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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Safety Net: DAR, historical society help keep county history alive

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Safety Net catch of the week: Members of the Patsy Gregg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on Saturday, May 12, presented to the Saline County Historical Society a plaque they had rescued from the dustbins of history.

I was there to witness and photograph the event, but seven weeks is a long time to get the event its proper recognition in the paper. Of course, situations like this are just what this column primarily is for, to catch those things that should be noticed before they slip away.

And that's just what the Patsy Gregg members did, too, catching a bit of Saline County history before it slipped away.

The plaque, at first glance, is an ordinary-looking rectangular slab of metal that might otherwise have found its way into an area landfill or ditch without being noticed. But those with an eye for these things often notice historical importance where others see only junk.

But it has a few history lessons to impart, at least for a newcomer to the county like me.

The plaque was purchased by the chapter in 1929 to mark the site of Saline County's seat from 1831 to 1839. Before Marshall was born, the county seat was in little Napton. It was known as Jonesboro at the time, according to research by current chapter members. The plaque was dedicated on September 26, 1930, during Napton's Big Day Celebration and was placed on the grounds of the Napton School because that was believed to be the spot where the courthouse had been.

The courthouse in Jonesboro was "the upper part of a double log building built ion the side of hill, the lower part being used as a stable and grocery store," according to a brief history compiled by the DAR members with help from the historical society.

Their research also tells us how Jonesboro came to be known as Napton. It had to do with a bureaucratic need for order.

After the county seat moved to Marshall, Jonesboro lost its post office. Years later, residents apparently had grown tired of making the long trek to Arrow Rock or Marshall for their mail, but when they applied for a new post office, "the authorities in Washington reported that a post office could be granted if the name were changed, there being a Jonesburg in the state and to have two post offices with such similar names would cause confusion."

Jonesboro was in 1880 renamed to Napton in honor of Judge William B. Napton, a long-time judge of the Supreme Court of Missouri, who lived near Jonesboro, according to the DAR history.

More on Jonesboro:

"Its mill was one of a few in the state and wagon trains often stopped for provisions. Marshall at the time was a corn field. The last act of the court at Jonesboro was to appoint a committee to select a permanent sport for the court as near the center of the county as possible. The present site of Marshall was selected."

The plaque was mounted on a granite marker and the dedication ceremony in 1929 was attended by a number of state DAR dignitaries.

Joyce Knight, regent of the Patsy Gregg Chapter, said after the plaque was recovered, the group had planned to display it in Napton. However, they ultimately chose to give it a home with the county historical society because its location in downtown Marshall will give the artifact more visibility, the better to keep alive Jonesboro/Napton's chapter in Saline County history.

"We'll have a place for it," said Mildred Conner, president of the historical society. "We really appreciate getting this."

Conner confirmed that the plaque would have a better chance of being seen at the society's museum on the northwest corner of the Marshall square, where more than 3,000 visitors from 45 states and five countries have stopped by in the past three years.

I'm grateful for the invitation to attend the presentation, where I learned these things and got to meet more people who not only share my interest in history but know more about it than I do. Experienced musicians always tell me the way to improve is to hang out with your betters.

I guess the same applies to history.

Note: Please see page 16 of today's edition for a photo of the plaque presentation.

ERIC CRUMP, Editor
Safety Net