Porch Swing/Homestead Historic Site/St Joseph
Oct 3, 2008
|Start odometer: 47431 End odometer: 47695
We traveled 264 miles today.
We left Hastings and drove to St Joseph, Missouri. We took the Hastings Bypass to Hwy 6 East to Hwy 81 South and into Hebron. We passed the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Bunkers outside of Hastings and passed through small towns like Grafton (population 160) and Gilead (population 37).
We stopped to view the “World’s Largest Porch Swing” which sits in Roosevelt Park in Hebron. Local volunteers built the swing which has a 32 foot long seat and can hold 16 adults or 24 children. It’s been featured on various radio and television shows and has been photographed by visitors from across the nation and around the world.
We stopped at the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, NE and learned why the Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in the westward expansion of the country. By granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed almost any man or woman a chance to live the American dream. Under this law, more than 270 million acres, 10 per cent of the land mass in the United states was claimed and settled by individuals. This great transformation led to profound and lasting changes to land, to American Indians, to immigration and migration patterns and agriculture.
We learned that only 40% of these homesteaders succeeded. We also learned that in order to plow an acre of land with the tools available at the time, a man had to walk ten miles.
We had our lunch in the parking lot then walked about a mile of trail through the restored tall grass prairie. We learned that these prairie grasses sometimes reach 10 feet in height in the fall and during our walk, we experienced some in the 6 foot range. We imagined what it would be like to try to homestead this land and the backbreaking work this would entail.
The park encompasses the Daniel Freeman Homestead Site, one of the first homesteads claimed in the nation. We viewed the Freeman’s grave site and the site of their original cabin
In the museum, we viewed the video and the historic implements and household tools of the average homesteader. Although we didn’t visit the Freeman school, we did note that it was one of the first schools to challenge using the Bible in class and also one of the first to provide standard textbooks in math and reading (The McGuffey Reader).
After leaving Beatrice, we encountered road construction and detours. We ended up taking Hwy 50 to Hwy 4 to Hwy 75 to Hwy 73 to Hwy 159 and crossing Missouri River. The bridge we crossed was two lane - just barely - we encountered a tractor trailer mid-span and each slowed down and inched past each other.
We camped at the AOK Campground near St Joseph, Missouri and were less than pleased with it. The 25 foot average site width noted in Woodall’s obviously didn’t apply to many of the campsites. The owner first tried to put us in a site where we would have to swing around our neighbor’s protruding red truck then turn sharply to avoid the steep slope on the right of a narrow space. (We weren’t sure how we would enter and exit the camper without extreme stress on the knees, given the narrow campsite and the steep slope.) He claimed we could drive right out in the morning but that would only occur if our neighbors moved their white car which was blocking the driveway and part of our campsite.
After some negotiation, he moved us to another site where A dodged slideouts to hook up water & electric. We had about two feet of space on the camper door side before we were intruding on another neighbors site. We were cramped and wedged in and wouldn’t recommend this campground to anyone.
Then, joy of joys, not only did we have the highway noise to contend with but our nearest neighbors felt the need to hang wind chimes from the awning. The wind picked up and needless to say, these provided unwelcome music ALL NIGHT long.