New London Park Days, bicentennial celebration will come together May 31

More than two centuries ago, New London's founder William Jameson discovered a spring that helped the town rapidly grow. Today, the spring serves as a symbol of the flow of history as the city prepares to celebrate its 200th birthday in May.

Bicentennial committee members worked in conjunction with New London Park Days committee members to celebrate the town's bicentennial during the annual summer festival Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1 at the Ralls County Courthouse.

City Clerk Millie Powell said she enjoyed compiling the history of New London and sharing it with students who were curious about the town's origins. Mayor Mary Jane White looked forward to celebrating a special bicentennial milestone with visitors of all generations, at a time of celebration for neighboring communities like Hannibal, Louisiana and Palmyra.

New London Park Days events take place Saturday and Sunday, but that preceding Thursday will mark the beginning of bicentennial events. The New London Lions Club will hold a fish fry, and Paula Halliday will present opening remarks sharing moments of local history. White said a costume contest will follow, and members of the First Baptist Church will perform music.

During Park Days, Ralls County Associate Judge David Mobley will lead a presentation looking into historic court cases throughout the past 200 years in New London. Banners with New London's bicentennial logo will be hanging on light poles all year long, White said, and Holly Dehner will paint a commemorative mural.

According to Powell's research, Jameson came to the area now known as New London in 1800, in a flat-bottom boat staffed by four oarsmen. When he reached the Auhaha — which means laughing waters, known today as Salt River — he followed a small creek to its origin, a spring in the present-day northwest section of New London. Jameson offered gifts to the area's Saukee and Fox Native American tribes. He incorporated the town of New London May 30, 1819, with its name derived from London being east of the states, and New London would be west of the states.

The spring fueled the town's growth as an early hub town and stagecoach stop between Iowa and St. Louis, and it's possible that its ability to sustain future growth factored into the decision to make New London the county seat of Ralls County in 1820.

Today, the spring is still visible as a small pond. Powell said its importance endures today.

Reach reporter trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com