The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 8, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Museum does what it is supposed to do — inspire

FRANKLIN, Kan. — I intended to take 15 minutes to look at tractors and came away with what I’m sure will be 15 years worth of work.

Friday afternoon, I took my sons to the Franklin Miner’s Hall Museum, an eight-mile drive north from Pittsburg, to see this month’s special exhibit. We had attended the grand opening earlier this year and were impressed with the professional way in which mining memorabilia has been preserved and displayed.

A special May exhibit focused on all things automotive, which also captured our interest, and with the arrival of July came an exhibit highlighting the importance of agriculture in Southeast Kansas. It’s a small display, but I knew the boys would enjoy seeing a quarter-scale model Case steam engine, a third-scale 1922 hay press and a child-size working John Deere tractor pulling a plow. I was right.

What I hadn’t banked on was volunteer Peggy Prince not only piquing my interest in another area of the museum, but giving me a whole new priority on my to-do list.

While the boys got caught up in coloring pictures of miners and trying their hand at the carnival digger, she showed me the progress that has been made in the museum’s research library.

I’ve always loved genealogy — capturing people’s stories and, in the process, preserving them for history, is my lifeblood. I relished the time I spent listening to my grandmother’s stories and her pencil sketches of our family tree, and I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday dinners with my husband’s grandfather, Emile Stefanoni. He always remained at the table with me long after a meal to tell tales of his father, Bortolo Stefanoni, an Italian immigrant miner.

The trouble is, I’m the construction worker who hasn’t built herself a house. I’m the landscaper whose own garden needs weeding. In other words, I spend all day writing about other people and in the process have sadly neglected organizing my own family’s history. The notes I have taken, the research I have done, the photographs I have collected about grands and greats and great-great-greats are carefully tucked away in shoeboxes in my office closet, just waiting for a “rainy day.”

It never seems to arrive.

At the museum, I sat down and thumbed through the three-ring binders, each bearing a spine label such as “Frogtown,” “Camp 50” or “Paupers Cemetery.” Inside each are an index, meticulously tabbed sections, photos and written memories.

Family names jump out at me like “Cukjati” and “Menghini.”

Most of these people never made front page headlines, but oh how important they were to the settlement and growth of this area. I noticed, though, there are many sections still waiting for descendants and neighbors to share memories and photos, many family names still not listed. Stefanoni is one of them.

It may take awhile, but I’m going to dig out those shoeboxes and get busy. I’m inspired, and this time of year it’s no use waiting for a rainy day.


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