Thursday, February 07, 2008


The Franklin County Historical Society will again present a Local History Class in conjunction with East Central College. Several presentations relate to crime, bank robberies, lynchings, hangings, and related topics that should capture your interest! Others cover the history of towns -- information that has not been presented before -- covering Pacific, Gray Summit, Labadie. One presentation features an early church and two are on railroad-related topics. Read through the list and I'm sure there will be plenty to grab your attention!

The classes will run from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings beginning March 11 and running through April 29. Sue Blesi is again facilitating the class. Tuition for the class will be $35. To enroll, contact Sharon Witte at 636-583-5193, ext. 2410. Anyone wishing to attend a single class will be able to do so by making a $7 payment directly to the Franklin County Historical Society at the class.

Classes are held in the Regional Training Center, the one-story building that stands off to the left from the main campus. Access to the building does not involve stairs and there is parking in front.

The schedule follows but, as usual, is subject to the possibility of change.

March 11: Sandra Gurnow will present her research on Labadie, including the old Labadie Academy and other schools in the area, the Bethel Church and Cemetery, the Labadie Cave, Bowles and St. Albans. She has worked on this material for many years but this will be her first comprehensive presentation on the subjects.

March 18: David Menke on Train Disasters in the New Haven Area, including the Gasconade Railroad Disaster.

March 18: Sue Blesi will tell us about The Missouri Kid, who grew up at Stanton. Along with a companion, he robbed the Bank of Union and, a few days later, killed a Pinkerton detective who had discovered their hideout. A nationwide manhunt ensued and both men were eventually hanged at Union.

March 25 Spring Break

April 1: Marc Houseman will present “Twenty Murder Victims in Twenty Years -- mostly neighbors and relatives of the murderess.” This is the story of Bertha Gifford, one of the most prolific serial killers in history and at one time, a resident of Franklin County! The seldom-told story will be presented by Marc Houseman of the Washington Historical Society. Gifford’s life, from her birth in Jefferson County to her death in a mental institution, will be shared in detail. Lists of her victims, including their ages and burial places, will be shared with those in attendance.

April 1: George Bocklage and Bob Doerr give a presentation on the history of St. Francis Borgia parish. The Washington Historical Society collaborated in 2007 with St. Francis Borgia parish in Washington to find all existing photographs and other images of the parish buildings. Drawn from the archives of both institutions as well as the Midwest Jesuit Archives in St. Louis, Washington State University library at Pullman, Washington and private collections, this PowerPoint presentation will cover more than 165 years of history. It was first shown last year at the dedication of the freshly renovated Jesuit Hall. You will see an 1840 drawing of the first log church, an engraved image of the second church built in 1844, bricklayers at work on the present church structure in the late 1860s and church interiors throughout the years, as well as old and contemporary photos of the parish schools and convents.

April 8: Sheriff Toelke will discuss the history of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

April 8: Sue Blesi will present the story of the St. Clair Bank Robbery of 1921, a story that is funnier than The Apple Dumpling Gang, as the blundering safe blowers attempt to avoid capture.

April 15: Janet Daniels will share her research on the Gray Summit community. She has been collecting material for many years and this will be the first time she has presented it at East Central.

April 15: Pacific – Ruth Mueller, possibly with the help of Sue Reed, will present the history of Pacific.

April 22: George Bocklage and Bob Doerr will present their updated research on Rogerstown - Shawnee Indians in Franklin County, Missouri. It will be a PowerPoint presentation concerning what some historians have called the first town in Franklin county. Located near the fork of the Meramec and Bourbeuse rivers, this Indian village existed long before the county was organized in 1818. Shawnee Indians had moved to the Louisiana Territory in Spanish times and located in several villages in the general vicinity of white settlements on the Mississippi. Rogerstown was the northernmost of these villages. Through the use of maps, documents, illustrations and contemporary photographs this presentation will show you the evidence of the village's existence, their immigration from the East and their ultimate resettlement on a reservation in Eastern Kansas.

April 22: Pauline Masson will present her research on the 1922 Railroad Shopman’s Strike. It was the last big national railroad strike and she will discuss the impact of the strike on Pacific and other small towns in the nation.

April 29: Linda Mahon will tell us all about the lynchings that have taken place in Franklin County.

April 29: Franklin County Recorder of Deeds Sharon Birkman will share her horrific experience relating to the Courthouse Bombing and Bank Robbery by the Pardue Brothers.

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