Missouri Hall

1888 - 1940

Missouri Hall was one of Cottey's first dormitories, sitting across the street from Main Hall. The mansion housed some of Nevada's most notable citizens before being purchased by the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1928. It served as a sanitarium, a home, and a boarding house before it burned down in 1940.

William Jennings Bryan, the Cockerills, and friends, 1901
 William Jennings Bryan stayed at the house in 1901, when it was owned by the Cockerills.7 (Courtesy Damon Waring.)
Missouri Hall
A Cottey postcard of Missouri Hall, c. 1937.
Missouri Hall fire 
"Missouri Hall at the height of the fire," 1940.14

Rockwood House

In the 1880s, the block south of Main Hall was an undeveloped field owned by the Nevada Fair Grounds Association. Around 1888 Charles Ainsworth Rockwood, a doctor and proprietor of Hotel Rockwood, purchased the land and built a magnificent manor.1 The high board fence that had surrounded the block and marred Cottey students' view of the "thrilling races" was finally removed. Mrs. Belle Rockwood, who was known for her love of flowers, planted a forest of trees that still surrounded the house 50 years later. Charles and Belle had two sons, Rex and Charles Jr. Rex attended Cottey's kindergarten and primary school. (Many years later, Rex's daughter, Iola-Belle, graduated from Cottey's high school.)

In 1896 Dr. Rockwood died suddenly, and Belle Rockwood sold their house to A.B. Cockerill the following year.

Rockwood House, c. 1895
Rockwood House (Missouri Hall), c. 1900.8
Dr. C.A. Rockwood
Dr. C.A. Rockwood built what would become Missouri Hall.4
Rockwood House
The building in 1908.8

Cockerill House

Almond Boswell Cockerill came to Nevada in 1897 to manage the local lead-zinc smelter. He made many improvements to the mansion, including the addition of a "three-story front porch supported by huge cement columns."2 A Chicago firm was hired to redecorate the house. To the right of the entrance hall was the drawing room, where "long mirrors reflected rose silk-paneled walls, golden tinted furniture, and lights from the many prisms of the great crystal chandelier shining on dancing youth."1

To the left of the entrance hall was the library, where "a portrait of a nineteenth century American author was painted on each corner of the ceiling."2 It contained a tiled fireplace, like most of the rooms, but its most enchanting aspect was the reading nook in the round tower.1 On the library's ceiling, "Wise-looking owls and corner groups of books in use-suggestive arrangement, still keep the authors company ... while in the center small angelic creatures bear garlands of flowers or pour gifts from an over flowing cornucopia, just as the artist painted them years ago."1

Cockerill House, c. 1910
After Cockerill's remodeling, c. 1910.7 Note the dog on the sidewalk. (Courtesy Damon Waring.)
Inside the Cockerill house, c. 1900
Inside the Cockerill house (likely the drawing room), c. 1900.7 (Courtesy D.W.)
Almond Boswell Cockerill, c. 1905
Almond Boswell Cockerill, c. 1905.7 (Courtesy D.W.)
Cockerill children, c.1906
The Cockerill children, c. 1906.7 L-R: Lalla, Florence, Maggie, Nellie, Zoula, Harry. (Courtesy D.W.)

Zoula's Wedding

The Cockerills celebrated three weddings in their home, including that of oldest daughter, Missouri ("Zoula"), to James Benjamin Robinson on October 18th, 1899. An article in the Nevada Daily Mail  declared it the most beautiful wedding the town had ever seen.17 Innumerable roses filled the house and perfumed the air, and "myriads of lights shone softly through tinted shades." Before the ceremony, V.A.C. Stockard's stepdaughter, Kate Stockard, sang "Thine" with Mary Birdseye providing the violin accompaniment. The couple's vows were read in front of the bay window of the drawing room, followed by a reception in the dining hall.

William Jennings Bryan Visits

Famed politician and orator William Jennings Bryan stayed at the Cockerill house several times, including the time he spoke at Lake Park Springs in 1901.4 Bryan traveled to Nevada in May of that year to take part in the town's Chautauqua series. Upon finishing his address in the park's airy auditorium that day, he was escorted to the Cockerill residence for an elegant banquet.20 The guest list included some of the town's most respected citizens, including Harry C. Moore, Professor Weltmer of the Weltmer Institute, and Mayor S.A. Wight. Before beginning dinner, the Cockerills, Bryan, and most of the other guests posed for a photo in front of the house (below).

Zoula Cockerill's wedding book, 1899
Zoula Cockerill's wedding book, 1899.7 Kate Stockard signed it as part of the bridal party. (Courtesy Damon Waring.)
William Jennings Bryan, the Cockerills, and friends, 1901
William Jennings Bryan poses with the Cockerills and powerful Nevada citizens in front of the house on May 15, 1901.7 See the photo with people identified.
William Jennings Bryan banquet menu, 1901
Bryan banquet menu, cover and inside, 1901.7 "Cockerill" is bizarrely misspelled.

The building was decorated especially for Mr. Bryan's visit. The front pillars were draped in streamers of red, white, and blue.20 Roses filled the entrance hall with vibrant color and fragrance, and a picture of Bryan hung above the fireplace. In the dining room, white ribbon garlands and vases of white carnations adorned the table, with candles set on each corner. Underneath was a tablecloth of "Mexican drawn work" over white silk. A circle of smilax was suspended from the chandelier.

The guest of honor sat to the right of A.B. Cockerill for the sumptuous spread. Cockerill spared no expense for the banquet, which included mangoes, frog saddles with tartar sauce, and ox tongue. (See the full menu above.) Cockerill's oldest daughters Zoula and Nelle aided in the serving.

Unfortunately, A.B. Cockerill's success did not last. By 1910 his company was bankrupt, due to rising ore prices and tariffs.7 Cockerill moved to Bridgeport, Alabama to manage a cement plant, and died less than a year later. The former Cockerill mansion was turned over to the Kansas City Life Insurance Company.

Vernon Sanitarium

By 1912 the house was sold to Dr. J.M. Yater and Dr. V.O. Williams, who transformed it into a hospital, as  announced in the Nevada Daily Mail:

The Vernon Sanitarium, located at Nevada, Vernon County, Missouri, for the treatment of selected cases of Nervous and Mental Diseases under the management of Doctors V. O. Williams, and J. M. Yater, will be open for the reception of patients, August 1, 1912.9

Much of the building was remodeled to suit the needs of the sanitarium. The large rooms of the two upper floors were partitioned into smaller ones, and an elevator was installed.1 The first floor was left undisturbed, save a small fire that ruined the rose silk panels in the drawing room.

Vernon Sanitarium, c. 1912
Postcard of Vernon Sanitarium, c. 1912.
Vernon Sanitarium floor plan, 1914
Vernon Sanitarium floor plan, 1914.16

The hospital passed through many hands over the years. After Dr. Williams died in 1916, his spouse, Ann Harding Williams, sold her half interest to Dr. W.R. Summer.1 Dr. Summer in turn sold his share to Dr. N.I. Stebbins in 1918, and Dr. Yater did the same in 1919. Dr. E.R. King bought the hospital from Dr. Stebbins in 1923 only to sell it back to him two years later.

In 1927, Dr. Stebbins redecorated and refurnished the sanitarium, adding new medical equipment. He invited Nevada physicians and their wives to a reception in the building, which included entertainment provided by the Cottey College glee club. Despite these improvements, Vernon Sanitarium was shut down for good in 1929.

Deaths in the Hospital

  • 1916: John Edwards was hit by a Missouri Pacific train as he tried to flag it down.22 His face was completely crushed, and the conductor took him to Nevada. Edwards was rushed to Vernon Sanitarium, where he died a few hours later.
  • 1919: John Holcomb, 36, was kicked in the abdomen by a horse at the Daly farm.23 Although he was rushed to the hospital, his injuries were fatal.
  • 1922: Lawrence Ross, 21, was brought to Vernon Sanitarium with appendicitis, but died before being operated upon.24
  • 1922: George Scarbrough was taken to the hospital and died the next day of an undisclosed illness.25
  • 1927: Emma Mitchem died of an undisclosed illness.
  • 1929: Mrs. I.N. Brown, 41, died in Vernon Sanitarium after being there 10 days for treatment of a tumor.26

Additionally, a young nurse, Miss Hays Hood, fell down the stairs at the sanitarium and seriously injured herself in 1923:

Miss Hood had been winding a clock on a landing in the stairway at the sanitarium; and in getting down from the chair she had been standing on, lost her balance and fell down several flights of stairs. Concussion of the brain developed, total blindness and partial paralysis.29

Missouri Hall

Cottey began renting the first floor of Vernon Sanitarium in September of 1928.27 The college was anticipating its largest enrollment since 1919, and the existing dormitories in Main Hall and Rosemary Hall were nearly full. With 252 students coming that fall, the school needed to move faculty out of the dorms to increase space for students. The building was offered to Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard for $12,000 that same year.3

Missouri Hall, c. 1930s
Missouri Hall, c. 1937.15
Missouri Hall verandah, c. 1938
Students hang out on the Mo Hall verandah, looking toward Neale Hall, c. 1938.12
Missouri Hall, c. 1938
View from the northeast, 1938.12

The Nevada Board recommended that the P.E.O. Sisterhood purchase the sanitarium. (The P.E.O.s had only acquired Cottey College the year before.) When the Missouri State P.E.O. convention was held at Cottey in June 1929, the attendees voted to pay for the building in full.11 To honor their generosity, the new dormitory was named Missouri Hall — or "Mo Hall," as the students called it.3 The hall housed not only faculty, but music practice rooms as well.

In 1939, it was proposed to the Cottey Board of Trustees that Missouri Hall be converted into a library and faculty office building.15 In spring of 1940, though, the Missouri Inspection Bureau disapproved the use of Mo Hall as a library or student housing. Both the wiring and the furnace were pronounced unsafe. Indeed, there had been two fires in Missouri Hall in 1939, both caused by an overheated furnace. Luckily, both had been extinguished by the janitor, who lived in the basement. At the March 1940 Trustee meeting, Cottey president Dr. Mitchell recommended not spending the money to fix the hall, because it would be more economical to erect new buildings.

Destroyed by Fire

A 1934 article in the Cottey College Bulletin prophesized that this new chapter of Missouri Hall would "bring the content of splendid achievement to all who have part in its writing; it will be a long, long chapter..."1 But Cottey's time with the house was cut short. On December 26th, 1940, Dr. Marjorie Mitchell was entertaining Chellie Stevens Wright in her Missouri Hall apartment.28 The other faculty members were out of town for the holidays, so the building was nearly deserted.

Dr. Mitchell and Mrs. Wright decided to catch a movie at the Star Theater that evening.28 Little did they know they would return to a burning building. Nearby residents smelled pinewood smoke before the fire was discovered, but they could not find the source. The fire department finally received the alarm around 8:00pm. By the time the "fire boys" arrived at Cottey, the flames had broken through the roof, and nothing was to be saved. The lone casualty was Dr. Mitchell's cocker spaniel, Dina.

Missouri Hall, 1940.
Students walking to Missouri Hall, 1940.14
Missouri Hall during the fire, 1940. 
"Missouri Hall at the height of the fire," 1940.14
Missouri Hall after the fire, 1941.
Mo Hall is it looked after the fire, 1941.14

Fire Chief Carl Pierceall reported that the blaze was likely due to faulty wiring, judging by its rapid progression. Hundreds of people came to watch the firemen battle the flames, attracted by a red glow that could be seen for 15 miles. The city police and deputy sheriffs had to be called in to regulate traffic. In the midst of the chaos, Cottey's bus driver was trying to remove the new college bus from its garage behind the hall. A piece of the back wall fell at that moment, showering the bus with bricks and cement, but the driver was amazingly uninjured.

By morning, only parts of the blackened walls were still standing. After examination, Chief Pierceall ordered the unsound walls pulled down. The total loss was estimated between $25,000 and $30,000, which was covered by insurance. Both Dr. Mitchell and Chellie Stevens Wright lost their personal belongings, including Wright's $1,000 mink coat.

In a front page article in the Nevada Daily Mail, reporters held hope for future rebuilding: "Missouri Hall is a mass of charred ruins today but tomorrow will see a more stately Missouri Hall, a monument to the Missouri P.E.O. Sisterhood." They weren't exactly right. The debris was soon cleared, but the site remained vacant until 1948, when Reeves Hall was built in its place.

More Photos & Documents

Rosemary Hall and Missouri Hall, c. 1915
A panoramic of Missouri Hall at left and Rosemary Hall at right, c. 1915.19
Both buildings are now gone.
Zoula Cockerill's wedding, c. 1906
Zoula Cockerill's wedding in the house, 1899.17 Click to read. (Courtesy Damon Waring.)
Cockerill house, c. 1910
View of Cockerill house from across the street, c. 1910.7 (Courtesy Damon Waring.)
Cottey buys Vernon Sanitarium, 1929
Cottey buys Vernon Sanitarium, 1929.11 Click to read.
Missouri Hall, c. 1930s
View from southeast, c. 1930s.
Missouri Hall article, 1934
Missouri Hall history, 1934.1 Contains numerous factual errors. Click to read.
Missouri Hall, 1936
Missouri Hall, 1936.30
Missouri Hall and Cottey campus, 1936.
Missouri Hall and the rest of campus, 1936.30
Missouri Hall picnic, c. 1938
Missouri Hall social, c. 1938.18
Cottey campus, including Missouri Hall, 1940.
Cottey campus, including Missouri Hall at left, 1940.14
Missouri Hall destroyed by fire, 1940
Missouri Hall destroyed by fire, 1940.28 Click to read.
  Picnic on Missouri Hall lawn, 1942
"Our first picnic of the year on Mo-Hall lawn," 1942.31

Works Cited:

  1. "Missouri Hall." The P.E.O. Record (Taken from the Cottey College Bulletin) Apr. 1934: 13-14. Print.
  2. Campbell, Elizabeth McClure. The Cottey Sisters of Missouri. Parkville, MO: Park College Press, 1970. 264-65. Print.
  3. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. pp.37, 259, 261. Print.
  4. Brophy, Patrick. "Where the Ancestors Sleep." Nevada, MO: Vernon County Historical Society, 1997. 27. Print.
  5. Conard, Howard L., ed. "Charles Ainsworth Rockwood." The Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Vol V. New York: Southern History Co., 1901: 388-89. Courtesy of the University of Missouri Digital Library. Google books. Web.
  6. "Zinc Works Shut Down." Tri-County Chronicle 21 Dec 1900. Cass City, MI: Landon & Klump. Rawson Memorial Library. Web.
  7. Waring, Damon. Private Collection. DamonWaring.com. Web.
  8. Owens, Linda. "Picture Post Cards From Vernon County, Missouri." Web.
  9. Irwin, Lyndon. "Vernon Sanitarium." LyndonIrwin.com. Web.
  10. Graden, Debra, comp. Missouri State Offices Political and Military Records, 1919-1920. Web.
  11. "Deal Closed For Vernon Sanitarium." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 9 July 1929: 1. Google news. Web.
  12. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1938.
  13. Sterett, Betty. Scenes From the Past (of Nevada, Missouri). Ed. Donna Logan. DGL InfoWrite: Boulder, CO, 1985. Print.
  14. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1941. Print.
  15. Stockard, Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  16. "Sanborn Maps for Missouri." University of Missouri Digital Library. Web.
  17. "Beautiful Home Wedding." The Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 19 Oct. 1899. Google news. Web.
  18. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  19. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  20. "The Bryan Banquet." The Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 16 May 1901: 4. Google news. Web.
  21. "Reception at Vernon Sanitarium Last Night." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 8 Mar. 1927: 1. Google news. Web.
  22. "Tried to Flag M.P. Train." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 6 May 1916: 4. Google news. Web.
  23. "Dies From Being Kicked By a Horse." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 15 Aug. 1919: 4. Google news. Web.
  24. "Appendicitis Caused Death." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 5 Aug. 1922: 5. Google news. Web.
  25. "Oak Grove." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 5 Oct. 1922: 3. Google news. Web.
  26. "Death of Mrs. I. N. Brown Occurred Saturday Morning." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 2 Feb. 1929: 1. Google news. Web.
  27. "News of yesteryear." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 14 Sep. 1978: 4. Google news. Web.
  28. "Faculty Dormitory at Cottey College Destroyed by Fire." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 27 Dec. 1940: 1. Google news. Web.
  29. Warren, Huell (Ed.). "The Way it Was." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 3 Feb. 1998: 4. Google news. Web.
  30. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1936. Print.
  31. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1943. Print.

Last updated 19 June 2012.

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