The Big Muddy, Missouri

Day 189

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     Took a steamboat ride down the Mississippi River

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     Town of Hannibal from the Illinois side of the river

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     Nobody guessed what those numbers meant when I posted on our last Riverboat ride.

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     Went to the top of Lover’s Leap overlooking the river

 Barbara would not leap.

Here’s looking at you:

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Hannibal, Missouri

Day 188

     We travelled across the State of Missouri from St. Joseph to Hannibal, a distance of 200 miles which took us just over 4 hours.  

     St. Joseph is on the Missouri river while Hannibal is on the Mississippi. Some of the early pioneers would come down the Mississippi and take the train to St. Joseph, which at that time was as far west as the train went. The train back then took the same amount of time it took us to drive today.

     The obvious attraction today of Hannibal is that it is best known as the home of Samuel Clemens. However, he was not born here. He was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. In fact he only lived here for 10 years from age 4 to 14.

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     His father, a lawyer, was not that good at it. Eventually he was appointed a Judge, but even then could barely support his family. He kept moving his family around looking for a better life which he never found.

     Little Sammy, actually he was called Sam, held various jobs growing up, including working in a newspaper printing shop, and piloting a riverboat on the lower Mississippi. During the Civil War he was a confederate soldier for 2 weeks. He did not become famous until he started writing stories in his 40’s about his 10 years in Hannibal. His story of Tom Sawyer under the name Mark Twain eventually brought him fame and fortune.

In his house, they had this door.

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Really, you have a door with a knob, and this sign?

     Sammy wasn’t the only now famous person to come from Hannibal. The two you might remember most are Margaret Tobin and Cliff Edwards. Margaret Tobin was born July 18, 1867 in Hannibal growing up in a modest family. At age 18 her family moved to Leadville, Colorado. There she met and married James Joseph Brown. He worked in the mines as an engineer. As luck would have it, he came up with an idea that allowed the mining company to quadruple their gold output. As a reward the company gave him a share of the company which made he and Margaret instant millionaires.

     Margaret became famous when she help save numerous people on the Titanic. She was never called Molly in her lifetime. That was a name given her by Hollywood when they first made the movies about her, calling her the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

     If you are a movie buff, you will recognize the name of Cliff Edwards. He was a character actor in over a 100 films. Before that he played the Ukulele and was nicknamed “Ukulele Ike” by a club owner who could never remember his name. He was also the voice of Walt Disney’s Jimmy the Cricket (he taught you how to spell encyclopedia – see, you just sang it in your head).

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Wanted to take my chevy to the levy, but I only had a RAM.

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Technical Stuff:

St. Joseph, MO to Hannibal, MO 208.1 miles

4 hours 19 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2:39

The Pony Express, St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 186

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     As stated in earlier posts, St. Joseph Missouri was the western most station for the railroad being built from the east. As more and more pioneers traveled to California there was more and more demand for better communication from the east. Family members wanted to keep track of where their kin went, and the 49’ers wanted to tell of there fortunes. The civil war was beginning to brew and the western territories of our Country wanted to know what was going on.

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     In 1858 John Patee built this magnificent hotel to serve travelers to St. Joseph. Furnishings were shipped by steamboat. Offices were located on the first floor, the most famous of which was the office of the Pony Express. Hotel rooms were located on the second, third and fourth floors. It was the largest hotel west of the Mississippi River. It boasted such features as gas light, running water and flush toilets.

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     On the hotel’s north side, across the street from the Pony Express Stables, was a door which the pony express rider and horse would use to pick up the mail inside the building.

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     Contrary to popular belief, the Pony Express was not a government run operations (probably why it was so successful), rather it was the brainchild of three enterprising entrepreneurs, William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, who operated a freight company taking supplies out West. They were successful in acquiring the mail contract from the government. Saint  Joseph was selected as the starting point because the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad could bring the mail here from the East Coast.

     The Pony Express only operated for 18 months, from April 3, 1860 to October 21, 1861,  during which time it carried 30,835 letters.  Letters came by train from the East or were mailed locally at the Patee House and assembled into the mochila to be carried 1,966 miles to Sacramento, California, by horseback. Letters cost $5 and would arrive in California in the advertised time of ten days. Completion of the telegraph to California in 1861 eliminated the need for the Pony Express.

     Israel Landis (do you think he was Jewish) designed the pony express saddle and mochila, which was Spanish for knapsack. When the rider mounted, his weight held the mochila in place. Each of the 4 pockets held five pounds of mail apiece. Three of the pockets were locked in St. Joseph and were unlocked in Sacramento. The 4th pocket was not locked and was for dispatches along the route.

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     Letters carried by Pony Express were put in the mochila in this room for the 1,966 mile ride to California. There were 172 relay and home stations between here and Sacramento. A relay station was were the rider changed horses, and a home station is where riders were changed. The relay stations were 9 to 15 miles apart, and the home stations 75 to 100 miles apart. It usually took a rider ten to twelve hours to travel between home stations. At the home station, he would wait for the mail from the opposite direction and then retrace his route back to the home station from which he started.

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     Johnny Fry was the first Phony Express rider. He left the stables at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 1860. (Like Kennedy and 9-11, everyone remembers where they were on that day).

     On display in the hotel is this 1050 pound ball of twine. It was once featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

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St. Joseph, Missouri

Day 185

     Saint Joseph was first settled as a trading post for the American Fur Co. by Joseph Robidoux in 1826. Later he acquired the site and laid out a town named for his patron saint.

     In looking at a map, you would think that Saint Joseph would have been part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. And it would have been but for a clause that gave the Indians in the area this land in perpetuity. That only lasted until 1836 when the Indians sold out (or forced out, depending on who is telling the story) by the Platee Purchase. 

    Coming down the river, or overland from the East, from this point the pioneers took off for the West. By 1859 St. Joseph was the western terminus for the railroad. 

     St. Joseph is also famous for an event that took place here on April 3, 1882: 

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     This is the house where that dirty little coward shot Mr. Howard, and laid poor Jesse in his grave.

     We took a detour to go to Missouri Western State University. Before reading any more, do you know why?

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     It was to visit the memorial honoring the most trusted man in America.

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              Walter let me take his picture.

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                                      AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS.

Technical Stuff:

Nebraska City, NE to St. Joseph, MO 86.6 Miles

1 hour 48 minutes

10.1 MPG

Diesel: $2.32

Florence, Nebraska

Day 184

     Like others, the Mormons left to go West. But their vision was different. They were in no rush to get to their destination. More than likely Brigham Young did not know his ultimate destination at this time. But he did know that others would be following their path (literally) that he would be taking.

     Between 1839 and 1846 the Latter-day Saints gathered on the banks of the Mississippi to built a city they called Nauvoo, Ill. They were immigrating here from all over the world. The rapid growth of the city and the distinctive religious beliefs of its inhabitants disturbed other settlers. These differences eventually erupted in conflict, inciting the murder of the Mormon’s founder, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and forcing the Saints to leave the city.

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     During their trek west, they stopped here in what is now Florence, Nebraska to weather out the winter. They ended up staying 2 years. During that time they built homes and planted croups not only for themselves but also for those that would be following.

     After the Mormons arrived in Utah in 1847, they continued to improve the trail leading into the Great Basin. They built bridges, set up ferries across rivers, and wrote a detailed emigrant’s guide so that those who followed would have an easier time along the trail. 

     To encourage other Mormon emigrants, they set up the Perpetual Emigration Fund that provided money to buy wagons and oxen for those wishing to make the trip West. After 20 years 80,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers had settled in Utah.     

     Today a museum sits where they wintered camped to tell their story. When we entered the free museum we were greeted by a church member who gave us a personal tour of the museum. Although he did not try to convert us, the opportunity was there.

Bet You Didn’t Know:

     Brigham Young wanted to leave a detailed trail for others to follow. The Mormons at first tied a rag to a wagon wheel. 360 turns of the wheel equaled a mile. 

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     They then developed this cog system. Each turn of the wheel moved a peg in a cog, which moved a numbered gear. With precision they could now say go 5 miles, and it was five miles. 

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Kregel Windmill Co., Nebraska City, Nebraska

Day 181

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     Windmills have been used for irrigation pumping and for milling since the 7th century. In the early days of the United States, the development of the “water-pumping windmill” was the major factor that allowed farming and ranching vast areas that were otherwise devoid of readily accessible water. The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape of rural America.

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     You remember seeing these in those old western movies. 

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     Built in 1902, this is the last intact windmill factory in the United States. Cousins Louis and George Kregel began windmill production in 1879 in the town of Nebraska City, where we are staying. They moved the factory across the street, to this site, when they went from wood to steel windmills. They produced Eli-brand windmills until the second world war. Due to materials rationing the factory discontinued production. After the war, George’s son, Arthur, took over the business and focused on water well and pump services. The factory was in use for those services until Arthur’s death in 1991.  Thereafter, concerned community members turned this into a museum to preserve the factory.

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     They left the factory as it was when the last man left the premises in 1941, when they ceased the actual production of windmills:

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     This is a drill bit sharpening machine

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     Ah! When electricity wiring was simple.

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Nebraska City, Nebraska

Day 180

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     The Missouri River is the longest river in North America. Beginning in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, the Missouri flows east and south for 2,341 miles before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri.

     The Missouri was long believed to be part of the Northwest Passage – a water route from the Atlantic to the Pacific – but when Lewis and Clark became the first to travel the river’s entire length, they confirmed the mythical pathway to be no more than a legend.

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     Nebraska City, where we are camped, is part of the Missouri River Basin. Lewis and Clark came this way from St. Louis, where their expedition began. There is a Lewis and Clark interpretive center located here. 

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     On May 14, 1804 the expedition left St. Louis, the Missouri River flows down from Montana, which means they are going up river the entire journey. They returned September 23, 1806, 2 years and 4 months later. 

     Around this area, this is what the ground looked like. And they wore moccasin type shoes.(ouch):

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     This Indian was explaining how to make knives, spear heads, and arrows from rocks. He made a crude knife that sliced through a piece of leather (buffalo hide) like butter. 

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     Barbara thought she saw a bear behind the Sphinx. I think she was mistaken.

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Technical Stuff

Grand Island, NE to Nebraska City, NE  143 miles

4 hours 19 minutes

10.6 MPG 

Diesel: $2.30