Carthage, Missouri – The Peanut Man, Precious Moments and the Maple Leaf City.

 

Our three night stay in Carthage was because of one man, George Washington Carver.  His monument is located near here and I wanted to see it.  Mr. Carver was one of my heroes as a kid in school and we were traveling close by to his birth place and former home.   From the time we arrived at this National Monument I was impressed with what a great job the National Park Service has done here.  The property is beautifully maintained and the Visitor Center a wealth of information nicely presented.

Carver was born a slave in the early 1860’s and raised near the town of Diamond.  George’s mother was owned by Moses Carver.  After she was kidnapped by slave traders when George was a baby, the Carvers continued to raise him in their home.  As a boy, George spent a great deal of time in the woods where he said he learned to love God and plants.  He became known in his local area as the plant doctor and would help neighbors solve their plant issues.

Due to his color George was unable to attend the local school so he eventually left his home to attend school in another town.   In order to go to college he enrolled at the Iowa State Agricultural College, the first black student to do so and graduated with a degree in botany.  Afterwards, he was invited by Booker T. Washington to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskeegee University in Alabama where he taught for many years.   He became well known for helping poor farmers learn better ways to manage crops and improve yields.  Through experiments he found many uses for different plants.  He discovered more than three hundred uses for the peanut.  One of his most famous experiments was massaging peanut oil into the muscles of polio victims.   Mr. Carver became known as the peanut man, especially after testifying in Washington D.C.

My favorite part of the monument is the mile long trail that goes through the woods past the areas where George got spring water for his family, learned about nature and grew a garden in the woods.

A statue was placed in the woods to commemorate George’s life long love for nature.

Along the trail are a number of inspirational quotes in stone from Mr. Carver who was considered a deep thinker and had much to say to encourage others to live better lives.   I especially liked this one in the picture below:

The trail eventually leads to the small frame house that the Carvers lived in during George’s later boyhood.  It has been preserved as a working farm house.  The park service had placed laundry around the yard to show a typical wash day.

This was one of my favorite places we have visited so far on our trip. It was inspirational to see what Mr. Carver was able to accomplish from such a difficult background  Very humbling!

Many of you have probably seen or heard of the Precious Moments figurines that have been popular for gifts or collecting for years.  The Precious Moments Chapel located in Carthage is perhaps the most unique place I have visited so far on this trip.  Mr. Sam Butcher is the artist and creator of Precious Moments.  In 1989 he opened the Precious Moments Chapel, gardens, museum and gift shop.   The centerpiece on the property is the chapel where Butcher hand painted 85 inspirational murals, using stories from the Bible with Precious Moments figures.

Above is a picture of the impressive artwork as I walked into the chapel.  The largest mural on the back wall (below) shows figures making their way into heaven.  As a memorial, Butcher symbolized real people that he knew who had passed away and represented them with Precious Moments figures.

Butcher spent an incredible amount of time working on these walls and ceiling and the paintings are certainly amazing.  The chapel also includes a number of stained glass windows in the hallways, again based on bible stories.

In order to reach the chapel, you walk a series of paths through gardens that feature Precious Moments angel statues and fountains.

There is more to see in the chapel area I could talk about, but for brevity sake I won’t explain further except to say that the property is a continual work in progress.  I knew there would be a gift shop here but I had no idea how large it would be and that there were so many different Precious Moments figurines.   There were many, many shelves lined with these collectibles as well as other Precious Moments merchandise.

Carthge Missouri calls itself the Maple Leaf City and is known for several things – their beautiful court house, a Civil War battle that burned the town down, Route 66 and the Maple Leaf Festival.   The court house (above) was built in 1894 and looks like a medieval castle. I read that it is one of the most photographed buildings in Missouri and it is a stunning building.  I like visiting court houses and always enjoyed seeing them in California during my walks with my friend Arlene in various towns and cities.

The day we visited, the town was preparing for the maple leaf festival that weekend.   There were signs all over town noting that this was the city of maple leaves.  Even the fire hydrants like to dress up for the occasion.

Carthage is located near the city of Joplin, Missouri and both are on the old Route 66 highway.  In Carthage there are a few historic businesses along the route that are still open.   I was disappointed though that the drive-in movie theater was closed for the season.   It would have been fun to go to a drive-in, something I haven’t done since I was a kid …… I can’t even remember how long it has been!  We did drive a little on Route 66 just to enjoy the old time ambience.

Thanks for checking out the blog!  Next time I will talk about our trip to Branson Missouri where we go from nice and quiet to crazy!

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