Monday, March 31, 2008

Nicodemus, Kansas

In 1877, Reverend W. H. Smith and 300 former slaves established this community. The town started out without any buildings and the citizens lived in dugouts on the Kansas prairie. The community recruited many former slaves from Kentucky and the town was thriving by 1885. During this time, the town consisted of three general stores, one bank, two newspapers, three churches, and numerous houses. The railroads never came and the town did not prosper. Like so many towns in the 1800’s the railroad was vital to a new town’s success. Today, the town still remains as a testament to the spirit and achievements of African-American culture. On the last weekend of July the town celebrates “Homecoming”. Many former citizens and descendants come to celebrate from near and far. Nicodemus has also become a National Historic Site.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Place Where the Frogs Started Jumping!

Hotel Angels - Angels Camp, California

According to legend, Mark Twain spent a few days here around 1865. During a drinking session, Ben Coon, the bartender, told Twain of a story about a jumping frog here in Calaveras County. Mark Twain elaborated on the information and published another one of his famous books “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. The town became famous from this Mark Twain story. Twain tells of a gold rush town named Angels Camp with a frog jumping contest. Today, the community lives up to its name. Since 1928, the community hosts the Annual Frog Jumping Contest.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Story from Hell, Michigan

George Reeves established a community here in 1838. George also ran a whiskey still and got some of his neighbors in trouble. Their wives would often exclaim that their husbands had gone to Hell” (referring to George’s still) where they would hang out and drink with George. In 1841, the State of Michigan asked George what was going to be the name of his new town. George exclaimed “Call it Hell, everyone else does”. The name was accepted! Excessive drinking was a growing concern in the early growth of the United States. Often, people associated the drinking of any alcohol as a devilish behavior. The temperance movement became a prominent national movement by the end of the 19th century. By the way, it does get cold here in the winter and Hell does occasionally freeze over!

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress