Legend of the White Buffalo

Located in Jamestown, North Dakota is the National Buffalo Museum. They state that their purpose is “to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach.” It was an interesting stop on our road trip out west. The museum’s website states:

The National Buffalo Museum opened in June of 1993 and has since been dedicated to preserving the history of the bison and promoting the modern bison business.

In 1991, the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation (NDBF) (d.b.a. the National Buffalo Museum) formed to start a herd of bison that would graze in the pasture just below the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument in Jamestown, ND. Around the same time, the National Buffalo Foundation was looking for a facility to house and display numerous accumulated bison-related objects, artwork, and historical memorabilia from the bison business. Thanks to tireless advocacy from the founding board members of the NDBF, many of whom were themselves bison producers, the first five animals in this herd came from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the site of that first small herd became the home of the National Buffalo Museum.

Paul standing below the “world’s largest buffalo”

We saw three white buffalo. The first one was White Cloud born in 1996. She gave birth three times before giving birth to Dakota Miracle in 2007. The next year another buffalo gave birth to an albino buffalo named Dakota Legend. These three very rare animals were quite a draw for the museum in Jamestown.

I wanted to get closer for this picture but decided I should probably stay outside the fenced area after I saw this sign.

This very rare animal is seen as sacred by many Native American plains Indians. The Lakota believed that the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought them the first sacred pipe. There are apparently different versions to the legend but this is the one we were told.

The legend states that two scouts were out looking for bison when they saw a white cloud coming toward them. As it came closer, they saw a young Indian woman dressed in white buckskin and carrying a bundle. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.

One of the scouts had bad thoughts about her and shared them with his companion. He responded “That is a sacred woman; throw all bad thoughts away.” She knew their thoughts and said “If you want to do as you think, you may come.” When the scout with the bad thoughts came close to her a white cloud covered them both. The young woman came out of the cloud, blew it away and at her feet lay the bones of the foolish scout with the bad thoughts.

She then told the other scout to go home and tell his people that she was coming and they should build a big tipi for her. Four days later she came to the village. As she sang, a white cloud came from her mouth that was good to smell. She then gave the Chief a pipe with a bison calf carved on one side to mean the earth that bears and feeds us, and with twelve eagle feathers hanging from the stem for the sky and the twelve moons.

She told the Chief, “With this pipe, you will be bound to all your relatives. All these people and all things in the universe are joined to you who smoke the pipe. With this, you shall muliple and be a good nation.”

She stayed with them for four days showing them how to prepare the pipe and how to smoke it. This is how the pipe came to the Lakota tribe.

When the left she promised to return in times of need. She walked in the direction of the sun stopping to roll over four times. The first time she got up as a black buffalo. The second time she became a brown buffalo, the third time a red buffalo and then finally a white buffalo. The white buffalo walked on, stopped, bowed to each of the four directions and then disappeared over the hill.

This legend also led to the white buffalo umbilical cord pouch. When a baby was born, the umbilical cord was dried and put in a beaded pouch which was often turtle or lizard shaped. They believed the cord was the connection to life before birth and after death. When the person died, the pouch would be buried with him/her.

I recently discovered that Dakota Miracle died from injuries he sustained when he fell down a ravine. The Museum said his lack of pigmentation included poor eyesight and they believe this contributed to his fall.

If you make a trip to North Dakota this museum is worth planning a stop to see.

A New Look at My Childhood Songs

On a trip south we visited the Stephen Foster Museum.

The house and museum is located in the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center Park on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River. This river was made famous by Foster’s song “Old Folks at Home.”

The grounds are beautiful with majestic old trees.

As wandered the grounds we headed down to see this famous river.

Getting closer to the water I saw the sign warning of alligators and beat a hasty retreat.

Inside the building were many beautiful old pianos and paintings depicting many of Foster’s songs.

Foster wrote over 200 songs and was called the “Father of American Music.”

His song “My Old Kentucky Home” is the official song of the state of Kentucky. It is believed he wrote his famous song “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” as an attempt to win back his wife who had left him. While many of his songs are about the South he never lived there and only visited it once on his honeymoon.

While I grew up singing many of Foster’s folk songs both at home and in choir at school, I doubt that many of his songs would be used today. They clearly depict a world of southern white culture and its ties to slavery.

As a child I sang “Oh Susanna” but it was only when I did more research of Foster that I heard the second verse. On my!

“Massa’s in the Cold, Cold Ground” talks of how the “darkeys” are crying because their master is dead and how he made them love him because he treated them so kindly.

The State of Florida’s official song is “The Old Folks at Home.” Thankfully they have changed some of the offensive words;

Original words: All up and down the whole creation, Sadly I roam. I’m a still a-longin’ for the old plantation, Oh, for the old folks at home.

New version: All up and down this whole creation, Sadly I roam, Still longing for my childhood station, And for the old folks at home.

Original words: All the world is sad and dreary, Ev’rywhere I roam. Oh, darkies, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

New version: All the world is sad and dreary Everywhere I roam. O dear ones, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

On the grounds there is a 97-bell carillon and his songs are played throughout the day. This carillon is one of the largest musical instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere, and the world’s largest tubular carillon in number of bells.

The park itself is beautiful with hiking, bicycling, canoeing and wildlife viewing for visitors. There is also a full-facility campground and cabins to rent.

While I enjoyed the beautiful grounds and recognized many of the songs from my childhood as I took a closer look at many of the lyrics I left with mixed feelings about the place.

America’s First Lady of Courage

On a trip to Alabama we were able to stop at the home where Helen Adams Keller was born and raised. Built in 1820 by Helen’s grandparents who came to Alabama from Virginia, the house is a white clapboard home designed in Virginia cottage construction. Called Ivy Green because of the English ivy that grew on one side of the house, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1954.

Helen was born on June 27, 1880 and was a healthy child. At 19 months she became very ill (it is believed it was probably scarlet fever) and was left blind and deaf. Unable to communicate with the world, Helen became what was described as a “wild child.”

 Her parents, desperate for help took her to see Alexander Graham Bell when she was six. Bell connected the family with a 20-year-old teacher from the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Ann Sullivan came to live with Helen in Alabama and stayed with her from March 1887 until Ann died in 1936.

As Anne began working with Helen she recognized that her family had given no discipline to her and she need to teach Helen both obedience and love. She convinced the family to allow her to take Helen from the main house and they lived together alone in a nearby cottage. After a few weeks as Helen began to respond to Anne, they returned to the main house ad the family.

Ann began having Helen feel objects and then would spell out the word on Helen’s palm. At first it was a difficult effort but a breakthrough came when Ann kept running water over Helen’s hand and then writing the word “water” in her palm. Suddenly it was as if a light went on. Helen understood what Ann was trying to teach her.

Having read the story of how her teacher, Ann Sullivan, was able to reach her through sign language, it was so amazing to see the well where this amazing event took place.

As Helen received a way of communicating with others, she quickly showed how brilliant a mind she had. By age ten she had mastered the Braille alphabet and learned to type. She then began the difficult process of learning how to speak. By 16 she had learned how to speak so well that she went to preparatory school and then won admission to Radcliffe College in 1900 and graduated cum laude in 1904.

She became an author and published several books including The Story of My Life (1903), Optimism (1903), The World I Live In (1908), Light in My Darkness and My Religion (1927), Helen Keller’s Journal (1938), and The Open Door (1957).

She became active in promoting laws and policies to help the handicapped. When she attended the Lions Clubs International Convention in 1925 she challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Accepting the challenge the Lions have programs aimed at preventable blindness every since.

At her home there is a statute of a Lion and plaques commemorating that partnership between Keller and the Lions.

There is a garden on the grounds with a bust of Helen as well as a statute inside the house of the young girl standing at the well where Ann Sullivan was able to reach her with the word “water.”

When you consider she was blind and deaf, her achievements are even more amazing.

She fought for workers’ rights, for women’s suffrage and was an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union. She worked for over 40 years with the American Foundation for the Blind. Her speeches and efforts for the blind led to state commissions for the blind, rehabilitation centers and made education more accessible to those with vision loss.

She made multiple trips to other counties and met world leaders such as Winston Churchill, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Golda Meir. General Douglas MacArthur sent her to Japan as American’s first Goodwill Ambassador. Her appearance brought attention to the needs of Japan’s blind and disabled citizens.

A lot of credit should also go to her teacher, Ann Sullivan, who devoted her life to Helen. Her work with Helen as a child was depicted in the play The Miracle Worker. This play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 and was made into a motion picture in 1962.

The Pony Express

The Pony Express route ran from St Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California and covered 1,996 miles. It took the riders on average ten days to make this long trek.

This mail service only lasted 18 months from April 3, 1860 to October 26, 1961. The telegraph wires which provided such quick means of communication meant the death for the Pony Express.

When it began in 1860 the charge for delivery was $5.00 per ounce. Later it was reduced to $1.00 per ounce. The riders carried up to 20 pounds of mail. Because speed was so important, most of the riders were small weighing between 100 and 125 pounds. Average age was 20.  

The city of Gothenburg, Nebraska has the original station that was used by the riders. This cabin was first built in 1854 on the Oregon Trail and used as a trading post. The Pony Espress used the cabin as a station from during the short time it was in operation. Used after that as a Overland Trail Stage Station and then a storage building, in 1931 the cabin was taken down and restored in Gothenburgh. Mrs. C.A Williams bought the cabin and donated it to the city.

We visited the cabin site on our road trip west.

The Pony Express was founded, owned and operated by the freighting firm of William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell.  There is a plague at the site remembering the founders. The Gold Rush of 1849, The Mormon journey to Utah in 1849 and the pioneers who moved west on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s created a need for a fast mail service.

Shortly after the Pony Express began Congress authorized the building of a transcontinental telegraph line connecting California to the East. On October 26, 1861 San Francisco was in direct contact with New York City. The last Pony Express letters completed their journey to California in November 1861.

Although it was only in service for 18 months, the legend of the riders have become a part of our American culture. In 1960 the post office issued a stamp in honor of the riders.

As a history nut, it was a great feeling to know I had stepped inside the cabin where many of the Pony Express riders had also been. I closed my eyes and just imagined one of them walking up to me and saying “hi.”

My One Night of Luxury!

Shortly after my retirement my husband and I made a trip to North Carolina to visit our children who live there. On the way we decided to stop and explore the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

Built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt, in Asheville, North Carolina in 1887 it is unbelievable how big it is. The home contains over four acres of floor space and includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

On the grounds is a conservatory which is full of beautiful orchids. We were told there are over 600 different orchids. I could not of course get pictures of all 600 but I did my best to capture some of the most beautiful ones.

While there we decided to spend one night at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. We knew it would be expensive, but thought after all these years of working, we deserved one night of luxury. The view from our room was wonderful.

The lobby and lounge areas made us feel so pampered.

In our bedroom we found custom bathrobes and slippers. They offered complimentary night turn-down service, but we passed on that.

When it was time for supper my husband suggested we go into town to find a restaurant, but I wanted to enjoy a meal in their dining room – it looked so special.

Wanting to keep me happy, he agreed. After we sat down and saw the menus, I realized this was probably not a good idea. But, too embarrassed to get up and leave, and still wanting to enjoy one night of luxury, we stayed. The food was excellent and we really enjoyed the meal. When we had finished the waiter asked if we would like a cup of coffee. My husband passed, but I asked for a cup. Thinking after spending such a large amount on the meal, the coffee would be complimentary, I sipped my cup that was served in very delicate china and enjoyed every drop.

I was very upset when we got our bill (which I knew would be much too high for our budget) to discover they had charged us $4.00 for this tiny cup of coffee.

The next morning we enjoyed some coffee in the library (which was free and served in paper cups) and read the newspapers savoring one more moment of luxury.

I felt a little guilty for spending that much money for one night – but looking back now I’m glad we did it. What price do you put on good memories!

Sunflowers and Salem Sue

Looking through my vacation albums I loved seeing some of the sights from our trip to North Dakota.

We were driving along a long, empty stretch of road when we spotted something yellow in the distance. What was it?

What a surprise as we came closer to see acres and acres of sunflowers.

Coming back home I did research and found that 40% of sunflower seeds production in the USA. comes from North Dakota. According to the State of North Dakota Tourist Bureau over 48,000 acres of sunflowers are grown every year in the state. People come from all over the USA to see the beautiful fields of sunshine.

One recent survey said that North Dakota was the happiest state in the union. I’m not sure how true that survey was, but since sunflowers always make me smile, I can see that maybe it is true. My granddaughter says that yellow is the color of joy. Maybe she is right also.

One of the funniest things we saw was in New Salem, North Dakota. From several miles away as we approached the town we saw a cow standing on a hill.

Coming into town we saw a sign asking for donations to help keep “Salem Sue” in good condition.

Salem Sue was built in 1974 for $40,000. Her stats are impressive: 38 feet high, 50 feet long, six tons of reinforced fiberglass. She had to be built in three sections to get her up the hill.  A brochure we picked up at the local gas station told us that “Sue’s primary purpose is to honor and advertise the dairyman who is an asset to his community, church, the economy and his family.”

So if you ever head to North Dakota be sure to go in the summer when the sunflower fields are in bloom. And if you are looking for New Salem, be careful you don’t just drive right through it. It is a small town. But I doubt you would miss it since Salem Sue will be sending you a welcome from her perch on the hill long before you reach the town.

Holy City – Really?

When we spent several weeks in Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago trying to escape the cold winter weather, I was amazed at all the churches with their tall steeples. We took a tour of the city on a boat and from the harbor you could see the beautiful steeples reaching to the sky. The city is called by some the “Holy City” because of all the churches. I was told there were over 400 churches and a variety of religions.

I was particularly interested in the French Huguenot Church because doing genealogy research I discovered one line of my ancestors were Huguenots driven out of France by King Louis XIV in 1685. The church is beautiful.

Another church we enjoyed was the Circular Congregational Church. They claim to be one of the oldest continuously churches in the South. We roamed through their cemetery with monuments dating from 1695. The street the church is located on is called Meeting Street and the street is given that name because it was here their first meeting house was built in 1681. In 1804 they built a circular hall replacing earlier buildings. When the building burned in 1861 they used bricks from the old building and constructed the present sanctuary in 1892.

Beating the congregation at the Circular Congrregational Church, St. Michael’s Church lays claim to being the oldest church in Charleston. On this site a small wooden church was built in what was then Charles Town in 1680. Called St. Phillip’s, as the town grew – and the congregation grew, a new building was built and given the name St. Michael’s. They began conducting services in 1761 and, except for a small addition in 1883, the church is basically the same today.

We spent over half a day exploring the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Holy Congregation House of God). The synagogue is a National Historic Landmark. It is the country’s second oldest synagogue and the oldest in continuous use.

They shared a lot of their history – both of Charleston and of the Jewish religion. They allowed us to see the place where they housed the Torah. For my husband and I, both history nuts of American history and of Biblical times, it was a wonderful experience.

One of the churches we wanted to visit was closed. This building is a beautiful Gothic-Revival structure and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was founded in 1791 and included both free blacks and slaves. The ministers were often jailed for violations of laws that prohibited slaves and free black to meet without white supervision. After the unsuccessful slave revolt led by Denmark Vesey, the community burned the church to the ground in 1822 because Vesey had been one of the church’s founders. Vesey and 34 others were executed.

After rebuilding the church, the congregation met there until 1834 when the state legislature outlawed all-black churches. Again, blacks could not meet in church unless there were white supervision. They simply met in secret until after the Civil War ended and then they formally reorganized.

I could go on and on about the churches we visited. But as we thought about their claim to be the “Holy City” we wondered how they could really consider their history to back up that claim.

Just a few blocks from some of these beautiful churches is the Old Slave Mart Museum. Established in 1948 it is the first museum on the history of slavery in the United States. The museum is located in a portion of the city’s last major slave market.

In 1808 when the United States banned international slave trading, the domestic slave trade became big business. Charleston became one of the major buying and selling markets. It is estimated that 40% or more of the slaves imported to American came through the Charleston port. You can check out more on that story on my post.

In Charleston slaves were sold in open markets until 1856 when the city passed an ordinance prohibiting public sales.  I guess the sight of blacks in irons and chains exhibited like animals for sale became too much for the people of the “Holy City.” In response a number of sale rooms or markets opened up in downtown Charlestown. One of the main ones was Ryan’s Auction Mart and the current museum is housed in part of that market.

The day we visited the museum the woman working there told us she was a descendant of one of the slaves sold there. Standing there in that dark place and trying to imagine the horrors of being sold like an animal and possibly being separated from parents or children, my mind wondered how people who built such beautiful churches to worship God on Sunday could deal in this terrible business on Monday through Saturday.

Being “holy” people they insisted that the slave markets be closed on Sunday so they could all go to church to worship God.

I left Charleston with mixed feelings. It is a beautiful city with the ocean and the old historical churches and houses. There are so many beautiful parks. There is so much history there. But I could not help but remember the history I saw there that I was never told about in history classes in school.

  • The slave market
  • Denmark Vesey statue
  • The original reason for building the Citadel
  • The first Memorial Day celebration where freed blacks honored the Union soldiers
  • The Gullah culture
  • Cabbage Row
  • Philip Simons Foundation

“Holy City.” Yes there are a lot of church steeples reaching to the sky. But after seeing all that I saw, I would never call it that.

History Written in Stone

Following the Oregon Trail we came upon a large rock made of limestone. The rock stood high above the Platte River Valley. The soft limestone rock made it easy for people to carve their names in.

Travelers heading for Oregon carved their names in the rock. More than 700 names are on the rock. At one time the names included dates as early as 1829 and one reportedly from 1797. Historic experts judged these names as authentic. If true, they would represent the earliest white people to pass by here. They would have been mountain men who were fur traders.

Soldiers from hereby Fort Laramie also carved their names here. As the state of Wyoming first became a territory and then a state, cowboys and ranchers added their signatures.

Of course many of the old names have been lost due to erosion of the rock. Also many tourists have added their names. But the oldest names are protected by a tall wire fence.

I wanted to get closer to the area where it appears the oldest names were, but my husband was not sure how safe that would be. You could see that the rock had been crumbling for a long time. Who knew when the next portion of the rock might come down.

While we enjoyed seeing the names and to us it was a wonderful history lesson of our westward expansion, I had to realize to the Native Americans this was not something to enjoy.

Native Americans also used this rock for writing their own pictographs and marks. Years ago these markings were visible. But, just like the land that was once their hunting grounds, these markings have been lost as the white men added their names and marked over the Indian markings.

As I looked again at these pictures and remembered our trip west, I was reminded once again that our history lessons in school have been one-sided. We have read of the bravery and courage of those who left the east and traveled mile after mile to the west to build new cities and create farms. Little is said of the Native Americans who were pushed off their lands and had treaty after treaty broken by our government.

Still, for one who is a history nut, it was awesome to stand there and think that I was standing where some young family had stood almost 200 years ago. I tried to imagine what their thoughts were. Excited, scared, unsure.

What really excited me was standing in the ruts the wagons made in the soft limestone. In TV programs and movies we always see the wagon trains being pulled by horses and moving at a reasonable fast pace. In reality, these wagons were pulled by teams of oxen, mules or heavy draft horses. The horses we see on TV could never have made it over the mountains pulling those heavy Conestoga wagons.

The Mormons who followed this trail actually used push carts and walked the entire distance.

Traveling through the open terrain where you could see for miles in our air-conditioned car with restrooms, restaurants and hotels easily available, I really could not imagine what those first brave families heading from comfort and home to the great unknown.

Is This the Garden of Eden?

After living almost three years in Michigan and hearing of the beautiful Dow Gardens, my husband and I decided it was time to check it out.

All the hype we had heard was true – it is an unbelievable place of peace and beauty. My husband commented that this was just a glimpse of what the Garden of Eden must have been. We laughed that we might see Adam and Eve and our daughter who was with us wondered if they would have any clothes on. 🙂

This beautiful place was once the home of Herbert and Grace Dow. They built their home here in 1899. Called “The Pines” the couple raised their family here. Herbert Dow conducted experiments in fruit-growing and developed gardens. Today the home is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Tours are offered to view the insides of the home where it is furnished with many of the Dow items and gives a good look at what life was like for them. We were not able to take a tour of the home but we did sit on the porch and enjoy the beautiful huge yard with its large expanse of green grass and flowers plantings everywhere.

My husband and our daughter taking a break on the big porch.

Herbert Dow was the founder of Dow Chemical Company and by his death had received over 90 patents for chemical processes, compounds and products. I do not understand all the science behind it, but the Dow Chemical Company website says he devised a new way of extracting the bromine that was trapped in underground brine. The company went on to became one of the world’s major producers of magnesium metal, agricultural chemicals, elemental chlorine, phenol and other dye chemicals. The company also was involved in producing plutonium, the element used in hydrogen bombs (a type of atomic bomb).

Herbert H Dow as a young man and then at age 58

The company has been the subject of several lawsuits for environmental concerns. In 2011 Dow agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at its chemical manufacturing and research complex in Midland, Mich.

Herbert Dow started the gardens as a hobby. He experimented growing different flowers, shrubs and trees seeing what would grow well in the sandy soil. On his death, his wife created The Herbert H and Grace A Dow Foundation. Its charter goals were to improve the lives of Michigan’s people through educational, religious, economic and cultural means. The Foundation gave the estate to Michigan for the community enjoyment. Today the 110-acre Dow Gardens welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year.

There are multiple gardens with 3 miles of accessible hard-surface walks. In the spring over 22,000 bulbs begin to bloom and in the summer over 35,000 annuals provide much color and beauty.

Walking along the path we heard the beautiful sound of running water. Turning a corner we came to a beautiful stream. It was so peaceful we had to stop and just sit and listen to the melodious sounds of the water as it flowed through the peaceful garden.

While we were there we found they had a exhibit of glass gardens by Lansing Michigan artist Craig Mitchell Smith. Mr. Smith creates beautiful floral forms out of glass. His work has been displayed at the Missouri Botanical Gardens and the Epcot Center of Disney World.

My favorite was this one with blue butterflies

There was much more to see including the Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens. This area is 54 acres of woodlands, ponds, meadows and stream. It contains the nation’s longest canopy walk. It is 1400 feet long and reaches up to 40 feet above the ground. There is also a playground for children, two pedestrian bridges and a Cafe. I would have loved to see the forest although I do not think I would have attempted the canopy walk. But my arthritic knees gave out on me and we had to call it a day.

My husband and I plan to go back at some point and check out the forest. If you are ever in mid-Michigan I would highly recommend you include a visit to the Dow Gardens. It is probably as close to the Garden of Eden that we will get in this life.

Visiting the Thumb

To celebrate our anniversary this year we took a short trip to the thumb of Michigan. Before moving to Michigan I had never heard this expression in reference to the state. However, when you look at the map of Michigan you can see that the lower peninsula does look like a mitten and – yes- the eastern part does look like a thumb.

We stayed at Port Huron where we could look over and see Canada. Unfortunately the border between our country and Canada is still closed. It was nice to see our flag and the Canadian flag flying together on both sides of the Clinton River which celebrates the two nations.

In 1836 the US established a Port of Entry and commercial ferry service began from Port Huron to Canada. It was not until 1938 that a bridge was built and opened to automobile traffic. Today the bridge is referred to as the Blue Water Bridge and is a twin-span international bridge connecting Interstate 69 and 94 in Michigan to Highway 402 in Ontario. Since moving to Michigan it has been our goal to cross this bridge and explore Canada. However, the Covid 19 has made that impossible for now. Hopefully in the future we can do that. Still, we enjoyed looking across into Canada and the bridge at night with its lights was beautiful.

We had a great lunch at Vintage Tavern. The food was great and the building built in the 1800’s was beautiful. They had the original tin ceiling with hardwood floors and brick walls throughout. There were also leaded stained glass windows and three fireplaces.

Thomas Edison lived here as a young boy and there is a museum commemorating his time in Port Huron.

As a student at Port Huron a schoolmaster called Edison “addled.” Furious, his mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.”

In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.

While he was in Detroit Edison would visit the large library there. He said, “I didn’t read a few books, I read the library.”

When he was 19 Edison moved to Kentucky and continued with his experiments. By the time of his death in 1831 he had a record 1,093 patents: 389 for electric light and power, 195 for the phonograph, 150 for the telegraph, 141 for storage batteries and 34 for the telephone.

Another interesting stop in Port Huron was the Great Lakes Maritime Center. Here we found a wealth of information about the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.

We also learned about the underground tunnels that run under the St Clair River allowing trains to make the crossing from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario. This tunnel was the first full-size subaqueous tunnel built in North America allowing a railroad to pass beneath a river. Before the tunnels were built trains would come to Port Huron where they would have to be loaded on a barge and carried across the river to tracks in Sarnia.

Along with all the interesting history of shipping on the Great Lakes, the Center was a nice place to just sit and watch the ships on the river as well as again glance across at Canada.

We finished our visit to the Thumb by checking out the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. This fort was built in 1914 during the War of 1812. Occupied by the United States Army until 1879 it stood guard over the juncture of St. Clair River and Lake Huron. In 1823 the lighthouse was built here and it is the first lighthouse in Michigan and the second oldest on the Great Lakes.

We enjoyed sitting here and watching the large ships coming from Lake Huron to the St Clair River.

The keepers house is large and looks beautiful although we were not able to go inside.

You can climb the stairs in the lighthouse and I only imagine what the view would be like. But my arthritic knees prevented me from climbing the 94 stairs to the top.

As always on our trips, there was so much more we wanted to see but time did not permit more exploring. There is much more to discover on the Thumb and hopefully we can return again and explore more.