Rural Missouri - March 2013 - (Page 18)
by Heather Berry
harles Staats remembers sitting on his mother’s lap as
a young lad, listening to
stories about his grandfather,
Albert Hiffmann, who served during
the Civil War.
A member of the 12th Missouri
Regiment Infantry, a division comprised entirely of German-speaking
American soldiers, Hiffmann fought
in the Union Army under colonels
Franz Sigel and Friedrich Hecker.
One special memento Charles has
is a diary his grandfather wrote in
longhand German each day during
the war. For Charles, it’s a priceless
piece of history from the grandfather
he never met.
“I couldn’t read German, so I took
it to Washington University and had
four linguists translate it into English
for me,” he says.
He recalls the pages telling about
the regiment and the battles they
fought, of marching south past the
Battle of Belmont and of crossing the
“I took his diary and walked on
every trail he walked. I’ve slept every
place he slept . . .”
Charles voice trails off and his
Historian Charles Staats, 77, poses in a Civil War uniform beside the 1860s U.S. Medical Service ambulance he rebuilt. The ambuice-blue eyes well up with tears as he
lance, along with several other historic wagons, was used in Steven Spielberg’s recent motion picture release, “Lincoln.”
talks about the grandfather he only
knows from the pages of a well-worn
Inspired by his family history, the
77-year-old has become an authority
on American history, especially the
Anyone who has met Charles
quickly learns that history is important to him. He loves the Civil War
era so much that he and his late wife,
Lucille, bought an antebellum home
in Labadie in 1988 and opened a bedand-breakfast.
Charles’ horse-drawn piano box squirhave looked during the Civil War.
for 15 years until Lucille passed away.
“We bought an estate that dates
rel tail pumper, ﬁre hose reel cart,
Soon, the United States Medical
Now, the home serves as a repository
back to the 1850s,” says Charles. “I
water buffalo buggy and a ﬁre chief’s
Service ambulance and two other
for Charles’ many collections.
always tell everyone that we modernsurrey.
period supply wagons were headed to
“I’ve probably got the largest Civil
ized it — to 1860, Civil War time.”
The events of Sept. 11, 2001,
the movie set in Virginia.
War hospital collection in the United
The historian wasn’t put off by the
prompted the historian to start shar“We have nearly anything a proStates,” he says, adding that he’s been
fact that the home had more than
ing his collection with others.
ducer could want for historical accua re-enactor for decades. He often sets
9,000 square feet. “I knew I had
“I was about to head to the funeral
racy in a war movie,” says Charles.
enough stuff to ﬁll it
up a ﬁeld hospital at battle reof a dear friend when I saw on tele“I’ve got every style of military saddle
with,” he says, smiling.
vision the second plane crashing
and gun ever used since 1830, uni“I’m a bit of a history
One might think history is
into the World Trade Center,” recalls
forms, ﬂags — you name it.”
an inherited trait, as Charles’
Charles. “I decided right then that
When Charles isn’t busy preparing
He and his wife quickly
son, C. J., has a related
I wanted to do something to show
something for a movie set, he can be
career that keeps him and
learned the ins and outs of
my pride and thanks for all those
found working on another of his pashis dad pretty busy.
running a bed-and-breakfast
who lost their lives that day. And I
sions — reﬁnishing old ﬁre trucks. His
“I’m the historian,
and opened The Waterford
thought, ‘a ﬁre museum.’”
current project is a 1918 American
and my son is the stuntEstate. The clientele Charles
It just so happened that the local
LaFrance triple combination pumper
man and horseman,” says
and his wife marketed
ﬁre department was going to tear
toward was somewhat unique.
down the old ﬁre station, so Charles
He’s quick to say that “it was a basC. J., 46, has appeared in more
“We advertised, ‘Come visit the
asked if he could use the building to
ket case” when he bought it and that
than 60 movies, including “North
home of the Civil War surgeon,’”
share his antique ﬁre equipment and
he’s been working almost daily for
and South,” “Glory,” “The Blue and
Charles recalls. “I wanted doctors,
honor all ﬁreﬁghters who serve.
the past 3-1/2 years on it, but that it
the Gray” and “Gettysburg.” But it’s a
nurses, pathologists and dentists to
“I feel it’s my duty to share history
“runs good now.”
more recent release that has the duo
come — and they did.”
with people, because when I go, it’s
Every part was refurbished, recreexcited.
The draw? One section of the
lost if I haven’t shared it,” says the
ated or built by hand. Every bit of
When Steven Spielberg started
home is set up as a Civil War surhistorian. “And, well, if I couldn’t
aluminum, stainless steel, bronze,
working on “Lincoln,” he asked C. J.
geon’s ofﬁce. A complete set of dental
restore this stuff, I’d have to ﬁnd
German silver and nickel has been
to be a stuntman and work with lead
implements stands in one corner
something else historic to salvage.”
brilliantly polished. Every spot of
actor Daniel Day-Lewis on horsemanwith its numerous drawers of antique
gold leaf ﬁligree that would have
ship. But it was his dad’s collections
tools once used by the doctors who
You may contact Charles at 314-795adorned the red truck was skillfully
and passion for history that brought
served as dentists, too, during the
recreated by Charles himself.
another request from producers.
war. Built-in shelves and glass cases
To inquire about bringing small
This beautiful engine is just one of
“They needed the perfect Civil
line the walls, housing surgical instrugroups to see the ﬁre house collection,
many he has at the Boles Fire ComWar ambulance, and I happened to
ments from the period. Any type of
contact Clare Swann at the Boles Fire
pany No. 1 — 1860 in Villa Ridge,
have one in need of ﬁnishing,” says
saw, probe or implement a Civil WarProtection District by e-mail at
where he can be found working on
era doctor would have used is part of
pr@bolesﬁredistrict.org or by calling 636antique ﬁre vehicles most days. The
So he restored the spring board
former station house currently houses
chassis wagon to the way it would
The bed-and-breakfast was open
Charles Staats makes history part of everyday life
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2013
Rural Missouri - March 2013
Table of Contents
Musings in mud
The lure of tying flies
Out of the Way Eats
Queens of the court
Hearth and Home
All about mulch
Rural Missouri - March 2013
If you would like to try to load the digital publication without using Flash Player detection, please click here.