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Marquand Pioneer Days, September 23, to feature author Shirley Gilmore at the Museum

Submitted by Denny Ward

File photo
Shirley Gilmore will return to Pioneer Days, Sept. 23. She is seen here at the historic Henry & Jane (Bess) Sitze log homestead in Marquand Historic Park during a previous Pioneer Days.

Thirty-four years ago, a small group of volunteers disassembled a two-story log cabin, moved it to its current location in the center of Marquand and restored it. 

This was the beginning of the Marquand Historical Park which today features not only the cabin, but the Marquand Depot Historical Museum, a pavilion, a thirty-foot section of the 1924 Lett Bridge that spanned the Castor River for seven decades, picnic tables, a playground, and many beautiful gardens and trees. 

A broad sidewalk and streetscape lighting encircle the park. Each year on the Saturday of the last full weekend of September, several thousand people pour into the small town for Pioneer Days to enjoy the food, music, crafts, games and the car show. 

Shirley Gilmore was the history teacher at Marquand and was one of those original volunteers who moved the cabin and started the park in 1989. She retired from teaching at Marquand-Zion in 1999, and currently lives near Willard, Missouri in the southwestern part of the state. She returns to Marquand every September for Pioneer Days where, in the past, you could find her giving tours in the log cabin. This year she will be on hand to host visitors to the Marquand Historical Depot Museum, but she will also be signing copies of her “Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies” books, a contemporary fantasy series, set in the fictional town of Turn Back in Southeast Missouri.  

For those novels, Ms. Gilmore drew on her background in public education and her eclectic interests, including ancient history, paleontology, geology, geography, genealogy, and Methodism, and her experiences of living in rural Madison County to weave together a tale which speaks of Minoans and mastodons, Hittites and healing springs. She tells the story through the eyes of ten-year-old Bucky Carter and her father, Simon, and the elderly women of the Lukefahr Ladies Bible Class.

A major theme in the book is change—how people can change and how towns can change through the influence of a single person. Ms. Gilmore witnessed that change firsthand during her twenty-five years of teaching at Marquand and in the twenty-four years since she retired. She was part of the group that transformed abandoned railroad property, which was little more than cinders and gravel, to the beautiful park that it is today. Over the years the small town in southeastern Madison County experienced a revival. 

As the Marquand park developed, it was accompanied by other improvements in the town, including a Community Center, and the restoration of the Homan Building with its Homan Hall Performing Arts Center. Today there are three Bed and Breakfast inns to welcome visitors. It has taken over three decades for Marquand to transform into the beautiful small town it has become. Ms. Gilmore compresses that into one summer for the fictional town of Turn Back in her first novel. 

One of the reasons Ms. Gilmore wrote the first book was to honor the memory of the elderly ladies of the Talley Bible Class at the Fredericktown United Methodist Church. She was their Sunday School teacher for ten years (1989-1999). While none of the characters in the novel is drawn from any single person, the women of that class inspired the creation of the characters that make up the Lukefahr Ladies. 

Shirley Gilmore’s debut novel, “Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies: Walking the Labyrinth,” was published in 2017. Because the readers wanted to know more about the quirky little town of Turn Back and the characters who lived there, she turned that book into a series, with six published books so far. There are also two standalone spin-offs of the series. “Carly Piper and the Mystery of the Ruby Ring” was written for ages 8-12. Her latest book, “Sadie Jane,” was just released in June. It is set in 1937 and follows nine-year-old Sadie Jane Woods as she experiences life during the Great Depression and the devastating news that a new government dam will soon bury Turn Back beneath the rising waters of the reservoir.

All of Ms. Gilmore’s books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Signed copies can be purchased at the Treasure Emporium —The UpCycle Boutique in Terre Du Lac. There are copies of the first two books in the Ozark Regional Library. All of Ms. Gilmore’s books are also available through the Missouri Evergreen library consortium.

She will have copies to sell and sign at Pioneer Days in the depot museum. Or if you purchased a book online, you are welcome to bring it to have it inscribed. 

You can read more about the books and receive updates on Ms. Gilmore’s website, or on her Facebook author page, “Shirley Gilmore, Bucky and the Lukefahr Ladies.” You can contact her through her website or Facebook author page.


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