Kings Row

stinson_creek_trail_logoHenry Bellaman (1882-1945), author of Kings Row, grew up in Fulton, graduated from Fulton High School and attended Westminster College for one year before transferring to the University of Denver. A talented musician, Bellaman was both a teacher and administrator at several institutions including the Julliard School of Music, Vassar College and the Curtis Institute of Music. In addition to his academic career, Bellaman pursued his literary interests, editing Overtones , a music journal and publishing three volumes of poetry that met with some critical success. His first novel, Petenera’s Daughter, appeared in 1926 to fairly positive reviews, but it was not until 1940 with the publication of his fifth novel, Kings Row, that Bellaman achieved popular success.

kingsrow-karrmapKings Row depicts the hypocrisy of life in a small mid-western town at the turn of the 20th century. Despite Bellaman’s assertion that Kings Row was a work of fiction, scandalized Fulton residents quickly recognized similarities between the characters and settings of the novel and inhabitants and places in their hometown. In his introduction to the 1981 re-edition of Kings Row, Westminster College Professor of English Jay Karr (now emeritus) analyzes these similarities and provides a map that correlates various fictional locales in the novel with their counterparts in Fulton. For example, in the fictional town of Kings Row, Aberdeen College occupies the campus of Westminster College in Fulton and the fictional asylum is located on the grounds of Fulton State Hospital. If you look across the street from this trail marker, you will see the stone house noted on Professor Karr’s map. During his research at the University of Mississippi where Bellaman’s papers are archived, Professor Karr discovered a reference by the author to “my Fulton novel”, which appears to confirm the connection between Fulton and Kings Row.

Today, Kings Row is better known as the 1942 film adapted from the novel and featuring Ronald Reagan as the fun-loving Darcy McHugh. McHugh hopes to marry Louise Gordon whose father Dr. Henry Gordon disapproves of the relationship. When McHugh is injured in a railroad accident, Dr. Gordon unnecessarily amputates both of McHugh’s legs. Upon awakening from the anesthetic, McHugh gazes in horror at the remaining stumps and cries out “Where’s the rest of me?” In 1965, Ronald Reagan appropriated this phrase as the title of his autobiography. He once explained that the role of Darcy McHugh, which was often credited as one of his best performances, persuaded him that there was more to life than acting.

Over time, Fulton’s attitude toward Bellaman and Kings Row mellowed. In 1987, the city of Fulton acquired a suit worn by Reagan in the film. It remains on display downtown at the Chamber of Commerce. Reagan himself made two visits to Fulton, the first in 1952 as the commencement speaker at William Woods College (now University) and the second in 1990, when on the Westminster College campus, the former president dedicated the Break Through Sculpture crafted from a section of the Berlin Wall by Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill.

For additional information on Callaway County historical sites, visit the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society and Museum located at 513 Court St. or at www.kchsoc.org.

cof-kochs

Chicago & Alton Railroad Bridge | Kings Row-Henry Belleman | Westminster Gymnasium | Memorial Park | Hockaday House | Lovers Leap-Star Park | State Hospital Rock Barn | CCC Camp 3731 | Fulton Country Club

The City of Fulton