Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

New city park should use names Stephens, Gordon

Miss Caroline Hartwig and Mrs. Fannie Bardlemeier would be surprised and pleased that I’m dipping into history in these weekly stories. I was no whiz at history. Most of us who have lived here more than 75 years, however, have an urge to tell it like it was. We say "pay-quin" instead of "pack win" for Paquin Street because that street was named for an early family.

Stephens College was named for an even earlier family. Edwin W. Stephens was an important chronicler "putting early facts in a narrative history, in the order in which they happened." His "History of Boone County" was published in 1876 in our county’s first detailed book of maps.

E.W. Stephens was assistant editor of the Columbia Statesman, an early newspaper printed on a Ramage press, a wooden contraption with some metal. Perhaps he was the same E.W. Stephens who was editor of the Columbia Herald for 35 years. I recall having visited the Herald Statesman printing establishment long ago when I was in the University Elementary Laboratory School.

Benjamin Stephens was part owner of the company that delivered mail from St. Charles to Fayette "in the first Troy coach ever seen in Columbia" in 1834.

There are 26 other Stephens listings and 46 other Gordons in William F. Switzler’s 1882 "History of Boone County." He relates these facts about the origin of Stephens College: An institution of higher learning was established as an all-male institution called "Columbia College," no relationship to the present Columbia College.

Residents thought that females also needed higher education. Miss Lucy Wales was employed as "precepteress" of an academy for females that opened in 1833 in the Presbyterian Church building. In 1840, Miss Wales resigned, married and moved away. The academy passed out of existence, and the accumulated property was sold for $1,415, which was divided among the donors. Switzler lists the names of directors, donors, teachers, assistant teachers and students. No one had the last name Stephens. He says Baptist College took the place of the female academy in 1856 and became Stephens College.

James L. Stephens, 1815-1902, "resourceful merchant and chronicler of early events, endowed Baptist Female College, after which it adopted his name." The Oliver Parker House was purchased by the Baptist Female Academy in 1857. It is now a part of Senior Hall on Stephens College’s campus. That information is from "A Boone County Album," published by the Tribune in l971.

The two families, Stephens and Gordon, were great supporters of education in Columbia and Boone County. When seven men were named to enhance the agricultural campus for the infant University of Missouri, the names of both Stephens and Gordon were on the list. They gave huge amounts of land and money.

Columbia could honor both the Stephens and Gordon families, important in our history, and remind us of the beautiful Gordon Manor we lost by arson. I propose that we use those names together for Columbia’s new park. I like the sound of Stephens Lake on Gordon’s Pasture. The lake was first just a pond of water in the lush pasture where David Gordon’s fine horses grazed.

I am convinced that it would be misleading to use the word "college" in the park’s name because it would confuse newcomers, thinking only students and faculty could use the area.

Those who have not had summer memberships - and Columbia’s newcomers - would not feel welcome if the word "college" was included. I vote for Stephens Lake in Gordon’s Pasture, and we’d all just say "Stephens Lake," as we have for years. Hasten the day!


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