3/22/1990: Marion Rust came back twice to stay

by Virginia Jewell
(Ninth in a Series)
(Appeared in The Hickman County Gazette, Clinton (Hickman County, Ky.) on March 22, 1990)

There’s more to be said about Marion Rust than the fact that he directed removal of the city of Columbus for the American Red Cross after the 1927 floods.

Here was a ma who was so fascinated with the river town and its potential that he came back in four years to head the county’s school system and then to supervise the building of Columbus-Belmont Park. Later he went to other jobs, but again came back to Columbus.

An earnest and kind person, Rust’s reach exceeded his grasp as he dreamed of the area’s future, but he did sponsor to a successful conclusion the removal of the town. While investigating the bluff area, he was shown the old Civil War ruins. Six to eight years later he must have taken satisfaction in the development of beautiful Columbus-Belmont State Park by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The building the facility was a tour de force with its proper display of the noted anchor and a portion of the chain which had been stretched across the Mississippi during the Civil War, the restored trenches, cannons, museum, picnic areas, and the stone outlook houses which gave spectacular views of the river.

He had envisioned a huge historic and recreational district which would have taken in not only the park area but the extended south bluff, Wolf Island, Islands 3 and 4, Black and Fish Lakes, and the “Indian Canal” connecting the Obion and Bayou de Chien Creeks. The river, itself, and the Mobile & Ohio Railroad gave impetus to the ideas. He said if such magnificent ruins and other features were anywhere north of the Ohio River, they would have long before been set aside as a national treasure.

Part of his plan included constructions of Iron Banks Hotel, now the home of John M. Muscovalley, near the old ferry landing. Built with bricks from the old town, including some from the Columbus Hotel, the fine structure was to have been connected to the park with an elevated overpass spanning Clinton Hill – Ky. 80 (58). Rust himself lived there for a time.

Most of Rust’s ideas fell on hard time when the Great Depression descended over the country like a leaden blanket in the 1930s.

He was 48 when he came to Columbus but he’d already had a book full of experiences. Born near Columbus, Ind., in 1879, he cut a figure much like Harry Truman in his topcoat and homburg in the wintertime. In the summer he was seldom seen without his straw sailor.

During World War I he put to use a book he had written entitled “The Evolution of Democracy.” At that time he was educational director at Camp Taylor near Louisville and adapted the book to explain to soldiers just why they were being called upon to give their lives, if necessary, to preserve democracy. The book was later translated into French, German, Russian, Persian, and the Armenian languages. Rust, himself, spoke French and Russian.

He had been with the Red Cross only three months when sent to Columbus and had been on the scene just a short time when interested citizens took him to see evidence of the area’s role in the War Between the States.

After the park was completed, Rust went on to similar employment. In 1948, due to poor health, he and Mrs. Rust returned to her homeplace in Shelburn, Ind., but in 1950 he was back at Columbus as principal of the grade school and still later became executive secretary of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce.

Rust, who died in 1958, is memorialized with a bronze plaque placed at his beloved Columbus-Belmont Park in 1986 by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Although he played a major role in the city removal and the park development, Rust was quick to share credit with others in the county who were indispensable in the projects. Besides the mayor, rehabilitation committee, Jim Porter, Dr. Thomas Whayne, and W.M. Yancy, he spoke of Waller Brown, the Muscovalleys, J. Luther Sanders and J.E. Carter.

Sanders, Phil Porter Jr., and C.B.S. Pennebaker were on the Park Association and were aided by the Hon. J.D. Via who introduced legislation for creation of the park.

Carter, a Columbus magistrate for many years, was active in the Columbus chapter of the Red Cross and served as Rust’s secretary, paying bills and aiding the city removal project in many ways. Later, he and Rust made several long trips to Frankfort in behalf of the park, traveling in those days over winding two-lane roads in an early model automobile.

(To be continued.)

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