Thursday, October 14, 2010

Northeast Missouri

Ok, back on track, we did cover more miles today -- like 150, but still 40 miles from St. Louis. OMG, if we don't kick it in the butt, this thang is gonna take a month. First, we finished up just the last little bit of the Santa Fe Trail, visting Old Franklin and Boone's Lick.

Here lies Old Franklin, Missouri
Just north of the Missouri River beyond Boonville, Missouri, Old Franklin was the town where William Becknell, the "Father of the Santa Fe Trail" and his party started out for Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1821. Unfortunately, the entire town was washed away by flooding of the Missouri River in 1927. Still, it was a nostalgic stop, just looking at the terrain and river, wondering about those early Santa Fe Trail traders, as well as thinking about Lewis and Clark who had also been there almost two decades previous.

Boone's Lick State Historic Site
Next, we move along some 10 miles to Boone's Lick State Historic Site. Here, Lewis and Clark also passed, reporting the presence of many saltwater springs. Just a couple of years later, sons of famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, formed a partnership with James and Jesse Morrison in 1805 to produce salt. It was then shipped by keelboat on the Missouri River to St. Louis, Missouri. Salt production continued here until about 1833. This site, too, was a destination for pioneers heaing west.

We then head northeast to Centralia, Missouri, the site of the Centralia Massacre during the Civil War. On September 27, 1864, 22 unarmed Union soldiers returning home on leave were pulled from a train and executed by Confederate bushwhackers under "Bloody Bill" Anderson. A Union force pursuing the guerrillas was ambushed, and about 150 were killed, many of whom were tortured and executed, and afterwards, their bodies mutilated.

A mural depicts the Centralia Massacre
I had long wanted to know more about this particular Civil War battle and was pleased when I found a reference in the official 2010 Missouri Travel Guide to Centralia's "Gray Ghost Trail Civil War Markers." So, we set aside some time to follow the trail, but, in the end, spent more time trying to find it than driving it.

Centralia Battlefield
Starting out at the town square, there is an interpretive sign which indicates four stops on this driving tour. The interpretive sign was very informative about the sites; but, it wasn't directionally correct -- with north being north, etc. We were confused so we went to the first stop -- the Centralia Historical Society Museum. We were looking forward to the museum and getting map of the trail. Alas, the museum was closed. I only found out with this writing that the museum is only open on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., though there was no indication of hours at the museum -- only a closed sign. And, no maps. Disappointed, we head back to the square in search of the Chamber of Commerce, which we find also has very strange hours, despite the city's population of nearly 4,000. Nevertheless, we get there during their small window of being open - 10:30-1:00. When someone comes to help me and I ask about the Gray Ghost Trail, she has no idea what I'm talking about. Isn't it the Chamber that promotes these things to the State of Missouri Tourism Guide? In the end, she hands me a bad map of how to get to the battlefield, tells me that "it's just a field with a coupla markers" with a bewildered look on her face, and sends me next door to the "foundation." So, I head next door and ask the kind ladies the same question. They also look just as confused as to why I'm there. Come to find out, this is an endowment foundation, whose leader, Jack Chance, just happens to be an area Civil War expert. I finally find my answers from this kind gentleman, but, am even more confused as to why I was sent here to waste his time. Mr. Chance let me know there was no such thing as a trail map and agreed when I complained about the interpretive marker in the square being confusing. In any event, the "Gray Ghost Trail" is virtually non existent and should not be listed in Missouri's Tourism guide. I am constantly amazed about various city's attempts at attracting tourists. In the end, we visited the Centralia Battlefield, which you will, for sure, read about later.

Then, we're off to meet a long time reader of our newsletter and new friend on Facebook. We have a great lunch in Mexico, Missouri before visting their home, which is housed in an old barn. Way cool! Thank you Kay and Bill Weldon.

Alas, it is time to head back towards the awful interstate on our trek to St. Louis. Tomorrow is a day filled with activities.

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