Saint Joseph MO, Jefferson IA, The Amana Colonies and Then Rockford IL

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September 11th 2010
Published: October 4th 2010
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Independence MO to St Joseph MO to Jefferson IA to Rockford IL

Liberty JailLiberty JailLiberty Jail

Liberty MO
Let’s go back into ancient history and get y’all caught up. Internet availability has been sporadic, we’ve been busy, libraries under renovation, yadda, yadda, yadda!!! Most importantly, has had ISSUES!!! They have revised their software and have had hardware problems. I connot (or don't know how) to get rid of the "flags" on the map so y'all can have a clear image. I'll try to get it sorted out before the next blog. Bear with me, please.

We had kept quite busy during our week in Independence MO and had skipped a couple of attractions in nearby Liberty MO that we probably would have included had we allotted more time. Indeed, Kansas City is on the “return to” list. Since Liberty was on the way to St Joseph and since the drive to St Joseph would be short, we decided to make two stops while en route. Friday morning, July 2, 2010 we set out for the Historic Liberty Jail. As we walked up to the landmark, I saw a sign touting an affiliation of some sort with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My curiosity was piqued to say the least. It turns out that
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Clay County Savings Bank, Liberty MO
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, and several of his followers were “falsely imprisoned” in this jail in the 1800s. Somehow they all survived the (then) second coldest recorded winter in Liberty. The history and construction of the jail was interesting and the low-keyed “sales pitch” was tolerable. Cost/benefit analysis (time) = skip it.

We walked two blocks to the Jesse James Bank Museum. Now, one would think that the notorious bank robbery had done the deed at the Clay County Savings Bank however, since Jesse and Frank were so well known in Liberty that immediate recognition would have occurred, they cased the joint and stood watch outside. As the James Gang rode off with guns blazing, a bystander was shot and killed, and the bounty for members of the James Gang was raised. That robbery was the first peacetime, daylight bank robbery in the US. There are some interesting pictures and artifacts that (for the most part) are repeated in other Jesse James landmarks.

Then we were off to another Jesse site - the James Family Home in Kearney MO. This site was focused on the family of Jesse - particularly his mother Zerelda James and
Lie Still - Until Calmed DownLie Still - Until Calmed DownLie Still - Until Calmed Down

Glore Psychiatric Museum - St. Joseph MO
his older brother Frank. If you have limited time yet want a better understanding of Jesse James the man, I would recommend driving the 25 miles to the Kearney - more information with less bling. The last leg of our journey to St. Joseph and our arrival at the Sharp RV Park was unremarkable. St. Joseph MO is an historic town and served as the eastern terminus for the Pony Express. Two thousand ten marks the 150th anniversary of that short-lived mail service. We actually ended up in St. Joseph for Independence Day by design and believed there would be a significant hootenanny to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s birth as well as that of the Pony Express.

Saturday morning we set out for the visitor center to get a schedule of events for the weekend only to learn there would be no parade and no other festivities save a fireworks show scheduled for Sunday night. We headed for The St Joseph Museums - a complex of museums that includes the Glore Psychiatric Museum, the American Indian Museum, the Black Archives & a temporary exhibit currently featuring information about the Pony Express. The Glore Psychiatric Museum had artifacts
Run or Walk To Exhaustion?Run or Walk To Exhaustion?Run or Walk To Exhaustion?

Glore Psychiatric Museum - St. Joseph MO
and exhibits that tracked and explained treatment of mental illness over the years - from burning the deranged (witches) at the stake to the lunatic box to lobotomies to electro-convulsive therapy. The American Indian Museum had one of the most comprehensive, well-displayed and best-documented collections I have seen. Both are highly recommended. The Pony Express exhibit included photos and bios of the Pony Express riders, letters they had carried and several paintings depicting various Pony Express activities. Very well done but, again, a temporary exhibit so you’d better hurry on over! The Black Archives had a few interesting artifacts but was focused on the life and impact of local black leaders. It’s a “small, small world” note: There was an ethnic poster advertising honey produced by the Rocky Mountain Honey Company in our hometown of Silver City, New Mexico. As long as you are there, you might as well stroll through this unique museum.

After lunch, we stopped at the Jesse James' Home where Jesse lived with his wife and two children for two years before being shot in the back of the head on April 3, 1882 as he was straightening a picture in the living room. Extremely
Old-Fashioned FunOld-Fashioned FunOld-Fashioned Fun

Patee House Museum - St Joseph MO
overrated unless you cannot make it to the James Family Farm. Right next-door is the Patee House Museum that has served in numerous capacities throughout its history. One of those functions was that of Pony Express Headquarters during the brief life of the Pony Express. A carousel, a couple of fire trucks, a steam locomotive, a stagecoach and vintage cars occupy the first floor. Paintings and short bios of a few dozen of the characters of the western frontier are presented in a gallery on the second floor. The museum also houses artifacts from the dental practice of Frederick P. Cronkite - father of St. Joseph’s native son Walter Cronkite - and many other turn-of-the-century furniture artifacts. There are so many diverse displays that everybody should find something of interest, but there is no single item that is noteworthy or truly spectacular.

Sunday, July 4, 2010 was a rainy, miserable day, and most of the attractions were closed so we spent the day lazing around the Pilgrim hoping the weather would break for the fireworks display. Such was not the case. Monday was another overcast day with intermittent sprinkles, but we did manage to make our way to the
Infant Cooling Bed - Pre-Embalming EraInfant Cooling Bed - Pre-Embalming EraInfant Cooling Bed - Pre-Embalming Era

Heaton Bowman Smith Funeral Home Museum - St Joseph MO
Pony Express Museum. Actually, the museum was a bit of a disappointment. The quality abounded, but for THE Pony Express Museum the quantity was quite limited. For those interested in western history, it still resides on my recommended list.

Our last St. Joseph stop was at the Heaton Bowman Smith Funeral Home Museum. This small museum is located in the rear of a working funeral home. Unfortunately, staff members were busy at the time we arrived and were unable to give us the ten-cent tour; however, we were well received, were led back to the museum and were encouraged to return for a guided tour. Even though we were “on our own,” the extensive collection of antique coffins, cremation urns, cooling beds (used to preserve corpses before embalming practices were developed) and antique “tools of the trade” was well documented. The undertaker’s basket used to transport Jesse James’ body after his murder is also on display. Extremely unique and well worth a 30-60 minute visit.

We had had a great time in St. Joseph MO. For a small city, St. Joseph has a lot of historical offerings - Pony Express, Jesse James and two very unique museums -
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Rotary Jail - Gallatin MO
psychiatric and funeral home. There really isn’t enough to keep you hoppin’ for a week, but there is plenty to keep you from getting bored over two or three days.

The gloomy weather continued on Tuesday as we set out for Jefferson IA to spend a few days with my cousin and his wife. We planned three stops along the route to Jefferson. Our first stop was in Hamilton MO at the J.C. Penney Birthplace and Museum. Necessarily, most of the displays are documents - excerpts from speeches he made, letters he wrote, etc. - photographs and awards. James Cash Penney had a very interesting life; however, the museum is quite non-descript and is an all-or-nothing type of attraction - there is no point in stopping unless you are willing to spend the time reading to learn about Penney. His birthplace was not open to tour except during special events, which made the entire stop a bust for me.

A few miles north, we stopped in Gallatin MO to check out the Rotary or Squirrel Cage Jail. Although we spotted it in the state tourism book, neither the hours nor a phone number was listed. It was closed,
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Gowrie Township Cemetery - Gowrie IA
and no contact number was posted. Looking around the outside did whet our appetites. If our travels bring us through Galatin again, I’ll try to make arrangements in advance. It is unique and looks interesting. Our next en route waypoint was Winterset IA - the birthplace of John Wayne; however, we arrived after the museum had closed. Winterset is relatively close to Jefferson and, unbeknownst to us, is located in Madison County - THE Madison County of covered bridge book and movie fame. We vowed to make a return visit before we left Jefferson.

It was early evening by the time we arrived at the Spring Lake Campground about five miles east of Jefferson. The campground is part of the Green County Parks system and is located on a small swimming and fishing lake. The sites are roomy and shaded, but the incredible amount of recent rainfall in Iowa made many of the available lakeside sites quite muddy. We picked the best available site, set up and called my cousin Jim Gorman. As expected, they already had eaten but did recommend a pizza buffet that would be open late. After dinner, we went to their home and found that
Current Dwelling of My Third-Cousin Current Dwelling of My Third-Cousin Current Dwelling of My Third-Cousin

Much Modified Homestead of Great Grandfather AF Gorman and Great Uncle Fred Gorman - Near Gowrie IA
Jim’s wife Barb had researched the location of the graves of my paternal great-grandparents, A.F. and Louise Gorman. We had been unable to locate those graves during my last visit.

Jim and Barb are older than I but manage to stay extremely busy with a wide variety of volunteer and civic endeavors - particularly through the week. Wednesday morning Kay and I set out for the Gowrie Township Cemetery. The directions provided by the sexton were precise, and we found the heretofore-evasive headstone within minutes. Wandering around the cemetery, we found the graves of an additional dozen or so family members - paternal grandparents, great uncles and aunts, uncles and aunts and one cousin. We drove into Gowrie to look around the village my father called home. Kay suggested we stop at the barbershop so the shaggy dog could get a trim. I introduced myself to the barber and within a few minutes had determined he had known my great uncle Fred Gorman and was a friend of Fred’s grandson Bud.

Bud agreed to meet Jim and Barb and us at the barbershop for coffee on Thursday morning. What a great time we had sharing family memories, information
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John Wayne Birthplace - Winterset IA
and trivia. Jim and Barb left for an appointment, but Bud invited Kay and me to his home - the much modified and enlarged home of my great grandfather. Bud’s grandfather, my great uncle Fred, continued farming the location after great grandfather retired and has lead to Bud’s eventual ownership of the homestead site. Even though the property looks nothing like it did during my grandfather’s youth, walking on the ground where my grandfather played as a child was thought provoking to say the least. Bud was kind enough to lend me genealogical information amassed by his late mother. We also learned that Bud and his wife winter in Donna TX where we plan to winter in 2011-12. The reunion is planned!

Friday Jim volunteered at the hospital so we met him there for lunch. After lunch we did a little shopping to restock the pantry and went over to Jim and Barb’s so Jim could show us the Mahanay Bell Tower after his volunteer shift at the hospital. Jim volunteers several hours a month at the tower. On our first evening in Jefferson, we had mentioned our “discovery” of The Bridges of Madison County and had asked if
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Cutler-Donahue Bridge - Madison County IA
Jim and Barb would like to make the trip with us. They said it had been some time since they had visited Madison County, and we had set the trip for Saturday. (Saturday was the only day during our visit that one or the other of those busy bees didn’t have a prior commitment. What stamina!)

Our first stop in Winterset IA was the visitor bureau on the town square. A farmers market surrounding the 1876 courthouse was underway. Being a Saturday, we couldn’t see the interior of the courthouse, but the beautiful exterior is surely enticing. Next time, we’ll try to visit Winterset on a weekday. After procuring a map to guide us to the six covered bridges, we went to the birthplace of Marion Robert Morrison - aka John Wayne. A gift shop is located next door to the landmark where tickets to tour the birthplace and extremely over-priced memorabilia are sold. After hearing a description of the “tour,” learning that interior photography was not allowed and performing some cost/benefit analysis, we unanimously agreed we would forgo the tour. Since they had no hatpins for my collection, we got out of there without spending one red cent.
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Freedom Rock - North of Greenfield IA

We set out for Winterset City Park - home of the relocated Cutler-Donahue covered bridge. After inspection of the bridge, we decided to break out the picnic lunch. As we were lunching, a couple approached to ask a question of the “locals.” Low and behold, the man was a retired teacher (turned principal) who had worked with cousin Barb in the Jefferson school system. More small world! After lunch, we followed the bridge tour map supplied by the visitor bureau to check out the remaining five covered bridges. What is there to say about covered bridges except that they are architecturally unique and I like them? We plan to see more as we find them in our travels. At the last bridge, Cedar Bridge, a man asked if we had seen the Freedom Rock. After we heard how close at hand it was, we decided to make an unscheduled stop.

I have seen pictures of the Freedom Rock via emails with Power Point attachments; however, I was not aware that the artist, Ray Michael (Bubba) Sorensen II (, repaints the rock every spring between May 1 and Memorial Day. In May 2006, as Bubba was painting the rock
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Iowa Firefighters Memorial - Coralville IA
on a very windy day, a group of motorcyclists stopped as they were on the way to spread the ashes of eight fallen Vietnam veterans at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC. They asked if some ashes could be left at the base of the Freedom Rock. Bubba told them the ashes would merely blow away and suggested they sprinkle the ashes into his paint can so he could paint them into the mural. They agreed, and the ashes-laden green paint became two small Huey helicopters. Subsequently, Bubba has revered that spot on the rock, has added ashes from other fallen Vietnam veterans each year and has increased the size of the Huey helicopter. The Freedom Rock is a must see, and the web site is awesome.

That evening we said our goodbyes to Jim and Barb, and Sunday morning we headed for Amana IA and a two-day stop at the Amana Colonies. The forecast predicted better weather for Tuesday so we put the nearby Herbert Hoover Birthplace National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum (both in West Branch IA) on the agenda for Monday. On the way to West Branch, a
Hoover Started As A Mining EngineerHoover Started As A Mining EngineerHoover Started As A Mining Engineer

Herbert Hoover Birthplace NHS & Presidential Museum - West Branch IA
roadside sign on I-80 drew me to the Iowa Firefighters Memorial in Coralville IA. The memorial honors all Iowa firefighters - past, present and future and is well worth a 30-60 minute stop. Definitely a must see for firefighters!

In West Branch, we learned the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is actually a complex of historic buildings representing West Branch as it was in the days of Hoover’s youth. In addition to the 14 ft. x 20 ft. Birthplace Cottage, there is a (Quaker) Friends Meetinghouse, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop (Hoover’s father was a blacksmith) and, of course, the National Park Service Visitor Center. The adjacent Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum is also the location of the graves of Hoover and his wife Lou. Hoover began his adult life as a mining engineer, worked in Australia and China, became the Secretary of Commerce and then President. Wall Street crashed only nine months into his Presidency, and, for the remainder of his term, he laid out much of the framework for the New Deal implemented by FDR. Hoover spent most of his post-Presidential years working to provide humanitarian relief worldwide - particularly in war-torn Europe after WW II. A visit
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Amana Colonies - Amana IA
to West Branch will provide you a very interesting and informative day indeed.

On Tuesday morning, we headed for the Visitor Center in Amana. Right off the bat, my understanding of the background of the Amana Colonies was shattered. I had believed the Amish inhabited the Colonies. Such is not the case! The Community of True Inspiration settled in the area now known as the Amana Colonies in 1855; whereas, the Old Order Amish settled in Kalona (only thirty miles away) in 1846. Although both groups spoke German and dressed similarly, the historic traditions and religious teachings of the two groups were, and are, quite different. We decided to focus this visit on the historic and cultural facets of the people of Amana, and purchased passes to gain entry to all seven of the historical sites maintained by the Amana Historical Society.

Of the six we visited (the Communal Agriculture Museum is open only on Saturday), I would highly recommend the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana, the Communal Kitchen and Cooper Shop in Middle Amana and the Amana Community and Church Museum in Homestead. The Heritage Museum has a great 20-minute historical video in addition to many interesting
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Ronald Regan Boyhood Home - Dixon IL
static displays, and the other two museums have docents who provide an overview and then answer questions (as well as providing a sample of her delicious homemade dessert). Everybody was treated equally in the community - even in death. The coffins were the same, the headstones were the same and burial plots were assigned based on the sequence of death. The next grave dug was beside the most recently deceased regardless of kinship or friendship.

From Amana we headed north on US 151 towards US 30 where we headed east to Sterling IL and caught IL 2 towards Rockford. We stopped in Dixon to see the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan and the Dixon Historic Center - formerly the South Side School where Reagan attended school. There is a “Reagan Trail” in the Dixon area that includes his birthplace, the beach where he was a lifeguard, the small town where some of his best high school friends lived and several other, in my opinion, minor points of interest. Our late arrival in Dixon caused us to miss the Reagan birthplace - a restored upper apartment in a commercial building in nearby Tampico IL. Perhaps we’ll stop there in
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Sister Helen's 80th Birthday Party
the future, but the two sites we did visit were worth the 2-3 hour investment.

The remainder of the trip to the Hononegah Forest Preserve was uneventful. The preserve is heavily wooded and is home to turkey and deer. On Sunday, July 18, we attended the eightieth birthday celebration for Larry’s sister, Helen. On Tuesday, July 20 Kay caught a flight for El Paso to take care of some planned personal and business matters (including the renewal of her driver’s license). Larry spent most of Kay’s absence working on plans for the next segment of the trip - Rockford IL to Washington DC and getting a tune-up for the aging body at the VA clinic in Rockford. Kay returned to Rockford on Saturday, August 14. The remainder of our time in Illinois was spent visiting many of Larry’s family and friends. Our departure date for Washington DC from Rockford should be around Labor Day, but that depends largely on the Veterans Administration.

Additional photos below
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Be Seated - For Days!

Glore Psychiatric Museum - St. Joseph MO
She Ain't Crazy, She's A WitchShe Ain't Crazy, She's A Witch
She Ain't Crazy, She's A Witch

Glore Psychiatric Museum - St. Joseph MO

American Indian Museum - St Joseph MO

American Indian Museum - St Joseph MO

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