Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park - Magnificent Arkansas Waterfall

Cedar Falls at Petit Jean Mountain
One of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Natural State, Cedar Falls plunges 90 feet into Cedar Creek Canyon at Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas.

Fed by Cedar Creek, which flows from the top of Petit Jean Mountain and over the waterfall into a beautiful canyon surrounded by towering pluffs and natural rock palisades, Cedar Falls is perhaps the best known waterfall in Arkansas. A centerpiece of the state's oldest state parks, the falls have been photographed by untold thousands of visitors over the decades since Petit Jean State Park was created.

The area around the waterfall is unique because the impetus to preserve it came not from the state or federal government, but from a group of logging company executives who met there in 1907 to inspect the area's timber potential. After spending a weekend exploring the area and marveling at its stunning beauty, they unanimously agreed that its trees should be allowed to continue their natural growth and that the remarkable setting should be preserved for future generations.

View from Petit Jean Mountain
It would take many years for this dream to be realized. The U.S. Government turned down the land as a national park because the tract was not then considered large enough for park purposes. The effort to donate the land for public use then turned to the Arkansas State Legislature. After negotiating some red tape, the state acquisition of its first state park lands took place in 1921.

The development of Petit Jean State Park, particularly the area around Cedar Falls, was carried out largely by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Company 1781 was assigned to the park and spent the years from 1933 to 1938 building trails, roads, bridges, pavilions, cabins and the beautiful stone Mather Lodge (currently closed for renovation).

Ancient Indian Art
The park today preserves 2,568 acres of stunning mountain scenery. In addition to Cedar Falls and the spectacular canyon, there is a mountain top scenic drive, stunning overlooks, fishing lake, picnic area, miles of hiking trails and the fascinating Rock House Cave, where prehistoric art left by ancient Native Americans can still be seen.

The park is also famed for its legend of Petit Jean, which tells the story of a young French girl who followed her lover to the new world and died at the foot of the mountain. You can learn about the story of Petit Jean's ghost and more about the park and its attractions by visiting

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Duke Homestead State Historic Site - Durham, North Carolina

Duke Homestead
In the years after the Civil War, the cotton crops that grew across the Carolinas were replaced in many locations by a new cash crop: tobacco.

Much of the reason for this was the inventiveness of a man named Washington Duke. Coming home from the Confederate army in 1865, he returned to his farm almost broke but with a determination to succeed that would lead to the building of one of the largest companies in the world.

Washington Duke
Duke discovered that Union soldiers, who passed through North Carolina during Sherman's Carolinas Campaign, loved the bright tobacco grown in the region. He planted more and came up with the then groundbreaking idea of packaging it cured, shredded and ready to smoke. His first crop sold like hotcakes and the next year, 1866, he and his children produced 15,000 pounds of smoking tobacco.

Over the next several decades, the Duke family grew to become barons of the tobacco industry. The new city of Durham, which was only a station on the railroad in 1865, became the centerpiece of the massive Carolina tobacco business, with warehouses, a market, manufacturing centers and more.

Tobacco Leaves in the Barn
Washington Duke and his heirs contributed massive amounts of the money they earned from their tobacco sales to improving the lives of the Southern people. The money built schools, hospitals and other public facilities. Today's Duke University stands as a shining example of their philanthropy.

The modern tobacco industry and the Duke family fortune began, however, on a small farm in North Carolina. The complex today is a state historic site, where visitors can learn about the tobacco industry, Washington Duke and even the development of modern marketing techniques.

To learn more about the Duke Homestead, please visit

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Colonial Heritage Center - Greensboro, North Carolina

Colonial Heritage Center
Located just up New Garden Road from the entrance to Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (see yesterday's post), Colonial Heritage Center is a fascinating destination in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Established to help visitors learn more about the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the colonial era in the region, the center offers a variety of exhibits that bring both the battle and the area's past to life. Among these are a series of full-scale displays that interpret various aspects of colonial life in North Carolina. There is a life-size reproduction of a log cabin interior, an exhibit explaining how water mills operated, displays on farming and a variety of other exhibits.

Part of the Battle Model
In a second area of the center, a large model of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse uses sound and light to interpret the tactics of the battle. It is a great way to learn about the battle and battlefield before actually taking the self-guided tour of the national park.

On the walls surrounding the model display is a collection of original Revolutionary maps of Guilford Courthouse and North Carolina. Included is an original copy of the map used by both Nathaniel Green and Lord Cornwallis during the Carolina campaign.  For map lovers, this collection is a must see.

Outside the center is Tannenbaum Historical Park, site of the farm of Joseph Hoskins, where Cornwallis formed his troops at the beginning of the battle. Interpretive panels and historic buildings explain life on a small farm at the time of the American Revolution.

To lear more about Colonial Heritage Center, please visit

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Battle of Guilford Courthouse - Greensboro, North Carolina

Greene Monument at Guilford Courthouse
One of the most remarkable "victories in defeat" in American history took place at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781.
The battlefield is now preserved at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is one of the few places that visitors can walk in the footsteps not only of American heroes such as Nathaniel Greene and "Light-Horse Harry" Lee (father of Robert E. Lee), but also of British officers including Cornwallis and Banastre Tarleton.

The was one of the largest of the American Revolution. Having successfully outrun Cornwallis in the famed "Race to the Dan" across North Carolina in February of 1781, Greene recrossed the Dan River after receiving heavy reinforcements of Virginia militia. The two armies eyed each other for three weeks, but then on May 15th the British learned that Greene had taken position and was inviting attack at a country crossroads called Guilford Courthouse.

Patriot Graves at Guilford Courthouse
As Cornwallis advanced on the American position, he found Greene's first line posted behind a rail fence that bordered open fields and was backed by heavy woods. Attempting to duplicate on a large scale Daniel Morgan's tactics that had secured a crushing victory over Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens three months earlier, the American general had formed his men in three consecutive lines, each stronger than the one before it.

The heavy tree cover of the battlefield created major command and control issues for both generals as they tried to coordinate the movements of thousands of men. The result was a swirling, confusing battle that slowly turned against the Americans as the British troops forced their way up the battlefield in heavy fighting.

Site of Guilford Courthouse
Greene finally retreated from the field, but in good order and having so bloodied the British army that Cornwallis was unable to pursue. In doing so, the American commander achieved a major strategic victory while suffering a tactical defeat. In losing the battle, he proved to be such a formidable foe that Cornwallis was unable to destroy him. The British were left with no choice but to withdraw to the coast to refit and resupply. From there they turned north to Yorktown, Virginia, and surrender.

A major turning point of the American Revolution, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse - following as it did on the heels of the Patriot victories at Kings Mountain and Cowpens - allowed Greene to reconquer much of the South, while forcing Cornwallis into his final confrontation with George Washington.

To learn more, please visit

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Monster Sighting near Two Egg, Florida!!

Strange Footprint found at Monster Sighting Location
There are some strange doings in the swamps about 7 miles from "downtown" Two Egg, Florida!
The latest in a string of eyewitnesses has come forward to report that she spotted the Two Egg - Parramore Monster, known affectionately as the Stump Jumper, during the first week of June. A check of the area around the sighting, which took place about in a swampy area, revealed physical evidence supporting her claims in the form of strange footprints.

The unusual prints appear to have three toes, one large "big" toe and two smaller ones. They were found leading from a swampy area across a plowed fire lane and into an overgrown area of planted pines.

The latest sighting matches previous descriptions of the monster, which is said to be hairy and around 5 or 6 feet tall. It is usually described as being brown or gray in color and is said to run at a remarkable speed. Because it has only been seen at night, usually in the beam of car headlights, most in the area believe it to be nocturnal. It is often described as a "mini-Bigfoot," although one eyewitness reported that the creature had a long raccoon-like tail.

What it could be is not known, but it has been spotted in and around a swampy area about 7 miles northeast of Two Egg and one mile north of a small crossroads called Parramore. The area is in Jackson County, about an hour northwest of Tallahassee.

To learn more about the new sighting, please visit  You can learn more about the quaint little community of Two Egg by visiting

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Savannah, Georgia - Historic Sites & Points of Interest

Mercer House in Savannah
Savannah is quite simply one of the most beautiful historic destinations in the world.

Established in 1733 by Gen. James Oglethorpe, the city was laid out by the general himself on Yamacraw Bluff, an elevation on the south bank of the Savannah River just inland from the river's mouth. With impressive foresight, Oglethorpe created a settlement plan that called for a city to grow around 24 public squares.

Almost all of the squares survive today and grow even more beautiful with each passing year, each an oasis of peace and beauty in the center of a thriving and historic city.

Savannah quickly became one of the most important cities in the South and by the time of the American Revolution was a major seaport and commercial center. One of the earliest engagements of the war, the Battle of Rice Boats, took place at Savannah. Although the Patriots initially forced the British to relinquish the city, they returned with a vengeance and captured Savannah in 1778. The following year, a large allied army of American and French troops - including 500 black French soldiers from Haiti - tried to take it back.

Forsyth Park in Savannah
The Siege or Second Battle of Savannah ended in disaster for the allied forces after the British threw back an attempt to storm a section of the city's fortifications at the Spring Hill Redoubt adjacent to today's Savannah History Museum.

Savannah rebounded from the Revolution to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Much of the architecture in today's massive historic district dates from the antebellum era. The city was captured by Sherman at the end of his March to the Sea in 1864, but remarkably escaped the widespread devastation inflicted by his army on such cities as Atlanta and Columbia. Perhaps this was because he presented Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln as a "Christmas gift."

Savannah today is a beautiful city with one of the largest restored historic areas to be found anywhere. It has hundreds of historic sites and landmarks, preserved 19th century forts, a stunning riverfront area, 22 of Oglethorpe's original squares, tree-shaded streets and parks and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

To learn more, please visit our new Savannah page at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Real Rooster Cogburn worth remembering as True Grit comes out on DVD/Blu-ray

Cal Whitson, the Real Rooster Cogburn
I have mentioned him here before, but as the movie True Grit comes out on DVD/Blu-ray this week, it seems a good time to remember Cal Whitson, the man believed to have been the real Rooster Cogburn.

True Grit, first brought to the big screen by John Wayne, is the story of a young girl who enlists the help of a one-eyed Deputy U.S. Marshal from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to hunt down the man accused of murdering her father. The original book by Clinton Portis was something of a tongue in cheek portrayal of the heroes and outlaws in the Old West. But on the big screen, those same characters suddenly become larger than life. Whether in the original Wayne portrayal or in the new Jeff Bridges version, Rooster Cogburn leaps from the screen as the real deal, a rough and tumble frontier lawman with a deep sense of justice.

Although Portis said he based the character on a compilation of the deputy marshals who rode out from Fort Smith under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court of "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker, there can be little doubt that Cal Whitson was the "real" Rooster Cogburn.

Cal Whitson had been a hard-fighting Union soldier during the Civil War and had lost an eye in battle in Arkansas. He became a deputy U.S. marshal in the years after the war after learning that his son had been killed while helping to apprehend an outlaw. He served in the Indian Territory, which fell under Judge Parker's jurisdiction, helping to bring wanted men back to Fort Smith to stand trial... and often stand on the gallows as well.

Parker hanged more men than any federal judge in U.S. history, but few know that he was opposed to the death penalty. Many of the laws governing crimes in the Indian Nations gave him only one sentence: death.

Cal Whitson, the real one-eyed deputy U.S. marshal of Fort Smith, was every bit as colorful and tough as the Rooster Cogburn of the movies. To learn more about him, please visit

To learn more about Judge Parker's tenure as the "Hanging Judge" of Fort Smith, please visit

And if you haven't seen the new version of True Grit, I strongly recommend it. I am a huge John Wayne fan and love the original, but the new one tells the story in an entirely different way and is well worth viewing.