July 2005               


            Old Fort Harrod is located in Harrodsburg, the first permanent settlement in Kentucky. It was established in 1774.  The reconstructed fort contains structures much as they were in 1774 and includes Kentucky’s first schoolhouse and a loom representing the first loom in Kentucky which was used by Ann Kennedy Wilson Poague Lindsay McGinty.  It was made by her second husband, William Poague who also made the first plough in Kentucky and made buckets, tubs, milk pails, etc for the pioneers.

            Located on the State Park grounds is also the oldest cemetery in the state and the Federal Monument which honors George Rogers Clark and other Kentucky Pioneers. George Rogers Clark planned his northwest campaign at Fort Harrod.

            The Lincoln Marriage Temple contains the log cabin where the parents of Abraham Lincoln were married. 

            The Mansion Museum is an early Kentucky home with displays of early Kentucky life.  One room downstairs is devoted to the Union and one to the Confederacy.  

            The grounds of Old Fort Harrod State Park also contain one of the largest and oldest Osage orange tress in the country.

            Checking on their website, we saw the schedule for tours of the Kentucky Statehouse are conducted on Saturdays, so on that day we drove to Frankfort to tour this building, however, we soon discovered that tours are only conducted during the week and none on weekends.  We took the folder and followed the self guided tour. 

            The present Capitol is the fourth building used as a Capitol since 1792.  It was built in 1904 and required 6 years to build at a cost of $1.8 million. It was designed by Frank Mills Andrews.  Lunettes depicting scenes with Daniel Boone are located at the top of each staircase.

            Following our tour of the Capitol, we visited the Kentucky Historical Society on West Broadway.  This beautiful new building contains exhibits that take you from 10,000 B. C. to present day Kentucky.  The exhibits are interesting and well displayed.  We highly recommend this museum if you are in the area.

            Part of the tour of the Historical Society is a tour on the Old State Capitol.  This structure was the third Capitol building, the first two having succumbed to fire.  It was constructed with funds raised partially by the citizens of Frankfort.  Gideon Shryock of Lexington designed the building in the Greek Revival style.  It was the first structure of this style west of the Appalachian Mountains and the front was designed as a nearly exact replica of the Temple of Minerva Polias. 

            Inside is a beautiful dome that lets in a light of sunlight.  One of the amazing features of the building is a circular stone staircase held in place by a keystone second floor landing.  The structure was built using state penitentiary inmates.

            The building was completed in 1830 at a cost of $85,000. It was replaced by the new Capitol in 1910.

            Thomas and Nancy Lincoln purchased a farm called Sinking Spring in December of 1808.  The log cabin on a knoll near the spring was the birthplace of their son Abraham on February 12, 1809.  A marble and granite memorial was designed by John Russell Pope in 1909 and completed 2 years later.  This memorial building contains the Lincoln cabin.  The memorial and Sinking Spring Farm were established as a national park in 1916.

            Knob Creek, located a short distance away from Sinking Springs Farm was the boyhood home of Lincoln.  He lived here until the fall of 1816 when the family moved to Illinois.  He was quoted as saying his only recollections of Kentucky was of the Knob Creek place.  While living here his younger brother Thomas died.  This site was added to the National Park System in 2001.  A reconstructed cabin is on the site 

            Stephen Collins Foster is known for his songs about the south.  One of the best known is My Old Kentucky Home, now the state song of Kentucky.  This song is said to be written about Federal Hill, the home of his cousins, the Rowan Family.  This Bardstown estate is now a Kentucky State Park and we toured the house and grounds.

After dinner at a local restaurant, we attended a performance of Stephen Foster, the Musical, an outdoor production featuring the story of Foster and featuring his music.       .

For more on Foster, see http://www.pitt.edu/~amerimus/foster.htm 

            Following our stay in Kentucky we traveled to Milton, West Virginia.  We got set up at Foxfire Resort where we would spend two weeks.  We spent some time driving around in the area, visiting places where we both grew up.  The changes are always surprising to us when we go back.

            Shortly after we arrived and set up Millie received a call from Mary telling her of the death of a classmate, Connie Cook Hudson.  The funeral was scheduled for Sunday so we were able to attend.  Connie was always the fun one in our class and she will be missed next week at our reunion.  

            Sadly to say, many places in our home state have never been visited by either of us and we decided to take in a few of the highlights during our stay. 

            One of the interesting historical places in the state is Blennerhassett Island.  Located in the Ohio River near Parkersburg, it is now a state park.  We visited the Blennerhassett Museum in Parkersburg before boarding a sternwheeler for the ride to the island. 

            Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett came to the U. S. in 1796, partially due to the fact that her father did not approve of the marriage. Harman was her uncle.

            In 1798 they bought 197 acres of land on the island and began to build the finest mansion west of the Alleghenies.  The 7000 square foot home was finished in 1801 and grandly furnished.

            Aaron Burr visited the Blennerhassetts and persuaded Harman to become involved in his plan to form a new country.  In 1806 President Jefferson ordered Burr arrested for treason and on December 12, 1806, around midnight, Harman fled south.  Margaret and the children later followed. 

            The house and land were auctioned off to pay the debts of the Blennerhassetts.  The house mysteriously caught fire on March 2, 1811 and burned to the ground.  Several versions of what caused the fire are circulated, but no one really knows. 

            In 1984 the state of West Virginia began reconstructing the house and it was completed in 1991.   For more information on the family and the house, see http://www.blennerhassett.net/

            We enjoyed our day on the island.  It was a place Millie had always wanted to visit. We also enjoyed a horse drawn wagon tour around the island.

After enjoying our ride back up the river on the boat, we headed south towards Point Pleasant, WV.

            The town of Point Pleasant is located at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. Here is Tu-Endie-Wei State Park.  This park commemorates the October 10, 1774 battle between 1,100 Virginia militiamen and about the same number of Indians led by the Shawnee Chieftain Cornstalk. 

            This battle is considered by some to be the first battle of the American Revolution.  This defeat of the Indians stopped an Indian war on the frontier and also prevented an alliance between the Indians and the British which could have changed the course of the Revolution. A large monument there commemorates the battle.

            The Shawnee Chief Cornstalk is also buried there and that was our main reason for the visit.  Millie’s family can trace their ancestry back to the Chief. 

            Following the battle a treaty was made with the Ohio Valley tribes.  In 1777 the British attempted to form a coalition with the tribes.  Chief Cornstalk felt that this was a mistake and led a group to Point Pleasant to inform the Virginians of the plot.  While the troops there were waiting for enforcements, the Chief and his party were held hostage. 

            A white man was killed outside the fort by some Indians and Cornstalk, his son Elinipscio and his party were murdered in retaliation. 

            It was nearly time for the park to close when we arrived so we could only spend a short time there. 

            Charleston is the Capitol city of West Virginia.  Although we had visited the Capitol building as youngsters, we decided to visit again.  We also reserved space on a tour of the Governors Mansion, next to the beautiful Capitol building. 

            We arrived at the Governor’s Mansion at our appointed tour time.  We discovered our tour was the last one for the day, as an official function was being prepared.  

            The 30 room mansion was designed by Walter F. Martens in the Georgian revival style.  It faces the Kanawha River and is beautifully appointed inside. The twin staircase in the entry is especially striking.  To see the mansion go to http://www.wvgov.org/firstlady/mansion.cfm

            Designed by Cass Gilbert, the West Virginias Capitol was completed in 1932 after 8 years of construction at a cost of $10 million.   The dome, at 293 feet, is higher than the dome of our nations Capitol and is covered in gold leaf.  Unfortunately the dome is presently under renovation and has been covered with a plastic material so the work can take place even in bad weather.   The trees on the grounds make it difficult to get a good photo of the building.

            The centerpiece of the rotunda is a chandelier of 10,000 pieces of Czechoslovakian crystal extended from a 54 foot chain and hanging 180 feet above the floor. 

            We joined a tour through the building, viewing the Senate and House chambers. 

            Following our tour of the Capitol, we walked across the plaza to the State History Museum, only to find it has been closed for the past 2 years for renovation.  The lobby was open and contained a nice exhibition of award winning quilts.  On the second level was an exhibition on the First Ladies of the state with beautiful porcelain models of each lady and her inaugural gown or dress. Hopefully the next time we visit the museum will again be open to the public.

            On July 15 we visited the World Famous Blenko Glass Factory in Milton.  We had been here before but decided to go again.  Blenko glass is hand blown and visitors can watch the craftsmen at work.   That day also, Millie’s sister Mary and her husband Frank Orsak flew into Ohio and drove over to WV.  Millie and Mary graduated from Winfield High School the same year and the 45th Class Reunion would be taking place this weekend. 

            On Saturday Millie talked to Mary and arranged for us the meet them and Mary’s daughter Anita and her son William at the nearby flea market.  We had a good time walking around looking at the various booths, but it was extremely hot so we decided to head to the nearby Wendy’s, have some lunch and a cold drink and visit. 

            As we left the flea market, Dick saw a familiar face going by him.  It was his uncle, Russ Paxton.  We stopped and visited with him for a while, we hadn’t seen him since Dick’s Dad passed away about 20 years ago.  He really looked great, not near his 90 years of age!  We didn’t have the camera with us, so regrettably didn’t get a photo of him.  

            Saturday evening we drove to Scarlet Oaks Country Club for the Reunion Dinner.  A wonderful buffet dinner was served and afterwards we visited with 14 classmates and spouses, along with our Class Sponsor and Government Teacher, Elaine Frazier.   As Millie and Mary graduated with a very small class; it’s like getting together with family every time we go to a reunion.

            On Sunday morning a group classmates and spouses gathered at the Golden Corral for breakfast and more fellowship.

            Sunday afternoon we attended another reunion.  We drive to Sissonville, WV to the home of Millie’s cousin, Carolyn Reed and her husband Bo.  Carolyn's sister Sharon Thomas and husband Jim, their daughter and granddaughter were also there.  They had come from North Carolina.  It had been about 20 years since the four girls had been together.  Carolyn and her family had prepared a wonderful meal for us and we had a great afternoon visiting and catching up. 

            Carolyn present Millie and Mary each with a poem she had written and a silver charm of a flip flop shoe.  When the girls were young and Sharon and Carolyn would spend the weekend with Millie and Mary, Ann would tell them that if they misbehaved she would spank them with her flip flop.  We always had a good time laughing over that.

            Ever hear of Matewan, WV?  Probably not.  Ever hear of the feud between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s?  Probably so.  The land around the Matewan area was where this feud occurred.  This tiny town is deep in coal country and a “coal war” between mine owners and union organizers also occurred there.  A movie titled Matewan was made about the coal war. 

            We drove to Matewan to see the town and visit the museum there.  The town is only about 2 streets wide and protected by a high flood wall, as it has been devastated by river floods several times.  We had a delicious lunch at the Depot Restaurant on the main street and then visited the tiny museum at the visitor’s center.  It was an interesting day.  More about Matewan can be found at  www.matewan.com

            Monday evening we met Mary and Frank at their hotel and the 4 of us had dinner together.  After dinner we drove to Charleston where we met Anita, her husband Bill Lanham, their son William and daughter Hannah at Appalachian Power Park.  We had a great evening watching the WV Power a Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.  The girls late dad, Herb, used to take the family to the old Watt Powell Park to baseball games and the girls have great memories of baseball there.  It was a fun evening, even though the home team lost.

            While in Milton Dick also took the truck to Freightliner for an oil change and to have the cruise control checked out.  The oil change was easy, the cruise control switch had to be ordered and when we left there it still hadn’t arrived.  We also took care of chores such as laundry while there.

            Leaving the Charleston area, we headed east on I-64 to Beckley, WV.  Honey in the Rock is a drama about the Hatfield-McCoy feud and has been presented at Grand View Amphitheater near Beckley since the 1960’s and we had always wanted to go.  It was a nice evening and the production was excellent. 

            Leaving Beckley, we traveled further east to Lewisburg, where we left the interstate and headed north on US 219 to Cass, WV.  This is one of our favorite WV destinations.  As most of you who follow our travels know, Millie loves trains and Cass is her favorite train spot. 

            We registered for a week at Whittaker Campground about 2 miles out of town and set up in the only 50 amp spot in the park.  Dick tried for quite a while to get our internet connection working, without any luck.  We thought perhaps the trees were blocking us; however our Dish Network was working fine.  We also had no cell phone service, which really didn’t surprise us too much. 

            The Cass Scenic Railroad is a WV State Park.  The railroad and town was built by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company.  The Cheat Mountain area was logged for Red Spruce which was an excellent tree for paper use in the early 1900’s.  Later a mill was built in the town to make flooring.  In fact, the spruce lumber used in the plane flown at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers came from this area.

            The railroad was built to carry the logs from the mountain down to the mill.  Timber operations ceased in 1960. In 1961 the State purchased the railroad and the equipment and began running a tourist train in 1963.  Our first trip on the train was in 1964.

Several trips are offered, some up to 5 hours in length. 

            One of the things that makes this railroad unique is that they use Heisler and Shay locomotives.  These are gear driven locomotives that are ideally suited for pulling loads up and down the steep grades of Cheat Mountain. 

            We began our rides this year to the site of the old town of Spruce, high on Cheat Mountain.  This is a new trip, added in the last couple of years.  The town of Spruce was built by the paper company so that the men working up on the mountain could have their families nearby.  At 3853 feet in elevation, Spruce was said to be the highest, coldest town east of the Mississippi. It could only be accessed by train.  Unfortunately, only a few concrete slabs are all that is left of the once busy town. 

            The train makes a stop at Whittaker Station, where a lumber camp has been recreated and pieces of lumbering equipment are displayed.  An interpretative tour was offered and we were shown how the “wood hicks” lived and ate while working on the mountain.  This tour was also new since the last time we visited here.  While at Whittaker, we were also treated to a “drive by” for photographs.

            On our way back down the mountain, we met another train coming up.  This railroad has switchbacks to help with the steep grades (up to 9%) and we watched as the train coming up pulled into the switchback, then we pulled in front of it and switched to go down the mountain and they switched to go up. 

            Our next trip on the Cass railroad was to Bald Knob (elevation 4700 feet).   We have made this trip several times before and it seemed the fog and clouds have always rolled in when we reached the mountaintop and we could never enjoy the view.  Finally, this time it was clear enough for us to see.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch and the view from the knob.

            Another thing added since we were in Cass last is a walking tour of the town, mill and engine shops.  In the shops we could see several locomotives under restoration.  Also, a Climax engine (another gear driven engine) is being built by volunteers and when it is completed Cass will be the only railroad to be running all three of the gear driven locomotives.

            A short drive away from Cass is Durbin, WV.  The Durbin Rocket, a railroad that runs along the Greenbrier River Valley is based here.  This train is pulled by one of the smaller Climax engines and we enjoyed the trip along the valley on this rail line. 

            Between Cass and Durbin is Green Bank.  This tiny town is the home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.  We had been past the facility several times over the years but had never stopped.  We found the visitor’s center and went inside.  We were shown a film on the Observatory and given a brief talk on the work done there.  The large array of dishes there is used to detect radio signals from space.  Several of the smaller dishes are leased to various other research facilities. 

            Following the film, we boarded a bus for a drive through the grounds.  We passed several of the large dishes and were given sizes and what each was being used for.  Then, we arrived at the BIG dish.  The Robert C. Byrd Telescope is the largest moveable antenna in the world and is awesome to see.  It is 100 X 110 meters and weighs 7300 metric tons.  (If you look at the photograph from the top of Bald Knob, you can see this dish near the top of the photo, a white object peering over the mountain.) 

            Also, while at Green Bank we discovered why we had no cell phone service.  The Green Bank area was chosen for the Observatory due to the sparse population in the area. The Observatory has a 13,000 square mile “quiet zone” to keep interference in the radio signals to a minimum.  Therefore, cell phone towers are not allowed!  We are also wondering if this might be the problem with our internet system.

            After a week in Cass, we packed up and moved to Elkins, WV.  We had a frustrating day finding the campground and getting set up.  First, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a narrow road on the wrong side of the river.  After finding a place to turn around, we backtracked and made the correct turn.  We checked into the campground and were shown to our site.  It was a back in site and Dick decided it would be easiest to pull into the field across from the site, allowing us to back straight in.  Well, we didn’t get out and check things out first and the field was extremely wet. We had had some rain while in Cass, but nothing heavy.  Apparently the rain was heavier on this side of the mountain.  Yep, we got the truck stuck up!  Really stuck up!  We worked for about 30 minutes trying to rock it loose.  There was no way we could even unhitch the trailer to get the weight off. 

            We were nearly to the point of calling our road service when the manager and another man came up with a 4 wheel drive truck.  They hooked on to the hitch at the back of the trailer and pulled on the trailer while Dick put the truck in reverse.  A couple of tries and we were free!!

Lesson learned; always check before you pull off the road! 

            Blackwater Falls State Park is a beautiful park near Elkins.  Another one of the places we had never visited in our birth state.  The drive to the park from Elkins is beautiful, passing thru the Caanan Valley, which has become one of the premier ski areas in the east.  We saw several deer by the roadside as we drove along. 

            At the park, we found the falls area and parked.  A short walk from and many stairs take you to the viewing platform.  The falls were as beautiful as the pictures we had always seen of them.  It was a great way so spend a sunny day.

            After our stay in Elkins, we will be off to Pennsylvania, Indiana (to have some trailer maintenance done) and Michigan.  See you then.    

(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look.  We couldn't link to all of them.)