This week on Show Me Missourah, we head to Shelby County where Presiding Commissioner Glenn Eagan, Shelby County Economic Development Director & President of Historic Bethel German Colony, Wendy Brumbaugh and Shelby County Historical Society, President Kathleen Wilham join the episode to talk about the history, agriculture and events of Shelby County.
Shelby County is located off of Highway 36. As of the 2010 census, the population 6,373 with the county seat residing in Shelbyville.
The county was organized on Jan. 2, 1835 and is named for Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky. Shelby trademarked the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” The county’s largest city is Shelbina, which is where the crew met at the Shelby County Historical Society Museum and Library.
Eagan has been presiding commissioner for 12 years. His family is actually from Franklin County, outside of St. Louis, he and a couple of his brothers moved to Shelby County is the 1970s.
Brumbaugh is a lifelong resident of Shelby County. Her great-great-grandparents lived outside of the Bethel Colony.
Wilham’s in-laws were farmers in the county. She and her husband moved here in the 70s and built a house in the area.
Many of the earliest settlers to the area, especially to northern Missouri, were often European. Be sure to tune into the podcast and hear about the early settlers as well as the first settler to the county in 1831, Obediah Dickerson and the Holiday family.
Shelby County is full of prairie fields, good for farming. When the county was first established, one of the main crops for farming was tobacco which was good for producing and shipping out. Today, the main crops in the county are soybeans, corn and wheat. Agriculture is the majority of the economic drive in Shelby County.
The county is the home to Bethel Colony, which was founded in 1844 as the German community, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are festival and events that occur in celebration of the colony today.
History books show Shelby County was labeled as being a strong supporter of Union soldiers during the Civil War, but looking back at the events that occurred it appears that the county was very much divided.
Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant came through Shelby County during the Civil War. Grant would often go on nature walks with some of his troops to enjoy the view of the countryside. While in Shelby County, Grant and one of his troops came across some Confederate soldiers who recognized their Union uniforms and surrendered. Grant wrote in his memoir, “I always felt failure as a soldier because of how afraid I was of war. I never turned from my duties, but I had honest fear of war. It was the first time in my life, to watch those six men surrender to the two of us just because of our uniforms, realized that the enemy had just as much fear as I do.”
The railroad coming through Shelby County marked the first moment of the cities Shelbina and Shelbyville being at odds, but also brought a big wave of economic development. Originally the tracks were going to run through Shelbyville and businesses had moved over to Shelbyville to be there. However, it was cheaper to run through Shelbina so the change was made and the businesses sold out and to move back to Shelbina.
There are a number of notable individuals who were born or spent some time in Shelby County. University of Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart grew up in Shelbyville; John L. Oliver who lived to be 108 spent the last half of his life in Shelbina and founder of Wal-Mart Sam Walton lived in Shelbina for some time.
Tune in to the podcast to learn about the other notable people in Shelby County. You can also find a list on the Shelby County Historical Society Museum and Library website.
Politically speaking, Shelby County has turned more Republican over the last 20 years or so. Eagan reported that about 75 percent of the county was Democratic. However, at the local level, the Democratic Party still controls the county.
Shelby County has two public school districts North Shelby School District (K-12) in Shelbyville and Shelby County R-IV School District (PreK-12) in Shelbina. There are also two Non-denominational Christian private schools in the county Shiloh Christian School (K-12) in Shelbina and Heartland Christian Academy (PreK-12) in Bethel. Clarence Public Library and Selbina Carnegie Public Library are also located in Shelby County.
Eagan and the other commissioners work together with Brumbaugh with the economic development in hopes of bringing more businesses to the area as well as keeping the local businesses. Eagan said that it can be a difficult task for rural areas.
Macon Electric Co-op, founded in 1935, serves most of Shelby County as well as BLAH. Brumbaugh said that without the co-ops there was be an economic strain on the county.
If you ever get the chance to travel through Shelby County, our guests recommended going to the Shelby County Historical Society Museum and Library, visiting the Bethel Colony at Christmas time to learn the history, checking out the Shelbina lake and golf course and going to the urban community to meet all of the wonderful people.
While in Shelby County, we stopped at the Shelbina Family Restaurant to grab a bite to eat.