Phenix's story on record at last
By Mike Sweeney
The Leader & Press
"It was said when the whistle blew at Phenix, it could be heard all over the countryside. It's too bad the whistle cannot be heard any more."
So reads "Phenix, a Town that is No More," a book given Wednesday to the Springfield-Greene County Library by five Girl Scouts from Troop 512 in Willard.
The scouts researched and wrote the history of the once-thriving town and its stone quarry with the help of Scout leaders Mrs. Anna Gordon and Mrs. Klova Helfrecht.
Laura Wilson, 18, wrote the text and drew the cover back with a black crayon. She said the book grew out of a high school history project. She and Scouts Patti Platt, Tammy Crossland, Elaine Eagleburger, and Theresa Rainey, began research in April, she said.
Mrs. June Gustafson, an assistant in the library's local history department, said she could find only one line about the town in a history of Willard.
"This will be a very valuable addition to our collection because there is very little in writing about Phenix, yet it played a very important role in the economy in the early days of the county," she said.
The town once had 1,800 residents, a hotel, a general store, and a large marble quarry, Ms. Wilson said.
The quarry was famous for Napoleon Gray Marble, a highly polished stone used in the Greene County Jail and the interior of the state capitol building, Ms. Wilson said.
The town died in the late 1920s or early 1930s, she said, but no one knows for sure what caused everyone to move away. In the book, she lists three possible reasons: the quarry ran out of quality stone, quarry workers had trouble with a union, or the Great Depression forced people to move to other towns.
All that remains of Phenix today is two stone houses that could not be moved, a dilapidated school house, the quarry, and a power plant, she said.
"Named after a mythical bird representative of immortality, it seems ironic since all that one sees is land where the town once was," Ms. Wilson wrote in the preface. "But in a sense, Phenix is immortal -- especially to those who remember."
Mrs. Gustafson said the book will be put in the rare book room for use only in the library.