The volume traces Staley's family back four generations, to Etienne and Catherine Courdin, the progenitors of the Waldensian community in Monett. Their son, Stephen, was Monett's first mayor. Many of the well-known Monett families, including the Planchons, Longs, Bounouses, Reynauds and Lauterets married into the family. Thus the book traces roots of a significant part of early Monett history.
"I wrote another book on the Korean War as a veteran, and nearly won a contest with it in Branson," said Staley while doing a book signing last week at the Monett Museum. "While I was back in Monett, I visited the Waldensian Cemetery, where my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and my mother's aunts and uncles are buried. I thought all that information about them will be gone at some point. So I committed to writing it down."
Staley decided to go back four generations, encompassing the move of the Courdin family from the Waldensian valley, between France and Italy, to Uruguay and later in Monett. A collector of Waldensian memoriabilia for 30 years, Staley was familiar with the story. The project gave him a chance to fill in the holes.
Etienne Courdin, the family patriarch, did not strike Staley as a pioneer type. His youngest daughter, Catherine, married Jean Planchon, who for reasons no one ever learned, ended up on a ship to Uruguay. The family was starving in Europe, when Planchon wrote back to say conditions were good in South America. Thus the family packed its belongings and moved halfway around the world.
Staley made the first translation of Spanish histories from Uruguay into English to describe the family's life in South America for 17 years. As difficulties developed in Uruguay, brochures reached the family in 1875 about land for sale in Missouri by the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.
Under the leadership of their pastor, Jean Solomon, 49 Waldensian family members, including the Courdins, left Uruguay. They traveled to Le Harve, in France to catch a boat for the United States. Staley has included the ship manifest including the names of the passengers.
They arrived to the sound of shells firing and feared they had arrived in the middle of another war. There was considerable relief, Staley reported, when the families learned they were only hearing sounds of America's centennial celebration.
Staley traced the families' arrival in the Monett area, before the city of Monett had been founded, and tracked the marriages of each of the Courdin children. He described where the families settled and notable achievements by its members, such as Henry Planchon, the son of J.P.S. Planchon, the first male Waldensian child born in Uruguay. Henry Planchon served for decades as Monett's fire chief.
The book includes family photos on almost every page, carefully identified. Staley said he contacted distant cousins from references in obituaries, and they provided many of the photos.
"Everybody is very proud of their heritage," Staley said. "Some were more difficult than others. In the end, everyone was very pleased with the book."
Frank Plavan, who worked for the railroad in Monett for 20 years, moved to Orange County, Calif. and became a millionaire. Staley had difficulty tracking his story until he found a granddaughter for a Los Angeles obituary, living in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. She told the full story and provided a wealth of photos.
Staley is particulary pleased to be able to share the photos. His cover, a steel engraving of the Waldensian valley, comes from an 1838 book that has long been in his collection. He carefully checked copyrights to make sure his material could be published without problems.
A resident of the San Francisco, Calif., area, Staley's latest trip was his fourth to Monett since starting the book.
Staley's book is available for $25 from the Monett Museum or it can be ordered online from www.courdins.com.