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The Carthage Press
  • Lifelong resident, author Doris Wardlow, moving from Carthage

  • By age 71, Doris Wardlow had already notched a lifetime's worth of accomplishments, she had raised a family, worked in two careers, and helped her husband run a family farm in rural Jasper County.
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  • By age 71, Doris Wardlow had already notched a lifetime's worth of accomplishments, she had raised a family, worked in two careers, and helped her husband run a family farm in rural Jasper County.
    But at an age when many people are slowing down, Wardlow picked up a new hobby that went on to create one of only six records centers in the state of Missouri.
    Wardlow, now 85, is moving away from Carthage to be closer to her daughter in Colorado Springs, but she leaves behind a group of about a dozen volunteers and a treasure trove of more than 40 articles in The Carthage Press that have documented the famous and the obscure characters that made Jasper County unique.
    While she says she plans to continue writing from her new home, she will miss her friends at the records center.
    "I'm just thankful it goes on," Wardlow said in an interview at the records center. "If there's any honor, it's seeing things carried on when you aren't able to do as much as you used to do. I'll miss everybody, but I believe in moving on and not feeling sorry for yourself. I think that's the deadliest thing on earth to feel sorry for yourself and I don't believe in it. That's what I hope I can do and plan on doing."
    Jasper County Records Center Director Steve Weldon said Wardlow was the records center's first volunteer, and she walked in the door at a time when those records were in complete disarray and rotting on a concrete floor with no semblance of organization.
    Margie Bull was the Jasper County Clerk in 1998 when Wardlow walked into the records center and tore into the mound of rotting records to start organizing them.
    It seemed like an insurmountable task at the time, but Wardlow, Bull and those who have volunteered since they started have created an organized index of most of the records in the building, something that researchers, authors and people searching for family histories have come to respect and rely on.
    "If it hadn't been for Doris being here and starting this volunteerism, we wouldn't be this far along," Bull said. "We wouldn't know as much about the county and all of its resources without her. It was a total wreck when she started, we didn't have shelf one. We had nothing, it was one big fat room and piles of everything, it was just piled high. You almost had to walk on top of books to find a book, it was horrible."
    Jasper County born
    Wardlow was born Doris Carter, granddaughter to J.G. Carter, for whom Carterville was named.
    "I was born at home, old Dr. Knott from Jasper, who delivered all the babies, delivered me," Doris said. "I say I was raised on the banks of the river, right off Dry Fork Creek and I've lived all my life in Jasper County."
    Page 2 of 3 - She went to school in Jasper and remembers when the old Jasper school burned to the ground, when she was in seventh grade.
    She married Victor Wardlow, who graduated a year ahead of her in the Jasper High School Class of 1945.
    Victor was a veteran and signed up for the U.S. Navy just as World War II was ending and served as a fireman on a ship.
    He was discharged and went to school at the University of Missouri.
    "The GI Bill let him go to the university," Doris said. "He was just a poor farm boy like most people were. He was smart too. He went into dairy manufacturing, he hoped to own a dairy, but that became more obsolete. He delivered milk in Kansas City, that's the only time I was out of Jasper County, for about nine months. He mainly was a salesman who would have loved to be mostly a farmer."
    After graduation, Doris worked as a file clerk at a government office in Carthage.
    Doris and Victor married after he graduated from college in 1949 and raised three children, Dan, Jim and Ann. Doris was a homemaker until her children were grown.
    "I didn't work until my kids were all in college," Doris said. "I thought about going to school, but decided to try to find a job. I worked in an automobile warehouse with Ron Ross. I worked there for several years, then my folks needed more and so I quit and helped them."
    The first volunteer
    Doris started volunteering at the Jasper County Records Center in about 1998.
    "I came here before Victor died," Doris said. "He had retired and I don't think we quite knew he had cancer yet, so I was volunteering. I liked history and my family has played a role in Jasper County for many year. My grandfather was a crippled man, Mr. J.G. Carter of Carterville, he was taken prisoner two or three times in the Civil War. I kept on until I needed to quit and stayed with him."
    Wardlow recalls what it was like when she started volunteering at the center.
    "What could take you three or four weeks or longer, or maybe not at all, we can now find in two or three minutes because of all the work the girls have done," Wardlow said. "This building was here, but it certainly wasn't like it is now. We just started from scratch, then Margie retired from her job and she liked it here and became a volunteer. It was overwhelming in here when I started. I wanted to find things so bad and I didn't know what I was doing. I guess I should have gone to school and been a researcher because I love it and I don't need to be out in public."
    Page 3 of 3 - Gradually, over the past 16 years, the volunteers have built an index of the information stored in the center.
    Bull said volunteers put in 30,800 hours of time from March 1998 to December 2012, and that doesn't include the countless hours put in outside the center.
    Doris wrote the first Gems from the Archives article in 2003 about the records center and the work going on there.
    Since the series debuted, Doris has written dozens of articles about people in the county. That love for writing has been with her since she was a child.
    "I wanted to be a writer from the time I was born," Doris said. "I wrote plays for my school class and I wrote poems and I wrote all kinds of things and they all burned when the Jasper school burned. I'm not saying they were good. It was heart-wrenching when the school burned and they didn't rebuild it until about three years after I graduated."
    Doris said she's enjoyed writing the series and plans to continue from her new home as long as she's able.
    "I think it's an accomplishment," she said. "I can't imagine all that I've been able to dig up and how good people have and how much they've appreciated it from the things that come back to me. I feel it was an accomplishment and one that I will keep up as best I can. I feel like I did something that people enjoyed and I don't feel like I have many talents, so I'm glad I could bring some enjoyment to people and they loved the stories."
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