By Ethan Colbert
A book that has been two years in the making is now ready for distribution, according to officials with the Pike County Bicentennial Commission.
The book entitled, Pike County: A Bicentennial Appreciation, was sanctioned by the Pike County Bicentennial Commission and features a large number of unique photographs depicting various communities in the county.
The book’s primary author, Liz O’Farrell, sat down with the Times on Friday and explained how the book began as a labor of love.
“Doing this book was a challenge because it became obvious pretty quickly that this territory (the history of the county) had already been covered,” O’Farrell said. According to O’Farrell, there are numerous books detailing the county’s general history as well as the histories of specific towns, communities, churches, and longtime Pike County families.
“In preparation for this book, I read much of three different books on Pike County history and several community specific books,” O’Farrell said on Friday. “After that I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t improve upon that. So we made a decision that rather than to try to recreate those books, we would go in a different direction.”
That ‘different direction’ was a book that focuses on the natural beauty of the county, which includes rolling hills, prairie lands, bubbling streams, gently flowing rivers. The book also includes pictures of wildlife and as O’Farrell says “the strange beauty of decay, the decay of crops in a field, the decay of old and abandoned buildings, and the beauty of nature reclaiming everything.”
After O’Farrell and her team of contributing photographers, Jaylen Early, Peggy O’Farrell, Cherl Andrews, and Andy Young, combed the countryside collecting thousands of photos, O’Farrell said she purposefully chose to include the word ‘Appreciation’ in the book’s title.
“I chose the word appreciation because after talking to people, I came to the conclusion that when people are familiar with something they often don’t see it for what it is,” O’Farrell said. “Pike County is, for lack of a better word, beautiful.”
She later added that from a photographer’s vantage point, the county offers “a wealth of striking images.”
The retired high school English teacher said she hopes longtime residents of the county will appreciate how the book’s more than 100 pages of photos help to illustrate the county’s beauty.
“I think sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to make an insider aware of how special a place is,” O’Farrell said. She then recounted how as an English teacher at a St. Louis County high school in the 1980s, she and other members of the school’s faculty would take high school juniors to downtown St. Louis to see the Gateway Arch and to ride on a riverboat cruise.
“I’d been to the Arch a dozen times, but it was also interesting to see how those students would react to seeing it for the first time,” O’Farrell said.
It is for this reason that many of the photos in the book are not captioned, according to O’Farrell.
“I did not caption the photos in the back of the book, because I wanted the photos to represent themselves,” O’Farrell said. “I wanted people to react to them as if they were seeing the place for the first time.”
Copies of Pike County: A Bicentennial Appreciation are available for purchase from the MU Extension Office, which is located on the first floor of the Pike County Courthouse. The office can be reached by calling (573) 324-5464.
Pike County officially celebrated its bicentennial on December 14, 2018. The county is the fifth-oldest county in the state of Missouri.