2014 Trip Four, May 6, The Southwest

Limon CO Tuesday May 6

We gained 4000 feet in elevation today driving from Lincoln NE (about 1175 feet) to Limon CO (about 5375) and we can not even see any mountains. The Plains have a very gradual incline that is only periodically noticeable. The drive includes a varying set of flat land and rolling hills. The colors can be quite enchanting but it is still a long drive.

A normal view today

A normal view today

Two major stops were included today. The Homestead National Monument of America is located outside Beatrice NE and recognizes the impact of the Homestead Act, the 1862 law that gave 160 acres of surveyed, government land to anyone who improved the land with a cabin and continually planted crops for five years. Daniel Freeman persuaded a land agent to open his doors at just after midnight when the law became effective so he could return to his Union regiment. He is anecdotally credited with being the first homesteader and the monument is on his land that he “proved up”.

Daniel Freeman cabin

Daniel Freeman cabin

One exhibit at National Homestead Monument

One exhibit at National Homestead Monument

One of the excellent displays in the center is titled “Opportunity and Displacement” The Homestead Act had a transformative impact on America. For European immigrants, the real promise of land of their own, not servitude, was like manna from heaven. 1,600,000 homestead applications were proved up, resulting in the massive populating of the vast reaches of the US west of the Mississippi River. (There were some east of the river, but most were west.) The US concept of private property which distinguished it from the Spanish colonization in South America gained an even stronger foothold. The re-settling of people intent on farming created markets for railroads, and the impetus of development of farming materials and barbed wire.

Times were rough before the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Locust plagues were not uncommon. Much of the land was not close to water and the climate was arid. The disruption of the naturally prairie grasses caused erosion and habitat destruction.

Displacement refers obviously to the impact on the American Indian and the continuation of the taking of their land and broken treaties. Their way of life was destroyed. The Park Service does an excellent job presenting the complex issues involved in all of these topics.

Our drive continued on two lane roads through the farmlands of Nebraska and Kansas until we reached Abilene, Kansas. This once wild cattle drive town was the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower. We visited his boyhood home, presidential library and museum. Dwight, his five brothers and parents lived on the “wrong side of the tracks” but all six became successful. On V-E Day when a reporter asked Mrs. Eisenhower if she was proud of her son, she asked: “Which one?”

Eisenhower boyhood home in Abilene KS

Eisenhower boyhood home in Abilene KS

Mrs. Eisenhower died in 1946 and the home was purchased directly by the foundation planning a veterans memorial which was converted into the presidential library and museum along with the home. The home is modest and includes the family furnishings in the house in 1946. Indoor plumbing was added when Dwight was 18.

Living room of the home

Living room of the home

The museum was overwhelming, primarily covering WWII and his presidency. I had forgotten that Ike was promoted to Supreme Allied Commander in WWII over hundreds of higher ranking officers. Quite a recommendation, since he did not obtain combat duty during WWI. We could have spent more time here but after almost three hours, we had to get moving, we were still in eastern Kansas.

Luckily we knew that the time zone change would occur today. This gave us an extra driving hour. We made it to Limon, CO (population 1868) by 7:45 MDT.

Ed and Chris 10:20 pm MDT

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