The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

June 25, 2011

Frankie Meyer: Connect with history on day trips

JOPLIN, Mo. — Help your loves ones develop an interest in family history by taking them to areas where ancestors lived. Plan inexpensive, fun activities in each region. The trips provide memorable experiences that will not only connect children and grandchildren to the nature and history of each area but also inspire them to be future genealogists.

A great day trip in this area would be to Baxter Springs and Galena, two areas with a rich heritage. Pack a picnic lunch for your trip.

Start the day by driving west along Highway 166 to Baxter Springs and stopping at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. The two-story, 13,000-square-foot building is teeming with spectacular displays that tell of early Indians, settlers, merchants, the cow-town era, Civil War conflicts, the mining era and Route 66. The center also has an 1870s cabin and dynamic paintings that depict local history.

When I recently visited with Executive Secretary Jesse Andrews, she told me about a new program. A few months ago, the center held a “Night at the Museum” that let students experience the museum after hours.

The group used flashlights to walk from one part of the dark museum to another. At each area, the students were met by a museum volunteer who was dressed as a colorful historical character. Each volunteer talked about his or her character. Andrews said that the museum plans to offer a variation of the program for adults in the near future.

The center is located at 740 East Ave., a block from historic Route 66. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 620-856-2385 or email heritagectr@embarqmail.com.

After visiting the museum, travel east on Highway 166 to Highway 26 and go north. Within a short time, you will see Schermerhorn Park on the east side. Spring River flows along the south side of the unique park.

The rock buildings, terracing and walls were built by men of the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s. While at the park, your family can have a picnic and enjoy the playground equipment and cool river water.

Stop to look at the entrance of Schermerhorn Cave, too, and visit the nature center that is housed in the historic scout building. The center has displays about local plants and animals.

The center is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, call 620-783-5207 or email seknature@yahoo.com.

For a treat, drive farther north on Highway 26, which becomes Main Street as it enters Galena. At the north end of that town, look on the right for an old Kan-O-Tex service station, which now houses a very successful business known as Four Women on the Route. (This section of the road was once part of Route 66.)

The building received that name when four Galena women purchased it a few years ago and began selling Route 66 items and also serving sandwiches and snacks. As you enjoy your snacks, you may meet some of the thousands of foreign visitors who travel along Route 66 each year and stop at the service station.

While there, take a photo of the children standing in front of the old mining boom truck that inspired the character “Tow Mater” in the movie “Cars.” The station is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The grill is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If time allows, stop at the Galena Mining and Historical Museum, which has spectacular mineral specimens and much mining equipment. The museum is housed in the old MKT (Missouri-Kansas-Texas) depot at 319 W. 7th St. It is open from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 620-783-2192 for more information.

Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, P.O. Box 731, Joplin, MO 64802, or email frankiemeyer@yahoo.com.

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