When my siblings and I were youngsters, our family would load into our van most weekends and visit relatives in Scott County. Many trips were to New Hamburg and Commerce and, of course, Scott City, where my grandmother, Hulda, lived.
Along with Grandma's beautiful iris garden, displaying every color imaginable, and the taste of the apples that grew on that old tree by her back door, one of the strongest memories I have of those visits is my dad sitting quietly in her small kitchen, reading the newspapers she always saved for him. Not the Southeast Missourian, mind you. We received that at home. At Grandma's house, keeping up with the goings-on in Illmo and Scott City meant reading The Jimplicute.
I didn't give much thought to the odd name of the newspaper then. It wasn't until years later that I heard someone ask, "What's a Jimplicute?" I was reminded of that recently, when I ran across a story about the "The Jimp," as some called it, on the front page of the Southeast Missourian. Featured prominently in the article is the Missourian’s own retired managing editor, R. Joe Sullian.
Published Jan. 3, 1969:
WHETHER ACCIDENT, ANIMAL, JIMPLICUTE NAME ROLLS ON
You don't hardly ever find a newspaper with a name like the Illmo Jimplicute no more.
And if that sounds like it is right out of the Ozarks maybe it's because one of the many explanations attributes the name to a mythical animal of Ozark folklore.
The subject of the Jimplicute's name came up once again this week though an item in the Missouri Press News.
The publication cited Joe Sullivan, a former Missouri newspaperman now with the Wall Street Journal in its Dallas, Texas, office, on the origin of the name.
Mr. Sullivan discovered there is a Jefferson, Texas, Jimplecute -- note the e in the spelling rather than the i of the Illmo version -- and says it began from an anagram.
Each letter of the Texas Jimplecute stands for a ward, said Mr. Sullivan. "Join Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy Capital (in) Unity Together Everlastingly."
Now hear Reece Venable, editor of and publisher of the Jimplicute.
He never heard of that explanation, and has one of his own.
The late E.L. Purcell, who at one time published the Democrat-News at Fredericktown, now owned by the Ferguson family, was a former president of the Missouri Press Association.
Mr. Venable said the Bank of Illmo, after the Cotton Belt Railroad came through Illmo-Fornfelt, was interested in a newspaper to serve the community.
The bank wrote the Missouri Press Association for the name of a likely publisher. Mr. Purcell's name was sent to them and in 1914 he established the Illmo Jimplicute.
Years before, Mr. Purcell had worked as a printer's devil on the -- get this now -- Jefferson, Texas, Jimplecute.
This part of the story was told by his daughter, Helen Purcell, to Mr. Venable after her father's death.
She said her father explained there was a sign at the front of the Jefferson Jimplecute office with the newspaper's name and the painting of the face of a terrible animal.
This animal, Miss Purcell explained, was a Jimplecute and it was from it that her father named the Illmo paper, changing the e to i, whether by design or by misspelling is not known, but that's not all. The Jimplicute appears to have been an Ozark folklore animal that somehow found its way to Texas.
Mr. Venable recalls a story in the Kansas City Times several years ago about a fictitious animal that roamed the Ozarks. It was ferocious and, according to legend, was related to the "Kingdoodle," which would often go into a rampage and pull up small trees.
It was so ferocious that Ozark parents used it to frighten children who misbehaved. According to the story, the Jimplicute would go around the countryside bellowing and roaring and tearing up rail fences.
Well, that's one story, and probably the right one. But there are other explanations that have grown up through the years, "Mr. Venable said.
One is a printer, setting a stick of type one day, pied it -- dropped it, that is, and mixed the characters -- and when he finished picking it up and putting it back in the stick it spelled out Jimplicute.
Then there is the dictionary definition explanation. Webster lists the word Jimpricute -- with an r -- and defines it as "Elegant, handsome, neat, etc., Local, U.S."
There is a school of thought that because the Jimplicute is a small, neat tabloid size newspaper the name was corrupted from jimpricute to Jimplicute. Just how a newspaper would misspell its own name, however, is unexplained.
The name of the Jimplicute has aroused curiosity throughout the country.
Mr. Venable said there is rarely a week goes by that he does not get a letter from some place in the United States asking about the name and its meaning.
The most recent was from the National Newspaper Association.
He said he and his son, R. Gary Venable, advertising manager for the Jimplicute, have often thought of printing up a form explanation and mailing it to inquirers, but have not done so.
Joe Sullivan, who started the recent splurge of interest in the Illmo paper's name, was reared in Piedmont and worked for the Liberty Tribune and Kansas City Star before joining the Wall Street Journal.
He said he got his explanation of the origin of the Jefferson Jimplecute from a history of that town.
According to the book, "Show-Me Journalists: The First 200 years," by William H. Taft, c. 2003, Edwin Leonard Purcell published the Illmo Jimplicute for 19 years, 1914-1933. He died on Dec. 11, 1933, and the running of the newspaper was assumed by his daughter, Helen Purcell.
David Marshall of Illmo bought the Jimplicute from Helen Purcell in May 1940. In 1947 it was purchased by Marshal Hamil. Hamil, in turn sold the weekly to Al Westland in 1951. Subsequent owners are unknown. The Jimplicute ceased publication around 1988.