(An American Tragedy)

Donald K. Muschany


[Letter 8]

March 30, 1977

Dear Norm:

     My great great grandfather, Joseph Ignatius Muschany, son of Jgnatz Muschani (German spelling) and Marie Anna (nee Mayle), was born in beautiful Steisslingen, Baden, Germany and came to St. Charles County in 1842. He came on a sailing ship, which probably accounts for the itching in my bones for a windjammer cruise. I’ll take one before I’m through. Care to join me?
     He lived with his brother, Dr. John B. Muschany, for over eight years, while getting acclimated, and then he bit the dust; gold dust, that is. In 1851, he went to California to strike it rich and, though he darn near died while thusly occupied, he must have made a strike as he came back and bought a farm on Boonslick Road, just west of the rock-built Dardenne Presbyterian Church. Then he took unto himself a wife, Martha Miller, on December 27, 1855. (There’s another December date for me to remember, right?) He then made a bad move to the land he had bought in Green Bottoms (sounds foreboding to me) near the Missouri River. Well, dat ole river done took every acre he had, so he picked himself up, dried himself off, and started all over again on Pitman Hill Road.
     What a courageous, adventurous spirit he was! I’d love to have known him personally. I’ll bet he could tell some stories—some fact, some fiction.
     Great-Grandmother Martha’s father was Judge Robert Miller of Amherst County, Virginia. He married at a young age, and they came to St. Charles County where they took up a Spanish land grant, and proceeded to raise quite a brood. He and all his family are buried on Towers Road, in the old Miller tract. You and I know it as the Miller Cemetery.
     I hope you are getting the vicarious thrill I am in looking into our forebears. I feel like a combination of Woodward and Bernstein on the one hand, and Jack London on the other.
     As a small social commentary on the times, I found another invitation, very properly done, which Ignatius Muschany received on a moonlight basket picnic, in which the host and hostess ask you to “come to stay the night.” Now, that’s my kind of party! The host of that invitation was my great uncle, Dr. John B. Muschany, who lived at “Sunnyside” near Dardenne, Missouri.
     I assure you that I have trouble trying to relate or visualize Howell’s Prairie before I was born, but the more I read and the more I find out about my family I must confess that I am very much impressed by the excellent taste and manner in which things were done. These hand-engraved invitations represented true craftmanship. It indicates that people took pride in the work they did. Today, we are concerned about ‘quantity’ and the meaning of ‘quality’ is forgotten.
     To my pleasant surprise, I find that letter writing was the main instrument of communication in those halcyon days in Howell. This accounts for no communication breakdown, I’m certain. Today, that’s all we hear. When two people are talking there is little chance of open conflict. This is also true of nations, states, counties, as those in diplomatic circles will confirm. Also, as I have mentioned several times in these letters, one person unburdened himself or herself to another. Advice was asked and given on every subject from marriage to recipes for plum pudding. My “brother’s keeper” was no hollow phrase, but a way of life in those days and it was thoroughly reciprocal.
     Anyone with a good open heart was a counselor and no college degree was necessary for almost any specialty. The doctors of medicine went to the State University for two years and started a practice on a shoe string and a stethoscope. Did you know that Ignatius’ brother, Dr. John Muschany, started out with a $25 fee for a year’s medical care from each family. This could have been the birth of medicare. That was probably the last cash he saw for years, as doctors were mainly paid in goods and goodies. Of course, that was before the Infernal Revenue was spawned. Doctors later got extra training when it became available and often had to take time out from their practice to return to med school to examine the latest findings. Good old Gray’s Anatomy helped educate many fine physicians and, I suppose, a copy or so is around today in this age of miracle drugs and nuclear medicine.
     In my quasi-profession, I am horrified by the many rules and regulations and laws required for the mere natural act of dying and having a civilized dignified burial. Give me the simple life and allow me to be a basic loving person and help my fellowman. Maybe the biggest challenge in the world is to think about the other person and not yourself. Well . . .
     As to attorneys’ training, they “read” the law at the feet of a Judge or another experienced lawyer. They studied British Common Law and were graded by their mentor. I’m repeating myself, but we didn’t have many lawyers in Howell. I’ll bet some elder had a few law books and a keen insight for human rights. Again, that basically is what the law is all about. The bottom line is the rights of man with legal law following in the footsteps of moral law. Howellites knew the Ten Commandments for sure, and what is more important, they honored and kept them. Most assuredly if you try to avoid hell, you can certainly stay out of jail.
     I recall that Sam Watson was a fine lawyer. I knew him well and admired him. As you have seen by the court record he was most capable.
     Always my very best.

Regards to all,
[signed: Don K.]

     “Mr. Ignatz Muschany
‘St. Charles’                     Mo.”

“Sunny Side
Aug. 9, 1899

Mr. Ignatz Muschany
     and daughter.

We most cordially invite you to attend a Moonlight Basket Picnic at our Home Aug. 19, 1899, from 4 P.M. till 10 P.M. Come to stay all night.

All well . . . with love.

J. B. & M. A. Muschany”


     At his home in St. Charles County, Mo., on January 16, 1902, Mr. Ignatius Muschany, in the seventy-ninth year of his age.
     He was born in Steisslingen, a small town in Baden, Germany, on June 26, 1833. He came to America in 1842, and settled in St. Charles County, Mo., where he continued to reside till his death, except two or three years which he spent in California, beginning with 1850. He was married in 1855 to Miss Martha Miller, who died about five years ago.
     Mr. Muschany was a member of the Dardenne Presbyterian church. He manifested a deep interest in the cause of religion, and was devotedly attached to those persons with whom for so many years he was associated in the particular church to which he belonged. Through a long experience of ill health, his trust in the Saviour did not falter. He patiently endured unto the end, and died in ‘the full assurance of hope.’”