2015 in Review

Newspapers are big on year in review stories because they can be written well in advance as space fillers for the slow holiday weeks. Why should I be any different (except for the part about doing it well in advance)?

I have to admit I’ve slacked off this year. After almost three years of posting seven days a week except for when there was a technical glitch, I took some big chunks of time off when I was caring for my mother before she died this spring. Once I found that the world wouldn’t end if I skipped a day or three, I started doing it more often when I was busy.

The most popular post last year was a piece I originally posted in 2011 about the burning and sinking of the steamboat Stonewall near Neely’s Landing. Two or three hundred people burned or drowned in the disaster. Sixty or 70 bodies were buried in a mass grave that I have searched for unsuccessfully.

I followed up the original post with a few others:

“See you later”

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015You readers were extraordinarily kind when I wrote about Mother’s death in June. An account of the family’s rather unconventional graveside ceremony was the second-most read story for the year. My family and I appreciate the many notes you all left.

Mother seldom said, “Goodbye.” She preferred “See you later,” and Brother David scratched that phrase on her casket before it was lowered in the ground.

Kermit “Moose” Meystedt

1963 Girardot Kermit MeystedtOur lives are marked by special dates and ceremonies. When we are kids, we attend birthday parties of our classmates. As we get older, we’re go to proms, ballgames and dances. Not long after that, it’s weddings, followed by baby showers. We have a bit of a gap before we start attending the funerals of the parents of friends. Finally, when we are at the stage where we have more yesterdays than tomorrows, it’s our turn to show up in the obituary pages.

Kermit “Moose” Meystedt, one of Central High School’s finest athletes, died January 10, 2015. An account of his life was the third highest-read post of the year.

Dean Kahler, survivor of Kent State shootings

Curator Jessica and I toured the Kent State May 4 Vistors Center on one of my Ohio rambles. We were fortunate enough to meet Dean Kahler, one of the students shot by the National Guard that day in 1970. He is one of the most remarkable men I’ve met, and I don’t say that about a lot of people. His story was in fourth place.

His description of that day is haunting. Click on the video if you don’t follow a single other link.

“I knew I had been shot because it felt like a bee sting. I knew immediately because my legs got real tight, then they relaxed just like in zoology class when you pith a frog,” he said. He never walked again, but he has turned into a highly competitive wheelchair athlete.

After the shooting stopped, he called out to see if there were any Boy Scouts around who could turn him over. “The only thought that came into my head was if I was turned over, would I bleed more internally than externally? I thought (shrugs shoulders) there’s a 50 / 50 chance that you’re going to die one way or the other. I knew I might die. I had a really good chance of dying, so I wanted to see the sky, the sun, leaves, peoples faces. I didn’t want to be eating grass when I died.”

Tower Rock Quarry Exposed

Tower rock and quarry at low water 10-28-2011I started posting old story links to a Facebook page for folks who are interested in the Mississippi River. That’s probably why this 2011 story about Tower Rock and how the low water had exposed an old stone quarry south of the Rock was pushed to fifth place.

Mary Welch Steinhoff 1921- 2015

MLS Card 06-03-2015I wrote so many stories about Mother (some of them were even true) that complete strangers would come up to her in the grocery store and ask if she was “Ken’s Mother?” She pretended not to like that, but I know she enjoyed the attention. When I wrote her obituary on June 23, 2015, I came up with a list of more than three dozen links before I quit searching. I guess that’s why she became the mother everybody had (or wished they had had).

You can’t know how comforting it was to read the comments you left about a woman many of you knew only through my late-night ramblings. She had a great run. October will forever be Birthday Season.

The picture is a card sent to Mother at the Lutheran Home from someone who had never met her in person. I think it captures her spirit.

The Old Burnt Mill

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015Sometimes you run across a reference to a place and you just have to go searching for it. That’s how I ended up at the Old Burnt Mill in Perry county.

It’s an interesting building with a fascinating history of hubris, double-dealing, maybe a murder and a haunting.

This picture drives me crazy

Cape CHS Girls volleyballThis copyrighted photo of girls wearing “ugly” gym suits has been stolen by I can’t count how many websites. It’s been shared hundreds of thousands of times, even though I’ve been quick to file DCMA takedown notices every time I find it posted.

The crazy thing is that hundreds swear that the photo was taken at their high school and even contains their sisters. Trust me, I took the photo and have the original 4×5 negative in a file box. It was taken at Central High School. And, if Rosanne Hecht or Joni Tickel aren’t your sisters, then you’re wrong.

For the record, I love it when people share links to my posts, but I get really cranky if you copy and publish a photo without permission.

It was only number eight on the hit parade, but it would be a lot higher if the folks who ripped it off had posted links.

CHS 2015 class reunion

2015 CHS reunion 07-31-2015It’s not fair that Terry Hopkins can still fit in his letter jacket without sucking in his stomach so much that his eyes bug out. There was a big difference between the last get-together and the 2015 Central High School reunion. We’ve all gotten a lot grayer and a lot less spry. (Except for Terry, of course, who was probably the reason that the post scored the number nine spot.)

A celebration of Wimpy’s

Wimpy composite 8x10The Centenary United Methodist Church held a one-day only Wimpy’s Day, featuring the original Wimpy’s family cooking to the original recipes.

Here are photos of the Lewis family and friends at work.



Perry County’s Old Burnt Mill

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015A couple of weeks ago, a member of the Old, Abandoned and Interesting Places – Missouri Facebook group posted a photo of Old Burnt Mill in Perry county. It didn’t sound familiar to me, and none of my East Perry county friends knew where it was, so Google was the next place to turn.

My virtual buddy, James Baughn, of course, had already written about it on his Pavement Ends Missourian blog in 2010.In addition to the mill, he wrote about the oldest road in Missouri. I encourage you to follow the link to his blog. It’s always interesting reading.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

How to get there

Using his directions from Cape Girardeau:

  • Take I-55 north to the Brewer interchange (Exit 135).
  • Turn right on Route M
  • Make a left on US 61.
  • Bear left on Route NN.
  • After 3½ miles, turn left on Perry County Road 840. Drive down the hill and look for the mill on the right while crossing the bridge.

Here’s a link to a Google map I prepared showing the route to Old Burnt Mill from Cape. It’s interactive, so you can zoom in and out.

You won’t see it in the summer

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015Even with his good directions and some (inaccurate) help from my Lady in the Sky GPS, we stumbled upon it by accident. Just before we crossed over the bridge on 840, I was looking out the driver-side window at a big pond (small lake) and said to Curator Jessica, “I think I see some old bridge piers over there.” (They turned out to be three big culvert pipes unrelated to our quest.)

Meanwhile, she’s looking out her window and said, “I think I’ve found the mill.” She, being a wife, even if not mine, was, of course, correct.

You can see from this photo taken from the bridge that it would be really hard, if not impossible, to spot if the leaves were on the trees and bushes.

History of the mill

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015A 1963 Missourian story tells the interesting and convoluted story of the mill. The land it is on was acquired by Amose Rowark and Fransisco Valle prior to the Louisiana Purchase. A grist mill was built sometime around 1818 and changed hands a few times.

A young man named Thomas J. Brady, who had been involved in the California Gold Rush, blew into town with a sack full of gold and bought half interest in the mill for $4,000. He married a local gal, and became so well-regarded that the mill became known as Brady’s Mill, even though he was only a half-owner.

In the 1850s, the mill and mill race were destroyed by a flood. The owners were determined to build a structure that could defy the elements. The four-story stone building was erected at the water’s edge to that the strong current caused by the dam would flow through the ground floor to turn the giant stones used to grind the wheat into flour.

Fired up with whiskey

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015When the race and mill were completed, the story goes, a barrel of whiskey was rolled out to celebrate. “The men became fired with the whiskey and declared that the Almighty Himself could not destroy the race or the mill again.

That very night, a terrific storm swept the mill race into the creek.”

The fire

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015Employee Nicholas Rimboch locked up the mill and went home on the evening of October 12, 1866. One his way to work the next morning, he was stopped and told the mill had burned. When he got there, the ruins were still smouldering.

The cause of the fire was never determined, but there were some interesting rumors floating around. One of them was that Brady sent his son back East to secure insurance on the mill. His son, allegedly, spent the money on liquor, and returned home without the insurance, something he didn’t share with his father. His father, hoping for an insurance windfall, set fire to the mill.

Is it haunted?

Burnt Mill - Perry county 11-19-2015After the fire, one woman said she saw Brady being chased through the woods by his gun-toting half-partner. Brady “departed the community” the day after the mill burned. Years later, a body was found when a nearby pond was drained. It is unknown if the body was Brady.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons there are tales the mill is haunted.

These photos were all taken from across the creek. I didn’t want to fight my way through a fairly solid row of brambles and bushes to get to the steep, muddy slope that led to the mill. And, despite the fact that the stone structure looks much like it did in 1963 photos, I didn’t want to be standing next to it when it decided to give up the ghost (and make me one).