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Galena: Stone County Historical Museum highlights

BY BARBARA BOOTH

 

The Stone County Historical Genealogical Society and Museum features the town of Galena as we travel through the history of Stone County.

 

Galena, seat of Justice for Stone County, Missouri, lies 1,016 feet above sea level on James River. The explorer, H.C. Schoolcraft, who traveled through the Missouri Ozarks as early as 1818-1819 reported seeing lumps of galena ore in the crystal waters of the James River. 

 

Galena was first known as Jamestown.  Early records speak of Jamestown as the county seat of Stone County. John D. Shannon probably did more toward having Stone County set aside as a county than any other single person.

 

Galena was platted in 1852 and named for deposits of the ore galena near the original town site.  An early variant name was "James Town." 

 

A post office has been in operation at Galena since 1853. The last public execution in the United States took place in Galena in 1937.  

 

The first school in Galena was held in a cotton gin on the south side of the square.

 

The first bridge built in Galena was a steel bridge over James River in 1915. The Y-Bridge was then built to replace the steel bridge in 1926 and opened in 1927. The bridge is now closed to vehicles and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A newer bridge to the north carries traffic across the river.

 

In the early 1900s the railroad made history running through Stone County. A large depot was built in Galena. Canning factories provided production of canned tomatoes shipped by rail across the country. The canning factories gave employment to many. Timber, tie making and cedar posts were also shipped by rail and a major source of income.

  

Galena became famous as the capital of float fishing. Guides took floaters on trips down the James River to White River and on to Branson, where the flat bottom boats were loaded onto northbound trains then hauled to Galena. The late 1880s saw the area developed as a tourism destination with float fishing and underground marvels with cave exploring and tours.

 

Galena at one time was a thriving business community with passenger train service, a school and several churches, grocery/mercantile, car agency, doctors, newspaper office, lumber company, river resorts and campgrounds, float service, dinner house with chef, movie theater, beauty salon, barber shop, cafes, photography studio, title companies, library, ice house, dairy, charcoal plant, cannery, and auto repair garage.

 

Galena also had a bank, Masonic Lodge, funeral home, gas stations, 5&10 store, boarding house, beautiful old historic homes, post office, beer joints, dance halls and a pool hall.

Those of us that grew up here have witnessed many changes take place.

 

A notable person, the Honorable Dewey Short, was born and raised in Galena. He earned his way through college by hauling and delivering ice with a horse pulled wagon, wearing a top hat and suit. He served the people in the United States Congress then was appointed as Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Army under President Eisenhower. Dewey Short never forgot his roots. He was a true statesman. Plus, he never forgot your name once you had the honor of meeting him.

 

The Stone County Historical Museum is open Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. to welcome you for tours and further research for more in-depth history.

  

Check the calendar of events for upcoming program in June. "The Original Hillbillies" who made the Hillbilly calendars and post cards famous will be guest presenters.

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