Who’s Who

A who’s who of people associated with the history of Columbia. Someone missing? Let me know at dobrien387 at gmail.com

J.W. “Blind” Boone, 1864-1927 — John William Boone, was an African-American classical and ragtime composer and musician. Born to a confiscated slave mother near Warrensburg and a bugler in the Union Army, he toured throughout the U.S. giving concerts for 47 seasons, according to this State Historical Society of Missouri biography.

He lived the majority of his life in Columbia, Missouri and his home on Fourth Street, near Broadway, has been preserved and is an event venue. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

2010 photograph of 10 N. Fourth St. by Deanna Dikeman. Use on this website granted by Deanna Dikeman.
2010 photograph of 10 N. Fourth St. by Deanna Dikeman. Use on this website granted by Deanna Dikeman.

There is a park in his name in Warrensburg, Missouri. Learn more about his life here. You can listen to his compositions here, which range from a Ragtime Medley to Dixie to Nearer My God to Thee. Here’s another perspective on the life of Boone from an article published in the Columbia Home magazine in 2010.2010_02_00J W Blind Boone home and ragtime music Columbia Home magazine

 

  • Annie Fisher, 1867-1938.  Fisher was a Black entrepreneur who died on June 11, 1938. She was born on Dec. 3, 1867 to former slaves, and at the time of her death her fortune was valued at $13,350. In 2020 dollars, this would worth $244,359.53. She was a famed caterer and known for her beaten biscuits.
The home of Annie Fisher at 2911 Old 63 S. Demolished 2011.
The home of Annie Fisher at 2911 Old 63 S. Demolished 2011.

In addition to own restaurants, she amassed a collection of real estate holdings including rental properties. Her two homes have since been demolished but according to this May 20, 2015, Columbia Daily Tribune article, three of the homes Fisher owned still exist at 316 N. Garth Ave., 318 N. Garth Ave., and 306 Oak St. She is listed on the State Historical Society of Missouri’s list of Historic Missourians here. Here is a photograph of one of her homes prior to its demolition.

  • Charles W. Gehrke, 1917-2009.  Gehrke founded ABC Labs in 1968, which grew to employ 300 people prior to its sales to the international firm Eurofins. The company grew out of Gehrke’s work at the University of Missouri where he was a biochemistry professor from  1949-1987. His MU laboratory also analyzed the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
  • Book cover of Melon Fields to Moon Rocks

    The book, “From Melon Fields to Moon Rocks,” about his journey from working in the melon fields of his Ohio hometown to becoming a world renown scientist was published in 2017. It is available for purchase from the Boone County History and Culture Center at 3801 Ponderosa Drive and Yellow Dog Bookshop at 8 S. Ninth St. For more information,

  • Gehrke’s trajectory, Columbia Business Times article April 5, 2008.

 

W.J. Hetzler — Elected mayor of Columbia, per March 9, 1927 Columbia Daily Tribune article on page 1, col. 8.

W.J. Hetzler elected mayor of Columbia, Missouri, per March 9, 1927 Columbia Daily Tribune.
W.J. Hetzler elected mayor of Columbia, Missouri, per March 9, 1927 Columbia Daily Tribune.