We have left mid-America and are now in Colorado. However, we aren’t in the mountains yet. We are in Pueblo West which sits in the high desert climate in southern Colorado. Tomorrow, we head for the mountains and will be in Westcliffe – elevation 7,800 feet. Ahhhhh….
During our trek west, we visited a number of interesting museums along the way. As you know, we love museums but after eight years on the road you start to look for unique museums to visit.
We found the Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri to be rather interesting. The museum was originally a hotel and the headquarters for the Pony Express. Now, the building and museum are privately owned. Museum really isn’t a term I would use to describe the facility. It is more like a large, private collection of all things related to St. Joseph crammed into two floors. The even have an original steam locomotive on the first floor!
Next was the Glore Psychiatric Museum also in St. Joseph (named after Dr. Glore who started this museum). The museum features the history of the adjacent state mental hospital. There are exhibits on some of the devices and treatments used during the 1800s and 1900s such as lobotomies, immersion in ice baths, tranquilizer chairs, and lunatic boxes. I think we’ve come quite a ways in our view and treatments of mental illness. Perhaps in 100 years they will examine our methods of treating the mentally ill and have the same perspective as we do now.
In Kansas, we stopped in the small town of Concordia which is home to the National Orphan Train Museum and Camp Concordia POW camp. Between 1854 and 1929, hundreds of thousands of “orphaned”, abandoned or homeless children were transported primarily from New York City and Boston, to the rural Midwest. The children weren’t adopted but rather placed in families, and in exchange for the placement, they were expected to work on the farms. Plus, although called orphan trains, most of the children were not orphaned but rather from poverty-stricken families who could not afford to raise them. The museum focused on individual success stories of several children but did not address any controversy surrounding this event. After doing some research online, I found the other side of the story which, I believe, should have at least been mentioned in the museum. Check out these two web sites: The Reality of Orphan Trains
and Orphan Train Myths and Realities
Next in Concordia we visited Camp Concordia
. Between 1942 and 1945, about 4,000 German prisoners of war were interned in Concordia. There were over 300 buildings at the camp. Today, a one-room museum in one of the original buildings called T-9 depicts life in the camp The “T” in the building name stood for “temporary.” One guard tower and another building are all that remain of the camp.
There were over 500 POW camps built in every state except for six. Over 400,000 AXIS prisoners were usually shipped in Liberty Ships returning home that would otherwise be empty. The Germans knew this and usually opted not to attack these ships going back to the U.S.
Because we arrived on a Monday, both museums were opened by appointment only. Our guides were probably the most accommodating and friendliest folks we have met on this trip and provided an insight to both museums.
So, as you might be able to see, we enjoyed our visit through mid-American. Now, it is time to enjoy being out west again...starting with a four-day bluegrass festival in Westcliffe. What a life!
Higher elevation and cooler weather await us!