Monday, August 19, 2013

KC and the Sunshine

We’re in Kansas City, MO, where everything is up to date and they’ve got some pretty little women. Okay, that’s enough KC pop culture. Although the sun did shine every day we’ve been here.


The City Market in downtown KC is open every Saturday and Sunday, and since we were in the city Sunday, we stopped by. It was heaven for Penny because it consisted of produce stands and antique shops. For me, we killed two birds with one stone.

The market is also the home of the Steamship Arabia Museum, and that is a truly fascinating place.arabia painting

This image (stolen from the web) shows the Arabia in better days. She was built in 1853 and spent a few years moving passengers and freight along the Missouri River between St. Louis and South Dakota. Then in 1856 near Kansas City the Arabia hit a snagged log which went through her hull. The Arabia sank in 15 feet of water, and all aboard, except a mule that was tied up on deck, managed to escape.DSC_0231

The log that sank the Arabia is on display at the museum. Our tour guide pointed out that had Google been around in 1856 there may have been fewer passengers aboard. It seems that the captain had a history of running river boats aground and into snagged logs. That fact probably wasn’t featured in the Arabia’s advertising.

Anyway, the ship settled in the muddy bottom and was pretty much forgotten about. In the early 1900s the Army Corps of Engineers moved the river about half a mile from it’s old course, and the place where the Arabia sank became farmland. Then in the 1980s a local family that owned a refrigeration company got the wild idea of trying to find buried treasure in one of the hundreds of sunken steamboats known to be at or under the bottom of the river.

After a lot of research, the family realized the Arabia was under a corn field, and asked the owner if they could do a little digging. Maybe no deeper than 15 feet.

Arabia excavation

So, in 1988 they dug, and dug, and dug. 45 feet down they found the remains of the Arabia, and 200 tons of goods that were aboard the ship when it went down. The original plan was to sell the stuff, but when they realized what they had found they decided to set up the museum.


The amount of intact cargo they found was amazing. And that’s what makes up the bulk of the museum’s holdings. The artifacts provide a wonderful look at the kinds of things used in the everyday lives of people living in “Indian Territory” in the mid 19th century.DSC_0212

Although amateur archeologists, the family sought out expert advice on the preservation and displayof the material they found. The read books on the subject and have managed to put together a very professional looking exhibit, well-worth the price of admission. DSC_0224

Most of the artifacts look like they’re brand new, and they run the gamut from shoes to shovels, and buttons to rifle balls.

In 1988 the family estimated it would take about 15 years to preserve the 200 tons of material. That estimate was on the low side. DSC_0220

This technician is working on a part of the ship’s boiler. The preservation work has gone on since 1988 and they estimate that there are still 65 tons of artifacts stored in freezers.

After the artifacts were removed from the excavation the hole was filled up so the farmer could plant his next crop. Except for a section of the bow DSC_0232preserved in the museum, the remains of the Arabia will remain forever 45 feet under a corn field. The museum is now the family’s full time enterprise.


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