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Clarksburg family's history comes to light

Clarksburg family's history comes to light

January 14th, 2018 by Michelle Brooks in Local News

David Jungmeyer, caretaker of the Moniteau County Historical Society museum, examines a recently-donated scrapbook highlighting events in the life of Clarksburg and the McFadden family in the 1920s and 1930s.

Photo by Michelle Brooks /News Tribune.

The success and stories of a Clarksburg pioneer family will be preserved, thanks to a recent donation by family friend, Bill Maier.

From the 1875 marriage of Clinton and Elizabeth (Pizer) McFadden, whose family farms were a mile apart in Clarksburg, came a cartoonist, a national business executive and a prominent newspaperman.

"It's not generally known what their success in life was; the family was quite private," Maier said.

As a banker in the Moniteau County community in the late 1950s, Maier met the couple's youngest son, Otto Alvin (O.A.) McFadden, who had recently retired to the family farm from St. Louis with his wife, Flossie (Dixon), though local residents knew her as "Aunt Polly."

He saved a few items from the couple's estate, as they had no children. Those things, which he passed on to the Moniteau County Historical Society recently, included pictures, stories, lighting industry catalogs, an antique lamp and a scrapbook — filled with five years of newspaper clippings, personal correspondence, travel tickets, official papers, and cartoons.

O.A. McFadden aspired to be a newspaper cartoonist from an early age. His mother used her egg money to buy a correspondence course for him to sharpen his drafting skills, Maier said.

The Tipton Times, where his uncle was editor, ran several of his cartoons over the decades. But, he was unable to land a newspaper job in a larger city.

So, the couple took Flossie's inheritance from her father, a bank president in Greenville, Illinois, to develop the McFadden Lighting Company, which specialized in lighting for churches, theaters and other commercial buildings.

Many of the churches in California featured McFadden light fixtures during the mid-20th century, Maier said.

"It would be interesting to find out if any are still there," David Jungmeyer, society museum caretaker, said.

Part of the donation includes a McFadden Lighting Company catalog. McFadden put his artistic skills to use designing the catalog images for his own company, as well as for several others in the industry, Maier said.

The business was a success from its beginnnings in the early 1920s until the early 1950s, when they sold it, as a result of O.A.'s Parkinsons Disease.

Jungmeyer showed the lamp to members of the society at its regular meeting Jan. 8. It was a fixture in "Aunt Polly's" sitting room, where many guests over the years recalled fond memories.

O.A. McFadden's brother, Glen, worked for Markel Electric Products and also was a "well-known light fixture designer" in the 1920s and 1930s. Another brother, John, worked for the Edward Light Company in Kansas City as an "illumination engineer."

O.A. worked as a salesman for the Frank Adam Electric Company in St. Louis as early as 1917 and was an ad manager for the Glasco Electric Company in St. Louis by 1931.

The collection donated by Maier includes a poem by Ed Bougon written Jan. 25, 1947, describing a visit to the "McFadden abode" in Clarksburg, where "dear Polly is head of the place" and one may sleep soundly on an old feather bed and make use of the "two-holer."

The donation's shining gem, however, is a densely-filled scrapbook, which begins Aug. 23, 1928, with a self-portrait on the inside cover.

Tucked between pages are official documents, like O.A.'s grandmother's teaching certificate and his own World War I draft notice.

Family and friends from Clarksburg line the pages of newspaper clippings in obituaries, tales of travels and community updates on weather and agriculture.