Smelterville 1967: Where Are They?

I need some help tracking down some kids I shot back in the spring of 1967.

Like most folks in Cape, I knew where Smelterville was and would drive past it on South Sprigg, but never ventured into it much.

Periodic cleanup

In the spring of 1967, though, I had an assignment to shoot one of the periodic cleanups. I took that as an opportunity to walk around documenting some of the buildings and people who lived there. One of the cleanup photos ran in The Missourian, I think, but everything else got filed away.

Photos have historical value

When I talked with Lisa Speer, Associate Professor and Special Collections Librarian at SEMO, about picking up my stuff when I move into that eternal darkroom, she was fascinated by the Smelterville pix and some I took of a New Madrid Mississippi River baptism. She said there’s a dearth of photography of the black communities in that era.

What happened to the people?

That made me wonder what had happened to the people in my photographs.

I’ve hit a lot of dead ends (literally) in New Madrid, but finding the Smelterville subjects seems more promising. When I was chasing down the minor league ballpark rumors, I talked with a couple of guys standing in a front yard near Fort D. When one of them mentioned that he had lived in Smelterville, I said, “Have I ever got some photos to show you.”

Got some good leads

One of them knew just about every kid, the names of their dogs and who owned the cars in the background. He even said that most of them still lived in the area. The old folks, have long passed on, but the kids should be in their mid to late 50s.

He put the word out on the street and I met with three members of one family. Interestingly enough, one was sure he could identify his siblings and the house they lived in, but couldn’t be positive if one of the photos was of him as a child.

Hard to identify children

I thought that odd, but then I looked back at photos of me as a toddler all the way up to my teens. If I hadn’t been TOLD that was me or if I didn’t recognize the backgrounds to put things in context, I don’t know that I would recognize myself.

Here’s your assignment

Anyway, here’s your assignment: if you can identify any of the people in these photos, let me know. If you know where they live or how to get in touch with them, that’s even better.

I’m going to be doing a quick swing to Cape to deal with my transportation problems toward the end of this week, but I’ll be back for a longer stay in October when we celebrate Mother’s Birthday Season. It would be great to have some interviews lined up for that trip.

I’ll keep you up to date on how the project is going. I have more photos and lots of stories for later.

Smelterville photo gallery

Here’s a selection of the people I’d like to find. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

103 Replies to “Smelterville 1967: Where Are They?”

  1. I believe the 2 boys in the last pic are sons of Charlie Self (Selph). Charlie Self was a widower who raised several children alone and who lived in Smelterville. He drove an old, old beat-up truck and brought scrap to Pollack Hide & Fur Co. on Independence Street neart Kingshighway. There were always several children with him on each trip he made. The children were always unkept and dirty but friendly as was their dad. They were very good people who lived life to their best ability with what they had which was only one another. The children would be in their 50’s to 60’s now. My dad was acquainted with the family but my dad has passed away. Sydney Pollack lives in Memphis, Tn now and may be able to identify the children. There is only one other person who could possibly identify them and that is Fred Norris who worked at Pollacks. I saw Fred Norris at my dad’s funeral service on November 1, 2010 and he still lives in Cape Girardeau. I remember my dad talking about Elsie Selph (teacher at SEMO) who would have been a sister-in-law to Charlie Self (sp?) but I believe she has also passed on. It is possible that you may contact her son, Jon Selph, although I have no idea where to locate him. He graduated from CHS in ’64. Bert Wells and Jon Selph were friends in high school. I would love to give you more info. but this is all I can coax out of the recesses of my brain!

  2. I grew up on South Sprigg. Ours was the last house before getting to Smelterville at that time. I graduated in 68 but don’t recognize any of these people. Wish I could help. I knew some kids my age who lived in Smelterville but they would be my age. We went to school together at May Greene School . They were twins named Charles and Charlotte Taylor. I would love to find them again but have no idea where they are. I also knew an older man who ran a grocery store there–Charlie Diedecher (sp). He drove an old panel van and would pick up neighborhood kids to take to church at the Southside Baptist Church, which was one block from my house at 1240 S Sprigg (house burned down several years ago). Of course he would be long since deceased. May Greene School records or connections might have some clues for you.

    1. Darla, I think Charles Taylor lives in Milwaukee, Wi. I seen Charles a few years ago at a May Greene school reunion and at that time he was working at the university as a history professor. Lloyd Williams, who lives here in Cape has contact with Charles. I’ll try to get his e-mail posted

      1. Hi Gary! Didn’t I go to school with you? Thanks for the info. Please let me know if they ever have another May Greene reunion. I have been gone from Cape for many years but I still miss the river and the hills and, of course, the loving people. If you have contact with Charles, will you direct him to my blog? ( Do you know anything about his twin, Charlotte? She was my buddy in class.

    2. Last name of Charlie was Dietiker, owned and ran his grocery store with his wife Lovey. His brother John owned and operated the store in smelterville. Nephew , Jiggs Dietiker, owned and operated one in Red Star district.

  3. The Southeast Missourian “Out of the Past” 100 years ago: May 9, 1906 reports “The first buildings of the great Southern Metal and Manufacturing plant were practically completed Saturday,and what is to be one of the largest lead-manufacturing plants in the United States is rapidly taking shape just south of Cape Girardeau.”
    Smelterville was given the name because of the group of investors that began to start the smelter business in the area, but apparently the business venture may have been under-capitalized and failed without any significant business or building being done.

    1. Keith and Suzanne,

      I was going to talk about the history of Smelterville, which was really made up of four communities, when I did the main piece on the story.

      It was a fascinating story from a historical and a human sense. One of the things that is most striking is the the photos I have of the buildings and living conditions show what most of us would consider appalling.

      The people I’ve interviewed, on the other hand, don’t talk about that: they recount fond memories of a tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone and looked out for each other.

      I’m looking forward to telling a more complete story of the area soon.

  4. Smelterville got it’s name due to the fact there was a smeltering plant located there used for the extraction of metal.

  5. Ken, I happened to find your website and was fascinated with your wonderful photography and documentation of the Smelterville population. I wish I could shed some light. We moved to Cape in 1932 and lived on South Ellis. I was in 1st grade. Smelterville was just South of us. My dad was a dentist in New Madrid and we spent a lot of time there. I remember very well the shotgun houses and the cotton pickers in the field just outside our window in New Madrid.My dad had no problem getting up in the middle of the night to treat anyone in pain We have come along way to give everyone an opportunity they so richly deserve. Thank you for your interest in those great people.

    1. Mary,

      I may come knocking on your door to try to track down folks I shot in New Madrid as part of another project.

      I’m hitting more dead ends there than with the Smelterville pix.

  6. I can try to look up classmates from Central High School from the classes of 1960-1970. I will need the year of graduation or their last name. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Gail. The problem is that I don’t KNOW their names.

      I’m having to wander around in South Cape with a stack of photos following leads. Like I said in the story, it’s fairly easy to identify older people (who are, for the most part, not with us any more).

      Kids are a lot harder, particularly when we’re talking about kids who were 8-10 45 years ago.

      When I come back in October, I think I’ll have better luck. I’ve left reprints with some folks who think they can track my subjects down.

  7. Ken,
    I’ve followed your site and often wondered if you had more images of the black communities! I am amazed at these. Even though I was not born then, I do recognize some people in the pics. I would have to verify, and wish I could tag the ones I know. The lady painting the porch column I believe is Mrs. Mary Depree. I see some of her children, Rose, Alice, and some are her boys, but I can’t point them out. I have Rose and some of her family on Facebook, I’ll refer them to the site to help identifying others.

    1. I’ve tracked down Sheila, Leroy and Clinton Wren. It’s interesting that they can point out their siblings, but can’t identify themselves.

      I left copies of some of the photos with Sheila and Clinton. They’re going to show them around the community.

      I appreciate any help you can give me. It’s a part of Cape that has long been neglected. I’d like to fill in some of the gaps in the community’s history.

      1. The two girls with the baby are Gwen and Debra Squires……don’t know who the baby is though. I verified that from Gwen herself, and she didnt remember who’s baby either.

  8. Ken, I am unable to see all the comments on this article. Help me! You have struck a nerve in my memory with this article and I did make a comment and did receive an email notification of a reply from Gary Wren. I would like to respond to his reply. Thanks.

    1. Darla,

      For some reason, you have to refresh your browser to bring in new content if you’ve already been to the page.

      Press Ctrl-F5 and that’ll bring in all the messages. Sorry for the problem.

      1. Thanks so much Ken! I am amazed at your work. I look forward to your posts every day. You are much more diligent than I am when it comes to keeping current on the blog. You inspired me to start a new blog of my memories of growing up on South Sprigg Street. It will never compare to your work of course, but you can stop by anytime. Just click on my name.

  9. Dear Mr. Steinhoff:

    I have seen the pictures of the “Where Are They Now” children of Smelterville (Smothersville as called by my family and friends who actually lived there). These are pictures of myself, brothers, sisters, cousins and the home I personally lived in! Wow! My wife asked me were there any pictures of me while I was young. This weekend you provided these pictures to me through my sister Sheila Wren.

    Are there any more of these pictures that were taken down in Smelterville? Again, these are pictures of myself and family!

    Very sincerely and thank you,

    Curtis Lee Wren
    2557 Plymouth
    High Ridge, MO 63049
    (Outskirts of St. Louis, MO)

    1. Curtis,

      I’m glad you found these. I’ve been trying to track down as many of the folks who appeared in these photos as possible for a project. I’ve had a chance to catch up with Sheila, Leroy and Clinton Wren and Ruth Depree.

      Maybe we could get together in late October when I come back to MO for about three weeks. Lets keep in touch.

      I have quite a few more photos of Smelterville, but the ones that are on the Where Are They page are the ones that show people, rather than buildings. Which pictures did you show up in?

  10. The summer between my junior and senior year at Central, I worked on a community program that sprayed DDT in all homes that wanted it, there was a charge. Doc Ford who was then I believe coach at Mae Greene school was the coordinator for the program (think it was a federal program – not sure). When we went to spray in Smelterville. we sprayed without charging. A fellow classmate friend, Ray Estes, were partnesr on the truck we worked out of. We sere shocked at the living conditions in the area. (I could dredge up detailed stories.!)

    Also I belonged to the national guard and was a truck driver. I think my senior year (1948-1949) the national guard was called to evacuate Smelterville when the Mighty Mississippi flooded (before sea walls built.) That also ws some experience.

  11. The lady in the picture with the head scarf on, standing alone is my grand mother….Her nickname was Dump but her real name was Leonard Phieffer Beal…..and the boy holding the cat is my Uncle Billy Beal.

  12. Ken Steinhoff Darla Yow Franklin I love what you have done here. I too grew up in Smelterville and recognize many of the people in the photos. Darla I am cousin to Charles and Charolette Taylor who have been made aware of this site and your web site. Contact me if you need his contact info. I also publish a community news paper called The Crossroad here in Cape.

    1. Lloyd, thank you so much for your comment. I actually have found both Charles and Charlotte! Charlotte & I are keeping the phone line busy. :)I hope to someday see Charlotte again. I will be looking at your paper with great interest.

  13. Yes this is Ms.Dump
    I saw this on facebook- that you were looking for people from the flood. Please e-mail. I’d like to talk to someone.This was tragic for all of us in South Cape Girardeau,Mo

  14. My maiden name is Fay Beal and i grew up in swelterville, the lady with the scarf on her head standing by herself is my mother, i did not have any pictures of her untill this was presented to me. She died in 1977 at age 55, so this picture is a Godsend for me. her name is Leonard Beal,but every one knew her as Mrs. Dump. Also the lady in the long skirt sitting on the porch with the boy beside her is my Grandmother on my mother side. her name is Mary Phifer and the boy with her is my firtst cousin Donald Turner. please contact me if anyone has more pictures or know where i can get more. I know all the people in all of the pictures and we were a very happy community. i have too many stories to tell.

    1. I am equally happy to have made you acquaintance. I’m glad to have been able to provide you with a photo of your mother. Do you live in Cape? I’m wrapping up a visit right now, but I’ll be back in the spring and would like to talk with you.

      You can send email directly to me at

      I’d love to hear your stories about Smelterville.

    2. I remember a Mike Phifer who was a fantastic piano player, who went to school at May Greene. He would play for us in the gym when we could talk him into it. Do you know him? Is he in any of these pictures?

    3. Hi Fay, this Walter Holman you may remember me as (Walter Lewis). I’m pretty sure I saw you and Eddy May at my sister Louise funeral last year. Do you still have pictures of some of the people in or from Smelterville.

  15. the boy holding the cat is my brother, Billy Beal, the girl next to him is our cousin Margret Turner, the young man standing on top of the bush pile with the hat on is a family friend his name is Robert Johnson, better known as “littleman”. the boy standing by himself with the stocking cap on the Pat Johnson, Robert’s brother he is deceased. the tall girl in the picture with the white shirt and plaid skirt is my sister, Lenora Beal nickname “honeycone”.
    in the picture with all the children the family names are Turners, Lyons, Beal and the Wrens. the picture of the teenage girl holding a baby and my brother Billy standing beside her is my first cousin Mary Jean Phifer. I’m in contact with her weekly.

    1. hey Faye I knew that was Honeycone it’s been a long time its me Janice Sue, Betty Beal Daye’s daughter wow get back to me wow!!!!

      1. Janice, i don’t see any contact information for you at this sight. you can contact me at the email address above.

  16. Hi Darla,
    Mike Phifer is my cousin, he plays the piano, guitar,and drums all by ear. He live outside of Chicago.
    he has done very well for himself and loves to come home to see all the Cape family.

    1. Thanks Fay. Glad to hear that Mike kept his musical talent going. We LOVED it when he played for us at May Greene. I doubt that he would remember me because I think he was older than me and I was a pretty quiet little girl back then…not so quiet any more 🙂

  17. The two boys in the last picture look like Jimmy & Carl Dorris. They may have lived in Smelterville at that time and then moved up to Braun’s Addition.

  18. the two boys are jimmie and carl dorris. i know because both of them are my younger brothers. the picture was taken not long before we moved out of smelterville which was febuary, 1967. we lived at i believe 87 la cruz.

    1. Hey, I remember you guys. Jodi McLane, My brother hung out with you, Tom Graham and the Benton Boys. We lived on Benton Street. I remember going up to your little place on the hill?? I remember there being a donkey or a pony of somekind that didn’t like me very well. There also used to be a woman that lived in the same area, can’t remember her name. She was a big woman that used to use snuff and sit on her front porch, I would sit a talk to her. What has happened to all of you?? I live in central Illinois, my brother is in Florida.

  19. I also grew up in smelterville, my family moved there early 1970’s would be my guess. I don’t recognize anyone in the pictures. My dad is Pete cooper he had a salvage yard there for many years on Poplar Street. There were 6 girls in my family and we had the best time growing up in Smelterville people who lived there were hard working people taking care of their families. Our house was always clean and nice which is not what most people thought about the people that lived in Smelterville. Do you have any other pictures to post?

    1. I have about twice that many more, but most of them shows buildings and streets rather than people. I’m working on them for a conference where I’ll be speaking on regional photography at the Altenburg museum in October. When I get a couple more projects out of the way, I may try to produce a limited edition book of the photos.

  20. Patty Cooper, did your family live in between the two sets of railroad track. i remember a family of girls all blonds. do you have a sister name Linda, she would be my age 57 or 58.

  21. Hi Fay, yes we did live between the two sets of tracks on the West side, When we were there the only person I remember livig on the other side of the tracks was mr. Bill Weavor, a sweet older man who delivered the newspaper. I have 5 sisters and we were all blonds, mostly still are No sister named Linda I do have a sister that would be that age her name is Sharon, then one a year younger and her name is Evelyn. Nice talking with you.

  22. Patty Cooper,
    Maybe I’m wrong on the name, ask them if they remember Fay Beal, I’m sure i was friends with one of your sisters. I remember Mr. Weaver, that delivered new papers. My goodness that was a long time ago. But my best memories ever.

  23. It has brought tears to my eyes reading about all the people who have been able to lable these cherished photos and in some cases, connect with each other for the first time in years. Fay, I am so happpy you now have a photo of your mother. Ken, what a wonderful service you have provided.

  24. Ilived at 546 south middle.Its gon now my house sat at the top of the hill. Ithink it was called millhill? lived in cape till just starting centerial high,but mom movied to west memphis then came back three or four years latter.
    Remimbered a frind called Rainbow that went to may green, I think his real name was joe booker?not sure

    1. @ John W. Clark,

      the hill that you are talking about was called towgate hill. Mill hill was up on the north side of Cape. I too lived in Smelterville most of my life. The faces in the pictures are so familiar, but after all these years; it is hard to put a name to the face. After reading some of the comments then looking back at the pictures, I do remember them especially Honeycomb. We were friends as children.

  25. I consider this an important “documentary” of part of our town that has been overlooked over the years. I remember the area well and for some reason my dad and I had occasion to go to or through there on a number of occasions. It was much different than the rest of Cape and the people and activities going on at any time were fascinating. Dad threw an outdoor party for the Telephone Co. employees every several years and the “entree” was common to his native country of Mexico–barbecued goat. He would get several of them from neighboring farms but he only trusted a man in Smelterville to do the slaughtering and cooking. I’m sure that those occasions were the only times many of the Tel. employees had such a delicacy. Btw, I would go to help pick up the live goats and the first time, dad let me learn a lesson. He told me which ones to get but the “billy” goat always stepped forward to defend his herd. And sure enough as I tried to get by it, I was knocked so hard I rolled some distance. Dad finally clued me in on the trick: grab the billy by the horns and raise the front legs, thus its leverage is largely gone and they can be “walked” on their hind legs to the awaiting truck! Thanks, Ken, for these photos and also those who could to identify some of the Smelterville residents.

  26. I am the sister of Gary Wren. We lived in Smelterville most of our lives as well. We lived at 616 Poplar St. Smelterville was not a black only community. There were two Wren families, one black , one white. We lived in Smelterville until the flood of 1973.I would love for you to contact my Mother, Georgia Diamond -Wren, also my sister, Sharon Wren -Bragg. My sister’s e-mail is She has a memory like a steel trap. Earlier this year, July 21, 2012 there was a reunion for people who lived in the Smelterville area. It was called “The Vine Street Connection”, held at one of the local motels. I found out about this through Willa Webb-Pike(works for the Cape Co. Division of Ageing-Elder Abuse Division)I was unable to attend ,my sister Rebbecca(Becky) Wren-Stinnett was fortunate to attend the the event.I believe this is supposed to become an annual event. Not for sure, you could find out through Willa Webb-Pike. My mother Georgia Wren raised 7 children in a three room house,as Patty Cooper was stating ,our house was clean, just a bit crowded. My moter will be 87yrs. old 1-31-13.I hope that you get in contact with her. My mother’s uncle Bob Beckett had a hog farm on one of the sand islands accross from the grainery. She lived many years of her life down in the area, as did her siblings and other relatives. My father Ralph (Sonny) Wren worked down at the cement plant which at that time wasknown as the Federal Materials Plant, he set and placed charges for the dynamite used to blast down in the quarry. I have two siblings Gary and Don Wren that are currently working at the facility. My mother still lives in the South Cape area, as well as me, my sister Becky and brother Kenny. My mother could tell you every building and the people who lived in them or what they were used for. There were several litle grocery stores, John Deiteker’s, Ratliff’s grocery(Carl and Juanita) another accross the second set of track that was owned by Mr. Latin…I believe. We did not own a vehicle growing up, mom walked us everywhere. She never met a stranger. She has the gift of gab! I can remember the kids in the pics so vivdly. Sheila wren lives basicallly caddie corner from me. If you would like to contact my Mother you can e-mail me and I will reply with an address. My cell # is 573-579-3736. Feel free to call. I am now 52 yrs. old. I am the age of the group of children you had pics of. My mother, siblings and I could give you info on many of the familiesand duildings. The Smelterville Community had a lot of hard knocks, flooding poverty and many obstacles to overcome. We always bounced back,knew and helped eachother Some people were so ashamed about living there that they won’t even speak of it, not me, some of my fondest memories! My cousin Vonda Maglone-SczepanskiE-mailed me about your efforts and the site to veiw the pics. I was able to identify most all of the people in them. She called last night and told me that I was correct on many of them, especially The Dupree Family, Wren Family, the Doris boys and honeycomb. I still see honeycomb frequent, as she still lives in South Cape. There is a page on Facebook”Growing up in Cape. I have made connections with several people that I attended May Greene School with. One of the people was Frieda Smith(my age) she lived in the house in which Darla Yow lived. She lived there when it burned. I could really go on and on.I love what you are doing with this project.Please contact me if you put together the limited edition you mentioned. Did you happen to publish the book for “The Vine Stree Connection” I believe it was titled “Smelterville the Disgrace of Cape”? My sister Becky has a copy that I just breifly got to skim through. It had most the same pics you displayed. They may have been copied from the Missouriam archives. A fantastic place to find info on south cape through just typing in May Greene School. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SPARKING UP SUCH FOND MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD!!!

    1. Thank you for your message and contact info. I’m still working on the project. Yes, I did self-publish a prototype book of Smelterville pictures, primarily so I would have something to show around. The working title was Smelterville: The Shame of Cape.

      After attending two Smelterville reunions last summmer, I saw the title could be misinterpreted. I intended to mean that the shame should be attached to us who lived “up the hill” and allowed a community to be neglected. No other neighborhood in Cape had so few of the services the rest of the town took for granted.

      I published a few more copies with the title Smelterville: 1967, but it’s very much a work in progress.

      I was moved to find that I had the only known photo of someone’s mother.

      There was talk about the Vine Street Connection being held every two years, but I think they may hold a second one the summer of 2013 to keep the momentum going. If you can make it, you should attend.

    2. If anyone read this sad story at least Teresa’s
      family kinda ran that part of its cape and that was so interesting. I really enjoyed and unfortunately times were really really hard on a lot of people that live down there and yeah that’s a hard thing to see. Teresa died a couple years ago and we miss her every day dammit but yeah she knew everything about Smelterville down there and I remember as a kid my dad would drive through there after we went to church on Sunday morning and we had to say prayer for everybody with Catholics we did a whole Lotta praying for people we didn’t know but it was really cool and God I’ve had so many memories down there in Smelterville my parents didn’t know about most of them but we had a good time as kids run around through there. And then Halloween in Smelterville. just fun and TPD’d everyone’s car and I
      wasn’t dangerous in Cape Girardeau then like iis now Times were so fun and people would be different and if it was M

  27. My father, Lou Hobbs had tons of stories about smelterville. He lived there and his stories were always filled with love for the people and his memories were all good. He also talked about may green school and how much he loved it. I loved seeing the pictures and reading the stories. I would like to see more about this area. It need not be forgotten.

    Nan Blattel

  28. Hi Ken,
    would like to know when your book on Smelterville will be published? My family lived in smelterville from 1913 to the late 1950s. I have pictures and information about Smelterville I would be glad to share with you. I’m 75 and lived in Smelterville as a child in the 30s, 40, 50,
    I have lots of good memories of Smelterville.
    Eugene Beckett

    1. I was hoping for this summer, but it’s looking more like 2014 because of other projects that got in the way.

      Any idea when the reunions will be held this summer? I’m trying to work out my travel schedule.

  29. Hello again Ken,

    I see that at least a couple of my family members contacted you regarding living in Smelterville and the identies of some of the people in your photographs. I did receive notification that the Vine Street Connection will not be held this year, but next year instead. I too would be very interested in purchasing a book when you get it finished. There are so many fond memories from growing up there. My children also spent some of their early childhood living there too. We last lived there in the late 70’s and early 80’s before moving up to the top of Tollgate hill. I believe that my children learned some valuable lesson in life. One being to be appreciative of what you have. Thank you very much for the trip down memory lane and I hope to hear from you regarding a copy of your book. I sure wish I had been able to be in Cape during the time you passed out your prototypes. I live in Wisconsin and would very much appreciate a copy of your book to pass down to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Thanks Again for everything,

    Vonda Maglone Sczepanski

  30. Dear Ken, These images of Smelterville are just stunning. I’m helping a man write his memoir, who had a work connection to Smelterville. May I have your permission to use one of these images? If so, how should the photo credit read? Thank you. Kathy E.

  31. Dear Ken, I keep trying to post to ask permission to use one of these images but the website is telling me “duplicate comment,” and won’t post it, though I’ve never posted here before. Can you kindly email me off line so that I have your email or phone number, and I will contact you about permission to use one of these images in a memoir I’m writing? Thank you, Kathy E. St. Louis


  33. I did not ever live in smeltersville, but my grandparent and aunts and uncles lived there. I saw that someone mentioned Charles taylor, he is my uncle and Judy Taylor is my mother, I was raised by my grandparents Hazel and Ollie Taylor, if anyone remebers them let me know, in the meantime, I will show these photoes to my family and see who they can pick out. I can be reached at

  34. I also lived in smeltersville as a kid.We moved to Milltown when I was about 14.I married at age 16 and found myself living in smeltersville again in 1965.When I moved again I never moved back but I would love it if it was still there.I would live out the rest of my days there.My best memories of my life is there.Some of your pictures do not look like the smeltersville I remember.All the trash and junk cars.all the people I remember we`re clean,hard working pople.I remember picking cotton and strawberries to make a quarter or fifty cents.i have pictures of me and my siblings too in smeltersville.
    We lived between the tracks.i went to may greene scool.we had to walk the railroad tracks to many memories..

  35. I remeber most of the people that posted. I lived on S. Sprigg Street right in the heart of Smelterville. I was in the first grade at May Greene with names like Rodney Fisher, Golbert Cracraft, Mike Lomax Ross conners,Raymond Ward, Betty Harris, Leroy Griffith, Darla Yow, There were three sets of Wrens in Smelter,

    1. I sat down with Fay Beal Powders just before I left Cape this month. She was able to identify all but the babies in the photos. Most of the kids were her relatives and friends from Pecan Street.

    2. My name is A.J. Medlock, and I am a graduate student in Public History at Southeast Missouri State University. I am currently researching for my thesis project on Smelterville and am seeking former residents to interview. At one point, I was contacting people individually, but I think posting on this site is the better option. If anyone would like to talk to me, my phone number is 636-697-4209. I am currently on chapter three of my thesis, which focuses on the South Cape Community Progress Center and the United Front of Cape Girardeau.

      My email is also

      1. I’ll vouch for A.J.

        We had a long conversation at Annie Laurie’s the other night about the research he’s doing. He knows as much about the Smelterville area as anyone I’ve met.

        He’s looking for real-life experiences now. Contact him if you can help him with his research.

  36. Thanks Ken for doing this pictorial of Smelterville. My husband, Norm Weiss lived in Cape when he was young and was a paperboy and delivered the Southeast Missourian in Smelterville. He tells stories of the people he delivered the paper to and their kindness to him. Many of the families could not pay him, but paid him by inviting him in for dinner. Of course, since he got paid with food, he lost money but gained something far greater.

  37. What I remember most about Smelterville or that immediate area was the scrumptious sandwiches from the Blue Hole BBQ. They were ok after moving up on Kingsway, but not as good. I could inhale one of those babies before you could blink an eye.

  38. Lived in Smelterville for years and have such very fond memories,,,,we were poor yes but can’t remember any happier times in my childhood than when we lived in Smelterville….I would love to be able to go to the sites that were mentioned on here regarding smelterville but I don’t know the website to go to can you help,,,thanx,,,I am 77 years old now and can’t believe what isn’t there anymore,,,just came back from down there for family reunions and was so completely surprised at what I saw/didn’t see,,,,I have been in Michigan for 47 years but still think of all the great times I had growing up in Smelterville….

  39. Oh my god I grew up in smeltervilles we lived most of our life on pecan street. I know that the group of girls with the baby doll those are the Squires Sister Val and Gwen for sure.

  40. It is wonderful to see all the stories and info that everyone has shared. John Dietiker was my great grandfather, after his passing my grandmother continued to run the store for a period of time. I spent lots of time down at that store/home up until the flood of 93′. I’ve heard so many stories throughout my live and to read everyone’s comments just reinforces the “good natured/caring and helpful” aspect my granny always told us of about the people from Smelterville.

  41. I loved growing up in Smelterville, I would go back to those days in a heartbeat!!! My family was there from 1970-1994. Myself and my 5 sisters all grew up, got married and moved “uptown” Both of my parents lived there until the buy-out in 1994. My mother has a beautiful home now and she will still shed a tear every now and again because she cant live in smelterville. I understand why the people that never lived there would say Why do you keep going back there after those floods, I get it, but what they didn’t get is that there was something magical about that place. Its difficult to explain but I bet everyone of us that grew up there will agree with me.

  42. My maiden name was Linda Price. My family lived in Smelterville at 412 Beech St. across the first set of tracks. Our house was behind the Weaver’s house and next to the railroad tracks and Central Packing. My dad, Millard Price, worked there, along with his brother, Uncle Dennis Price. (It did smell really bad, but you just got used to it). I wondered if you might have taken any pictures of our house? It was a little wooden house (built by Jess Bolen and my dad, maybe others), and was up on stilts because we usually stayed in it when the Mississippi flooded. Dad just took us over to the railroad tracks in a jon boat so we could catch the bus. There were eight of us kids- Carl, me, Sharon, Brenda, Michael, Mark, Ronnie, and Brian. My mother was Hazel (Morlan) Price. She lived there too as a child and went to May Greene School. We were poor, but everybody else was too. I have a lot of memories about growing up in Smeltervlle -some good, some not so good. But, overall, it made me work harder and appreciate things more, especially my family! I recognized several names of people that posted comments, although I hadn’t seen them in over 48 years.. (Fay Beal, do you remember me?) I remember going to school with you and Mary Jean Pheifer, as well as Connie Bedell, Roscoe Newbern, Joe Burton, Donnie Wren, Terrell Weaver and Eddie Dodd. I remember playing with the Ford girls- Carla and Debbie, the King girls,and the Wren kids-It’s a wonder we never got hurt playing in the creek beside your house or got run over by a train while walking across the tressel to get to your house). Frank and Sadie York lived next door and Callie Barnes lived across the field. I remember Ratliff’s and Dieteker’s stores. The Ratliff’s would let us charge if we needed food, but always had to pay it back on payday. Charlie Dieteker would open up his store if you needed anything at night. You just knocked on the back door. I remember helping/staying with Mattie Reed sometimes at night. She was a very sweet lady. I remember Mae Youngblood taking us to church. She had a huge willow tree in her backyard that we used to play under.

    We got separated when Mom and Dad got divorced, but Carl and Dad lived there until Carl enlisted in the Marines in 1969 and went to Viet Nam. Then, Dad moved to a little house on S. Fredrick St. I live in Kentucky now and just retired from teaching.

    I have enjoyed reading everybody’s comments about living in Smelterville! I just want to thank you, Mr. Steinhoff, for taking the pictures and would like to know how to get a copy of the book. If anybody has any pictures of us or our house, I would appreciate a copy because I don’t have any pictures of us growing up. We didn’t have a camera. Mom and Dad did the best they could under the conditions, but we always felt loved. And, I agree that everyone in Smelterville cared about and helped each other! Sorry I missed the reunion, but just found out about it. I went to Cape last week-end and drove through Smeltervlle. Part of Sprigg Street was blocked off, but I did get to turn onto LaCruz and found the big pecan tree that was in our front yard.(We ate every pecan that fell from that tree. Once, Dad used the tree to pull a motor. The chain broke and the motor fell on his leg and broke it. He couldn’t work, so that Christmas, the fire department brought us a big box of toys). Please contact me if you need more information, but Mom (at 79) knew more people, and still has a sharp memory.

  43. Hello Im Teresa and Gary Wren’s cousin. My grandmother Im wondering if you have any pictures of Catron and New Madrid

  44. Ken, I visited Smelterville often. I had friends there. Ratliff’s Grocery gave my mother credit, so we always went there for our groceries, Carlos, I think was the owner, a good man. Always paid on time. There were white people also, the Kitchens, Doug, Jack, the Wrens, their families. I knew a few blacks, or colored, back then, good friends. I wasn’t apprehensive about ever going there, everybody was friendly. My older brother had a mechanics garage there, and I think he made a fair living, was fair to everyone. It always seemed relaxed when I was in the area. Most seemed happy. I used to bat rocks with Jack Kitchen, I don’t think he lived there, but, like me, was there a lot of activity, by the way, he was older, but I beat him constantly. Tore up some bats!
    Anyway, I have fond memories of Smelterville and it made me a better person to have made friends there. Wonderful memories.
    Thanks Ken,

    P.S. We may need to get together and write a LOT of chapters in my life.

    1. Jim,
      My grandmother, Juanita Ratliff, owned Ratliff’s Grocery. She lived and worked on South Sprigg. I remember the penny candy, whole dill pickles on the checkout counter, the old metal soda cooler we sat on every time we were there, and the smell. I still smell that same smell every now and then and it takes me back.My father is Dale. Ratliff’s Grocery and South Sprigg hold very special places in my heart. ♡♡♡

      1. I spen my first 6 years on s sprigg. Brother Kenny got hit by hit n run near Ratliff store going for loaf of bread for mom. Uncle Gene bought a house up the street. John Mayfield live neat same block. What was the named of the ReXall drug store
        near Ratliff store ?

  45. Don’t recognize the younger kids but know the woman in the striped dress. Her last name is Beal. Our families know each other .

  46. Oh yes, know several. CW- I see you and your brothers, Aunt Jemimia, Rose Depree and her brother TY and the last pic looks very much like the Dorris brothers Jimmy and Carl

    1. You are correct Jerry, that is Jimmie and Carl Dorris. I’ve never seen this pic before, what a pleasant surprise.

  47. I think we all need to say thanks to the Ratliffs. They provided credit to a lot of families. I do not recognize the pictures, but I do remember some of the names such as; Wrens, Dupree and Kitchen. I’ve been back in Cape perhaps four or five times since leaving in 1979. I do remember Ms. Ratliffs and the store across the street, Womacks. Best wishes to all.

    1. She was the most kind, loving and genuine woman and grandmother I’ve ever known. I miss her every day of my life. Thank you for your kind words!

  48. at one time yhere was 6 groc stores in smelterville..there was lanes , dieterkers ,funny farrels ,kellys over by the pump, ratliffs. and one across the road from dieterkers that i cant recall the name of but they had a big tree growing right up in the middle of the store …i wish you had pictures back in the 40s and 50s the community was a nice little place ..looked a lot different then, with gardens and flower beds and people took care of their homes..

  49. I would really like to talk with you . I lived there as a child. I am Terry Steele, my cell # is 573-803-9426.

  50. Do you have any pitures of my grandparents house they lived on the river bank behind the sewage plant and packing house

  51. Last name of Charlie was Dietiker, owned and ran his grocery store with his wife Lovey. His brother John owned and operated the store in smelterville. Nephew , Jiggs Dietiker, owned and operated one in Red Star district.

  52. i have a news paper i copped of a shooting in 1943 don’t know much been trying to fined out more about it it’s my grandma my dad told me a little but not much and i have a photo

  53. Well this is a pleasant surprise…Billy R Beckett and Thelma M Beckett were my Dad And Mom…John…Jerry…Joyce…Jeff (Duffy) and Jim grew up there and just to the North by the old Falstaff Distribution location. We grew up with many in Smelterville….the Browns…Ravelles….Dietikers…Emmons…Weavers….Ratliffs…Fords…Dodds…Griffiths…Burtons…Smiths…Squires…Kings…Briggins….so many more…Either down playing in or near the creek and car bridge…old Federal Materilas lot…pestering old Gene Dalton…playing Fox and Deer in the evenings till dark. Getting a nickel to play the pinball machine in John Dietikers and later on Betty’s store….having both the Dietikers and Ratliffs store make fresh sandwiches. Hanging out by the lone payphone at Dietikers
    Playing up on the Southern Pacific tracks and the Frisco tracks…down by the Old Packing House and railroad trestle…catching crawdads in ditch just west of S Sprigg and choking on the dust the grain trucks going to the grainery in the fall and so many more terrific memories and fantastic friends…

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