It would take a whole book to sum up 200 years of Callaway County history.
With the help of Callawegians present and past, a new anthology edited by Carolyn Paul Branch does exactly that.
"It Happened in Callaway" debuted last week at the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society's annual banquet and is now on sale in the museum's gift shop. It contains poems, essays about the county's history, humorous anecdotes, photos and more.
"We had 72 copies reserved before last Thursday's banquet and sold 18 the day after," Nancy Lewis, of the Historical Society, said Tuesday. "A lot of the authors wanted seven or eight to give to relatives — some of them said they'd never been published before."
Callaway County celebrates its 200th birthday next year, and as an author and historian, Branch was eager to find a way to commemorate the occasion. The idea of an anthology sparked when fellow Historical Society member Barb Huddleston brought to her attention a short story she'd stumbled upon, about a boyhood spent on the banks of Stinson Creek in Fulton. The story was unsigned.
"Barb called me, thinking I might know who'd written it," Branch said Tuesday. "In fact, I did, because it'd been entered into a contest years ago by George Tutt — the artist who painted the mural in the courthouse. I remember being so surprised to know that Papa Tutt was a talented writer on top of being a talented painter."
Branch thought the story, a nostalgic recollection of Tutt's childhood in the '40s, might make an excellent starting point for a whole collection of similar writing from other Callawegians.
"But it was just one story," Branch said. "We thought we'd get lots more good stories if we had a contest. I was looking for things that were uniquely Callaway in some way."
The contest — with categories for historical essay, humor, poetry and "My Callaway Memory" — launched in January and gathered many entries. To round out the book, Branch dug through booklets containing the winners of previous contests.
"So many good stories were in old booklets that maybe no one, but the author's family members ever read," Branch said.
She also scrolled through the microfilm Fulton Sun archives at the library and collared fellow authors for contributions.
"We have some poetry from Clarence Wolfshol — I accosted him in the line at Walmart where he couldn't get away from me," she said.
Branch opted to organize the book in roughly chronological order, beginning with the founding of Cotes Sans Dessein, the county's oldest settlement, to the present.
She mentioned a couple of favorites. One is a 1917 article originally published in "The Country Gentleman" magazine, titled "The Town that Jacks Built."
"I came across it while I was trying to confirm that Callaway County actually had a national reputation for its mules — that it wasn't just us claiming it," she said.
Another favorite was an old Fulton Sun article written by Margot McMillen about the end of Reform, a town essentially wiped off the map by the founding of the Callaway Energy Center. Finding a copy of that one required diving into the library archives.
Branch said the wide variety of writing in the anthology should appeal to anyone interested in Callaway County and history — or who just enjoys a good funny story.
"It would make a good Christmas gift," she said.
Proceeds from the book will go toward supporting the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society and its plans to celebrate the county's 200th birthday.