I have wanted to see a total solar eclipse for
many years and 2017's Great American Eclipse had been on my calendar
since 2013. We live a few miles from the path of totality in metropolitan
Kansas City, but I wanted to be where there would be clear sky and in May
I booked safety hotel rooms up the path of totality in Kearney, Nebraska
and down the path in Paducah, Kentucky.
We released the Kentucky room on Friday, 3 days before
the eclipse, but we held on to the Nebraska room another day, while we
watched the weather forecasts. With predictions of 66% cloud cover in Kansas
and nearby Missouri, Linda and I kept the second room and drove to Kearney
The only stops on the way were supper in Lincoln and a
revisit of Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City, Nebraska. I had
previously visited this cemetery in 2005, but somewhere
along the line, the original photos were lost.
Julius (J.) Sterling Morton worked for the Nebraska City
News, became the Nebraska Territory Governor and US Secretary of Agriculture
and founded Arbor Day on April 10, 1872. Nebraska City is the home of the
National Arbor Day Association. One of his sons founded the companies Morton
Salt and Argo Starch.
J. Sterling's wife, Caroline Joy-French Morton, died in
1881 and Sterling had an unusual, large tree stump monument created for
her grave. It seems to have inspired the community and many other headstone
followed the tradition. There are so many uniquely sculpted memorial markers
that the 140 acre cemetery has a walking and driving tour. Many of the
markers feature tree trunks and books. A few of them weigh tons!
The tour booklet says that the tree motif is "probably
symbolizing death in the branch less stump, and resurrection in the carved
vine with leaves."
Nehemiah S. Harding was an insurance agent and this family monument
is a replica of his roll top desk.
The names of the family members buried in the plot are engraved on
the books scattered around the desk.
Enolia J Gerhard, Herbert T Gerhard
"Died at Nebraska City May 29, 1878
At the time of his death he was honorably serving the
State of Nebraska in the high position of Chief Justice"
Caroline Joy-French Morton's monument has the names of several family
This 65' tall Burr Oak is near the Morton family monument and may may
have been planted by J. Sterling Morton
following the death of his wife Caroline in 1881.
Back on the road to Kearney, the sun was setting behind fields and
We stopped at the HyVee Supermarket in Kearney and found that the grocery
store was preparing to host its
own Eclipse Watch Party on Monday.