Our state’s history found a new home. Saturday, there was ribbon cutting for a new building for our State Historical Society. MU president Mon Choi said we’ve waited 121 years for the society to have its own building.
An imposing structure on the north edge of MU campus holds more than history. It’s called “Center for Missouri Studies.” History classes will be held here.
You and I are in that historic collection. Anyone ever mentioned in a Missouri newspaper is in the newspaper microfilm collection. Most films go back to the papers’ starts.
I’ve used those records for family history and much more. All of the collections will be much more assessable.
I first used the history library in 1957, writing my freshman English class term paper. That was on the “Honey Wars.” That’s a dispute between Iowa and Missouri, over where the state line would be placed. It seems the area teemed with hollow trees full of honeybees with valued honey.
This “war” affected my family and me. In part, it determined that I would be a Missourian, not an Iowan. The moving of the state line also affected an ancient family member. He served in both Iowa and Missouri state legislatures without moving from his house. The state line moved, not him.
I would have been an Iowan, based on family history. But, a house to rent when my parents married was a few yards south of the state line in Missouri. I was born in the suburb, South Lineville, Mo.
I’m a Missourian by birth. New mothers didn’t go to hospitals for birthing then. Two grandmothers and a mid-wife came to tend my mother and me.
That birthplace set my path for education at MU in Columbia. That’s fortunate as Missouri has the best Journalism School and Ag College compared to that other land-grant in Ames, Iowa. That’s a personal bias.
I have connection with more recent history. I was shocked when a Historical Society editor met me on the building tour. She asked: “Aren’t you the mule-history photographer?” Yep, Dr. Melvin Bradley, MU equine specialist, led me a couple of years making oral histories and photos of mule owners. That was my education in Missouri culture. We were, “The Mule State.”
Fame came largely for supplying mules that provided power to fight World War One. Our mules went to war again in WW II. People around the world learned of our state’s mules.
I was exposed to mules early, as a farm boy. My grandfather Dailey sold the first Model T Fords across a wide area.
He took mule teams in on trade. Those ended up on the farm owned by my father. I grew up with both mules and horses. That’s when I learned mules are smarter than horses. That belief, shared by old mule men and women was told in many history interviews.
Those stories add a mass of papers, miles and miles of paper, in the SHSMO collection.
Former Sen. Kit Bond attended the dedication. He’d added 400 boxes of his papers after retirement.
Many politicians who helped the building appropriation were there in bipartisan support. Leading off was Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. He was followed by Northwest Missouri State Sen. Dan Hegeman, an early sponsor.
The new center holds more than history papers. A library spreads out in impressive display. Also, large galleries hold Missouri Art particularly by Thomas Hart Benton and George Caleb Bingham.
I’ve delved into the microfilmed newspapers. Now, I plan to do more. Family historians will find all more accessible now on their trip to Columbia. In his introduction, Society leader Gary Kremer promised lots of free parking for patrons. MU campus isn’t known for that. Come visit.
Several speakers noted the Center provides a link between town and gown. It has two front doors: North to the city. South to campus.
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