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Want Reality? Try A History House

July 06, 2018
Count the rise of Reality TV shows among the many media calamities to hit the United States of America. Politicians tout their participation on these shows, when such involvement should be a humiliating form of punishment.

For example, our disgraced former governor of Missouri ought to be forced to be a contestant on "Naked and Afraid." On this show, a nude man and woman, strangers to each other, must survive in a harsh environment for 21 days, armed only with fire starter and one tool each.

If "Naked and Afraid" doesn't float your boat, there's always "Jersey Shore" or "Real Housewives" or trying to keep up with that crazy Kardashian gang. Of course, a better option might be to turn off TV and go visit a local history house.

Consider a trip to the Hawken House in Webster Groves. You can get a real dose of reality there from a historical perspective. The Hawken family moved to St. Louis in 1801 and invented "the gun that settled the West."

The Hawkens of Webster Groves were never "naked and afraid." Neither were the famous folks who carried their handmade rifles, such as Kit Carson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Teddy Roosevelt and Jeremiah Johnson.

Not far from the Hawken House you can find Grant's White Haven and the Sappington House. If "have bike — will travel," then you might want to consider visiting both of these sites on the monthly historical bike tours on Grant's Trail.

St. Louis is extremely fortunate to have a National Park that includes the home where Ulysses S. Grant once resided. Grant was a U.S. President, as well as a warrior, whose leadership helped America through the worst of times. His spouse, Julia Dent, was much more than a "real housewife."

Up the trail from White Haven is the Sappington House. In recent summers, it has been a great place to observe the archeology digs conducted by area students.

Many local history groups with neat projects and events deserve mention here. Sappington-Concord, Oakland, Sunset Hills, Kirkwood and Fenton – all have active societies. The Oakland House in Affton and Mudd's Grove in Kirkwood are history house gems.

The Kirkwood Historical Society hosts a summer Strawberry Festival that is a favorite of mine. This year's was impressive – with more young people in attendance than ever. That may be why the society ran out of ice cream for the strawberries at the festival, but nobody was really complaining.

Instead, there was lots of discussion about James Pugh Kirkwood mythology. Did this engineer really seek to have the railroad town named for himself?

There was also talk of the town's past literary lights, including novelist Josephine Johnson and poet Marianne Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Granted, they do not have the name recognition of the Kardashians, but they should!

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