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Postcards: 1,000 years have yet to pass, so where’s that concrete house?

By Linda Emley

Concrete House-EDITEDI was reading The Richmond Missourian from Thursday March 11,1920 and found an ad about a new house that had been built in Richmond.
“A HOUSE OF A THOUSAND YEARS. Why not live in a concrete brick log or block house, and avoid having an executor collect your fire insurance. A person doesn’t necessarily have to be a deep thinker to join a submarine crew. In building a home,“frame” rhymes so nicely with “flame” that you had better substitute ‘Concrete.’
Since the increased cost of lumber, you can build with permanent material for less money. Don’t be the last to build; but build to last. We are stocking up on concrete products, such as blocks, logs, bricks, farm drain tile, fence posts and culverts. We have the quality and quantity. See us. THE RAY COUNTY CONCRETE MANUFACTURING CO. Frank Creason and W.A. Mullin, Phone 6 or 606, Richmond, Mo.”
After seeing this ad, I wanted to know more about the “concrete” house but I didn’t know where to start. The front page of this same newspaper gave a few more details. “Attracts Attention. The picture of the new concrete log house, recently completed by Mr. Frank Creason, has attracted much attention from people who pass The Missourian office every day, and quite a large number have called at the office to learn more about Mr. Creason’s house.
“Within the past week, several engineering experts with the cement corporations have visited Richmond to look at the house in Ralph addition.”
I’m still working on the rest of this story, so I will let everyone know the fate of the home that was called “A house of a Thousand Years” as soon as I find how long it really lasted.
I found some other news around Ray County in 1920 that was interesting. “May Put on Fight. At a meeting of the Griffith Post of the American Legion, held in the courthouse, Monday evening, it was decided to put on a public prize fight in Richmond sometime in the near future. The proceeds will be devoted to the aid of one of the Legion members, who is now an invalid.”
The American Legion was having a busy month because it had another project to work on. “The members of the Griffith Post of the American Legion are making plans to give the play ‘Johnny Get Your Gun,’ sometime within the next month. A meeting has been called for next Monday evening, in the courthouse, when the matter will be discussed.”
It was the middle of March, but the town of Lawson was getting ready for the hot days of summer. “Ice Plant for Lawson. Six Ton Manufacturing and Storage Plant Is Now in Process of Building. Work has been started on the new six ton ice and cold storage plant in Lawson. It is expected to have the new plant completed early this spring in time for the summer business. The erection of the plant is backed by a number of progressive Lawson citizens, and will be under the management of Clarence Vaughn and Hemp Stockard. The building is being put up by Contractor T.E. Sisk of Lawson.”
I find it very amusing that something as simple as ice was such a big deal in 1920. A major investment for these progressive men is a simple push of a button on our refrigerator today.
Another big change between 1920 and 2013 was found in the freight that was being shipped from Ray County. “Freight Shipments. 893 Carloads Sent Out from Richmond During Month of February. According to the report of Station Agent M.V. Geary of Richmond a total of 893 carloads of freight was shipped from the local Santa Fe station during the month of February. Of that amount, 860 car loads of coal, or 71,957,000 pounds, were shipped from local mines. The other car lots of commodities shipped out included two cars of baled hay, one each of wheat and shelled corn, twelve carloads of cattle, eight each of hogs and mules, and one car of household goods.”
I wasn’t surprised about the amount of coal shipped out, but I was surprised to see livestock and crops leaving the county in the dead of winter. I assume the household goods was someone moving away from Ray County because many people used trains to move their livestock and household belongings. Maybe the livestock, hay and grain were going with the family that was moving on.
Last weekend I went to the Farris Theatre to see the movie, “Lincoln.” As we were sitting there waiting for the movie to start, I put on my historical hat and started telling about how the Farris Theatre looked different when it was first built.
There is a picture of the stage taken in 1912 when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was at the Farris Theatre. Whenever I read old newspapers, I always look for ads about the Farris to see what shows were playing there. I didn’t find any in 1920, so I assume the Farris was not showing “picture shows” yet because movie Theatres were rare prior to 1920.
So now I have added the search for the first Farris Theatre movie to my list of things to do. I did find some Farris events in 1920. “Fashion Show Tonight. The show of Spring fashions by a number of the leading merchants in Richmond will be given at the Farris Theatre this evening.”
The clothing merchants weren’t the only ones that made use of the Farris Theatre. “Show How Tires Are Made. The Richmond Tire and Repair Company, on Main Street, has secured a 1,000-foot film, showing the process of manufacture of Greyhound Tubes and Tires. This educational film will be shown at the Farris Theatre within the next few weeks.”
Many years ago, Homer Douglas and I drove out to Cleora Dear’s house one Sunday afternoon to share stories about some family lines we all shared. One of the stories that I will never forget was about how some members of the Whitmer family were moved from a family burial plot to a Richmond cemetery. Homer told about this event in great detail but no one knew when it happened.
The Richmond Missourian had a front page article that finally filled in the blanks for me, 30 years after I first heard this story. “Moved Remains. The remains of four members of the Whitmer family who had been interred in the old Whitmer Cemetery on the home place south of Richmond were removed to the Whitmer lot in the city cemetery. Tuesday, by the Mansur Undertaking Company.” I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me this was like finding a needle in a haystack because it’s a story that would have been lost forever if it hadn’t been covered by The Richmond Missourian.
Jewell Mayes was the editor of the Missourian in 1920. He had a column called Brass Bullets where he listed little tidbits of information. This column had some pretty interesting items. I understood some of his words of wisdom and others were beyond my understanding. The following are some of Jewell’s “Brass Bullets”:
“Alfalfa is a dry year insurance … Maple-sugar is sunshine in the cake … It takes two sides to make a fight … The ability to listen well is of itself a gift. … Why not save the well over in the field? … Level headed and progressive spells the salt of the earth in citizenship … Did you know that half the counties in the state of Missouri grow more corn than is grown in half the states of the Union? … Even the back-platform farmers are getting converted to the alfalfa religion … The weed was the original undesirable citizen … The sugar maple is the best shade tree in the Corn Belt … Divide your hay field between Mr. Al and Miss Falfa, and you will have money and time to attend your State Fair and take a vacation.”
I remember walking through fields of alfalfa when I was growing up on the farm. I wondered why you don’t see it much any more, so I phoned a friend and he explained that alfalfa is hard to raise because it doesn’t regrow well in dry conditions. You will still find a few alfalfa fields around, but I think Jewell Mayes would be shocked if he took a Sunday drive around Ray County today. Actually he might marvel at the some of the things he would see in our modern world. And now for my favorite “Brass Bullet” from 1920: “A wire fence seems to be an awful poor shelter for cattle in a snow storm.” I liked this one because of the recent snow storms we’ve had in Ray County.
The news editors of yesterday published many stories that wouldn’t be acceptable today, but that is one of the reasons that I love reading the old newspapers. It’s that personal touch that makes you feel like you just visited Richmond as it really was on the 11th day of March in 1920.

Know anything else about the “1,000-Year Cement House” or another historical curiosity Linda might be interested in hearing? You can write her at rayc...@aol.com.

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