I am indebted to Juanita Humphreys
for both the picture and most of the information for this Halfway
Worth Mentioning. Juanita Humphreys is, literally, a walking encyclopedia
of information about the town and the people of Irena.
To me, the picture is especially interesting for two reasons. First, it shows an old country store and those have nearly all disappeared from the American scene. And secondly, it pictures a person who is high on my list of "characters" of Worth County; Elmer Humphreys.
The individuals shown in the picture are, left to right, Veryle Humphreys, Charlie Humphreys, Forrest Ferguson, Albert (Preach) Sanders, Ray Mosbarger, Elmer Humphrys, Faye Mosbarger, Marguerite Humphryes, Blanch Humphreys, Galdys White, Allen Humphreys and Vincent Mosbarger. (Mr. Gladstone wrote in the Quad River News, April 17,1985--"in the column about Irena I inadvertently failed to mention failed to mention one other presence in the picture, Nola Lavonne Mosbarger. And to further straighten up the record. In the Irena picture the man sitting on the cream can on the lift of the picture was not Ray Mosbarger but instead was John Thomas, the father of Dean Meek. Ray Mosbarger was the man sitting on the cream can on the right side of the picture and his son Vincent is standing beside him shading his eyes. Allen Humphreys was not in the picture.").
The picture was taken in the summer of 1920 by Fred Hall. Bill Humphreys is also in the picture although the camera didn't record his presence.
The town of Irena, as was later the town of Worth, was established by the railroad. In 1880, the Leon, Mt. Ayr and Southwestern branch of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad was extended into Grant City. The railroad built a siding and a stockyards some mile and one half south of the IA-MO line and thus began the town of Irena. Except that the first name proposed wasn't Irena.
The first name proposed was Kelso but it turned out there was another town in Missouri by that name so the name Irena was chosen to honor the wife of one of the founders of the town, William Richards.
Elmer Humphreys appeared on the Irena Scene on January 3, 1907, when he opened a produce house in a building located on the east side of the railroad tracks and on the north side of the street or road as the case might be.
As it turned out Elmer didn't confine his interests to the produce house nor to the east side of the tracks. On March 5, 1907, Elmer married Blanch White who was a pretty young clerk in Ben Dawson's store which was on the west side of the tracks.
Now it could have been that Blanch didn't like the produce house, it could have been that she didn't like east of the tracks or it could have been for any number of reasons, but whatever, about two months later Elmer bought the store from Ben Dawson.
A year or two later Elmer built a new store building on the south side of the street (the store shown in the picture) and moved his business into the new building. He kept the building on the north side of the street for a storage building.
About twenty years later, in 1928, Elmer sold his business to Murray Butler. He then bought a truck and began buying produce and livestock in the area.
Elmer's enthusiasm for the trucking business began to wane and he was struck again by the mercantile fever. In 1932 he built a filling station on the south side of the street next to highway 169. He stayed at this location about three years and then decided to move his building south to the top of the hill and to the east side of the highway.
Here he continued in business another twenty four years until his death