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Article by Mary Emma Allen
Photos by Kathleen Walls

My father stimulated my interest in the history of this country by taking us to historic sites when we traveled.  Mother researched them with her school teacher's instincts and pulled out maps and pictures.
So my interest in historic sites has continued.  Fortunately my husband has an interest in the founding of our country and the important events and people connected with that time forward.  Our daughter would know, when we traveled, that historic markers lured us to pull off the road and explore.  Now we do this with our grandchildren.
Take pictures, keep a record, and revel in the enjoyment at the time and later with memories.
Reenactors on Oregon Trail with covered wagon
Reenactors on the Oregon Trail explain their life on the trail
The Oregon Trail
When my husband, daughter and I saw signs and remains of the Oregon Trail throughout the American West, we decided to explore and discover.  This historic travel route of the pioneers trekking to new areas during the latter 1880s led us across several states.  It was fascinating to walk in the actual wagon ruts where these intrepid travelers trod.
Such was our enthrallment that we've given talks in schools and libraries about this era in our country's history.
Replica of Camp River Dubois, Lewis and Clark expidition's first camp.
Camp River Dubois in Illinois is a replica  of the
camp where the Lewis and Clark expedition  started

Lewis & Clark Explorations
Lewis and Clark became more than names in history when a friend, living near Salmon, Idaho, took us exploring in the mountains.  There we saw signs for Lewis and Clark's passage, stood at the spot where they crossed the Continental Divide, noted where Sacajawea met her brother again, and then followed their route into the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.
Even though we'd read about these explorers in history books, their struggles, bravery, and perseverance made a great impression when we stood where they once stood.

Nebraska Sandhills country along the Great Platt River
Nebraska Sandhills country along the Great Platt River
The Great Platte River Road
This trail, paralleling and sometimes crossing the Platte River in Nebraska is another rich in history.  The Mormon Trail, where these pioneers escaped further west, corresponds with part of the River Road.
Today, many historic sites along the route are marked.  At rest stops along both lanes of I-80, you'll find historical markers, along with statuary and art work representing the pioneers. 
The Great Platte River Road Archway, at Kearney, NE, spans both sections of I-80.  Within it, you'll discover the history of this pioneer area beginning in the 1840's.
We've traveled this route several times and always find something new to marvel over.  Side trips also provide much that increases one's knowledge of this era and appreciation of the early pioneers.
Flagler College, once one of Henry Flagler's grand hotels in St. Augustine, Florida
Flagler College, once one of Henry Flagler's grand hotels
St. Augustine, FL
Business took my husband and me to this old city in Florida repeatedly.  We found it interesting to learn about the early settlement of our country before it even belonged to the British. 
We toured the fort, climbed a lighthouse, walked the beach, and took a ghost tour.  The old buildings, with their Spanish influenced architecture, gives the city it's distinctive character.


Gettysburg Battlefield
This historic site had special significance because some of my Civil War great uncles fought there in a New York Union regiment.  Our daughter also visited the site during a high school field trip and found it one of the most interesting stops of their tour.
For young and old, especially if they can relate it to family history as well as our country's history, the battlefield and war fought here takes on more significance.
Mount Vernon - George Washington's Home
This was a childhood experience for me.  My parents wanted my siblings and me to see where a Revolutionary general and our first president lived.  The large house above the Potomac River remains in my memory although I've not visited since.  Our daughter did see it on her school trip, too.
Williamsburg, Va
This colonial city was another my parents wanted my sister, brothers and me to see while we visited the South.  I truly enjoyed stepping back in time, walking along the streets and exploring the buildings.  Reading about this area in history classes took on new meaning because I'd been there and could visualize more vividly.
Traveling into yesterday with your children, or just by yourself, creates an appreciation of our country and builds memories to relate in coming years.
(c)2014 Mary Emma Allen
(Mary Emma Allen, a New Hampshire based writer, has explored and lived in many areas of the United States.  She writes about these experiences, along with recording them for family memories.  Mary Emma also teaches workshops about Writing Family Stories. E-mail:


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