We picked up a 40 ft diesel(150 gal tank) Tour to take to the RV show in Louisville, Ky. How long would it take to figure out all of the buttons and controls in this unit? Three flat screen TV's inside plus one outside, GPS & Satellite radio, fireplace, washer & dryer and lots of wood paneling. Seemed that we were in a bus!
Smooth traveling, early morning delivery at the Fairgrounds in Louisville, passed inspection, unhooked and on the road heading west on state highway 150 through the southern Indiana countryside. Destination French Lick, IN.
View from the Windshield:
A variety of vistas--rolling hillside, pastures, some corn, beans & hay fields, large houses, small businesses, small towns, old buildings, new buildings, horses, cattle, hills & curves, forests, White River valley, truck farms, roses & geraniums still blooming, antique stores, deer processing, Paoli ski area resorts, rock quarries, Amish area, and coal mines.
French Lick, IN
Driving into French Lick, we were surprised at the castle-like building at the end of a long tree-lined lane behind a huge arch with the words, West Baden Springs Carlsbad of America! ( We were looking for the Indiana Railway Museum.)
At the Railroad Museum we discovered that the Hotel was built to provide tourists a place to stay and experience the natural warm mineral springs in the area.
The area called French Lick, Indiana was first settled more than 200 years ago by French traders.
After the discovery of rich mineral springs, which attracted animals that flocked to lick the waters and wet rocks, this valley became known among the settlers as “The Lick”.
The French had ideas about exploiting these lush salt deposits, but because of one obstacle and another, not the least of which was relentless harassment by Indians, they never did make much progress. Finally, following the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in 1803, in which Napoleon relinquished claims on that part of the frontier, the French abandoned their trading posts at The Lick.
British settlers moved in about 1812. Despite continued Indian resistance, they succeeded in establishing a permanent fort. Indian incidents continued, however. One of the first recorded was the slaying of Irishman William Charles, who was bushwhacked by Indians outside the fort. His remains are rumored to be buried somewhere beneath the front lawn of the resort.
In 1832, all the lands surrounding the accrual mineral springs, which has been reserved for production of salt, was offered for public sale.
About 1,500 acres – including all the large springs – were purchased by a Dr. William A. Bowles. Within several years he opened the first French Lick Springs Hotel, a ramshackle, three-story frame building. It was an immediate success. People flocked from hundreds of miles to partake of the “miracle waters”. They carried the mineral water away in all sorts of jugs and canvas containers. “Doc” Bowles had struck it rich.
Over the years it has been sold several times. Upgrades, renovations and additions have been built. Today it contains over 525 rooms, spas, a golf course, stables, casino and shopping mall!
Indiana Railway Museum
The museum is in a neat building that was the depot for the Monon Line. This is a branch built in the 1800's for the primary purpose to carry people to the the hotel in order to partake of the medicinal waters that flowed from the local springs.
Walking through the rich thick wooden doors into the waiting room takes you back to those "train riding days." You can sit on the wooden benches in the center and walk around the edge of the room to view the display cases. A ticket counter, where you purchase your ticket for a ride on the train during the summer, is the same as used by those early riders! The Monon Line was also known as the Hoosier Line and ran from Chicago to Louisville, KY. In addition to passengers it carried coal from the south into Chicago.
These early passenger Railroads contained a Five-star restaurant serving meals on real china, glassware and cloth tablecloths. The pullman cars (for sleeping) used only the most luxurious bedding.
On each side of the depot are tracks with old passenger cars and steam engines. The cars have a center isle with seats on each side facing each other. These are used today for the excursion rides in the spring, summer and early fall.
The historic district of Vincennes, on the banks of the Wabash River, includes several historic monuments and museums within easy driving distance. Some are open by appointment only.
Old French House and Indian Museum:
We chose the Old French House and Indian Museum built in 1809 by the French Fur trader, Michel Brouillet. We joined a tour that was just starting and enjoyed the sense of living in the 19th century on the frontier with a fur trader & Indian trader!
It is an example of a French Creole cottage built by French settlers in the Mississippi Valley using "poteaux sur sole"(posts on sill) construction. This is unlike the Anglo-American log cabin with it's horizontal logs.
It uses 14 ft upright posts, spaced about a foot and half apart and fitted into a horizontal beam, called a sill. The posts are caped by another horizontal beam, called a plate. All the large timbers of the framework are mortised together. A projecting tongue (tenon) is cut on the end of one timber and a matching slot (mortise) in another timber. After assembly, a hole was bored and a wooden peg driven in to pin the pieces together.
Ceiling beams with a bead decoration carved on the bottom edges, slid into mortises in the upright posts. Ceiling & floor was made with boards fitted together with tongues and grooves on the edges. An A-frame roof was formed with rafters, covered with hand-split shingles.
The walls are insulated with a mixture of mud and prairie grass, known as "bousillage", daubed over wooden stakes jammed between the posts at 6 inch intervals like the rungs of a ladder. These walls are coated inside and out with a rough plaster made of sand and quicklime, then whitewashed. (In an area that was exposed we could see the hand prints of the person applying the plaster!) Lime was made by burning mussel shells from the river. Porches, called "galleries," protect the plaster walls from the weather and serve as an outdoor living room in the hot summer.
Interesting items in the home:
An enclosed bed or "lit clos." To protect from drafts the beds had doors that closed at night. This one was made from Flemish Oak with the date 1759 carved on the doors. It is decorated with carved concentric circles, called "galettes," a characteristic decoration from Brittany. It was pegged together so that it could be taken apart to move. Later they were made into armories by the addition of shelves.
The top of the dining room table swiveled to the side to expose an area for the bread dough to sit and rise. The table was always set in front of the fireplace allowing the warmth to aid in the dough making. The French liked their bread!
A top hat made from beaver fur!
A dug-out canoe used by the fur traders.
The Swiss Army knife of that era---- a pipe with an axe blade attached. They liked their pipes. In fact they measured distances by so many pipes (how many pipes full tobacco they would smoke between points.
One of the buildings on the grounds houses a museum with artifacts from all four periods of local Indian history.
Earlier we had visited Berkeley Plantation in Virginia the boyhood home of William Henry Harrison. This mansion on the knoll above the Wabash River was built when he was the Territorial Governor in 1803.
A palatial two-and-a-half story Federal Style house was named for the game bird that Harrison loved to hunt. In this house he raised his family, negotiated and signed several treaties with the Indians and entertained local and government visitors. It is known as the "white house of the west."
The rooms are furnished with furniture and accessories of the 1800-1812 period, some are actual Harrison antiques. The work areas show period equipment and utensils. Campaign memorabilia from the famous 1840 Presidential campaign (Tippecanoe and Tyler too) are displayed.
Before being in office as President a month, he caught a cold which developed into pneumonia and he died. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was also President of the United States making them the only grandparent/grandchild pair of presidents.
It was interesting to know that the house stayed in the family until 1848 when it was sold and used as a railroad hotel as well as residence. The RR tracks are just across the road from the mansion. Deteriorating, the house was finally in use as a granary and livestock barn in the 1890's before scheduled for razing. In 1909 members of a chapter of the DAR raised money to buy it and refurbish it as a museum.
Back to reality! Driving to our Prairie Home with another perspective on the people and events that the Lord used to shape our country. It seems much more interesting and real when "seen" then what is written in the history books, but we are also in a different ''season of our life."
Thank-you for traveling with us!
See you along the way----