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Harley Park “Gifted Park to Citizens of Boonville”

Major Wm. Harley was an Irishman having been born in Don Donald, county Antrim, fourteen miles from Belfast, Ireland, on May 6th, 1793. He came to America in 1811 at the age of 18 years. He then moved to Howard County as a merchant during his later years of the 1830’s. He died at his home in Boonville on November 8, 1891. On June 2, 1887, for years before his death, Maj. William Harley and his wife, Cornelia, presented a deed to the mayor, councilmen and citizens of Boonville and their successors, eight acres of land in west Boonville, to be used as a public park with certain conditions specified in the deed. This beautiful park, Harley Park, is located on elevated ground one-half mile west of the M.K.&.T depot on Morgan Street. It is claimed he was the oldest Mason in the United States, having joined that historic fraternity in Louisville, KY in 1818—-73 years before his death.

By: Wayne Lammers April, 2023

Here is the entrance to Harley Park taken by Max Schmidt back in ca 1890's. At center left is

the ball diamond with an entrance at bottom left. The mud road is Santa Fe Trail.
Much has 
changed since then

This is at Harley Park's Look Out, looking to the west over the Missouri River.

Mother and son walking at Harley Park

The Cooper County Baseball Association Little League baseball field

J. Melton and Big Sky Park

Elston Joseph Melton was born in Jefferson City on November 17, 1891, and grew up around California, Mo. After high school, he attended the Chicago Art Institute before turning to newspaper work, first in California, Mo., then in Miami, Ok., and finally back in Mo. at Clayton.

During the Great War, Melton served in the navy at US Naval Base 17 in Scotland. After the war, he returned to the newspaper business working for papers in Pilot Grove, Sedalia, Boonville, and Caruthersville working as a printer, reporter, editor, partner, and even owner/publisher. He sold The Caruthersville Republican in September 1925 when Governor Sam Baker appointed him deputy state oil inspector for southeast Mo.

Melton launched the Boonville Republican in April 1929, publishing it as a weekly for four years before turning it into a daily. A year later he merged it with the Boonville Daily News. Fourteen months later, he sold out and stepped down as editor.

Although the majority of Melton’s time up to 1935 was spent in the newspaper business, he did have other interests.

After selling his share of the Boonville Daily News in 1935, Melton continued to write, doing special pieces for the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian and a syndicated column called “Pen Pointers.” In 1936 he published “Will Rogers, Kemper Valedictorian ’98.” It was probably during these two years that he started writing his history of Cooper County, Missouri, which was published in 1937. That same year, he published “Billy Aikors history of 1937.”

Along the way, his daughter Mary grew up and married Harry Eugene Hall. The couple gave Mary’s parents four grandsons. Mark Melton Hall was born in 1949 and Michael Owen Hall followed in 1950. The twins, Dale Todd Hall and David Paul Hall, were born in 1952.

Then tragedy struck. In June 1961, Mary died unexpectedly at the couple’s home in Canton, Mo., leaving behind a husband and four pre-teen sons.

In January 1968, a $1,000.00 certificate was donated to the City of Boonville by Mr. & Mrs. E. J. Melton to start a trust fund as a memorial to their daughter, Mary Melton Hall. The Park Board members were to be trustees and administer the funds with the interest being used for improvements and plantings in an area west of Harley Park to be known as “Big Sky Park.”

On May 6, 1968, the Boonville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance which created and defined the Big Sky Area of Harley Park along with its trust fund.

Today, on Riviera Dr., a plaque can be found on a large rock overlooking the area. It reads: “Harley Park, ‘Big Sky Area,’ In Memory of Mary Melton Hall, Denoted by E J Melton Family.”

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