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Fannie Smith

posted Apr 20, 2014, 6:01 AM by James Nennemann
Evelyn Birkby

The Sidney Argus Herald had an article in its June 24th 1971 issue reporting that on June 19th of that year Fannie Smith of Riverton celebrated her 97th birthday.

She was Riverton’s oldest citizen, only slightly younger than the town itself. She was living in the handsome house which was built in 1874, the year of Fannie’s birth. She was born Fannie Moore in Scott City, MO, but her father died when she was a baby. Fannie’s widowed mother and her five siblings all moved to Rock Port, MO, where Fannie graduated from high school. In 1915 she began teaching elementary classes in the Riverton School. After two years, she went out to a ranch near Broken Bow, NE, to stay with her mother and brother and after her mother’s death she returned to Riverton to again teach. She attended Peru State Teachers College for a time.

In October of 1921, Fannie married Morris Smith, a member of a pioneer Riverton family, and moved with him into the house where she celebrated that 97th birthday.

The newspaper stated that “Although she taught school only one year following her marriage, she was always involved with many important affairs of the community serving on the school board...and active in local social clubs.”

Her husband Morris died in 1931 and Fannie took over the running of the family properties.

She is the last of her family living but talks of the many friends she has had in the area--Dr. Ralph and Fern Lovelady, Della Axtell, Jack and Euela Tennant to name a few.

The reporter commented about the lovely antiques Fannie had in her home. He mentioned the china, the pictures on the wall, the fine carpets on the floor, the furniture. He said that, although a modern electric stove was front and center in the spacious kitchen, the room also had a coal-wood-cob burning range that Fannie told him she used when she wanted to cook something special. She uses cobs shelled from her farm. (I wish she had given the reporter the names of some of her “special” recipes.)

Anyone who has visited the Fremont County Historical Museum in recent years is well aware of the treasures Fannie gave to the county with her gifts of furnishings and china. A small parlor organ, a carved settee, her buffet with a marble top, twin beds and dressers in an unusual combination rarely heard of in those earlier days, Fannie willed these special treasures to the Historical Society. We have learned recently that the furniture is representative of the first manufactured Victorian furniture. Very soon they will be part of a brand new display in the museum currently being completed in Sidney.

Someone stopped by the museum one day claiming to be a relative of Fannie Smith. She said “Aunt Fannie told me I could have those twin beds.” Our accessioning records proved that Fannie had given all the items to the museum. The experience taught us the importance of good record keeping for all donated items.

Thank you Fannie.