Rothgeb Heaton stands in front of Abes Country Store, her
great-uncles mercantile. The store is the highlight of tours
she conducts in the New Lebanon Historic District.
Grab a pop from
the old Coca-Cola case and look around Abes Country Store in New
Lebanon. The original shelves are stocked with much of the same merchandise
there in 1959 when Abram Rothgeb last rang a sale Shinola shoe
polish, Jack Sprat brand canned goods and 25 cent bottles of St. Josephs
Diarrhoea, Colic and Cholera Mixture (42 percent alcohol).
A roll of brown
wrapping paper advertising Abes store hangs at the ready next
to an old cash register. A yellowed card by a wooden crank telephone
still lists the four-digit exchanges for his customers.
Abe ran this store,
now a museum, until his death at age 94. Today, his great-niece Jeanette
Rothgeb Heaton shares Abes memory with tourists who find their
way down Cooper County Highway A, a seldom-traveled blacktop that leads
to little else but New
The Co-Mo Electric
Cooperative member opens the store, as well as a historic church and
a one-room schoolhouse, for tour groups and hosts an annual fall festival.
Now 63, Jeanette
grew up in Pilot Grove, eight miles away. Her grandparents and most
of her relatives lived in New Lebanon, though, and her family visited
In the summer
time they sat out on the porch and in the winter around the stove back
there. They did quite a bit of business here, she says recalling
visits to the store.
off to college, got married and divorced. She worked in real estate
before launching her own escrow service in Lees Summit. By that
time Uncle Abe was long gone and her father had taken over the place,
storing machinery from his sawmill in the old store. When Jeanette needed
to get away shed come home to New Lebanon.
among the displays inside Abe's Store is a collection of merchandise
on hand when the store closed in 1959. This "Diarrhoea, Colic
and Cholera" remedy contains 42 percent alcohol.
come down to visit Dad Id usually crawl in through a window or
get in however I could and rummage through, she says. Id
walk around and reminisce how it used to be.
Her father developed
cancer and Jeanette returned home more often to care for him. In 1984
she started fixing up the old store on weekends as a respite from her
harried life. The next year she closed her business and moved to New
Lebanon and began working on the project full time.
It was really
a mess. The outside was completely rusted. I wore out two drills with
steel brushes getting the rust off, she says. My father
and one uncle were still living. They would help me move some ladders
or do some heavy lifting. But I did all the painting, scraping and clearing
It took me six days to paint this ceiling. I thought my neck would
came home to be with family she and her mother soon found themselves
alone. Her father died in 1988 and her uncle a couple of years later.
I never dreamed when I came here that theyd be gone that
soon, she says.
Jeanette sold antiques
out of the old store for six years. When customers visited they often
asked to see the church and school across the road. Along with other
history buffs from the area Jeanette helped form the Cooper County Historical
Society and served as that organizations first president.
We had our first meeting over here in the church and we didnt
know whether anybody would come, Jeanette says. That first
night we had 50 charter members. Now we probably have 170.
home to 11 people, including Jeanette and her 89-year-old mother
was formed in 1819 by Finis Ewing, a Presbyterian minister who broke
from his denomination in a dispute over the ordination of clergy, specifically,
that of himself and three others. Ewing organized the Cumberland Presbyterian
Church, a denomination that continues today, and founded the Lebanon
congregation in Kentucky before moving to Missouri.
Lebanons historic church and school are located along a
seldom-traveled road in Cooper County.
Ewingville, New Lebanon was the site of the first Cumberland Presbyterian
church west of the Mississippi River and the home of The School of the
Prophets, a seminary that spawned at least a dozen new churches in the
The original log
church is gone but its replacement, built in 1860 from bricks formed
in New Lebanon, remains. The austere building last hosted an active
congregation in 1968.
In 1975 local residents
restored the church and secured its listing on the National Register
of Historic Places. An annual homecoming brings past members back to
the old sanctuary but otherwise it remains empty and silent except for
Jeanettes tours and meetings of the local history group.
A few years ago
Jeanette closed her store and now opens it only for groups who pay $3
a head to tour
the church, the New Lebanon School and Abes Store, all of which
are listed on the National Register as the New Lebanon Historic District.
Larger groups can even arrange for $5 box lunches, tied up in bows and
served by members of the New Lebanon Preservation Society.
Dressed in 19th-century
costume, Jeanette leads the groups inside the church and explains the
reason for the two entry doors and the divider down the center of the
pews one side for men, the other for women and recalls
the history of the town. She then takes them next door to New Lebanons
nearly original one-room schoolhouse where they have fun trying
to get in and out of the desks, Jeanette says.
finish there they come over to the store and browse around. A lot of
times the tour people have trouble getting them out of here.
Lebanon's 11 residents cast votes in the village's old one-room
schoolhouse. The school building is included on tours Jeanette
conducts in New Lebanon.
Frankly, there is
not much activity in New Lebanon these days. Jeanette is yet to book
a tour this spring. But when things do happen there, you can bet shell
be at the center of it.
While shes quick to point out she gets plenty of help from friends
and volunteers, she admits that much of the work falls on her.
one to delegate very well, Jeanette says. Im one that
will just go ahead and do it myself because I dont want to bother
anybody too much. They get on me all the time for that.
Besides, she says,
Im one of the only ones who likes to climb ladders and that
sort of thing.
Just how long that
would continue came in question last year when Jeanette suffered the
first of two heart attacks while ripping up the old porch to Abes
Store. Rather than go to the doctor right away she took some aspirin
and sat down. When she went for a scheduled appointment two days later
the doctors confirmed the attack. Her second attack happened while she
was in the hospital.
Jeanette spent much
of last year recovering. Now shes back at work, mowing grass,
helping her mother tend her gardens and preparing New Lebanon for visitors
once again. Ive slowed down some but Im feeling more
like myself again, she says.
And that is exactly
what worries her doctors.
doctor told me to stay off the ladders and the last time I saw my cardiologist
he asked, Have you been tearing down any porches lately?
Jeanette says. I said, Im going to change doctors.
You two know too much about me.
Tours of New
Lebanon are available to groups of 10 or more. The annual fall festival
is scheduled for September 13. For information call Jeanette Rothgeb
Heaton at (660) 366-4482 or e-mail the New Lebanon Preservation Society