The following interview was from a 1975 assignment given to students at JEFFERSON COUNTY JUNIOR COLLEGE in Hillsboro, MO. They were to select a longtime resident of the county and ask them a prepared list of questions about their recollections of their family's experiences in the county.
Interview with Olive (Fitch) Murrill
Ivr: Mrs. Murrill, Olive, you've lived around DeSoto for a long time haven't you?
Ive: All my life and I'm the third generation who lived
in DeSoto. My grandparents were easterners. My grandfather came from Groton,
She had a diary that she kept and it was in one of
her trunks. But she tells how they built their house out here on what is now the
The house that they built was rather a large house and it's on the Flucom Road just about a mile from town. It was much larger then. It's been remodeled a number of times. Where part of our yard was is now a little subdivision, from the road on back through the yard and back of where the orchard was. My father and his .brother were born there and we three were born there. My grandmother used to entertain us with stories about the neighbors and about the things that happened. The house is on the only road that led from Valle Mines here in town. It's an old road and the miners used to come to town on Saturdays, of course. Sometimes they were a little drunk when they came out that far and that was a good stopping place. She told one time that they had just built a new fence, a board fence, and it was cold. The miners tore down part of the fence and built a bonfire and slept there the rest of the night. And then got up the next morning. They didn't bother the house. But they went on out to Valle Mines. Another time she was by herself with the two little boys and they came up near the house and she was a little worried. So she went out the backdoor with the little boys and went up into the woods and stayed for awhile. Pretty soon she came back. Nothing was bothered at the house at all.
Then she said one night, yes one evening just about sundown some man rode up and called to them and wanted to know if he could stay all night. It was a big house and my grandfather said no that he didn't keep people. He had no way of keeping extra people. And the man looked a little surprised and insisted; and my grandfather said that he could find accommodations back in DeSoto if he wanted to come by that way. And the man said well he had just been there, he'd just left DeSoto and then he looked at him. He said do you know who I am? My grandfather said no. He said well I'm Sam Hilderbrand. He was a notorious character around DeSoto at the time.
She told lots of stories, because we loved to
hear her tell stories about that. We lived out there until after we were
out of school and we all came to DeSoto school. When I started school I came to the
Ivr: How many kids went to school here?
Ivr: Can you remember how many kids were in your class when you graduated?
Ive: Yes. When I graduated from the eighth grade there were 52 in that one room. And Mrs. Benson was the principal and she was a very well-known person. She was a fine teacher and managed the 52 children Just with herself.
Ivr: There was 52 in the eighth grade or the whole?
Ive. Fifty-two eighth graders,
Ive: And now that would have been
unheard of. To have had that many, but she seemed to do very well. She taught
for a long time. In fact, she had taught my mother and father and then she
taught us. Then when I came to teaching up at the central she was my principal.
And I can't say too much about how she prepared young teachers, because she was a fine teacher
and loyal to her teachers. And wanted them to be good teachers. From her
experience she'd say this is the way I would do it. Or don't let that happen. And we were glad to
listen to her because she had made such a success. We had a pet name for her. We
called her Mother Bear. But that was just, just because we respected and admired her so much. And there were a
number of my generation living here in town
who remember her quite well. And when I began teaching I went back and
started in with the
Ivr: Right where you'd started?
Ive: Right where I'd started. And then I went up to the Central. And then by that time the old high school was made into a Junior high school. And then I was there. Mrs. Benson was principal until she died. And then I went as principal. And I was there for about six or seven years and then went over into the high school. I went to the high school I guess 1934. Then when they built the new high school down here about 1954 I went down there and stayed there until I resigned.
Ivr: You retired in 1961?
Ive: I taught, 1961 was my last year. I had been counselor I guess for four or five years. I've forgotten just how many.
Ivr: And you were canceled out?
Ive: Yes, that's right, correct. You weren't in my freshman citizenship class were you?
Ivr: I might have been. I'm not for sure.
Ive: I don't know, I believe you were. I think you were. Maybe not in citizenship, maybe it was government.
Ivr: That's what it was.
Ive: That was government, yes. I think that was my last year, at teaching. And then I went into the guidance Office.
Ivr: There's been quite a few changes made around.
Ive: Oh my yes. The changes not only in the teachers but in the families. I look at the school news and names of the graduates. And the family names are changed as well as different families have come in and I wonder where they come from.
Ivr: The school system has extended quite a bit. But actually the population of the town hasn't changed all that much probably since you were a kid. No, at one time DeSoto was the only high school within a good many miles from here. So the people from the outlying, well the country schools, the one rooms, sent their students here.
Ivr: A lot of people just didn't go there.
Ive: Well, a lot of them didn't go. But there
was I don't know just what number there
would be but the names as I
remember, a lot of my contemporaries coming from
Ivr: I suppose there was several one-room schools.
Ive: Oh yes.
Ivr: I don't know if you knew Mrs. Kingsland. She taught me out at Mammouth.
Ive: Mammouth, yes.
Ivr: My first two years.
Ive: Oh is that right?
Ivr: Yes, I suppose there was quite a few of those little schools around
Ive: Oh lots of them. And there were half a dozen between here and the Plattin.
Ivr: Is that right?
Ive: Highfield and Armbruster.
Ivn I know where the Armbruster school is.
Ive: Farther on out there were a number of them.
think there was one out close to
Oh yes. There was a
Ive: It was pretty cold.
Ivr: It’s a pretty good little walk from here.
Ive: Yes, it was a mile for us. I don't remember staying home on account of bad weather very much. I suppose maybe we did. But if there was my father or my uncle there, why they would bring us to school and then my mother had a horse and buggy and she would bring us to school. But we walked mostly.
Ivr: What did your father do for a living?
Ive: My father was a mail carrier when I remember. Well yes, when I remember him. He started in he worked in the office at the shops. And then his health.
Ivr: Was that
Ive: Yes. Right down where they are now. And
he didn't like that. And then his uncle who
lived up in
And then my father took the civil service examination and became a rural mail carrier. And he was on the rural route for 25 or more years. He started out carrying the mail in a little two-wheeled cart with two horses, two road ponies and he made friends with all of the people on his route. And he was always so happy that at Christmastime there never was a package left over at the post office. When Christmastime came, if there were too many packages to put into the little cart then he and my mother would go out in the afternoon and every Christmas his desk was cleared. There were no packages left. And then he did that with little chickens too. When little chickens came in on Saturday, why he would see that they got out to the farmer. He died suddenly, but the people were very complimentary about him. In fact, one of the patrons wrote a very nice tribute to him which was published in the paper. Of course we appreciated that very much because he loved the route. And on several times there were people who were sick and couldn't get out and he would go back in the afternoon and play chess or checkers with them. He made lots of friends.
Ivr: I imagine so. His name was Scott Fitch?
Ive: Scott Fitch, yes.
Ivr: Then you moved to town later, while he was still alive?
Ive: Yes, we moved to town. My father had an accident and he couldn't do the farming on the side that he had been
doing, so we moved to town. And bought a house right next to the school. And then when they built the new high school, why they had to condemn the street. And it was too close to a dwelling so they bought the high school and that's where one of the high school buildings stands there. But the house we bought isn't standing anymore. But I've always said I was a product of DeSoto schools because I went to all from the first grade on through high school and then came back and taught here all my life.
Ivr: Did you go away to college?
Ive: Oh yes. I graduated from
Ivr: Is that when you came to the DeSoto school district, after your Master?
Ive: No, I was teaching even before I got my degree. Because you could teach in the grades before you got your degree. And then I finished afterwards after I began teaching,
Ivr: Did you teach all grades or mostly elementary?
Yes, I started in with fourth grade. And then I taught there a couple of years and they put in what they
call departmental work in the sixth,
seventh, and eighth grades. And I
came up to the central school and taught geography there. I went over to Junior
high school end taught history. And
then from then on I taught social studies until I went into the counselor's
office. And then I thought counseling would be interesting. And so I went to the
Ivr: Somebody was telling me you did
a lot of work with the program on the
Yes, Union Electric started that. They thought that too many young people were leaving
It was quite an experience, but DeSoto became the All-American City through the efforts of the Union Electric by putting this program, through And DeSoto won for three or four years. First they had these little booklets and then I believe I was the one that suggested that instead of writing a booklet why not change it and have speeches by the various groups. They accepted that and one of the girls, I can't think of her name right now, but she made a very good speech and the speech was made for the Rotary Club. She made a very fine talk before the Rotary Club and she won first place for the school. After that, someone else took it over, but it was very interesting to have worked for the Union Electric.
Ivr: Was that an existing program, the
Ive: I don't know.
Ivr: It seems to me like DeSoto was the first winner, but I can't remember.
Ive: I think that the municipal association had been doing that for several years and then after the town had made so many improvements the town sent their resume' in to this group and as a result of that they asked that the town be represented.
Ivr: It was a nation wide contest?
Ive: Yes, and then they did give the town the
Ivr: I suppose there have been quite a few improvements made.
Ive: Oh yes. I think DeSoto is a very nice place to live. We've thought about living different places,
Ivr: You do a lot of traveling now, don't you?
Ive: I like traveling around and
then with both of us being free, we were able to live in places long enough so
could really understand, and we worked in libraries a lot, too. We had an
Ivr: What kind of work were you doing in the libraries?
Ive: My husband was interested in his genealogy and he was the one who really got me started in this. I've had the background for a long time.
Ivr:( This is a history of your family? ' .
Ive: This is my family, yes, but
he's working on his family
and then the allied families and I did some library work with him. We worked in
the Boston Genealogical library and the BAR Library in Washington and the Library of Congress and the Latter Day Saints
Ivr: Here in DeSoto?
Ive: Yes. That's the limit. Three terms of three years each. You're appointed by the City Council.
Ivr: When was that?
Ive: Well, I finished up this last summer. Mr. Oakes and I both were there nine years and we both finished up the
same time. And that didn't take too much time, but it was interesting work. And then with family, doing visiting, traveling a little bit, why I imagine people wonder what two retired people do with their time, but we're pretty busy.
Ivr: Sure sounds like it.
Ive: Well with church and other organizations.
Ivr: Do you mind if I ask you what church you go to?
Ive: I go to the
Ivr: Did you go to the
Ive: Yes. My mother and father belonged to the
Ive: My mother said that when she
went to church, it was down where the Duffner's Ice
Cream Factory was. And that burned. And a lot of the records burned at the time.
And then where the
Ivf: You came into the
Ive: Yes. My mother and father were married in the church. That's all we knew.
Ivr: The church is older than I thought it was.
Ive I don't remember just when the Methodist
here. I could find out. My Master's thesis was on the
Ivr: You've got a fine old home here.
is an old house that's been remodeled several times. It was built by the
Ivr: There are quite a few beautiful old homes in DeSoto, aren't there?
Ive: Lots of them, yes. There's one at the head
Ivr: I'm trying to place which one it is.
Ive: The big house was the Episcopal Manse . . . for awhile.
Ivr: Yes it is e beautiful house.
Ive: Yes that was an old place. And there were a good many of them at the North end of town too.
Ivr: I suppose some of those on the north side of
Ive: Yes, those were old houses. There was a man by the name of Herman who had a brick kiln, I suppose you call it, down north there and his granddaughter visited me a few years ago and we drove around and saw the old houses that had been built from this brick that came from her grandfather's brick kiln.
Ivr: Now they've changed the housing style quite a bit, haven't they?
Ive: It changes, yes.
Ivr: The houses got a lot smaller for one thing. Some of those old homes were enormous houses.
Ive: They're big houses, yes. Bigger than you would think of. And then of course we have the upstairs, too. But this is plenty for us downstairs. We don't heat the upstairs.
Conclusion of interview.