Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 51

by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop
Laura pauses and pats the stone in a way of
D
rive through downtown Waynesville, cross
Roubidoux Creek and fronting the neighborhood
of Bell's Addition you'll fi nd yourself at
Mitchell Cemetery. On Saturday mornings,
this also is where you'll fi nd Laura Abernathy Huffman.
Over the course of an hour, she'll introduce
you to a cast of characters that have over the years
become her familiar friends. There's the doctor who
redeemed a checkered past, the community pillar
who shaped the town into what it is today and
a young widow from the Philippines who survived a
hard life in a new country so her family could thrive.
Laura knows them all and rarely must glance at her
stack of notecards as she tells the story of each.
" Sometimes I feel like I know these people better
than some of the ones I hang out with today, " Laura
says with a laugh. " It's a little harder to hide your
secrets after you're gone. "
The local historian was drawn to the
cemetery, named after the 19th-century
landowners, more than a decade ago
while researching the location of the Pulaski
County Poor Farm and its cemetery.
Spurred by her own curious nature and
partially inspired by the tours given at Bellefontaine
Cemetery in St. Louis, Laura pieced
together the stories behind the stones.
" They do a really good job of bringing that
" They do a really good job of bringing that
history to life and telling those stories so that it's all
passed on, " Laura adds. " I want to have conversations
with people to tell the history so that more
people are aware of it. "
It's no surprise that a military community would
honor their fallen soldiers, but Waynesville's residents
did so even before the establishment of Fort
Leonard Wood. Such was the case with Alfi e Colley, a
corporal in the 38th Infantry Regiment who survived
the Philippine-American War only to contract an illness
and die aboard his transport boat. A member of
the Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society, his
impressive marble monument was crafted in Lebanon
and attracted as many attendees when it was unveiled
in 1901 as had Alfi e's funeral the year prior.
Another veteran of the war, Louis Zeigenbein,
made his way to Pulaski County with his new bride,
Potenciana, and budding family. Louis also met an
untimely fate shortly before Christmas 1908, leaving
behind a young widow and their children. Rather
than return to the Philippines, Potenciana set to
work as a laundress. She earned enough money over
the years to add to her husband's landholdings - a
road in St. Robert still bears the family name - and
her descendants would go on to form community
businesses that still operate today.
greeting another resident whose name lives on in the
Waynesville area: Lavega Tyce. After narrowly avoiding
a prison sentence in his younger years for the
murder of a Sedalia dance hall owner, Lavega went
on to medical school, moved to Waynesville and made
enough of an impression on the residents that Laura
has tracked down as many as three later Pulaskians
apparently named after the town doctor.
" It's a true story of redemption, " Laura adds.
" He had a rough start at 18, but ended up being an
outstanding member of the human race who was
admired by the people of the area. "
Buried at the back of the Mitchell lawn, just
across the fence from the subdivision that bears his
name, is Robert A. Bell. The proprietor of the iconic
Bell Hotel, Robert championed the building of Route
66 through Waynesville. Later, as mayor, he shepherded
the small village of 300 souls through its
seemingly overnight transition into a major military
installation. He went on to serve as a judge and
helped develop residential areas for the swelling
community. His lifetime of public service was
perhaps best summarized in a tribute by his
former clerk, Olive Brown: " He was the type
Waynesville
of man with an interest in the affairs of the
state and nation, but was most interested
in the local affairs of his community, regardless
of what level they were on. "
Although Laura never met Judge Bell,
his sense of guardianship for Waynesville
seems to have rubbed off on the Zalma transplant.
When she's not giving Tombstone Tales tours, Laura
is likely to be found somewhere along Route 66 making
a video for her YouTube channel, Downtown 66,
where she examines pieces of Pulaski County history.
Whether it's a trip down to Roubidoux Creek to see
the old wagon crossing or a livestream discussion on
" Waynesvegas " - Laura's forthcoming book on the
town's transitional period in the early days of Fort
Leonard Wood - the channel is another way for the
historian to dig deeper into the days of Waynesville
past and uncover its characters along the way.
" I love a good mystery, " the researcher says. " To
me, sometimes it's one big scavenger hunt. I'm just
going to keep following the journey and see where it
takes me. "
For more information on Tombstone Tales, contact
Laura at rubydewcreativehouse@gmail.com
or subscribe to Downtown 66 at www.
youtube.com/downtown66. Tour times
and ticketing information can be found
at facebook.com/downtown66mo.
Private group tours can also be
arranged.
OCTOBER 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 51
http://www.youtube.com/downtown66 http://www.youtube.com/downtown66 http://www.facebook.com/downtown66mo http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - October 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 4
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 5
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 6
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 7
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 8
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Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 48
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Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 50
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 51
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 52
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - 53
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Rural Missouri - October 2021 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - October 2021 - Cover4
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