By Linda Emley
A few weeks ago I was driving north out of Hardin on the “Ozark Shortline,” which is also Highway A. I was heading to Stet on a mission to get some trophies from the Stet High School for the Ray County Museum.
It had been a few years since I last visited Stet, but I kept driving north and wondered if I had missed the road I needed to take east. I pulled over and got my Garmin out of the glove box and typed in Stet. I have to laugh at how stupid this sounds because I live less than 20 miles from Stet and I could not remember what road I needed to take.
In the good-old days before high tech came along, I loved to take off on Sunday afternoons and drive around the country roads of Ray County. If I got lost, I would just keep driving until I found a road I knew. This was in the days before cell phones so I always felt like I was on an adventure because no one knew where I was headed.
I love “road trips,” even if I don’t cross any county lines because there are 569.47 square miles of land to cover in Ray County. We all need to get out more and visit the different communities of our “Free State of Ray”.
Once I got to Stet, I had a great time at the high school and meeting all the people that were working at the school. I spent most of the morning there and filled my car full of wonderful items to take back to the museum.
On my trip back to Richmond, I had to make a stop at the Stet Penniston Cemetery that I passed on Highway K. I love to look around old cemeteries and later found out this cemetery is also known as the Bethany Brethren Cemetery.
After my visit to Stet, I realized how much I don’t know about this part of my neighborhood, so I started my search for all things Stet. I found the following, “Stet, Missouri is an unincorporated community on the Ray/Carroll County line. It is located about 14 miles northwest of Carrollton at the intersection of Missouri Route K and JJ.”
So now we know that Stet is like Lawson and sits on the county line, but at opposite sides of Ray County. We also know that Stet is not incorporated, so it will never go through what Rayville just experienced.
I got out my 1877 Ray County Atlas and Stet could not be found. I looked in the 1881 Ray County History book and once again, Stet was not listed. I did find two pages about Stet in the 1973 Ray County History Book.
After reading these pages, I had more questions than answers. I did find that the meaning for Stet is “let it stand”. It was named by Ed Mansur, who was a local storekeeper. Now I need to find Ed’s story.
I did find that some of the families in the area have been on the same farms for generations and part of present day Stet is located on land that Laken and Henrietta Dorsey homesteaded in 1874.
I continued my search for Stet at the “Stet Penniston Cemetery” and found some interesting people from the past.
For instance, there’s George W. Clemens, who was born June 9, 1845 and died on Apr. 14, 1940 at the age of 94. According to the 1881 Ray County History Book, “George W. Clemens was born in Rockingham county, Virginia, in the year 1845. He is the son of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Clemens. His father was born in Pennsylvania, and his mother in Kentucky. They are both yet living, in the state of Illinois.
“At the age of nine years, our subject left Virginia with his parents, going to Madison county, Illinois, where he remained until 1864, and then removed to Putnam county, Illinois. He began farming on his own account in 1865, and continued it in Illinois, until the year 1870, when he removed to Ray county, Missouri, and located upon the farm where he now resides (sect 13, township 53, range 26)
“This farm comprises 434 acres of rich land, improved with a comfortable residence and good barn, and abundantly watered with good springs and wells, besides running streams. The farm is enclosed by hedge fences chiefly.
“Mr. Clemens is largely engaged in raising live stock, and has his farm principally in pasture for that purpose. He intends in the future to make a specialty of raising fine-bred sheep. Mr. Clemens was married on the 8th day of February, 1865, to Miss Elizabeth Larcher, a native of Ohio. They are the parents of six children: Joseph, Mary Elizabeth (dead), Emma Jane, John, Wesley, Jeremiah and Matthias.
“Mrs. Clemens’ father, Mr. Matthias Larcher, is a native of Germany. He came to this country at an early day. He and her mother, Elizabeth, are now living in the state of Indiana, both at the advanced age of about 71 years. Both Mr. and Mrs. Clemens are consistent and leading members of the German Baptist Church.”
After an afternoon of researching, I realized that the only way I am going to get to know Stet is go to Stet and hear the stories first hand from the people who live there.
If you’d like to get to know Stet, a good way to start would be to attend the Stet Volunteer Fireman’s Annual Ice Cream Social on Saturday, July 21. It is from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Stet Fire Barn at the junction of K and JJ in downtown Stet.
For a free-will donation, you can enjoy real homemade ice cream and get to see first hand what makes Stet so special.
Have a Stet story for Linda? You can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org