Two weeks ago I made my first ever trip to the Steamboat Arabia Museum. Awhile back, I made a committment to myself to become more of a tourist in my own home town. There are so many great museums in Kansas City, and sadly, even though I've lived here for 13 years, there are a good number of them I have not been to: The World War I Museum, Truman Library and Home, the Toy and Mineature Museum, I've never spent significant time at the Nelson and there are several others that I've been to (18th & Vine) but it's been awhile.
So two weeks ago, we took in the Steamboat Arabia Museum. As a person who grew up in an old Rivertown, I've always had an interest in river history. The Museum did an excellent job of talking about the history of boat traffic on the river, along with having what may be the largest collection of pre-civil war era items in the country, that were all found in one steamboat that a couple of families dug up, out of a corn field, over a decade ago.
They told of the challenges of digging up the boat -- and the extreme cost of digging it up, and restoring all of the goods. I couldn't quit thinking, this family lost a fortune creating a museum that I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the highlights of the tour and museum visit, was a surprising appearance by one of the museum's founders, Greg Hawley. It was really interesting to hear the first-hand stories about digging up the boat, and the obvious passion he had for the museum he helped create.
Yesterday I was devastated to learn that Mr. Hawley, a man that I had met only briefly a couple of weeks ago,had died -- due to the senselessness of several teenagers.
I'm grateful that I met Mr. Hawley...and I'm grateful that he left as a legacy a fabulous museum about life in the early 1800s based on one riverboat. The Missouri River was instramental to the building of Kansas City -- long before the railroad and cattle trade caused its growth.
Over the past several years, there have been talks about the museum needing more space and potentially moving. I know that Leavenworth has talked about luring the museum. I think it would be a shame if the museum left the city -- it is a unique gem of a museum. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend you take the time to go pay it a visit. And I'm sure the devastated family will appreciate the support of the legacy he left behind.
Nodbody's Listening has a very moving story about Hawley's accident -- that is definitely worth the read.