Old Stompin’ Grounds
June 24, 2014
Recently, I paid a visit to Sedalia, Missouri, where my ancestors had lived for several generations. It just so happened that the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival was going on there, all the better to see this small city in all its glory!
I was able to plan for my genealogy road trip using materials found at the Midwest Genealogy Center. I already had documents obtained from MCPL’s genealogy databases, and I had looked over the county histories and other pictorial histories of Sedalia before going. With all this information, I was able to create a day’s agenda for our tour.
My great-grandma lived in Sedalia until she married around 1912, having migrated there with her family from Moniteau County, Missouri just before the turn of the century. As the story goes, she came to Sedalia as a toddler in a covered wagon, which makes sense because farmer parents did not have a car in those days. I wanted to find the house where she had lived according to the 1910 census. I also knew that the graves of her parents were located in Sedalia after finding them on Findagrave.com.
It was a nice thrill to locate the graves, knowing my great-grandma and her siblings had stood in that very place so long ago. It was also nice to see the tiny bungalow where she had lived with seven other siblings in 1910 and imagine all the times they had there. Before I visited Sedalia, I had Googled the house address to see the street view, so it looked oddly familiar when we got there. I felt sad to see it was a bit dilapidated.
My grandparent’s house was fairly close to what must have been the main suburb back in the day, and only a few blocks from where they were buried. I imagined them walking to church, visiting the railroad depot to take short trips here and there, and enjoying the beauty of the plains before the usual strip mall type buildings went up later on. I could also imagine how crowded that household would have been!
While in Sedalia, we also visited the Katy Depot Museum and learned more about the city’s history, including the famous "Red Light" district, which cropped up around all the railroad workers. We even saw an old poster that advertised Scott Joplin playing in one of the brothels! It was well worth the time visiting the Katy Depot Museum. Reading the displays, I got a sense of the “wild west” quality of historical Sedalia, and the ragtime music playing everywhere helped to add to the feeling that we had just walked out of an old saloon. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of Sedalia and its connection to the railroad industry. My great grandpa had worked on the M. K. & T railroad as a blacksmith, according to his World War I draft registration card that I found in MCPL's Ancestry Library Edition.
I highly recommend taking a local day trip or planning an even longer trip to gather information and memories about your ancestors. Call ahead to cemeteries to get maps, and know the hours and addresses of the places you plan to visit. This trip helped my ancestors come alive for me. No longer are they just names and numbers, but people that lived and learned, suffered, experienced joy, and died with their loved ones all around them.
What a rich experience!
Midwest Genealogy Center