‘Finding Julia’ Charts Story of Magnificent Home, Region’s History

Finding Julia frontcover (2)CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 2, 2014 — To celebrate the publication of  “Finding Julia: The Early Development of Southeast Missouri,”  author Kaye Smith Hamblin and the Southeast Missouri State University Press will host a book launch from 2-4 p.m. Dec. 6, at the Hamblin home, 313 Themis in Cape Girardeau.

The event is free and open to the public; the book will be available for purchase and signing at the event. “Finding Julia” is Kaye Hamblin’s debut book.

“Finding Julia” charts not only the story of a magnificent home—with its mysterious inner archway that suggests an outer door—but the history of a region and a family who influenced that history. In 2003, Hamblin and her husband Bob (professor emeritus in the Department of English at Southeast Missouri State University) bought the century-year-old house at 313 Themis Street in Cape Girardeau. Their son Steve, a building contractor, remarked about the unusual room in the middle of the basement. The lintels on the doorways leading in and out of the middle basement room have an arch made of two rows of brick, the type usually seen on outside doorways of old houses. Thus, the quest for information began.

A trip to the County Archives to find the answer introduced Hamblin to family records of Julia E. Harris, who built the Themis home with her husband. Hamblin’s quest for Julia’s story stretches back to 1799 in southeast Missouri, when Julia Harris’s ancestor, George Frederick Bollinger, led German settlers to the area. The search then travels through the founding of Cape Girardeau, Jackson, and nearby settlements; the 1811 earthquake; Missouri’s statehood; the Mormon War; slavery in the state; the Civil War and its division of Missouri; famous architect Jerome B. Legg; the very progres­sive women of Bollinger; women’s rights; and desegregation in the area.

Through it all, Hamblin weaves the personal stories and major contributions of Julia’s indomitable family—Bollinger, Frizel, Daugh­erty, Russell, Williams, Sanford, Harris, Vandivort, and their many extended relatives—who were greatly influential in developing southeast Missouri.