By Linda Emley
(Editor’s note: This column ran previously but is being published again to draw attention to the author’s postcard exhibit this weekend in the Friends Gallery in the Farris Arts District. Linda Emley will be at the Gallery this Saturday during Outlaw Days to discuss her collection.)
This postcard was mailed from Richmond on Oct. 10, 1911 to Mrs. John Hammond, Elk Hart, Ind., RFD # 5. It reads: “Arrived OK and having a fine visit. Melissa”
On the front it says, “W. Main St., Richmond, Mo. 21”. It was # 21 in a set of 24 postcards. I only have 8 cards from this group, so my quest for Richmond postcards continues.
Our world has changed a lot since this postcard was mailed 101 years ago. In 1911, Proctor and Gamble gave us Crisco shortening, Hiram Bingham discovered the Inca city of Machu Picchu, construction started at Fenway Park and the first Indianapolis 500 was held. None of us remember life before Crisco, Machu Picchu, Fenway Park or the Indianapolis 500.
If you drive down West Main Street today, you’ll see a friendly game of basketball being played in the Richmond First Baptist Church parking lot. I bet none of them know all the things that have taken place at this location in the last 136 years.
Capt. James Love Farris, who served with Sterling Price and fought at the Battle of Lexington during the Civil War, built his house around 1875. He was an attorney, a member of the constitution convention of Missouri in 1875, on the board of The Richmond College and served as a Missouri legislator. Capt. Farris was a member of the Richmond bar with David Whitmer, George Dunn, Capt. Garner and John Shotwell, all of which have Richmond streets named after them.
Capt. Farris had two sons who grew up here, Donald and James Jr. The third floor was a grand ballroom and there were many wonderful parties held there. One of my favorite stories of Ray County history took place around the Farris dinner table.
I found this in The Richmond Missourian of Aug. 2, 1936 (Ray Country Chapters, by Jewell Mayes): “Cole Younger Told His Secrets Here in Richmond. Related at Dinner given by James L. Farris, Jr., Jewell Mayes Being the Only Survivor of That Now Mystical Group – A Funeral a Generation Too Late.
“The ‘dinner in Richmond’ was a 6 o’clock dining at the home of the late Honorable James L. Farris, with Cole Younger as the special guest of the occasion. At the hour of writing this sketch, we were not quite sure of the year, but it was more than 25 years ago, in the autumn that Cole Younger traveled with a carnival that visited Richmond, comparatively soon after the Youngers were paroled from the Minnesota Penitentiary at Stillwater. The guests were all ex-Confederates, except host Farris and the writer of these lines.
“The dining finished, the roundtable ran long into the night, Cole Younger doing all the talking, except as Richmondites asked him questions, every question being frankly answered, seemingly without reservation. Once, during the evening, Younger stopped suddenly, looking keenly from face to face, with a strange look upon his face. Following a long pause, during which the room was as still as death, he slowly said: “Gentlemen, it staggers me, when I realize that ever so many things I have told you tonight have never before passed my lips. Without asking a pledge of my friends, I shall depend upon each of you to carry to your graves anything that might further darken the good name of the family of my dear father and mother, who had fondly counted upon me becoming a Methodist minister.”
“Then, Younger fell to telling of the plan decided upon by the James and Younger boys to surrender to Judge King at Richmond, desiring to be tried before King in this home county of ours.
“It was during the week that Cole Younger spent here in Richmond that he took the show band and Elder James Dunn to the Old City Cemetery for a religious service at the grave of Capt. Bill Anderson, whose dust lies in the ancient graveyard on North Thornton Street, a generation too late. We may recreate this true story at some length some day. A few things may be told, later, about the Cole Younger dinner conference, but many incidents must remain unrepeated until that full group may meet together Over Yonder!”
Capt. Farris’s family lived in this house until it was sold in 1939 to Dr. Harry Griffith, who remolded it and opened the Richmond Hospital. His wife, Virginia, was the hospital’s operating nurse.
Many local doctors used the Richmond Hospital. Dr. Goldberg from Polo used the hospital for his tonsillectomies, Dr. Tom Cook and Dr. Elmer Gay delivered some babies here, Dr. Reed from Hardin was the anesthesiologist and sometimes Dr. Wallace Green preformed surgeries here. There were four or five nurses on staff that helped with the 24/7 care needed by the patients. Some of the nurses lived at the hospital.
The hospital still had the charm of a grand home thanks to the seven fireplaces and fine woodwork. The main floor was the reception room, the X-ray room, some office space and the Griffiths’ apartment. The second floor was the nursery, the obstetrics room, a private room, some hospital rooms and the surgery room. The third floor was used for private living quarters. The basement housed the kitchen, the laundry room, a recreation room with a fireplace and a private room for the nursing staff.
When Dr. Griffith needed a lab tech in 1941, he went to the Research Hospital School and hired a young lady from St Joseph named Carol Abercrombie. She came to work at the hospital and shared a room with a nurse in the basement. Miss Carol’s job in Richmond was cut short because the hospital closed in 1942, when Dr. Griffith went to serve in WW II. After the hospital was closed, the building was leased. When the war was over, the Griffiths sold the building and moved to the Ozarks.
In 1954, this house became the educational building for The First Baptist Church of Richmond. When the church built a new educational building in 1964, it was no longer used.
I am sure some of you are wondering what happened to Miss Carol Abercrombie, Richmond‘s first lab tech. She was injured in a wreck and went back to St. Joseph to recover with her family, but her days in Richmond were not over. While she was in Richmond, she become acquainted with the great-grandson of Capt. Farris. In 1942, she married James Russell Farris and officially became a “Richmondite”.
They left Richmond for a short time during the war, but returned when the war was over. Jim was an aviator and Carol worked at a hospital while they were stationed in Washington state.
Years later, Carol still lives in the same house she shared with her husband. She’s 92 years young and can run rings around most of us. Carol volunteers at the Ray County Hospital gift shop every week, so in her own special way, she’s still taking care of the sick folks of Ray County.
You can write Linda at rayc...@aol.com.