Explore an Interest
It’s a Wonderful Life
Like the classic movie, the indoor Walk-through Village in the museum Annex transports you back to small-town America, where Main Street was lined with shops and the checkerboard was always set up in the dry goods store, ready for a game.
The first stop on the left is the Apothecary, complete with carved statue outside. Inside is a soda fountain with wooden stools, a cigar counter and toiletries counter. Behind a wood and frosted glass partition, the druggist formulated medicines at the counter using ingredients from small glass bottles lining the shelves of the back wall.
Next door is the doctor’s office, with instruments and medical books that belonged to Dr. John Henry Britts, who had a practice in Clinton after the Civil War. Around the corner is the Tonsorial Parlor (haircuts – 25 cents, shave 15 cents), featuring a tin bath. Across the street is the law office with furnishings from the family firm of James Parks, Peyton Parks and James A. Parks of Clinton. The dry good store next to it offers pickles and crackers in barrels, coffee beans and flour in sacks, sewing supplies and household utensils. A one-person post office booth in the corner of the store provided a place to send and receive mail and buy stamps.
Step next door to the store and you are in the Farmers Bank of Blairstown, from which the interior was moved. The curved wooden counter is topped glass dividers and lined with ornate metal grillwork. The surfaces of the bump-out transaction bays are marble. Through swinging doors behind the counter are three teller stations, two desks, a floor safe and a wall safe. A small harness and leather goods shop completes the businesses in the Village.
For a close-up look at the interior of an American home in pre-World War I, go to the middle room of the Anheuser-Busch Building. The lady’s parlor features a square grand piano, decoratively painted parlor safe and an Edison phonograph. Low chairs and an Eastlake rocker provided a place to sit and do needlework. The foot warmer, filled with coals, was for inside or carriage use. Next to the parlor is the kitchen with dry sink, cook stove and kerosene ceiling lamp. The table and shelves hold utensils used in food preparation. Hand-cranked butter churns and a treadle sewing machine are among the labor-saving devices for household use. The child’s bedroom has antique dolls and doll buggies, toys, clothing, a fold-up child’s bed and a traveling trunk. The other bedroom features furniture from the home of Sallie and James Avery, who were married in Clinton in 1865 and lived on Second Street.
Located across the street from the Henry County Museum, the Homestead gives people the opportunity to see what it was like to grow up in rural Missouri in the mid-19th century.
The Homestead consists of five historic structures moved to the site. The one-room schoolhouse is furnished as it would have been when in use in rural Henry County, with wood desks, a wood stove, raised dais with teacher’s desk, chalk boards and pull-down maps. For class field trips, a docent in costume plays the teacher, showing students what it was like to attend a one-room schoolhouse and do lessons on a slate.
Also on the Homestead is an authentic dog-trot log cabin, built near Montrose in the mid-1850s. On one side is the kitchen with fireplace, on the other a bedroom. Also on the Homestead grounds are a mule barn with wagons and farm tools, a corn crib and a smokehouse. Candle-dipping, crafts, games and stories are some of the fun, free activities with a hint of history that the museum Children’s Corner program offers families several times a year on the Homestead.
For more detail about farm life in pre-war days, go to the third room of the main museum, formerly the loading bays of the Anheuser-Busch Building. There you will find a blacksmith’s forge and anvil, ice saws and tools used in broom-making, flour milling and farming.
Famous People of Henry Country
Harry Truman visited Henry County often when he was campaigning, and made appearances during and after his presidential terms. And in 1905, when Harry was in his 20s, his parents lived in a house in Clinton and farmed 80 acres outside of town. Harry was working in Kansas City, but would have made visits to the house, located at E. Bodine Ave, off South Second Street about half a mile from the Clinton Square.
There is a marker in the front yard. The James Brothers robbed a store in Clinton in 1875, but it is not known if they ever robbed a bank in Henry County. However, there were families in the area who knew Jesse James and whose descendants still tell stories about him. Stop by the Henry County Museum annex and walk through the 19th Century Village, which includes the original interior of the Osceola Bank, with wooden counter, metal grill teller windows and wall vault — just like Jesse used to rob.
Musicians and Artists
The Museum’s Music Room features people from Henry County whose talent put them in the spotlight, including three diverse women.
Known as the “Queen of Kansas City Jazz,” Bettye Miller was born and raised in Clinton and earned a master’s degree in music at Lincoln University. She played the piano and sang at the Horseshoe Lounge and other Kansas City clubs with spouse Milt Abel throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The duo also played at jazz festivals and clubs in New York and Las Vegas.
The Susan Haywood movie, “With a Song in My Heart,” is the story of singer Jane Froman. Raised in Clinton, Froman started out in radio and became a recording artist in the 1930s. In 1943, she was traveling in Europe for a USO Tour when her plane crashed near Lisbon. “With the Song in My Heart” is the story of her ordeal before she was rescued, and her comeback after her injuries.
Mezzo-soprano Gladys Swarthout, who was born in Deepwater, south of Clinton, made her debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1929. Swarthout appeared in 270 Met performances during a singing career that spanned three and a half decades. She is the only woman to have sung before the entire assembled U.S. Congress.
Clinton native Louis Freund was a regional artist who worked for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the Depression, traveling through Missouri and Arkansas painting murals. He is also known for portraits and landscapes in oil. The Henry County Museum has paintings by Louis Freund on display in the Annex.