Here’s a thought to warm the hearts of nostalgia buffs in our section of the Meramec Valley — from Eureka all the way to Sullivan.
Members of the Meramec Valley History Museum and Genealogy Committee, known as MVMG for short, are thinking about establishing the Red Cedar Inn building as a showplace for one-day festivals to celebrate the region’s nooks and crannies.
The iconic building, located on Route 66, near two railroads and the Meramec River, could be the site of one-day events to showcase a pearl necklace string of historic sites in the valley.
The idea of becoming the history festival center of the Meramec Valley emerged after news stories about the renovation of the Red Cedar building, which is set to become MVMG’s home, brought history groups out of the proverbial woodwork saying they wanted to be part of the building when it opens.
The Route 66 Association of Missouri said this prominent building is exactly where its exhibit should be on display.
The Eureka Historical Society has opened a dialogue about merging its society and collection with MVMG.
The Allenton Cemetery group recently contacted Jeff Titter, MVMG president, to ask if they could put some of their stuff in the Red Cedar when it opens.
Ever the diplomat, Jeff said we don’t know exactly how much space there would be for our collection.”
“I’m not saying no,” Jeff told the Allenton group. “Contact us again after we get the building open and get our exhibits set up.”
Another avowed diplomat, Sue Reed, local history author and founder of the genealogy society, said there might be a way to accommodate all the other historical societies.
“If we don’t have enough room for a permanent exhibit for them maybe we could host an Allenton Day, set up an exhibit and have a festival to celebrate the history of the area,” she said.
What made this idea outstanding is twofold. First, lots of people want to show their stuff inside the Red Cedar building, still known for attracting visitors from all over the U.S. and even Europe. And second, our society has a mission to bring visitors to Pacific when we get the building open.
Sue says we could do monthly, or twice monthly events, to host visiting exhibits for historic places throughout the region.
The Meramec Valley cities and communities are flanked by remnants of former hamlets, family enclaves and all but forgotten cemeteries, some the final resting places of famous people.
Here are just a few of the communities that are now quiet, but once played a role in local history.
Think of Dozier, former home of a one-room school and the train station where Union troops disembarked on Oct. 1, 1864, to make the 1-mile march to downtown Pacific — that Confederate Gen. Sterling Price was still calling Franklin — for the Battle of Pacific.
The late Billy Murphy once told me that his grandfather, John Freymyer, got off the train that day and later returned to make his home here. He served as the town marshal in 1892-1894.
There’s Moselle, one of the prettiest little towns in Franklin County, situated at the confluence of the Meramec and Bourbeuse rivers. It was the orange glow of the burning railroad bridge over the Meramec at Moselle visible in downtown Pacific that warned residents that Price’s raiders were getting close.
And it was across the open rails of this railroad bridge that four of the Branson kids, Clyde, Katie, Dorl and Ruth, walked daily to get to school at Moselle. Their sister, Thelma, went to school at another all but forgotten place, Frisco Heights.
In the hamlet of Oakfield, just up Highway OO, Frederick Steines opened the area’s first formal school, Oakfield Academy, in a beautiful two-story frame structure that is still there. His brother, Professor E.E., was the area’s first meteorologist and also resided there.
Nearby Calvey had its own post office and was the first home of Shiloh Baptist Church.
Virginia Mines was the home of the Jefferies family that Sue captured in her book “Sifting Through Time.” It was in this community that George Hearst honed his mining skills before disembarking to the gold rush where he became one of the richest men in America.
Places like Dry Branch and Fisher’s Cave once attracted visitors along the Meramec.
I have to tell you . . . it might be unseemly to toot our own horn, but we (MVMG) can showcase these places one at a time and fill the Red Cedar with visitors.
Hosting public history events has been the society’s strong suit, Jeff said, putting together presentations on aspects of history that bring people out to celebrate the past.
The society filled the Presbyterian Church social room and later the Pacific High School auditorium with its Civil War in Pacific presentation that featured local family history.
It attracted hundreds of visitors to the city hall council chambers with an exhibit on the projects of former Pacific mayors.
The society also filled the Tri-County Senior Center several times with presentations on floods, penny postcards and recently on World War I.
“We know how to do this,” Jeff said. “This is something we can work on once we get the building open.”
Pauline Masson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-805-9800.