Had all gone as planned, we would have visited Natchez: "We will step out and board waiting Hop-On/Ho-Off buses to explore. Scheduled stops will include the Old South Trading Post, Rosalie Mansion, William Johnson House Museum, Magnolia Hall, and the Museum of African American History And Culture."
Instead we spent the day peacefully cruising upriver from Tunica to New Madrid. Since we were travelling upriver, we no longer had the right-of-way. Whenever we expected to encounter tows headed downriver, we pulled over to wait for them to pass. Another unscheduled stop was required to offload a passenger who had become ill and needed to be evacuated. An ambulance met the boat at one of the numerous boat ramps along the river. He was not one of our Road Scholars, so we never heard what happened. I hope he recovered.
I didn't take any pictures of our cruising day, but the cruise staff had prepared games, lectures, and performances to entertain us. We mostly hung out on the balcony and watched the world go by. And ate.
One of the peculiar features of the river near New Madrid is
Bend and the interactions of the state borders. I have highlighted
the state borders in the New Madrid area:
Red marks the border between Missouri and Kentucky.
Green marks the border between Missouri and Tennessee.
Blue marks the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.
A large chunk of Kentucky is isolated just south of New Madrid.
In states divided by a river, the border is defined to be the main channel of the river, but the channel moves over time. In most cases the border moves with it, but in certain cases, the border becomes fixed leaving a portion of the state discontinuous with the rest. My father, a lawyer who specialized in river law, had many cases dealing with properties along the river that had one extent defined to be on the state boundary. Agricultural or timber land is valuable in its own right, but minerals such as oil might be even more valuable. Two of his cases made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which had to define the location of the boundary. This boundary was also contested, but it had a somewhat different origin.
We passed New Madrid the first time on our downriver cruise to Memphis. I had gone to the sun deck hoping to get a picture of the town, but found that I could only see roofs above the levee, so I didn't get that picture.
Now we saw the other side of the levee.
After riding the HOHO bus circuit, I chose the Higgerson School Historic Site for further exploration. A summary of the vicissitudes of the school was found at the nearby historical marker:
Established in 1930 near Higgerson Landing on land purchased from John E. "Eddie" Higgerson. Floated from its piers in 1937. Destroyed by fire in 1940 and replaced with this building. The school closed in 1967. Moved to this site June 10, 1997. Dedicated as an historic site June 13, 1998.
The building was derelict at the time it was relocated and has been restored to its 1948 condition with donated desks, books, and other materials.
Reminiscences of a former student and teacher may be found at this link.
The presentation by the docent covered many aspects of the school and the schooling received there.
For example, there were several standard plans for one-room schools. The least expensive had large windows only on one side as seen here. The opposite side had small high windows useful only for cross ventilation.
Desks were arranged by age: smaller children sat to the right of the room, out of the frame of this picture, in tiny desks. Our tourists sat in the desks reserved for older children up to the eighth grade.
The teacher called individual classes up to the front of the room for instruction and recitation while the remainder of the students studied.
During hunting season, the older children came to school with their shotguns in case they encountered game on the way to or from the school day. (They left the guns outside.)
In addition to the school books, the school had a small library of general reading.
I remember the Mother West Wind stories from my own childhood.
It's a change from the time when a (male) colleague of mine was refused entry into a high school typing class because it was deemed a useless skill for a college prep student.
Another relic from times past is the paddle. Corporal punishment is frowned upon in modern school discipline. According to the attached tag, the paddle was made by a 7th grader for his teacher. I wonder if he was attempting to curry favor? I wonder if he "benefitted" from his gift?
Some of the desks were plain and some fancy. They didn't all see service in this school.
The center desk was manufactured by Buffalo Hardware, Co., in Buffalo, NY, but I haven't been able to find out anything about the company. It's a clever design that would break down into component parts. These desks came in several sizes.
No trip to New Madrid would be complete, however, without discussion of the great earthquakes of 1811-12. The "Fault Line" detail shop is a reminder.
The area continues to have earthquakes, although no major ones have occurred since the late 19th century.
Crackpot prognosticator Iben Browning predicted a major quake on this fault system on December 2nd or 3rd, 1990. My mother was still living at the time and she was spooked enough to investigate earthquake insurance for her house in Vicksburg. We assured her that no one could predict an earthquake that precisely, but we could not assure her that one would not happen. I think the price of the additional insurance brought her to her senses. I remember that she was outraged that her brick house would cost more to insure than a wood frame house.
We were told that most of the New Madrid masonry structures had additional bracing to protect against quakes.
New Madrid had a nice "river walk" with overlook along the levee.
Some of the passengers on the boat staged a mutiny over the plan to visit New Madrid and then return to Memphis for an early departure from the cruise. They forced the cruise company to send buses to New Madrid on the morning we arrived to take them to Memphis from there. Given the social climate nowadays, I suppose I should not have been startled to hear the assertions of skullduggery on the part of the cruise line that some of them espoused. It was their loss. New Madrid was a pleasant stop.
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