Synopses & Reviews
After years of subjecting the editors of St. Louis newspapers to eloquent letters on subjects as diverse as floods, tariffs, and mules, Thad Snow published his memoir From Missouri in his mid-seventies in 1954. He was barely retired from farming for more than half a century, mostly in the Missouri Bootheel, or “Swampeast Missouri,” as he called it. Now back in print with a new introduction by historian Bonnie Stepenoff, these sketches of a life, a region, and an era will delight readers new to this distinctive American voice as well as readers already familiar with this masterpiece of the American Midwest. Snow purchased a thousand acres of southeast Missouri swampland in 1910, cleared it, drained it, and eventually planted it in cotton. Although he employed sharecroppers, he grew to become a bitter critic of the labor system after a massive flood and the Great Depression worsened conditions for these already-burdened workers. Shocking his fellow landowners, Snow invited the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to organize the workers on his land. He was even once accused of fomenting a strike and publicly threatened with horsewhipping.
Snow’s admiration for Owen Whitfield, the African American leader of the Sharecroppers’ Roadside Demonstration, convinced him that nonviolent resistance could defeat injustice. Snow embraced pacifism wholeheartedly and denounced all war as evil even as America mobilized for World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he became involved with creating Missouri’s conservation movement. Near the end of his life, he found a retreat in the Missouri Ozarks, where he wrote this recollection of his life.
This unique and honest series of personal essays expresses the thoughts of a farmer, a hunter, a husband, a father and grandfather, a man with a soft spot for mules and dogs and all kinds of people. Snow’s prose reveals much about a way of life in the region during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the social and political events that affected the entire nation. Whether arguing that a good stock dog should be left alone to do its work, explaining the process of making swampland suitable for agriculture, or putting forth his case for world peace, Snow’s ideas have a special authenticity because they did not come from an ivory tower or a think tank—they came From Missouri.
"Snow writes clearly and simply; his memoir embraces rural anecdote and shuns heavy-handed philosophizing. In the process he embodies a type of homegrown radicalism and environmental progressivism from a region and period that sorely lacked both." -- Andrew C. Baker, The Journal of Southern History“Today, more than five decades after it was [first] published, From Missouri remains one of the best explanations I have ever read about how the land and landscape of a region shaped its people and determined their history. . . . It is time for a new generation of Americans to hear what Snow had to say. The issues he addressed in From Missouri are timeless; his thoughtful comments about and analysis of them are inspiring.”—Gary R. Kremer, coauthor of A History of Missouri, Volume 4: 1875 to 1919
“From Missouri is addictive. Thad Snow’s iconoclastic take on the course of development in the most unique and least understood region of Missouri during the first half of the last century uncannily speaks to concerns about American economic and political culture in our own day.”—Susan Flader, coeditor of Exploring Missouri’s Legacy: State Parks and Historic Sites
“Stylishly introduced and written with spare eloquence, this is a story of a man's life and of Missouri delta land, both remarkable and each shaped by the other. Snow's stormy life reached far beyond Missouri's Bootheel region, where his sympathy with integrated labor protests marked him at times as a heretic. But as this wonderful volume shows, he was also in many ways the best representative and finest observer of his time and place."—David R. Roediger, coauthor of The Production of Difference: Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History
About the Author
Bonnie Stepenoff is Professor Emeritus of History at Southeast Missouri State University and author of several books, including Thad Snow: A Life of Social Reform in the Missouri Bootheel (University of Missouri Press). She lives in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.