We left off in the last update in Halstead, Kansas. From there we went to Kansas City, and that’s where this one picks up.
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS and KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
In early 2005 when we were in Kino Bay, Mexico, we met Mike and Kay Stokes, also full-time Rvers. We have connected up with them at various times in the intervening period, in Wenatchee, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Yuma, as well as San Felipe, Mexico. Both had lived a time in Kansas City, Kansas, so when we found out they would be visiting there near the time we would, we changed our schedule slightly and arranged to be there at the same time. We all parked our RVs at Walnut Grove RV Park, the closest park to downtown Kansas City, which was in Merriam, Kansas. The night we arrived, Mike and Kay fixed dinner for us at their RV, and we got caught up. For the next six days and nights, we enjoyed the sights and tastes of Kansas City with the help of local guides, Mike and Kay.
On Tuesday we saw parts of the city as we did a little shopping. Kansas City is known for its barbecue, and we had happened to time our visit with the Kansas City Barbecue Cookoff the following weekend. This was only Tuesday, but the smell of barbecue is in the air in Kansas City like the smell of salt water is in Seattle. We couldn’t wait, so we had dinner at Gate’s Barbecue. Mmmmmmm. Good. Their signature motto is “Hi. May I help you?” though it sounded more like “hep” to me.
On Wednesday we went to downtown Kansas City to a relatively new museum, the World War One Memorial. From the time you walk over a field of 9,000 poppies into the display area, each poppy representing 1,000 combat deaths during the war, to the last display, the “War to End All Wars” is explained and illustrated in a sobering, factual and effective way.
We spent hours reading explanations, viewing displays, artifacts and dioramas. Also part of the museum grounds are two additional display buildings and a tower erected to honor the warriors. We ascended part of the 217-foot tower in an elevator, then climbed to the top observation platform and enjoyed a view of the beautifully restored Union Station and a 360-degree view of Kansas City—both of them, in fact. Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri are separated by a street called Stateline Street. Returning to the ground, we spent more time in the two additional buildings viewing art from the war and additional displays.
Downtown Kansas City from the tower
Following the museum we had the opportunity to meet Kay’s mother, Wilma, and her husband, Bill. We enjoyed meeting them very much. They are delightful people, and we had heard lots about them. We also enjoyed the food at McCormick’s and Schmick.
The next day we took care of business—washing clothes, etc., and then went to Old Chicago Pizza and enjoyed the best vegetarian pizza we have ever had—except perhaps for the ones Rachel makes and bakes on the grill. It still doesn’t beat Seattle’s Pegasus Pizza’s Greek pizza along with a Greek salad. That one is still tops! We enjoyed Mike and Kay’s company as well as Norma’s and Tom’s, Kay’s best girlfriend and her fiancé.
On Friday we went to the Great White Arabia Steamship Museum. This museum displays the story and cargo recovered from a sunken side-wheeler Missouri River steamship. It left Kansas City north on the Missouri in 1856, fully loaded with merchandise destined for stores in towns along the river. Ten miles north on its route, and before its first stop, it hit a snag and sank in 15 feet of water. The passengers and crew safely escaped the sinking, but the stacks and superstructure which were above the surface, were soon washed away downstream—along with several barrels of whiskey. Though several attempts were made at salvage at that time, none was successful.
Missouri River steamboat Great White Arabia
In the ensuing 132 years, the submerged deck and cargo hold sank deeper and deeper in the river-bottom mud, the river changed course leaving the section with the Arabia landlocked, and eventually the resulting oxbow lake dried up and was covered over with soil, leaving the wreck and its full cargo forgotten deep below the surface of a cornfield. It was located by a team of enthusiasts who pooled their resources and excavated the ruins.
Excavation of the Arabia
The boat itself was not salvageable, but they discovered in the hold the entire cargo (less the whiskey), and proceeded to salvage it and restore it to displayable condition. Some wooden and steel parts of the ship were raised—a section of the stern, the boilers and running gear, for instance, and they are on display in this museum along with thousands of manufactured goods, canned and bottled foodstuffs, clothing and footwear, tools and equipment, and even French perfume—just as it had been in 1856. After the museum we had some of the best Mexican food we have eaten at Ponak’s, went home early, and rested up for the Barbecue Cook-off.
On Saturday we attended the Great American Barbecue Cook-off Kansas City. This is an event! It was held at an amphitheater outside Kansas City and used one of two massive parking lots for the competitors’ set-ups. These included their RV’s and their barbecues—and sometimes the barbecues were larger than the RV’s. They started on Friday evening, and smoked and barbecued all night, and the judging took place on Saturday afternoon. There is serious prize money for the winners in each category. Unfortunately, the competitors are not allowed to sell their product, probably due to health regulations. Fortunately, as you walk around between the vendors’ set-ups, they frequently visit with you and give you a sample of their product. There were several commercial barbecue vendors there and we were able to satiate our longings.
Pig Bus at the barbecue competition
One of the most entertaining aspects of the competition is the names the teams select. Here is a sample: Slabba Dabba Doo, HOGZILLA, Choke-N-Poke Meat Smokers, Squeal or No Squeal, Two Men and a Barbie, Holla-N-Swalla, Brewing and Queing, We Kill’em & Grill’em, Mad Hogs and an Englishman, We B Smokin’, Hog Tide Bar-B-Que, Pig Newton, Motley Que, Up ‘n Smoke, Four Men and a Pig, Slabs of Approval, Pork Pullin’ Plowboys, and Chef Use-ta-was—and those are just the ones that are fit to print!
One great thing offered there was the “People’s Choice Sampling Tent.” You enter this large tent and are handed a plate with about a half pound of barbecued pork and beef chunks and a score card. You walk through the tent sampling over 100 commercially available barbecue sauces and vote for the three you like best. All of the sauces are for sale. The meat and sauces are donated, and the proceeds from sales of sauce go to charity.
The amphitheater itself featured different bands performing every hour. We sat in an almost empty arena listening to one young band as long as we could stand the afternoon heat and the music and made our way home.
We attended church on Sunday morning at Calvary Chapel Kansas City and then met Mike and Kay at one of four Costco stores in the area. We loaded up on the things we buy there, because we were not sure when we would be near the next one. We spent the evening together recounting this get-together as well as ones in the past and prepared to leave the next day. Greg and David, two of the owners of the RV park there were super! In addition to above average hospitality, they even brought us homemade soup one day, and another day, Greg brought Rachel a pair of Sterling silver earrings he makes and sells as a gift. The park is small and rather tight, but those minor limitations are more than made up for by the owners’ hospitality.
We moved to Richmond, 12 miles south of the Franklin County seat at Ottawa, Kansas, where we intended to do some Barnhart family research. We have been using membership parks whenever we can to economize. None was advertised any closer than 52 miles from Ottawa over back farm roads, so we were resigned to do that. However, when we looked through an Ottawa booklet we picked up earlier at the Kansas State Welcome Center, there was an RV park 12 miles south of Ottawa with a nightly rate of $10—the same amount we were prepared to pay per night at our membership park. I just knew that was a mistake, so I called the V&P RV Park in Richmond and asked if their rate was really $10 per night. Pat (the P of V & P—Virgil is the V), asked how long we planned to stay. I told her we planned on a week, and she said that the rate was not $10 per night, but $60 for the week! Unbelievable! We are used to paying between $25 and $45 a night in private parks when no membership parks are available where we want to be. We cancelled our previous reservation and stayed at V & P RV Park instead.
Main Street, Ottawa, Kansas
On Tuesday we drove the 12 miles north to Ottawa and the Franklin County Courthouse where land records for the county are kept. By using an index of names we were able to locate all the references and documents relating to land owned between 1867, when my Barnhart clan moved from Indiana to Kansas, and 1898, when most of them moved on to North Dakota. I spent four and a half solid hours delving through records and placing legal descriptions on the map with the assistance of the three women working in the office—one of them a cousin of Virgil from the V & P RV Park. We left the courthouse and went to the Ottawa Library Research room and spent until about 7:00 studying old newspaper accounts and local history. We ended the day by driving out to Pleasant Hill Cemetery just northwest of Centropolis, the area where several Barnhart farms were located. We walked the rows and rows of grave markers photographing those of Barnharts and other German Baptist Brethren, or Dunkers, as they were locally called.
Franklin County, Kansas Courthouse
Pleasant Hill Cemetery
One interesting sidelight is that land for the cemetery was donated by my great grandfather, Isaac, and after he sold the land to his brother, Jacob also donated some of the land to expand the cemetery. My great- great- grandfather, Elder Daniel Barnhart and his wife Anna are buried there as well as their grandson Daniel Madison Barnhart, who died at 23, and the children who died as infants and toddlers of others of the family. We photographed headstones as long as we had light, and then drove on. As we were preparing to turn back toward our RV park, some 25 miles away by now, Rachel spotted a sign for the Appanoose Baptist Church, two miles further on, so we went there. What is there is a large church building, abandoned, at the end of a ¼-mile lane. We drove in avoiding puddles in the road, and got a couple photos. We were to learn that the church was probably significant in Barnhart family history, but we didn’t know it at the time.
As it turned too dark to see much, we started our return home along gravel farm roads spaced ½ mile or one mile apart in a neat grid, and as it got darker and darker, Rachel began to notice a glittering phenomenon. She asked me what the glittering was, and we stopped the car—there was virtually no traffic on these roads–, and we discovered that we were looking at fireflies! Rachel had never seen them before, and I had seen them only once before, in Virginia, when I was at a meeting of the National Middle Level Education Committee in Reston. We were thrilled and captivated. We parked, motor off, for probably 15 minutes watching the fireflies. We reluctantly went on home and discovered that we had some fireflies just outside our RV as well.
The next day was rainy, so we drove back into Ottawa and spent the entire day at the library reading local history about Centropolis, about the Dunkers, and a few old newspaper articles mentioning the Barnharts. I realized that I had taken so many notes and accumulated so much information that if I didn’t organize it, it would be meaningless when we went back to the field to locate the actual land. Sometimes you have to stop chopping wood and take the time to sharpen your axe. So, on Thursday I spent the entire day from early morning until past bedtime, organizing material, placing land descriptions on the area road map, and preparing for Friday’s field trip.
Friday dawned sunny and calm, so Rachel fixed a picnic lunch, and we set out following the exact route I had mapped out to best find and photograph former Barnhart farms and other landmarks such as vintage churches and schools. By about 2:00 we were getting hungry, and we had reached the first of two Daniel Barnhart farms, so we pulled in on an access lane, parked the car, spread our blanket, and ate a picnic lunch on ground my great- great-grandfather had owned and farmed in 1866!
We continued on the route, photographing each Barnhart property, eventually returning to the Appanoose Baptist Church. It turned out that the adjacent 80 acres was owned by Elder Daniel Barnhart, his second farm, acquired in 1871, and it is almost certain that he preached in that very church next door to his farm! We had to park at the road and walk in on the lane because the rainfall over the last two days had muddied the lane considerably, but when we got to the church, we saw that the door was unsecured and unlocked. We cautiously entered, taking photos of every detail, from the beautiful arched wooden ceiling to the vintage seats now stored along the sides, the old piano abandoned in what must have been a choir room, and the low-ceilinged basement where tables and benches were still lined up as if waiting for the next love feast. It was an awesome experience—in the former, meaningful sense of the word—for me, believing that this building had once been the place of worship of Barnharts almost 140 years ago.
Appanoose Baptist Church
What is today the Church of the Brethren, the church in which I was raised, is the more modern version of the Old German Baptist Brethren, the form of worship that migrated with believers from the Palatinate to Northern Germany, to Holland or England, and then to either Pennsylvania in the US or to Canada in the mid-1700’s. The Barnhart clan of Brethren migrated within the US from Pennsylvania to Virginia to Indiana to Kansas to North Dakota to Washington. As beliefs came to be considered outmoded, some would break away and others would remain until today there are many sects of the Brethren, from Old Order Brethren to Church of the Brethren and others. The German Baptists in this area are somewhere between the Old Order and the Church of the Brethren.
It was a very meaningful week, exploring and discovering and documenting land owned long ago by Barnhart ancestors. This experience was akin to our earlier experience in Towner County North Dakota and Franklin County, Virginia both in 2004, as we located farms of my great grandfather in North Dakota and my great- great- great- grandfather in Virginia. Slowly we are filling in the gaps in the information.
On Sunday that week we surprised the folks at Calvary Chapel Kansas City as we drove the 80 miles back there for church. Afterward we drove north to Leavenworth, Kansas. Being from near and participating in the community activities of Leavenworth, Washington, “Washington’s Bavarian Village,” and so often misunderstood as from Leavenworth, Kansas, we wanted to see where it was. And, not small interest, we wanted to see the Federal Penitentiary there. Before we realized it was forbidden, we had taken several photos for our files. We continued on a 185-mile loop through very rural areas of northeastern Kansas, returning home by way of Lawrence, Kansas, entering from the north. Lawrence was burned to the ground by Quantrill’s Raiders during the Civil War period, among whom were Frank and Jesse James and the Youngers, all later members of the Jesse James gang. We got home in time to get the RV ready to move the next morning to our next destination and to meet up with another friend, Adrea Rosario, in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
SAINT JOSEPH, MISSOURI
Saint Joseph, Missouri was founded and laid out in 1826 by French voyageur and trapper Joseph Robidoux. Many of the streets are named for his children and one for a slave girl. It had been a stopping-off place for the Lewis and Clark Expedition 22 years earlier as they set out to map the Louisiana Purchase. They camped on the banks of the Missouri River at what was to become St. Joseph on July 6, 1804.
Robidoux opened a trading post and thrived as a businessman at the jumping-off place for westward travel, before, during and after the California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 and after. He soon realized that people moving to his new town, or those moving on but waiting for the proper season to get across the western mountains, needed temporary housing. He built a series of row houses of brick from native materials and rented them. One of those row houses remains today, restored for tours.
Robidoux Row Houses
Another of St. Joseph’s landmarks, now gone, was the Robidoux Hotel, a luxury block-square, nine-storey hotel that was recently razed in order to build a bank building on the lot. Another hotel, similar in size and appointments, but only four storeys high was and is the Patee House (pronounced PAY tee). This hotel was built in 1858. In its life it was three times a hotel, twice a girl’s college, and finally a shirt factory. In 1860, it served as the office and headquarters for the Pony Express. Founders Russell, Majors and Waddell had their office there, and is was the starting place for the Pony Express riders as they left for Sacramento. Today it is a wonderful museum.
Patee House Museum and Pony Express Headquarters
Patee House interior
Before the 1848 gold discovery in California, mail was delivered periodically by steamships that traveled from the East Coast around the Horn of South America. The Russell, Majors and Waddell company won the contract for the Pony Express, and time for mail to reach the West Coast was reduced to 10 days. That lasted for a mere 18 months until the telegraph delivered messages in far less time for far less cost. Neither the Pony Express nor the telegraph could ship goods west, though, so next, John Butterfield established the Butterfield Stage Line and hauled the Overland Mail from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California, and that eventually was replaced by the Transcontinental Railroad(s).
For eighteen glorious months St. Joseph enjoyed the excitement of seeing the Pony Express riders gallop out of town as far as the ferry landing, where they boarded a ferry and took a leisurely ride across the river, there to resume their frantic ride west. The restored Pony Express stables are now a very nice museum dedicated solely to the history of the Pony Express. By the way, the reason the Pony Express started from St. Joseph is because it was the most westerly railroad terminus at that time, the west end of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. Several railroads went into Hannibal, and from there the mail was railroaded by the H & St. J RR to St. Joseph to be carried on westward by the ponies.
Pony Express Stables and Museum
One more thing for which St. Joseph is known is that it was the place where outlaw Jesse James was murdered by one of his gang members on April 3, 1882. The house where it took place remains, and has been moved twice, first from its original location a block and a half from the Patee House hotel to a location alongside a highway as a tourist attraction (1939-1987) and then beside the Patee House—by then a museum. The house is open for self-guided tours. When James was murdered, no one in St. Joseph knew it was not respectable Mr. Thomas Howard who had been killed, but the notorious outlaw responsible for holding up 11 banks, seven trains, three stage coaches, one county fair and one payroll messenger, and personally killing at least 16 people.
Jesse James House
Jesse James had served with Quantrill when Lawrence, Kansas, was sacked and burned in August of 1863 and 182 residents were murdered in cold blood. He was also with “Bloody Bill” Anderson at the Centralia (MO) Massacre when 210 Union soldiers, many of them wounded, were gunned down. James was 17 years old at the time. Far from being a “Robin Hood” character, he was a dismal example of a human being. Still, many, many people pay to see where he was killed—including Rachel and me.
The tallest, biggest landmark in St. Joseph is a grain mill, formerly that of Quaker Oats Co. It is a very large edifice that dominates the industrial riverfront. It was also the place famous for Aunt Jemima pancake ready-mix (Aunt Jemima was an actual black woman named Nancy Green. As she’d tour the country promoting and demonstrating Aunt Jemima products, she’d announce, “I’se in town!”) It all started with an innovation: pancake mix, including all the powdered ingredients—later even powdered milk, so that all that had to be added was water.
Another St. Joseph business you may remember if you are as old as I or older was the maker of Chief tablets. These newsprint-colored tablets were what I used in grade school in the 1940’s. Chief later became Mead, and they still make office paper products.
The reason we had pulled as far north in Missouri as we did is because that is where our friend, Adrea Rosario now lives and works. She became a member of Musikkapelle Leavenworth, the town band, which Rachel and I directed for several years. She formerly lived in Quincy, Washington and now works in St. Joe in Human Resources at Triumph Foods, a pork processing plant.
The day we arrived Rachel prepared dinner for Adrea and her boyfriend, Scott Dougherty, whom we enjoyed meeting. We visited, caught up with Adrea, got to know Scott a bit, and reminisced. Another day, Scott, who is a native of St. Joseph, drove us all over town showing us all the landmarks, which enabled us to make considered decisions when we went to attractions on our own. We enjoyed dinner together that day at Boudreaus, an authentic Cajun restaurant—the only restaurant in the old part of downtown St. Joe. Later in our visit we were able to meet Scott’s parents and a brother at the parents’ home, which they built on a vacant lot a block from Patee House and a block and a half from Jesse James’s house. The neighbor across the street said that when his grandfather built the home he was living in, he told him that he remembered Mr. Taylor (Jesse James) playing baseball with the neighbor kids on the lot where Scott’s parents’ home is built. We spent most of an afternoon at Adrea’s downtown loft apartment visiting and getting to know her animals—Maggie, her golden Lab mix, Max, her Schnauzer, and her cats, Choco and Kirby (named after Rachel’s middle name from her mother’s maiden name—not the vacuum cleaner as some have suggested). It was great catching up with Adrea, meeting Scott, and seeing many places we knew about historically. We’re glad Adrea chose to move to St. Joseph.
Adrea, Max, Rachel and Maggie HANNIBAL, MISSOURI
Louisiana and Mexico, Missouri--confusing!
Our next destination was near Hannibal, Missouri, and if you’re familiar with Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, you’ll know why we wanted to be there. Actually, we drove east from St. Joe 185 miles to Hannibal, past the birthplace or childhood homes of several people whose names you will recognize, including James Cash (J.C.) Penney (Hamilton, MO), Walt Disney (Marceline, MO), and General Blackjack Pershing (Brookfield, MO). Then we turned south for another 50 miles to Tievoli Hills Resort near Clarksville. It is a membership resort that has RV spaces, condos, vacation rentals, and a winery and brewery. (It was formerly an exclusive club for members of “The Pipeline,” including James Hoffa, and there is a rumor—unsubstantiated, of course—that his missing body is at the bottom of the large lake on the property.) The former helicopter landing pad is now a sun deck for the pool. Pretty swank! And by the way, Tievoli spelled backward is “I love it.”Tievoli Hills Resort
We made the 50-mile trip back north to Hannibal twice in the next week to see the Mark Twain landmarks. The first time, we drove north to Louisiana, Missouri (confusing, isn’t it?), crossed the Mississippi and drove north through Illinois, and crossed the river again opposite Hannibal and crossed back into Missouri. The Twain landmarks we saw included his childhood home and that of those playmates who were the basis for some of the characters in his most famous books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We also saw the office where Sam’s father served as Justice of the Peace for a period as well as the drug store above which the Clemens family lived for a short time.
Clemens home with rebuilt fence for Tom to whitewash
Huckleberry Finn home, restored
Becky Thatcher House, under renovation
Grant's Drug Store over which the Clemons family lived for a time
Tom Blankenship, son of the Hannibal town drunk served as the model for Huckleberry Finn, and Laura Hawkins, who lived across the street from the Clemens family was the inspiration for Becky Thatcher. I love Twain’s writing, and I also love the fact that he got his start writing as a cub reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada, first using the nom de plume “Josh,” and later, “Mark Twain.” His book Roughing It chronicles his adventures in the West, including his time as a silver miner and writer in Nevada.
From the age of 12, when my parents took my brother, Neil, and me to Virginia City as a diversion from their days spent in Reno, until the present, I have been captivated by the history of Virginia City, Nevada. I have compiled an extensive collection of information about the area and era. Ten years after the California Gold Rush, silver was discovered in what became Gold Hill and Virginia City, Nevada. This started a reverse rush. The towns grew, and Virginia City eventually became a city of perhaps 20,000, sitting precariously on the side of Mt. Davidson a few miles south and several thousand feet higher than Reno. The Comstock Lode, as the area was known, produced millions in wealth for a few. There are many mansions remaining in Virginia City from those days. In fact, when Rachel and I were married on December 28, 1994, it was in the parlor of a former mine owner’s mansion then owned by local businessman, Don McBride, on Stewart Street in Virginia City!
The Hannibal Museum Gallery, formerly a clothing store, houses much Hannibal and Twain history and artifacts as well as a series of Norman Rockwell paintings done as illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer.
The second day we drove to Hannibal, we took the route along the west bank of the Mississippi and got tickets for a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi and then while we waited for our departure time, we toured the home of Margaret Tobin Brown—lately known as Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic sinking fame. Her 1860’s home is restored to as-was condition and is filled with memorabilia from her life and information about her before, during and after the sinking of the Titanic.
We went to the levee and caught our riverboat next. We toured upriver for a ways and then turned and rode downstream quite a distance below Hannibal. One of the landmarks best seen from the river is Lover’s Leap. The story goes that the Indians on the Missouri side of the Mississippi were warring with those on the Illinois side. The Missouri chief had a beautiful daughter. An Illinois Indian fell in love with her and made trips across the river in his canoe to meet her. The chief found out and ambushed the couple as they held each other and admired the scenery from atop a cliff. Rather than be separated, they both jumped to their death on the rocks below. Sounds a little like several other stories we have heard where such promontories exist elsewhere. Hmmmmmm.
Mississippi Riverboat Mark Twain
Lovers' Leap from the river (upper left) and BNSF train heading south along the Mississippi
View of Hannibal and the Mississippi River from Lovers' Leap
Following the riverboat ride we went to the Big River Train Town, a model railroad store and toy train museum. If you are a model railroader you can’t take the chance of skipping a hobby shop when one presents itself. Turn out that this was more toy train museum than model railroad, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The owner had collected toy trains all his life and his wife finally told him that instead of spending more money on trains, they needed to start MAKING money on trains, so they created this museum.
Our route back to Tievoli Hills passed the cave Mark Twain wrote about when Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost in the cave. They saw a light nearing them in a passage and assumed it was a rescue party. Wrong! It was Injun Joe, who had vowed to kill Tom for testifying against him in court just before he escaped! A rescue party did eventually find Tom and Becky, and Judge Thatcher, Becky’s dad boarded up the entrance of the cave so little boys couldn’t get lost there again. Poor Injun Joe. He couldn’t get out, so he died of dehydration and starvation in the cave. Great story. This cave is different from the typical caverns with their stalactites and stalagmites. This limestone cavern has straight passageways and intersections, mostly level, caused by an underground stream dissolving the stone over time. All the cavern has been mapped, but only a small portion is used for guided tours. Still, the part they take you through takes over an hour to navigate.
Mark Twain Cave
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
After a week north of St. Louis about 85 miles, we drove south through the city and turned right on I-44 and headed west another 85 miles to just north of Owensville off Missouri Highway 50. On our way to the resort, we were passed by several emergency vehicles and as we neared our destination, we came upon a horrific wreck. A car was pinned under a large delivery truck and the firemen were using the Jaws of Life to tear the car apart. We assumed the driver of the car to be a fatality judging by the mangled mess the car was in, but it turns out that he had a cut on his forehead, another on his cheek, and his hands and forearms were injured!
Accident on Highway 50
As Rachel and I stood beside our RV waiting for the highway to be cleared, we were able to apply, once again, some of the training we received from Mickey Stonier at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego in post-traumatic stress management. We talked with a local man who was afraid to walk nearer to the wreck, because he had lost a brother in a similar wreck a few years earlier on the same stretch of road, and this wreck brought it all back to him. In addition, he had several relatives living along the route and he feared one of them might be involved. We visited while the ambulance transported the injury victim and the officers marked the road in their investigation. As we parted company, he thanked us for taking the time to talk with him. It bears out our motto from the Book of Esther 4:14: “. . . for such a time as this.” We seem often to be placed just where we need to be for a reason, and this was such a time.
Once the RV was set up at Lost Valley Lake RV Resort we holed up for several days as the weather alternated between severe thunder storms with heavy rain and hail, and extreme heat with high humidity. Now, we left Central Washington to escape extreme summer heat and below freezing winter cold. We don’t mind heat, but what we were used to in Washington was a dry heat. In Missouri the heat is accompanied by humidity. They report the weather using a heat index that combines temps and humidity to create a heat factor—or what temperature it feels like. For several days in a row the heat index was between 105 and 110! We stayed inside most of the time and read and enjoyed each other’s company and listened to the welcome hum of our RV’s residential-type air conditioner.
High water as we pulled into Lost Valley Lakes, Owensville
We did make two trips back to St. Louis. The first was for pleasure. We went to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, spent time in the excellent museum there, and went up 630 feet in the Gateway Arch. When we arrived, it was lunchtime, so we sat on the grassy park area surrounding the memorial overlooking a stretch of the St. Louis Mississippi riverfront and ate the picnic lunch Rachel had fixed for us. The museum has two films. One is about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which we had seen previously elsewhere and another about the construction of the arch. That one we saw before going up into it. The arch is built of many hollow triangular sections sandwiched together. The outside surface is stainless steel, and the inside is regular steel. As each section was mounted atop another, it was filled between the outer and inner surface with concrete which was then stressed by very large tension rods.
Cranes mounted to the outside of each inward-sloping arm of the arch moved upward as the height of the arch increased. At a certain point, in order to overcome the tendency for the arms to tip toward each other, a separating structure was temporarily lifted and fastened in place between the two arms. When the last arch section was placed, the spreader was removed. The day we went up it was moderately windy and we could feel the arch swaying, but it is built to withstand winds of over 100 miles per hour and then, sway no more than 18 inches.
No one with claustrophobia would want to attempt the trip up the arch in the tram. The conveyance is much like an enclosed Ferris wheel. Each small capsule in the train of eight holds five people and has two small windows that allow you to see the stairway inside the arm of the arch. As the tram moves upward, the capsules rotate so that down is always down. The view from the top of the arch is spectacular, and it is inspiring to realize that this was at the edge of the wilderness at the time of Westward Expansion. It was also interesting to note that a few weeks ago we were 600 feet underground in Hutchinson, Kansas, and here we were, 630 feet above ground in the arch.
Gateway Arch on the St. Louis skyline
Gateway Arch seen from below
Actual Gateway Arch tram car on display--1 of 8 in the tram--holds 5 people!
Gateway Arch base from the top
Mississippi River traffic from the top
Though it was getting toward evening, we drove south from St. Louis about 25 miles to Barnhart, Missouri, to see what it looked like and if we could determine why it was so-named. Turns out it is simply a rural area with no downtown to speak of, a small shopping area, and lots of trees and brush. No one we spoke with knew why it was named Barnhart, but it is on the route of a railroad, and if it is like Barnhart, Texas, it was probably named for a person employed by the railroad.
The second trip we made to St. Louis was medical. In December I was due for a colonoscopy on a five-year recall. We were in Yuma, Arizona at the time and we elected to wait until we were in a more populated location—in terms of gastroenterologists, and because we had dental issues to deal with. We got up VERY early one morning, took the second of two doses of medication designed to make interior viewing clearer. We left for St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. (we had almost forgotten there even was a 6:30 a.m. too) and arrived on time. Before long I was awakened and informed that it was all over and that everything was all right. They wheeled me out to the car and we moved to a shady area in the parking lot and we ate—both of us—for the first time in 36 hours. Yes, Rachel fasted with me. Some dedication!
Our other trip out of the Lost Valley Lake park was to Hermann, Missouri, about 25 miles north along the Missouri River. The town was founded by Germans, and the influence is still apparent today. There are several wineries in Hermann, and they are also famous for sausages. We had lunch at one of the wineries in a former stable converted into Vintage Restaurant—fine dining at fast-food prices. We did tour the old winery and the limestone cellars dug out of solid rock and faced with brick for aging wines. During Prohibition the cellars were used to grow mushrooms. A family bought the property several years ago and it again produces award-winning wines.
SPRINGFIELD AND BILLINGS, MISSOURI
We pulled the RV to Springfield on Monday, June 29 and set up at Ozark Highlands RV Park just southeast of the downtown. I was surprised about the name, because I always thought the Ozarks were in Arkansas. Not so. The Ozark “Mountains” also extend into the lower portion of Missouri. Our primary purpose in being in this part of Missouri was to locate many of the landmarks my mother had talked about during her lifetime. She was born in Billings, Missouri in September, 1915. In 1921 the family moved to Washington State. For her first six years she lived in Billings and remembered quite a lot about the town. My parents traveled to Billings in October, 1981 to revisit her home, and they took several photographs which, though now quite faded, I still have.
Her father, my grandfather, Will Johnson, was Town Constable of Billings around 1910. At the time, they lived one street off the main street and across the alley from the city jail and the powerhouse. His duties included caring for jailed prisoners and taking dinner to them each evening, probably prepared by my grandmother, Della (Shaeffer) Johnson, and turning off the town power plant each night at 10:00 that supplied electricity to the little town of Billings (this was before Rural Electrification).
We drove to Billings on Tuesday and began driving the streets of town, armed with photos my parents had taken in October, 1981, when they visited Billings. We started on the north side of the Frisco tracks (St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad), but found none of the homes pictured. Since we were on the right side of town, we drove a mile north to Rose Hill Cemetery. My mother’s older sister was born in September, 1901. She moved to Washington State with the rest of the family in 1921. A second sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1906. She became ill and died in early 1913 at six and a half years old. My mother was born three years later and so never knew her other sister. We found her grave marker at the Rose Hill Cemetery.
We returned to town and began driving the streets on the south side of the tracks—the main part of town. Before long, we found the old jail and the power house in an alley behind the main street. Knowing the location of the house relative to the jail, we also were able to locate it as well. We photographed the jail, the power house building and Mom’s birth home and then walked a couple blocks around trying to find the home (mansion) of Dr. Fred Brown, the physician who delivered Mom, and the first home my grandparents, Will and Della Johnson, had lived in, as well as the home of longtime family friend, Toby Martin. Having no luck, we went to the Billings Bank on the advice of a business owner next to the old jail building to look for a Centennial book on display there.
Mom's caption in 1981--Jail behind my home--Dad was Marshall
Jail in 2009
Mom's caption in 1981--Powerhouse behind my home which my Dad ran
Powerhouse in 2009
Mom's caption in 1981--Home where I was born--remodeled
Mom's birthplace 2009
The Bank of Billings was formed in 1889 with capital of $10,500. It never closed its doors, even during the depression or forced “bank holidays” designed to protect small banks from “runs” on the banks. They remained solvent and were declared at one time one of the most secure 100 banks in America. On its centennial—and that of the incorporation of the town, the bank commissioned a book to be done about Billings in general and specifically about the bank. Also, a large hardbound book about the history of Christian County was compiled and one of these was available at the bank. We sat in the bank lobby looking through the large book on the county, re-photographing some of the photos in it that had personal significance. I had known that my great grandfather, Milton Young Johnson, was the first school teacher in Billings. What I learned in looking through this book was that he was also the Billings postmaster for a period. Learning of our interest in Billings history, the head teller at the bank gave us a copy of the book about the history of the bank—which also includes volumes of information about Billings and Christian County.
After about an hour at the bank we drove south of Billings a couple miles guided by a 1911 land ownership map, and found the 120-acre farm my great grandfather had owned. We went further south and found the Smart Cemetery where Milton Young Johnson and wife, Kaeturah, were buried, along with two of their young children. We found and photographed the grave markers. (When I say “we” found them, it would be more accurate to say that Rachel found them. She has an uncanny ability to home in on an object that I seem to lack.) We drove back to town, still hoping to find the last three objectives, the doctor’s home and that first home of my grandparents and their family friends, the Martins, supposedly across the street.
We found several white three-storey Victorian homes, but none of them looked like the 1981 photograph my parents had taken. Finally, and in complete opposition to my male inclinations, we asked a local man if he knew where the mansion was. He didn’t, but told us of a man who was very familiar with residences of the town. We went to his home, but no one was there. We backed out of the driveway and pulled to the side of the street in front of the house so Rachel could make an important phone call to family. While she was on the phone, the man drove up. We nearly missed him!
I visited with him about Missouri, politics and economics, and finally he told me where the house was located. We drove according to his directions and found the home just where he said it would be. I took several photos, one similar to the one my parents had taken in 1981, and then sat and waited while Rachel completed another family phone call. As we sat there in the early evening in the driveway of the doctor’s home, I became reluctantly aware that we would probably not be able to locate the grandparent’s first home nor the home of the family friend. I studied the photos from 1981 and as I did I glanced at the house next door to the doctor’s home. It was my grandparents’ first home! I turned around and looked directly across the street and there was the Martin home!
Mom's caption in 1981--Dr. Brown, Fred and Louise, neighbors
Dr. Brown House, 2009
Mom's caption in 1981--My parents' first home in Billings--remodeled Her parents' first home in 2009 Mom's caption in 1981--Toby Martin's home across the street from original house
Her parents' first home in 2009
Mom's caption in 1981--Toby Martin's home across the st from original house
Toby Martin's home in 2009
Some other extraordinary things happened that day. First of all, as we were photographing the interior of one of the two jail cells—this is a solid sandstone building with concrete floor and heavy timber ceiling, materials stored inside the cell shifted! They had obviously been in the cell for a long time, but at the moment we were photographing, they shifted! Spooky! The second thing was at the Smart Cemetery. As we drove up to the cemetery, Rachel remarked that the vehicle entry gate to this cemetery, unlike that at Rose Hill, was closed, which meant we would need to enter on foot through a smaller gate nearby. We drove up to the gate anyway, got out and spread a blanket on the grass outside the cemetery and had a picnic lunch Rachel had packed. As we finished eating and prepared to enter the cemetery we were astounded to see the gate open! We had not seen it move and no one else was around, but it was closed when we drove up to it, and when we were ready to enter, the gate was open. Also spooky!
It was a very meaningful and gratifying day for me, with my sentimentality and interest in family history. Finding and seeing for the first time, the farmland of my great grandparents, Milton and Kaeturah Johnson, and the two Billings homes of my grandparents, Will and Della Johnson, one of which was my mother’s birthplace, and seeing the home of the doctor who brought her into the world, as well as that of longtime family friend, Toby Martin, had a great deal of meaning for me. And, I thank God for a loving, supporting wife who not only abides my interest, but actively participates, encourages and facilitates.
Springfield, Missouri, where our RV was parked for the week, has lots of history, being on the Pony Express Route, along the “Wire Road,” that is, the route of the Western Union Telegraph line, and that of the Butterfield Stage. It is also the beginning of Route 66, the home of Grizzly Industries (importer of woodworking tools) and has the largest Bass Pro Shop showroom in the world, at 300,000 square feet! It is also the National Headquarters of the Assemblies of God churches.
On the Sunday after July 4, we drove 75 miles from Springfield to the Calvary Chapel in Joplin, Missouri. It was a great service. Afterward we drove Route 66 into Galena, Kansas, just across the state line, and then returned to Missouri and through downtown Joplin and drove north to Carthage, Missouri. I was interested in trying to find the grave of my great- great- great uncle George, who died there while living with his daughter, Hannah Barnhart and her husband, Benjamin Franklin Wampler. We drove to Oak Hill Cemetery, the first of three on my list and discovered that it is a massive place covering probably 50 acres and holding thousands of people—well, bodies. It is covered by a virtual spider web of roadways and lanes. Knowing the futility of randomly searching for a single plot, but reluctant to not give it a try, we started driving the lanes. Within five minutes Rachel spotted a Wampler headstone. We looked closer, but it was not my direct relative. We continued on, weaving through other lanes, and just a few minutes later, she spotted a Barnhart headstone—not the right one, but just across the drive were the graves of George’s daughter, Hannah, and her husband! George was not buried with them, but what are the chances of finding these graves among thousands by randomly searching?
On Tuesday, July 7, we move to Branson, Missouri for six days and then into Arkansas for three stays of one week each. After that, Tennessee. We’ll be back later with our next update, and again, thanks for traveling with us.