Grantfork really did have the “party of the century” last Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 as the village celebrated its 100th birthday at Grantfork Firemen’s Park.
The weather really cooperated, and the volunteers did a really super job. The people of Grantfork can be very proud of their centennial celebration, their excellent centennial book, your miniature replica of the town and museum, which will find a permanent home in the old village hall. The festival also included tours of the village, antique tractors, trucks and gas engines and the homecoming floats depicting Grantfork in the past. Great job, everyone. Well done. Much more work is ahead, getting the new museum ready and then the opening sometime in the future.
I was remembering Doris Oberbeck Ritzheimer and Sue Saathoff, both historians of Grantfork, as I went through the miniature museum. I remembered them, again and again, walking through the wonderful displays. Doris and Sue, plus Lawrence Schwarz, were so much help with my 2007 and 2008 columns about the village we now call Grantfork.
I will go back to the beginning of the area’s history.
The Silver Creek settlement was started in 1816 by James Pearce. It then became known as Fitz-James Crossing and then Fitz-James village in 1840. Then, the village changed to its name to “Saline” and enlarged in 1866 by the Bardill brothers, Conrad Stephen. The community was officially recognized as “Grantfork” in 1917.
The main street of Grantfork is in two townships. On the south is Saline, and the north side is Leef Township.
Leef Township is named for Jacob Leef, who originally was Jacob Leu, when he came from Switzerland in 1834. He worked in St. Louis for seven years then came to the Fitz-James area to work for Solomon H. Mudge at the 1,080-acre Oakdale Farm, which was the Mudge family home, just east of Grantfork, on the Marine-Pocahontas road.
Solomon Mudge was a banker in St. Louis, but two years after building the Oakdale home, he took over the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, La.
Oakdale became the family’s summer home, and they changed to Confederate loyalty, living in New Orleans.
Col. Solomon Mudge died in 1860 amid rumblings of the Civil War. The next year, his 16-year-old son, Will Mudge, joined the Confederate army. Hinckley Redington Mudge also joined the Confederates; he was killed in Virginia in 1862.
Now, back to the history of Jacob Leef.
While Leef was working at the Mudge farm, he met Regina Richert, who was also working for the Mudges. The two were married, but they continued to work for the Mudges until their savings amounted enough to purchase a 40-acre farm nearby in what is now called Leef Township, in honor of Jacob Leef.
The Jacob Leef purchased the Benjamin Furbee farm, where the Furbees had originally located and had built a log cabin, just north of the Grantfork Evangelical Cemetery. The Leefs continued to buy farms until they had 400 acres. They were blesses with nine children, and they had to go to the Tontz School, which was west of Fitz-James.
Jacob’s son, John Leef, was Grantfork village president (mayor) from 1866 to 1899 and was very influential.
(Information courtesy of the 100th year book of Grantfork by Lawrence Schwarz and his many helpers, plus my files. More information was provided by Delmar Korsmeyer and Carl Conrad, both descendants of Jacob Leef.)