Monday, August 25, 2014

R is for Reenactment of Pilot Knob

A little over three years ago, Schnickelfritz and I went to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis for the 150th anniversary reenactment of The Camp Jackson Affair.   It commemorated the first skirmish of the Civil War to occur in Missouri (just a few days after Fort Sumter).  I mentioned in my post that now was the opportunity to study the Civil War as most battles would be having special 150th anniversary events.  Some would simply be larger, others that don’t normally host re-enactments would be doing so (like our trip to Wilson’s Creek).  I hope you heeded by warning. Now we’re reaching the end of that cycle with the one of the final events, in Missouri anyway –The Battle of Pilot Knob.

In September 1864 Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price led 14,000-15,000 men into Missouri.  His goals were to capture Union supplies and weapons, find sympathizers to recruit, and if possible get the attention of Union forces east of the Mississippi River and divert them from Confederate troops that had already been pummeled.  On Sept. 26th, Price led an attack on Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob.  The fighting went on for several days until the Union commander of the fort, Gen. Ewing ordered an evacuation of the fort.  The Union soldiers snuck out in the middle of the night and when they were safely away a small group of men left behind blew up the powder magazine, denying the Confederates the supplies and weapons they were seeking.  Price’s realized he had lost too many troops in attempting to take the fort and had to abandon plans to capture either St. Louis or Jefferson City.

Sept 27 & 28 will be our first trip to Pilot Knob so I’ve been reading up on what to expect.  On both days, the camps open to the public at 8 AM and the main battle commences at 1:30 in the afternoon.  The museum and sutlers’ tents will be open both days.  I’m particularly interested in seeing the blowing up of the fort on Saturday night!

I have always maintained that one of the best ways for you kids to learn history is by letting them interact with re-enactors.  Most of these men (lets face it, even if the whole family is involved it’s usually the men’s idea) are very passionate about the era or the war they are representing—the study in their “off-season” to be as historically accurate as possible.  And they love sharing their knowledge with kids!  Some even go to the trouble of setting up special days just for students to tour the camps.  Our homeschool group got to fire the cannons at a Lewis & Clark event while another man appealed to the gross factor by explaining field medicine during the Corp of Discovery—the boys LOVED it. 
Pilot Knob only hosts reenactments every third year (they actually waited 4 years to line up with this anniversary), so if you miss this event you’ll have to wait for a while to go again and of course it won’t be a big anniversary year in 2017.   HINT: Bring hearing protection, those cannons can get loud!

I’m linking up with … Ben and Me

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: UberSmart Math Facts

Now is the time when all teachers are testing to see just how severe the “brain drain” was over summer vacation.  It’s inevitable that some of what was learned last year must be learned again (or at least reviewed).  Let’s take math facts for example,  the answers just don’t come as quickly as they did last spring.  It was a great time to review UberSmart Math FactsPLEASE NOTE: This downloadable program from UberSmart Software can only be used with Windows (versions 7,8, XP and Vista).  You have permission to run the program on as many computers as you want within your home (great for several kids).  As a teacher, you would then have to go to each computer to check students’ progress rather than having everything in one database if using a shared computer.

If you’re not sure where to begin, these is an assessment test under the Test menu.  It would then direct you to the lessons in the Learning Mode.  The flash card appears on the screen and the student is only required to say the number (aloud or in their head) and then click the Show button to reveal the answer.  He would then click the > button to move to the next problem.  (Update: you may also show the answer and advance by using the Enter key). A progress bar runs across the bottom of the window.

The student then moves to the Practice level.  You may go straight to the flashcards or choose a keyboard entry lesson if the student is not used to typing answers into the computer. 

I let Schnickelfritz use the 10-key pad for answering (he was quick to discover the Enter key was a much more efficient means of advancing than the mouse).  He was well under the three seconds per answer maximum allowed by UberSmart (gets that from his accountant Mama). The applause and “Excellent!” banner were appreciated.

We moved on to the practice level…Fritz chose which skill he wanted to work on (add, subtract, multiply, or divide) first. Then he could decide to focus on just one set of math facts, the twelves or sevens for example, or the whole set (from 0 to 12) randomly selected.  Since this was just an exercise in getting up to speed rather than learning for the first time we jumped right into the All set.  Be aware, this makes for a very long session.  I tried to count problems while Fritz answered them and I was up to around 150.  For younger students you may want to stick to just one set of facts.

Fritz finished at 98 percent (it’s his best subject) and was told he was ready for the Mastery Test.  Again he had the option of picking a single set or doing all the math facts at once (his choice).  We turned off the option to show a time bar along with the progress bar as this sometimes distracts my son.

This time three flash cards appear on the screen at once and you’re supposed to be answering the middle one.  When you hit the enter key everything scrolls to the left.  I made the mistake of asking Fritz to take a screenshot during his test and it threw him off so he was answering the newest problem to appear on screen (the one to the right) rather than the center problem.  The test level doesn’t give you the immediate “Correct” that the practice level does and if I hadn’t been sitting next to him watching his answers he would have gotten a lot more problems incorrect.  That’s why you’ll see a few red faces on his progress chart.

For students that don’t like math, there’s really not much here to coax and cajole them to drill – no rewards or fun games.  It’s really just electronic flash cards.  If you’ve got a kid with a real competitive streak they can “compete” with the tests, exporting their scores to see how they rank against others. 

As a parent, I could monitor Fritz’s progress through the report tab.  I could look at his original Assessment, Mastery Progress, Mastery Chart (see above),  Grade Book, and Competition. This area doesn’t seem to be password protected so I think that kids would be able to check on their own progress (or brothers and sisters?) by selecting a name from the drop down menu.  If I was confused about the program, each screen has a ? button which brings up a 32 pages PDF manual (my version has several pages that say “under construction” though).

UberSmart Math Facts is targeted to K-6 graders.  Younger students work with dots rather than number symbols. The software may be purchased and downloaded for $24.95.


Click to read Crew Reviews

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rescued Books: The Junior Classics

All good things must come to an end.  We’re starting school again so this will be the last of the just for fun reading rescued books.  To go out with a bang, I’m sharing about a whole series of books, not just one.

Although the front covers all say “The Young Folks’  Shelf of Books”, the spines and the Introduction in Volume 1 refer to the series as Junior Classics so that’s how I will as well.  When I was waiting to check out at the Friends of the Library  sale I showed these books to my stepfather and he recognized them from his own childhood (they were originally published in 1938).  I’ve manages to find all ten books, but they aren’t all the same edition.  My books range from the 52nd to the 63rd printings.

The ten books are:

1: Fairy Tales and Fables—The stories are arraigned by country of origin. The Three Little Pigs and Jack & the Beanstalk come from England. Snow White and Rapunzel are German while Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella are French.  There are also plenty of unfamiliar stories from Norway, Czechoslovakia, and India (one of those is called The Rat’s Wedding).  You’ll also find some of Aesop’s Fables here.

2: Stories of Wonder and Magic—I’m not sure how they decided which stories went where because I wouldn’t have included Uncle Remus in this book, but here it is.  You’ll also find Aladdin and Ali Baba here and many of the stories of Hans Christian Anderson.

3: Myths and Legends—Greek and Roman myths are combined: Perseus, Jason and the Argonauts, Midas and the Golden Touch (this last one is a version written by Nathaniel Hawthorne).  You’ll find Odin and Thor in the Norway section. There are a few American Indian stories and then a section of Old Legends not arranged by country, although St. George & the Dragon and King Arthur are clearly English.

4: Hero Tales—The heroes within this volume are from bygone times and it’s difficult to separate fact from legend.  Here you’ll find Odysseus, El Cid, Beowulf and Robin Hood.  There’s also a much longer tale of King Arthur than the one in Volume 3.

5. Stories that Never Grow Old—These were the most familiar stories in the set: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Voyage to Lilliput, Rip Van Winkle, A Christmas Carol, and Edgar Allen Poe’s Gold Bug.  There is also the Charles and Mary Lamb’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

6: Stories About Boys and Girls—The only story familiar to me was Tom Sawyer Whitewashes the Fence.  Other stories are When Molly Was Six, Solomon John Goes for Apples, Nelly’s Hospital, and A Miserable Merry Christmas.  I did find a sweet story about a Chinese immigrant boy finally accepted by his classmates called My Song Yankee Doodle.

7. The Animal Book –Truly a menagerie, there are stories about bears, bulls, cobras, leopards, rhinos, cats and monkeys.  Of course you will probably be most familiar with Black Beauty and Lassie Come-Home. 

8. Stories From History—History in this case spans from the time of the Greeks and Persians through World War II.  You’ll visit with royalty (Olaf II of Norway, Henry IV and Queen Bess of England), Ste. Joan of Arc, American legends Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, Napoleon, Abe Lincoln, all the way up to Gen. MacArthur. 

9. Sport and Adventure—Not all of these stories are based on real events since Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Red-Headed League appears within, but there are plenty of factual stories: New York to Paris by Charles Lindbergh, Flying over the North Pole by Adm. Byrd, a trip to the summit of Mt. Everest, the Race for the South Pole and Rounding Cape Horn in a Windjammer.

10. Poetry –The book opens with nursery rhymes: Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, and Ole King Cole. There are still plenty of poems for the older crowd with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Wordsworth, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Keats, and Ralph Waldo Emerson well represented. There’s a patriotic section with The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers and Paul Revere’s Ride and should you need it at Christmas, you can find A Visit from St. Nicholas.  This volume also has the index for the entire series.

The lengths of the stories varies greatly—some are perfect for bedtime reading while Alice in Wonderland and A Christmas Carol will take longer.  And when not being read, the books look great on the shelves.

You can find a list of all my Rescued Books here

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Q is for Quake

This week we encounter one of the first “challenging” letters for blogging through the alphabet.  For the record, I was able to find two towns beginning with Q –Queen City near the northern border and Qulin near the boot heel.  The populations of both combined is still under 1000 and I couldn’t find out anything else about them.  There’s also a dearth of folks whose names begin with a Q, so no help there.  Since it’s easier to beg forgiveness then ask permission and since the Ben And Me rules for ABC blogging say to be creative I’m slashing the “earth” portion of the word and going with the vernacular –Q is for Quake.

Have you noticed a major theme for Hollywood is the disaster genre.  We’ve had volcanoes, killer asteroids, floods…my TV guide even had several listings for a movie called Sharknado.  Really?  Well, Hollywood should take note:  Missouri was the site of one of the most intense and longest lasting series of earthquakes in the world, but I’ve never seen it get a minute of screen time. Maybe that’s because it happened more than 200 years ago.
From December 1811 through February 1812,   there were hundreds if not thousands of earthquakes in the southeast corner of what was then still a territory.  Three of those quakes still rank among the most severe in U.S. History.  Although there wasn’t any seismological equipment to record the event, the evidence lead scientists to believe they were between 7.5 and 8.8 on the Richter Scale:  church bells rang as far away as Boston and the Mississippi River flowed upstream

 You can read eyewitness accounts from several newspapers and letters. One of the best sources is a letter from Eliza Bryan ….

On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o’clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder…which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go or what to do---the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi—the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes…formed a scene truly horrible.

[From January 23rd] until the 4th of February the earth was in continual agitation, visibly waving as a gentle sea…on the 7th about 4 o’clock, A.M., a concussion took place so much more violent than those which had preceded it …At first the Mississippi seemed to recede from its banks, and its waters gathering up like a mountain, leaving for a moment many boats…on the sand…It then rising fifteen or twenty feet perpendicularly, and expanding as it were, at the same moment…the boats which before had been left on the sand were now torn from their moorings and suddenly driven up a little creek…nearly a quarter of a mile.

Everyone is now familiar with FEMA, government assistance after a major disaster. There was no such aid back in 1812.  In 1815 Congress did vote to send $50,000 to victims of another earthquake in Caracas, Venezuela. This prompted William Clark,  governor of the Missouri Territory  to petition congress for relief for some of its own citizens (nearly 1000 people were killed and 2000 folks were left homeless).  No money was sent but they did grant those who lost their homes the right to a new homestead of equal size from other public lands.

It can even be said that the New Madrid quakes played a role in the shaping of the state, although not so much by altering the course of the Mississippi River as you may be thinking.  When most people decided to take up the offer for land on more stable ground a cattle rancher John Hardeman Walker decided to stay  and buy up his neighbor’s land.  When Missouri petitioned for statehood, Mr. Walker’s holdings were south of the intended border.  He lobbied congress to have his land included with the state of Missouri rather than the territory of Arkansas—and thus the Missouri boot heel was born.

There is a Historical Museum in New Madrid with displays about the quakes (also Native Americans from the area and the Civil War).  Admission is charged but the amount isn’t listed on the website. 
I’m linking up with … Ben and Me

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Fast Track Bible Pack—New Testament

Reading and studying the Bible have always been the first activities of our school day.  This year my son is working on his required Bible Merit for Royal Rangers---learning the books in order, creating a timeline, choosing 16 books to read, and more. This review of  Wizzy Gizmo and their product  Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament came at a most opportune time.

Our package contained a 5”X9” glossy, heavy cardstock card for each book in the New Testament and a summarizing card for the series.  There is valuable information printed on both sides as you can see in this sample for the book of Matthew.

Fast Track Bible Pack--Matthew


The largest section of the page is not so much a summary of the book as it is a “hook” to entice the student to read the book.  It may ask a question or share something that makes the book unique.  Around the edges you’ll find the number of the book as ordered in the New Testament, the number of chapters, the author if known, approximately when the book was written, and the theme. 


The book’s title and theme are repeated at the top. There is at least one outline (Philippians has three) and then lists for key chapters, passages, doctrines, and people that appear in the book.

The product’s web page includes ideas for use broken down by ages but since my son is working on his Bible merit badge we’ve found several useful ways to incorporate the cards into those requirements. (I will admit the size of these cards mean you’ll need a bit of work space).

Learning Book Order--

Schnickelfritz tried putting the shuffled cards in correct order while only referring to the back side of the cards.  When he was finished he could turn them over and see the order number in the red circle on the front (or refer to the summary card).

Classifying Books by Genre

I made a label for each genre and Fritz would build piles of cards beneath.  This information did not come from the cards themselves but from his Royal Ranger handbook.  Of course most of the books in the New Testament are classified as ‘Epistles” and there are no books of law or poetry.  (Looking forward to them coming out with the Old Testament series)

Building a Timeline

Fritz has to create a timeline from Creation through the time of the Apostles and include the books of the Bible on that timeline.  Some cards included lists of key people and if they made the card they were probably worthy of inclusion on the timeline although we’ll have to find dates of their lives from another source. The card fronts include the best estimates of dates when the books were written.  The New Testament fits within a single century so again, I’m looking forward to an Old Testament series and I hope they’ll consider including the time period each book covers as well as when it was written (if any of you Wizzy Gizmo folks happens to read this).

Choosing Which Books to Read

Fritz has to select and read two books from each genre for his merit badge, but how to choose?  He could read the descriptions on the front of the card and look for passages he was already familiar with on the back (I won’t deny the graphic letting him know how many chapters he’d have to read also played a role in his decision making).  When choosing which gospels to read I was able to point out to Fritz that while the subject was the same (the life of Christ), each author was writing to a different audience or for a different purpose and so each book has a different theme: Jesus as the son of God, Jesus as the son of man, Jesus as servant, Jesus as king.

Daily Reading

Once Fritz had selected his books he started reading a chapter each day.  By referring to the back of the card he could see when that days reading would include an important passage

Most of the information on these cards can be found in the introductions to each book in a good study Bible, but these cards still have a lot of value in that they can be manipulated—organizing the Bible ‘s books or comparing two side by side.  I’m looking forward to the day an Old Testament pack is available. The Fast Track Bible Pack: New Testament sells for $14.99 and can be used by all ages (as long as they can read).


Click to read Crew Reviews




Monday, August 18, 2014

Tots and Me Blogiversary Giveaway!!

Welcome to the Back to School/5 Year Blogiversary Giveaway

Hosted by: Tots and Me

Back to school time is here! 
The summer, once again, just flew by and now it is time to think about school books, schedules, and learning. No matter how your children are schooled, there are plenty of goodies in this prize pack to stimulate those brains and get them learning.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful sponsors of this giveaway.
One winner will win this entire Back to School Prize Pack valued at approximately $370. The winner will receive:
Winner's Choice FunBites Cutter for some kitchen fun. You can choose between triangles, squares, and hearts.
(Read the review here)

Rock 'n Learn Learn a Language DVD to begin learning a foreign language (or Winner's Choice of a Rock 'n Learn DVD)
(Read the review here)
Crazy Legs from Endless Games for some get-up-and-move fun. Great for phys. ed. time.
(Read the review here)
Korner'd from Endless Games for those times you want a challenge and some family fun.
(Read the Review here)
Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies, because we have to keep those pencils sharp to get the work done.
(Read the review here)
Battle Sheep from Blue Orange Games for family fun and sharpening your strategy skills.
(Read the review here)
The Reading Game- The fast action memory game with picture flashcards and story books, to help your child learn to read.
(Read the Review here)
1 Year membership to ABC Twiggles for multi-sensory ABC Learning Fun
(Read the review here)
Winner's Choice of 1 Learning Activity Kid from Fundanoodle.
Choose between I Can Build Upper Case Letters! and I Can Bead, Lace, Rip, Trace!
(Read the review here)
A set of 3 Fascinating World of . . . DVD's from BrainFood Learning. Learn about Insects, Mammals and Birds.
(Read the review here)
1 Year Access to the News-O-Matic app from Press4Kids- The Daily News Experience, Just For Kids.
(Read the review here)
The Well Planned Day 2014-2015 Family Homeschool Planner from Home Educating Family Association (hedua)- To keep your day organized
(Read the review here)
A 1 Year subscription to Math World from For math fun for children in K through 3rd grade.
(Read the review here)
A digital/eBook copy of both the Wild at the Zoo Adventure Pack and Bugging Around: Insects from KidQuest Science Adventures for more science fun.
(Read the review here)

A Cooking Box from Raddish to encourage learning in the kitchen.
(Read the Sponsor Spotlight here, and stay tuned for the full review which will be coming in the near future, as I only just received the product and we haven't had a chance to use it.)

All you need to do is enter in the Rafflecopter form below. There are only 4 simple mandatory entries, with the remainder of the entries being optional. Remember, you do not have to do the extra entries, but they will increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US residents 18 and over.
The giveaway runs August 18th through August 31st.
All entries are subject to verification.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Tots and Me received the above mentioned products for free in order to conduct thorough reviews.  Tots and Me  received no further compensation. This did not in any way influence her reviews. As with all her reviews, the Back to School reviews reflect her own honest experience and opinion. She only recommends products or services she use personally and believes will be good for her readers. All opinions are her own. The participating bloggers did not receive any compensation and are not responsible for shipping any prizes. Tots and Me is only responsible for shipping The Fascinating World of Insects DVD from BrainFood Learning, all other prizes will be shipped from the sponsors.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rescued Books on the Pony Express

Earlier this week I shared about the Pony Express National Museum.  Now if that left you wanting to know more I’ve got two rescued books on the subject.

Of course Landmark Books would have to include a title on the Pony Express—they covered everything else in American history. 

The Pony Express

Adams, Samuel Hopkins, and Lee J. Ames (Illus.). New York: Random House, 1950.

While the Pony Express only ran for eighteen months, this book covers the inception of the idea by Russel, Majors, & Waddell in 1859 through the author’s own encounter with a pony rider around 1900.  It covers the buying of the horses and the recruiting  of riders and other staff.  Did you know they had to hire mule drivers whose job was to march the animals up and down the path to tramp the snow down before the pony rider came through?  There are chapters for the first westward and eastward trips and chapters about the struggles with Indians and outlaws.  A boy seeking adventure might find the “business” chapters—like not receiving funds from the government, a little dull.  And I felt like I was watched a friend pass away as the telegraph lines were strung and the last mail run was made.  The final chapter lets us know what happened to many of the riders and businessmen.

Now, if you want a real “you were there” race across the continent with the mail may I suggest…


Riders of the Pony Express

Moody, Ralph. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. 180 pp.

Mr. Moody is better known for his autobiographical Little Britches series (which I recommend), but he was also contracted by Houghton Mifflin  Publishing to write several titles for their North Star Books series (their attempt to compete with Landmark Books I believe).  Somewhere I read that Moody had ridden along most of what was left of the mail route and that wouldn’t surprise me given the detailed descriptions and maps throughout the book.  In the first 12 chapters of the 16 chapter book we travel along with each rider as they switch horses and deal with bad weather and obstacles on the first runs (one traveling west and one traveling east).  Apparently, the owners felt a little competition might keep the riders moving as fast as possible so it was the mustangs of the west vs. the race horses of the east, the prairie riders vs. those hearty souls who had to find their way through the mountains.  The action switches back and forth between the east and west bound riders. The chapters begin with a small continental map showing the progress of both sides and within each chapter is a more detailed map showing the paths of individual riders.

The remaining chapters deal with specific riders and specific rides. For example, Pony Bob Haslam once rode 385 miles in 78 hours with only 11 hours rest—truly a record of endurance.  This same man also carried the mail for 120 miles in 8 hours and 10 minutes despite suffering and arrow shot in the arm and a broken jaw.  It was the fastest trip ever made by the Pony Express and delivered Abraham Lincoln’ inaugural address.

Both authors make clear that the Pony Express played a large role in keeping California from joining the Southern Cause during the Civil War.  It may never have made sound business sense, but you can’t deny its success from that national point of view.

I found both my books from private collections that had been donated to a library book sale.

You can find a list of all my Rescued Books here

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

P is for Pony Express Museum

It only lasted for eighteen months…the founders lost thousands of dollars…and yet you can hardly find an American history textbook that fails to mention the Pony Express--a series of riders jumping from one horse to another, racing across half a continent to deliver the mail. In terms of the Wild West, it is as iconic as Buffalo Bill –who actually was an Express rider long before he formed his rodeo show.  St. Joseph, Missouri was home to the eastern terminus of the route, where you can now find the  Pony Express National Museum.  The building is on the site of the original Pike’s Peak Stable (the wooden structure was replace in 1888 by a brick building, but they reused some of the original posts and beams).  NOTE: The Pony Express offices were in the Patee House (look—another P word) which has it’s own exhibits as well as those pertaining to the Outlaw Jesse James who died in St. Joseph.

Pony-express-joseph.jpg"Pony-express-joseph". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Pony Express was the brainchild of William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell, all three of whom were already in the business of moving freight and army supplies to the western frontier.  They proposed using swift horses and fearless riders as a means to get mail to and from the state of California (the current method being a southern stage coach route that took 25 days) but failed to secure a government contract.  The men proceeded with the plan anyway, using their own funds to build way stations, purchase the best horses, and hire riders. 

My son here wouldn’t qualify as he’s not an expert rider and more importantly his Mama wouldn’t let him go (I guess that’s why orphans were preferred).

If you visit the museum today you can see a replica of the blacksmith and leather shops to would have been needed to maintain the horses and the special letter-carrying saddle bags known as mochilas. Part of the floor is opened up to expose an archeological dig of the site.

Museum admission is $6/Adults, $3/Students, Free/Under 6.

Be sure to stop by later this week as I share more about the Pony Express with my Rescued Books Series.

I’m linking up with … Ben and Me
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Opportunity for Bloggin' Mamas

A fellow member of the TOS Review Crew is preparing for her blog's anniversary and you can be a part of the celebration.

Free Sign Ups for the
Back to School/5 Year Blogiversary Celebration

Organized by Karen @ Tots and Me

There will be 1 Winner.
Prize Package is valued at approximately $340 
(there may still be some additions).

You can see the full list of prizes here.

Signups Close August 14th, 2014
Giveaway Dates: August 17th-31st
Open to US residents

You will get a free Facebook link for participating. You must post the giveaway on August 17th and promote 3 times a week. 
You can opt to get your choice of second link (Twitter or Pinterest) for posting the announcement post on your blog.

Co-host spots are available for $10. You will get three links (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) plus a comment link (to a non-giveaway post). Co-hosts will also be listed on the Giveaway image and have a back-link in the Giveaway post.

All Co-host money will go toward a Amazon Gift Card or Paypal prize (winner's choice). 

Co-host spots, with the same benefits, will also be given if you choose to supply a prize, of at least $10, to the prize package. You will be responsible for shipping the prize to the winner.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

O is for the Old Courthouse

Tourists looking down from the windows of the Arch to the west often see the federal style building with the oxidized copper dome and assume it’s the state capitol.  Nope, that’s in Jefferson City—not visible from the Arch.  St. Louisans refer to the building as “The Old Courthouse” Not terribly original, huh?  The basilica nearly across the street is referred to as the Old Cathedral.  I’m not presuming this is the only old courthouse in the country, in fact I’m sure there are many older buildings on the east coast where legal cases were heard. 

The building has ties to the founding of the city itself.  The land on which it sits was donated in part by Auguste Chouteau with the stipulation that it be forever used as the site of the courthouse.  (Chouteau was 14 years old when he laid out the plans for St. Louis – learn more about his story in the book A Boy for a Man’s Job).   Yes, it’s not being used as a courthouse anymore and yes,  the Chouteau descendants sued to have the land returned to them, but they lost and the courthouse and land was turned over to the National Parks Department where it’s now part of the Jefferson Expansion Memorial (along with the Arch ).

I hadn’t been to the Old Courthouse since my fourth grade field trip –and it’s a good thing I didn’t share what I remembered because they ripped out all those exhibits years ago.  Instead, I decided to invite my mother on an “adventure” (our family term for field trips) to the big city.  We took Metrolink and got off at the 8th & Pine station.  If you’re already visiting the Arch, you’ll just need take a bridge over the highway.  NOTE: they are in the process of making the highway go in a tunnel and creating additional parkland to better connect the Arch grounds to the rest of the city.

The first thing to impress me was the art and architecture of the building.  Just look at the elaborate iron scrollwork in the steps!

Stairs of the Old Courthouse (St. Louis)

And then you reach the rotunda, with a very patriotic display I might add.

Old Courthouse (St. Louis) Rotunda

We were far too early for the guided tour so we browsed on our own.  Where the Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch covers all of the Louisiana Purchase territory, the exhibits in the Old Courthouse focus on the City of St. Louis.  There is the diorama room…

Old Courthouse (St. Louis) Diorama

Here’s a keelboat is bringing in supplies.  Can you see the flag in the background?  It’s Spanish, as are the militiamen on shore.  Spain controlled the land from 1762 to 1802 (remember I wrote about this in D is for Daniel Boone Home) The house is actually French in style, as were the original settlers of the city. There were also four galleries with photos and artifacts from four eras of St. Louis history:  founding to 1850, 1850-1900, 1900-1930 (this includes the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1930 to present. 

Old Courthouse (St. Louis) gallery

Even if you’re not interested in architecture or St. Louis history, it’s still worth visiting the Old Courthouse to learn about the significant 19th century trial that took place there.  Yes, this is another example of Missouri history overlapping U.S. history---in this case the Dred Scott trial, a significant step leading to the Civil War.

Dred and Harriet Scott statueDred Scott was a slave brought to the state by the Blow family and sold to a military surgeon, Dr. John Emerson.  The doctor was assigned to various forts and outposts, including at least two in “free” land –the state of Illinois and Wisconsin Territory (remember the Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in all Louisiana Purchase land north of 36°30′ latitude).  Both Scott and the doctor married and both couples returned to St. Louis in 1842.  Shortly after, the doctor died and his widow inherited the Scotts as her property.  She hired out the Scotts (they did the work, but she collected most of the wages).

In 1846, the Scotts filed lawsuits against the widow for their freedom (according to a movie we saw in the courthouse, nearly 300 slaves obtained their freedom this way as Missouri courts supported the “once free, always free” doctrine despite being a slave state).   Their first case was lost on a technicality, but they were allowed to re-file their suits.  In 1850, the Circuit Court granted the Scotts their freedom, but the widow appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.  From that point on, the Scotts lost in both state and federal courts up to the Supreme Court decision in 1857.  Chief Justice Taney wrote in the majority opinion that no African descendant, slave or free, could be a citizen of the United States and that the provisions of the Missouri Compromise were voided (in other words congress couldn’t prohibit slavery in the territories). 

So what happened to the Scotts?  Shortly after the decision, the widow sold them back to their previous owners, the Blows, for one dollar. I’ve read that she did so because she had remarried, and her Massachusetts congressman husband was opposed to slavery, but the marriage took place in 1850.  Why not sell them then, or let them by their freedom (as Dred Scott had once tried to do), or just free them?   And when the Blows did free Dred and Harriet Scott, the widow went to court to collect the wages they had earned for the 11 years the lawsuit was being tried (the money had been held in escrow pending the outcome)—the court gave all the money to her!  Dred Scott died a year later from tuberculosis.

Old Courthouse Free Negro Bonds

These are copies of the “Free Negro Bonds” for Dred and Harriet Scott.  The Blow family had to put up $1000 for each. The documents  lay out the rights and responsibilities required for the two to live in the state of Missouri.  If the Scotts were ever deemed “a menace to society”  they would lose the money.

It’s not a pretty picture of Missouri or U.S. history, but I left with a greater depth of knowledge and understanding than can be gained by the one or two sentences afforded to the case in history texts.  There is no admission charged to visit the Old Courthouse.

I’m linking up with …

Ben and Me

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