinners and historical tours. The web site shows some great photos of the building.
Another castle-like building is available for tours in Jefferson City. This one had many residents, but most were not as happy as those in the Pythian Castle. Tours of the Missouri State Penitentiary will begin for the new season in March. You can learn much about the penitentiary at MissouriPenTours.com. The former prison is 100 years older than Alcatraz. In the 1800s some people wanted to move the state capitol away from Jefferson City, but Gov. John Miller (no relation to me) suggested locating the state prison in Jefferson City as part of his plan to keep the Capitol located in Jefferson City. The prison opened in 1836.
The web page tells of some of the more famous residents of the prison including Sonny Liston, who learned to box in there. Forty prisoners were executed in the gas chamber at the prison and some of them and other former prisoners are said to haunt the place still. History tours and nighttime haunted tours are available.
Kearney, near Kansas City, is the home of the Jesse James Farm. Tours and a museum are on the grounds, and the website at JesseJames.org describes regular activities. The FAQ features the question: “Does the farm advocate theft, robbery, or criminal acts perpetrated by Frank and Jesse?” I love the answer: “The FOTJF only promotes the study of history, focusing on the tragic and colorful events of the Border War and it’s aftermath. This includes the post war activities of Frank and Jesse James. We leave moral and ethical judgements up to you.”
For a happy Saturday trip, why not visit the historic city of Glasgow (GlasgowMo.com) for the Glasgow Wine Walk on April 9? You will taste wines from as many as eight wineries including the city’s own Bushwhacker Bend (BushwhackerBend.com). You will take home a souvenir glass and get to see the oldest family-owned drug store in the United States, the site of the first all-steel railroad bridge in the world, and the oldest library (LewisLibrary.org) west of the Mississippi. Plus, I’ll be there selling the wine walk tickets! Tickets are $20 and admission to the Lions Club concert area is free.
I hope you have a great spring and are able to get out to enjoy what the state has to offer. Perhaps we will cross paths either on the internet or IRL. Until then, be safe and enjoy our beautiful Missouri.