By Lynn A. Wade
Nevada Daily Mail
An icon in the community that opened in 1903, and in 1991, after many changes along the way, the facility closed. The main structure was torn down in 1999, and memories of those who worked or lived in or near the facility are fading fast.
So, in an effort to help preserve some of those memories, members of the employee relations committee of the former Nevada Habilitation Center, Southwest Community Services -- the last remnant of the mental health facilities still remaining on the state hospital's grounds -- are compiling a history book. The publication will be a hardbound history book of the Nevada State Hospital and will include historical information previously gathered, new family stories of employees, new facility stories, lots of pictures, cemetery information and a cookbook.
Not everyone was comfortable with writing their own, 300-word piece for inclusion in the book, so interviewers were needed; several volunteered to help out, including the students in Angela Firkus' Historical Methods class.
"When Ms. Firkus called to offer her class to help gather information for the upcoming history book, our committee was delighted," said Pat Moomaw, assistant superintendent of administration at SCS, and a member of the committee.
"The time involved is sometimes overwhelming and we are just in the "gathering information" stages of the book. The Cottey students saved hours of work for us."
Firkus said that the class studies "all of the things historians do (to collect information) and oral interviews are certainly one of those things."
The project fit well into this semester's coursework, and students Celeste Knight, Julia Larson, Amber Mooneyham, Samantha Nutting, Elizabeth Roths and Katie Wasley "really had fun doing it. The are so excited to be published," Firkus said.
Chesnut said more interviews will probably be conducted, and students will be given a tour of some of the remaining parts of the state hospital. They're interested in the famed tunnels, in particular, Chesnut said.
"The only thing the students asked in return is to be able to tour the State Hospital grounds and facility to see the places they have learned about. The main portion they want to see is the tunnels which everyone talks about in their stories," Moomaw said.
According to information found in "Nevada and Vernon County's Heritage, 1855-2005," tunnels were constructed under the original buildings and continued under the majority of new buildings added to the facility, connecting each and making them accessible by staff from other buildings during any weather condition.
Chesnut said the deadline for submissions as well as pre-orders for the book, originally set for Nov. 1, has been extended. but the group still plans to publish the volume next fall.
"We're more than halfway to our goal," Chesnut said, but more pre-orders are needed to move the project forward.
If the group doesn't receive enough pre-orders to help defray the initial cost, "then the book may not be able to be published in the format we hoped for. If those who want to order have not done so, it would help greatly if they would do it now," Chesnut said.
Orders also are being taken for the hard-bound volume, at the "early-bird"price of $35. Memorial pages and page sponsorships also are available.
Submissions of 300 or fewer words will be published at no charge to the submitter; longer submissions will be charged a fee by the word, or for submissions including more than one photo per family.
For more information or to order a book, call Chesnut at (417) 448-1144. Stories and photos may be submitted by mail, to Employee Relations Committee, Attn: Stories, 2323 N. Ash, Nevada MO 64772; or by e-mail at Linda.Chesnut@dmh.mo.gov.