Remembering the Confederate dead

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. As state and local planning committees gear up for a host of events, a quiet spot in western Missouri has been commemorating the war for more than a century.

The Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville, 53 miles east of Kansas City, opened as a retirement home for Confederate veterans in 1891. More than 1,600 former soldiers and their families lived amid quiet forests and placid lakes. Remarkably, the last one didn’t die until 1950. John T. Graves was a veteran of General J.O. Shelby’s Iron Brigade, the best cavalry raiders west of the Mississippi. The Iron Brigade saw countless battles throughout the war but Graves survived them all, to die in the modern world at the age of 108.

Today the Confederate Memorial is still a peaceful spot. You can stroll through the woods where old men once hobbled along swapping war stories, or fish in lakes that fed more than a regiment of veterans. The chapel is open to visitors, as is the cemetery, where the tombstones preserve the names of some of the best, and worst, men who fought for the South.

The most notorious rebel to be buried here is William Quantrill. A bandit turned Confederate guerrilla, Quantrill was the terror of the border states, looting and burning civilian homes as much as he fought Union troops. A young Frank James, brother of Jesse James, rode with Quantrill and participated in his biggest atrocity–the burning of Lawrence, Kansas, where Quantrill’s band killed about 200 mostly unarmed men and boys. Quantrill was killed in the last days of the war in Kentucky. Part of his body is buried in Louisville, some of his remains are interred in his hometown of Dover, Ohio, and the Higginsville memorial has three arm bones, two leg bones, and a lock of hair.

More honorable soldiers are also here, including several from the Iron Brigade as well as other units that saw action in every theater of the war. In fact, every Confederate state but one is represented here. Many veterans moved to Missouri after the war to farm its rich, underpopulated land, so a wide cross-section of the Confederacy ended their days at the home.

So if you’re driving through Missouri on I-70, take a quick detour and check out a piece of history. And keep an eye out next year for lots of Civil War articles here on Gadling to mark the 150th anniversary.


Historic town fights federal government and lead poisoning

You may never have heard of Caledonia, Missouri, but it’s one of the most historic spots in the state. While the town has fewer than two hundred residents, its tiny downtown is filled with old homes and shops. It boasts 33 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and a steady stream of visitors who take up the town’s invitation to “step back in time”.

Sadly, that all might be in danger. The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to designate 175 square miles of Washington County as a Superfund Site in order to clean up dangerously high lead levels in the soil and ground water. The little town of Caledonia is right in the middle of this area and stands to lose a lot of business if it’s slapped with the label of being dangerous. People may not want to eat at the local diner or attend the annual Pumpkin Festival if they think they’re going to get lead poisoning.

Caledonia is in southwest Missouri in what used to be known as the “lead belt” thanks to its large lead mining operations from the 18th to late 20th century. Lead from the mines has made it into the soil and ground water across much of this region. There are already three Superfund Sites in Washington County that have dangerously high lead levels.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a gallery dedicated to Caledonia. The town is protesting the EPA’s move, but there seems little it can do about it.

The Wall Street District is Officially Historic

Every day I pay a bit of attention, not much, to what Wall Street is doing. I generally have a vague notion of what it means when I hear the Dow is up or down. Up is good. Down is bad. I think. Regardless of my fuzziness about finances, Wall Street’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places is something I can understand.

Consider this. Wall Street, the street not the district, was once a cow path the Dutch used when they first showed up in the 17th century to make a settlement next to the East River. Sometime in the district’s history, slaves were used to build a wall to keep out the Indians who were creating a ruckus by raiding. Once that was settled, and it was determined America was here to stay, this is where the Bill of Rights was adopted and George Washington was sworn in as the first president. If you head to Wall Street, besides listening for the sounds of fortunes being made or broken, look for the statue of Washington at the spot of his inauguration. Nearby, at 23 Wall St., J.P. Morgan’s old digs where he sat in his counting house counting out his money, so to speak, you can see evidence of the bomb that exploded there on September 16, 1920. Some people must not have been too happy with J.P. Morgan since the explosion was large enough that it killed 38 people and injured folks in the hundreds. There several other buildings of various styles that helped put this part of NYC on the historic places map.

For some more Wall Street information and details of America’s financial path, check out “Wall Street and Stock Market History” in A to Z Investments. Considering the state of the market this past week, I kind of think this photo by Alexander Marc Eckert on Flickr is apropos.