Saturday, November 10, 2012

Carthage, Missouri

This small Missouri town of about 15,000 people has an impressive 160 years of history.  After perusing the travel brochures on this town we decided that a visit here calls for more than a two day stay.  Our first stop in the town was the town square where we were immediately drawn to the courthouse.  It is the second most photographed building in Missouri, after the St.Louis Gateway Arch.  Architecturally it is an impressive building, constructed of stone from a local quarry.  It was built from 1894-95.
In the lobby of the courthouse is a mural "Forged in Fire" by Lowell Davis.  The mural tells of the history of Jasper County, as well as the men and women crucial to its history.  Carthage was totally destroyed by fire by the Confederate Army in 1864 during temporary absence of the Union garrison.  In 1861 was the first battle of Carthage, when the Union army was defeated.  That was the first major land battle of the Civil War.  Over thirteen engagements plus constant terror from guerrillas continued for the next few years in the Carthage region.  At the second Battle of Carthage in 1863 the Confederates were pushed out of Carthage  into Arkansas.  Subjection to the constant terror of war changed the lives of the townspeople.  One such person was a lady by the name of Myra Shirley.  Embittered by the death of her brother, who was killed by Union troops, she joined up with several guerrillas and became known as Belle Starr, Queen of the Outlaws.  She can be seen sitting on her horse in the middle of the mural "Forged in Fire", pictured  below.
Only one house was left standing after Carthage was burned.  The house was used for a short time by a commander of the Confederate Army in 1863.  It is the Kendrick farm, which is pictured below.
Within ten years after the war 6,000 people called Carthage home.  And it was the wealth lying under the land which made possible an industrial boom for the town at the turn of the century- namely zinc,lead and limestone.  Many of the large beautiful Victorian-styled homes built during that time can still be seen in the town today.  After touring the courthouse John and I took a driving tour of the town to see those old homes, the first of which was where R. Marlin Perkins was born in 1905.  His house was not as spectacular as the rest of the older homes, however, so I will post instead a picture of the Hill House built in 1887.  Our guide book Through the Years Carthage Missouri describes it as having a "round turret, corbelled out from the wall with a candle-snuffer roof ".  To me it is just plain awesome!

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