Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Living in HOPE...Hope, Arkansas that is

Going to spend a few days in Hope, Arkansas just to see what's in the area.

Today we drove about 8 miles north to the little city of Old Washington, pop. 148 people, Old Washington is very unique in that the 90% of the city is a restored state park museum, the city is restored to how was between 1824 -1889.

The Southwest Trail/Military Road ran right through the center of town and any pioneers heading for Texas had to pass through this way, making it a very large center for commercial or profession assistance en route. This is where you picked up anything that you were going to need in Texas, the population increased until it became the county seat for Hempstead County. In 1863 when Little Rock fell to the Union forces Old Washington became the Confederate Capitol of Arkansas. When the railroad by passed Old Washington in 1874 the city's 15 minutes of fame were over. Fires in 1875 & 1883 destroyed almost the entire business district and pretty much brought an end to the town. Around 1930, Arkansas decided to rebuild the Confederate Capitol, over the years different foundations started restoring the old buildings and in 1973 the state made it a state park.

Enough history, we pulled into town about 11am and saw that they had a tour leaving at 11:30 so we signed up for that, there are over 40 restored buildings and the tour takes you to eight of them, each week or so they change what buildings are included in the tour so every time you come you see something new and different. Also very clever for them to do this because you have to keep coming back to see the entire town and paying for the tours.

Our tour included 4 different homes of notable citizens, the Courthouse, The print Museum, the Williams Tavern (more on this later) and the Edwards weapon museum. As I said the tour started at 11:30 and we visited the Crouch House (1859), the
outside of the house is entirely
restored but the main room inside
they restored the left half of the room and left the right side the way it was so you could see the difference, the rest of the rooms all had some part of the room left so that you could see what was behind the wall and the type of construction that was used.

Remember Williams Tavern, well everybody in the park including the guides take a lunch break from 12noon to 12:30, so what do the seven people that are on the tour do, go tour the Tavern and have lunch while you're doing it. Everyone was in period costume so we enjoyed an 1832 style lunch until it was time to meet up with guide and resume our tour.

The Print Museum was where the Washington telegraph was printed, there were about 12 different types of early printing press on display and the curator operated a few of them to show the difference in speed between the different era's. Mind your P's & Q's, this saying was started in the printing business, since they would grab the letters from the letter box and the P's & Q's were exact opposites, especially when you where looking at a reversed letter they had to be very careful of what they grabbed, so mind your P's & Q's. Another tidbit while I'm on a roll, capital letters were keep in the upper letter case and non-capital letters were keep in the lower letter case, hence upper and lower case letters.

The Gun Museum has approximately 300 to 400 weapons on display, covering everything from the 1500's to modern day.

We really wanted to tour the Blacksmith Shop, but it's opening day for bow season for deer and the blacksmith is a big hunter. This is the blacksmith shop (owned by James Black) that made the famous "Bowie Knife", Jim Bowie stopped by the shop one day and told the smithy what type of knife he wanted made up, he then went to Little Rock and returned a month later on his way to Texas, and the Alamo, the blacksmith had made two knifes one exactly like Bowie wanted and another that was the same but had a double edge, he told Bowie to take which ever one he wanted, Bowie took the modified one.

When Bowie ordered the knife he told James Black that he wanted something large enough and with enough heft to it that it would take a man's head off in one swipe, apparently he got what he asked for, for a few months later when he was in Texas three men who had been hired to kill him attacked him in a saloon, he killed all three with the knife and one was almost decapitated. Once the story spread the blacksmith was over run with orders for the great Bowie knife, unfortunately the blacksmith was disabled a little while later and was unable to make anymore Bowie knifes. Everybody has an idea of what the knife looked like but the original was lost at the Alamo and none of the others (made by this blacksmith) have been located. This blacksmiths knifes were said to be so special because he had discovered the secret of making Damascus Steel, but that's another story.

The tour is very well done, every building had a person in character for that time and building to tell you about the history of the building and town. Our $8 tour (not including lunch) ended up taking close to 4 and a half hours, they do offer a shorter tour with just 2 or 3 buildings if you don't have the time for the full tour.

There are three different U.S. Champion trees in the park, this is the Magnolia Tree, there was also a Pecan and a Catalpa.

In Search of Diamonds and the easy life:

Today we became "Diamond Hunters" not very good ones but we tried. For years we have been wanting to go to the only diamond mine in the USA, it's a state park in Arkansas. They plow up about 38 acres of land and you just walk around and pick up the diamonds that are lying in the dirt at your feet, at least that's what we thought. After paying our $6.50 a head to get into the park we ran to the plowed fields to find our fortune in brilliant gems, we did make a fantastic discovery, that after walking around in the mud with your heads down looking for the find of the year it's almost impossible to straighten your neck out again. Looks like the grand kids are going to have to work their way through collage, sorry.

I'm sneaking this in because I forgot to add it to the Arkansas National Guard information, I've never seen or heard of this before and found it very funny and interesting.

German Prisoner of War Class Ring

POW's were allowed to purchase these class rings from salesman that traveled from base to base.

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