Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Historic Washington, Arkansas

Home of the Bowie Knife


John is a man of few words - obviously!! He was interested in this site because of a biography about Jim Bowie he read when he was 12 and, compounded by his Texas upbringing, the blacksmith shop was a must see! We did learn that most of the "history" of Jim Bowie is non-factual. He was a "businessman" who was involved with maybe a few shady deals, but not the brawler he was portrayed to be. He was also a really big guy - over 6 feet - and, along with his really big knife, he cowed a lot of local toughs who thought about taking him on. Actually the Mexicans at the Alamo had a hard time putting him down although he was already on his death bed. They had to stand at a distance and use their bayonnets to kill him. He took out any who tried to get any closer. Anyway, the local blacksmith John Black is the person who made the first Bowie knife on commission by Jim Bowie per Bowie's design.

Actually, we lollygagged around until noon and then started out for Washington, AK! (Eat your hearts out, you 9 to 5 people!!) It is a town of 138 people and is a AK State Park - a museum village - 9 miles NW of Hope, AK!! (So I'm figuring Hope must be at least 200 people.) We ate lunch at Williams' Tavern established in 1832. My 2nd or 3rd time trying chicken fried steak and white gravy and probably my last. It tasted like it was cooked in 1832, but then it tasted that way the other times I've tried it! There is nothing to recommend this Southern speciality! Nor the turnip greens John had as a side.

First we toured the town in a surrey pulled by 2 white mules named Jane and Mattie. And, I will wisely leave that statement to stand on its own. (White, mules, women... do it yourself!) Then we toured the blacksmith shop and the Block-Catts House. It was built by a Jewish fellow (Abraham Block) in 1832 who hailed originally from Bohemia and came to AK via New Orleans. The father of 10 girls and 2 sons he built this Federal style home and it has 5 rooms!! The upstairs has a boys' room and a girls' with a large hall where Martha the house slave stayed and acted as referee! Downstairs had a large dining room and living/master bedroom, plus a small home office/bathing room. Actually the rooms are all good sized! The kitchen was a separate building that also housed the other 10+ slaves. It is really quite pretty.

Up the street from that is the largest magnolia tree in N. America. It is HUMUNGOUS!!! It was planted in 1839! This tree is just huge and grows out into the street. Needless to say, no one is clammering to trim it back. Although not in season, we did see one lone magnolia bloom on the tree. The town also boasts one of the oldest pecan trees in the US (200 years and in Abraham Block's back yard) and one of the oldest catawba trees (about 150 years). Southerners love the catawba tree. It gets attacked yearly by some worm that makes great fishing bait and Southerners are koo-koo about fishing!

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