National monument celebrates the life of George Washington Carver

Thursday, February 23, 2012 | 6:28 p.m. CST; updated 7:29 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 23, 2012

COLUMBIA — The statue sits along a nature trail that meanders through woodland and prairie landscape at the George Washington Carver National Monument two miles west of Diamond in southwest Missouri.

"The Boy Carver Statue" by Robert Amendola features a a young Carver holding a plant in his hand.

"The story was, after his chores, he would go out into the woods to his 'secret garden,'" Curtis Gregory, park ranger at the monument, said. According to the National Park Service website, Carver was renowned for his interest in plants, earning him the nickname the "Plant Doctor."

The national monument takes up the 240 acres of the original Carter Farm, where Carver was born and his mother worked as a slave. Carver lived on the property until he was about 12 when he left in pursuit of education, Gregory said.

An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 visitors stop by the park each year.

"When most people think of George Washington Carver, they think of the South," Gregory said. Many people driving by the park stop to visit because they are surprised a monument to Carver is located in Missouri, he said.

To contribute to Carver's history, the park includes a house built in 1881 by Moses Carter, a slave owner who owned Carver's parents, as well as a cemetery where the Carter family is buried. The park also includes a 3/4 mile wheelchair accessible nature trail.

The park provides a variety of activities for children, often hosting school groups in the spring. Students explore soil conservation and peanut experiments in a classroom modeled after one of Carver's labs and attend class in a 1870s schoolhouse, where they learn about the struggle for an education in a segregated America. 

The park, open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., also offers guided tours, a daily film and visiting exhibits.

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