35 minutes ago By:
Annie Fisher was sassy, sarcastic and subtle when she told a reporter in 1927 about a 'pryin', curious' woman who visited her restaurant, the Wayside Inn. ''Annie,' she says 'Annie, you'd be a big woman if you were in Africa, wouldn't you?'' ''Yes,' I says, 'but you wouldn't let me stay there, so I'm making the best of the bargain right here in Columbia.'' In a few words, Fisher dismissed the patronizing yuyiyrtyretr racism, alluded to her slave heritage and reminded the visitor she was a big woman anywhere. Fisher was Columbia's most successful independent businesswoman and perhaps the only Columbia business owner with a national clientele. The unknown author of 'Kneads Dough to Win Fame,' published May 13, 1927, in the Springfield Leader, estimated Fisher's fortune at $100,000. Fisher, 59, had been Columbia's premier caterer for 25 years ' reportedly owning 1,000 place settings of china, crystal and cutlery. She rented the excess when she did not need it and invested her profits in real estate. What brought her renown, however, was the 'beaten biscuit,' a product that showcased her skills in preparation and marketing. Each catered meal featured the small, white biscuits with a crusty exterior. Fisher sold them via mail, for 10 to 15 cents per dozen. Her fame spread through catering clients, and by 1911 a Sedalia hostess made sure they were on the table when President William Howard Taft visited the Missouri State Fair. 'For probably 40 years she has been making these succulent biscuits in Columbia and the fame of her prowess as a biscuit maker is not local, but has spread to all parts of the United States..., the Leader reported. A daughter of former slaves, Fisher's story inspired people long before her death in 1938. She bought her first home about 1901, then accumulated 18 rental homes and built two mansions on her profits. One mansion, at 608 Park Avenue, was demolished during the first phase of urban renewal. In its final years, it was the Freeman and Poindexter Funeral Home. The other, on the 57-acre farm owned by her parents on today's Old 63, was demolished in 2011. Verna Laboy moved to Columbia in 1994 and came to admire Fisher so much she learned to make beaten biscuits and portrays Fisher in presentations at area schools. Fisher turned disadvantage into opportunity, Laboy said. 'She rose above unbelievable circumstances and then played on their perceptions all the way to the bank,' Laboy said. According to her modest headstone in Memorial Park Cemetery, Annie Knowles was born Dec. 3, 1867. She was one of 11 children born to former slaves Robert and Charlotte Knowles, who lived just north of the Walter Lenoir estate. The family lived in a log cabin near Grindstone School, established to educate black children. The 1870 census shows a household of eight with four children, including Annie, 3. 'My father found it very hard to provide food, clothing, shoes and shelter for all of us with the very little money he was earning, so when I was a very small girl he hired me out to rock the cradle for white people,' she told the National Negro Business League at its 1919 convention in St. Louis. Young Annie spent time in her employer's kitchen while the baby slept. Standing on a stool, she would peel potatoes and, more important, learned to make biscuits. She learned to cook so well, she said in the 1919 speech, that her family put her in charge of cooking at home. The 1880 census recorded Bob and Charlot Noles, with seven children from four months to 20. Annie was 12 and attending school with two siblings. In June 1883, 15 and unmarried, Annie gave birth to a daughter she named Lucille Smith. The father is unknown today, historian Mary Beth Brown wrote in an article published by the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri. Annie worked for the Lenoir family at Maplewood, and a Bob Smith was on the payroll in September 1884, Brown wrote. An account-book entry indicates Smith paid 50 cents for medicine for Annie in September 1887. Brown became interested in Fisher, she said, while researching women in the Lenoir family. Frank Nifong wrote in his self-published autobiography that Fisher was 'the most efficient cateress in the town of Columbia and that no university or social function was really classy without her service.' 'I thought I would look into that a little more,' Brown said. Work during the 1880s was tough, Fisher said in her 1919 speech. She often worked for board and clothing. She would wear what she was given, thinking little of how she looked. 'I remember one Sunday when I went to church dressed in an old second-hand party costume that was five or 10 years out of date, and as I marched up the aisle, and was about to take my seat, an old lady saw me coming and she said 'good Lord, move back, give Annie Fisher plenty of room, here she comes dressed like a peacock, she ought to know that the house of the Lord is no place for any such clothes as them!'' she said. Embarrassed, she resolved that 'these old second-hand clothes won't do for me.' About 1890, Annie Knowles moved into Columbia. She worked with growing success as a cook, and for four years in the 1890s, Brown wrote, Fisher was the cook for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The 1900 census records Fisher as married and living with her daughter and three others, without husband William Fisher, at 202 S. Ninth St. Fisher headed the only black household on the block. Fisher listed her occupation as cook. Lucille, 17, was in school. Her siblings were grown, Fisher said in 1919, and she could think of herself and her daughter. 'My sisters and brothers had become older. ... I was able to start buying a little home, it matters not how small that home was going to be.' She saved for five years to make a down payment on a two-room house at 608 E. Ash St. 'I paid that home off in 18 months after I started into business on my own hook,' she said in 1919. A 1904 city directory records her at that address with husband, William Fisher. The marriage did not last, and in 1907 the Columbia Herald reported William Fisher was fined for disturbing the peace of his former wife. The newspaper reported Annie Fisher filed for divorce because she was unhappy, offering her husband $137.50 not to contest it. He declined the money, but received nothing from the court, the newspaper reported. 'Annie did the work while Rev. William did the preaching,' the Herald reported. 'I've had to work ever since I was old enough to walk, and when I got married it wasn't a success,' Fisher said in the 1927 interview. 'So, long ago I got the idea that the only way I could ever get ahead was to believe in myself and not the other fellow.' As her acclaim as a cook grew, so did the size of the dinners she prepared. She told her audience in 1919 that she had served an alumni dinner at the University of Missouri, receiving $1,200 for the meal at the cost of $2 per plate. The change of administration at the University of Missouri in 1908 might have had an impact on her business. She told the 1919 audience that when she did not have enough table settings, 'they would always be kind enough to let me use their silverware.' In 1908, A. Ross Hill took over as president from Richard Jesse, president since 1891. Fisher accepted a job to serve 'a very large banquet,' only to find 'the official of the University then in charge denied me the use of their silverware, saying it belonged to the State University.' Undaunted, Fisher got on a train, went to St. Louis and rented silverware to serve 700 people. 'I served that banquet and it brought me in $1,300.' As her business grew, she moved her small home to another spot on the spacious quarter-acre lot and built a new five-room house. A part of Fisher's legend that apparently is not true is that her beaten biscuits were given an award at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, said Brown, the researcher. Another well-known black entrepreneur from Columbia, horticulturalist Henry Kirklin, took examples of his plants to the fair and won a blue ribbon. 'I have found no record of her winning any awards or being a vendor at the 1904 World's Fair,' Brown said. 'I have had the archivists at the Missouri History Museum who hold the records for the World's Fair go through their lists because they have lists of everyone who won an award and everyone who was a vendor at the World's Fair, and she doesn't show up on any of those.' Fisher's properties, just two blocks from Douglass School, were prime residential locations for blacks. When she was finished amassing real estate, Fisher took care of herself. She built 14-room brick home that was one of Columbia's largest and grandest. The house 'has hard-wood floors throughout,' the University Missourian reported. 'The fumed-oak library has a mantel and grate of natural stone. On the tamourets (sic) are brass jardinieres. Her dining room contains cut glass and Haviland china.' Lucille was 30 when she married George W. Merritt on Dec. 31, 1913. 'Mr. Merritt is a musical composer of much ability and has two original compositions that will be featured at the Semi-Centennial celebration at Chicago,' the Kansas City Sun reported in July 1915, referring to the fair marking 50 years since the end of slavery. The exposition featured business demonstrations, including 'the famous beaten biscuit of Annie Fisher of Missouri.' It is uncertain when Fisher began shipping beaten biscuits to customers outside of Columbia. 'Mrs. Annie Fisher, a colored woman of Columbia, Mo., has made $10,000 from selling beaten biscuits at 15 cents a dozen,' The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the NAACP, reported in 1915. 'She lives in a 14-room brick modern residence.' Fisher was not the only successful black businesswoman of her era. Annie Malone in St. Louis and Madame C.J. Walker in Denver 'who got her start under Malone ' vie for the title of first self-made female millionaires from fortunes made creating and selling hair care products for black women. The small item with the big return, the beaten biscuit, 'is nothing more than an ordinary biscuit 'baked while the life is in it,'' Fisher told the reporter in 1927. In Southern Food, John Egerton wrote that a dough of flour, milk and lard was kneaded for a lengthy period or sometimes beaten with a mallet or a skillet, giving the biscuit its name. The process introduces air into the dough. A kneading machine was patented in 1877. Fisher, to speed up production, made a cutter with nails inside to push the biscuits onto a pan. That left small dots on the top of the biscuits, which had a crusty exterior and a soft interior. 'My home room teacher, Miss Emma Mae Turner, apparently knew Miss Fisher. She would make beaten biscuits, and then myself and a couple of other of the students would go and we would turn that machine for her,' said Larry Monroe, 77, and a student at Douglass High School in the early 1950s. 'And she would treat the class to those.' Some did not appreciate them. 'She mailed them things all over the country,' said Sehon Williams. 'They was some nasty things. Oh they were nasty. But people bought them for their bridge parties.' Regardless of what anyone thought, they sold. Her address to the National Negro Business League was recognition that Fisher achieved success by re-investing her profits into her businesses. In her talk at the August 1919 meeting, Fisher sought to pass on the lessons she had learned about building wealth. 'All told, I now own 18 houses and also a farm in the country that is well stocked with hogs, chickens and other things,' she said. 'I live in that 14 room brick home and I don't owe a dollar on it, and if I want to buy anything, I don't need to ask for credit for I can write my check.' Sehon Williams got his first look at Annie Fisher when his parents, Sehon and Effie Williams, brought their children to St. Paul AME Church during the 1920s. Williams, born in 1922, also remembers Sunday School picnics at the farm on what had become Highway 63. 'She was kind of a heavy-set woman,' is all he remembers of Fisher herself, he said. Fisher was at the height of her success in the 1920s. She and her daughter, listed as widow Lucille Merritt, lived at 608 Park Ave. with her widowed mother and three boarders. Fisher remained prosperous, and her property holdings grew to include a row of five houses in the 400 block of East Ash St. and two on Fourth Street. Three homes Fisher owned still exist ' at 316 N. Garth Ave., 318 N. Garth Ave. and 306 Oak St., built in 1900, 1910 and 1925, respectively. The farm once owned by her father was producing hams and chickens for her catered meals, and in the early 1920s Fisher began building what became her final home on the property. Her drive to find new outlets for enterprise was unabated. 'Last year Mrs. Fisher thought there was an opening for a chicken-dinner place in the country, so she ' built the elegant house that is now designated as the 'Wayside Inn,'' the Leader said. 'It is a sumptuous place, with large, cheery dining rooms and, one is told, well patronized by the many persons who like Annie Fisher's cooking.' Fisher and her daughter lived in the home, also called Fair Oaks, in 'true country club style,' the newspaper reported. The 1920s were dry, with national prohibition in effect. Fisher's restaurant, she told the reporter, was not a place to drink. 'My house has been sprinkled by our minister.' she explained, 'and people can't get common around here. When they comes to Annie Fisher's they comes to eat, and if they want to do any high-ballin' they must do it before they come and after they leave.' The 1930 census lists Fisher as a farmer, living with her daughter and a farmhand. Recognition of her success continued in new forms. In a chapter called Vocational Guidance for his 1933 book 'The Mis-Education of the Negro,' author Carter Godwin Woodson used Fisher to show how to achieve success by reinvesting in a business. His facts weren't exactly correct, but he made his point. 'Another woman of color living in Columbia, Missouri, recently gave the world another new idea,' Woodson wrote. 'She had learned cooking, especially baking. ... After studying her situation and the environment in which she had to live, she hit upon the scheme of popularizing her savorous sweet potato biscuits, beaten whiter than all others by an invention of her own; and the people of both races made a well-beaten path to her home to enjoy these delicious biscuits. In this way she has made herself and her relatives independent.' Beaten biscuits do not include sweet potatoes. When she died in 1938, Fisher's Park Avenue home was valued at $3,300 and the farm of 57 acres and a home were valued at $3,500. Overall, her property was appraised at $13,350. No bank accounts were listed, but there were few debts against the estate ' $456.24 for funeral expenses and $14 for four house calls by Dr. Frank Dexheimer. Her ability as a businesswoman, earning success and fame when opportunity was limited by bigotry, is a lasting lesson, Laboy said. In the classrooms, Laboy said, she tells students Fisher's life shows 'it is more important what you believe yourself, because when all of life and all of the world was against her because she was a black woman and a businesswoman, she just needed a few people to believe in her to succeed.' Her house on Park Avenue towered above others on the block, Monroe said, with a porch as tall as the roofs of houses on the other side of the street. 'You had to go to West Broadway to get a house that was comparable to that,' Monroe said. The writer of the Springfield Leader article found Fisher proud and confident. 'I believe in myself,' she said. 'I've never asked for a job in my life. I make them come to Annie Fisher. Of course, I have to deliver the goods, as you say, but I don't go around askin' for favors.' There was no doubt she was delivering the goods, the article concluded. 'She's a smart woman, this Annie Fisher. She's a specialist in two kinds of dough ' the kind that makes beaten biscuits and the kind that swells a bank account.'

37 minutes ago By:
There are as many different Columbias as there are residents of the city. For most of us, our Columbia is constructed of places we live, work, study, eat and play ' and the shortest possible routes between each. We easily can overlook other Columbias and, if we're not careful, even miss what is hidden in plain sight along our routes or just outside our residences. A masterful exhibit yuyiyrtyretr at the Montminy Art Gallery, then, functions like a new prescription, a fresh pair of glasses so we might see what otherwise exists outside our field of vision. Unseen Columbia is the work of street photographer Jon Luvelli, a Mid-Missouri resident whose work is nationally known. Images taken between 2013 and this year drive home the point that just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. With the purpose of a documentarian and the eye of an artist, Luvelli captivates by capturing individual scenes that give a fuller picture. There are no isolated images here; they are all pages of a story still being written ' the story of us. He shows us the prides and joys of people, their lifelines, the routines known only to those who engage in them. We see mystical messages spelled out on asphalt, read the stories told in storefront windows, experience moments of dizzying intimacy and painful isolation. All are equal in Luvelli's viewfinder. The children and aged, the black and white, the police and the passed-out in the street. The photographer forces us to reckon with economic realities we would do anything not to see. In his work the lines between 'the beautiful people' and those we might call 'freaks' ' the tattooed, the masquerading, the street preacher, the Hare Krishna ' virtually disappear. And Columbia landmarks such as the 'No Gas' convenience store and University of Missouri are treated with equal reverence. The outliers, Luvelli seems to say, aren't really outliers. The exhibit contains delightful neighbors ' the pure freedom of a dog bounding across a Columbia College athletic field sits next to a picture of college 'bros' enjoying a spirited Slip N Slide session in East Campus. Luvelli captures a wide range of magic hours ' witching hours to some ' dawn at Stephens Lake Park, the first hint of sunset over downtown, hours long past when your mother said good things stop happening. Yet each moment teems with life, breath and community. Even as Luvelli captures moments of anxiety, there is a calm to this body of images. He uses a black-and-white palette, but the images are soulful and somehow seem more colorful than most. Luvelli's greatest gift is composition ' he occupies tight spaces and explores the nooks and crannies of our city. There is a particular delight in images such as 'IC,' in which a young woman's face peers over the silver door of an ice machine, only the I and C visible. Among the most resonant images is 'Graffiti Beach,' which captures the beauty of outsider art in a corridor near Flat Branch. 'Inhale' is the portrait of a young man in what appears to be a mouse costume, smoke exhaled out of an unzipped mouth hole. The main figure in 'Morning Song' is a young musician playing his guitar while sitting against an exterior brick wall. He assumes that position so as not to wake his roommate, still inside. Walking out of frame, a man that looks as if he could be the guitarist 25 or 30 years from now. 'Another Reason to Love Ninth St.' beautifully explains the show. Two policemen, mounted on horses, give wry looks to the camera. To their left are a pair of street musicians ' a standing guitarist and a snare drummer, seated, cigarette dangling from his mouth, with the look of a young Joe Strummer. Rather than exist in conflict, these two duos display co-existence, a sort of co-dependency. They convey the idea that everything and everyone in a city are connected. That we are not individual actors but forces perpetually acting upon each other in small, simple, hopefully beautiful ways. The curator's statement for the show mentions that even though the Montminy is situated within the Boone County Historical Society, the gallery can support 'art just for art's sake.' But it is absolutely fitting that Unseen Columbia is on the BCHS grounds. This is our history ' it might not make the textbooks or even the nightly news, but is the lived experience that keeps our city humming and moving forward. In 'If I Had Your Faith,' we see a woman's face partially hidden behind a spider's web, its mischievous maker prominently perched in the foreground. The title card contains this statement: 'Have faith and look closer at the beauty around you.' This is the heart of the exhibit and its greatest hope ' that we might look closer, see more and have faith. Faith that others' Columbias are not a threat to our own. That in fact they can bleed into one, the unlovely getting a little love, the unwelcome turning into something we cherish. The Bible says faith is the substance of what we hope for and the evidence of things unseen. Luvelli seems to agree in a strange way, though he offers things once unseen as evidence for our collective faith.

38 minutes ago By:
Minnesota is the No. 1 ruffed-grouse-producing state in America, and it's not a bad place to fish either. In a state of plenty, the Lake of the Woods region is arguably the best bet for a cast and blast. There is so much public land to hunt, and so many square miles of water, you'll never run out of places to chase birds and catch fish. Lake of the Woods is located in the northern reaches of Minnesota and stretches into Canada, ranging into Ontario and Manitoba. It's the sixth-largest fresh-water lake in the United States behind the five Great Lakes. It is more than 70 miles long and 70 miles wide. The lake has 65,000 miles of shoreline and more than 14,500 islands. The area around the lake abounds with public lands rich with game, especially grouse. "Grouse prefer early successional young forest habitat, and Minnesota has more of that than Michigan and Wisconsin combined, so there is no shortage of places to hunt," said Ted Dick, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forest game-bird coordinator. Earlier succession trees are those yuyiyrtyretr that grow in higher densities with an abundance of sunlight. So when aspens come in after a disturbance - whether it's a windstorm, fire or timber harvest - it grows thick and dense offering protection and food. Jason Dinsmore is a good friend who works for the National Wildlife Federation in the Great Lakes Region. He and I recently decided to try our hand at some public-land ruffed-grouse hunting. Jason is a Minnesota resident and a much more experienced grouse hunter, so he knew how to use the DNR website to locate a grouse management area just a few miles from Sportsman's Lodge on the Rainy River, where we were staying. Along with Dillon, Jason's Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, who was a stud in the thick timber, we walked onto the public land blind with no previous knowledge of the area and no one to give us any pointers. The conditions were terrible. It was raining, so the dog had a hard time locating birds, and the wind was whipping pretty good. I busted brush like a buffalo, just straight ahead at a steady pace. We walked out two hours later sopping wet with four grouse in hand - two killed apiece - after flushing a dozen. That hunt was joyful misery. Serious fishermen recognize Lake of the Woods as one of America's premiere fishing destinations. With every cast, you don't know what you'll hook into. Northern pike, perch, sauger, crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, lake trout, sturgeon and muskellunge are all a possibility. However, it's walleye that make Lake of the Woods famous. Anglers visit Lake of the Woods with expectations of catching loads of walleye and with the realistic hope of landing one of the giant lunkers that make the lake famous. On this trip, I wanted to check a bucket-list item and boat my first sturgeon. I was able to do so on a charter boat just a few hundred yards down the river from the lodge. The Rainy River dumps into Lake of the Woods just past Sportsman's Lodge. A better setting would be tough to find for fishermen to stay. The tactics were real simple, drop a wad of night crawls tipped with a half-rotten dead minnow on the bottom and wait. In one morning, Jason, Lotte Houser and I boated six sturgeon and a couple of accidental keeper-size walleye. The home base for Lake of the Woods is Baudette, Minn. Known as "The Walleye Capital of the World," this quaint little town of just more than 1,000 residents could also claim to be some sort of grouse capital. You can find everything you need for your own cast-and-blast adventure, including lodging, boat rentals and guides. I highly recommend Sportsman's Lodge. This is one destination I know I will return to many, many times.