Historic books turn up in Mt. Vernon house renovation a hundred years later

Steve Chapman

John Mareth holds up “Report of the Women’s Committee Council of National Defense, Missouri Division,” dated June 1, 1917 through Feb. 27, 1918, one of the historic books he discovered.

John Mareth found these books, most over  100 years old, in a house he is renovating. The books have survived mostly intact.

Century-old house gleans century-old books hidden inside
Last month, Mt. Vernon local John Mareth was doing renovations on a century-old house located at 917 S. Vine when he came across historic relics: six books, some over 100 years old, tucked away in a cabinet.
“In a rental property that we have,” he said, “I ended up having to do some work in a kitchen that the floor was falling out of … and in the midst of that project, one of the wall cabinets opened up, and these books fell out.”
The six books, though they suffered some weather damage, have survived largely intact. Among them are: “(The) Official Guide to the World’s Columbian, 1893”; “Japan: Imperial Government Railways,” dated 1915; “The Sigma Phi Epsilon Directory,” dated March 1, 1918 and two bulletins from the Christian College in Columbia, a women’s community college. One is dated 1914-15, and the other is dated 1920-21.
The one Mareth found most interesting, however, is “Report of the Women’s Committee Council of National Defense, Missouri Division,” dated June 1, 1917 through Feb. 27, 1918.
“It goes through and talks about all of the counties and areas,” Mareth said, “It lists all of the details of what each county did. It’s quite an interesting read.”
Mareth said he took a particular interest in how immigrants in that time period were encouraged to assimilate into mainstream American culture.
“In the early 1900s, it was, ‘We want to train everybody (to speak) English,’” he said. “It talks about up around St. Joseph, ‘a contingent of Italian miners, and it lists how many of them were ‘converted to English speaking’ and ‘introduced to all the benefits of citizenship in the United States’ and those kinds of things.
 In today’s world, we get tied up with, ‘Oh, we want to be sensitive to their culture’ and ‘infuse their culture into the United States,’ versus converting them to the benefits of being a United States citizen.”
Some of the books mention some local people from the time period. For example, the “Report of the Women’s Committee Council of National Defense” mentions Phil Turk, who was the Mt. Vernon police chief. The Christian College bulletins also mention area women who graduated in the years they were printed; the 1914-15 bulletin lists Hazel Davies, of Mt. Vernon, as a graduate, while the 1920-21 bulletin lists Helen Howard, of Aurora.
Mareth said he plans to give the books to the Lawrence County Historical Society or anyone else who might have an interest in them.
“I’m just holding them. If someone comes along … and has some interest in them, I’d be glad to visit with them,” he said.
Anyone interested in speaking with Mareth about the books can reach him at (417) 459-2669.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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