|Olive Rambo: Traveling from Chillicothe to Glasgow in a
Boat She Made in School
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The escapades of a Chillicothe High School girl growing up in the early 1900s made for an interesting program of the Grand River Historical Society Tuesday evening at the Chillicothe Elks Lodge.
Olive Rambo was born in Avalon, Missouri, and moved with her father to Chillicothe in 1910 after her mother had passed away. She lived on a block of
ground in Gravesville and raised a garden and had cows, chickens, pigeons and various pets, according to
Constitution-Tribune records. As a child, Olive swam the river near
Graham's Mill Bridge and picnicked with friends on its banks. She graduated from Chillicothe High School and Chillicothe Business College. She married Frank
Cook in 1920. She wrote books and served as Chillicothe city clerk.
C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley
Brynlee Faulkner, a Chillicothe High School senior, portrays young Olive Rambo who, as a Chillicothe
High School student, sailed on a boat she built in school in 1917. She and her cousin floated on the Grand
River to the Missouri River to Glasgow, an estimated 150-mile journey.
It was her adventure in 1917, though, that was the focus of the historical
society's quarterly meeting. The program was presented by Rodney Mouton, a museum volunteer who stumbled across the history of Olive Rambo Cook
while looking through items in storage. A black and white photograph of a boat on a river first caught his eye.
From there, Mouton uncovered more photographs relating to Olive
Rambo and an unpublished manuscript telling of her August 1917 adventure that took her some 150 miles from Chillicothe to Glasgow aboard a boat she made and
floated on the Grand River to the Missouri River.
"This story of a Chillicothe High School student was too precious to
be relegated to a dusty corner in the back room of the
museum," Mouton said. With this information, including
details about the boat she built, Mouton took Miss
Rambo's story to heart and gave it life. Using measurements that
she recorded in her manuscript along with actual photographs, Mouton built a boat in the likeness of the original. It
is unknown what happened to the original boat.
C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley
As part of the program, an August 1917 newspaper article that was printed in the Kansas City Star, was read by
Catherine Ripley of the Constitution- Tribune. The article stated that Miss Rambo spent her summer vacation in a
boat she built as manual training work in school earlier that spring. She traveled with her older cousin, Mabel.
"It is a venture," Miss Rambo had told the
Star. "But I don't see why the Ozarks should have a monopoly on floating and I
mean to explore the streams of North Missouri."
The boat was built of white pine, was 15 feet long and 18 inches wide at the ends, spreading to forty inches through
the middle. It is painted brown, with the name, Black Eyed Susan, in orange.
"We don't carry a great deal of food - it's more fun to fish and hunt as we go
along," she stated in the article. "Wardrobe space is built under the seat at
the other end - "that doesn't have to be very large, either, because,
you see, well, we travel this way," and as she stood forth in knee trousers, high boots and a
boy's gingham shirt, you understood that space left for ruffles and
folderols was naturally wasted." The article stated that Miss Rambo was an expert swimmer and horsewoman and
spent the greater part of her life out of doors, tramping through virgin forests and along winding streams.
The article went on to state: "So it is a small wonder that her talk is of animal and plant lore, rather than of the things that
interest the average high school girl and that when she looks for fun, she builds a
To help bring the story to life, Brynlee Faulkner, a Chillicothe High School senior and drama student, portrayed Miss
Rambo during the reading of the newspaper article and then delivered a monolog about her trip. She described the
recorded experiences in detail and read from Miss
Rambo's journal. "She lived large," Mouton said as he described
Olive Rambo. "She lived in the spirit of Christopher Columbus and Lewis and Clark, not knowing what was around
the next bend." He also noted that Olive Rambo was not satisfied with reading Mark Twain and that she was more
suited to be like Mark Twain.
Other than the Kansas City Star newspaper article, very little
- if any - published material had been found regarding Miss
Rambo's 1917 river venture. However, there were several mentions in the Constitution-Tribune about her later in
life. She received a Civil Service appointment in
Washington, D.C., ran for and won the position of City Clerk in
1921, was a teacher in the primary department at First M.E. Church and was employed at the Chillicothe Industrial
Home for Girls. She lived in Chillicothe from 1900 to 1942.
After marrying Frank Cook, Olive Rambo Cook began to submit stories for publication. She sold her first feature stories to farm magazines and newspapers. After her son
was born in 1923, she began to write stories for children.
When her husband died in 1943 and her son was overseas in the Army, Cook began writing in earnest. In 1957, her first book was published. The setting was in Livingston
County; the title of the book was "Coon
Holler." She also wrote "Serilda's Star," a story that was set near the old
Graham's Mill and the building of the bridge is part of the story. In a sequel published in 1963, Cook continued the
story in "Locket." "The Sign at Six
Corners" is also set in Livingston County. At the age of 80, Olive Rambo Cook
had her first art show in Mountain View, California.
Items relating to Olive Rambo Cook are part of the collection at Grand River Historical Society Museum. Included
are the unpublished manuscript and photographs about her adventure, a Kodak camera
(pictured), and the shotgun she took with her on her trip down the river.
Exploits to be Program Topic Tuesday
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The quarterly meeting of the Grand River Historical Society, which is open to the public, will be Tuesday, July 11,
beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Club in Chillicothe. The program will follow the amazing exploits of Olive Rambo
who, in 1915 at the age of 15, constructed a 15-foot scow in her Chillicothe High School Manual Training class (the
precursor of our current vocational school) and with her cousin floated the boat christened the
"Black Eyed Susan" down the Grand River to the Missouri River and then to Glasgow. This is one of a number of accomplishments by
Olive during her long and fruitful lifetime. To see a replica of the boat constructed by Rodney
Mouton of Chillicothe, you are invited to attend the meeting on July 11. A highlight of the event will be a portrayal of Olive by Byrnlee
Faulkner, a senior at Chillicothe High School. Dinner will begin at 6:30 and consist of fried chicken prepared by Jeff
Frampton, a vegetable, salad, drink and dessert, for $10. The program will begin between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m.
To make a reservation call the museum at 646-1341 or Ron Wilder at 646-0502. Both numbers have an answering
machine so please leave your name, phone number and number of reservations and we will confirm.
C-T Photo / Jamie Saucedo
CAPTION: In 1915, an adventurous teen built a scow and floated from Chillicothe to Glasgow via the Grand and
Missouri rivers. Rodney Mouton recently built a scow similar to the one used by Olive Rambo, that will be displayed for a historical society program Tuesday.