PALMYRA - During Palmyra's bicentennial celebration on Saturday, Mayor Loren Graham shared the city's history, reporting Benjamin Vanlandingham was the first white settler to build a home.
The city was officially laid out and founded on Aug. 10, 1819, by Obediah Dickerson, Samuel Caldwell, Joel Shaw and John McCune. The following spring Dickerson and Hannibal founder Moses Bates were reported the city's first builders. Dickerson also was Palmyra's first postmaster.
Graham honored Mary Lu Bates, a direct descendant of Moses Bates, who served as grand marshal of the bicentennial parade earlier on Saturday.
Palmyra had a population of 250 in 1824, and the current population is 3,600. Graham also mentioned famous Palmyra people, including William H. Russell, founder of the Pony Express; George "Pegleg" Shannon, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; Broadway star Rose Inghram; and movie actress Jane Darwell, who won an Academy Award for her role in "The Grapes of Wrath."
Graham said Palmyra has overcome difficulties, such as the 1833 cholera epidemic and the 1862 Palmyra Massacre, noting, "Decisions were made that helped our city grow into the future."
Another speaker at the courthouse was Marion County Presiding Commissioner David Lomax, who said Missouri became a state two years after Palmyra, on the same date, Aug. 10.
Lomax said the city has done well despite the challenges of weather and floods, adding that Palmyra and Marion County have balanced their budgets and are "a good place to work, play, raise a family and brag about."
State Rep. Louis Riggs presented a proclamation from the Missouri House, and a staff member for U.S. Rep. Sam Graves presented a proclamation from Congress, honoring Palmyra as "a city small in size but rich in spirit."
Graham cut the ribbon marking Palmyra's 200th birthday and the celebration continued with a beard contest and a Ladies' Period Clothing contest.
The women winners were Lori Gunlock Butts, first; Lori Gottman Payne, second; and Gretchen Gottman Wehmeyer, third.
Beard contest winners were Nik Yager, best mustache; Trent Schroeder, best beard grown since April 20; David Maddox, ugliest beard; Bryan Bartz, coolest trimmed beard; and Steve Begley, best overall beard.
Entertainment at the courthouse continued with a fire/juggling performance by Crazy Boy Coy.
Later the Aug. 10 events continued at Flower City Park, where five bands played and games were hosted for all ages. During a ping pong ball drop, 200 balls were dropped, with 100 containing numbers that gave the recipients prizes.
Danny Gottman of the bicentennial committee was grateful to have good weather for all the bicentennial events.
He explained a gun auction was held, with a 30-30 rifle from Palmyra's sesquicentennial. Both this gun and a .22 rifle were donated by the Myrl Sternke family. The .22 will be displayed at the old jail.
Another item auctioned was a bicentennial package of keepsakes.
Palmyra residents may continue to celebrate their city's accomplishments as they take home a 112-page Pictorial History of Palmyra, available for $35 at city hall and Gardner House museum.
The city's elementary school students also may continue to learn its history. Each of them has been given a Paws the Panther Explores Palmyra, Mo., coloring and word puzzle book of historical events and locations.
In addition to Graham and Gottman, bicentennial committee members included Michelle Merkel, Sheila Scholl, Teresa Smyser, Danny Meyer, Ed Dent, Raj Kshirsagar, Judy and Tom Lemons, Kurt Hillman, Kurt Malone, Chris Fountain and Stephanie Bross.
See photo gallery for more pictures of the Palmyra parade and celebration.