Tragedy in Pettis County


Rhonda Chalfant - Contributing Columnist



Rhonda Chalfant

Contributing Columnist

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The Federal Census provides a wealth of information about individuals who lived in the past.

In addition to information about age, gender, marital status, and ethnicity, the census asked for a great deal of other information. At various times, census takers inquired about a respondent’s place of birth and the parents’ places of birth. The census generally asked for the person’s native language or whether the person spoke English.

Most census takers asked about the amount of education each respondent had and whether the respondent could read or write, as well as whether the respondent was a victim of a handicapping condition such as blindness, deafness, or developmental disabilities. The census asked about occupation, home ownership, the value of the home and other personal property and whether the home was mortgaged. The 1930 census even asked whether the family owned a radio.

The 1910 census reveals that Lee Snapp, of Heath’s Creeks Township in northeastern Pettis County, was 47 years old. He was born in Missouri, as was his mother; he didn’t know where his father had been born. His wife Serena was 43. She had been born in Ohio; her father had been born in Missouri and her mother in West Virginia.

The couple owned their farm, but it was mortgaged. Lee worked the family farm, as did sons Horton and Thomas. The census also reveals the couple had six children but only five were living.

What the census doesn’t reveal is the tragedy connected with the death of their child. On Friday, March 4, 1910, a few months before the census was taken, the Sedalia Democrat told of a “distressing” accident. That afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Snapp had left their home about 18 miles northeast of Sedalia near Longwood and gone to Sedalia to shop. Son Edgar, 3, and daughter Orlena, 6, were probably with them. Daughter Mary, 11, may have been with them.

About 5 p.m. the older boys, Horton, 17, and his brother James, 16, were preparing to go duck hunting. The young men were cleaning their shotguns in preparation for the hunt when Horton’s gun discharged. Thirty of the No. 6 shot struck James in the head above and behind his right ear.

Horton carried his brother into the house and summoned Dr. John Mitchell of Longwood. The rest of the family returned home later that evening to find the younger son severely injured, and the older son “almost prostrated with grief” over this role in the accident.

On Saturday morning, Dr. W. J. Ferguson was summoned as a consulting physician. He examined James and found him unconscious and entirely paralyzed on his left side. Mitchell and Ferguson could not then predict whether James would recover, but they held little hope.

On Monday, March 7, 1910, the Democrat reported James had died at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, March 6. James had never regained consciousness. The funeral was at Miller’s Chapel about 1.5 miles from Postal, a small village northeast of Sedalia. At 11 a.m. Monday, James was buried in the churchyard there.

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

Sedalia Democrat

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.

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