Just outside the Visitor Center is located the Carver Bust, gold colored and sitting atop a small brick pedestal.
During his life George Washington Carver mastered chemistry, botany, mycology (study of fungi), music, herbalism, art, cooking and massage. Because of his encyclopedic knowledge of plant properties he was sought out by such great men as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who desired to learn from him concerning the industrial use of plants - especially peanuts and soybeans. He discovered more than 300 uses of the lowly peanut, including the invention of peanut butter.
In spite of his acclaim, Caver remained a humble man whose love of God and agriculture became a ministry to benefit all of mankind. He was viewed by both blacks and whites as a symbol of racial understanding.
This outline of the foundation marks the spot where George Washington Carver was born in 1864, in the last days of the War Between the States. It was a small one room log cabin, a part of the slave quarters on the Carver farm. This is one of the first sights you will see along the Carver Trail, a short distance from the Visitor Center.
One of the interesting exhibits in the Visitor Center is the Bill of Sale for George's mother, Mary/ The 13-year-old negro was sold for $700 in 1855. Mary and infant George were kidnapped during the turmoil of the war. George was later located in Arkansas and returned to the Carvers, orphaned and nearly dead from whooping cough. His mother was never found. George did not know the identity of his father, but suspected he was a slave on a nearby farm. Carver demonstrated with his life that a person can overcome difficult circumstances and an unpromising beginning to achieve greatness and honor.
As a professor at Tuckagee Institute in Alabama, Carver had his students build this horse drawn wagon for the purpose of taking their knowledge to the people who needed it. This agricultural station on wheels was named for Morris K. Jesup, a New York businessman who helped finance Carver's work. The wagon was a "moveable school," used to carry agricultural exhibits to county fairs and other community gatherings.
The horse drawn wagon was later replaced by a motorized truck, still called the Jesup Wagon. By the 1930s it carried a nurse, a home demonstration agent, an agricultural agent, and an architect to share the latest techniques with rural people of the South.
Moses and Susan Carver are buried here at the Carver Cemetery, along with other family members and neighbors. George Washington Carver died at Tuskegee, Alabama on January 5, 1943, and was interred there. That July, the United States Congress designated George Washington Carver National Monument, the first park to honor an African American scientist, educator, and humanitarian.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these."
--George Washington Carver
The modern Visitor Center is the place to begin any visit to the George Washington Carver National Mounument. Here you will find informative and educational exhibits, a film and a sales area with publications about Carver and his work. The park and visitor center are open every day of the week except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Be sure to pick up a brochure which will give you a map of the Carver Trail which will take you by all of the points of interest in the park.
At the Visitor Center you will also find the Carver Discovery Center. Children and adults alike will enjoy the interactive exhibits about nature and science.
In addiition to the historical aspects of George Washington Carver National Monument, there are also opportunities for nature study and enjoying the out-of-doors. A portion of the site is wooded, with a pond and streams, and the rest of the 210 acre site preserves one of the few remaining places a person can see native tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri. During my summer visit I enjoyed observing the wildflowers, grasshoppers and butterflies that were present.
The nearby Diamond Grove Preserve has 570 acres of prairie on cherty soil in Southwest Missouri with a rich display of spring flowers. It is west of Diamond Grove and is maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The only way to fully see and enjoy the George Washington Carver National Monument is to take a walk along the 3/4 mile Carver Trail. Along the route of this accessible trail you will see the Carver birthplace site, Carver Spring, Boy Carver Satue, Williams Pond, Moses Carver House Carver Cemetery, Tallgrass Prairie restoration area and more. The winding path leads through woods and fields, makes three creek crossings over footbridges, and skirts a beautiful woodland pond. All along the way you will see plaques which give insightful and inspiring quotes from George Washington Carver. Walking the trail and reading the markers is a truly inspiring experiene.
A 1/4-mile-long side trail, the Contemplative Loop Trail, circles Williams Pond, and makes a one-mile hike possible by combining the two loops.
Along the Carver Trail, beside the Carver Branch, you will see the Boy Carver Statue. It was sculpted in 1960 by Robert Amendola. The statue is in a wooded natural area much like the ones young George loved to explore, and where he developed his insatiable curiosity which propelled his remarkable career. This well known statue is one of the most photographed spots in the park.
This house was built by Moses and Susan Carver in 1881. George Washington Carver did not live here, but he visited occasionally when he came "home" to Missouri. The house is open for viewing, along with interesting interpretive exhibits . The split rail fence which defines the yard and the surrounding shade trees make for an idylic setting. A garden behind the house is planted as it would have been when the Carvers lived there.
Nancy and I found this to be a fascinating exhibit. We both remembered reading enough about Carver as school children to be familiar with some of his major accomplishments, but were not aware of all the trials he endured as a black scholar and scientist from the late 1800s thru the 1930s.
George was born in a cabin on this site on the edge of a clearing next to the woods. He was sickly as a child, never knew his father, and with his mother Mary was kidnapped by outlaws. George was found in Arkansas suffering from whooping cough and returned to the farm, but his mother had disappeared forever. Moses and Susan Carver adopted the lad.
Day after day, young George explored the woods, collecting and studying the flowers, sparking his life-long love of nature and dedication to serving man with his knowledge of plants. At the same time, as George would say later in life, ... "I was practically overwhelmed with the sense of some Great Presence.. Never since have I been without this consciousness of the Creator speaking to me through flowers, rocks, animals, plants and all other aspects of His creations."
This statue of the boy, created in 1960 by Robert Amendola, sits alongside the Carver Trail in the woods he loved so much.
The well-maintained Carver Trail winds through the woods past Carver Spring, the Boy Carver Statue, Williams Pond, Moses and Susan Carver's cabin and the family cemetary. Pause to read the meditative plaques along the way, all quotations from the life of George Washington Carver. Very uplifting, indeed.
Man-made pond built in the 1930s is named for Sarah Jane Williams, Moses Carver's niece, whose family live on Carver's farm. It is encircled by Contemplative Loop Trail with a number of park benches from which one can rest, meditate, or just admire the view.
The Carvers built this house in 1881. George visited here occasionally, but never actually lived here. The house was not open for tours on the day of our visit, and from the outside we could not see much furniture inside, so perhaps it is not open to the public at all.
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