October 19, 2010

George Washington Carver National Monument, Southwestern Missouri

An impending storm rolling in
As the sun set last night on Southwestern Missouri, the clouds began to roll in as a front approached. In this region, when its been hot and a front is coming, then you know there will be lightning. So, we battoned down the hatches and prepared for it. It wasn't too bad actually, as the winds were light. It rained and the sky was filled with lightning and thunder. Hilina enjoyed it very much, as we let her stay up one hour extra to watch it.

Statue of young GW Carver in the woods of his youth
This morning we headed down to George Washington Carver National Monument. This was the first national park ever set aside for an African-American and in fact the first national monument for a non-president. He clearly had made an impression with people of his generation in a way I did not realize until this visit.

Hilina chasing down Linda on the trail
The park is situated at his boyhood home in Missouri. He was born into slavery, but essentially raised as the child of Moses and Susan Carver. Apparently, Moses hated slavery, but lacking children or available labor for his farm, he purchased Mary (George's mother) at age 13 from a neighbor to help out. Nonetheless, he treated her and George as family. When Mary and George were abducted by ruffians, he paid a bounty hunter to get them back. They never found Mary, but baby George was returned.

Beautiful HUGE basswood leaves on the ground
George spent much time in his youth exploring the woods and streams, appreciating nature, and learning how to care for and study plants. He was so advanced that he convinced Moses and Susan to let him move 10 miles south to attend school. He lived with another family there. Once he had essentially learned all he could at that school, he moved on, traveling from one town to another to earn money or attend other schools.

Hilina doing experiments at the kids area of the visitor center
Eventually he found his way to Iowa State University, where he was the first black to get a Bachelor's degree there and he even stayed to get a Master's degree in Botany.

Hilina loading the fruit wagon
His agricultural discoveries and inventions made him very sought after from other universities and companies, but he accepted a job at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama with a focus on helping poor southern farmers get away from the devastating cotton crop and to diversify. He went around teaching new farming techniques, soil conservation, and how to market their crops.

GW Carver's boyhood creek, where he caught insects and learned to love nature
He is of course famous for inventing 300 uses for peanuts. He also did a lot of soybeans, sweet potatoes, and a myriad of other crops. While none of his inventions would turn out to be long-lasting products or made millions, it was his spirit of discovery and promotion of crop diversification and pulling farmers out of poverty that lead to his fame and admiration.

GW Carver's post-civil war home
All evidence indicates he was an eccentric man. But, he certain tells an interesting story you don't quite get when you are told about his briefly in school. He worked at Tuskegee Institute for 47 years until his death at age 80. He never married and lived in a one-room apartment on campus for this entire time. There are many who suspect he was gay and according to Wikipedia he is an icon in the gay community.

Hilina learning to do laundry the old fashioned way
Anyways, yet another piece of history we learned more about on our trek through Americana. Next stop, the Ozarks! We leave tomorrow.

Ah the beauty of poison ivy in the fall

1 comment:

nicole said...


I'm the photo editor with National Parks Conservation Association. We're a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C..

Your image of George Washington Caver with the statue is amazing! Could you grant us permission to use it for an online slideshow?


Thanks for considering! :)

Nicole Yin