By Samuel Strait – November 16, 2022
It has been several days of seeing the sights then a long stint behind
the wheel to our next stop. Tippeecanoe this morning is an important
colonial battle in Indiana, that resulted in the eventual path to
statehood for the Hoosiers. Not only do we tour the site of the battle,
but a historical story in the site’s museum paints a vivid picture of
life in early Indiana, and a description of the circumstances leading up
to the battle and its aftermath. Following the confrontation at
Tippeecanoe, Native Indian Tribes were pushed west of the Wabash River
and North into French Canada. In the years that followed Native
Americans played havoc along this border, forcing the British ruled
colonies to fortify the area and make several expeditions to pacify it.
It has gotten cold over the past few days as we have decided to drive
further South before crossing into Illinois. Back over to Indiana 41
and Terre Haute is our stop for lunch, before heading West to Saint
Louis. Another car museum catches our eye in Effingham and we elect to
stop and check it out. An hour and a half later, we have maxed out on
old cars and we are on the road again. We had stopped at the visitor’s
center when crossing into Illinois an have a full schedule of sights in
and around the Saint Louis in the morning. Gas has stayed near $3.55
since leaving Michigan and things have warmed up considerably.
A beautiful sunset and the arch at Saint Louis comes into view as we
head into the bright lights of the city. Another major US city plagued
by homelessness and rising crime. Something Crescent City and urban
City’s seem to have in common, such a shame, as we haven’t seen much of
those kinds of problems in the rest of rural America. I can’t explain
it, but maybe its a California thing. Gas and taxes sky rocket and the
roads and infrastructure deteriorate noticeably. On to the Next day,
number twenty six.
It had warmed up during the day yesterday as we moved south to nearly 80
degrees, but this morning it is thirty one degrees outside and six
inches of the white stuff is on the ground. The snow plows have been
out early, and it has stopped snowing, so we head further south to more
colonial sites along the river, the Mississippi, dating from the French
occupation of what eventually became the Louisiana Purchase. Fort
Chartres, an early example of a Vauban fortress is first up. An
impressive three hundred year old fortress made from stone looms over
the bluffs above the Mississippi. Some recent refurbishment has
restored the fort to what it looked like in the 1730’s well before it
became part of the United States.
Back through some picturesque rural villages, then up on another ridge
above the river is Fort Keskeskia an early example of wooden forts
built when Americans pushed west into Illinois in the 1830’s. Not much
left except a couple of stone monuments, but the dog got it’s first
taste of snow. Was not particularly thrilled. Further north we go back
up to Saint Louis where we have lunch then tour the World War One museum
at Jefferson Barracks. A rather intense series of displays of life in
the trenches plus the historical lesson surrounding the conflict. As I
have said all along, people in this age haven’t got much to complain
about compared to those who lived in the past.
No more snow, cold, so we elect to push on to Kansas City. Day twenty
six ends outside of Kansas City for another full list of activities in
the morning. The Kansas City Chiefs are playing in the morning so we
are dreading the traffic. I seem to recall a comment in these pages
claiming that living in an urban setting was no different than a rural
setting, but I beg to differ. Living in the city is very different and
traffic is but one of the differences.
Kansas city finds us up bright and early to catch yet another military
museum, this one also takes up Missouri’s experiences during the Great
War 1914-1918. The collections are housed in an enormous new building
, and has a very comprehensive collection of artifacts with a focus on
Missouri’s part in the conflict. What captured our attention beyond the
artifacts from WWI was a series of displays about POW’s and internee’s
during the war. Most people who are historically literate, likely think
that internment was a product of Theodore Roosevelt’s Democrats in the
Second World War,; however, that was not the case. Many countries
elected to intern enemy aliens during the course of WWI, the United
States included. While in the Western theater POW’s were treated fairly
well, but that wasn’t always the case the further east one went.
Internees had no status and did not fare as well. Many lost everything
during their confinement if they survived and had to start all over
following the war.
Next stop, downtown KC and a family of treasure seekers. The side
wheeler, Arabia, was a187 foot log Missouri river boat loaded with 200
tons of cargo and over one hundred passengers. This was a stop well
worth the time spent viewing not only the story of her recovery from 45
feet of Missouri River silt in the 1980’s in a farmer’s corn field, but
the story of the wreck itself. In the 1850’s as Americans began to move
West, the Missouri River was an artery of travel to the MidWest.
Thousands of passengers and cargo were transported on riverboats as far
as possible up river. It was a very hazardous way of travel, as the
Missouri is littered with wrecks of steamboats from its mouth for
hundreds of miles up stream. The life of a riverboat was about three
years at the time. The Arabia’s was about six moths. A local team of
treasure hunters attempted to salvage the wreck and many later attempts
were made to relocate it without success, that is until a local family
and fiends did just that.
Rather than sell the tons of artifacts uncovered in the wreck site, the
family elected to display the artifacts in Kansas City. It is a
veritable Wallmart of pioneer life, all the way from Jewelry to perfume,
food to building materials,and everything in between. A very complete
inventory of what was needed to live life on the prairies of the upper
Midwest during the 1800’s. Afterwards, over to Pigwich for some Kansas
City Barbecue, then down to the Museum of Jazz, housed in an old rebuilt
theater alongside the Blue Room, home to many Jazz greats. Running
short on time we leave Kansas City late in the day for Omaha. A zig
and zag, more time changes, into and out of Iowa, then on to Nebraska
for the night. The bright lights of Omaha and another full day
scheduled for the morning. End of day twenty seven.
Day twenty eight begins with a cold sojourn north of Omaha to another
nineteenth century outpost, Fort Atkinson, home to Federal troops
responsible for protecting the new frontier, It was also the location
of many meetings between Native American tribes and the Federal
Government. Not much of the original structure remain, yet the state
has reconstructed some of the log structures that were on the site in
the 1850’s. Unique about the post was its construction out of logs laid
horizontally rather the typical vertical orientation of most of forts
Back to Omaha to visit the Joslyn Castle, a truly magnificent stone
castle like structure set in formal gardens similar to Scottish Castles
found in the United Kingdom. It was supposed to be an hour long guided
tour that turned into two, but well worth the time spent. The Joslyne’s
arrived from Canada with nine dollars and a satchel of clothing, to go
on to become the wealthiest family in the Midwest at the time. Worth
over $20,000,000.00 by 1903., the couple lived a truly fairy tale life.
Who said capitalism and hard work doesn’t pay off?
A quick lunch then back to the previous night’s lodging to retrieve my
wallet and on to the Strategic Air Command display south west of Omaha.
Heading to Wyoming, following an hour and a half at the Command’s
artifact collection, mostly airplanes, then back on the road towards
Cheyenne. Stopped in Ogallala for a home cooked meal at the Front
Street Steak house and Crystal Palace. The meal was a diet breaker, and
the pie was terrific. Don’t tell anyone or Doc Caldwell will have me on
the carpet when I get back. The Crystal Palace, ehm, was a dance hall
from the 1880’s, les femmes included. They have quite the show during
the summer, including cold sarsaparilla. Unfortunately it wasn’t
summer, and the outside temperature was 19 degrees. Sigh. We
grudgingly give up looking for dance hall girls and make the final
sprint to Sidney, Nebraska, our stop for the day.
Salt Lake City tomorrow, or maybe not. Sidney has a wild west museum
and carriage display to check out before we hit the road, then a few
more days to get back home and process all we have seen. It has been an
education, something more people would be wise to under take, a
pilgrimage in the United States.