Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lincoln Funeral Reenactment – Part 1

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

A year ago, on the eve of President’s Day, I released a blog post about the life and death of Abraham Lincoln , the 16th President of the United States. With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday fast approaching, I was reminded that I still have a story to tell about my experiences in May 2015 at the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment in Springfield, Illinois, on the 150th anniversary of his funeral. There is so much I’d like to share about this once-in-a-lifetime event, so this story will be told in three parts, each one a little more emotional than the previous one.

On Friday evening, May 1, 2015, after spending 12 hours photographing our way from central Missouri to Springfield, Illinois, we checked into our motel and then I quickly headed down to the train depot. My goal was to capture a few photos of the Lincoln funeral car recreated for this event.

As I neared the depot, I passed the beautiful Old State Capitol building, where Abraham Lincoln’s body was displayed on May 3 and 4, 1865, for the people of Springfield before it was transported to Oak Ridge Cemetery. And I was happy to discover that I could park near the depot and walk a short distance to take my photographs, and that there were relatively few people around it. This would not be the case in the morning.

This historically accurate replica was built by Dave Kloke, a master mechanic from Elgin, Illinois, who developed a passion for the funeral train after watching a Lincoln documentary. Through extensive study of drawings and photographs, and with the help of Lincoln history and railroad industry experts, volunteers, and employees from Dave’s company, the replica funeral car was designed and built from scratch. The result was a work of art that looked like the original train car that transported Lincoln’s body from Washington, D.C. to Springfield in 1865.

The original train car was named the United States, and it was designed for Presidential travel, much like today’s Air Force One aircraft. Lincoln thought that the car would be too fancy for him and he had an appointment to look it over on April 16, the day after he was assassinated. After the car was used to transport Lincoln to his final resting place in Springfield, the government sold the car and it was used as a railroad executive car, a day coach, and then a work car. Finally, in 1905, it was bought from the railroad company and restored, only to be destroyed in 1911 in a Minnesota prairie fire.

I quickly captured a few shots, then headed back to the motel to unload and back up the photos from the day and to study the information we had on Saturday’s activities. I knew Saturday was going to be a long, hard day and that much of the center of the city would be closed to traffic. After making a plan for the next day, I packed my equipment, a map of the downtown and the procession route, and some water in a backpack and climbed into bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I gave myself a pep talk about keeping a good attitude amidst the tens of thousands of people expected for the event.

Around 8:30 a.m., Ruth dropped me off for the morning activities and, as I walked toward the depot, I crossed a parking lot where many Civil War troop reenactors were preparing for the upcoming procession from the depot to the Old State Capitol. There were four young reenactors having a good time with each other and they made me smile.

Some were dressed as Union Army officers. I especially liked this man who struck a serious pose as he waited for the activities to begin.

As I neared the depot, I could hear Civil War era music being played by the 5th Michigan Regiment Band, a 1973 re-creation of the 5th Michigan Infantry Band that existed prior to Lincoln’s death in 1865. The band performs songs from the 1860’s on vintage and reproduction sax horns and wood rope tension drums.

In the first year of the Civil War, thousands of musicians enlisted to play in regimental bands. In most cases, these soldiers’ main duties involved providing music for marching troops, at concerts and dances, and for ceremonies and civic functions. However, these musicians sometimes ended up playing music during actual battles or assisting in medical operations. The music played by these bands boosted soldier morale and reminded them of home.

As I captured numerous photographs of the wonderful 5th Michigan Regiment Band, all dressed in blue, members of President Lincoln’s Own Band, all dressed in red, waited for their turn to play. This band portrays the Civil War era U.S. Marine Band. It was formed in 2012 to perform in Steven Spielberg’s movie "Lincoln."

The Lincoln funeral car, which I had photographed the previous night, was located on the other side of the tracks that ran past the depot. There were hundreds of troop and civilian reenactors surrounding the funeral car, although I couldn’t see that from where I was standing. On the depot side of the tracks, the crowd was standing shoulder to shoulder between the tracks and the depot. Some of these folks had been standing there since dawn in order to hold onto a good spot from which to see the flag-draped coffin carried from the funeral car to the hearse.

Knowing that there were still a few minutes before that transfer would take place, I mustered up the courage to politely squeeze through the crowd asking permission to move to the front for a couple of quick photos. Happily, people responded kindly to my request and I moved all the way to the tracks and back (past the same people, thanking them) all in about three minutes. When I got back to my spot by the depot, I captured the Sergeant Major of President Lincoln’s Own Band enjoying a moment with a member of the 5th Michigan Regiment Band.

Around 9:15, after the coffin had been loaded into the beautifully re-created horse-drawn hearse, the hearse driver and six black horses slowly pulled the hearse onto Jefferson Street.

In 1865, the city of Springfield borrowed an elaborately decorated hearse from St. Louis livery operators Lynch and Arnot. Unfortunately, this hearse suffered the same demise as Lincoln’s funeral car when it was destroyed in an 1887 livery fire.

The Staab Family, owners of Staab Funeral Home in Springfield, Illinois, took on the task of re-creating the hearse. This was a monumental task due to the fact that there was only one remaining photograph of the original hearse, along with an 1865 woodcut of the funeral scene and a newspaper article description of the hearse. After months of research, and over a year of work by architects and expert craftsmen, including many combat veterans, the hearse was completed shortly before the funeral reenactment. It was certainly a labor of love and a work of art, with its etched glass windows and ostrich-feathered plumes.

Walking alongside the ornate hearse were honorary pallbearers, six of whom were direct descendants of the original pallbearers. The youngest descendant was 11-year-old William Polston of Minneapolis, Minnesota. What a great experience it must have been for that young man!

Suddenly, the patrol team and police officers started shouting at the crowd to move away from the train tracks. There was a lot of confusion at first, but it became clear that a freight train was barreling down the tracks and would soon be crossing Jefferson Street. I noticed that there were many horse-drawn vehicles on the other side of the tracks, so I quickly crossed the tracks. If we were going to have to wait a while, I wanted to take advantage of the stopped carriages.

Due to the modern and commercial backgrounds all around these carriages, I decided to pull in close to the carriage drivers and riders. In Parts 2 and 3, I will share several horse-drawn carriage photos from the actual processions. This is one of my favorite close-ups of a reenactor with a sparkle in his eyes. I think he would also make a good Santa Claus.

After a long 25-minute wait, even though the train had passed, the procession was still at a standstill and the patrols were not letting anyone cross the tracks. So I realized that I would have to take an alternative route to find a place to photograph the procession. I looked at my map and took an indirect route, hustling about five blocks as the procession began to move again. In Part 2, I will pick up where this leaves off. Please join me there.

In the meantime, you can view additional photos from the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment weekend here.

Happy Shunpiking!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 in Review – Part 2

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Welcome back to the review of our 2016 photography year. Part 1 took us through winter, and our spring trip to Ohio, as well as several more Wisconsin outings through June.

On July 1st, we decided to head to the east, but we also decided to begin the day in Madison, photographing our way out of town. By 6 A.M. we were at the Yahara River. Along the trails there were bicyclists, dog walkers, and other people strolling about.

When we finished in Madison, we headed out of town. Early July is a great time to catch the winter wheat fields in their golden color. By mid-July, the harvest of wheat begins.

In August, we decided to start the day at dawn in Sun Prairie. Over the years, we’ve photographed a few things in town, but it seems we never get everything there is to see.

From Sun Prairie, we made our way to an old concrete silo with a very faded Miller High-Life sign on it. Years ago we had taken a couple of photographs, but it was nice to check it out again.

In Marshall, we found a small park on the Maunesha River with a cute Little Free Library shaped like the front of a canoe. We’re lucky that the Little Free Libraries originated in Wisconsin, so we find many as we travel around.

Our next stop was Waterloo. We’ve also been here many times before, but again we found many things that we haven’t found before. If you’re wondering, we must both be distracted at the same time as we drive through some of these towns! Joann is generally watching the road, and half the time, I’m looking down at the map. But at least that means we’ll never run out of things to photograph.

The historical museum in a former church is off the beaten path, and we finally looked it up! The clock in the tower was recently restored.

In September, Joann went to a car show in Cross Plains. One of the things they do at the show is a drive called the Hill and Valley Tour where they drive a set route of rural roads. Joann found out the roads they would take and then went out and set up to wait for the old cars to come along. Too bad she didn’t have a video camera!

In late September, we decided to take our trip to the Michigan U.P. that we had postponed last year. We left home on September 28th, and by evening we were at the Annala Round Barn in Iron County. The barn is made of fieldstone and has a matching round fieldstone milk house. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once in Michigan, we were looking for an old store. When we found the store, it wasn’t that interesting, but there was an old Occident Flour ad on the side of it. The store itself had been updated and restored, but it appears that when they found the ad, they framed around it rather than cover it up. We love that!

We went up the Peninsula to the shore of Lake Superior. It was windy and chilly, so it wasn’t exactly beach weather. But Lake Superior is beautiful.

We were a little early for full fall color, but we did manage to find some spots of good color. One of these spots was an old homestead with this old barn.

In early October, we picked a day to drive the Farm Art DTour, which takes place every year as part of Sauk County’s Fermentation Fest. Partway through the route was a large beehive, with sculpted bees flying above it. While I read what was next on the route, Joann got out to photograph the hive.

When I looked up, I didn’t see Joann, but the bees were moving as if flying above the hive. Joann had gone inside the hive, and from there, she could “fly” the bees.

The following week, we decided to make a trip to Waupaca County. We hadn’t been to that area of the state for quite a few years, and we decided it was time. Unfortunately, the weather report was wrong, and shortly after we arrived, it began to rain. It continued to rain, sometimes a downpour and sometimes just a soft rain, throughout the morning. We decided to slowly head toward home, and whenever the rain allowed, to stop and photograph. The town hall below was one stop when the rain had let up for a few minutes.

As is often the case in November, the trees were bare and the main color was brown, so we didn’t go out to photograph. Joann did find something to photograph though, just outside her windows. Her family of turkeys continued to visit, and one morning in November, they were all around the feeders, with one even standing on top of the fly-through feeder, looking as though he was wondering “now what?”

In December, due to schedules, illness, and commitments, we only managed to go out once. It was on Christmas Eve and we decided to just drive a short ways south to see if we could find anything decorated for Christmas.

Every time we’re out in the winter, we look for snowmen. We were lucky enough to find one all decked out for the cold.

At the end of each year, I try to plot our travels on a map. The turquoise represents the counties where we took at least 1 photograph in 2016. You’ll notice that we didn’t make it to Iowa in 2016, which is unusual for us. I told Joann I’m having Iowa withdrawals, so we’ll try to make at least one of our normal trips there in the coming year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through our year of photographing. As I write this recap, we are already making plans for a spring trip back to Ohio. This time our plan is to make a path through the northern half of the state. Nothing is set yet, but there is much to see. So many roads, so little time!

Happy Shunpiking!

Friday, January 6, 2017

2016 in Review – Part 1

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Some years in the past, we have had a hard time finding good winter days to get out and capture winter scenes for our collection. However, 2016 was a good year for us, and we managed to get out several times in January and several more times in February.

Early in January, we made a trip to Sauk County. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time there. Even though we’ve driven almost every road in the county at some time or another, we still manage to find photo opportunities we haven’t been to before. We’ve passed this old school on numerous occasions and didn’t stop, but with snow cover, and a beautiful blue sky, we stopped for photos.

Just this week Joann learned that the name of the school was Little Prairie School. The name was picked in 1918 when all Sauk County schools were required to choose a name. On Washington’s birthday, the pupils received a sleigh ride along the country roads. The school has been closed since 1955.

A week and a half later, we drove west again, visiting Richland County. Just outside of the little town of Boaz, is a private covered bridge whose owners allow visitors. The bridge is over Core Hollow Creek a short distance down their driveway.

In early February, we went west again. This time we made it to Vernon County. We had talked about getting to Vernon County in the winter for years. In winter, we always have to take into account the state of the roads. If we get a fair amount of snow, and the weather holds for a few days, we can be pretty sure that even the rural shunpiking roads will be drivable.

We drove into Amish country and were lucky enough to find a field of corn shocks. And as Joann began taking photographs of the shocks, a farmer driving a team of horses came down the road and turned into the field. He began driving back and forth between the rows of corn shocks spreading manure.

And several times in the distance came the clip clop of a horse and buggy coming down the road. Joann would change her focus and wait for the buggy to pass so she could capture them after they passed on the road.

You probably are aware that Amish people usually do not want to have their face visible in a photograph. When we ask if we can take a picture of their team and equipment, we are usually welcome to do that and they will step back so they are not in the picture. When buggies pass on the road, Joann often takes her photos from the back after they have passed.

In late January, there was an article in the Janesville Gazette about the Spaulding House that was for sale to developers. It sits alone now, among gas stations and big box stores. In 1855, the road in front of the house was the site of the first recorded murder in Rock County, and the body was hidden in the Spaulding woods.

There was no snow on the ground by March when we were in the area, but knowing that the house had an uncertain future, we decided to stop and take some photos before it was just another site lost to history.

In late April, we left on another photography trip to Ohio. Our first stop upon reaching Ohio was Cincinnati. In all our trips, we had never been through Cincinnati. We skirted the edges, but never went into the city. This time we did a little research and went in.

If you’ve heard of Cincinnati Chili, you might know that Skyline is famous for it. You can get 3-way (spaghetti topped with chili and a mound of shredded cheddar), 4-way (add onions or beans), or 5-way (add onions AND beans). It was morning when we were in the neighborhood so, needless to say, we didn’t partake.

On our way out of town, we passed the Queen City Flying Service Building, and had to find a place to stop to get a couple of photos. The building is located at Lunken Field, which was the largest municipal airport in the world in 1930. One of Cincinnati’s early nicknames was “The Queen City”, and this business was named after that.

After Cincinnati, we spent a lot of our trip close to the Ohio River. Along the way, we passed this abandoned stone house on the banks of the river. It had a grand view of the river, but probably also experienced flooding multiple times over the years.

For Ohio’s bicentennial celebration in 2003, artist Scott Hagan painted the bicentennial logo on a barn in every county of the state. He painted 88 barns in all. On each of our trips to Ohio, we visit any of these barns that are on our route. It’s been 17 years now since the painting began, and some barns have been removed, some logos have been painted over, and some have become almost too faded to photograph.

One of my favorite things on our spring trips, are the redbud and dogwood trees in bloom. We don’t have dogwood trees here in Wisconsin, and very few redbuds, but as we travel south, we start to see these trees along the highways and in the towns, and after our long winters, they are such a welcome sight!

The city of Portsmouth, Ohio sits on the Ohio River. This was our second visit to the town, and not surprising, there were a lot of things in town we didn’t capture on our first visit. If we return in the future, I’m sure there are even more things we missed this time.

We always try to capture picturesque farm scenes, which really was the origin of our backroads photography. We were lucky to find this farm with its collection of unpainted buildings and a quilt square on the barn.

Several years ago, I had read that one of the mills we had visited in southern Ohio in 2009 was now gone. Often when things are gone, we still visit the site just to see for ourselves. It makes us sad, but we pay our respects, and mark it as gone. Knowing that we had not found this mill where we thought it should be the first time we tried to locate it, we decided to return and see what had happened.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the Ogle Planing Mill still standing and in almost the same shape as it was on our first visit.

After driving along the river, we turned north. Just south of The National Road, we drove several rural roads. On one of them, we came across this tile root cellar. We find root cellars in Wisconsin, but we don’t often find them made of tile. It’s interesting to see the similarities in rural architecture in different states, as well as the differences.

A little later, down another country road, we came upon this tile springhouse. We always consider ourselves lucky when we come upon both springhouses and root cellars, since they are no longer used, and often are not cared for.

Starting towards home, we were traveling west on The National Road. When we came into New Concord, I had an old wooden “humpback” bridge marked, and we went to look it up. Unfortunately, it was closed to traffic, and will probably be replaced the next time we’re in the area, but through the magic of Joann’s photographic eye, you can’t see the barricades and cones.

In most states, very few, if any, of these old wooden bridges survive, so we always try to look them up if we travel near them. Even though this one was already closed, it was a treat to see it in its original location.

We’re always on the lookout for old phone booths, and we were lucky enough to find one in a very small town along the Old National Road. We took the National Road most of the way through Ohio and Indiana, and returned home late on May 2nd.

In mid-May we went west to Sauk County and drove a road along the Wisconsin River that we had not managed to drive before in all our travels. This old rustic fence is along the road where an old prairie used to be. Once upon a time there was a town called Cassell, but none of the buildings remain.

Later on our trip, we passed an old barn that we hadn’t noticed before. It was a gambrel roof barn, but it also had a very large chimney. The barn is no longer used, so it was nice to finally notice it and get some photos before it’s gone.

In early June, we made a trip to the north through parts of Columbia, Marquette and Adams counties. One of the locations from my research was an old poultry complex. We did manage to find it, but it was hard to get to. It looks much different than modern poultry operations. As always, Joann managed to find a vantage point where we could see the most of the complex.

In June we also visited Rock County to take some photographs for a book being written by an author friend who grew up in Rock County and now lives in Springfield, Illinois. Most of the locations on her list were in the township of Turtle. We started the day before dawn and didn’t get home until very late afternoon. We did manage to get photos of almost everything on her list, and some extra things we found along the way.

One of our last stops of the day was the Tiffany Stone Arch Bridge. The bridge was built in 1869 over Turtle Creek and is the oldest remaining stone arch bridge in Wisconsin. It is also the only five-arch railway bridge remaining in the world.

This takes us through the end of June. Stay tuned for part 2 where we drove the 2016 Farm Art DTour route, and took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Until then, Happy Shunpiking!