Rural Missouri - March 2013 - (Page 18)

C by Heather Berry hberry@ruralmissouri.coop 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 Mississippi River. “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 diary. Inspired by his family history, the 77-year-old has become an authority on American history, especially the Civil War. 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. enactments. 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’ ‘collectoholic.’” Charles. “I decided right then that When Charles isn’t busy preparing He and his wife quickly son, C. J., has a related Labadie • 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 fire truck. Charles. 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 2826. 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 Charles. 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 Charles’ collection. 742-2515. 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 18 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2013

Rural Missouri - March 2013
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Musings in mud
The lure of tying flies
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
Living history
Queens of the court
Homegrown music
Hearth and Home
All about mulch
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - March 2013

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