Insanity in Ralls County, 1921—1927
On February 24, 1930, Euphemia B. Koller, age sixty-eight, died while confined in Missouri's State Hospital for the Insane in Fulton. In an obituary, the Hannibal Courier-Post noted that she and her sister, Mary Alice Heinbach, formerly co-owned the unincorporated town site of Ilasco, a largely Slavic community of about two thousand residents, just across the Marion/Ralls county line near the Mark Twain Cave, about three miles south of Hannibal. According to the obituary, the Atlas Portland Cement Company had purchased the Ilasco tract from them about twenty-five years earlier when it built a plant next to their property. A Ralls County probate judge had ordered Koller's confinement as a private patient in August 1927. To underscore the special tragedy of her fate in the asylum, a New London newspaper recalled that “many years ago she was a brilliant woman, being well-educated, refined, and a fluent talker.” 1.
The Hannibal Courier-Post, although well aware of the connections between Koller's fate and a bitter, protracted legal battle over the twenty-six- acre tract on which much of Ilasco was located, used her death to promote an official “booster” version of Ilasco's history that concealed an important secret and glorified Atlas's paternalistic role in the community. In a complex case that went to the state supreme court several times, Koller and____________________