tiny village of Allendale carries on despite dwindling population.
This year, Allendale — located in Worth County, the state's
smallest and least populous county — celebrates its 150th
Here is community,
stripped to its bones for all to see.
Gone are the bright
lights and towering skyscrapers. Removed are the strip malls and
fast-food restaurants. Vanished is all of the commotion and distractions
until all that’s left are 54 citizens, eight businesses and
a single, tiny dot on a map — a small town in the least-populated
county in Missouri.
really isn’t even a
town. It’s technically a
village. It has one main road, no stoplights and no name-brand businesses.
The park doubles as the town square. Cats and dogs outnumber people.
Otis and Milo, the town’s watchdogs, wander the town and
everyone knows their names and routines. A sign near Highway 46,
changed by a 92-year-old Allendale woman, announces milestones
in the residents’ lives.
The closest school, grocery store and bank are nearly 10 miles
away. Indeed, Allendale has little to claim but community.
its small size, Allendale is preparing to celebrate its 150th
year of existence in a big way. A three-day sesquicentennial event,
from July 1-3, is expected to attract thousands of former residents
and family members. During the centennial in 1955, more than
25,000 people attended and residents are hoping to beat that number.
There will be a play of the town’s history, a talent
show, a concert, a parade and a birthday panorama. Several women have transformed
an abandoned seed store into a gift shop and museum, with a sign over the
door reading simply “Allendale Memories.”
have included everything from the sale of Allendale T-shirts,
hats and merchandise to a Cow-Pie Bingo raffle.
and Brian Hall, 13 and 11, play basketball on a court built as
a stage for the town's centennial celebration.
pretty good at fundraisers,” explains Peggy Miller,
a long-time resident. “In a small town, you have to be.”
have even designed their own flag, a map of Missouri with a large
red star on the northern border and the words “Allendale, Est.
Kay Lambert, a local quilter, recalls her son’s initial reaction
to the flag: “He said, ‘Mom, that’s an awful big
star for such a little town.’” To which she replied, “Well,
we’re awful proud
Hugging the Iowa
border, Allendale rests amid rolling farmland and dense woods. The
village is barely a half square-mile in total land area. Since its
inception on Sept. 5, 1855 by brothers Joel and William C. Allen,
the community has swelled and deflated. The village has seen a gas
station, two banks, a hotel and a schoolhouse come and go. Yet Allendale
businesses remain, including a café,
a garage, a pool hall and a post office. The city park rests at
the center of Allendale. On the Fourth of July, there is a town breakfast
in the park, and on Easter the grass hides painted eggs from local
A concrete stage
poured in the park during the centennial celebration now serves as
a basketball court. Today, David and Brian Hall, 13 and 11, shoot
hoops on the bent rim to pass the time. David and Brian’s father owns Mike’s Garage, the sole
auto repair shop in town. Since moving from Little Rock, Ark., five
years ago, they have attended school in Grant City, the Worth County
seat. Although only about seven children live in Allendale, the kids
say they like the community because they still have friends and can
four-wheel and skateboard.
In Allendale, it
literally takes a village to raise a child. “Kids in Allendale
get to be community kids because we look out for them,” says
Michele Hertl, Allendale’s town clerk. It’s the
same way with local pets. “The
dogs around here are kind of like our kids,” says Rita
Glenn, the former owner of the local diner. “We all know
their names. We pet and feed them, and they can always find
a meal behind the café.”
Robertson passes time playing snooker as his sister, Vicki
Miller, and her husband, “Joker,” look on. The
Millers own Allendale Pool Hall, which is packed on weekends.
The Oldtowne Café serves
as the town’s social hub. As Rita says, “If
you can’t find someone, there’s a good chance
sign reading, “Where Old Friends Meet” hangs
on one wall. Everyone notices when a new face walks in the
door, and old men have been known to tell someone if they
are sitting in their seat. Citizens gather around tables
to discuss the weather and latest gossip over coffee and
tea. During lunch today, Sheriff “Bear” Grooms
sits at the head of one table and laughs with a table of
men while a group of women gather in a corner and talk about
the town’s history.
Next door is B & W Widget Shop.
Although the building has been used for packaging everything
from seeds to computer chips, a card game between the local
men is the most action you’ll now see on a typical
day. Across the street, Allendale Pool Hall also hosts card
games at a back table. The hall fills up on weekends as locals
drive to Allendale to play in billiards tournaments. The
owner, Vicki Miller, displays her salt- and pepper-shaker
collection, as well as her painted ostrich eggs on one wall.
She says she can’t even find the
key to the front door, but she’s not worried about
“No one locks
their doors around here,” she says.
Even the Allendale
Community Hall remains unlocked. Like a nagging mother,
a sign on the door reads, “Last one out of Allendale
. . . please turn out the lites.” Built in 1995
with the proceeds of the first Allendale rodeo (which
continues to draw more than 2,500 people each year),
the building regularly hosts family reunions and town
For the citizens’ efforts, Allendale
has won a Community Betterment award from the Missouri
Department of Economic Development every year since
1991 — the
first year the town participated. And its citizens
are always looking for ways to improve. As Rita explains,
many people from Allendale grow up and move away, but
they come back when they retire. “They
get the city ideas and bring them back here,” she
says. “Even when
people move away, they always consider Allendale home.”
Kay Lambert, a local quilter, has grown up in Allendale. Each
year, she sells quilts at Silver Dollar City with her family.
of the community bind citizens to Allendale. Vicki
recalls childhood memories of trying to balance on
the hitching rail that ran around the park. Mary
Kay remembers attending school with a class of five in the
long-closed school. Rita
remembers seeing Hail Daniels, a man who wandered through town mumbling to
himself, sitting on her porch one night and rocking in her chair.
She fondly reflects about years of competing against
Berkeley Carr, the self-proclaimed patriarch of Allendale
and owner of Carr Motors, during holidays. The two laugh about
the year Rita dressed herself and her two dogs in Christmas
lights and walked over, unplugged Berkeley’s lights, plugged in her own
lights and rang the doorbell. “I could tell you stories forever,” says
after a while, we’d probably be stretching
It’s these cherished memories — ones
stemming from community in its purest form — that
cause former Allendale residents to return home after
years away, that inspire citizens to spend countless
hours preparing for the sesquicentennial, that will
continue to fuel the small town with a big heart
for generations to come.
For more information,
call Vicki Miller at (660) 786-2233.