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Wednesday morning, we started our day at the Cracker Barrel around the corner from our motel. We don’t have one close to where we live, so it is always a treat to be able to enjoy a meal there!

We arrived at the Pony Express Museum about 9:30. The mural (above) is on the wall of a building facing the parking lot. The museum is located in the original Pikes Peak stables used in 1860 after the military supply firm headed by William Russell, William Waddell, and Alexander Majors was picked by California Senator William Gwin to head up a new mail service. (Photo below: Display of the three men at their office.)

Below is the contract between the Citizens of St. Joseph and the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express.

This is the location where Johnny Fry, thought to be the first Pony Express rider, left on April 3, 1860 to pick up the mail he would carry 90 miles westward – the first leg of the ride.


Photos above top to bottom left to right: Blacksmith display showing
how the horses were shoed; Johnny Fry ready to leave the stable;
“Moment in Time” plaque above stable door; Johnny Fry on horse

Below are pictures of what was carried inside the covered wagons as people moved westward. They would hang a few articles of clothing from the spokes inside the cover.

Inside the wagons were bags of sugar and flour, mold to make candles, a chair, tools, a large pot, a jug, rope, a washboard, a grater, (this model has a) bottle of whiskey, other food-stuffs, bucket, bedrolls/blankets, and more items that were necessary for such a long journey.

Contrary to what many think, everyone walked beside the oxen pulling the wagons instead of riding inside.

A Relay Station (pictured above) was a small building used by Riders to stop for just a few minutes to get a drink and change horses. These were located about 10 to 15 miles apart, and usually two men stayed there and took care of the station. The photos above show two bunks at one end of the station and a fireplace at the other end separated by a table.

The mochila pictured above was used by one of the Pony Express riders and donated to the museum by a descendant. This is what was used to carry the mail. It had three pockets that locked but the keys were at the other end of the ride. There was also a place to put military dispatches that were picked up along the way. Only 20 pounds of mail could be carried by a rider due to weight limitations of the horse.

This well inside the museum was used to water the horses during the Pony Express era in St. Joseph. It was capped in 1881, and during an archeological dig in the 1990s, it was uncovered. There are several layers of bricks built on the top in order to make the wooden platform, but all the rest is original. The bottom picture shows all of the items that were found in the well when it was excavated.

The sculpture pictured above is “The Long Trail Home” by Vic Payne. “Old Blue” – a Texas longhorn leads the chuck wagon crew home from a cattle drive.

A sixty foot diorama fills one entire wall of the museum, and the attention to detail is extraordinary. The scenes depicted show the types of terrain and weather that Pony Express riders had to endure on their rides – boat rides across rivers, prairie lands, Salt Lake Desert, mountains, prairie fires, thunderstorms, tornadoes, encounters with the Palute Tribe, and snowstorms.

A Hall of Riders has stories about 22 Pony Express riders – some famous and some not. There is a display about the telegraph and currency from the 1860s and Confederacy.

The Pony Express Museum has a chidren’s area and programs specifically designed for school children which includes a One Room School house built recently.

In conclusion, the story of the Pony Express is important in the history of our country, and the museum is designed for both young and old alike. Please visit if you are in the St. Joseph area. The admission is less than $5 per person and is well worth it. For more information visit the Pony Express Museum website.

(All photos taken by Wendy Littrell. Information on several exhibits – Pony Express Pocket Tour Guide, Pony Express Museum, St. Joseph, Missouri.)

Recentlly, my husband and I took a short trip within our state. Since moving to Missouri four years ago, we have wanted to explore other areas.

Our first venture had us heading toward Maryville in the northwest corner of the state. My husband spent four of his twelve school years there (8th-11th grades) and hasn’t been back in over 40 years. As we headed west on US 36, we encountered morning fog. He kept telling me that soon the scenery would change. As we crested a hill and looked out toward Stewartsville (west of Cameron), I felt like I’d driven in to a science fiction movie. Not one or two wind turbines but hundreds of them dotted the landscape. Driving near, they loomed large and with the low ceiling touched the clouds.

Missouri Wind Turbines  (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)

My husband eagerly wanted to show me and see for himself the areas in Maryville that were special to him. He pointed me toward the street where one of the houses was located and just behind it cattycorner was the other house. He said other than different paint color and a retaining wall, both looked about the same. From there we headed toward Maryville High School – home of the Spoofhounds. Yes, there is such a mascot! Here is the photo I took of the school sign.

Afterwards, we drove around Northwest Missouri State University where my father-in-law was an Industrial Arts professor in the early 70s. Leaving there, we headed to the Hy-Vee grocery store where my husband had his first job. Since I didn’t get my coffee or caffeine that morning before our trip, I was happy to see a Starbucks inside the store! Chai Tea Latte – yum! Being close to lunch time, we sat in the Pizza Hut parking lot for a while until they opened.

Following lunch, we took the highway south toward St. Joseph and ended up on 71 Business which took us through Savannah. My husband laughed when I told him that I knew someone buried there – my 2nd great-grandmother’s sister, Matilda Reed Imus Beale. And no, we weren’t stopping to explore. That will be another time.

We arrived in St. Joe too early to check in to our motel so we drove straight to the St. Joseph Museums which are in the former clinic used for patients at the mental hospital. Originally it was located in an area of the St. Joseph State Hospital and in the late 1960s, it was moved to the current location. According to Wikipedia, the Glore Psychiatric Museum began when an employee of the Missouri Mental Health System – George Glore – “built life size models of primitive devices formerly used for mental health” to raise awareness (see pic below).

George Glore’s life-size model of a Giant Patient Treadmill
used in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries.
Sometimes patients would be inside up to 48 hours. 

Once we paid for admission and received a map, we took the stairs to the third floor. There were many sculptures and paintings as well as other type of artwork made by previous patients as art therapy. Included on this floor were replicas of a music therapy room, an art therapy room, a spiritual therapy room, a patient room, and the psychiatric nursing exhibit of “Ward Quiet” which is in a former surgical room.

Top L-R: Music Therapy Room display and Patient Room display
Middle: Original Chart Desk and Psychiatric Nursing exhibit
Bottom: Spiritual Therapy display and Dexterity/Puzzle area

This large embroidered piece below was created by a patient with the nickname “The Tatterer.” She rarely spoke and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. I stood and solemnly read her words. The sign next to it read in part: “…her sewn words have been described as psychotic; but in 2010 new research found that the patient was very connected to her environment.” (“Silent Voice” description; Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, Missouri.)

Throughout the museum there were displays and information about electroshock treatments, the history of lobotomies and other types of surgeries, rocking chair therapies, and the history of mental health treatments. A very tall container held empty, flattened cigarette packs that a patient had been hoarding. Another patient had been witnessed sticking a piece of paper into the back of a television set. Upon further investigation, the staff found over 500 notes written on pieces of paper inside the television.


Early type of straight-jacket

This is a Restraint Ring – patients could be restrained to the wall
with a chain if they were considered “out of control.” This Ring
was removed from the basement wall in the Center Building in 1980.

The basement held the original morgue and autopsy rooms as well as information about treatment and education for youth. These two cars were painted by youth patients and entered in a contest.

At one time, patients worked the land as a farm which brought in money to the hospital but then was thought that since the patients were working for so long, it was equal to slavery so the farm work was discontinued. At one time the hospital served over 3,500 people so large scale salad bowls were needed as well as the mixer stand in the photo below in order to mix dough or make other types of batter. This stand was about 5 feet tall.

We asked to tour “the tunnels” before we left. A member of the staff guided us outside and across the sidewalk to an adjoining building. The entryway looked as if it was having work done and an area was used as storage. She  led us toward an open door. I kept walking but all I saw was a long, very dark tunnel. I backed up until she was able to turn the lights on. Both sides of the walls were covered with murals and paintings.

Patients had been led down there for art therapy. She told us to turn the lights out when we left. There were quite a few murals that – on a better surface and with better light – looked amazing. All I kept thinking was that I hoped the gated door halfway down the tunnel wouldn’t slam shut on us leaving us on the other side! I am not easily spooked but in that tunnel, I was a bit creeped out! We let her know when we were done.

The other smaller museums within those walls included the Black Archives Museum – highlighting St. Joseph African American experiences; the interactive Doll Museum; the Harry L. George Native American Collection which includes a large collection of artifacts from the late 1800s to early 1900s; and the WWI Saint Joseph: Reflections on Community and Conflict. There are also exhibits of the Folklore of Mary Alicia Owen and the Missouri Music Hall of Fame which includes Sheryl Crow and Chuck Berry.

The doll museum (which is one room) had a wall of Barbie dolls! I enjoyed looking at all the international Barbies.

Below is a display in the Native American area..

The display below has artifacts and information about the history of St. Joseph – especially about its founder, Joseph Robidoux IV. He had established a trading post in the Blacksnake Hills – now St. Joe.

Once finished at the Glore Psychiatric Museum, we went on to the motel and checked in. I cleaned up and then we went to eat at Bandanas Barbecue just down the road. One of my genealogy friends, Susan Petersen, always stops there on her way to Missouri from Nebraska so we had to try it. The food was excellent.

After relaxing at the motel after dinner for awhile, we drove on down to the Museum Hill Historic District. There are some beautiful churches and buildings. We parked behind a very large building in the Methodist Church parking lot.

The original location for the Francis Street First United Methodist Church was at 7th and Francis Streets and was built about 1857. Construction on the current building at 12th and Francis Streets began toward the late 1890’s-early 1900’s. We thought it was beautiful and wished we could look at the interior.

The building we parked behind had a dome at the top. As we walked to the front of it, my husband pointed out the words above it – First Church of Christ, Scientist. After doing some research later, I found that it was built in 1899 and has one of the largest pipe organs in the country. The congregation of the Christian Science church disbanded in the 1990s at that location, and it is now a wedding venue called The Dome.

In front of The Dome was a building that appeared to have been a church at one time. Now it is a Yoga Studio.


Across from the parking lot was the First Baptist Church and further down the block was Calvary Chapel.

Up on the hill was this large house with many steps going up to it.

Looking out toward St. Joseph, we saw a very long and huge structure that sat in the middle of Civic Center Park. The inscription over it said that it was given to the citizens of St. Joseph for Civic Use. Doing some research, we found that it was the City Hall built in 1926-1927. Another building I would have liked to see the inside.

We had a good first day in the city and were looking forward to the next.

Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow has a fascinating podcast series at “Generations Cafe” (you can listen to it via any number of platforms – I use Spotify), and her latest is The Truth About Millennials and Genealogy. Yesterday, as I listened to Amy  and her daughter in conversation about what millennials think when it comes to genealogy, I found myself thinking about my own millenials.

First, Amy explained who the millennials are (those born from 1981-1998) which means that all four of my kids fall into that label. They are all adults with families and/or careers, bills to pay, and responsibilities. However, I probably only categorize my youngest as a millennial and even then, most of the time, she comes across as older in her thought processes.

Second, I was born toward the tail end of the baby boom. Some days I consider myself a baby boomer and other times I do not. Now that I’m getting closer to 60, I feel more and more like one! My parents were born prior to the depression so they lived through that as well as WWII. Could their life experiences have influenced how I perceive not only the world but my role as a family historian? Consequently, could it be the same for my children?

As I thought about topics that Amy had brought up during her podcast, I reflected on not only my experience but also my children’s. One thing that was mentioned had to do with heirlooms and reasons the younger generation may or may not want those items. Growing up, my mother would always mention how she ended up with certain items: “Mom Amore gave that to me” or “that used to belong to Gramma Clawson.” Often times I would hear stories to go along with her pronouncements. Then there were the items she used – the candy dish that always held M&Ms and the cookie jar that only held a certain type of sandwich cookie. There were things that my grandparents always had around – the Swiss kitchen scene plaque that hung in their kitchen (photo above), the Christmas bell that played “Jingle Bells,” and the wooden shoes they bought on a trip to Holland. There were always stories to go along with the items of note. I passed those stories – my stories – to my children. So when it came time to clean out my mom’s home after she died, the items we kept meant something – not only to my sister and I but to her children and to my children. Had it not been for the constant stories or the memories surrounding certain items, those heirlooms wouldn’t have meant much to us.

Another point in Amy’s podcast was the concept of “doing” genealogy. I grew up hearing family stories – all of the time. That didn’t mean I paid as much attention to them as I wish I had, but I’d listened just enough to inspire a spark of wanting to know fact from fiction. My sister enjoys hearing about what I find, but she doesn’t want to do the research. Most of my kids like hearing the stories – especially about black sheep relatives, but they don’t want to do the research. My son, however, likes the mystery and working the puzzles as much as I do. Reaching out to unknown cousins carries a certain risk – rejection or even finding that “crazy” relative – but it might mean making a new family connection that is wonderful.

The third item that Amy’s podcast brought to my attention was how to attract not only millennials to genealogy or historical societies – but people of all ages. Rachel even mentioned food! That’s good because my local historical society puts on a pretty good spread for everyone at our quarterly meetings! What will people get out of the societies? What’s in it for them? Are they artistic? Maybe they could be asked to volunteer some time to paint a sign for a special event? Do they want to read about what their parents or grandparents did 20-50 years ago in the newspapers kept at the historical society? Are they aware that their great-grandparents donated this really cool (insert item) to the historical society? Have they seen it? Do they know the story behind it? These and many more things are something I think my historical society can brainstorm about to come up with other ideas to get everyone more involved.

Perhaps there are members of a historical society who aren’t part of the Facebook (or other social media) crowd; maybe they don’t even have email or smart phones. I bet they have kids or grandkids who are. Pick an afternoon and have the grandkids pull up some information for you so it can be a tag team learning event. Pull out that item from the back of the closet the next time your millennial son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter/niece/nephew come over, and tell them the story behind it. Pull up a historic map and overlay it with a current one to show them where the great-great-grandparents lived in the 1800s and what that area looks like today.

I think one of the biggest thing genealogists and family historians can do to help millennials feel comfortable about learning more about family history is to not talk down to them when they do ask questions. Not everyone knows what FTM stands for or that ethnic breakdowns of a DNA test are just estimates. Not everyone knows what a Family History Center is or where one can be found. When they ask a question – in person or on social media – it’s best to find out what they do know in order to give them an answer that is neither over their head nor condescending.

I want to thank Amy and her daughter Rachel for a well done and thought provoking podcast. Please go listen – and then listen to the rest of her podcasts.

Just less than 20 years ago, my friend Barbara mentioned that she was working on her family’s genealogy. She had one of the first versions of Family Tree Maker and showed me how it worked on her computer. She had notebooks full of research.

Within a year and a half, my mom had given me a few small boxes of old photos. We sat at her dining table going through each one and labeling them to the best of her knowledge. Around the same time, my sister-in-law – with some collaboration from a distant cousin as well as my father-in-law – had completed two family history books on my husband’s line. I talked to my friend more about this software program she had. Before too long, I had gotten a copy and was using it. Through dial-up, I was able to get on the internet. Cyndi’s List was the first “genealogy” website I found. At my local public library, I also found another website run by the Church of Latter Day Saints – FamilySearch before it was really called FamilySearch! Then the site mainly had family histories acquired by the church – no real census records or anything else.

I don’t remember how much longer after that it was that Barbara suggested she take me to the Dallas Public Library to the Genealogy section. She had been there many times so I wouldn’t feel like a complete newbie! We set a day, she picked me up, and made the trek just south of us into downtown Dallas.

Once we got to the 8th floor, Barbara helped me sign in and showed me the procedure for pulling microfilm as well as finding which one I needed via census index in the books. We found two empty microfilm readers and settled in for the day. First, I was struck by how many items there were on the shelves to look at. Second, I figured it was going to take me a long time even with the right microfilm roll to find what I was looking for. I had brought some blank census record research sheets that I had gotten out of my copy of “The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook” by Emily Ann Croom in order to write down my findings. (I hadn’t planned to spend much on making copies of microfilm pages.)

I found a name on my matenal family line in one of the census indexes so I carefully retrieved the microfilm and threaded it through the reader. After going backward and forward a few times (a little too fast!), figuring out how to bring the image into focus at the size I wanted, I finally saw my great-great-grandmother’s name on the 1870 census record.

The image above is the first time I found Melissa (Malissa) Goul Blazer on any official record. I think I smiled the rest of the day! She was real. She was counted. And not only that but my great-grandmother Katie was the 6 year old living with her. I knew it was the right family because I was aware of the names of the other children. I was a little confused why Melissa’s husband wasn’t living with her (it would be many more years before I realized that Melissa was a young widow). Suddenly, there was a need for me to find others: other ancestors of mine. And that drive is still there – except with a more discerning eye. But that name written on the census record – that was probably the turning point in my family history research. And it all began with a trip to the library!

The prompt for Week 4 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is: “Who I’d Like to Meet.” Most of my genealogy friends would agree with – all of them! I’ve written about several of my direct ancestors so I didn’t want to post a repeat.

The woman I would like to meet would be my great-great-grandmother’s birth mother. I don’t have the name of the woman who gave birth in 1846 to Frances V. who married my great-grandfather James Emory House. Frances was listed under the maiden name of “Foster” in the 1850 census – as a 3 year old as well as the 1860 census although she was living with Evan and Susannah (Fritter) Ogan. As a cook living at the Eagle Hotel in Guernsey county, Ohio, she went by Frances Ogan.

I would like to meet the woman whose daughter – Frances – was left with an older couple. I would like to time travel back in time to before she gave birth so I could ask her about her baby. Was the young woman married? I’d want to hear what kind of life she wanted for her daughter. Did she look forward to teaching her how to keep house, sew, garden, and prepare meals?

I may never have definite answers but via DNA, I may be knocking down the brick wall as to her identity. When I have that answer, perhaps by looking at the community in which she lived will give me a little bit of an answer. Whoever you are, my great-great-grandma, I do thank you because from what I can tell, Frances was a wonderful woman who raised three step-children and eight children – you would be proud.

The Week 3 prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Unusual Name.” I’ve been thinking about this most of the week – not sure what name I was going to pick. I mean, I have an Uncle Bervil (my dad’s brother) and a cousin to my maternal grandfather was named Urmine. Those are pretty unusual. In my family tree database I have some “Z” names – Zilpha, Zora, Zerilda, and Zellica. Then there’s the ones that start with “V” – Valorous, Vaughna, Vashti, and Valley. How do I pick just one?

That’s when I remembered my maternal grandmother’s first cousin. She was the daughter of William Frank Clawson and Margaret Ellen Stern. I’ve seen her name as Nancy on some records. Well, that’s pretty common. Nothing unusual about that! On the back of a picture my grandmother had the label gave her name as “Nanny” Clawson. Then a few years ago, I found her memorial on Find a Grave. Her headstone reads Nana Jane Welch (her married name).

What I find also interesting is that my grandmother went by “Nana” as her grandma name, as do I!


W.F. Clawson, Nana Clawson, and Margaet Ellen (Stern) Clawson

Nana Jane Clawson was born on August 19, 1886 in Noblesville, Indiana. She was the oldest daughter and second child in the family. Her older brother died at 13 months and her younger two sisters and one brother all died as infants. Nana and her youngest brother Ralph survived to adulthood. She married George C. Welch on November 29, 1905 in Madison county, Indiana and then moved to California where their two daughters, Dorothy and Leonore were born. Nana died at the age of 34 on April 19, 1921. She is buried at the Santa Maria Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California. Her husband George lived until April 5, 1966 and is buried in Cypress, California at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

(Images: Name pins – Creative Commons; Clawson family – Original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

My great-great-grandmother Louisa Bookless is the ancestor closest to me with the surname of Bookless. She was born to David Bookless and Mary Cartmell in Coshocton, Ohio on April 13, 1834. She was the fourth of five children; the others were Anna, an unnamed infant daughter, William, and James Scott. In early Coshocton county records, the surname was often spelled Buckless. At the age of 5, Louisa lost her mother and at 12 her father. She was living in the James Rice household at the time of the 1850 census along with her older brother William. When she was 18, she married William Washington Werts. The couple had 2 chidren – my great-grandmother Mary Angeline Werts and George Wesley Werts. In April 1857, Louisa’s husband died leaving her with a 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter. Louisa sent her children to live with relatives as she was unable to provide for them.

Louisa married John Simon on April 28, 1861, and the couple had one daughter, Sarah Ellen Simon – my great-grandmother’s half-sister. Louisa died on July 26, 1912 at the age of 78. The obituary in the Coshocton Tribune on July 27, 1812 on page 8 is filled with errors. She is listed as “Mrs. Eliza Simmons” instead of Mrs. Louisa Simon. My great-grandmother often went by a shortened version of her middle name – Annie –  but she is listed as Anna, and her widower is not listed in the obituary even though he also lived with my great-grandmother. John died two years later. The couple are buried together at St. Paul Cemetery in Coshocton, Ohio.

David Bookless was born in Coshocton county in 1808 and only lived to the age of 40. While in Coshocton, David became it’s very first coroner as referenced by a news article in the Coshocton Tribune on May 6, 1952. Before he died, David moved to Iroquois county, Illinois – even though he still had minor children in Coshocton. Perhaps he went looking for work. He and his wife Mary are buried in the Bookless Cemetery in Iroquois county.

David’s father was William Bookless, and presently I do not have any documented information on him.