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Greenland’s History Unrecorded, but Not Forgotten

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October 20, 2010 by wcobserver

Celebrates Centennial Saturday

By Susan McCarthy

Last week, amid the bustle of Bikes, Blues and Barbeque, a Greenland woman called the local television stations to alert them about a tea party in Greenland.  These days, those two words, “tea party,” evoke images of a grass-root, right-winged political movement and the caller had the media’s full attention.

Imagine their surprise, when they found out they had been invited to a real tea party under a large Magnolia tree in the center of Wilson Street at Doc Wilson’s historic home in Greenland.  The television crews didn’t make it, but the setting was perfect for what was to come.

In the shade of that beautiful magnolia tree, Jim and Frances Farmer, Donna Cheevers, Pat Williams Watkins, and three Carlisle sisters, Wanda Couch, Daisy Potter and Lou Paul sipped tall iced teas with their host Patti Dutton reminiscing about a Greenland we don’t see any more as we drive that stretch of Hwy. 71 South.

On Saturday, Greenland will celebrate its centennial.  There hasn’t been a lot of history written about Greenland, but much of Greenland’s history still lives within those who gathered at Doc. Wilson’s house and probably many others who still live in Greenland.

Gone is the apple orchard that extended behind G.W., “Doc” Wilson’s home.  The Crider Store, which operated for 75 years of Greenland’s history, closed in the 1980’s.  The train tracks still run through Wilson Street, but the depot is gone.  A school remains and even its existence was threatened over the past two years.  But in the good old’ days, things were different.

Staff Photographer Brooke McNeely Galligan Sisters Daisy Potter, from left Lou Paul, and Wanda Couch look at historic photos from Greenland as they enjoy iced tea at Patti Dutton’s house as they talk about the history of the town.

By all accounts, “Doc” Wilson was the envy of many.  He was the town’s dentist, but also operated a sizeable horse operation and apple orchard.  Patti Dutton, who now lives in the Wilson home with her husband, Danny, said the house contains a cedar lined closet.  She said the closet was built to store the town’s first mink coat for “Doc” Wilson’s wife, Alberta, “Bertie” F. Youngbood.   “Bertie” was the only woman in town who could afford a real mink coat, says Dutton.

The Wilson house was also the first in town to have a generator and local lore recounts that the women of Greenland gathered there once a week to run their irons.

It’s said that “Doc” Wilson earned more from selling apples than from dentistry.

“One time I came in to get my tooth filled, and he filled the wrong one,” said Lou Carlisle Paul.

Her sister, Daisy Carlisle Potter, said she was mortified, when at 15; she had to have a front tooth removed after “Doc” Wilson killed a nerve in a previous visit during a routine filling.

“We said he wasn’t a very good dentist.  One thing he did for us was build that gym.  We had a beautiful gym…It was such a thrill,” said Wanda Carlisle Couch, describing the Greenland school gym that was built around 1940 and is still in use today.  Until then, basketball was mostly a boy’s game and was played outside on a dirt court.

Couch said it’s rumored that “Doc” Wilson was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and funded the gym to avoid detection by the IRS.

Jim Farmer, who worked for the Wilsons for 10 years and is a great storyteller, said “Doc Wilson” once sent him to the bank to deposit $25,000.  When he arrived at the bank, the teller told him, there was an extra $20 and asked him what he should do with it.  Farmer says he instructed the teller to deposit the money with the $25,000.  When he returned, he told “Doc” Wilson about the mistake.  He says “Doc” Wilson said, “Yes, yes, what’d you do with it?”  Farmer told him he had deposited it and the dentist told him he should have kept it, but Farmer said from that point on, “Doc Wilson” trusted him implicitly and he realized the errand had been a test.

Farmer said that both of the Wilsons had trademark phrases.  He said “Doc” Wilson started most every sentence with “yes, yes” and his wife, “Bertie” jumped into conversations with a high pitched, singsong, “Wheeee” as in “Wheeee, Jim, you run over two of my flowers (while mowing)”

Like many of the towns that dot Hwy 71, Greenland was born when the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad came to the area in the early 1880’s.  The town was first called Rugby in 1882 and later changed its name to Staunton in 1886 before becoming Greenland in 1909.

Apples and produce were transported from Greenland by rail in the earlier days.  One story told on this crisp fall day tells of the Crider family shipping apples on a train to the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 where the apples won first place.

During World War II, Lou Carlisle Paul said “Troop Trains” loaded with U.S. troops, frequently passed through Greenland.

“I was crazy about soldiers…they came from Fort Smith,”

Paul said she used to wrap “I love you” notes around small rocks and toss them to soldiers through open windows of the trains as they passed through town.

There were at least two documented train wrecks in Greenland, one of which was in 1897.  But the tea party recalls a train wreck in 1955 that stacked up 13 box cars under Barnett Branch Bridge.  Daisy Carlisle Potter said a steam engine crane was brought in to “pull them up.”

“Every morning, that’s where everyone went,” said Potter who said Greenland residents were riveted with the wreck’s clean-up.

But perhaps, the town’s biggest gathering place over the years was Crider’s Store, which was first opened by M.B Crider, Sr. and later passed to two more generations before it closed after 75 years.  There were other stores over the years, but he Crider Store and Yoes Store were in business the longest and were highly competitive, according to Lou Carlisle Paul.

“All the old guys came to the store at night.  It was full of old men,” she said.

The Carlisle sisters lived across the street from the Crider Store, as a family of 11, in a rock house that is now the administration offices for Greenland Public Schools. They recall frequently stopping by the store for cokes and candy.  Their favorite part, as kids, was not paying for anything.

“Put in on my bill,” recalls Daisy Carlisle Potter, who said the store used a charge system that allowed customers to pay their bill monthly up until the day it closed.

The Carlisle sisters credit the Crider Store for helping them grow up.  One of the Crider brothers told Lou Carlisle Paul that she was getting to the age where she should wear a dress and after telling her mother what he said, she came to the store sporting a new dress her mother had made for her.

Daisy Carlisle Potter said when she was a teen, she proudly entered the store wearing bright red lipstick and Paul Crider told her it was all right for her to wear lipstick, but told her she should wear her shoes with it.

Days from the century before came to a close as the tea party dispersed.  Left were empty cups of iced tea underneath the front porch window where “G.W. Wilson” was still visible underneath a fall wreath along with a bullet hole from earlier days.

On Saturday, Greenland citizens will gather to mark its hundredth birthday.  These stories will most likely be just the beginning of many shared memories still in the heads of its life-long residents.

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