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Once in a blue moon a treasure surfaces that was never intended to be read by more than its author. A writer that wrote for the enjoyment of his or hers’ own pleasure. Diaries are a family heirloom that sometime only benefits the writer’s heirs, but once in a blue moon an individual will sit down with pen in hand and give us, the outsider, a glimpse of his or her world from that period in time.

We have been blessed with a few of those diaries in Perry County. Sister Eugenia Kehoe wrote of her experiences and day to day activities serving as one of the first sisters with the Daughters of Charity in Perryville. Her accounts of the Masses, classrooms, students and daily chores from the early 1900’s are enlightening. Joseph C. Killian wrote of court proceedings and local news during the year of 1869 and Archibald Hager more commonly known as the Hager’s dairy provides us with daily accounts of local news, crop updates and weather reports during the early 1840’s to 1880’s. Charles Killian told us his childhood memories during the 1860’s. Dr. Carron recorded his memories of life as a doctor from the horse and buggy days thru the 1960’s and Lillian Dobbs captured our interest in her excerpts concerning Perryville and Lithium from 1910 to 1916. Julia’s Scrapbook is also a treasure as she pasted newspaper clippings of importance to her creating a collage of valuable information for researchers today.

If you have a diary or scrapbook concerning Perry County history and would like to share it with our research library or would like to read some of the material we have in our library, please contact the Perry County Historical Society.

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Spring is closer than you think, and that means many of us thaw out, get out and travel the county roads in search of the smallest evidence of schools, churches, and homesteads long forgotten. If you are one of these travelers, you may be interested in a special map supplied by the Perry County Historical Society.

This Historical Inventory map of Perry County can direct you to long forgotten areas such as Birmingham, Corners, Giboney, or Seelitz.

Maybe you are looking for a common landing situated on the mighty Mississippi River such as Paul Landing, Linnhoff Landing, or Leimbach Landing.

Where is Boxdorfer school, Mokey school or Bess school? It’s all on the map and there were over 50 county schools located within the boundaries of Perry County. Each one was named after the landowner from whom the school land was acquired from or after the community which it was served.

Other such interesting areas are the locations of the Wilkinson Lead mines of 1827, Darrstadt, Rozier Valley Mill 1850 and McClain Mill 1820. If you would like to know the trail of the El Camino Real 1786 or the Cape Girardeau- Northern Railroad, it’s here. The foundation of many communities in our county were established by the churches. This map is a valuable resource of information concerning churches, cemeteries and historical buildings or structures. One of its features is the distinction of whether the structure is still standing or just the site of whether the structure is still standing or just the site of where it used to be.

So the next time you decide it’s a beautiful day to take a county drive be prepared, informed and educated about what you may or may not be seeing. This map may be the smallest bit of evidence you need to make your trip a memorable one. For more information or details on the Historical Inventory map contact the Perry County Historical Society.

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The Dirt on Menfro

Perry County was organized May 21, 1821 and named after the naval war hero of 1812, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. But it was before that when some of our earliest settlers were already laying down farming roots in Perry County soil.

Levi Wiggins was one of many people to request a land grant in Perry County’s Bios Brule Bottoms. On November 30, 1803, by his agent; Robert Anderson, he claimed a one-mile square of land, 640 acres situated on the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Cape St. Come Creek. Wiggins’ sworn to have inhabited and cultivated the land since 1801 by Daniel Thorn and continued to work the property until 1804. Part of the one square mile of land Levi Wiggins owned was referred to as land grant #1328 which eventually became known as the Town of Menfro. The Bois Brule Bottoms of Perry County was known early as one of the most fertile pieces of territory in the district of Ste. Genevieve. It was the fertility of this soil which attracted the early settlers. People that came to the Bois Brule area had great hopes for their futures. The “Bottoms” were wooded heavily with Oak, Pine, Walnut, Ash and of course Pecan and once the timber was cleared it had promised results for crop growers. The Mississippi River which borders the Bottom area is a vital resource to the rich and fertile soil. But the partnership between the land and river was often muddied by the seasonal “overflows” as the old timers called it. Nevertheless, farmland was cleared, homes were built and the bottoms became a sea of corn, wheat, alfalfa, milo, soybeans and fescue.

Every town, village or settlement has a reason for being and Menfro was no different. But in spite the active and ever growing farm community it wasn’t until March 3, 1902 that an application was made by the St. Louis, Memphis and Southeastern Railroad Company to lay a track to provide transportation between Memphis and St. Louis. The Town of Menfro would eventually be given a name and St. Louis would have a source of rail transportation needed to the 1904 World’s Fair. The town soon boasted a depot, general store, tavern, hotel, bank, post office, school and several other businesses to provide and supply the community with its needs. Menfro was incorporated May 9, 1914 and with a board of Trustees they set down town ordinances and appointed a town clerk. Menfro continued to thrive until the devastating flood of 1943 when the Mississippi River overflowed its banks flooding the entire Bios Brule Bottoms and the Town of Menfro. Driving the farmers from their homes in the bottoms and out of Menfro most sought safety on higher ground surrounding their once sought after rich farm ground. For those who chose to return with the receding waters ousting would come again in 1973 and 1993. This was considered the final blow for the town driving out the last of the businesses and the low lying residents.

Today, the rich fertile soil of the Bios Brule Bottoms has been identified by United States Department of Agriculture’s NCRS as a loess soil and has been named Menfro after the small town in Perry County where the soil series originates. Over a million acres of Menfro soils have been identified in Missouri in more than 40 counties and it is the official state soil of Missouri. It is not surprising that the major land use of Menfro soil is agriculture and woodland but I’m sure Levi Wiggins already knew that.

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As the season of church picnics draw to a close again with the ending of summer I would like for everyone to stop and remember the communities centered around these churches. All the communities within Perry County at one time or another boasted stores, schools, mills and proud residents. But the churches were and are the heartbeat of every community. It was because of the local church that neighbors could meet, socialize and bond into not only a family of faith but a town of support.

Every year the “church picnic” was no doubt the social event of the summer for each and every congregation. With a home cooked meal, music and games for the children the day was spent with family, friends and neighbors. Then there was the coveted make shift store commonly known as the “fancy stand.” Handmade linens, doilies, quilts, baked goods, canned fruits and vegetables, and assorted plants and flowers were proudly provided by the women to fetch the highest donations. 

It appears that the picnic crowds are slowly dwindling as the years go by and that the once anticipated summer events are becoming extinct. When was the last time you attending and supported a church picnic?

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