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JIM: 110 years ago: Adair County meets the new century

A magnificent account of how far Columbia and Adair County have come in just 110 years. Some things were similar: There was a great religious fervor, the town treasury, similar to the city and county's of today, was well 'ahead of the hounds': And there is a news account of brain replacement surgery, in 1906 or so, following a muzzle-loader mishap. Jim's personal favorite column, and we wouldn't want to argue that point. -EW

By "Jim"

Happy New Year, Adair County!

For those of us who are grey (or white) of pate, it's hard to believe the second decade of the 21st century has dawned. No doubt, a similar thought crossed the mind of many an Adair Countian on January 1, 1901 with the arrival of the new century. One must wonder how a then-citizen of Columbia or Ozark or Breeding or White Oak or Bliss would react to the Adair County of today.

In 1901, there were neither cars nor electricity in the county; there wasn't a streetlight to be found; and telephony was still a squalling, temperamental infant. One-room schools dotted the landscape, but a public high school was nearly a decade away, and indoor "water works" lay considerably farther yet in the future.

Some Adair County roads were abysmal and the rest were worse, especially after hard rains and during winter and spring thaws. If your lucky stars aligned, a hack ride on the Columbia and Campbellsville Stage Line from terminus to terminus didn't take much over three hours, and if you were going farther yet apace from the auld sod, your trip most likely entailed another hack ride to Lebanon, the nearest depot, where you boarded a steam powered locomotive to take you to -- or at least nearer -- your destination.

But enough of my young adulthood memories...

Page three of the January 2, 1901 edition (in the custom of the day, page one was reserved mostly for state and national news and advertisements) stated that "The News bows to the advent of the Twentieth Century," then wryly observed that

There are some of our townsmen who firmly believe that the first year of the 20th century has passed, when it only began the first hour of Tuesday. Every body will now admit that we are in the light of the 20th century and it our opinion that none of us who have been caviling over this matter will discuss the question in 2099.

A "watch meeting" was held at the Columbia Methodist Church on the evening of December 31th, and the News duly reported it was well attended, that "The crowd was large and the behavior splendid." Mr. F.R. Winfrey conducted the devotional exercises; Bros. Triplett, Hindman, Price, Woods, and others delivered speeches (all of which, of course, "were to the point and well received.") Mrs. Kizzie Murrell "and assistants" rendered a number of musical selections; Miss Gertrude Grady delivered a "just splendid" recitation and solo; and the younger folks were well represented by young Miss Nannie Kate Flowers and Miss Katie Murrell, each in their early teens. The meeting ended when

At 12 o'clock the audience arose and sang Hymn No. 126, and then all joined in the Lord's prayer and the congregation dismissed. The night and service will be long remembered by those present.

The following week, the January 9 News reported that "The following gentlemen comprise the Municipal Board for 1901: Rollin Hurt, J.W. Richards, Scott Montgomery, S.D. Barbee, W.A. Coffey." Another article positively crowed that

Under the Mayorality of A.G. Todd and the present town council the town has a neat little cash balance in its favor. Up to January 1st, 1901, Columbia was ahead of the hounds $450.28 with $243.00 taxes to be collected. Assuming that this will be all paid, Columbia will be out of trouble with $684.28 (sic) to its credit.

At this point, J.E. Murrell simply couldn't resist pounding the podium of the bully pulpit by adding, "Now is the time to have a few lights on the street." It would be very nearly half a decade before Mr. Murrell's empassioned plea became a reality.

The next issue (January 16th) carried the somewhat belated news of the only New Year's Day birth reported, that of a "fine boy" (Cecil) at the home of Mr. T.P. Dunbar.

Curiously, not a single community newsletter through the January 16th paper made so much as a passing mention of the change of date or the century, not even the tried-and-true "New Year's passed off quietly in this section."

(Six years later, the front page of an early January edition sported the rather bizarre tale of an Adair Countian who got carried away in his celebratory efforts and seriously miscalculated how much of a powder charge his weapon could handle:

The gun was loaded, as we are informed, nearly to the muzzle and the discharge blew the breech-pin out and into Mr. K------'s head, penetrating the brain.

Thank goodness, however, for the advanced skill of Adair County's medical corps. The article went on to state that "The attending physician replaced the brains, sewed up the wound and Mr. K------ is now on the road to recovery.") -"JIM"

This story was posted on 2011-01-06 07:33:08
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