In observance of “Versailles Local History Week” Feb. 2-8 students in Jason Vansell’s history class conducted research and wrote scripts about various people and events from Versailles and/or Morgan County’s local history. J.T. Gerlt with KS 95 Radio came to Morgan County R-II High School, met with each of these students, and recorded Public Service Announcements which aired last week. The following are transcripts of the students’ work.
Hi, my name is Analyssa Pence. Today I will be talking to you about the first and only legal execution that happened in Morgan County. In 1865, Zeke and Tom Hart went to Mr. Slurry’s house and demanded money and attempted to make an attack. Mr. Slurry and his family defended them off. Mr. Slurry was then shot and died a week later. Both Zeke and Tom were arrested. The younger brother Tom confessed to the crimes they had committed. They were tried separately and, at the September term in 1866, Zeke was sentenced to be hung October 9. Tom, on the other hand, being the youngest and confessing, saying he was compelled by his older brother to do the awful things he had done, was let off with a term in the state penitentiary. Although legal executions were used quite a bit back then, it was, and still to this day, the only legal one to happen in Morgan County.
My name is Lauren and today I am going to talk to you about world records. Imagine how thrilling it would be to know you broke a world record! In November 1932, George Frisbee broke a world record that nearly ended his life. George Frisbee was 34 years old and living in Versailles when he became ill with the flu. While recovering, he became so weak that he was taken to the St. Joseph’s Hospital in Boonville March 4. While in the hospital, Frisbee only weighed 73 pounds. He underwent three minor operations, a mastoid operation, a sinus operation, and the removal of the spleen; but none of the three operations brought him back to health. He was there for a period of four months and received 110 blood transfusions breaking the world record that was previously said to have been 107 transfusions. All of the 13 gallons and three quarts of blood were given by 440 relatives and friends. Upon leaving the hospital, Frisbee had gained 67 pounds bringing him to a weight of 140 pounds. As exciting as breaking a record would be, the record for blood transfusions is not a record I hope to break in my lifetime!
Did you know that in the mid 1900s a young man was struck in the head with a pitchfork by his friend? Three young boys were working in a hay field when a fight broke out between Tom and Henry. Tom and Henry were fighting over the fact that Tom continuously called Henry a liar and was warned to stop. Henry told Tom that the next time he called him a liar he was going to hit him with his pitchfork. Then Tom called Henry a liar once more, so Henry struck Tom on the head with the pitchfork. When Henry was holding onto Tom, Tom stabbed Henry with his pocket knife. After Henry was stabbed, Tom started to run but then he was knocked down by a rock that Henry threw at him. Henry then tried to beat Tom with the pitchfork, but was stopped by another boy named Levi. Then Henry went and sat down and died within a few minutes. Evidence shows that the cause of Henry’s death was he was stabbed in the heart with a pen knife. After Henry died, Tom took off on the main road to Tipton when he was arrested about a mile out. Tom then confessed to the stabbing, but said he did it because Henry struck him with his pitchfork. So, needless to say, when your friend tells you to quit calling him a liar and has a pitchfork in his hands, just stop!
Bud Heinemann graduated from Versailles High School in 1947. He went down as one of the top basketball players to ever come through in school history. While in high school, he put up big numbers, from what we understand. But we only have scoring stats from his junior and senior season. Scoring 1,251 points, he possibly led the nation in scoring his senior year. Bud was a man who overcame his size on the court. He was only a 5-foot 10-inch forward. In 1947, in high school, he was named first-team All-American. Bud was also not just your ordinary athlete. Bud went on to the University of Missouri and was a two-sport athlete at Mizzou, playing both baseball and basketball. Over the course of his college career, Bud was a 3-year letterman and co-captain of the basketball team. He was named the “little lefty with the radar jump shot.” He played on the basketball team from 1950 to 1952 and led the team in scoring in the 1950-1951 season. He was then, later that season, named to the honorable mention list of Collier’s All-American team.
Ruth Royce was one of the most famous villain actresses of her time. She was born in Versailles, Mo. in 1893 and spent many years performing with stock companies like Woodward Stock and Lewis Stock. Ruth moved to Los Angeles in 1919 to pursue an acting career. She was well known for her starring roles in western movies such as The Oregon Trail, California in ‘49, In The Days of Buffalo Bill, Beasts of Paradise, and Wolves of the Desert. All of the movies she starred in were black and white. Her last big screen debut was in 1927 in the movie Code of the Country. Ruth was viewed as villain in real life as well as on the screen. She was married for a short period of time but her husband didn’t approve of her lifestyle or friends. Ruth was an extremely well known actress during her time but when movies transitioned from silent to sound, Ruth didn’t make the cut. Ruth retired and died at the age of 78 in 1971 after a long and successful life.
Morgan County was named in honor of Daniel Morgan, an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. One of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War, Morgan commanded the troops that would suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. Morgan was over 6 feet tall, broad-shouldered, and a rough speaker. Mostly illiterate, he began drinking and playing cards in his early life and frequently got into fistfights and made trouble with the law for not paying his gambling debts. One of his favorite stories to tell in later years was of his time in the French and Indian War when his naturally abrasive personality irritated one British Lieutenant who struck him with the flat of his sword. Morgan knocked him out with a single blow. He was court-martialed and sentenced to 500 lashes. According to Morgan, the British miscounted and gave him only 499 lashes and they owed him another lash. In 1790, Congress granted Morgan a gold medal for his victory at Cowpens. Morgan continued to serve in the militia, leading a force against the Whiskey Rebellion agitators in 1794. He also went on to serve one term in the House of Representatives as a Federalist. Daniel Morgan died July 6, 1802 at Winchester, Virginia where he was buried.
On May 11, the body of Second Lieutenant Margret. E Williams was returned from South Africa at the end of World War II. She was born in Versailles and was a member of the Boulevard Methodist church and graduated from school of nursing in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Boonville, Mo. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Williams, along with her four brothers and four sisters. She lost her life in North Africa Sept. 4, 1943. She was a WWII nurse who died fighting for our country as a result of injuries from an air raid blackout near Oran, North Africa. She was buried in a temporary military cemetery near the battlefields of North Africa. The funeral was held in her church where soldiers, another lieutenant, and four other nurses who served beside her came to give their blessings. Many people believe she was not killed by the air raid but in fact a medical vehicle explosion. However, this story is tragic and we must not forget to remember those who have fought for us and continue to fight for us today.
Did you know that the courthouse standing in the heart of Versailles, Mo., wasn’t the original courthouse? The original courthouse building wasn’t even located in Versailles, but in a small town called Millville, just outside of Versailles. It wasn’t until 1835 that Versailles was even being planned. Blueprints were drawn up of what are now the two main roads in Versailles, Monroe and Fisher streets. In 1896, a small log courthouse was built right where Hawthorne Dance and Gymnastics is today. This courthouse served as the county seat for about eight years until the new courthouse was built in 1844, in the same spot as the one seen today. This was the courthouse building for about 43 years. In 1887, there was a large fire on the square that burned all of the businesses on the west and south sides of the square, including the courthouse. The public voted to build a new courthouse and it was approved in 1889, with a fund of $19,000. This courthouse was built by cheap labor from the inmates at the state penitentiary in Jefferson City. This courthouse is the one that is still standing in the heart of Versailles. It was completed in 1890, and featured a tall dome at the top that has since been removed due to damage obtained from a lighting strike. This historical building will be 130 years old this year.
Bud Walton, born in 1921, grew up during the Great Depression alongside his older brother Sam. They both learned the value of hard work at a young age. The two brothers attended school in Columbia, Mo., where they both participated in sports, Sam was a quarterback and Bud played basketball. In 1962, Sam and Bud opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas. The store sold clothes, makeup, appliances, housewares, jewelry, and home furnishings. Both of the Waltons lived in Versailles and even opened up one of their first Walmart stores in our town. Within a few years, Walmart stores were available in other small towns across other states and it soon became a popular nationwide business. Walmart now has more than 11,000 Walmart stores spread across 49 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. The Waltons were very generous in donating and have even donated money to the Morgan County R-II School District. Although both Bud and Sam Walton died in the early 1990s their accomplishments are recognized all over the world and their legacy will continue on.