Old newspapers open windows to past that otherwise would be closed

By Linda Emley

The year was 1917 and our country was at war. This was the year that Sheriff Higdon and James Russell were each looking for a wife, and the same year the Smith sisters from Lawson were driving around in their new car. So what else was happening in our little part of the world?
The following stories were taken from one edition of the Richmond Missourian in July 1917. It wasn’t a slow news day in Richmond.
“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, a Paramount picture, was playing at the Farris Theater. It was the tale of a bootlegger’s daughter who fell in love with a revenue officer sent to shut down the illegal moonshiners in the mountains of Virginia. The house was packed and everyone was kept on the edge of their seats waiting to see if June would be forced to choose between her family or the stranger she had fallen for. The newspaper didn’t tell how it turned out because you had to go see the show if you wanted to know.
The ladies of the DAR Allen-Morton-Watkins Chapter were holding an ice cream social and musical at the home of Mrs. Charles Chenault on East Main Street. It started at 8 p.m., and proceeds from the 20-cent admission fee was being donated to the boys of Company G fighting in Europe.
Senator John Morton traded six houses and two lots to Perry Wilson for his farm of 80 acres a few miles southeast of Hardin. There were lots of real estate transactions listed in the paper. One name that came up several times was Yates Cole. He was buying and selling property all over town. There was another sale that had Yates’s name on it.” For Sale – Indian Motorcycle, good as new – for sale or trade. Yates Cole, phone 608.” I would love to know what happened to his motorcycle because it would be worth a small fortune today.
The Lexington Ferry was still being used to cross the Missouri River. The ad read, “THE LEXINGTON FERRY, Starting with August 1st, will through the months of August and September Run from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Leaves Lexington at 7 a.m.” So now we know that the ferry operator lived on the Lexington side or at least he slept there.
The ladies of Ray County were being offered new options for their daily cooking. “Do Your Cooking and Baking by Electricity. Others Are, Why Not You? Call or See Our Electric Ranges – Missouri Gas and Electric Service Co.”
The following story was my favorite. “The town clock in the courthouse is running at this writing, but none who have watched it’s uncertain movements for a year or two will swear that it will be moving along downstream of time when the Missourian is printed. It has been acting like it is a member of the ‘I Won’t Work’ club, and the hands have been pointing to different hours whenever that inanimate thing seemed to so will.”
It’s fun to think back to the days when all life in Richmond revolved around the courthouse. I remember walking down the sidewalk on Main Street and looking up at the courthouse clock to see what time it was.
There was a whole section devoted to the war. It was good to see that the war raging overseas was not forgotten. “The man who says, ‘We should have waited ‘til Germany got here’ is a real friend of Kaiser Bill – he is no friend of the Flag That Never Knew Defeat! “
The Richmond Missourian made sure the local girls knew their war time duty. “A girl can look sweeter at a soldier than any other sort of chap – yes, she can, and she does, too, bless her heart.”
Several of the war comments had religious overtones. One of which was, “This world war will doubtless close with Jerusalem and the Holy Tomb in Christian hands, and mark the step toward bridging the chasm between the Jews and the Protestants.”
Life was going on but everyone looked forward to the day the war would be over. “Company G are the flowers of our country, a gallant and handsome array of men. Here’s betting a barrel of dollar bills to a last year’s bird’s nest that in our local company (on their return from abroad) will be found the leaders of politics and business in this town and county for years to come. Following the era of the war’s end will be seen the happy day of the soldier-citizen who served his country in the trenches!”
Many of them came home and became the leaders of our county. After the war, some of their fallen friends came back to be buried on home soil. Every time one came home, the men who served beside them put on their uniforms and gave them a proper military burial. This last act of kindness shows they were joined together forever because they served side by side protecting future generations of Americans.
The next edition gave an account of the party at the Chenault house that raised $30 for Company G. “Electric lights through the lawn and the decorations of which ‘Missouri peaches’ were the most attractive, constituted a beautiful picture, but even that bouquet of loveliness was enhanced wonderfully by the presence of ‘Old Glory’ which floated from the front porch and trees.”
This is one of those moments where I wish I could go back in time and enjoy a few hours as they shared a summer night so long ago.

Have a historical story you’d like to see Linda research? You can contact her with suggestions at or see her during business hours, Wednesday through Saturday, at Ray County Museum.

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