Southeast Missouri State University professor Frank Nickell is featured speaker
CHARLESTON -- Anyone looking to learn more about what it was like to live in Southeast Missouri during the Civil War will have the opportunity on Sunday.
The Mississippi County Historical Society will host a free program on the Civil War in Southeast Missouri beginning at 2 p.m. at the Historical Society's Moore Home, 403 N. Main St., in Charleston.
Residents who have stories about ancestors who were in the Civil War are also invited to share them during the program.
MCHS President Tom Graham said he knows the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is about three years away, but he knows state and federal commemorations are being planned and will last awhile just like the Lewis and Clark celebration.
"It's not going to be fancy or formal," Graham said about the program. "Hopefully, some of the people who've told me stories (about their ancestors living here during the Civil War) will be there to tell them."
Graham pointed out the Battle of Belmont was fought on Nov. 7, 1861, in Mississippi County. It was the first test in American Civil War combat for Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who later became the Union Army general in chief and U.S. president.
Dr. Frank Nickell, professor of history at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, where he also serves as the director of the Center for Regional History, will be the featured speaker. He will provide an overview of Civil War action throughout the region.
"Dr. Nickell is well known and really active with the Stars and Stripes Museum," Graham said.
Nickell has received several awards for his teaching efforts and service in humanities. He has also written and edited several books, articles and reviews on the history of the this area.
In addition, the society will display the Deal family collection received from the Dorothy Bihr Bruce estate and recently acquired scrapbooks received from the Danforth family.
"The Deals were movers and shakers in this town and community in the 1800s," Graham said.
During the Civil War one of the banks in town was robbed, Graham said. There was a man who was a member of the Deal family who talked (in articles) about hiding in the cottonwood tree in town during the robbery, he said.
"The tree stood in town for years and years," Graham said.
Items from the Deal collection also include actual fliers the family members put out during the Civil War, said Graham, who admitted he was surprised they had saved them.
"That was 150 years ago, and I can't keep up with bills from last month, hardly. These people thought enough back then to keep it," Graham said.
About six weeks ago, a female descendant of the Danforth family brought to the society four scrapbooks that had belonged to her grandmother, Graham said.
"They are really neat books. The clippings are like reliving what life was like from 1880 to 1890," Graham said.
The scrapbooks are filled with items like newspaper articles and dance cards from masquerade balls with men's names on them, Graham said.
While the items are brittle, they are still readable, Graham said. And photos are labeled very well, he said.
"You will get to see people whose names you've heard of. Now you can put their faces with their names," Graham said.
There are also many photos of old homes -- some which are are still standing and others that are not, Graham said.
"I believe you've got to appreciate the past to appreciate what the future might be," Graham said. "... "The Civil War was a pretty significant period in our history -- not only here but the rest of the country -- and so it's time to look back at it and reflect on it and see what it meant to the people back then."