January 8, 2004

Gerths Celebrates 100 Years In Business

Longevity is uncommon in these days of business mergers and acquisitions. Last month the last Disney family member left the company. For a company to remain as a business for a century with the same owners is a rarity.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Gerth & Baskett Furniture and the Gerth Funeral Service. The Gerth family has owned and operated both businesses since Fred Gerth Sr. founded them in 1904 in Wyaconda.

It says something about the familys commitment through now four generations to this area, said Fritz Gerth, the business co-owner since 1993. It is rare for one family to own a business this long. Many sell out or close because their children move away or choose not to enter the business. Also, many small businesses have been unable to adapt to the changing climate where they have to compete with the larger discount stores and out of town businesses and are forced to close.

Fred Gerth founded an undertaking and furniture store in Wyaconda in 1904. Now those two businesses may seem to be an odd match, but at the turn of the century many funeral homes owners also operated furniture stores or hardware stores. At the time, it was economical because the wood manufacturers made both caskets and furniture and they were shipped together on the same trains.

One of the seminal events in Gerths history occurred when Ella Ewing passed away in Gorin on January 10, 1913. Her family contacted Fred Gerth to handle the services. The story of how he found a casket and vault appropriate for the 8 foot 4 Ewing is chronicled in Bette Wileys Book, Our Miss Ella.

There had been a heavy snow, and Gerth traveled to the Ewing home in Gorin from Wyaconda via horse and buggy. In those days, most of the funeral arrangements and visitation were held in the home. Even the embalming was done there.

Due to her great height, Ewing was too tall for the portable-embalming table so Gerth had to use her specially made dining room chairs, which were the same height as the six foot long embalming table, to accommodate the procedure.

When he was finished, he spoke with Ben Ewing, Ellas father, about arrangements. Ben wanted his daughter buried in a casket and sealed permanently in a vault. Ella, a proud and private person, feared her body would be experimented on or even displayed after her death.

Gerth remembered he had seen an oversized demonstration model vault at a show and contacted the manufacturers in Burlington, IA. They agreed to sell him the model, and make a casket to fit, but he had to come to Iowa and pick them up. After preparing the Ewing home for visitation, Gerth then left and promised to return the next day.

Immediately after leaving the Ewing home, Gerth rode to Wyaconda and boarded a train for Ft. Madison, IA. From there he traveled again by horse and buggy to Burlington, arriving in the middle of the night at the factory. Upon receiving the casket and vault, he drove them back to Ft. Madison and loaded them on the train for the ride back to Wyaconda.

Arriving in Wyaconda the morning of the service, Gerth loaded the casket into the horse drawn hearse, which had to be modified to carry the large casket, and rode to Gorin. The casket was so heavy that it took 10 men to carry it.

The funeral procession took Miss Ewing to the Harmony Grove Baptist Church, roughly five miles south of Gorin. When they arrived, a crowd had gathered that was so large the small church could not hold it. Wood burning stoves were placed outside to keep the mourners warm.

Miss Ewing was buried in the oversized vault and concrete poured on it to seal it forever, according to her familys wishes.

The funeral service of Ella Ewing garnered Fred Gerth a measure of notoriety. In the next few years, the business grew from Wyaconda to include funeral homes in Gorin and Rutledge, as well as a facility in Bible Grove, which had been owned by the Thrasher family.

The family also grew as George Baskett, Fred Gerths brother-in-law, joined the firm in 1913, creating Gerth & Baskett.

Baskett operated the stores in Wyaconda and Gorin when Fred Gerth moved to Memphis in 1930, when they purchased Mulch and Sons.

As well as having a funeral home and furniture store, Gerths for many years provided free ambulance services in Northeast Missouri. Before Scotland County Memorial Hospital, the nearest health care facilities were in Kirksville and Iowa.

Albert C. Gerth and Frederick Gerth took over operations of the business following the retirement of Fred Gerth Sr. and George Baskett. George Frederick Gerth succeeded his father Albert, following his untimely death in 1959.

During this time, the furniture store expanded to locations in Shelbina and Paris. They also purchased the Individual Mausoleum Corporation (IMCO) in Jamesport. IMCO was one of the first to produce granite top burial mausoleums. There are some of these mausoleums in most of the cemeteries in the area.

Frederick Gerth purchased George Gerths share of the company in the early 1970s and then closed the furniture stores in Shelbina and Paris. The locations in Gorin, Rutledge and Bible Grove were also closed, leaving the current business locations in Memphis and Wyaconda.

Gerth & Baskett merged with D.W. Payne & Sons following a fire that destroyed the Paynes business in 1979. PayneGerth operated until 1993, when the businesses split.

When Frederick Gerth retired in 1993, Fritz and Janet Gerth became the owners of Gerth & Baskett Furniture and Gerth Funeral Services. Melissa (Gerth) Behrens and her husband Jeff will be the fourth generation to run the business. Nathanial Gerth and Reese Hogarth are also the current employees. Tracey Russell maintains the Wyaconda location.

Gerth Funeral Service operates facilities in Memphis and Wyaconda. Both buildings were extensively remodeled in the early 1990s. The Memphis building features a childrens room, library, private family seating, and a full service kitchen.

In 1904, when Granddad started, the visitation was in the home and the service in a church, said Fritz Gerth. Now, we have modern and comfortable parlors and chapels in the facilities. Many families have moved away and only return for the funeral. So our parlor has to serve as a comfortable place for them to visit and grieve.

Also, back then the service was more formal. Now we strive to have a personal experience for our families by providing a comfortable parlor, memory boards to display photos, personalized memorial videos to play on a big screen television, and a website with funeral information for people to express their condolences if they cant get here.

There have also been many changes in the furniture business. Gerth & Baskett Furniture has operated exclusively out of the Memphis location since 1994, following the closing of the Wyaconda furniture store. Over the past 100 years, Gerth & Baskett has carried everything from pianos to appliances. Now the business deals in furniture, bedding and carpeting.

Many of the names have changed, Gerth said. At one time, my granddad sold more Cable Nelson Pianos than any other dealer per capita in the United States. We have carried every major name brand from Krohler to Lazy Boy to now Lane, Benchcraft, Berkline and Bruards. We have sold and represented about every carpet mill in America at one time. (Gerth & Baskett) has sold Simmons, Sealy, Serta, Therapedic, and Spring Air mattresses. The names change, but we are still here.

Gerth said the biggest changes in the business have been in transportation and style. When the business was founded, smaller towns had many stores because goods were shipped cheaply via train. Now merchandise is delivered in trucks, which is more expensive.

Also today, there is such a greater variety of furniture styles and tastes. A business must have a better knowledge and understanding of its market to survive. Customers have a wide range of choices and a business must be able to satisfy them, at a good price.

A lot has changed since Fred Gerth opened his one storeroom in 1904. The business plans several promotions during the year to celebrate the anniversary and the four generations that have maintained this family tradition.

Scotland County Library Presents ‘Build a Better World’ Summer Reading Program

Readers of all ages will explore exciting things this summer as the Scotland County Library presents “Build a Better World” during their summer library program.  The 2017 Summer Reading Program is open to young people ages three through 6th grade with programs and prizes.

Registration for “Build a Better World” begins Monday, June 5th, and the last day to collect prizes will be Friday, July 21st.  Prizes will be awarded based on hours spent reading.

Weekly programs will also be presented at 10:00 a.m. each Wednesday beginning June7th. The first program will feature Jeff Dyer’s presentation of a famous Scotland County resident.  On June 14th, Karen Armstrong of the Missouri Department of Conservation will give an animal presentation.  Other programs will include the Scotland County R-1 FFA presenting a Petting Zoo, Kim Ludwick of the Scotland County Health Department, and Brian Whitney and members of the Memphis and Scotland County Fire Departments.

For more information, call the library at 660-465-7042.  All programs are free of charge.

Residential Terrace Hosts 20th Annual Car Show

The soggy streets and roads didn’t keep 30 diehard vehicles from showing off at the 20th Annual Residential Terrace Car Show on Saturday, May 20th.

The residents of both the Scotland County Care Center and Residential Terrace were thrilled to view the vehicles in the parking lot. The weather threatened rain and was chilly so most viewing was from the many windows. Some brave residents ventured out for a closer look.

Memphis Mayor William Reckenberg awarded Alan Hufford with the Mayor’s Award for his bright yellow 1972 Chevy Nova.

The residents chose a red 1993 Chevy S-10 owned by John and Donna Austin from Memphis as their favorite color.

The vehicle with the most memories was a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain owned by Ewing and Louise Dean from Kirksville.

The fun car award was a 1965 Volkswagen owned by Larry and Michell Balanda from Anchorage, AK.

The fancy car award was a 2015 Chevrolet SS owned by Michell and Larry Balanda from Anchorage, AK.

Peoples’ choice award was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air convertible owned by Gary Harris from Moulton, IA.

Other awards for the top 10 cars, top 3 pickups and top motorcycle were awarded also.

A special plaque was awarded to Jerry Grosenkemper for his volunteering and dedication for the past 20 years of this car show.

As always, the organizers expressed their appreciation to all who helped and participated in this year’s show.

Tague Attends ‘Chosin Few’ Reunion in Springfield

Left to right: Don “Buck” Tague, Dr. Baes Suk Lee, Jong Kook Lee. Baes Suk Lee (center) was part of the Army in Korea, serving as an interpreter – in his capacity to do so – even though he was a youth at the time. He came to the U.S. post Korean War. Jong Kook Lee (right) , the Consulate General of the Republic of (South) Korea , stationed in Chicago, presented Tague (and other veterans) with the Korean Government’s Ambassador of Peace Medal at this reunion.

submitted by Sandra Kalman

Don “Buck” Tague of Gorin attended a Korean War battle reunion in Springfield, Missouri, May 18 to 20.

Commemorating the Korean War Battle of Chosin Reservoir, survivors of that battle have taken to calling themselves: “The Chosin Few.”

This particular reunion was the U.S. Army Chapter reunion of The Chosen Few – another association holds reunions for both Marines and Army survivors together and Tague attends those Korean War reunions too.  He also attends World War II reunions with his Patton’s Third Army 65th Infantry Division Association.

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir lasted from late November, 1950, until the end of December, making this reunion not quite 67 years post battle.  Details of the battle are not pretty.  Tague played a part in the Army’s 79th Construction Engineering Battalion in Korea.

An interesting editorial written about this reunion by a local Springfield physician, Yung Hwang, M. D., published prior to the reunion, said the purpose of this reunion was “To honor the surviving veterans and the memory of those who died during that decisive battle…”

Hwang said:  “On the eve of Chosin Few coming to town, the Korean community will warmly welcome and happily join in their memorial service as we are also hoping North Korean and Chinese communism will stop their bad behaviors against the world.”

Several highlights of the reunion are described in text accompanying photographs in a Fathers’ Day ad, placed here by Tague’s proud children.

About the general feeling of the reunion, Buck’s son, David, said:  “They were glad to be here.”

Scotland County Senior Nutrition Center


Thursday, May 25 – Roast Pork, Mashed Potatoes/Gravy, Sauerkraut, Cranberry Sauce, Slice Bread, Pudding

Friday, May 26 – Fish Fillets, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli Salad, Peas, Cornbread, Cream Pie

Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day, Center Closed, No Meals

Tuesday, May 30 – BBQ or Plain Pork/Bun, Scalloped Potatoes, Cauliflower Blend Veggies, Pears, Cookies

Wednesday, May 31 – Chicken Strips, Mashed Potatoes/Gravy, Buttered Corn, Bread, Fruit Salad

Thursday, June 1 – Ham and Beans, Carrot-Pineapple Salad, Buttered Beets, Cornbread, Cake


Thursday, May 25 – Card Party at 5:00 p.m.

Monday, May 29 – Memorial Day, Center Closed

Thursday, June 1 – Card Party at 5:00 p.m.

Regularly Scheduled Audit of Scotland County Underway

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (May 19, 2017) Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has announced her office has started work on audits of Scotland and Mercer counties, located in northern Missouri.  Audit staff is on-site in both locations, and Auditor Galloway encouraged citizens to submit concerns or information through the dedicated hotline.

“The public deserves a government that is transparent and works efficiently on behalf of its citizens,” Auditor Galloway said. “These audits will provide an independent review, and I encourage anyone who has information to contact my Whistleblower Hotline.”

The most recent audits of Scotland and Mercer counties were completed in 2013 and both counties received good ratings.

Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration in this or any audit may contact the State Auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.

MLRA Late Models to Highlight June 1st Races at Scotland County Speedway

Racing action will return to Scotland County Speedway next week as the Lucas Oil Midwest Late Model Racing Association will kick off a three-day circuit across northeast Missouri and southeast Iowa with a stop in Memphis on Thursday, June 1st.

The MLRA event will highlight a full schedule of events at SCS, paying $3,000 to win the late model feature. Modifieds, sport models and stock cars will all be racing for a $1,000 top prize with sport compacts battling for a $300 payday.

The track will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. for practice at $25 per car. The gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with hot laps at 7 p.m.

The local event is being sponsored by J & J Ag, Memphis Pepsi-Cola, Brain’s Foundation Repair and Crop Production Services.

The MLRA will be racing May 25-27th in Wheatland, MO. After the Memphis stop, the late models will be in action Friday night at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, IA before heading to Randolph County Speedway in Moberly on Saturday.

On May 4th-6th the circuit was in Iowa, racing at Lee County Speedway, Davenport and Independence with Chris Simpson, Bobby Pierce and Billy Moyer all picking up wins. Thus far in 2017, five races in the books have generated five different winners for the MLRA.

Rush Releases Latest Book ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!’

Pastor Terry Rush is no stranger to the people of his hometown, Memphis. But while Scotland County residents may know Rush from his frequent visits back home for speaking engagements, or as readers of his newspaper column of one of his books, his latest release starts with a revealing confession.

“All I ever wanted to be was famous.” That is the statement Rush offers to open “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!”, his newest book fresh off the press.

Of course that confession was made tongue-in-cheek to the high school guidance counselor, as Rush was clinging to his dream of one day becoming a St. Louis Cardinal. Fittingly enough, he offered stand-up comedian, as his backup plan.

It turns out, God had other plans for Terry. While his professional baseball career never took off, Rush has had plenty of brushes with the fame he joked about.

After offering more than a dozen publication’s Rush penned his latest book in which he reveals how God has continued to send him to the right place at the right time, over and over again, to minister to the famous.

“In my younger days, I would never have guessed that the famous need and want spiritual and emotional support,” said Rush. “Surprised me. We tend to think they’ve got it made. Think again. They need people who care; just as we do.”

It has been the stories of meeting some of these needs that has led Rush to fulfill the new book’s subtitle, “Experiencing God Beyond Imagination”.

“I love people,” Rush says in the opening chapter of the book. “The famous have been ignored because it seems they are assumed to be both unneedy and unreachable. Fans just figure they have no problems.”

Rush goes on to explain in the book that his stardom, didn’t come from becoming a St. Louis Cardinal baseball player as he dreamed of as a young man, but instead only after he became a pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma and happened upon an ad for adults to attend a Cardinals Baseball Camp to play alongside past and current stars and coaches.

“When I read this article about playing baseball with these heroes, I wondered if God would use me to encourage them,” Rush says in the book. “As I thought of the possibilities, I wept.”

Little did he know that the Legends Camp would only be the beginning of the multitude of opportunities the Lord presented for Rush to interact with the famous and offer God’s encouragement. “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” is a collection of stories about “chance” meetings Rush has had with a number of celebrities from the movies, sports, politics, the music industry and television. The book is packed with amazing encounters that surely cannot be true, yet they are. These things couldn’t happen to a man from rural northeast Missouri, yet they did.

The book is chocked full of such unbelievable experiences that have put Rush in the presence of the likes of Charlton Heston, Loretta Lynn and James MacArthur.

It is through these experiences that Rush has learned that we are all alike, adding that everyone has confidences that are often undermined by fears. The author sais he hopes his latest book will open readers’ hearts to new possibility and potential.

Copies of you “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!!” are available at J’s Foods in Memphis or can be ordered directly from Kelly Press, Inc. by calling 573-449-4163 or by emailing colin@kellypressinc.com.

Judge DeMarce to Address 71st Annual Memorial Day Services

Judge Karl DeMarce will be the featured speaker on Monday as the Wallace W. Gillespie Memorial Post #4958 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars hosts the 71st Annual Memorial Day Services on the lawn of the Scotland County Courthouse.

The services will begin at 10 a.m. with Post Commander Lloyd Erickson and program chairman Donnie Middleton welcoming the crowd.

Veterans Flody C. Baker and Mike Stephenson will perform the traditional wreath placement at the soldiers’ memorial on the southeast side of the courthouse. Fellow serviceman Bill Camp will lead the gathering the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pastor Leon Buford, also a Scotland County veteran, will lead the invocation prior to the playing of the National Anthem by the Scotland County R-I band. The Memphis Community Players will keep the music flowing with a series of patriotic selections.

Judge Gary Dial will again have the honor of introducing the service’s guest speaker.

Following DeMarce’s speech, veteran Jamie Parker will sing Sleep Soldier Boy accompanied by Connie Courtney.

Following the benediction by Buford, the VFW members will present a 21 gun salute before the performance of taps by service member Melinda Briggs with ECHO played by Chris Kempke.

The service is open to the public. In case of inclement weather, the program will be moved indoors at the VFW post.

Gorin American Legion Post Plans Memorial Day Gathering

The Leslie Chambers #395 Gorin American Legion Post will be hosting their annual Memorial Day gathering on Sunday, May 28.  There will be a carry-in dinner at 12:30 at the Gorin Christian Church with a program following the dinner. The Post will present military services at the Gorin Cemetery at 2:00 p.m. and everyone is invited.


Casey and April Funk of Coatsville, MO are the parents of a son, Carter Bret Funk, born May 10, 2017 at 8:16 a.m. at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis. Carter weighed 7 lbs 1.8 oz and was 20.75 inches long. He has a sibling, Caley Archer. Grandparents are Chris and Ida Archer of Moulton, IA; Ralph Funk of Coatsville, MO; and Judy Funk of Coatsville, MO.


Kara Ball of Kahoka and Johnathon Keefe of Kahoka are the parents of a son, Michael Raymond Keefe, born May 16, 2017 at 6:28 a.m. at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis. Michael weighed 7 lbs 2.8 oz and was 21 inches long. Grandparents are David and Stacie Parson of Lawrence, Patrick Keefe of Keokuk, and Alicia Boyd of Eureka.

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