I just came across a news article about Malone’s anniversary celebration. It includes more information about the documentary Dean Butler was working on.
I just came across a news article about Malone’s anniversary celebration. It includes more information about the documentary Dean Butler was working on.
The next day we drove over to Stowe, Vermont to see the Von Trapp family compound. Vermont definitely deserves its name as the granite state. The mountains were high and jagged. The highway went through passes blown away and instead of limestone like around here, it revealed granite. The granite wasn’t in level layers either. You could see the lines where it had been thrust up. We went over Lake Champlain which was also not developed like I had expected. We got to the VonTrapp Lodge and saw a really neat orientation movie about the family background and an ad introducing you to the Lodge. Armed with a map we went to the family cemetery which had really interesting iron work markers. We also looked over the rock garden and saw some genuine edelweiss. Lunch was at the Austrian tea room. It was a very good lunch complete with dessert and windows that looked over the valley to other mountains. They also have a large giftshop there at the restaurant. Back up the hill at the Lodge we got a horse drawn wagon ride and tour of the compound. Afterward, I wanted to climb up to the chapel. It was built by one of the sons after he returned home safely after World War II. The story was in the “World of the Von Trapps” by William T. Anderson. The book is available through their online giftshop http://trapp.e-beans.net/products/index.php?c=8 It’s quite a climb to the chapel, not for the faint of heart. The son who built this chapel died just this year.
Next stop was Connecticut and driving through the Northeast, again and again I was surprised by how little developed it was. I expected to see all houses, industry, and farm fields, but I saw a lot of mountains and woods. Dansbury itself was in a more of a suburban area, one of those places where it’s difficult to tell where one town ends and another begins. However, yards were big and there were plenty of trees. Rose’s house is at 23 Kings Street. The yard is fairly grown up and it’s hard to see the house from the end of the driveway. The man who owns it now let the bus trip in from Burr Oak the last time they came, but this time wouldn’t even answer or return a phone call before the trip. At the top of the hill is the King Street United Church of Christ. This was the church that hosted Rose’s funeral and while Rose wasn’t a member, she did involve herself in the church doing things like donating to their bake sales. We arrived shortly after Sunday service was over and our group got to talk to several current members. A couple members of the Bible study group remembered Rose and her white turban and her yappy little dogs.
Driving back from Connecticut was really interesting. We drove across the Hudson River and through the Hudson River Valley. I don’t know how they early settlers could face it, crossing one mountain range after another. The mountains got flatter as we headed west, but were still there well into Pennsylvania. Then they disappeared to reappear in Wisconsin, although they didn’t look near as impressive once we’d seen Vermont. Although Malone and Danbury are out of the way for many Laura fans, I think they are well worth a trip.
Then we went on a tour of the house and buildings. Overall they did a great job and I really think it was worth the trip. We started at the barns. It was interesting to see the barns and our guide said that they had found the actual foundations. They had a blueprint based on that and Laura’s description, but I wonder at some of the proportions were off. I think maybe some of the changes were deliberate to accommodate groups rather than farm animals. They had fake animals (some pigs and some chickens) set up in the barns. There were lots of tolls and some things where they would never be. I was also surprised by the layout of the barns. I pictured the open end of the square facing the house, but it faced away with the opening closed in by a fence rather than the house.
We went into the house by outside door directly into the wood shed. It was surprising how many doors there were in the house and how few of the rooms were next to each other. The house wasn’t a square at all, but a skinny rectangle with only one room all the way across instead of two (except for the Master Bedroom/Parlor and Pantry/Woodshed). There was a ladder leading up to Father’s workshop. We went into the kitchen. It was set up with a bathtub in front of the stove, a plate rail set all the way around the top of the kitchen with plates set up decoratively, and for some reason dried apple rings hung from the plate rail. We went into the dining room next. They have a nice display of family photos there and a great oil lamp over the dining room table. They had willowware dishes on the table, in the corner, on the buffet. The stair case to the second floor opened into this room. The wall opposite the stairway has three openings. One is a door into the master bedroom. It was blocked off by a Plexiglas panel. Laying on the bed was their half of the coverlet Mother Wilder made. (DeSmet owns the other half.) Next was an opening around the stove. I always had trouble picturing how the stove was shared between the two rooms, but on first glance I’m doubtful of this version. There was a majorly big opening around the stove. I think there was a two foot clearance from any edge of the stove. It was so big it basically made the two rooms just one big one. I’d like to know the basis for this kind of opening. The third doorway led into the parlor. The wallpaper was very nice. They had a couple of horsehide chairs and the matching settee covered in velvet. One really shocking thing was that they had a George Bent organ. Bent was originally from Burr Oak, Iowa and his biography is a prime period source for the history of the town. I don’t think they’d realized the connection, so it was a cool coincidence.
The second floor is reached by the original stairway. I spend a lot of time in old houses and I was still amazed my how steep it was. It was much more like a ladder with risers. It was a little less step than the steps to Rose’s room in the hallway in Rocky Ridge, but not by much. Upstairs were three rooms. The attic room over the pantry/woodshed was Father’s workshop and was unfinished. The main room that the steps came into was Manly and Royal’s bedroom. There were two beds in a corner. There was also a towel stand with a notice saying the towels were Rose’s and several other textiles throughout the house had also belonged to Rose. I’d have liked to know what they were as we went along, but we didn’t have time for many questions. Some of the group walked down to the Trout River, but the bus was going to leave in an hour so I spent the time taking photos around the homestead instead. It really just whetted my appetite and I hope that I can plan a return trip sometime.
We left the farmstead a little early to meet a guide at the Morningside Cemetery. It was moved from near the Congregational Church to its present site in 1862. It also is the burial site of Vice President Wheeler under President Rutherford B. Hayes and also the founder of the Gibson Guitar Company. To find the Wilder graves go in to the upper exit, turn left on the road twice and go around the pond. They are at the top of a little hill overlooking the pond. The Wilder plot includes Almanzo’s paternal grandparents and a nearby plot has James’s first wife (who died shortly after their marriage) a story that I hadn’t really taken notice of before. We revisited a few spots on the way back to the hotel as I pointed out points of interest around Malone. We went to supper at the same place as Dean Butler and then went to bed for a long ride the next morning. Tune in for Part 3.
September was a very Laura month in real life, but that hasn’t left much time for virtual life, but I hope to get the rest of the webpage updated very soon.
The tour began from Burr Oak at 5:30 am, so we (my friend Mary and I) drove up the night before. I had just been up there in June, but I wanted to find to get some more photos to update my slide set. They’ve really opened up some areas that they hadn’t before. You can walk into some of the bedrooms now and the central cupboard. (Photos show that this was pre-renovation and they jacked it up during their foundation replacement.)
This bus trip was headed up by the Laura museum in Burr Oak. They have hosted several trips, including a previous one to Malone in 1998. (Watch their website for possible future trips.) Quite a few staff members and volunteers came along, as did some from the Spring Valley museum.
It was a long two days drive out to Malone. I was really surprised by most of the rest areas. Around here most rest areas are bathroom/picnic areas, maybe with some tourism information. These rest areas out east were full of restaurants and gift shops. I was also surprised by how much of the area near the road seemed to be undeveloped. I expected that far east to be all developed farm fields, urban areas, and suburbs, but there were tons of trees and mountains or near mountains.
We got into Malone after dark. We were staying at the Super 8 which is fairly centrally located and if you stress a point (everyone seemed to think it was 10 minute walk to anywhere no matter what you asked in Malone) walking distance to several restaurants, various types of stores, gas stations, etc. The next morning we weren’t supposed to get on the bus until 9:30, but I wasn’t going to waste the time. Mary and I started walking the Main Street. We were looking for the post office, but also to see what we could see.
We came across the bridge across the Salmon River. On one side is a small park with a historic marker about the history of Malone. There was information on the marker, historic photos, and an old town map. It was right after that we saw the three cornered square where they celebrated the Fourth of July. It gave me shivers. We also saw the County Court House where Dorothy Smith did her research, and the congregational church. We did miss the House of History, but I hope to get back sometime.
Coming back we found the site of the Franklin Academy. The high school is still called that, but the actual site is the location of the Jr. High. The historic marker is in the hallway and you have to get permission to enter. It doesn’t mention the Wilders, just the history of the school. The man we talked to was a local history buff and told us about the school. He also told us about the location of the old Methodist church and the Franklin Hotel that was built over it where Rose stayed on her trip. It is currently the site of the Stewart’s gas station. There are two in town, it’s the one closest to the Super 8.
Once we got back to the hotel we got onto the bus. We stopped at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. The front gate was locked up, but you can get in on the side. The fair buildings are all on left. They were mostly shut up, but there were horses being training on the track. Then we stopped at the Market Barn where we picked up lunch. It’s an antique/junk shop with different stalls for different people. I found some tiny tin punch lanterns there and I bought a genuine Malone baby pumpkin. 😉
Next stop was the farm. It’s just 17 miles from the Canadian border (downtown Malone is 13 miles away). All of a sudden the farm just appeared on the left. It gave me kind of lurch to see the historic marker sign. I’m so used to seeing the marker in black and white, that it was weird to see it in color in real life. We ate lunch as a group on the grounds.
Dean Butler was on the grounds, but was all business because he was shooting a travel video that should be out in the spring. Unlike everybody else he was allowed to shoot inside the buildings. Jody Wheeler was also there. Who’s Jody Wheeler? Well, it seems that Renee Graef got to putting out so many books in the style of Garth Williams that she had to get two other people to do books in the style of Renee Graef. Jody Wheeler was originally from roughly the area near Malone and was chosen to do the Farmer boy picture books.
It was a smaller gift shop than I expected, but they seemed to have different editions on display very nicely. They have their cover of the Homesteader framed behind the counter, but I didn’t see any for sale. They have a museum space directly connected with the gift shop. Highlights included photos of the history of the site, letters from Laura, a model of the farm, archeological finds from the survey, old tools, a display on maple syrup and the painting of the farm by a relative that Garth Williams used as the basis of the dust jacket of the book. I had always accepted this was just a painting, but WOW. It must have been a mural in a house. It appeared to be on two different pieces of some kind of wall board or plaster that was fraying at the edges and was from ceiling to floor. Next up was the tour. Tune in for Part 2.
Saturday morning I was ready to go before Anderson House started serving breakfast, but I decided to hang around and start with a hardy meal. A good idea when you are festivaling. I made a quick stop at the museum again and then headed for the Pepin Public Library. If at all possible when you stop in Pepin, stop at the library. It was the primary spot for information before the museum opened and they still have a nice display including a couple of rare pieces (a Garth Williams cardboard cabin I’ve never seen anywhere else, a felt pennant for the birthplace, etc.). I did some set up for my program and then started over to the park, where most of the festival takes place. I did a plug for my program at 11 am and then circled the park talking to people. I’ll admit I was beginning to be nervous if people would show because so many people said they wanted to come, but they had been told (wrongly it turned out) that all the Little Miss Laura candidates had to be some place starting at 11:30. However, I shouldn’t have worried. We had 90 people and they ran out of chairs. Christy asked me back for next year already. So mark your calendars now for next September!
After one more announcement at the stage I was officially off the clock. I took a quick look around the park and stopped in at the Depot Museum. They have a fundraising craft show during Days and I always like to take a look around. They have a couple of Laura letters on display and a tribute to Fern Mercks. They are also the group who marked Anna Barry’s grave, so if you make a trip to the cemetery be sure to thank them. It would be very hard to spot without their historical marker sign.
Next I took the guided bus tour. Get your Days pin early, they or $3 are the ticket on the bus tour and last year they ran out of buttons. Mike Gleue, author of “Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway Guide,” was the tour guide. This time it only went by Barry’s Corner and stopped at the cabin, but he gave a fairly nice running commentary on the way out and back. Out at the Wayside the Plum Creek Quilters Guild, headed by Jean Elefson, have a quilt display. They have quilts and props in all the cabin rooms and then Jean has a program about quilt blocks and tying them to the books, based heavily on Johanna Wilson’s quilt books. The Quilt Guild also had a hands on quilt sewing craft. They only had one volunteer on Saturday, so Linda Starbuck and her mother agreed to come up from Iowa City to work it all day. It went over very well. I drove back to the cabin in time to help with the last bus trip and some straggling tourist. It was quite an experience. Then, since the cabin doesn’t lock, they took everything down, just to put it up again on Sunday.
I took time for a quick swing down both main streets. The original one at the bottom of the hill and the later one at the top. As previously reported in the Pepin newsletter, the former Lake Pepin Players Theater has been torn down. I drove by the Latanes shop and admired their sign. Then I was surprised to see a new store called “Wilder Trail Books.” It’s a used bookstore. It just opened in April and they have a great sign and a Laura timeline painted around the top of the shop. They do most of their business online, but I’d recommend stopping in when you go to Pepin to see it. They don’t have much in the way of Laura books, but I recommended they might want to get some copies of Pa’s Big Green Animal Book and Millbank to have on hand. They also seem to be the exclusive source for shirts and mugs featuring Peppy, the Lake Pepin monster. Visit them online here http://www.wildertrailbooks.com/ I think it’s nice that there’s a bookstore in Pepin now and I want to encourage it.
Supper, again with Linda, was at the Pickle Factory. I hadn’t been there before and I really enjoyed it. All the waitresses were wearing little bonnets in honor of Laura Days. I would recommend this place right on the water. The Harbor Inn restaurant’s fame continues to draw people in. They had an hour wait when we checked before the Pickle Factory. Finally we went out to the Buckskinners camp for the musical performance around the campfire and I got a chance to catch up with Kitty Latane. Make sure you stop to say hi to this talented tinsmith, Laura fan, and author whenever you get to Pepin.
I had to leave the next morning, but was delayed by meeting up with 3 guys who had been at my program the day before. They were all from Tennessee and decided a good reason to drive across the Midwest and look around was to follow the Laura trail and they were having a ball. They had a lot of questions and I ended up leaving 2 hours later than planned. They gave me what I consider a great compliment, that my program (I did my Packing Up one) reminded them of a Simpsons episode in that there was stuff there for different levels, but enough to keep everybody interested.
I stopped in Spring Valley again on the way home. Took a few more barn shots and then headed to the museum. It was open this time and I dropped off my latest envelope of stuff for them. They’ve changed the Laura display a little bit and expanded it. They seemed to have replaced the useful information about South Troy and its Three Graces Museum with photocopies of the covers of the books available in the gift store and the picture parts of one of the Les Kelly calendars that you see everywhere. Other than that there were some additional pictures of Royal and his family and where they lived. There was the account book page of the family trading with a store and other interesting things. It’s enough of an addition that it would be worth seeing again if its been awhile.
I was glad to get the opportunity and I’m already planning what I’m going to try to do next year. So go ahead and mark your calendars for September 13-14th.
I’ve added a direct link has been added to the wildflower prairie coloring book from the Homestead National Monument to the Program Additions page. Here it is below.
I had a great trip this last weekend. I only wish it could have been a longer trip, but hopefully next year I’ll be able to stay for Sunday and Kitty Latane’s Pepin in Laura’s time program. I tried a different route up to Pepin this year that I was told was shorter. It ended up being within 15 minutes of the other route. It did take me through some different country.
One new place I stopped was New Hampton, Iowa. They have a great public library. It’s the prettiest new construction library I’ve ever seen and I recommend anyone considering an addition or new construction of a library to visit them.
I stopped along the way at Spring Valley, MN. I had lunch at the A & W there. (It’s a genuine drive-in and I highly recommend it to anyone whose passing through the area.) The Laura Museum was closed and I was in route so I didn’t try to find anyone. I did get some more photos of the Wilder barn while it’s still there. (You’d think they could at least move the boat so you could get some decent photos while it’s still standing.) I also tried for more downtown photos since it was such a lovely day and visited Royal in the cemetery. It is the hardest stone to get a decent photo of I’ve ever seen. I’ve been there at several times of year and at different times of day and it’s always in shadow. I didn’t take time to stop at Historic Forrestville this time, another stop I always recommend, but hope to make it back there again.
I pressed on towards Pepin. I stopped at the Reads Landing museum described in the “Little House Guidebook,” but at present it’s only open on weekend afternoons. I thought I may have made it back over on Saturday, but as you will see another opportunity came up instead. I stopped at Anderson House to check in. Since I was working, I didn’t get one of the cats which you can get with your room. I really enjoy the food there and would encourage anyone heading to Pepin to make a side trip at least to eat there.
Next stop was Pepin. I got some photos of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway sign with the coulees in the background (makes quite a change from the prairie stops) on my way into town and then headed for the museum. The crowd there was surprisingly small, but not many people seem to come down for the Friday. Almost all of the special events don’t start until Saturday, but it’s a good chance to see the museum and the birthplace without a lot of people around and still see all the events the next day. You might want to try it for yourself next year.
There have been a few small changes in the museum, but not much. You should especially look for Anna Barry’s photo and autograph album, the pig bladder balloon, the button string, the records showing Mary and Laura’s enrollment in school, 2 of the 5 variations of china shepherdess replicas, and a quilt made by Laura. Also, be sure to notice the photos (now unavailable) showing the Franklin House of History’s Almanzo exhibits. Not to be missed are the scrapbooks assembled by Fern Mercks in the bedroom. I stayed at the museum with the scrapbooks until they closed. Then I drove out to the birthplace.
I got another shot in the doorway to add to my through the years collection. I had much better luck taking photos with my digital camera than my film inside the cabin. I worked again at trying to take photos to make the cabin look like it’s in the woods and to take photos of other sides of the cabin than the front. Two miles farther on I stopped at the Little House Store in Lund, which always has some unique stuff. I stopped and got some Big Woods photos and some Lake Pepin photos and I’m glad because the sky was much bluer Friday than Saturday.
I met Linda Starbuck, a fellow Laura fan from Iowa City, and her mother. We had supper at the Garden Pub, the restaurant without walls in Pepin and headed back to Wabasha for the night.