GALLERY: Historic African American Cemetery could be preserved by DNR under House bill

A cemetery that is historically significant, especially for the African American community at Clinton, Missouri, could be preserved by the Department of Natural Resources under a bill signed into law this year.

One of the veterans buried in Antioch Cemetery is Otis Remus Lyle, who served during World War I.  He is buried next to his father, George.  Otis’ wife, Nellie, remarried after his death and is also buried in Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The legislation authorizes the state DNR to acquire Antioch Cemetery in Clinton.  It could turn the cemetery into an educational site to be operated by the state Division of Parks.

Many of those interred in the five-acre cemetery are people who were once enslaved.  It was established in 1885, but the first burial occurred 17 years earlier; that of 36 year old James F. Davis, who died in 1868.  Two acres of the site were deeded to Clinton’s African American residents in 1888, for $50.  More land was gifted in 1940.

Representative Rodger Reedy (R-Windsor) sponsored the original version of the Antioch Cemetery language that became law this year, in his House Bill 395.

“The African American Community has been very instrumental to the development of this area.  They’ve been a very big part of the history, and I just felt like it needed to be preserved,” said Reedy.  “My concern was a lot of the cemetery board members were getting older and they were concerned about  how it would be maintained in the future, and I just saw this as a way to make sure this is maintained from here on out.”

There are many homemade headstones at Antioch Cemetery, including that of Charley Kerr, who died in 1914 as the result of a stab wound.  (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“I think our history is important and I think it’s always important to realize how we got to where we are today, and if we let places like this cemetery go by the wayside and not be maintained, our future generations are not going to be able to come back and look at the history,” said Reedy.

The earliest born individual in Antioch Cemetery is identified only as Aunt Mason, who was reportedly 106 years old when she died in 1887.  Contemporary newspaper accounts said she was “probably” the oldest person in the state at the time.  Papers recalled that while enslaved, Aunt Mason had been owned by at least four families, serving as a nurse for one.  One of those may have been the family of a man who was a state representative at the time the Civil War broke out.  It was around that time that she was freed, and for much of the time after that she lived alone.  Papers claim she was later shunned by her neighbors as a “witch and a soothsayer,” but recall she was “remarkable,” and retained vivid memories of her early life.  Hers is one of the many graves in Antioch that lacks a marker.

Representative Rodger Reedy stands at the grave of World War I veteran Gove Swindell, in Antioch Cemetery in Clinton. Reedy sponsored a bill aimed at ensuring the long-term preservation of Antioch. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The cemetery is also the final resting place of several veterans, including Jackson “Uncle Jack” Hall, who fought in the Civil War and died in 1911, at the age of 108.

It also includes brothers Charles and Clarence “Pete” Wilson, who served in World Wars I and II, respectively.  Charles served in France with the 92nd Infantry Division; a segregated infantry division of the U.S. Army that inherited the “Buffalo Soldiers” nickname given to African American cavalrymen in the 19th century.  Clarence was a Sergeant in the Army Air Corps.

Those in the cemetery haven’t always been allowed to rest peacefully.  In 1891, about two weeks after he was buried, the grave of Mat Wilson was desecrated and someone stole his body, leaving behind only his head and feet.

Burials at Antioch Cemetery have continued into the modern era, and the legislation will allow that to continue.

Click the left and right arrows below for more photos from Antioch Cemetery:

Antioch Cemetery

VIDEO: New license plate supporting Negro Leagues Baseball Museum soon available

      A museum telling an important story in the nation’s sports and cultural histories is featured on a new license plate that will soon be available to Missourians.

      The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City began in a one-room office in 1990 and today is in a 10,000 square-foot home among the Museums at 18th & Vine in Kansas City.  It is the only museum dedicated to the Negro Leagues, which originated in Kansas City in 1920 and offered people of color a chance to play professional baseball at a time when they were barred from playing in the major and minor leagues due to racism.

      License plates bearing the Museum’s logo will soon be available. It will cost $15 more than a regular license plate registration, and applicants can opt to donate $10 to the museum.  This is the result of legislation carried by Representative Mark Sharp (D-Kansas City)

      Sharp said the legacy of the Negro Leagues goes far beyond sports, having just as much to do with United States’ history and culture, and it meant a lot to him personally.

      “Without seeing black athletes and black players I’m not sure that I would’ve had the confidence in myself to do some of these things.  To see other folks and to know the story of what these gentlemen – and a lot of women – that get lost in the Negro Leagues’ history, what they had to go through really sets the standard for moving forward,” said Sharp.  “Without those players and what they’ve done I’m not sure a lot of young athletes would have the confidence to go out there and do what they do.”

      “The license plate will, one, create a bigger awareness of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  A lot of folks in Kansas City are aware of it but I’m not sure everyone across the state is aware of it, of this gem of a museum that we have here in our state,” said Sharp.  “Also, it will provide another funding mechanism for the museum.  For museums like this we also have to have enough ways and means to get funding to them to make sure they can stay up to date with current trends and make sure that the museum is in good condition.”

      Sharp carried Senate Bill 189 which included language that he also sponsored in House Bill 100, to create the plate.  The proposal received broad, bipartisan support in both chambers. 

      “We are just absolutely thrilled with this level of recognition and the opportunity to generation additional support,” said Museum President Bob Kendrick.  “I gotta tip my cap to all of the legislators who made this possible and what a tremendous nod that is to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

      SB 189 took effect August 28. When the new plates are available Missourians will be able to get them through local license offices.

Benton Mural model bids ‘fond farewell’ to his likeness

      The last living model for one of the Missouri State Capitol’s best-known artistic features paid a visit to his likeness today, giving in what could prove to be a “fond farewell.” 

Harold Brown, Junior, in front of his likeness (the baby whose diaper is being changed) in the Benton Mural, “The Social History of Missouri,” in the Missouri State Capitol (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communcations)

      In 1935, the legislature commissioned Thomas Hart Benton to paint the walls of the House of Representatives’ Lounge on the Capitol’s third floor.  Benton called it “The Social History of Missouri;” a history that he felt would be incomplete without a baby, for without children there would have been no expansion into the west.

      Enter Harold Brown, Junior, then the 1 year-old son of Missouri Adjutant General Harold Brown, Senior.  While Benton was visiting the General’s home he saw young Harold crawling on a blanket and asked to include him in the mural.  The Browns agreed and Benton sketched the youngster. 

      It is Harold’s likeness that became a baby having his diaper changed while a political rally plays out behind.

      “It’s been an honor,” said Brown of being included in the mural.  He said he likes to share the piece, and his story, with people.  “I’m fortunate to be there.”

Thomas Hart Benton’s sketch of one year-old Harold Brown, Junior, who he later included in his mural on the walls of the House Lounge in the Missouri State Capitol. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Brown, now 86, said with a wry smile that he’s “getting pretty feeble,” so he’s not sure how many more times he will be able to visit the mural.

      His father is also in the mural.  Benton was actually at the family’s home to sketch Harold, Senior’s likeness when he got the idea to include Harold, Junior.  The elder Brown is the foreman of a jury in a courtroom scene near the southeast corner of the Lounge.

      Brown also has the sketches Benton made of him and of his father.  The sketch of his one-year-old self includes blotches of paint; the artist’s reminders to himself of what colors to use for the infant’s skin and eyes.

      Benton signed the sketch, “To the Browns with apologies.”  Brown explains, Benton was concerned Brown’s parents wouldn’t appreciate his rendition of their baby boy.

Harold’s father, Harold Brown Senior, also made it into Benton’s mural. He is the jury foreman in this scene – he can be seen with his left hand over his wright wrist. (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      “My mother said, ‘Why with apologies?  That’s such a beautiful thing.’  [Benton] said, ‘Because that’s my style.  It’s bold and the baby is much prettier than that,’ and that’s why he signed it like that.”

      Brown said he never met Benton after he was old enough to have remembered him, “and I can kick myself.  I should have found out where he was in Kansas City or wherever he was and introduced myself to him and shake his hand.  I think he would have appreciated that too,” said Brown.  “You know, you think that you’re too busy to do a lot of things that you should do until it’s too late.”

      Brown, Junior’s bare-bottomed likeness and the rest of the “Social History of Missouri” can be seen during guided tours of the Missouri State Capitol, which are offered by staff of the State Museum.

‘Trailblazer’ for women in politics inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians

A woman described as a “political trailblazer” is the latest inductee into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

The bust of Annie White Baxter, being added to the Hall of Famous Missourians, is joined by Representatives Sonya Anderson, Gina Mitten, Peggy McGaugh, and Ann Kelley (L-R). (Photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Annie White Baxter was the first woman elected to public office in Missouri and the first female county clerk in the United States.  Baxter was elected Jasper County Clerk in 1890, 30 years before women were eligible to vote.  She later served as the state registrar of lands from 1908 to 1916, and as the financial secretary of the Missouri Constitutional Convention in 1922.

Baxter earned a reputation as one of the state’s best county clerks.  She played a role in the planning and early work in constructing the current Jasper County Courthouse.  Then-governor David R. Francis named her an honorary colonel for her work, leading to one of her nicknames, “Colonel Baxter.”

“Today is such a proud moment in the preservation of our Missouri history,” said Wendy Doyle, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation.

Doyle said this recognition for Baxter is long overdue, and will inspire future generations.

“It is important to recognize women’s historical contributions in historic sites, state parks, and other public spaces.  We are stronger when we can see ourselves in the lives and legacies of those who came before us … we know that recognizing the historical contributions that women have made in the past is an important part of empowering and inspiring women of all generations today,” said Doyle.  “Today is a moment of great Missouri pride.”

The House Speaker selects inductees to the Hall.  Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) said people like Baxter paved the way for those who have influenced his life and the lives of those close to him.

Women’s Foundation President & CEO Wendy Doyle speaks during the ceremony to induct Annie White Baxter in the Hall of Famous Missourians. (Photo courtesy: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

He said it was his mother who was the first political advisor in his life, “who really gave me the words of wisdom that ended up putting me on course to take the job that I have today.  I pass that along to my children, especially my three daughters who will grow up in a world where they don’t have to think about not having the opportunity to vote and not having the opportunity to run for office.  It’s moments like these that I feel especially excited about not just what we’ve learned from the past but about the future of our state and our country,” said Haahr.

Current Jasper County Clerk Charlie Davis said Baxter’s efforts lead the way for women not just in his county or Missouri, but nationwide.

“Today I cannot even imagine our country or our counties or our state being run without women … but you know there are places all across this globe that women don’t have the right.  They don’t have the right to vote, they don’t have the right to participate in any politics, and I think some of that needs to change, because I look at our country.  Our country is much better today than it was in 1890 when Annie White Baxter was the first woman elected in the State of Missouri and the first woman elected as county clerk in our country,” said Davis.

Baxter’s induction came one week after the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.  Doyle called that an event of, “great significance for Annie White Baxter, knowing she oversaw the very elections that she couldn’t even vote in.”

The Hall of Famous Missourians is located in the third floor Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol, between the House and Senate chambers.  Others in the Hall include Walt Disney, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Josephine Baker.

Ceres statue removed from Capitol dome for first time in 94 years

For the first time since 1924 the statue of Ceres is no longer on the top of the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

The statue of Ceres from the top of the Missouri State Capitol building is removed for cleaning and restoration. The removal is part of a years-long project to restore and preserve the Capitol. (Photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The 10-foot, four inches tall and 2,000 pound bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, was placed on the Capitol dome on October 29, 1924.  It was taken down off of the dome Thursday morning by crane so that it can undergo cleaning and conservation.

The removal of the statue from the top of the dome took approximately five hours.

The statue was available for public viewing on the south side of the Capitol for a few hours before crews began preparing it to be taken to Chicago.  It is expected to be placed back atop the dome after roughly a year.

Ceres’ removal and restoration is part of an approximately $50-million project to restore and repair the exterior of the Capitol.

“We’re trying to eliminate the massive amount of water infiltration that’s been occurring in the building over the years,” said Cathy Brown, Director of the Office of Administration’s Division of Facilities Management, Design and Construction.

The Ceres statue is 10-feet and 4-inches tall and was sculpted by Sherry Fry of Iowa. (Photo; Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe said the Capitol’s water damage is somewhat visible from the ground, but when he was up on the dome with the crews that prepared the Ceres statue for removal, it was much more apparent.

“When you get up and look at it, it’s amazing somebody didn’t get hurt; the stones are that deteriorated and there’s that much separation in some of the joints, so this project’s very, very timely for the safety of all Missourians that come down – thousands a year enjoy this Capitol,” said Kehoe.

Dana Miller is the Chief Clerk of the Missouri House and Chairwoman of the Missouri Capitol Commission.  She said the removal of Ceres is the latest step in the years-long project to restore the Capitol.  She said the exterior work represents the second phase of that project, which is about one-third complete.

“The east side of the building is currently what we call, ‘under wraps.’  All the stones – the joints are being ground out, they’re being re-tuck-pointed, we’re doing repair work on the stone that requires, in some cases, replacement.  In other cases it’s just cracks or partial repairs … that is well underway on the east side of the building.  At some point late winter to early spring we’ll be seeing the scaffolding come down when the east side is completed and all that scaffolding will move to the west side.  It’ll go up and then we’ll see the west side of the building under wraps and then that same process will take place on the west side.  The dome is the third factor – the drum and the dome … so when I say about a third of the way, you look at the east side of the building, the west side, and you look at the drum and the dome as the third component,” said Miller.

The statue of Ceres will be taken to a Chicago firm for restoration and cleaning. Several hundred people turned out to see the statue being taken down from the dome and during a public viewing after it was lowered. (Photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

After the second Capitol building in Jefferson City was destroyed by fire following a lightning strike in 1911, Missourians voted to approve tax funding for a new Capitol.  The tax generated approximately $1-million more money than was needed for construction of the Capitol, but all the money it generated had to be used on the building.  The remaining $1-million went into the artwork found around and throughout the Capitol, including the Ceres statue.

Historian and author Bob Priddy said that commission chose Ceres to adorn the dome because Missouri is an agrarian state.  Some have suggested that she should then face north because most of Missouri’s best cropland is found in that half of the state.  Priddy said she faces south because the main entrance of the Capitol is on its south side.

“She’s greeting and blessing the people who come to the Capitol.  That’s why her hand is outstretched.  It’s outstretched in blessing to Missourians.  You outstretch your hand in blessing to people as they come to see you,” said Priddy.

Brown said the plan is to restore Ceres to her south-facing position when the statute is returned to the dome.

Kehoe noted that just as this Capitol’s predecessor was struck by lightning there is evidence that the Ceres statue has been struck as well.

The Ceres statue is hoisted onto a truck before being viewed by the public. It took crews approximately five hours to slowly and gently lower the statute from the top of the dome. (photo; Mike Lear, Missouri House Communications)

“I asked the conservator, once we had her on the trailer and could see her very closely.  He didn’t know how many of the spots on her head and body were actually lightning strikes, but he has a way that he’ll check that and be able to let us know,” said Kehoe.

Miller said it’s exciting to see the project to restore and preserve the Capitol proceeding.

“It’s very gratifying to see the work happening.  We worked years – a lot of individuals in the building and out of the building have worked hard to get the momentum going and the funding secured to see all of these changes that have occurred,” said Miller.

The Ceres statue will be taken to the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc, in Chicago, for cleaning and conservation.  The last time it underwent such work was in 1995 when a crew restored her to prevent deterioration, but the work was done while the statue remained on the dome.

The statue was created by sculptor Sherry Fry of Iowa.  Some historians believe the statue was modeled after Audrey Munson, a silent film star known as America’s first supermodel, who was the model for countless statues in the nineteen teens and nineteen twenties.

Brown said those who didn’t get to see the statue up close today will have another chance before it is returned to the top of the dome.