When Ozark locals hear "Phenix", their first thought is often of a ghost town. Phenix, MO wasn't just the site of a quarry, but of an entire community with as many as 100 families residing there. For many living in the area now, the only experience they've had with the town has been with the remains of company houses and the bones of the marble power plant. When Phenix Marble Company closed after the depression, the town of Phenix went with it. Luckily we still have photos, newspaper articles, and the stories of former residents to help us learn what life in Phenix was like.
Quarry workers and their families lived in houses provided by the company - as remembered by one woman who grew up there:
Like any other town Phenix has its own general store, a post office, train depot, two hotels, a school house, and also a large community hall that served as a church and gathering place. One difference being that instead of cash you paid for your goods at the general store with "script", currency paid to the employees and only for use at the company-owned businesses.
Kiel Hall was the center of the community. A large building, paid for by the marble distributor, Tompkins-Kiel, it held an auditorium that seated 500 people, a basketball court, a radio room, and a library. All manner of activities were hosted there - holiday dinners, amateur theater productions, Phenix's own orchestra, church services, motion picture screenings, among others.
Phenix, MO has a rich and storied history. We look forward to sharing more details with you in posts in the coming weeks. Check back for more information about the schoolhouse, town orchestra, workers, traditions, and some of the legends that surround this fascinating place.