Saturday, October 13, 2012

We finally made our way home two weeks ago Saturday from the three-week North Country trip of Savanna Traveling Studio. I have felt nothing but discombobulated since my return home.  Trying not to settle in, I have been focusing solely on taking care of business here on the homefront and in the classroom.  But come October 22nd, we will be climbing back into our five silver, 15-passenger vans and heading down the road...this time to the South Country. We will make stops in Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

During the past several weeks that I have been home, I have spent a good deal of time preparing for our South Country trip reading about both the urban and not-so-urban landscapes that we will be visiting. One of our first stops will be St. Louis, where we will be taking in the designed landscapes of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The Arch), the incredible Citygarden, and Tower Grove Park/Missouri Botanical Garden, which was Henry Shaw's gift to the city of St. Louis.

After several days in STL, we will travel into southern Missouri with a stop at the historic Missouri Mines to capture the beauty of this post-industrial site through drawing/watercolor exercises. We will eventually set up camp at Johnson Shut-Ins State Park where we'll spend several days of exploration through the geologic study of this park as well as Elephant Rocks State Park. On our way to Memphis, TN, we will travel through Missouri's earthquake country down in that part of the state called the Bootheel.

Upon our arrival in Memphis, our students will study the rich history of the city and its relationship with the Mississippi River. Given this opportunity, they will analyze past and present flooding issues that affect the waterfront along Beale Street. Giving up the luxury of the hotel's warm beds and hot showers, we will travel into Mississippi where we will be settling in for a couple days of camping at Homochito National Forest.  Day visits will take us to prehistoric burial mounds and the Natchez Trace.

New Orleans is the next stop on our itinerary with so many urban landscapes to explore-cemeteries, gardens, parks and squares, and neighborhoods. Our last destination of the South Country trip will be Horn Island, one of several islands that comprise the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We will be camping on this sand bar barrier island 12 miles off the Mississippi coast in the Gulf of Mexico. That should be an interesting experience for one and all. Everything packed in must be packed out. Everything!  There are no public restrooms or outhouses. Figure that one out....

Never one to turn down an opportunity to "road trip", I actually look forward to this south country trip. I have the North Country leg under my belt, so I feel immersed in the culture of the ISU Landscape Architecture department's Savanna Traveling Studio. Living on the road and in close quarters with 36 people for a dedicated three-week stint and whose only tie is a professional relationship has been, at best, awkward for me.  However, it has certainly had its rewards.  We are no longer the strangers that we were when we set out on this adventure. "Up close and personal" has also offered me the opportunity to see our 34 new people as more than just students on the class roster. Listening to their conversations during the long legs of travel, as well as my individual conversations with them, I have new insights into this amazing group of young people with an incredible set of skills, talents, and interests.  I have no doubt that these attributes will serve them well not only in their study of landscape architecture, but also in their professional and personal lives.

I have set three goals for this next trip. First, I will travel lighter. Too much baggage is a drag on so many levels. I learned that I don't have to take along all the stuff for boo-boos and owies for everyone else. No one wants or expects anything from me. I go with the flow, stay flexible, and drive.  Second, I will find someplace for a pedi-manicure along about Day 10. This pampering not only washes away the grime that follows days of camping, but it also clears the stress that builds. The third goal is to get plenty of sleep. Surprisingly, some of the most sound sleep was in my little tent in the great outdoors, but I won't discount the amenities of the hotel room.  I will take a good night's sleep whenever and wherever I can find it.

Come 8 A.M. Monday, October 22nd, I will take command of SaVANna #35 for the South Trip. Keep us in your thoughts, read our blog, and wish us a safe and industrious journey.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

the Older Brother

I just discovered this blog post in my drafts file this morning, December 2013; it was written over a year ago and stashed there for safekeeping. In light of a recent development concerning our man Horace and his cemetery work, I decided to publish this piece, for the record, about the Cleveland brothers of Massachusetts.

As background, in the summer of 2012 after I had completed my Master's thesis and graduated, I indulged in a little "fun" research. This indulgence started out totally innocent, but turned rather quickly into an obsession over the next few weeks. I am the first to admit that I tend to get sidetracked during historical research by some little scrap of irrelevant information that leaves me scratching my head. My major prof used to refer to this as my magpie obsession with shiny objects. The shiny object of this story was a letter in which the landscape architect Horace William Shaler Cleveland wrote about an older brother who lived in Iowa. Because the brother was not the focus of my thesis (Horace was), I grudgingly set this tidbit aside. However, when visiting with a distinguished professor and Cleveland scholar about my graduate work, I learned that the older brother Richard Jeffery had lived in Olin, Iowa, a tiny town in Jones County and had died there in 1877. With that little morsel, I started an all-out assault armed with Google and my Cleveland file folders. After numerous Google searches, I discovered that Horace's older brother Richard Jeffery had relocated from New York state in 1835 to settle in Whiteside County, Illinois, where he was one of the founders of Prophetstown.

A piece of the puzzle had just dropped into place. I knew that my man Horace, the youngest of the three Cleveland sons of Massachusetts, worked as a surveyor and then taught school in Prophetstown around the same time his older brother was living there.  Digging a little deeper, I found a biographical listing for Richard Jeffery in the 1879 History of Jones County.  Richard Jeffery Cleveland married in 1838 and then moved with his wife Mary in 1840 to Jones County, Iowa. They settled in Walnut Forks, where he purchased 220 acres of land.  As the area grew, the village came to be called Rome, and later Olin, IA. When Richard Jeffery moved from Illinois to Iowa, Horace also left Prophetstown. Instead of moving to Iowa with his brother, he headed back to the east coast and married. He and Mary Dwinel started their family and Horace set about learning his life work of landscape architecture.

What drove me to pursue the thread of information about the Cleveland brother dangled by the professor was the fact that I, along with other historical researchers, never really know why a subject's life unfolds as it does unless we are fortunate enough to uncover a primary piece of evidence that spells out the why's and how's. Cleveland scholars have never been certain why H.W.S. Cleveland landed in Prophetstown-and this puzzle piece certainly is not irrefutable evidence. It does, however, make sense that the youngest Cleveland brother probably joined his older brother in Prophetstown, stayed on while family was there, and then left when family moved on. Historical documents are full of stories where the oldest son blazes a trail and then calls for the rest of the clan to follow.  I am comfortable with how this story of the Cleveland boys might have worked out. Scholars have also speculated on the reason why Horace Cleveland eventually re-located his East Coast practice to the Midwest. Some believe that the lack of work out East pushed Cleveland west; other say his desire to play a part in the planning and design of the expanding frontier pulled him to Chicago. The deaths of his middle brother in 1843, his mother in 1850, and his father in 1860 might shed some light as to why Cleveland decided to move out west in early 1869.  The only living sibling of Horace's immediate family, was living in Iowa. Maybe it was as simple as that.

The search was on. I was determined to learn about Richard Jeffery Cleveland. Perhaps a glimpse into his life could reveal further information about Horace Cleveland. This is what I have discovered about the older brother. He was a Harvard graduate--Class of '27. He, too, was a surveyor, who worked in the General Surveyor's office in Dubuque, IA. He was listed as a founding father of two towns.  R.J. held the position of postmaster as well as justice of the peace in Olin, IA. He enlisted as a Civil War Iowa Volunteer in the 9th Infantry Co. B. And it was this little discover about his service to his country that sent me down the road early one summer morning to search for evidence of Richard Jeffery Cleveland life, and death, in Olin, IA.

After walking the grid back and forth across the Olin Cemetery grounds, I found a marble headstone, along with the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) star, bearing the name of R.J. Cleveland. The family plot contained his grave site and that of his wife Mary E. Cleveland Lowry. His widow had outlived her husband and remarried. The good Rev. J. Lowry is buried next to Mary, two graves over from R.J.

In the end, this indulgent research provided a possible clue to a long-niggling question that I, and others, have had about Horace's motivation for settling here in the Midwest. This is exactly what I love about historical research--finding those elusive pieces to the puzzle. Especially when they are discovered in an out-of-the-way cemetery in Jones County, IA.