Thursday, July 06, 2006

Along the Oregon Trail

This is related to, in part, my earlier post on depictions of Indians along the Oregon Trail in Kansas.

Jumping Off

We started our journey in Independence, Missouri. There were many starting points for the Oregon and California Trails but Independence was the primary town at first and has the best historical marketing.

The two things of interest here are Jackson Courthouse Square and the National Frontier Trails Museum. The courthouse square is the sight where people would meet and form wagon trains and also shop for supplies.

The museum is very nice. It is dedicated to the various trails of the old west. A history buff would greatly enjoy a trip there.

Saint Mary’s Kansas

Along the way in Kansas we stopped at the Pottawattamie Indian Mission/Saint Mary's Historical Museum. We were given a private tour and learned much about the area. The town was founded by Jesuit missionaries and served as an Indian mission. With help from mixed bloods the local Indians lived in log houses, farmed, and were protected from most of the troubles which affected other Indian tribes.

After the mission shut down the Jesuits opened up a school and seminary. Famous students include Catholicgauze's hero Spencer Tracy. Future Vice-President Charles Curtis; part Kaw, was baptized here as a child.

The town is in a sad state. The overwhelming Catholic majority is split between communion with Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X. The once beautiful church on the mission grounds burned down and has not been repaired. It was like seeing ghostly European ruins. Restaurants and stores on Main Street are closing down as is the National Guard building. The town has rich history and hopefully one day will be saved, hopefully.

Alcove Springs

In summer the spring were the Donner Party encountered death for the first time lacks its waterfall.

Fort Kearny and area

Fort Kearny
was interesting. Much of the displays were dedicated to day-to-day solider life. The fort itself is gone and one must make due with reconstructions of the blacksmith shop and fort walls.

Near the city of Kearney is the Archway. The Archway is a fancy, modern, multimedia experience about the historic trails and the Lincoln Highway. I was surprised how good this museum was. While I did not learn anything new here I do recommend it for those wishing to gain a general knowledge of the experiences along the trails.

Ash Hollow

Something bad happened near here. Really, really bad. While signs say the army went to "chastise" Indians for a massacre, a sign five miles away, almost hidden talks about how the army gained Indians trust by faking parley and then ambushing the Indians. The wild west was ugly. Atrocities and crimes committed by both sides.

Chimney Rock

Really neat. Erosion, cannon ball practice, lightening, and World War II training air raids have cut down the height however. The rock was known as the Elk's Penis by the Indians.

Fort Laramie

The neatest fort I have ever been too. Some of the buildings are ruins while others have been kept in ship shape. The officer quarters were prairie mansions while the enlisted men had to sleep in barracks on boarded beds.

The museum and displays unfortunately solely focus on the fort itself while ignoring its importance on the trail and in the area. I saw no markers discussing the 1868 Sioux treaty. Only general information was given about helping emigrants. A grounds keeper/tour guide however was a great source of information about the soldiers, civilians, and Indians who lived at the fort.

In the distance Laramie Peak was visible. Bluffs and hills encircled the area. The Great Plains section of the Oregon Trail was over and so was my trek. I had a wonderful time but am now physical exhausted.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Your comments about the St. Marys community, although somewhat right, truly should be deleted...
It is very frustrating to see that people put the SSPX and St. Marys as one ( and you are not helping) when in fact they have only been in this area for a short period when looking at our history.

Catholicgauze said...

As you say yourself my comments are "right" meaning correct. The truth is the truth.
However, I never claimed St. Marys and SSPX are one. In fact I discuss how the community is split and hope for the town to be "saved."

Anonymous said...

Why should the truth be deleted?
I grew up in the "old" St. Marys, pre-SSPX. It was a small, casual town where people felt safe and comfortable. Just take a walk about town these days and see how many people bother to greet you. And heaven forbid if you're a woman wearing shorts!