The arts — and history — aren’t dead

Musician J.W. “Blind” Boone. Singer Jane Froman. Both of these artistic luminaries and seven other historical figures from Columbia’s past will come alive through four-minute monologues held during 1 to 4 p.m. on May 29 at their graves in Columbia Cemetery on Broadway.

This event was highlighted in this “Living History event planned for Memorial Day,” article by Rudi Keller, published May 13, 2017 in the Columbia Tribune.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Historic Columbia Cemetery, which also has a Facebook page. The monologues were written by Chris Campbell, executive director of the Boone County Historical Society.

So who else will you get to see come to life – with a consciousness of who they were, their current deceased status and today’s events?

  • Ann Hawkins Gentry, Columbia postmistress from 1838-1865.
  • George Swallow, Missouri’s first state geologist and MU faculty member
  • John Lathrop, president of MU twice.
  • Sgt. Wallace Lilly, a slave who enlisted in the Union Army in 1864 for his freedom.
  • Luella St. Clair Moss, Columbia College president from 1893 to 1920.
  • James S. Rollins, a man considered the father of MU.
  • Walter Williams, founder of the MU School of Journalism and MU president from 1931 to 1935.

Reincarnation, historic homes and a free festival

Did you ever notice that anyone who talks about a past life was always a princess or a pharaoh? Yeah, me too.

But I’m firmly convinced that if I did have a past life it was lived as a common laborer or simple farm wife. That’s why I’ll be in the Ryland House as a volunteer at this weekend’s free Heritage Festival.

The Heritage Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18 at Historic Nifong Park, 3700 Ponderosa St. This free event will include demonstrations, dancing, crafts and … yes! Tours of the buildings at the Village at Boone Junction, a sweet little collection of Boone County historic buildings including the Ryland House.

The Ryland House was built around 1880 and moved to the Junction in 2005. It’s a small place, about 800 square feet and was originally owned by a well off farm family, William and Maggie Ryland. They farmed about 358 acres near Sturgeon.

The tour of the house won’t last long — it’s only three rooms. Yes, despite the fact that the family that owned this house had a nice sized, well-run farm, their house consisted of three rooms, a large kitchen, a bedroom, and a parlor used mainly when visitors came by.

I won’t be in the parlor during my time volunteering in the Ryland House. I’ll be in the kitchen, where I’m sure my ancestors and any former incarnations of myself would have been. And you can come visit me there, too, on Sunday morning.

But what if you were a princess or someone wealthy in a past life. No worries. You’ll be able to get a peek at the life of those better off in Boone County during a tour of the Maplewood House.

The fine two-story house was the home of Lavinia Lenoir and Dr. Frank G. Nifong. It was built by Miss Lavinia’s father, Slater Ensor Lenoir around 1877, and the nine-room house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maplewood, unlike the Ryland House, features a music room, a dining room, several bedrooms as well as a parlor, a kitchen and even a maid’s or sewing room.

So no matter what your inclination is about a past life, in the present you can straddle past and present at the Heritage Festival this weekend.

 

Hidden history heard again

J.W. “Blind” Boone started out life as the child of a run away slave and a bugler in the Missouri Militia. Before his death in 1927, he was one of the most famous Missourians — black or white — and one of the wealthiest, income from a touring schedule that took him all over the country, including New York and Boston. But before his death, he and his manager John Lange, a former slave himself, owned their own homes and we considered wealthy men.

All that, Boone’s success, his and his manager’s wealth, all began with a strange and wonderful concert competition between former slave “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a black man who toured and could imitate any music he heard and J.W. “Blind” Boone. That concert kicked off Boone’s career that would span the playing and writing of classical and ragtime music.

His home at 10 N. Fourth St., has been saved and awaits further restoration.

But the competitive concert was re-enacted by Sutu Forte, as Boone, and Tom Andes, as Wiggins. This March 5, 2014 article, “The Battle of the Keys,” outlines the historic event and its recent repetition. The event was sponsored by the Boone County Historic Society.

 

J.W. “Blind” Boone historic home makes Columbia standout, boosts economy

Completing the renovation of the J.W. “Blind” Boone home at 10 N. Fourth St., got unanimous approval by the Columbia City Council on Monday, June 3, 2013.

The shell of the house was preserved, painted red and saved from termites and demolition by the purchase of the city in 2000 and subsequent work, but until last night, it needed another $326,000 to make it habitable and available for the many plans the J.W. “Blind” Boone Heritage Foundation has for it.

But perhaps the greatest plans for the house came during Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp’s comments. He said historic structures such as the Boone home are fundamental to Columbia’s economic development, giving the city its own geographic, cultural and historic personality. “We’re not anywhere, any town,” he said during comments prior to the vote.

Trapp and others also called the home an inspiration. Boone, born in 1864 to a run away slave and U.S. Union bugler, was blinded at 6 months old, a step taken to save him from “brain fever.” Despite his handicap, Boone went on to learn to play music, later composing his own works and playing at concert halls throughout the nation, with some evidence he played internationally. He is credited with contributing to ragtime music, the forerunner of jazz, which led Anthony Stanton to note the global importance of Boone’s legacy, noting the global popularity of jazz.

The house could potentially give Columbia a bigger spot on two different maps. In presenting information on the Boone home, Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said there is a movement to create a statewide music trail from St.Louis to Kansas City, and a civil rights trail, both of which would include the Boone home.

As Clyde Ruffin, president of the Heritage Board noted, Boone overcame two obstacles, disability and race. The city’s plan for the house calls for completing the interior renovations and then turning the building over to the J.W. “Blind” Boone Heritage Foundation.

Griggs noted the relationship would be like that of the city and the Boone County Historic Museum and Galleries. The city owns Maplewood, a historic home, and the surrounding park, but the facilities are managed by the Boone County Historical Society.

According to Ruffin, plans for the use of the building once it is renovated include a small display of Boone artifacts while the rest of the facility would be used for activities including instructional space.

No matter what happens in the future, the Boone home has already put Columbia on the map. The Blind Boone Ragtime Festival is held annually, this year June 10 and 11, 2013, in the Missouri Theatre. Also, the house where Boone lived from 1889 until his death in 1927 is on the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s stamp of approval for a nationally important site.

What historic sites in Columbia make it more than just a small college town to you, which historic place and buildings tell you Columbia is special? What historic places do you think contribute to Columbia’s economic development?