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By Linda Emley
In case you haven’t heard, I have one of the best jobs in Ray County. I’ll never be rich, but that’s OK because my job is to share history with anyone that wants to know “who, what, where, how and why?”
Oh, did I forget to mention who did what to whom?
I think the United States Navy was talking about me when it said, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure,” because every day at the Ray County Museum is different than the day before.
We never know who is going to walk thorough our front door and what they’ll be looking for. Sometimes they are looking for an escape from our modern world and sometimes they want to use our genealogical library and learn more about their ancestors.
Today I was reading the Richmond Conservator from 1891 as I was searching for an obituary for Dr. Cravens, who died on Nov. 23, 1891. I didn’t find his obituary, but I did find some really interesting stories that helped me understand what life was like in 1891.
Join me now as me travel back to the days of President Benjamin Harrison and an American flag with only 44 stars. Carnegie Hall had just opened in New York City and the Wrigley company was forming in Chicago.
On Nov. 19, the Conservator reported, “The boys who took the dog collar and chain off of the dog belonging to Jas. E. Ball last week,had better return the same and avoid a criminal prosecution.”
Boys will always be boys, but it’s never a good idea to mess with man’s best friend. When I saw this, I thought Mr. James Ball should consider himself lucky that his dog didn’t run off after the boys took the dog collar and chain. Were the boys just being silly or did they have a purpose for that collar and chain?
The same front page had a story that we will never see in our modern-day newspaper. “A Knightly Visit. Lexington Pythians Surprised Thier Richmond Brethren. Last Friday evening just after Turner Lodge No. 177 Knights of Pythias had opened for business the members were somewhat surprised to hear a band come marching down the street and take up a position at the foot of the stairway leading to their castle hall. A committee on investigation was at once appointed, which soon returned and reported that the band was in the employ of Lexington Lodge No. 157 and had accompanied about 20 of the members of that lodge over on a fraternal visit. The band and visiting Knights were escorted into the hall where they were given a knightly welcome.
“After transacting the routine business of the evening and elevating three Esquires to the rank of Knight, the lodge closed and the visitors were escorted to the Taylor-Ewing Restaurant, where the visitors, the band and the members of the Turner lodge were treated to an elegant oyster supper. It was a jolly and happy crowd, and the first faint streaks of dawn were appearing in the east before all had reached home. It was only a part of the famous Star band that accompanied the Knights on their trip. The Lexington visitors were well pleased and returned home with a better and higher opinion of Richmond than they had before.”
I loved this story because I have always been fascinated by the “boys’ club” of our past. Who would ever dreamed that Knights once walked to streets of Richmond? I can just see the guys marching down the street to the restaurant and ordering oysters.
I love oysters and I know it’s rare to find fresh oysters around here, so I wonder how they arrived in Richmond in 1891. I assume they came up the river on a boat, but I have been taught to never assume anything.
The Lexington boys didn’t have a bridge to cross the Missouri River, so they used the ferry to cross back to Lexington. And then we came to the question about the wives of the Knights. When the Richmond lodge members left their homes on Friday night, they didn’t know that their brothers from Lexington were coming to visit. While the guys were eating oysters, were their wives waiting up for their men to return?
They didn’t have phones where they could call home and I doubt they took the time to go home and tell them they were going to be staying out all night with the guys. We are lucky we live in a modern world where everyone is just a phone call away.
Another thing I loved about this story was the phrase “a committee on investigation was at once appointed.” Did they really appoint a committee or did someone just say, “Hey Joe, go see what all that racket is about.”
And finally, I want to know how the editor of the Richmond Conservator knew that “the Lexington visitors were well pleased and returned home with a better and higher opinion of Richmond that they had before.” They didn’t phone them and ask for comments, but maybe one of the editors was at the oyster party and asked for comments before they left.
Another group was in the news on Dec. 17. “The Masonic fraternity has leased the hall over the Jackson furniture store on the north side of the square and will move its paraphernalia and furniture as soon as necessary repairs can be made.” I enjoy finding little tidbits of history like this in the old newspapers.
Now we need to add a little romance to this story. “Married. At the residence of Lewis Mason, in this city on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1891, Mr. Thomas A. Underwood and Miss Elizabeth Mason. William Baber, Esq., officiating. The groom is 63 years and the bride is 62 years old. This union proves two things: First, that the fires of love burn in the hearts of the old as well as the young, and second, that the goose bone and the corn husk are not the only signs that we are to have an unusually cold winter.” I will save the rest of their story for another day.
I have been trying to collect info on Ray County Fairs of the past for a future story so I was happy to find a small piece to this puzzle.
“Important Notice. Notice is hereby given that the stock holders of the Richmond Fair Association will meet at the courthouse in the city of Richmond on Saturday evening Dec. 5, 1891 at 7 o’clock. A full turnout is earnestly desired as business that is important to each stockholder will be transacted.”
A few weeks later, I found an update. “The required 75 shares of stock having been taken we may say it is almost an assured fact that Richmond will have a fair next fall. Each share will represent $200 in the building and loan association, series C. This will give the association a working capital of $15,000, less the bonus required to be paid in securing the loan from the building and loan association, which will be used in purchasing a suitable piece of ground and making the necessary imporvment.”
This story hits close to home as I sit on the hill and watch the Ray County Fair Board prepare the fairgrounds for the Mud Run it is hosting this weekend. It starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the fairgrounds behind the musuem. Please come join in the fun as Richmond makes more history.
And finally a story that helps explain why we have a county museum. “An Old Fife … S.D. Tarwater, who paid our office a visit today showed us an old fife, which was owned by his wife’s father, the late Hugh Stall and played by him in the war of 1812. It is a curiosity and some of the World’s Fair people who are collecting together the curious things, should secure this to place among their collections.”
I want to know what happened to this fife. Did the Tarwater family keep it or did they sell it to someone for the World’s Fair? Was it labeled so the world will always know that it was used by Hugh Stall? It’s things like this that remind me why I love working at the Ray County Museum.
(Note: The Flood of 1993 book signing party has been postponed until June because the books have not been shipped by the publsihers yet. Please forgive this change.)
Have a story or comment for Linda? You can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.