Friday, January 23, 2009

Road Trip - The Wild, Wild West

If you've been reading for awhile you know my penchant for getting off the interstate and poking around side roads to see what I can find. An old friend of mine travels all over northern Illinois and Iowa and is on the lookout for interesting barns for me to photograph. A couple of years ago he spotted an unusual stone barn that is visible from I-39 just south of Paw Paw where the wind farms are located.
I searched Mapquest and found the closest exit and drove out to see if I could find my way along back roads to photograph the barn up close. The exit was at Troy Grove, Illinois and this is all it says on the road sign. There's nothing to indicate what's hiding in tiny Troy Grove.


I headed west towards the town and to my surprise I came upon this sign:


To me Wild Bill Hickok was a figure from the wild, wild west.

Troy Grove was once named Homer and it is the birthplace of Wild Bill Hickok. It's a very small town, only 300 residents and smattering of houses built around a small park. The park contains a granite slab with a marker, paying homage to the hometown boy.


The plaque reads:

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok

Pioneer of the great plains, born here May 27, 1837. Assassinated at Deadwood, Agusut 2, 1876. Served his country as a scout & spy in the western states, to preserve the union in the Civil War. Equally great were his services on the frontier as express messenger & upholder of law & order. He contributed largely to making the west a safe place for women & children. His sterling courage was always at the service of right & justice.

To perpetuate his memory this monument erected by the State of Illinois
A.D. 1929

That's certainly an interesting piece of writing but it hardly paints a realistic picture of the man. The wild west was almost a thing of the past by the time Hickok and his contemporaries reached middle age. He was friends with Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. At her request, Calamity Jane Cannary was buried next to Hickok.

Watch an old film of Annie Oakley shooting her rifle.

It's interesting to note where these famous western legends were born.

Wild Bill Hickok - Troy Grove, Illinois
Calamity Jane Cannary - Princeton, Missouri
Buffalo Bill Cody - Le Claire, Iowa
Annie Oakley - Willowdell, Ohio
Billy the Kid - New York City

There's no information out on the interstate about this Hickok memorial and I never would have found it had I not been poking around the countryside. I wonder how many other interesting things are tucked away on the back roads.

I'm going to find out!!

Come back tomorrow when I show you more about the tiny town of Troy Grove.


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Now that was interesting! I love to strike off and try a road that I've never tried before, but I've not found anything that intriguing before...beautiful views, but no markers for the famous. (Oh, wait a minute, once when I was abstracting, I found a deed that was a gift of land to the millionth visitor to the state. That's close, isn't it? ;> )

Laura said...

What a cool find! I've been a huge fan of Wild Bill for years. :-)


Suzanne said...

That's a great find! We love to follow the back roads around here... usually it's just for the change of pace and great views. It's been a long time since I found any great treasures like you did!

Lori said...

This is so funny. Yesterday when you said you got off the interstate to a little out of the way place, I immediately wondered if it was Troy Grove. As was said in "Dances with Wolves", it's not much of a going concern. But what a nice quiet, little town to live in. We used to go through there quite a bit on the way to our son but now we mostly go down Rte 40 instead. Keep up this traveling series. I love it!

Abbie said...

Hi Suzanne!
:) what a neat post. It is amazing the things we stumble upon. There is a HUGE missile (50-60 ft?)about 10 miles from us, standing right in the center of a tiny NH town. I do know it is much taller than any of the buildings in the village and I think it is to honor an astronaut who was born there. Hope that you and yours are fabulous!

Did you ever get the photograph the original subject?


kari and kijsa said...

Such a cute town! Just catching up- have a fabulous weekend!
kari & kijsa

tam said...

WoW that was so interesting! What fun to stumble upon that! Looking forward to tomorrows post! have a wonderful weekend!~Smiles~Tam!

D.M. McGowan said...

We have a similar site close to where I live.Near the small hamlet of Pouce Coupe (Poos Coopie)is the Pouse Coupe plain. This is the site of the first attempt at agriculture (in the early 1900s)in the Peace River Country of BC and is also the site of the last major battle between aborigional nations; in this case the Beaver and Woodland Cree.
There are no signs or cairns commemorating either.
As for your discovery,I've read a great deal about the four characters you mention - including their birth place - but didn't know there was an acknowledgment, including Mr. Hickock.

Anonymous said...

That's certainly an interesting piece of writing but it hardly paints a realistic picture of the man????????. Actually what is said about Wild Bill on the monument is very accruate. I have spent alot of time in Deadwood, SD and his exploits are well documented in the Adams Museum in Deadwood. Maybe you should have looked up the man's history before making such a uninformed statement.