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 of De Soto Mo.



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, New York, and my grandmother was born in Rhode Island. And she lived with us for a good many years, so I remember the stories very well that she used to tell. And when she was six months old her folks moved from Chenango Falls, New York, where they were living to southern Wisconsin and she was six months old when they crossed Lake Michigan and built a little lean-to, her father built a little lean-to shelter to house , the family while he was building the log house for them to live in. And her mother cooked for four or five children and they lived in that house and she cooked out on an open fire for all summer long. And then she was educated down at Kenosha, Wisconsin, at a seminary. And why my grandfather left New York that was the family home and came to northern Illinois I don't know. But apparently they met somewhere up there because they were married and lived in Harvard which is near Chicago. And then he sold his business, he had a store, and he sold his business and they moved down here. Why, I don't know, unless it was because there was a family that had come here.


    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 Flucom Road. We called it the Upper Plattin Road, but now it's called the Lower Plattin Road because it’s at the foot of a hill over here on the other side of the bridge. The road goes up the hill back of that little store. There used to be a little store there, and that is really the Lower Plattin Road. The lower road is the Upper Plattin Road, because Plattin Creek flows from the south to the north, and this road goes to the lower part of the Plattin. But it's already marked that way, so it's only the old timers that know the dif­ference.


    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 East Ward School over there where the Union Hall is. There were four elementary schools. There was the east ward, the south ward, and the north ward, and the central. And each school had the first four grades I think. And then when you graduated from the fourth grade you came up on the hill to the central school. There were the two buildings there on what is now the campus. One was the old central school and then one the high school. But when my mother and father went to the Central School, the high school classes were in the Cen­tral School. Then, of course, by the time I was in school they had built the high school. And then we went to the Central School and the high school. The campus has extended now so that we have schools, well, it's a pretty big establishment compared with what it was then.                            '


Ivr: How many kids went to school here?

Ive:  Pardon?            


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,


Ivr:  Yes.


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 East Ward School. Right where I had started.


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 Hillsboro and out near Morse Mill and some came from well there was one from Grubville. One from Potosi, Blackwell, Vineland, all around they came in here.


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.


Ivr:  I think there was one out close to Vineland.


Ive:  Oh yes. There was a Vineland School, Ware School, and one out I .can't think of the name. It was between here; it was on the Big River. I've forgotten the name of it. But we walked too.


Ivr: Yes.                         


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 Missouri Pacific?


Ive: Yes. Right down where they are now. And he didn't like that. And then his uncle who lived up in Wisconsin wanted to open up a summer resort at Little St. Jemaye. And he wanted my father to help to go with him. So my father left in the spring of what year I've forgotten but my mother stayed with us until school was out. And he rented our farm and took his two pet horses and a cow and he I suppose rented a boxcar and put the furniture in the boxcar and took a neighbor and they went up to Wisconsin in this boxcar to take care of the horses and the cow. And the place that they were building was on this very pretty little lake and it still is a resort, because we were there a few years ago. They had built a log cabin, two-room log cabin with a dog­trot between the two rooms. And we lived there during the summertime. We thought it was going to be just a lot of fun to go to a country school. There was one about two miles from there. But the winters were so long and so cold and lots of snow, where I guess the longer that they thought about it, why the more my mother and father decided it wasn't a place to rear a family. So he gave up the idea and came back and then we moved back home.


    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 Southeast Missouri. It was a teachers' college then. And then I took my Masters degree at University of Missouri.


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?


Ive:  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 University of Wisconsin for Preliminary Counseling and then went out to University of Wyoming  for the internship. They didn't have room in the Uni­versity of Wisconsin to take summer students because they had too many for their winter courses, so when I wrote to this professor that I had been going to and he said he was sorry but that he wouldn't have room for me for the internship. And then he gave me the names of several colleges where I could go, so I chose Wyoming there at Laramie, and they accepted me. I sent my trans­cript out and they accepted me, and so I did my internship there. And then I was counseling here. And I stayed there until I resigned in 1961 I guess.


Ivr:  Somebody was telling me you did a lot of work with the program on the All-American City.


Ive:    Yes, Union Electric started that. They thought that too many young people were leaving Jefferson County for other places and their idea was to try to spark an interest in home places so that young people would come back. And they called a meeting of some teachers, social studies teachers, and proposed the idea that we make studies of the area around and would we want to take part in it;  So I talked with Mr. Poole and Mr. Cullwell and of course they were very much interested in it too. So it was my American Government class that started it and we made a booklet that, well we talked about what could be done here in DeSoto and what could be done around DeSoto, and then they worked out a questionnaire, something like that, and they gave it to the people in town and to their parents and tried to get answers to these various questions about what was needed. Andy O'Rourke was city manager at the time and he  was most helpful and I had some real, real good students which I always did in the government class who could do a lot of things and Don Agers was an artist and we made a booklet and illustrated it with pictures. Then each committee wrote on some phase, things that were needed in DeSoto, things we had, things we were proud of and things that should be done. And it was nicely done. The students did a real good job. And when the time came for judging, we got first place and won a thousand dollars. And with the thousand dollars they put in the public address system over at the central school. I don't re­member whether it was that year or the next year, well it was either the first or the second year, they did the sec­ond same thing we took another topic, I've forgotten which it was, the booklets are all, or were down at the high school. But Jerry Nixon at that time was working with the town and they asked Jerry to go to Norfolk, Virginia, and tell what had been done. The businessmen were inspired to do their work too. It wasn't just the school, but the businessmen all did their work and they did many, many new things in town. I can't remembers just which ones they were, but everybody was interested in doing some particular thing, like fixing up the City Hall and streets and water system and various things. The Council sent Jerry to Richmond and they were going to have a panel discussion and somehow this booklet fell into the hands of whoever it was that was getting this convention together, this meeting of the municipal, it was the municipal, I've forgotten the name, but it was the city doing it, and they asked me If I would go and be on this panel, and of course I was delighted to go. The Board of Education gave me the days off and Jerry and I went to Richmond and he had his little say and I had my little say at different times.


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 All-American City, was that one of the first programs that DeSoto won the award for?   


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 All-American City citation. And we've added to it every year I think.


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 that; we could really understand, and we worked in libraries a lot, too. We had an apartment in Boston for awhile and then we moved over across the river and had an apartment in Cambridge right near Harvard Square and Radcliff Col­lege. And we worked in the library there, and then another year we spent about six months in Alexandria, just outside of Washington. Then of course we were down in Florida for about five years, that is several months in about five years. And California.


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 Library at Salt Lake City, which is the finest genealogical li­brary they claim in the world. And in Washington, Pen­nsylvania, and various places in Massachusetts where his people and my people had lived. They originally came from there, that is the earliest Fitch’s. And so we had lots of material and we could stay as long as we wanted to, but then the next thing when we came home was putting it all together and he's now beginning to get his books bound and he has several of them bound. But the main one on the Murrill Family is not finished. But where I come in, I've had to do the typing. And you know when I was in the Counselor's Office, I always had one of the girls do my typing. But he got me a pret­ty good little electric typewriter so that I would not object too much, and that's been my main job along with various other things. And then I was on the library Board for nine years which didn't take a great deal of time.  


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 Methodist Church.


Ivr: Did you go to the Methodist Church when you were a youngster?


Ive: Yes. My mother and father belonged to the Methodist Church and we just went all our lives. That's all we knew, 


Ivr:   Where was the Methodist Church in DeSoto?


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 First Methodist Church stands, that was the next Methodist Church. And then there was the South Methodist Church at the corner of Mineral and Fourth Street down here. And then when that burned, why we moved out there. For awhile we had no minister down at the first church and we were living over here by the school so it was just natural for us to go to the South Methodist Church. We stayed there.


Ivf:   You came into the First Methodist Church when you were with your folks?


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 Churches started here. I could find out. My Master's thesis was on the Methodist Church in the Farmington Conference of the Methodist Church. But I have forgotten what year this was started. But it was before the Civil War, con­siderably. And then during the War, there was the movement started by the southern sympathizers and they started the South Methodist Church. But of course it's all to­gether now. They've forgotten all about their differences. But then there is the First Methodist Church and St. Andrew's Church, but they're all under the same Jurisdiction. My husband is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, but he goes to the Methodist Church.


Ivr:   You've got a fine old home here.


Ive:   This is an old house that's been remodeled several times. It was built by the Monroe family many years ago. My mother thought it was built about 1890. But you can see the ceilings are high and there are transoms and there was a fireplace over on that wall, but when they put the fur­nace in why they took the fireplace out. But after we moved here we did some remodeling and then after my husband and I came to live here, there was a screened-in porch out things. One of them is a Christmas tree and the other is the organ. But we remodeled the place. It's very comfortable. We have more room than it really looks like from the outside. But it's one of the landmarks and appears in one of the very early pamphlets or book­lets that came out about DeSoto end I have seen it, but I left the little booklet down at the school when I came away and I suppose it has disappeared. But when Eddie Miller was writing, this was one of the houses that, he gave a story about.


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 of Miller Street. It was called Pearl Cottage.


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 Boyd Street are pretty old, aren't they?


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.