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March 14, 2013

History of Etna to Be Focus of Reunion

Past residents of Etna and Etna school alum are asked to attend an April 2nd community reunion. Pictured is the Etna school enrollment in 1948-49 featuring, in the back row, (L to R) Anita Kugler, Doris Priebe, Coleen Noble, Betty Fitzgerald, Kenneth Dieterich, Tommy Priebe, Jerry Smock and Alan Fitzgerald. Front row (L to R) are Judy and Joyce Noble and Joel Kugler. (Photo submitted by Joyce Harvey.)

Just like most communities that have come and gone, Etna, Missouri traces its roots back to early transportation routes.

A town that once thrived around stagecoach traffic soon disappeared after railroad construction was ended leaving many questions about the northeast Missouri community's history.

A group of interested parties are hoping to answer as many of those questions as possible. Anyone with knowledge of the old community or simply wishing to learn more about Etna, the old Etna School or the Etna Church are being asked to attended a reunion of sorts in Memphis. The group will gather at the HUD Community Building beginning at 2 p.m. on April 2nd. Guests are asked to bring any photos or other historical materials to be shared in the reunion of Etna history.

According to an article published in the June 30, 1932 edition of the Memphis Democrat, Etna first drew settlers in the 1840s and soon after became a stop for a stagecoach route between Canton and Bloomfield, IA.

The history was written for the newspaper by Norma Keach, who was born in Etna in 1910.

She reported that in 1855 the town was laid out by surveyor Andrew Hunt with 33 numbered lots. Within a few years, Etna was home to a few stores and a hotel. A few years later railroads were begun, with a shortline from Etna into Clark County constructed. But those efforts were stalled by the Civil War and never were revived. Instead the Sante Fe and C.B. & Q. railroads chose routes that bypassed Etna, likely hastening the town's demise.

That didn't immediately halt the growth of the community. Keach reported that in 1870 Etna had grown to be the home of three general stores, two doctors, a drug store, two blacksmith shops, the hotel, two shoe shops and a saloon. A year later, she stated the largest hotel in Scotland County, a three-story giant, was built in the town.

The boom lasted shy of two decades before the decline began. Keach reported that by 1887, the merchant sector had shrank to just a single store.

The country school in Etna remained in service through the 1950s when reorganization sent most of the children on to the Gorin R-III School.

The last bastion of the community, the Etna Methodist Church was formed in 1857 according to Keach and continued to host services until 1969.

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Memphis Democrat
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