Personal show and tell brings local history to life in meetings where members of the Meramec Valley History Museum and Genealogical Society (MVHM&GS) delve into the past through family lore.
The handy work of the late Clarence Hoffman, a local farmer who moved about on a handmade wooden leg most of his life, was illustrated at the May 17 meeting, held at the Tri-County Senior Center.
Hoffman’s nephew, Dale Hoffman, displayed the artificial limb that his uncle crafted for himself. Known in literature and much of history as a peg leg, the unique wood and leather strapped limb allowed the elder Hoffman to live an active life.
The younger Hoffman described his uncle, who lost his leg as a child, as a self-taught adult with many skills.
“He was very good at anything he wanted to do,” the nephew said.
The elder Hoffman also was adept at utilizing what was at hand. He and his brother were contracted to dismantle the old St. Louis Street mansion located on the site of the recently abandoned Bank of America building, which was known as the Blue Goose.
Hoffman salvaged lumber from the dismantled mansion to build the house and barn at 101 S. Payne St.
Years later the younger Hoffman discovered a bullet in one of the boards of the barn that turned out to be a one-groove Colt Revolver .44 caliber Civil War bullet, that dates to the Oct. 1, 1864, Battle of Pacific when Sterling Price and his rag-tag army attacked the city and burned all the railroad buildings.
The Blue Goose also was known for two cannon balls from that battle that were lodged in the second floor landing of the mansion.
Clarence Hoffman found work at St. Louis Material Company, the gravel operation on the east end of the city. Throughout his life he farmed half a dozen plots around the city as a sharecropper.
“He would talk to the people and would offer to farm the empty plot of land and he would share what he raised there,” his nephew recalled. “He was very active.”
The society has stepped up its focus on local history at its bimonthly meetings, hoping that the personal family stories will attract more people to community history.
Future planned programs include the work of a local stained-glass artisan and restoration of paintings and other historic art.
In September, Therissa Schlemper, who had five generations of her family live at Purina Farm, will offer glimpses of what life was like living on the famous research farm.
In November, Pauline Masson will introduce descendants of Pacific men who served in World War I, to commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day truce that ended the war, similar to the Civil War program that the Society staged in 2011.