Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Monday, August 8, 2011

ON TO WASHINGTON DC or Monuments, Museums, and More OH MY!

Can you tell from the title of this blog that we are in Kansas as I post it?  But, we had a marvelous time in Washington DC.  We were there a week ago and spent 4 days.  We could have spent 4 weeks, there are so many things to do and see.

We started off with a tour of several monuments: The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial, The World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument.  It was so gratifying to see in person these famous landmarks that we've seen pictures of all of our lives.  My favorite - The Lincoln Memorial.


It was very, very hot and humid while we were in DC, so we were thankful for air conditioned museums in which we could spend hot afternoons.  Our first stop was the National Museum of American History.  I made so many connenctions in this museum: The ruby slippers from one of my favorite childhood movies, an elephant from Disneyland (I might have ridden in it!), my first Barbie doll, and our first mini-van.  What does it say about a person when her life is on display in a museum?


The Museum of Natural History and The Air and Space Museum were also favorites of ours.  We saw an incredible 3 D movie about repairing the Hubble Telescope, the Hope Diamond, and other great displays in these two museums. 


Listening to Congress debate the Finance Bill was on our list, but alas, when we arrived at the White House it had been evacuated of visitors and was temorarily closed while an investigation of some sort was going on.  It was still great just seeing the White House from the outside.


We discovered that in Washington DC there are lots of free museums and monuments to see and their public transportation is the best of the major cities we visited.  Below is the Metro tunnel beneath the streets of the city and a crowded Metro car.  We got pretty good at riding the "Orange" line.  Also below is the amazing Union Station.  When it was built it was the largest train staion in the world and is visitied by 32 million people each year.


Saturday evening we took a night tour of DC, learning more of the history of our nation's capitol and enjoying the lighted monuments.  The top left picture is the gate to China Town, then clockwise, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Iwo Jima Monument.

Can you tell the capitol was my favorite night view?


We discovered early on during this trip that it is hard work having fun.  We were thankful for Sunday and a day of rest.  We enjoyed church service and then visited the Washington DC Temple and Visitors' Center.  We were very impressed with both!  We enjoyed listening to videos of the three new apostles' witnesses of Jesus Christ.  We especially enjoyed listening to Elder Christofferson's testimony, since he filmed it in the Sacred Grove while we were serving in Palmyra and then spoke to the Site Missionaries in a small meeting.  So, this day on our trip home it felt good to be spiritually fed and to have a quieter day.   

Monday morning was our last time to spend in Washington DC and we were pleased to be able to visit the Arlington National Cemetery.  We arrived in time to watch the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier.  It was a reverent and impressive ceremony.

That's it for Washington DC, an amazing city of monuments and museums.  We hope to visit again.  Next, it's a drive throught the Apalacians.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


After sightseeing in New York City we drove to Pennsylvania.  Our objective was to visit Gettysburg and review some of the history of the Civil War.  However, on the way there we took a detour to a very fun place, one that I have long wanted to visit.  What city would have a street named "Chocolate Ave" . . .

 and chocolate kisses for street lights?

If you guessed Hershey, Pennsylvania you would be correct!  What's not to love about a city founded because of chocolate candy!  Below are the smoke stacks from the actual Hershey Plant.

Milton Hershey, a successful candy maker,  wanted to produce milk chocolate candy so he acquired  1,200 acres  of farm land near his birthplace in PA. There, he could obtain the large supplies of fresh milk needed to perfect and produce fine milk chocolate. Through trial and error, he created his own formula for milk chocolate. On March 2, 1903, he began construction on what was to become the world’s largest chocolate manufacturing plant.  Hershey’s milk chocolate quickly became the first nationally marketed product of its kind.

Because the land was surrounded by dairy farms, he was able to use fresh milk to mass-produce quality milk chocolate. Hershey envisioned a complete community around his factory site. He built a model town for his employees that included comfortable homes, an inexpensive public transportation system, a quality public school system and extensive recreational and cultural opportunities. 

Hershey avoided building a faceless company town with row houses. He wanted a home town with tree-lined streets, single and two family brick houses, and manicured lawns. He was concerned about providing adequate recreation and diversions, so he built Hershey Park, which opened on April 24, 1907. Amusement rides, a swimming pool, and a ballroom were added.
We had a good time going through "Hershey World" learning how milk chocolate is made.  The company uses 250,000 gallons of fresh milk each day to make their candy.  We watched a 3D movie and felt like kids in a candy store!  (Well, we WERE in a candy store.)


The next day was reserved for more serious activities - touring the battlefields in Gettysburg.  We learned a lot about this famous Civil War conflict.  We saw the battlefields that are being restored to the way they looked during the encounter between the Union and Confederate Troops.

We learned about skilled military leaders that fought with their troops in this famous 3 day battle of the Civil War that ended in a badly needed Union victory.

Interestingly, within this National Military Park there are 1,400 different monuments and markers and 400 cannons, many of them from the battle in 1863.  Many of these monuments are erected by the veterans of the Union regiments and depict some aspect of the battle.

The men from these regiments came from the same local and usually knew each other.  I was touched by the story about the monument below:  Most of the monuments depict aspects of battle, but the men in this regiment wanted to focus on happier times so they transported a rock from their local swimming hole to honor their regiment.

We were pretty awestruck by this Cylorama we saw in the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.

The painting is 42 feet high and 377 feet around.  It was painted by a French artist and his team in less than a year and weights an estimated 12.5 tons.  It was originally completed in 1883 and restored to be displayed in Gettysburg in 2008.

Again we were sobered as we walked in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  When the battle was finished and the armies left Gettysburg, over 51,000 soldiers were dead, wounded and missing.  Most of the dead lay in hastily dug and inadequate graves and some had not been buried at all.

Pennsylvania's governor made arrangements for a burial ground and within four months of the battle reinterment began on 17 acres that became Gettysburg National Cemetery. 

It was dedicated on November 19, 1863 and it was here that President Abraham Lincoln gave his now famous speech that gave meaning to the sacrifice of the dead and inspiration to the living.  His speech lasted two minutes. 

Contrary to popular belief, Lincoln did not write the speech on the back of an envelope during the trip to Gettysburg, but took great pains in its formulation.  He composed the first draft in Washington and revised it in Gettysburg.

We appreciated what we learned about this historic battle and were humbled to walk what is now know as "hallowed ground."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


A favorite children's book of mine is Fortunately by Remy Carlip.  The story begins this way:

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.
Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.
Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.
Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

That pattern could describe the beginning of our visit to New York City.  Here's how it went:

Fortunately we left Monday morning for our trip to New York City from Sharon, Vermont, allowing plenty of time to get there.  Unfortunately, we ran into lots of construction and traffic, at one point taking us 40 minutes to go 4 miles.


 Fortunately we finally made it across the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey, where we were staying.  Unfortunately we weren't real skilled at riding the subway, but eventually we figured it out.

Fortunately, we had tickets to a Yankee's game.  Unfortunately, because of the bad traffic, we didn't have time for dinner.  Fortunately, we got a hot dog at the ballgame.  It tasted good too.  (Notice the Yankee's  icon on the wrapper.) Unfortunately the prices were very high!  $5 for a bottle of water.

Fortunately we had good seats in the stadium and were excited for the game to begin.

Unfortunately it was raining and the game was delayed for two hours.

Fortunately, we saw a spectacular sunset and . . .

. . .some very good plays, like this amazing catch by Yankee player, Mark Teixeira.  Unfortunately, I was cheering for the other team, the Seattle Mariners.  Fortunately, we saw both teams make some amazing plays and loved being at the game.  Unfortunately, we had to leave after the 5th inning because the parking lot where we left our car was closing shortly after midnight.  We got back to our hotel about 1:30 AM and I didn't get to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  Fortunately, we had a great time anyway!  It's pretty special to be in the Yankee Stadium.

The next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent several hours there.  It is an incredible museum. 


Steven spent most of his time viewing the armor and the Egyptian displays.

I spent my time viewing the work of 1800 - 1900 European artists.


It was a busy day at the Metro, as you can see by the people outside the art museum.

After we finished at the Metro we grabbed a bite to eat and then went to a Broadway production.  We really enjoyed the singing and dancing and the energy of the performers.


I love crowds and really enjoyed walking through Times Square after the musical.  It was fun to see the Mormon ad on the billboard there. 


 And, of course it was fun to see all of the other lights too.


Our last morning in New York City was spent on Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  We were surprised to learn that about 1/3 of Americans today had ancestors that went through Ellis Island.  Some 12 million immigrants came through here.

Religious persecution, political strife, unemployment, family connections, the lure of adventure; these were the circumstances of the greatest migration in modern history, when shipload after shipload of people, mostly Europeans, came to the United States.  By the early 1900,s 5,000 people arrived at Ellis Island each day, with a record 11,747 on April 17, 1907.


After seeing Ellis Island we boarded the ferry and continued on to Liberty Island for a close up look of the Statue of Liberty.  We had seen the statue before from a ferry, but it was magnificent actually being on the island and seeing the statue up close.

This concluded our trip to New York City and then we were on to Gettysburg, VA, but fortunately, that is a story for another blog post!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Friday, Saturday and Sunday we spent in the heart of American History, Concord, Boston, and Lexington, MA.  What a great time we had!  First we stopped at Orchard House in Concord. 

This is a home that Louisa May Alcott lived in with her family when she wrote Little Women.  Louisa's books have been favorites of mine since I was a girl.  The home was built in the late 1600's.  The Alcotts moved in after doing repairs in the mid 1800's.  It is the original home and 85 % of the furnishing belonged to the Alcotts.  I especially enjoyed seeing the little desk in Louisa's room that her father built for her and the original sketches of her younger sister, May, right on the walls and trim in her bedroom.


Next we went to the site of the location of the "shot heard 'round the world", the North Bridge.  It is not the original bridge, but it was amazing to be at a location of such important US History.  We listened to a National Park volunteer explain the events that happened here, but in a nutshell, this is the location where the Revolutionary War officially began when American colonists fired on British troops for the first time.


Riding around Boston the next day on a hop on and off trolley was the way to see and learn about the history of this impressive city.  We stopped on the Boston Harbor for some delicious seafood.  Steven had a King fish Salad and I had clam chowder.  Yum, Yum!


Our next stop was Faneuil Hall, which has served as a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1742.  Inspirational speeches by Samuel Adams and other patriots were given at Faneuil Hall. These oratories became the footstool for America's desire to obtain independence from the British.  

The hall was impressive on the outside and beautiful on the inside.

It is interesting to note that we experienced the coldest our car thermometer has ever been coming on our mission, and now the hottest our car thermometer has even been going home from our mission.


It was very hot in Boston, but still, we walked about a mile of Boston's Freedom Trail; we started at Fanueil Hall . . .

 walked past Paul Revere's home . . .

and ended at the Old North Church.  This church was built in 1723 and is the oldest active church in the United States.

 On April 18, 1775, probably a little after 10 P.M., the 191 ft steeple of the Church served a military purpose.  Paul Revere told three Boston patriots to hang two lanterns in the steeple. The lanterns were displayed to send a warning to Charlestown patriots across the Charles River about the movements of the British Army. This lantern method was a fast way to inform the back-up riders in Charlestown about the movements of the British; these back-up riders planned to deliver the warning message to Lexington and Concord in case Revere and Dawes were arrested on the way.

The lanterns were hung for just under a minute to avoid catching the eyes of the British troops occupying Boston, but this was long enough for the message to be received in Charlestown. The militia waiting across the river had been told to look for the signal lanterns, and were prepared to act as soon as they saw them. 


Old Ironsides was our next stop.  Not only is the ship itself impressive, but so is her battle record.  USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel and was launched in 1797. 

The Constitution is most famous for her actions during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships. These battles earned her the nickname of "Old Ironsides" because cannon balls just bounced off of her sides like they were iron, even though they were really constructed of wood. 

Our last stop in Boston was the Public Gardens.  I love reading about Boston and especially this park in Robert McCloskey's Caldecott Medal winning picture book, Make Way for Ducklings
So it was a special treat to ride in the Swan Boats that were featured in this true story of a family of ducklings and to see these bronze statues honoring Robert McCloskey.


On Sunday we enjoyed going to church in Boston and then we drove to the Boston Temple.  There is such peace and serenity on the temple grounds.


We again learned more of the history of our country as we visited Lexington and the Lexington Battle Green, properly known as Lexington Common, which is the site of the Battle of Lexington.

In 1775 local Minutemen emerged from Buckman Tavern adjacent to the Lexington Common and formed two rows on the Lexington Common to oppose British forces. The Minutemen were seriously outnumbered and suffered the first casualties of the American Revolution when the British troops opened fire. The militiamen didn't return fire during this battle.

This flag flies at the battlefield to honor those who fought and died there.  It is one of a few that is allowed to fly day and night every day of the year.  It is replaced every year on Flag Day.  Below is Buckman Tavern where the colonists met before the battle and took the wounded after the battle.

So historically, this is the sequence of events. Lanterns were hung in the Old North Church as British troops began marching towards Concord to confiscate ammunition. Paul Revere and others ride through the night sounding the warning, "The British are coming!". British troops arrive early in the morning at Lexington and are met by the Minutemen. The British troops fired on the Minutemen killing some and wounding others. Colonists didn't fire back. British troops then moved on to Concord and a battle ensues on the North Bridge where Minutemen fired on British troops for the first time. As Minutemen arrive from the surrounding areas they soon out number the British troops and win the battle. The Revolutionary War begins.

Learning firsthand about American History at these sites has been an enriching experience for us both.