Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Local News

November 28, 2011

Coming soon: ‘Centerville: A Saga of Mid-America’

CENTERVILLE — Local historian Enfys McMurry is nearing completion on a history of Centerville and Appanoose County that will narrate local experiences in relation to national and international events.

McMurry has been working on the book, tentatively titled “Centerville: A Saga of Mid-America,” for more than 10 years. It will cover 100 years of Centerville history, starting in 1846 when the town was first platted and ending with the troops returning from World War II.

She has been in talks over the years with the University of Iowa Press, though increasingly university presses are short on money and are not taking on such projects. She said she is currently considering other avenues and also may split the book into two volumes because she is covering so much material.

McMurry became interested in doing historical research on Appanoose County when, as an English instructor at Indian Hills Community College, she was approached about doing an entertaining, non-college-credit historical tour on the Centerville Square.

She started by looking up the year the town was founded: 1846.

“With true European snobbery,” said McMurry, who is Welsh, “I thought, well, this research will take me five minutes.”

But soon, she said, she couldn’t believe what she was finding. She became convinced that Centerville had a unique and important history, in large part because of the coal-mining industry and the immigrants it brought in.

Nine and a half years ago, McMurry quit her job teaching English to devote her time to the book, which she had been working on intermittently before that.

“I think people were shocked I didn’t go out of there in a coffin,” McMurry said.

But, she said, she realized that if she wanted to finish the book, she might have to give up teaching. She might not have time left to do both, a lesson that became even clearer when she survived breast cancer a few years ago. She said she thinks the determination to finish the book helped pull her through.

Some of the many topics McMurry covers in the book are abolition, immigration, the Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan and World War II.

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