Rural Missouri - September 2013 - (Page 28)

ost people do not know what a treasure there is in Laclede, the little north Missouri town of 345 people, says Jana Keune, a site interpreter at the Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site. “Visitors are always impressed to learn he was one of only two American six-star generals,” Jana says of Gen. Pershing. “The other was George Washington, who received the rank posthumously in 1976 during the nation’s bicentennial celebration.” Located on a quiet residential block, the site includes Pershing’s 1858 Gothic Revival boyhood home, where he lived from the age of six until adulthood, and the relocated and restored 1870s-era one-room Prairie Mound schoolhouse, where he taught for two years before enrolling at West Point. Prominently displayed on the grounds is a bronze statue of the general. Several surrounding granite monuments form a Wall of Honor in tribute to Americans who have served in combat from the Spanish-American War through today’s conflicts. Both the home and school are open for tours and contain exhibits that relate the story of Pershing’s career. Among items currently on view are Pershing’s West Point class ring and a jeweled ceremonial scabbard presented to Pershing by the mayor of London at the end of World War I. Soon, visitors will have considerably more to see, or a reason to return. The Pershing Park Memorial Association, an ardent, 70-plus-year supporter of the site, has initiated a campaign to raise $600,000 to convert a recently purchased building a block away into an expanded museum that will increase exhibit space from 1,000 to more than 7,800 square feet. Already, the museum’s board has contributed $22,000 to kick-start the expansion. “We have thousands of items and presently no place to display them,” says Denzil Heaney, site administrator. The new museum will feature interactive displays that will trace Pershing’s remarkable career. Exhibits will cover his time at West Point (18821886), his involvement in the Indian Wars (1886-1891), the Spanish-American War (1898), his service in the Philippine Insurrection (1900-1903), the time spent as an observer during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), his nine-month pursuit of Pancho Villa into Mexico during the Punitive Expedition (1916-1917) and his service in France during World War I (1917-1919). Also covered will be how Pershing mentored the most famous names of the World War II generation, including George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur. Pershing honorably retired from the Army in 1924 at age 64. He died on July 15, 1948. The new museum will feature a flexible theater space for lectures and conferences. It also will allow for special temporary exhibits. A fireand tornado-safe archives room will display letters, diaries, photographs, 28 photo courtesy of the Library of Congress M by Jim Winnerman New museum will give visitors more to see at Missouri general’s birthplace portraits and commemorative gifts presented to Gen. Pershing. Admission won’t be charged. Once opened, the Pershing Park Memorial • Association has plans to Laclede transfer the museum and its operation to Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The transfer is expected to take place at a dedication ceremony in 2018 on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. “When Pershing entered the Army, we were fighting on horseback using Napoleonic tactics. He served in the cavalry and there were 140,000 men in uniform,” Denzil says. “When he left the battlefield in 1918, he was commanding 2 million men with 2 million more on their way to the front. Horses had been replaced by trucks, tanks and airplanes. Imagine the challenges he had to adjust to throughout his career as a leader.” He adds, “At the end of World War I, he said no one else should ever again have the same amount of power or rank of General of the Armies of the United States. I n conjunction with the Pershing Days celebration, Sept. 12-15 in Laclede, the Pershing Park Memorial Association will have an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 14 at the group’s building on the town square. Food and wine will be available, along with a silent auction fundraiser to raise money for the new museum. For more information, contact Rick Scruggs at 660-895-5072 or More information on donating to the museum and a video on Gen. Pershing’s life can be found at WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP That belief led to the formation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Approximately 10,000 people visit the Laclede site each year, with about 2,500 coming from outside Missouri. “We get people from all over the world,” Denzil says. “For some, this is a destination.” In 2008, the last living World War I veteran visited the site prior to his death in 2011. “Frank Buckles was 108 at the time, and he had three last wishes,” Jana says. “He wanted to see his boyhood home in Bethany, Mo., the National World War I Memorial in Kansas City and the home of his commanding general. It was an honor to give him a tour.” Many visitors arrive with stories told by a family member who had served under Pershing somewhere. Museum staff help fill in details of what was happening at the time. “Personal family accounts also help us add to Pershing’s history,” Denzil says. “We really love those visits.” Jana says many visitors arrive with a family belief that they are somehow related to Pershing but do not know the exact connection. “We have extensive genealogy charts, and most of the time we can uncover the relationship,” she says. Retired Circuit Court Judge Robert Devoy, who still lives nearby, met Pershing in the 1930s when his dad took him to see the general arrive for a ceremony honoring his service. “He arrived in Brookfield aboard the Burlington Zephyr,” Devoy recalls. “It seemed at the time it was his private train. My grandfather was a schoolmate of his and when we were introduced to Gen. Pershing, he smiled and shook my hand.” Pershing seemed to favor young people. “Whenever you see photos of him with youngsters, he is smiling and relaxed,” Devoy says. “In other photos he is more stern-faced.” Pershing’s ability to inspire youth still exists. The Pershing Rifles is a national military fraternal organization for college students founded by then 2nd Lt. Pershing in 1894 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It now has 200 active chapters. Also, fourth-grade classes from the Pershing Elementary School in St. Joseph visit Laclede every year to learn about Pershing. “He invented the jumping jack to help his troops get in shape,” Jana says. “The students are intent on getting the calisthenic recognized as the official exercise of Missouri.” An important part of the mission of the site is to educate young people about Pershing’s life to ensure coming generations know about what he accomplished. Tours for the many school groups that arrive include commentary on choices Pershing made that led to him becoming so important to U.S. history. “Pershing totally saved Europe in World War I when the British and French armies began to falter,” Denzil says. “If it was not for his leadership, the world might be quite a different place. It is our duty to keep the memory of what General Pershing accomplished alive.” Winnerman is a freelance writer who lives in Fulton. http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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

Rural Missouri - September 2013
Merchant miniatures
Scorching the border
All aboard
Blasts from the past
Out of the Way Eats
Mowing down the competition
Hearth and Home
A place for Pershing
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - September 2013