Olive Rambo: Traveling from Chillicothe to Glasgow in a Boat She Made in School
C-T 07 14 17

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 From there, Mouton uncovered more photographs relating to Olive Rambo and an unpublished manuscript telling of her August 1917 adventure that took her some 150 miles from Chillicothe to Glasgow aboard a boat she made and floated on the Grand River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 boat."

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.

*************************************************

Teen's 1915 Exploits to be Program Topic Tuesday
C-T 07 05 17
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.

Return to Top

Email Us