Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Travel

July 25, 2012

Independence, Mo. --- Head west or linger longer?

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Perspective, not just to place but to character. Personality. Lingering pride.

This is not a story of immigration for settling; people transported their life’s possessions to Independence to move onward.

Heart-wrenching exhibit in the Trails Museum: heirlooms families held on to along the Allegheny, jettisoned on the Oregon Trail when harsh conditions forced load lightening.

Scholarly place this museum with what Curator Aamodt told me is the largest public library about America’s western trails.

Lovely large art too — paintings of the bustling departure days in Independence.

Take a moment, or more, next door because the Chicago & Alton 1879 Depot tells more interesting stories than I expected to find, and the restoration and furnishings are exquisite.

Were some railroad depots classier than others in their hey days? Apparently so considering the design details in this two-story yellow and green depot master’s home, office and train-waiting rooms.

Intersections like that happen all around Independence. On the same block as my stylish overnight Inn named Ophelia’s, I boarded Ralph Goldsmith’s mule-drawn covered wagon to hear trail stories.

Startling opportunity to reflect about the vast differences of their life journeys, and my own.

Wagon master Goldsmith is a fine storyteller, delighting in the details of the Independence era when 24,000 mules and horses needed new shoes to head west.

You’ll want to retrace his Missouri mules’ steps to return to the Bingham Waggoner Estate where docents say 95 percent of the furnishings, chandeliers, art and carpets are original.

Elegant and ornate these 26 rooms, master millwork, four-foot long Swiss music box, rare Currier and Ives clock, handcrafted mantles and tile for all the fireplaces.

The home was built in 1852 along the Santa Fe Trail and you can stroll a quarter mile along real-deal wagon paths where the swales are undisturbed since these acres were always a family estate.

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