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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

The mystery of Callamura in Monett

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sarah Hudson-Pierce
In December 2011, I received an interesting order for a book I reprinted in 2003 titled "Callamura" by Civil War author Julia Pleasants-Creswell, who lived from 1827 to 1886.

Not only is this a rare reprint of a book first published in 1869, it is expensive by most people's standards.

Also the definition of Callamura is "house of friends."

Anyway it piqued my interest to receive this book order as a gift from Rosaline Huffmaster and I spoke to the buyer who informed why she bought the book for Rod Anderson, the current owner of the house built by Fielding Sizer at 800 N. Central in Monett.

They were trying to solve the same mystery that has now plagued my mind for the past year.

Why would someone close to the backwoods of Missouri build a house with the same name as an out of print Civil War autobiographical novel?

Why indeed?

The author of the book, Julia Pleasants-Creswell, is the granddaughter of Governor Thomas Bibb, who was the second governor of Alabama. She was also the great grandmother of former Mayor James Creswell Gardner, who you might say is the impetus behind me founding Ritz Publications in 2002.

I reprinted one of Julia's out of print books of poetry because the original was literally falling apart and this is one thing that the archivist inside of me shudders to observe.

And the reprinting of this book encouraged the late Mayor Gardner to write a two-volume set of his own memoirs after the age of 78. It took him four years to complete this feat.

He was our historian and often referred to as the First Citizen of Shreveport. He truly was loved by all.

Anyway, maybe my writing this piece will generate interest in the historic community to learn more about Callamura that was built by Fielding Sizer. Why would the builder name a house after a Civil War book? Or was there another reason?

Also I have learned that the Horace Gardner house, at 711 N. Central, stands near the Callamura house. Another coincidence. Mayor Gardner was the great grandson of the author of the book, "Callamura." I sense that there is a strong connection.

Perhaps ancestors of the Sizers also were familiar with the author Julia Pleasants-Creswell, who was born in Huntsville, Ala. and spent most of her adult life in Caddo Parish, La. near Shreveport. (Julia's husband was Caddo Judge David Creswell) Maybe the architect was hoping to maintain the legacy just like an author wants to maintain the legacy for his or her heirs by penning and publishing a history of their lives.

Julia Pleasants-Creswell lived at Belle Mina, Ala., off and on during her childhood and after her parents died. She lived there with her grandfather, Governor Thomas Bibb.

For those in the audience who haven't read this beautifully poignant 465 page book, it is a historical biographical novel with probably more truth than fiction. Also it is a love story between a man and woman torn apart during the Civil War.

Currently the story is being written into a stage play by two of our local authors in Louisiana.

No doubt this house played a significant place in her life.

As a side note, none of the contemporary Gardner or Creswell families had seen a copy of the original "Callmura" until I found it on the Internet. I went on my search without telling anyone and found a man in an Indiana library who made me a copy of his and mailed it to me. I received it within three weeks of the initiation of my search. Finding the book and reprinting the book gave me much delight and pleased the family immensely.

Maybe this historic jaunt will peak your interest to help solve the mystery of Callamura. I suspect that somewhere hidden in some old family books or title information the mystery is waiting ready to be solved!

If there is truly a connection this will be one of those experiences in my life that I have observed God step out of the woodwork like he so often does in my life.

Sarah Hudson Pierce is president of Ritz Publications in Shreveport, La.

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