View of the Past

by Ron Leake, Ralls County Historical Society

This article is courtesy of Ron Leake, president of the Ralls County Historical Society.

Untitled & undated newspaper article

John S. Blue of Florida 100 Years Old
If you want to live to be a hundred, do a little of everything, enjoy yourself as you go along, refuse to allow life to become monotonous.
That’s the life prescription of John S. Blue of Florida, and he should have some pretty good ideas on the subject, because he was 100 years old on Monday. For a century he has followed his own advice. His diverse activities have included both chewing and smoking tobacco, and he admits that he wouldn’t be averse to a little nip now and then.
Just to demonstrate that a man needn’t become old because a hundred years have passed, Saturday morning after breakfast at the home of his daughter, Mrs. W.S. Walton near Victor, Mr. Blue started hitch-hiking the five miles toward Florida, where he goes each Saturday for a shave. Usually someone takes him in a car, but that morning he refused to wait and took off afoot before the Walton’s [sic] missed him from the house. A neighbor came along in a car before he had walked far and carried him on to his barber shop rendezvous.
Mr. Blue was born near Woodin’s Mill? (Goodwin Mill?) which once stood east of Florida near Joanna. His father, a Union soldier, was killed in the early days of the Civil War, and Mr. Blue, the eldest of the family, took over the breadwinning job. He has spent his life as a farmer and carpenter, and with the exception of a short time at Chillicothe, all of it in the Florida vicinity. For 52 years he lived in Florida. For 17 years, since the death of his wife, he kept house for himself most of the time. Last week he was finally persuaded to give up his home and housekeeping activities and go live with his daughter, Mrs. Walton, near Victor.
He reads without glasses, hears as well as a teen-ager, is a spry walker, although admitting that he tires more readily than he once did. The only thing that bothers him is that his appetite isn’t as good as it once was, and he has to watch his diet.
He is one of the few men who remember having seen Mark Twain where he visited relatives at Florida, his birthplace. He is also one of the few men living who recall when General Ulysses S. Grant, then a lieutenant in the Illinois infantry, made his first Civil War campaign. Grant was sent to Florida with a detachment of troops, to capture Confederates camped there. Mr. Blue recalls that the Union men camped on the North Side of North Fork at Florida, then came on into the village, where Grant made his headquarters in the house now occupied by Mrs. Baker.
Among the most vivid of Mr. Blue’s recollections are those of the village of Florida, in the days when it was larger than Paris, had a newspaper, the Florida Democrat, boasted of two flour mills, a wagon factory, a furniture factory and numerous other industries. It was a booming town when he was a youngster, and the metropolis of the county, standing between its two rivers up which much small traffic came. Now the industries are gone the town has shrunk to a population of 100, and the shoaling streams have eliminated all river traffic.
John Blue, probably the only living Monroe Countian who recalls the period during which Mark Twain was a young man, is shown at Florida in the above photo against a background of the statue of the famous Monroe County humorist. In the background is the Baker house in which General U.S. Grant made his headquarters during his first campaign of the Civil War, an instance which Mr. Blue vividly recalls. The photo was taken by Rev. Carl Hewlett of Paris last Saturday, two days before Mr. Blue reached his 100th birthday.

Untitled & undated news article.

Was 97 Sunday.

John Blue, one of Northeast Missouri’s oldest men, passed the 97th anniversary of his birthday Sunday, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. L.B. Walton, near Victor. Other guests in the Walton home that day were John Utterback and Miss Vallie Utterback, and Mrs. Marvin Painter, Monroe City; Mr. and Mrs. Glen Turner, Valvery, Jean and Dickie Painter; Verna, Veda and Verda Turner, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Friday, L.B. and Logene Friday.
Practically all of Mr. Blue’s life has been spent in Monroe County, 52 years at his present residence in Florida. He has one son, J.D. Blue, in Ransburg, California, and another son, Oscar Blue, in Salem, Ill. He is remarkably alert in both body and mind.

[Scrivener note: Missouri Death Certificate for John S. Blue lists date of birth as April 14, 1846; date of death as September 28, 1949; son of John David & Mary Utterback Blue; born in Ralls County; died Stoutsville RR, Monroe County]