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Newspapers of days past, even the ads, are a window into our community’s soul

By Linda Emley

The year was 1917 and a new machine was changing the way Ray County farmers took care of business.
This was in The Richmond Missourian May 17, 1917. “Tractor Demonstration. We will give a demonstration of AVERY TRACTORS on Saturday, May 19 at 2:30 p.m., at the south end of Shaw Street, Richmond, Mo. This demonstration will be in charge of factory representatives who will give an exhibition of plowing and disking and will be pleased to answer all questions and give any information desired. This will give all the interested farmers in this neighborhood an opportunity to witness the wonderful work of these new machines. It will be worth your time. Don’t miss it. Remember the date and place. DAVIS BROTHERS & CHILD.”’
Tractors weren’t the only new machines around town because Mansur Funeral Home had a new hearse. “Mansur’s Motor Hearse. About the newest thing in town is the handsome, new motor hearse of undertaker A.W. Mansur, which he drove over from Kansas City yesterday afternoon. It is the only one in all this section and is a two-tone battleship gray. It was purchased from the Rock Falls Mfg. Co. of Sterling, Ill. It is between 80 and 90 horsepower. No extra charge will be made in the burial expenses, because this hearse is the handsomest in the country.”
When looking at old newspapers, I always have to stop and read the ads. You can always find some pretty funny things. “Miss Presley’s class in writing will open at Central School building, Saturday morning at 9:30, and continue 17 days 9:30 a.m. And 7:30 p.m. Come no matter how you write now, she’ll give you a beautiful hand.”
Central School was on the south side of College Hill, which is where Richmond’s city hall is now I thought this ad was talking about writing stories, but it sounds like they were teaching you how to use cursive.
I loved the following article that was someone’s observation on how bankers think: “Milk on Their Shoes. There are so many good men around Richmond and in Ray County who have milk on their shoes at least twice a day that we quote a few lines about the Wisconsin bankers. When a farmer applies for a loan in that state, the banker looks carefully at his shoes and if they are milk stained the request is granted, proving that the banker thinks well of the dairy business, and his judgment is seldom wrong.”
In 1917, our courthouse was standing on the square but one very important thing was missing, our Doniphan statue. It was still on the drawing board. “Alexander Doniphan Statue. Messrs. Wm. M. Milligan and Louis T. Child, accompanied by Jewell Mayes, came in from Chicago Saturday morning. On Thursday and Friday, they inspected and accepted the clay model of the General Alexander W. Doniphan monument which will be erected here next October by the state.”
As a little country girl, I always enjoyed finding a box turtle. I learned at an early age the difference between a box turtle and a snapping turtle. I guess county kids were the same in 1917 because a little Ray County boy enjoyed turtles, too. “Found after 22 Years. In 1895, or 22 years ago, Col. John H. Shirkey put his initials on the back of a dry land tortoise and sent in on its way rejoicing. A few days ago, he met Mr. Tortoise in the same 40-acre field and there he again saw the ‘J.H.’ that he had put there 22 years ago. He says that his boys have frequently put their initials on some other tortoises and it has been noticed that they never leave that particular field, evidently remembering that ‘rolling stones gather no moss.’”
The year 1917 was the 50th anniversary of Richmond’s only bank robbery and there was a story about it in the Richmond Missourian on May 24.  “THAT BANK ROBBERY. Fifty Years Ago Yesterday Since Eleven Bad Men Rode into Richmond. The half century ended yesterday since eleven men astride prancing Kentucky horses and heavily armed rode into Richmond and to the Banking House of J.S. Hughes & Company from East Main Street.
“They proceeded to that financial institution and while the robbery was being perpetrated others stood guard. One was near the bank on the finest horse in the bunch, and when Mayor John Shaw showed up he was shot and instantly killed by the man on the horse, who was as cold-blooded as the wildest savage that ever existed.
“His next shot instantly killed Jailer Griffin and his third sent Frank Griffin, his son, into eternity. In the mean time, Uncle Billy Ringo was standing just outside the door of a drug store then located where the C.C. Powell store now is. The demon who had slain the three mentioned yelled at Uncle Billy to get back in the house, but he didn’t do it, and a bullet from the pistol of the same man whistled by his head and smashed to smithereens a hinge on the store door. ‘He didn’t have to invite me the second time to go in.’ said Uncle Billy to the writer this morning.
“Some time afterward, Jim Devers, the man who had displayed such marksmanship, was brought back from Kentucky by John Francis, then sheriff of Ray County, and Murray McDonald and hanged, alongside Andrew McGuire, in a ravine east of town within the city limits, a mob having taken charge of Devers and McGuire on arrival.”
This story had a few more details than I’ve seen before, but another was missing: “James Gang” wasn’t mentioned.
I found something from 1917 that proves “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Richmond Missourian, May 10, 1917: “Moving Pictures In Richmond Are Fine. Manager F.G. Weary is certainly pleasing the general public with the attractions that he brings from cities in the way of theatrical troupes, vaudeville stars, etc. The pictures every night are the best shown in all of Northwest Missouri, while the music, with Miss Benora Maddux presiding at the piano, is beautiful. It seems that she is such a thorough musician that she can shut both eyes and play the most difficult piece after looking at it a moment or two.”
The Farris doesn’t have a nightly movie and we have Miss Benora, but we still have “moving pictures” and on Feb. 10, the Farris will once again be filled with music.Watch for details about “Potpouri”, a benefit for the Farris that will feature an all- star cast of local talent. I hope to see you there.

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