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MEMORIES IN FOCUS:   Even the past honored the past

Old Settlers Day, a tradition for 137 years, began in 1881 as reunion for people who settled a the county in the 1860s. The tradition of annual picnic was formalized in 1912. By the 1920s it had grown to include a parade of floats by rural schools of the county.

The Bosh, a band from Pilsen, and the Marion city band furnished music as floats traversed Main St. in 1926,

Morning Star School, 3½ miles southwest of Marion, won first prize with a float that featured a primitive log cabin and a wagon.

Quarry School, 4½ miles northeast of Marion, took second with a covered wagon accompanied by scouts, dogs, a cow, and various pieces of equipment for homemaking.

Wren School, 5 miles northwest of Marion, placed third, also with a covered wagon.

Morning Star (District 41) taught grade school pupils from 1873 to 1961; Quarry (District 108), from 1888 to 1951; and Wren (District 5) from 1873 to 1952. All were consolidated with Marion (District 1), which began in 1865.

A year after covered wagon floats from rural school dominated the day, Old Settlers may have prevented Marion from having a brush with glory.

In 1927, the Daughters of the American Revolution was looking to erect a series of 12 Madonna statues honoring pioneer mothers of covered wagon days.

Sent to scout out locations was a little-known official from Jackson County, Missouri — the newly elected head of its equivalent of a county commission — who also served as president of the National Old Trails Road Association.

Traveling throughout the state, more or less along the route of the old Santa Fe Trail, the Missourian stopped here on Sept. 30, 1927, but apparently was unimpressed.

In a letter to his family, he wrote:

Dear Bess and Baby:

We left Council Grove this morning at 8:30 and arrived in Herington at 9:30, where we were shown more sites and heard more conversation.

Left Herington at 10:30 and arrived at Marion at 12 o’clock, where we had dinner.

Marion was having an old settlers picnic and didn’t pay us much attention. They turned us over to an old man, 87 years old, who told us a lot of Indian stories, and then we left for McPherson, where we had a grand reception by the D.A.R. chapter. . . .

Kiss my baby and look at my sweetie in the glass and kiss her, too.

Harry

Later that year, the Missourian official, who went on to become U.S. President Harry S Truman, chose Council Grove as site for a monument, which remains there to this day.

Last modified Dec. 6, 2018

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