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Places Visited:

Illinois: Alton, Mt. Vernon. Mt. Carmel
Indiana: Harmonie State Park, New Harmonie, Evansville. Patchwork Central

2003 Travelogue# 15 Mt. Vernon, IL

Mileage: 41198, Traveled: 145 miles
Quality Times RV Park, Mt. Vernon, IL, junction I-57 /I-64 go west Hwy 15 0.75 miles 618-244-0399
FHU, gravel pads, laundry, clean, good pull thru, $17, Super WMT across Hwy

Monday, October 06, 2003

The leaves are turning, the geese are flying south, there's a crispness in the air telling us colder weather is heading our way, and we need to adjust our travel plans. One of our goals, while visiting this area, was to go to Mt. Carmel, Illinois to visit Peggy's cousins and do some genealogy work.

Our drive from the Park and down the River Road toward Alton was beautiful. It was a calm morning, the River was still and the trees, dressed in red, gold, yellow, and light green, presented a colorful show as we departed this beautiful countryside.

We drove back to the RV place in St. Charles, to have the new window shade installed over our dining table. The original shade broke and, unfortunately, the replacement had to be custom made and took a week for delivery. We had lunch while we waited for installation; then off by 2 pm.

We took the northern loop around St. Louis rather than fight the city traffic. Three or four interstate highways converge at the bridge crossing the Mississippi River, which is bad enough, but add road repairs; it's a blood pressure event. So, the northern loop was the route of choice, much longer, but much more enjoyable.

We arrived at Mt. Vernon, IL around 4pm and immediately did motor home chores and laundry.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Mileage: 41272, Traveled: 74 miles
Harmonie State Park, New Harmony, Indiana 47631 812-682-4821 Reservations: 812-682-4400
Electrical (30 amp), 200 gravel pads, $23

We did our shopping at Wal-Mart this morning, then packed up and took off for Indiana shortly after noon. We have been most fortunate to have pleasant and enjoyable weather.

Harmonie State Park is just inside the Indiana state line and 4 miles south of the town of New Harmony, along the Wabash River. There are over 3400 acres in the Park with good hiking trails and good paved roads.

Upon arrival, we parked the motor home at the front entrance, unhooked the Saturn, and drove into the camping sections, looking for a site. On the way, we passed several miles of rolling hills with heavy stands of timber in their fall colors and thought we had taken a wrong turn or missed the camping sign. Eventually we did find it, selected a campsite, returned to the gate and processed our reservation through Sunday. This would be our home base while we visited family in Mt. Carmel and Evansville.

We enjoyed the solitude of the afternoon. These parks are really quiet during the week but by Friday it's a different place. We set up camp, and then went for a long, exploring walk. After a day of traveling, we find that walking helps to take the "kinks" out.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Today we toured New Harmony. The town has an interesting name and other interesting attractions, such as labyrinths. How many small towns have more than one labyrinth or even, just one labyrinth? We had seen several while driving the streets and knew we had to do more investigating in New Harmony.

After visiting the Atheneum/Visitors Center, a contemporary, white stucco and glass, two-story building, we knew we had landed in a unique area. It was here, that not one but two, communal living experiments were started.

The first was the Harmonists of the Rappite Community from 1814-1824. These folks came from Germany to escape religious oppression and Father George Rapp led them. He purchased 20,000 acres on the Wabash River. They came to work the land and await the second coming of Christ. Well, that fizzled and Father Rapp sold the commune's land to Robert Owen, an industrialist and reformer from Scotland. His community didn't last long, 1824-1826, but it was unique, impacting our country's art, public education and women's suffrage. Owen's dream was to establish a new moral world by developing the sense of reasoning rather than education or factual knowledge. Out of the community grew the first free public school, equal education for boys and girls, the first free public library, and the first kindergarten in America.

The town draws many artists and visitors from all over the world in search of the utopia that Rapp tried to bring, as well as, the spirit of intellectual and social equality, which was Owens's legacy. The New Harmony Inn, a large conference center and retreat facility, is where many stay.

There is a serene little park in town dedicated to Paul Tillich. It is the burial site of one of this century's most creative thinkers and theologians. As a student at TCU, I can still remember reading the writings of Paul Tillich in my Contemporary Religion classes and will never forget one of his power phrases, "the leap of faith". An analogy for this phrase is to reach the end of the diving board and finally to decide to jump, and then, have the faith, that God will bring you up into a better place. Life is like that.

Now, we know the rest of the story of New Harmony. I must add, on the way out of town at the General Store, is a good BBQ place, with excellent pulled pork sandwiches and fantastic brownies.

It was time to start our pilgrimage toward Mt. Carmel…sounds sort of religious and appropriate after our visit to New Harmony, to meet Cousin John (affectionately known as Cowboy John) and learn some of Peggy's family history.

We were to meet John at the Post Office in Mt. Carmel and also pick up our General Delivery mail. Driving down Main Street, we spied John in his well-used Dodge pickup waiting for us. Hugs were exchanged; we picked up the mail, and followed him out of town to the farm. After several turns, down an old country lane, we approached a crossroad, and there on the corner, was St. Sebastian Catholic Church. It sits on about 3 acres of land surrounded by corn and soybean fields, with the cemetery in back, shaded by mighty oak trees. We had reached our destination. To see this little white church with its tall bell tower in the distance, and then slowly drive up to it, was a "New Harmony" experience for both of us.

Sebastian Ankenbrand is Peggy's maternal great grandfather. He was father to Margaret, who's daughter Clara, was Peggy's mother. One of Margaret's brothers was Michael, the grandfather of cousin John. The old farm place is here in the country and, as a landowner; Sebastian deeded the acreage for the church and cemetery. In Church history, there was a martyred saint by the name of Sebastian and the church was named in appreciation of the gift of the land.

Sebastian came to America from Germany in 1847, at the age of 15, as an indentured servant in order to pay for his passage. He landed in Baltimore, Maryland and worked for the next 4 years paying off his debt. Sebastian's uncle (his father's brother) had settled in Wabash County, Illinois. By 1859, Sebastian had saved enough money to move to Illinois, where he worked to establish a home and married Catherine Berberich. He accumulated approximately 600 acres, became well respected in the community, had 11 children, and died in 1914 at the age of 82.

We followed John down a caliché road to his home, which is next to his parent's abandoned home. There Geneva, his wife, was waiting for us. We sat in the living room and tried to recapture as much of the past as we could.

John and Geneva are very close to the church, both in proximity and family involvement, and have keys to the building. So, they gave us an excellent tour of the 132-year-old church, new Parrish Hall, and Cemetery. A unique addition to this small church is a large pipe organ that can fill the sanctuary with wonderful sounds. We found the tombstone of Sebastian and Catherine in the Cemetery (had a Kodak moment) but had to delay our search for the rest of the family because it was late afternoon.

We will return tomorrow morning to spend more time with John and Geneva and pick up where we left off.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

We drove 40 miles back to the church and cemetery this morning to record the birth and death tombstone information of Sebastian and Catherine's 11 children. With moderate success, we headed up the road to John and Geneva's home, meeting them around 10 am. Sitting at their kitchen bar, we sipped coffee while Geneva pulled out all the pictures and records. It was fun filling in the gaps with family stories. Then we piled into their car, and drove down the road to meet two of John's brothers, Bill and Mike, who also farm Ankenbrand land. We toured the country roads and farms, made a few stops in town, one being St. Mary's Cemetery, where we found more of the 11 children. Then, it was lunchtime.

They had recommended a Mexican restaurant called Tequila's. Since they liked it that was good enough for me, even though I had sworn off Mexican food until I got back to Texas. I ordered a plate of bean and cheese nachos for appetizers with a side dish of jalapeno peppers (also to be used on my entrée). John's eyes were like saucers as he watched me eat the peppers with the perspiration rolling off my face. I know he wondered how in the world that boy could do that to himself? It was good. We drove back to the house, said our good-byes with hugs and headed for home. We had reconnected with Peggy's "roots" and the mission was complete.

Friday. October 10, 2003

Last night we tried to call some friends, who live on a farm near by in Indiana, we met while staying at the RV Park in St. Charles, thinking we might be able to get together sometime today, but her son answered and said she had already gone to bed. Farmers, I guess, do go to bed with the chickens?

We were tired from our genealogy gathering and visiting so we just "hung out" in the woods at Harmonie State Park today and chased ladybugs. Yes, ladybugs!! During the afternoon, they started accumulating on and in our motor home. When we returned from our afternoon walk the coach was filled with these things. Out came our little "bug zapper" (resembles a battery powered badminton racket) and we started herding up and moving out ladybugs. It was not a pleasant experience… "Just another day in paradise".

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Today we drove to Evansville, IN to visit Sarah and David Kaufman. David is the brother of our daughter- in-law, Cristina. They are a wonderful young couple with joy in their eyes as they give of themselves to Patchwork Central in the inner city of Evansville. When I saw what these two young people were doing, I was reminded of the powerful quote from John F. Kennedy, "…Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".

Patchwork Central, started in 1980 as a safe and positive place for children to participate after school in art and education programs. Sarah and David are the resident Program Assistants. Both being art graduates, they bring a level of continuous creativity to this primarily volunteer program, a hands-on "real art"…the touchy feely kind of art for kids. Each afternoon, they walk 6 blocks to the elementary school and escort the kids back to the Center. There the children have the experience of working with real artists as they create art and build self-esteem

Sarah and David walked us through their residence, which is a 100+, two-story Victorian home with large rooms, 10' ceilings, intricate oak banister, entryways and window trims. We toured their new Teaching Studio constructed behind the house, where the kids can do "wonderfully messy art"…pottery classes, sculptures, and various art projects. The Bike Club is also located in the Teaching Studio. It was established as a place for inner-city kids to learn the skills of bicycle repair and at the same time, with David's creativity, build some of the most unique custom bicycles. For example, we saw a three-wheeled 6-passenger bike, made from donated spare parts and a lot of welding. Our next stop was the large hall where volunteers staff all the other programs: a music program, dance, book club, and tutoring program. Sarah then showed us the large organic garden she helped roto-till on a vacant lot. Here the kids dig in the dirt and experience growing their food from seed. Sarah graced our pantry with a jar of her homemade raspberry jam, straight from their crop at Patchwork.

What a wonderful ministry these two are providing these children. Only God really knows the ripple effect and how they have touched these fragile little souls. Sarah and David may never see the harvest from the seeds they have planted, but the fruits will be there…"and you will know them by their fruits".

We had a wonderful lunch at "the Bistro at Lorenzo's" (972 S. Hebron -812-475-9477) " Home of the Bakers' Bar". They make their own breads. It's a small, cozy, friendly place, where the executive chef came out and visited with us. We had wonderful things, like fresh baked bread sticks, French onion soup, garden salads, thick slices of quiche, piled-high sandwiches on fresh sliced baked bread, and topped off with fresh baked apple strudel a-la-mode and bread pudding with bourbon sauce. What more could you ask for?

We wrapped up the day with Sarah and David giving us a tour past some of the classic old inner city Victorian homes; and also down to the waterfront, where the Ohio River makes a large very wide bend and boaters were enjoying the beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. We then returned to Patchwork, had hugs and said our good-byes. It was a fun day with a wonderful young couple. Now, we must head toward home and checkout our ladybug situation, to see if the little rascals have returned.

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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