Blind Boone in Warrensburg

Melissa Fuell, graduate of the Howard School, writes Boone biographies

Melissa Fuell-Cuther, an African American woman, wrote the first biography of a black musician in the United States and that musician was Blind Boone.

Melissa Fuell was born in Warrensburg, Missouri, on May 15, 1886, and attended and graduated from the Howard School and was active in music. She went on to study at the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, where she trained to be a teacher.

After graduation she spent a brief time in Colorado and then returned to Missouri where she accepted a teaching job in the Joplin schools where she taught first grade from 1905 to 1912. She returned to her interest in music when she accepted a position serving as John Lange's assistant and also as Mezzo-Soprano for the Blind Boone Concert company in 1912/1913.

John Lange commissioned Fuell to write a biography of Boone in 1915 and it was published under the title: Blind Boone: His Life and Times. Fuell married Charles William Cuther from Carthage in 1916 and the couple remained in Joplin for most of their married lives. In 1918 she published another version of her 1915 work on Boone titled: Blind Boone: His Early Life and His Achievements.

Charles Cuther worked at the Connor Hotel in Joplin for over fifty years and Melissa Fuell Cuther was an active participant in the civic life of Joplin. She supported the creation of the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri and the George Washington Carver Memorial Nursery School that was established on the propery. She formed the first African American girl scout troop in Missouri in 1946 and advocated that Joplin city leaders create Ewert park for its African American residents.

Melissa Fuell-Cuther died in 1968 and the community honored her civic service by erecting a monument at the George Washington Carver Memorial Nursery School. The monument's inscription read: "Melissa Cuther: Educator, Founder, Humanitarian."