My family really doesn’t take vacations to exotic or even genealogical places. We go where family is located – the places we called home at one time. However, along the way we have periodically stopped to see a historical site or be tourists for awhile.
In the summer of 1994, I took a little over three weeks’ vacation back to my mom’s and a few days at my in-laws. Just me and four kids! On the way from Ohio back to Missouri, we stopped at Billie Creek Village located in Parke County, Indiana. If you enjoy stepping back into time and covered bridges, this is a wonderful place to see. Motoring on toward Missouri, we stopped in Hannibal (as we normally do to fill up with gas) and decided to see some Mark Twain historical sights. We toured the Haunted House on Hill Street Wax Museum, sort of. The Wax museum part of it was okay for four young children but as soon as we started into the Haunted area, with chains rattling and screams emanating from the dark, three of the four tore out of there. We walked down the street and took pictures of Samuel Clemens’ boyhood home and the Becky Thatcher House among others.
Two years ago when we reached Hannibal, we stopped so the youngest daughter (not so young any more) could go through the Haunted House. During the Fourth of July Riverfest in Hannibal, the streets are packed with cars and the closest place to park would have been several blocks away. With a dog traveling with us, one person would have to stay behind with her. That’s when we stopped to turn around at a service station and noticed the Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum. (Molly Brown was a Titanic survivor.) Daughter decided that was just as good as the Haunted House. The home, as expected wasn’t much, but I learned a lot more than I ever thought I could learn about this woman. We spent at least twenty minutes lingering over all the news clippings, studying the furnishings and listening to the guide explain how the small rooms were used by the family.
On the way from Missouri to Ohio recently, we passed through Springfield, Illinois. I mentioned to my husband that “sometime we’ll have to stop to see Lincoln’s home”. Then I began wondering where he was actually buried. As a Lincoln history buff, I would surely have remembered! So as we returned from Ohio retracing our path back to Missouri, as we got closer to Springfield, I asked my husband if we could just see how far the house was off the highway. So we detoured into Springfield through the old part, following the signs until we got there. Once again, we had the dog with us so our daughter volunteered to stay with her while the rest of us went into the Visitor’s Center to get the information we needed about walking through the house. It’s a free tour, but not self-guided. The tour didn’t start for 30 minutes, and I didn’t feel we should take that long with the daughter waiting on us. The parking is $2 (basically on the honor system) which is a deal when you consider so many historical sights now charge for tours. So we inquired about the tomb. It wasn’t that far away – however, it was closed for three days while they did some cement work. We were allowed to walk to the house, walk around the house, and see two other houses (inside too) that had been restored to their original condition. It appears that the historical society is restoring several of the surrounding homes and buildings in that area. You can go to Lincoln Home and Lincoln’s Tomb for more information.
The moral of the story is . . . if you even think you might get to stop at a historic sight or even a courthouse or cemetery on your genealogical quest – call, write or email to make sure it is open when you will be there, if there are any fees for parking or tours, hours of operation, what type of parking you can expect, and if there are any other festivals happening at the same time.