Star watches over southeast Missouri town for 64 years

Bell City Star a community fixture for 64 years
Published: Dec. 19, 2017 at 10:53 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2017 at 7:55 AM CST
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(Photo courtesy of Brown family)
(Photo courtesy of Brown family)
(Photo courtesy of Brown family)
(Photo courtesy of Brown family)
(Photo courtesy of Brown family)
(Photo courtesy of Brown family)

BELL CITY, MO (KFVS) - A star, a star, dancing in the night above the little town of Bell City, Missouri.

It lies on top of a tall cliff watching over the entire community for the last 64 years.

A simple decoration has become an iconic fixture for the town.

"It's just been such an integral part of my life, for my whole life, that I watch for it," Teresa Steiner said. "Every fall, I wait for the star to light up."

B. Rust and Louise Brown moved to the are in 1953 and bought the house on top of the hill overlooking Bell City.

Fred Brown visited the dilapidated home of his grandparents where the star was born long ago.

"I think about pops and grandma. Getting the sugar cookies and all that in there in the house while we work on the star," Fred Brown said.

They erected the star, with a large wooden frame and strings of Christmas lights, and placed it on top of a pipe attached to the side of the house.

It since has fallen four times and has been moved and strengthened every time. Now it sits alone and higher than ever. It is 50 feet higher than the hill it sits on and 16 feet wide.

"I remember as a little kid, the wind blew it down," Fred recalled. "So we would have another meeting. We would have to pick up the pieces and grandpa put them all back together. Then we would put the star back up."

B. Rust and Louise were very active people in the community six decades ago. Many people knew them around town and reminisced about how they would help them out on projects for their past families.

Several people said they didn't just want to put that star up for their own pleasure but for the entire community to enjoy.

"Knowing them, it was just something they wanted the community to be able to see and enjoy as well as themselves," Barb said.

The star first lights up on the Friday after Thanksgiving and is up until New Years Day. It is lit up at night but every once in a while there will be a hiccup and the community gets a little restless when it doesn't turn on.

"If the star's not on, they want to know why," Barb added.

"And there's been a few times where we look up there and go, umm, there's a light burned out and you need to take care of that," Steiner said. "Of course once it's up it's a little harder to take care of. But they do a great job taking care of it."

The star not only can be seen throughout the entire town, it can also be seen from miles away.

"If you're coming back to Bell City from Sikeston and you're coming through the flatlands down here and it's clear, not foggy or hazy, you can see the star from a good 15, 16, or 17 miles away," Steiner added.

That also includes those that are traveling by railroad into town. Barb has kept a letter dating back from 1957 that the family received from a train operator from Chester, Illinois.

"I have a copy of a Christmas card that was sent in 1957 from a conductor for the Missouri Pacific Railroad," Barb said while holding the letter in her hand.

The letter reads:

"Though I don't know you. I sent this for the star you have. It is nice to see when you go by on a freight train in the rain, cold or snow late at night. It lifts a person up."

"To think that it even has an effect on people that aren't even from the community, and that he enjoyed seeing that," Barb added. "We actually got a phone call from him later on through the years and wanted to know if the star was still there."

So for now, the star will continue to watch over the town and burn every night around Christmas time. The family has no plans to take it down anytime soon and they hope it sees another 64 years looking down on the residents of Bell City.

"Hopefully our kids will continue to do it," Barb said. We've got a daughter that's helping us with the family business so hopefully, it will just keep on going."

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