In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!

. . . from the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tom & Melany's Excellent Adventure: Ch. Three

As usual, I've been up to my eyeballs in other chores the last few days (lawn mowing, spring cleaning, etc.) and haven't had time to keep this blog properly updated. I've been home today to shampoo carpets after our dog Frank's semi-disastrous intestinal "eruption" two nights ago (believe me, you don't want to know the details), so at least I have a few minutes' extra time to post another installment of our April vacation saga. Bit by bit, your patience is being rewarded with an opportunity to share that delightful experience with us!

On Monday, April 20, we (me, Melany, Mom & Dad, and my sister Patti) spent some time in the morning on a search in the countryside south of Mandarin for the old Oesterreicher home featured in the book Pioneer Family, which included a small map indicating the property's location. Unfortunately, since we couldn't find any trace even of the old road that once led to the place, it seems likely that the explosive development in that area over the dozen years since the book's publication has erased it, or at least any feasible way to get to it. "Progress"?

We then stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant called Barbara Jean's in Ponte Vedra Beach, on the Intercoastal Waterway between Mandarin and St. Augustine. I don't know too many places up North here where you can get a broiled catfish sandwich! Patti's already done a great post about our visit here, so I'll just send you there.

After lunch Melany and Patti headed off to the Sloans' for an afternoon of sewing, while Mom & Dad and I headed into downtown Jacksonville and the Museum of Science and History (known locally as MOSH). For years, MOSH has been the home of the largest collection of Civil War artifacts ever recovered from one place--that is, the hold of the Maple Leaf (read about her here, here, and here), the Lake Ontario steamer-turned Union Army transport that struck a Confederate mine and sank in the St. Johns River in 1864. We found out at the front desk that, incredibly and most disappointingly, the exhibit was closed just a few months ago--boxed up and sent away to Talahassee, where it sits in storage! This definitely calls for an angry letter to MOSH and the State of Florida!

However, our afternoon wasn't a complete waste. For one thing, I got this great picture of the downtown Jacksonville waterfront!


And, just a few yards from MOSH on the edge of the St. Johns is the Jacksonville Maritime Museum, a small but fabulous collection of ship models, artifacts, and other displays focusing on the maritime history of Jacksonville and Florida's northeast coast. Among the models (see a few of them here) on display was an incredible one of the Maple Leaf, handmade in natural materials by Dennis Cannady of Beaufort, South Carolina--1/48 scale measuring 46 inches long and 30 inches tall. Below are several shots of the boat from various angles, which provide a good impression of its original size (look at the doorways, etc. and fit a man into them in your mind) and construction.


Another interesting exhibit at the Maritime Museum was a small collection of artifacts purportedly from the USS Columbine, another Union side-wheel boat sunk in the St. Johns River in May 1864 by a cavalry detachment under the command of Capt. J.J. Dickison, the legendary "Swamp Fox of the Confederacy." Interestingly, rosters of his unit include one "E.J. Hull." We have an ancestor named Ezekiel Josiah Hull who served as a Lieutenant in Co. G, 8th Florida Infantry until his medical discharge in April 1863. Could he have re-enlisted later and served under Capt. Dickison? That's one big question I hope to answer one day--if I ever find time for the research!

Also on display at the Maritime Museum was an impressive model of the famed USS Constitution, launched in 1797, which (the real thing, not the model!) we toured while in Boston 3 years ago.

After our Maritime Museum visit, we returned to Mom & Dad's for dinner (I think I grilled hot dogs) and rest--and I was happy as a clam!

Well, that's all for now. Stay tuned for the next episode of "Tom and Melany's Excellent Adventure," coming soon to a blog (namely, this one) near you!