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Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s New Salem

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

As I drove toward Springfield, Illinois I was lured away by the sign announcing Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site.  My eyes lit up…  New Salem!  (Note: Does this not happen to everyone?!!?)

New Salem was the town where Abraham Lincoln lived as a young adult, between 1831 and 1837, while he was in his twenties.  During that time he worked as a boatman, a soldier in the Black Hawk War, a general store owner, postmaster, surveyor, and of course, what he is most known for in his young life – a rail-splitter.  It was here that he was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  New Salem is also where he met and fell in love with Ann Rutledge, the young woman who many believe was the true love of his life.

New Salem as an actual town no longer exists.  It had a very short life; it was founded in 1829 and it was abandoned by 1840, in part because the nearby Sangamon River was not well suited for steamboat travel, and after the county seat was located in Petersburg people just naturally drifted away.  During its existence though, between 20 and 25 families lived in New Salem, and it was an active commercial center.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reconstructed New Salem, using the original foundations and historical information about the town and what it once looked like.  There are 22 recreated structures, from homes to the types of businesses that once existed there.  One log cabin is original – it was built in New Salem, moved at some point to Petersburg, and later moved back to New Salem when the village was reborn.

New Salem flowers

I arrived in time to have a late lunch and see the village.  I purchased my admission and checked out the museum first.  The museum has artifacts on life in New Salem, information about Lincoln’s time and experience here, and of course, they dive into the Lincoln/Ann Rutledge saga.

There are conflicting opinions on Lincoln’s relationship with Rutledge.  Some believe that Lincoln held Rutledge very close to his heart and was interested in marrying her.  Others believe that their relationship was simply a friendship, and that Lincoln’s affectionate way of writing about her was simply because he wrote the same way about everyone he cared for.  There are also those who believe that William Herndon, Lincoln’s former law partner, spun up the Rutledge story after Lincoln’s assassination in order to take a jab at Mary Todd Lincoln, whom he despised.  We will probably never know, and perhaps all that is known is that Rutledge died in New Salem in 1835 at the age of 22, and that Lincoln sunk into one of his many severe depressions after her death.

The village site itself is amazing.  The reconstructions are very well done and look like the original (I think – given that I wasn’t around to see the original).  It probably helps that these reconstructions aren’t too far from their 100th birthdays…  They are decorated with period artifacts and there are period costumed docents stationed at various places to answer questions and tell you about what their lives would have been like when Lincoln lived here.  One young woman told me that she was refusing to go inside her home because she had been surprised by a snake inside the previous day!  Things we don’t have to consider in Western Washington, but I would have liked to have seen the snake!

I enjoyed wandering around and checked out all the buildings.  The village contains homes, a post office, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and various other businesses reminiscent of the time period.  Even though Lincoln did not work in these buildings, the post office and general store he worked owned would have been similar to these reconstructions.

I took my time, checking out the interiors of each building, enjoying the leisurely afternoon!  There were lots of butterflies and bees on the flowers, and New Salem even has a horse!  It was a great place to learn about Lincoln’s young adult life!

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Circus Trip 2018: Carl Sandburg Birthplace State Historic Site

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

After I visited Knox College, I checked out another historic site in the small Illinois town of Galesburg.  Carl Sandburg’s birthplace home has been preserved and is now operated by the State of Illinois as a State Historic site.

Sandburg was born in 1878, served in the Spanish-American War, and won three Pulitzer prizes (including one for his biography of Lincoln) and the Robert Frost medal for his writing.  He left school at the age of 13 to perform manual labor jobs, driving a milk wagon, a bricklayer, farm laborer, hotel servant and coal heaver.  He did attend West Point for two weeks, and attended Lombard College, but never earned a degree.

Sandburg also worked for a time as a reporter in Chicago, and his writing is often about Chicago.  His poetry focuses on the common man and often features working class themes.  This focus on the themes of the common man allowed much of the American public to relate to his writing.

 

He moved to his estate in North Carolina, named Connemara, in 1945, and lived there and wrote until his death in 1967.  After his cremation, his ashes were interred underneath a granite boulder at his birthplace home – he remains there today.  Connemara is a National Historic Site now and I would love to visit there too!

Even though the Sandburg home was not a place I had on my list, it was certainly a worthwhile stop.  The guide was very enthusiastic about the poet and had a lot of knowledge to share.  I was the only one there when I visited and got to take my time looking at the exhibits.  I let him know when I was ready to visit the home, and he took me over; I got to spend as much time as I wanted looking at the little home.

I left Galesburg after my tour of the Sandburg home to drive even deeper into the Land of Lincoln.  I stopped by a grocery store to replenish my supplies and then I was headed toward Springfield!

Circus Trip 2018: Knox College and The Lincoln/Douglas Debates

Day 19 & 20, Friday, August 3, 2018 – Saturday, August 4, 2018

I spent the night in Galesburg, Illinois, a small town known for, well, being a small town? I camped at the Allison Campground at Lake Storey Recreational Area, a city park with a lot of RV’s and well, me. I was the only tent camper in a huge field of campsites. I paid my $16.00 and drove out into the field to my choice of sites!  There is a lake nearby in the park, maybe one day I will make it back there to check it out!

That evening, I chatted on the phone with friends, and enjoyed one of my Black Tea Infused Ciders from Four Daughters Winery. I also saw my very first cicada! Mind you, I have heard cicadas a lot when I have traveled in the Midwest, as they are a staple of summer. But they tend to be hidden, and not out in the open, or hanging out on the leg of my picnic table!

Galesburg is the site of one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Can you believe it!? They debated on the front steps of one of the buildings of Knox College, which faces out toward the center of town.  The founders of Galesburg and Knox College were staunchly anti-slavery, so it ended up being the perfect place for Lincoln to challenge Douglas’ views on slavery.

It’s an easy place to get to, so after I packed up camp the next morning, I checked it out. There is a plaque on the wall of the Old Main’s exterior, but otherwise you would have no idea of the history that happened here. Old Main is the only building on the Knox College campus that still exists from the time when Lincoln and Douglas debated here.  Fun fact: According to historical accounts, Lincoln climbed through a window of the Old Main building to get to the debate platform, and was reported to have said, “at last I have gone through college.”

It was a good feeling to be standing on this spot, but strangely, there was no one else around on this Saturday morning in early August. Where were all the throngs of tourists wanting to see Lincoln sites? Sigh… I guess sometimes history goes unnoticed…

After seeing Knox College, I headed over to another little visited site in Galesburg; the place where Carl Sandburg was born. Carl Sandburg isn’t exactly a famous author these days, but at one time he was. He wrote poetry, and political discourse, and a giant, fat, multi-volume tome on Abraham Lincoln. So he has to be cool, even though I will admit to never having read his Lincoln biography. One day…  I’ll share my visit to the Sandburg home next!

Circus Trip 2018: Herbert Hoover Birthplace NHS

Day 19, Friday, August 3, 2018

Herbert Hoover isn’t a President I know much about.  In fact, I didn’t even know about the Herbert Hoover Birthplace National Historic Site, and kind of stumbled upon it by accident.  I saw the road sign as I was driving east after visiting the Amana Colonies and had enough time to stop before it closed for the day; I arrived just before 4pm.  What an unexpected treat!

Hoover was born to Quaker parents in a small two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa on August 10, 1874.  He was orphaned at the age of nine, when his mother died at age 35 (his father had died in 1880 at the age of 34, when Herbert Hoover was 6).  He and his two siblings were split up after his mother’s death, each living in a different relative’s home; Hoover was sent to Oregon at the age of 11 to live with a maternal uncle and aunt.

The cottage where Herbert Hoover was born

The Herbert Hoover Birthplace NHS preserves the two-room cottage where Hoover was born, as well as several other sites significant to his early childhood.  His father’s Blacksmith Shop (rebuilt a little west of the original site), the Schoolhouse, and the Quaker Friends Meetinghouse, where the family worshiped, have all been preserved.  It is unknown if Hoover attended school in the actual building at the site, although it was being used as the primary school at the time Hoover was in school in West Branch, having been built in 1853.  The Blacksmith Shop was built in 1957, representing what such a shop would have been like in the 1870s.  Herbert Hoover’s older brother Theodore provided sketches of his recollection of his father’s shop as well.

The Friends Meetinghouse is original to the community where Hoover’s Quaker family worshiped; it was built in 1857.  The Quakers held two meetings each week to worship; men and women sat on different sides of a central partition.  They worship with “silent waiting,” a form of silent worship that does not use music or sacraments, or even a paid minister delivering a sermon.  When a Quaker is moved by the “inward light,” they stand and share their insight or prayers.  If you become known for your inspired insights, you become a “recorded minister” and are given a seat on the benches up front with the Quaker elders.  Herbert’s mother Hulda was considered a recorded minister.  Quakers believe in the equality of all people, a value that Hoover embodied when he was President and during his global humanitarian work.

The Quaker meetinghouse Hoover attended

 

The interior of the Quaker meetinghouse

The site also has a Visitor’s Center with a movie about Herbert Hoover and his life, and of course, stamps for my National Parks Passport.  There are also some later homes at the site; although they didn’t exist at the time that Hoover lived in West Branch, they add to the historic ambiance of the site.

A short drive away is Herbert Hoover’s grave site, along with the grave of his wife, Lou Henry Hoover.  Hoover died on October 20, 1964, at the age of 90.  He selected his grave site to look over his birthplace home, and chose a simple design of white marble, with a curved walkway and an American flag.  Lou Henry Hoover died in 1944 and was buried in Palo Alto, CA, but was re-interred here after Herbert Hoover died.  His Presidential Library is also there, although I didn’t have time to visit it that day.  I’ll have to return and learn more!

Herbert and Lou Hoover’s graves

 

The view from Hoover’s grave – his birthplace home

It was a fascinating stop!

Circus Trip 2018: Amana Colonies

Day 19, Friday, August 3, 2018

After my second respite in just a few days, I was fully recharged and ready to resume the trip.  My destination for the day was the Amana Colonies.  Yes, that Amana, as in Amana appliances.

The Amana Colonies are the home of a group of German Pietists who fled persecution in their native Germany to settle near Buffalo, NY.  Eventually they moved to Iowa in 1856.  They brought their craftsmanship with them from Europe, and for over 80 years, they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient economy, with a division of labor among the community members.

Me in a German style hat

The society tried to maintain everything as equally as possible within the society by not using money, and not using products that came from outside the community.  Men and women were considered equal, but interestingly, marriage and child-bearing were discouraged, which obviously had an impact on future generations of colony members.

There are seven towns in the community – the total population of the seven is around 2,000 as of the 2010 census.  The colony founded the Amana Corporation, which manufactures refrigerators and other appliances to sell outside the community; it was this business that generated the money that the community needed to purchase land outside of the colony to support the members, as well as to buy supplies that could not be made by colony members.  (Amana is no longer owned by the colony).

An Amana home

All land was owned by the colony.  All jobs were assigned by the colony, and members ate communally in several communal kitchens.  Everybody who could work was given a job according to their abilities, but in general work was divided into traditional male and female roles, with men working in the factory and in the fields, and women working in the communal kitchens and gardens.

The Ackerman House – built 1856

I took the van tour of the Amana colonies.  It was fascinating; our tour guide was a former member of the colony so he had a lot of information on the inner workings of the colony and what it was like to grow up there.  He left the colony as a young adult, and later returned there to live, but he did not rejoin the religion.

Our guide outside the museum

On our tour, we went to several sites within the community.  We saw one of the general stores, a communal kitchen and a church.  At the church, a woman who was a member of the colony explained the way that they worship, with men and women separated during the service.  We also got to watch a video of the history of the community, with lots of historic photos of the community.  It was so interesting to see the cemetery too.  The premise is that all people are equal in the community, so the graves are simply laid in rows, with all the headstones the same, and simply arranged in the order in which people died.  It is certainly a departure from the concept of family plots.

 

 

The Amana colonies functioned well for over 80 years as an almost completely communal economy, importing almost nothing from outside of the colonies.  However, over time, weaknesses began to reveal themselves.  Colony members became unhappy that outsiders had technological advances, and began to make money on the side to support these purchases.  Other colony members then became jealous about what the Jones’ down the street had.  It is a familiar story whether or not you live in a community with a self-sufficient local economy, and sadly it eventually meant the end of the economic structure of the Amana colonies.  Members began to demand a vote of the society, to determine whether the group wanted to continue with their separate, communal society, or abandon it and join the capitalist economy of the people who lived outside.  I think you know how the vote went.

Today people continue to practice their form of worship, but the communal society they built here is gone.

My mom had recommended my visit there; I was interested but I doubt I would have sought it out had she not mentioned it.  It was really interesting though and I was glad I did.

One last note on Amana.  They have a couple of wineries!  I stopped by Ackerman Winery, a family owned winery that has been in operation since 1956, and did a tasting of their mostly fruit wines.  They are sweet, but I found a few that I enjoyed, and purchased the Rhubarb wine.  And I learned that I do not like dandelion wine – who knew?  Now I do.

Ackerman Winery

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Day 17 & 18, Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – Thursday, August 2, 2018

After lunch and my tasting at Four Daughters Winery, I made it into Iowa – my 7th state and my 2nd new state!  I traveled to Effigy Mounds National Monument, to check out the mounds there.

I’m in Iowa!

Effigy Mounds is located in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, and preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans of the Woodland culture in the first century AD.  The mounds are relatively unique, in that they are shaped like animals.  Thirty-one of Effigy Mounds’ 206 mounds are effigies (animals); the largest is Great Bear Mound, which is 42 meters long and a meter tall.  The National Monument was designated on October 25, 1949, and welcomes approximately 77,000 visitors per year.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Researchers don’t know why the mounds were constructed; they believe that they were built for religious ceremonies, burial ceremonies, or as clan symbols.  There are four types of mounds at the site; conical mounds that were often used as burial mounds, linear mounds (also known as “cigar-shaped”) for ceremonial purposes, a compound style which looks like a string of beads and were often used as burial mounds, and the effigy mounds, the animal shapes that make the monument famous.  Interestingly, the linear and compound mounds are only found in the Effigy Mounds Region.

I arrived in time to check out the Visitor’s Center and do a hike up to some of the mounds.  It was muggy that day and it was a nice workout!  I enjoyed being able to see the mounds up close, although I do wish that they had more platforms so visitors could view the mounds from up above.  When you are barely above the level of the mound, it is difficult to see what the mound looks like from above it.  The trail I hiked did have a great view of the Mississippi River though!

After my visit to Effigy Mounds, I found my home for the evening; the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Oxford, Iowa.  It was right off the freeway, but somehow the road noise didn’t carry so far.

This place had a lovely pool!  I ended up staying two nights, just so I would have a chance to spend a few hours in and around that wonderful pool.  It was glorious.  Some days, you just need some pool time.  I drank some sangria, read my book, journaled and was offered a job cleaning the Iowa rest area bathrooms (I know this will surprise you, but I turned it down).  It was a wonderful day of down time!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Four Daughters Winery

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I had not intended to see much of Minnesota on my road trip.  I mean, in the perfect world, I would have visited much of Minnesota on my trip, as I had never been there before, but… it is not a perfect world, and there was not unlimited time on my trip to go everywhere.  Sadly, I had to pick and choose.  From Austin and the SPAM Museum, I headed east and then south to drop into Iowa.  And found an unexpected gem.

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery

The Four Daughters Winery is on Highway 16, one of the highways I traveled to get to Iowa.  I wasn’t expecting to see a winery, and I hadn’t done any research on Minnesota wine, but there it was.  I drove past it, noticing what it was, and ended up turning around to go back.  A winery – with a restaurant, and it was lunchtime!  It was clearly a sign.

I went in and chose a spot at the bar – the tasting included your choice of six white or red samples (not SPAMples this time) – I chose the whites.  You could also select two samples of their ciders (but I was so very enthusiastic that she let me taste more).

Four Daughters has some fantastic wines.  Their sparkling Brianna is delicious, and their Tea Time Loon Juice, a black tea infused cider, is amazing.  The sangria is a light, refreshing, summer time sipper.  I bought all three, and I’m sad that Four Daughters doesn’t ship to Washington…  I long ago drank them all…  I am going to have to make it back to Minnesota.  Not to mention I had their pork tacos for lunch, which were so delicious – and paired perfectly with the sparkling Brianna.

Pork tacos

That’s the thing about road trips – sometimes you just find a place you want to stop at and explore.  I was so glad that I did!