Saturday, November 17, 2012

Vandalia, Illinois to Paducah, Kentucky

Tue, Nov. 13th - Fri, Nov. 16th

Logan County Courthouse in Lincoln, Illinois.  The city of Lincoln was platted in 1853 and named for him.  He said, "I never knew anything named Lincoln that amounted to much."  The court battle to get the county seat moved here lasted until 1856 with Lincoln representing the county.  He also served as a substitue judge for the county circuit court in 1857.  In 1856 he gave a two hour speech here on behalf of the first Republican candidate for President, Col. John C. Fremont, just four years before he was elected himself.    The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1857 and this is the third courthouse here.  We went to the new James Bond movie just down the street from here.  It was pretty good, if you like James Bond movies.
The Vandalia Statehouse State Historic Site.  Vandalia was the first Capitol of Illinois and this was the third Capitol building there.  It was only used as a Capitol three short years before the group of legislators known as the "Long Nine" (all over six foot tall, including Lincoln) managed a political maneuver that moved the capitol to Springfield, and served to advance their political careers.  A young Lincoln said of his own ambitions, "...I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed by my fellow man, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem."  I guess he accomplished that alright.  This sculpture of him as a young legislator was the first ever done by now famous sculptor, John McClarey.
This picture shows the "Long Nine" celebrating their victory after some typical political horse trading of favors helped them accomplish their goal.  Also, during Lincoln's time in the legislature here, he made his first public stand on the issue of slavery.  Anti-slavery was not popular in Illinois and a man was killed a few months later by an angry mob for his views against slavery.   
On the corner, in front of the Statehouse, is one of twelve "Madonna of the Trail" statues that were commissioned by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1920s, to honor the part women played in pioneering this country.  The statues are 18 feet high, weigh 5 tons and are made of Missouri granite.  Just a block down from here is the free National Road Museum, since Vandalia was the western terminus of the road.  In 1806 Congress allocated funds for George Washington's dream of a road that would carry Americans into the heart of the frontier.  Jefferson signed the bill into law and constuction began in 1811. 
This map marks the locations of the other Madonnas along the National Road or Cumberland Road that was first built in the 1830s, ending in Vandalia in 1838 when the federal government quit funding it.  It started in Cumberland, Maryland and was supposed to go through all the state capitols, and Vandalia was the capitol until 1839.   It was the first road to go all the way across the nation.  Parts of it were covered with crushed rock, which was called piking.  Thus it was sometimes called the National Pike.  When the government quit funding it and turned it over to the states to keep it maintained, they started charging tolls.  It was 80 feet wide, 591 miles long and cost $7 million.  President Truman served as president of the National Old Trails Association and attended many of the statue dedications before he was U.S. President. 
The horses that pulled the Conestoga Wagons ( the semi-trailers of the day) loaded with goods across the country, wore these harnesses with bells on them.  If a wagon needed assistance from another wagoner, it was common to hand over a bell as a thank you.  Arriving without one's bells hurt the driver's professional pride, but getting there "with bells on" was a source of satisfaction, thus the saying, "I'll be there with bells on!".  The wagon drivers were known as teamsters.  There was no seat for them, to save space for cargo.  They would walk, ride the wheel horse or sit on the lazy board on the side between the wheels.  A long way from the teamsters of today. The road had a great impact on Illinois, with a population of 157,445 in 1830 growing to 476,183 by 1840.  It eventually became U.S. Rt. 40 and is now paralleled by I-70. 
From here we headed to Metropolis, Illinois on the Ohio River.  I guess everyone knows who worked undercover at the Daily Planet in Metropolis.  "Look, it's a bird, it's a plane, no it's Superman!" Also, the Birdman of Alcatraz, played by Burt Lancaster in the movie of the same name, is buried in the Masonic Cemetery here, along side his mother. Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American to make a motion picture, was born near here.  Annie Turnbo, also born here, was an African American enterpreneur and philanthropist who manufactured a line of beauty products for black women and created a unique distribution system, similar to Avon. 
We stayed at the Fort Massac State Campground where this statue of George Rogers Clark stands in front of the reconstructed 1802 fort looking out over the Ohio River.  In the late 1700s, he was the more famous older brother of William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame.  This land was owned by the Spanish in the 1500s, then the French, then the British before Clark led a regiment that finally seized the outpost and surrounding land for Virginia.  It was of strategic importance because of it's location on the western frontier and it's unrivaled view of the Ohio River.  There have been five different forts built here, two by the French and three by the Americans.
Lewis and Clark spent six days here teaching each other celestial navigation and surveying skills and recruited several men for their "Corps of Discovery" trip. While they were here, they were surprised to catch  a catfish weighing 128 pounds.  In 1805 it was the scene of a four day meeting with infamous Aaron Burr and James Wilkerson.  Burr's plan to institute a dictatorship in the trans-Allegheny West and conquer Mexico gained momentum during his stay.  In 1814 General Andrew Jackson stopped here, the only known visitor who went on to be President.  In 1908 it was designated as the first state park in Illinois. 
Back downtown, we find Superman standing in front of the courthouse and looking straight down Market Street, with a Superman Museum on a nearby corner.  "Truth, Justice and the American Way." (tourist trinkets)  They also have a Daily Planet Comic Store and Americana Hollywood Museum with a giant boulder of Kryptonite out front.
There's no one more super than my very own Superman!  What a lucky girl I am!  Although, he was just telling me today how lucky he is that I stay, because my baby brother would be happy to have me back and take care of me.  Well, he's definitely lucky I stay, but I'm not too sure about the second part. 
I'll have to say, "This guy does look pretty good in a pair of tights!" 
Just a block away is a statue of the "First Lady of Metropolis", Noel Neill, a favorite celebrity guest of many Superman celebrations.  She acted in almost 100 movies, but is best known as Lois Lane in the TV series "Adventures of Superman".  
Just across the street from Superman, is one of the many murals around town, honoring the parachute plunge heard around the world.  Their own "Man of Steele", John Marvin Steele, hung on a steeple of St. Mere Eglise Church in France on D-Day when his parachute got caught, while warning bells clanged and deafened him.  He was shot and captured by the Germans.  He escaped to serve again and is buried in the local Masonic Cemetery.  He is portrayed in the movie "The Longest Day".  To this day St. Mere Eglise has kept the parachute and effigy of him hanging on the church for all to see and remember.  Metropolis's own famous African American men of Company M, 18th Regiment of the State of Illinois are nationally recognized for their great fighting ability in WWI.   
This little supermarket just outside the state park campground sold Big John brand food products.  Unfortunately, we did not get around to shopping there. 
We drove across the Ohio, about 8 miles over to Paducah, Kentucky where they have a flood wall 12.5 miles long with over 50 murals along the city waterfront.  Paducah is a hub of river industry at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and close proximity to the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers.  The four rivers region has two major shipyards, many tow boat companies, barge and boat repairs, barge fleeting, shifting, cleaning, painting, supplies and a training facility for mariners from all over the country.  Paducah was founded by William Clark, on land he inherited from his brother, George Rogers Clark.

They became known as the Atomic City during the building of the bomb because of all the support industries that were located here.  Their Gaseous Diffusion Plant is the nation's only uranium enrichment facility.  Shawnee Steam Plant, on the bank of the Ohio, now provides electricity throughout the region, as does the Joppa Steam Plant.  Honeywell-Metropolis Works provides a variety of chemical products for customers around the world.  U.S. Department of Energy, owner of the plant, handles site environmental management and cleanup. 
This mural shows a horse drinking fountain presented to the city of Paducah in 1907 by the National Humane Society.  Fountains like this were presented to cities throughout the U.S.  It weighed two tons and was made of polished Maine granite and provided purified city water to horses and dogs.  It lost it's practical value as automobiles replaced horses. 
The Boy Scout mural represents the first 100 years of scouting by depicting the changes in uniforms and equipment from 1910 to 2010.  It was inspired by a photo taken by a scout in 1915 at Mammoth Cave inscribed "Evening Roll Call".  Troop 1 is recognized as one of the original troops of Boy Scouts of America and as one of 24 troops to have been in continuous existence. 
Union labor helped build Paducah, including the flood wall on which the murals appear.  The regions earliest unions date back to 1892.  The next year the Central Labor Council sponsored the city's first Labor Day Parade, one of the oldest in the country and for several years it was the official Kentucky State Labor Day celebration. 
We drove over to Brookville, a few miles from our campground, to see the Kincaid Mounds, an Indian village between 1000 and 1400 A.D.  It was excavated by the University of Chicago between 1934 and 1944.  They were the first people to practive large scale agriculture in this area.  They built the mounds in stages over 350 years by stacking basket loads of soil and clay one on top of another. They built their homes and ceremonial buildings on top of the mounds. 
This is a Bed and Breakfast in Mound City that caught my eye.  Sometimes I wish we could stay somewhere neat or interesting when we are traveling.  That's the disadvantage of always having your home with you. 
This is a National Cemetery near Mound City. 
At Cairo (kayrow), not pronounced like the one in Egypt, we went through the museum in the restored Customs House, built 1867-72.  They had the story of how "Taps" was born.  It all began in 1862, during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia.  The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.  During the night the Captain heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field.  Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, he decided to risk his life and bring the man back for medical attention.  Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, he reached the soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.  When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered that it was a confederate soldier, but he was dead.  He lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock.  In the dim light he saw the face of the soldier.   It was his own son.  The boy had been studying music in the south when the war broke out.  Without telling his father, he had enlisted.  The following morning, heart-broken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.  His request was only partially granted.  He had asked if he could have a group of army band members play a funeral dirge for his son.  The request was turned down, since he was a confederate.  But out of respect, they did say he could have one musician.  He chose a bugler.  He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes that he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth's uniform.  It was the haunting melody we now know as "Taps", used at military funerals and at the end of each day. 
This monument to York, the only black man on the Lewis and Clark expedition, was out front of the Customs House.  Like a lot of the towns down in this area, the poor economy of many years, long before the recent recession, is very apparent.  Downtowns are pretty much abandoned with beautiful old brick buildings falling apart, with broken or boarded up windows, crumbling streets and sidewalks.  It's very sad to see so many majestic, old buildings just disintegrating from abandonment. 
At the south edge of town is the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River, the nation's longest river.  John is standing way down by the water's edge on the far left-hand side.  Cairo was once an important and lucrative shipping center and steamboat port.  They had a "Millionaire's Row" of mansions built by shipping magnates, wealthy bankers, merchants and developers.  Ulysses S. Grant arrived here in 1861 and took over the Western Campaign at Fort Defiance.  Union boats maintained control of the supply route here throughout the war.  His victories made him a national hero and propelled him to the White House. 
There are many, many barges parked all up and down both sides of both rivers.  This is the point from which Lewis and Clark started surveying for all the maps they made on their expedition.  This is looking to the left from where John is standing, up the Ohio River. 
This tug boat is just coming around the tip where John is standing, from the Mississippi to the Ohio. 
This is looking back to the right to the Mississippi.  The last picture is an old six-span railroad bridge near the Casino in Metropolis.  
Day is done, gone the sun.  From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.  All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.  Fading light, dims the sight.  And a star, gems the sky.  Gleaming bright, from afar.  Drawing nigh, falls the night.  Thanks and praise, for our days.  Near the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky.  As we go, this we know, God is nigh.
Saturday we head for Grand River, Kentucky, also know as the "Land between the Lakes".

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