On Callaway County's 200th birthday, a new monument celebrating the occasion made its debut at the Callaway County Courthouse in Fulton.
Designed jointly by the Callaway 200 committee and the Callaway County Commission, and sponsored by the latter, the new obelisk is made of gray granite and stands about 7 feet tall. Its faces detail the history of the county and list its settlements and towns — past and present.
"It's been a privilege to coordinate with them," Callaway 200 co-chair Susan Krumm said of the commissioners.
Despite a light drizzle, a crowd of locals gathered at the courthouse Wednesday to huddle beneath tents and enjoy the ceremony. A tarp kept the new monument hidden until the ceremony's climax.
Local scouts formed a color guard to present the colors and lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Bob Washington, a pastor and Fulton City Council member, read an invocation, asking God to "bless this occasion" and encouraging onlookers to "rejoice and be glad."
Fulton Mayor Lowe Cannell also said a few words, reflecting on his childhood growing up in Callaway County. Many things are the same, he said, but some things have changed — including the county's bridges, which are in much better shape these days than when he was first learning to drive.
"When a need is presented, the citizens of Callaway are there to respond," he said.
Gracia Backer, a former state representative and current Callaway 200 committee member, shared information about the early days of Callaway County. Though Fulton is now the county seat, upon the county's first founding in 1820, a settlement called Elizabeth near Hams Prairie became the first county seat, she said.
Her own ancestors — on her mother's and father's sides — arrived in Callaway County around the time of its founding. Joshua Ferguson, her great-great-great-great-grandfather, arrived in 1817 and later helped to build the first courthouse in Fulton.
"I can't imagine telling my mom and dad goodbye as I left for someplace called the Missouri Territory," Backer said.
She reflected on life 200 years ago, when panthers roamed Callaway County's hills, plumbing was strictly outdoors and mules stood in for motor vehicles.
"How did they survive?" she asked. "One thing that continues to both amaze and confound me is how very strong those settlers were 200 years ago. They were strong beyond my comprehension."
Her ancestors and so many others who moved to Callaway County had a dream and worked to make it true, she said.
"Our ancestors did that, and for that we should forever be grateful," she said. "The towns that were established in Callaway County were built on hope and hard work and friendship and location and commitment."
Just as Callawegians 200 years ago faced hard times and disease, so do Callawegians today.
"As did the settlers here 200 years ago, we will survive," Backer said. "And you know why? We still have people who have a dream and want to better themselves and their families. We will continue to work together, play together, worship together, and share our joys and our sorrows together. The strong threads of perseverance are still here after 200 years of being a place called Callaway County."
Presiding County Commissioner Gary Jungermann read a proclamation recognizing the occasion, as follows:
"Whereas, Capt. James Callaway sacrificed his life fighting members of the Sac and Fox tribe near Loutre Creek on March 7, 1815; and whereas, a new county was organized thereafter out of lands extending from the area of the captain's death, and it has been written that 'the people of Callaway possess those fearless traits of character and that dauntless energy which distinguished the gallant leader after whom the county was named;' and
"Whereas, so it was that Callaway County was organized and named for Capt. Callaway on Nov. 25, 1820; and whereas the first Callaway County Court, consisting of Benjamin Young, Stephen C. Dorris and Henry Brite, thereafter took up the business of the county; and
"Whereas, we, now called commissioners, are proud to be the successors of these Missouri pioneers; and whereas, Callaway 200 recognized this milestone with many ways to recall the 200 years of Callaway County history;
"Now, therefore, the Callaway County Commission joyfully wishes a happy 200th birthday to our county and commends Callaway 200 for its effort to recognize this bicentennial, this 25th day of November, 2020."
Jungermann also thanked the Callaway 200 committee for their hard work in a challenging bicentennial year.
"I'm happy that I'm a small part of what is going on," he said.
Bicentennial festivities will continue in 2021.