Looking out nostalgically at the Missouri River and its bluffs, he feels a sense of ambiguity - appreciation for the beauty God has created on this Earth and sadness at what man has done to mess it up.
Crosby, a mountain man in every aspect of his life - from his attire to his lifestyle - has had a lifelong love affair with nature. Now, 68, and semi-retired, he takes delight in watching the hundreds of beautiful birds nesting in his trees or soaring overhead, seeing red fox and deer run through his property or an occasional mink run lickety-split across the top of his "snake rail" fence.
Life continues to be busy for Crosby. On a typical day this early riser has breakfast, then composes his "To Do" list. This might include such items as:
* Greet guests (such as the group of 40 Osage Indians who visited the first weekend in April)
* Mow grass
* Weed perennial herb gardens
* Meet with antique dealers
* Do general maintenance - gutters, etc., around the house.
He chooses the most pressing items and begins his day.
In the evening Crosby has a big dinner before relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book. He sits in one of the Kunze rockers in his living room, classical music playing in the background, feeling satisfied with his chosen lifestyle.
"I've lived here since 1971," said Crosby. "I saved almost everything on the property from the bulldozers. I feel really good about that."
Crosby lives on property that he calls Fort Charrette. It encompasses 400 feet of bluffs on the south side of the Missouri River.
"I walked every inch of the north and south bluffs from St. Charles to Hermann before I found this ground," he said.
Everything from the gardens to the split rail fences to the outbuildings is authentic - from the late 1790s to the 1820s. And everything on the property has been marked, measured and photographed.
The home was built by James Greene in 1798, the date having been documented in a letter he wrote to his father in North Carolina just after its completion. It was located in St. Charles County overlooking the Missouri Bottoms and was brought to Crosby's attention in 1970 by St. Charles historian Edna Olson. Crosby immediately recognized it as an 18th century home that was almost entirely original.
"I've never before seen a building this age that had been continuously lived in for 170 years," he said. "Everything was original, including forged doorlocks, window glass and oak floors."
Crosby took many photographs, marked every piece in the house and made many drawings before moving the log house in pieces on a flat-bed truck and reconstructing it on his property. The reconstruction took two years.
"I even analyzed the paint and hand-mixed it to match the original paint," Crosby said.
He also marked, coded and photographed every piece of stone. He and a stone mason spent 26 days reconstructing the fireplaces and chimney in the living room.
"This is a full two-story log house with a basement," said Crosby, who explained that he had the original basement rebuilt.
Basically, he explained, it's a Swedish, horizontal log construction with Anglo exterior chimney and French two-story gallery porches.
"It's unique in the area west of the Mississippi," Crosby said. "One really interesting feature is that the chair rail, three feet off the floor, was created to protect the furniture from the logs. Typically chair rails were created to protect the plaster from the furniture.
"Someday architects will study this house and be in awe of it," he added.
In addition to the home, Crosby recreated a Missouri River Indian trading village, which includes two other log homes and La Charrette (the little cart) Fur Trading Post and museum, originally operated by French Canadian Joseph Chadron.
All the buildings are filled with authentic Missouri antiques, circa 1800. Some of the items in the trading post were discovered by Crosby during archaeological digs in Missouri.
He is currently building two red cedar log block houses, similar to those that were originally used as forts. The basements are poured and, when completed, they will be used for guests.
Crosby's Early Traditions
Crosby and his brother Paterson grew up in Kirkwood. Their father, Lyle, worked for Southwestern Bell for 41 years and their mother, Sally, was a concert pianist and artist. On their annual three-week summer vacations the family traveled through the United States, Canada and Mexico, visiting national parks and learning experientially about our country's history.
"We always camped and ate our meals outdoors," he said. As they traveled (and in all their family activities) Crosby's parents impressed on the boys the importance of living the Golden Rule, honoring the Earth and its inhabitants.
"I saw how that worked in their lives," he said. "My parents were married for 62 years and I never once heard them argue."
Part of Crosby's goal when he restored the log house was to create a retirement home for his dearly loved parents. They lived with him at Fort Charrette from 1973 until 1993, the year they both died.
Education and Beyond
After graduating from Kirkwood High School, Crosby went on to do undergraduate and graduate studies at University of Kansas, United States Naval Academy, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree. Most of his studies were in engineering, archaeology, political science and architectural history.
In 1964, after spending several years in Europe and California, studying history and doing archaeological research, he drove the Sante Fe Trail east in his little Volkswagen "bug." When he arrived back in Missouri, he reminded himself that this was where his roots were and decided to give himself a very short time to decide if he'd stay . . . or move on.
"I woke up the second morning and saw the sun rise at Fort Osage," he said. "I've been here ever since."
In 1967 Crosby became chief of Missouri State Historic and Archaeological Sites. He directed Missouri's National Register of Historic Sites Survey and Documentation Program.
He is currently president of the Fort Charrette Historical Nonprofit Association and owns and directs Wheelock and Company, an architectural consulting and historical restoration contracting firm. He has restored and reconstructed 120 buildings.
In addition, he continues to lecture and display his period wares at historical events, schools and national rendezvous. His focus is on 17th and 18th century North American, French, Spanish, British and American exploration and fur trade in the region just west of the Mississippi River, which he calls Trans-Mississippi.
Crosby is currently writing historical information on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, accounts of wilderness history from 1519 to 1812 and a closeup view of the French voyageurs. "These will be published as an anthology by the University of Nebraska Press," Crosby said.
Lewis and Clark
If Crosby could have lived at any time in our nation's history it would have been prior to 1803 and the Louisiana Purchase. He'd have been living right about where he's living now.
At that time thousands of French people, primarily from Canada, were living harmoniously with Native Americans.
"They treated the Native Americans properly, the wilderness was magnificent and buffalo and elk roamed freely on the land," said Crosby.
"The Native Americans were very spiritual," he continued, nostalgia and pride welling up in his voice. "Oh sure, they had their problems but they respected the land and the animals living on it. They didn't slaughter the buffalo and leave their carcasses to rot."
It would come as no surprise, therefore, that for the Lewis & Clark commemoration Crosby decided to assume the role of Frenchman François LaBiche, an interpreter and voyageur (waterman) for the Corps of Discovery.
LaBiche was married to an Osage Indian woman named Belle Oiseau (Beautiful Bird).
"In addition to French and English, LaBiche spoke three Indian languages," Crosby said, and his translation skills were crucial to the success of the expedition.
When the expedition came in contact with the Shoshone Indians at the Great Divide, LaBiche translated from English into French for Augustin Charbonneau, who then translated it into Hidatsa for Sacagawea, who finally translated it into Shoshone.
As a waterman LaBiche was also skilled in the use of pirogues (log canoes), keelboats and mackinaws, the latter two carrying gear and provisions. He was also a skilled hunter.
LaBiche's attire included a knitted wool cap called a "tuque," which was warm in winter and cool, when dipped in water, in summer. He wore a calico printed neckerchief and a chemise (shirt) of hemp, linen, or silk, which was plain or striped in red, white or blue. It was loose-fitting with a neck slit, yoked shoulders and gusseted underarms. His chemise was worn over deer skin pants with a sash around the middle.
He carried a "possibilities" bag for items men would now typically put into pockets. These were usually made of leather and incorporated Indian beadwork.
In 1806, after the expedition ended, LaBiche was put in charge of transporting the rest of the scientific evidence to Washington, D.C.
Mission in Progress
Crosby has a mission - to teach young people about Trans-Mississippi history with moral, ethical and value lessons woven in. "I believe a study of history is worthless if it doesn't include human successes and failures related to it."
Crosby believes much of what happened in our country's history was based on typical conquering and civilizing practices. He experiences mournfulness at the "white man's" treatment of Native Americans.
Regardless of race or creed, we're all related, all one, according to Crosby. "When we think in these terms we treat people differently," he said.
"I take students to the fort, tell them about things that happened during that time period and then talk about drugs, alcohol and other issues affecting young people today. They have challenges that didn't affect me in the '40s and '50s."
"It's very rewarding to teach young people," Crosby continued. "I know that what I'm doing is just a drop in the bucket but if I can encourage them to notice daffodils, to listen to good music and develop greater self-esteem I will feel like I've made a difference."