We spent the last two days of our trip in Springfield, Missouri, sharing old memories and making new ones with our friends Tom and Durlene. We tried at one point to nail down just how long we've known one another and gave up, concluding it was in the neighborhood of 43 years. We were fast friends when we all lived in Wichita then we moved and they moved, so it's been nice to connect again. And the good thing about dear friends is it's easy to pick up right where we left off all those years ago.
Just outside Springfield is the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, site of the second major battle of the Civil War and the first one west of the Mississippi, and we spent a few hours taking in this historic site. Between the short film at the visitor center and the terrain of the well-preserved park, it was easy to step back in history and imagine the events of August 10, 1861, when so many lives were lost.
When the ranger in the Visitor Center was explaining all it had to offer, he mentioned the fact that there was a large library where visitors could look for ancestors who had been in the Civil War, so after watching the film, we headed there. A really nice young man who worked as a volunteer in the library dazzled us with his ability to track down information quickly on Wayne's great-great-grandfather, Martin Vaught, who we knew had served during the Civil War from Kansas. As it turned out, he wasn't at Wilson's Creek but had chased one of the Confederate generals and his troops from Kansas at another time.
The exciting part, however, was that Martin was in the 5th Kansas Regiment and this volunteer had been working on documents relating to that very regiment before we walked in the door. Spread on his desk were neatly-written letters sent home by a commanding officer of one of the troops in the regiment as well as other documents relating to the unit. The volunteer had been scanning them so the digital image would be available for researchers. Seeing these frail, old documents in such a historic setting was amazing in itself but it was almost eerie given we were looking for information on a soldier who had served in that regiment. The volunteer was ecstatic; it was like history came to life for him.
The Springfield area was also home to some of my mother's ancestors and I was hoping to track down something on my own great-great-grandfather, Thomas Hedrick, about whom I know very little. Durlene, who used to work in county government, fixed me up with the head of the Archives there who was as dazzling at his knowledge of records and resources as the volunteer at the National Park. We didn't come up with much on Thomas but he did give me a few ideas of where else to look as well as some more info on Nancy Logan Hedrick's family.
You never know where shaking the family tree might lead you and in this case it was the wastewater treatment plant. Nancy Logan Hedrick's father, Tarlton Logan, is buried in a tiny old cemetery, land that now lies within the boundaries of the sewer plant. Tom knew just who to call and before we knew it, we were being escorted down long drives between buildings and those big round in-ground spray tanks containing stuff you don't want to think about. In the back corner of the property up on a small hill sat the cemetery where Tarlton has rested since 1877. I love old cemeteries but they're even more interesting when someone you "know" is buried there.
We didn't spend all our time doing family history. We managed to find this cache just down the hill from Tom and Durlene's house. It's a testament to Tom's friendship with Wayne that he's down there on his hands and knees under the bridge waiting for Wayne to finish signing the log so he can return the cache to its hiding place. And Durlene indulged me in a visit to Scrapbook Generation where a few new pieces of pretty paper might have asked to come home with me. Wayne's wallet is probably happy this awesome store is too far away for me to visit regularly.
While we did our share of running around, we spent plenty of time on Tom's new deck as well, watching the lightning bugs glow here and there as darkness descended and laughing at old stories from when the four of us and our kids were constant companions. And we admired Tom's amazing garden too. The basket of vegetables in this photo are his morning's pick the day we left and not only are they huge, they're delicious. I know because he was kind enough to send some home with us.
Nothing quite compares to the history you share with old friends...and it's even better when you continue to add new chapters to it.