Surrounded by books, filing cabinets and Hollinger boxes, Darrell Strope can be found every Monday and Tuesday in the research library located in the basement of the Cole County Historical Society on Madison Street across the street from the Governor's Mansion.
Strope has been volunteering with the society since 2013, when he retired from computer programming at the Missouri's House of Representatives. His passion for history began when he was a young boy who often saw his parents researching genealogy.
"I honestly don't remember how or why I got interested," Strope said. "I was taking a typing course at school and would type mom's notes for practice. I must have seen something that sparked my curiosity. After dad died, I would spend Sunday afternoon with mom. We would go riding and visit cemeteries. Something clicked."
A majority of his work at the society has consisted of inventory and indexing information for potential future projects. The society currently has a collection that used to be indexed by the library but is sometimes too general to help with research requests.
"Someone might come in and want some information, and it might be in one of those collections and we just don't know it," he explained. "I found, just recently, a receipt given to Daniel Morgan Boone in 1821 or 1822, but he was one of the commissioners who laid out Jefferson City. It's for $4 and it was his receipt for services. I don't know the time period if it was a day, a week or month but it was for $4 and that might have been a lot of money back then."
The most common research requests Strope receives are for historic housing or businesses and family genealogy.
"There for awhile, we were getting a lot of requests from people redoing these buildings downtown. They want to try and get the facade back to the way it looked so they wanted to know if we had pictures, and I always found that was interesting — you learned a little history there," he said.
Strope has also been doing a lot of research for the Madison Walk tour that will take place Sept. 16. The tour will feature a variety of locations that have documented Jefferson City's history between 1800-1960.
His research of the city has also helped him find more information for his genealogy research requests and visa versa.
He recently discovered the Terminal Hotel, which is now the area of the parking lot below First Baptist Church. His discovery came from a photo request from a man whose grandfather had met his grandmother at the On Time Bar, which partially occupied the Terminal Hotel. The man was looking for an old photo of the building to give to his grandfather.
"Unfortunately, no pictures; but I did find out that the On Time Bar and a Capitol machine shop had occupied the hotel," Strope said.
Strope hopes more people will contribute items from their family's history to the society in order to make these types of connections. He mentioned the best ways to begin researching your genealogy is by talking to people — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. — to get names, dates and locations.
"If no dates are given, then you start looking at tombstones, church records and county records for dates. When you have a date of death, then obituaries and wills are available and may supply a wealth of information. A birth date may be used to find parents. A marriage date may give a spouse's name and sometimes the parent's names," Strope advised.
Anyone is encouraged to contribute bits of information about their family through emails or letters to the society or donate items from past family members.
"Any old family documents that they don't know what to do with — any memorabilia that they've got or little pieces written up or something — and if you don't want to give it to us, make a copy and send it to us, because somewhere down the road, someone is going to use that little piece," he said.
Strope also mentioned collecting pieces of family history not only helps him but also helps those who may be looking for inspiration to write a new book.
"This is the kind of place they come to look for information," Strope said. "And I kind of like to think of this place that it's more than just names and dates; we can find you stuff to write a story."
Although Strope is skilled in his research and organization of history, he said it has become difficult to maintain the historical society with the low number of volunteers helping with inventory and rotation of items and tours of the museum.
The museum consists of multiple rooms that feature variety artifacts relating to the past lifestyles of Cole County families including luxurious historic furnishings from the Price family, the McCarty family and others. The museum also features a collection of Inaugural Ball gowns worn by former Missouri first ladies and China used by Gov. Samuel Baker and his wife, Nell, that are hand-decorated and painted with 23-karat gold over floral-etched design.
Strope said he hopes more people take notice of the kind of local history the museum has to offer and hopes more people begin to use the Cole County Historical Society as a resource when they become more interested in their family's history.
"Interests change," he said. "You know, I've got all this genealogical material, what am I going to do with it? My niece is 40 right now and she has no interest in it, but when she's 50, she might start rethinking about family a little bit."
When asked why he works with the Cole County Historical Society, Strope simply explained, it's so he can preserve historical information so anyone doing research might find and access the information.
More information about the Cole County Historical Society, their museum and upcoming events can be found on the organization's website at www.colecounyhistoricalmuseum.org and Facebook page, @ColeCountyHistoricalSociety.