How it began: Heartland district tries to find first mention of midget mascot

Putnam County Midgets in Unionville, Mo. (KTVO)

Fall is here and that means homecomings and cheering on the boys of fall.

Chants of go tigers, bulldogs, comets, and, go midgets.

Putnam County Schools have been working on trying to figure out when they became 'The Mighty Midgets.'

For over 100 years, that's been the Putnam County R1 School’s mascot.

That's a fact.

What's not so sure, is how it came to be.

“The history that I can tell you is what I’ve been reading is the first football team basically was in 1904. There's lots of conversations about small football teams, undersized. We've even played in an athletic conference that had Chillicothe, Moberly, Kirksville, schools like that so I’m sure some of that had to deal with a small rural town against the larger cities and whatnot,” said Putnam County Schools Superintendent Dr. Heath Halley.

Putnam County Historical Society curator Judy McDonald told KTVO they found about the same information.

“The best that I could find and learn from, back in 1924 there's pictures of a team and the midgets term is mentioned. They played Milan and they were very small in weight wise, the other teams outweighed them a lot. They played Seymour, and they were again outweighed a lot, and they won and they actually beat both places very bad,” said McDonald. “Since Napoleon was a very small man, and were sometimes referred to as the midgets, Mr. Magee thought a good name for our team would be the midgets and they've been the midgets ever since. The mighty midgets.”

But they both admit they don’t know for sure where the name came from.

“There'll probably be 100 people come out now and say no, no, that's not the story but that's what's in the history book,” said McDonald.

In a nation that's full of tigers, wildcats, and giants, they say being a midget is something to be proud of.

“There's only 6 or 7 schools in the nation that have a mascot similar as ours, we're very proud of it. For us it represents pride, dignity, determination, hard work, grit, and so those are things that we just wanted to emphases to our students even today, 100, 100 plus years later they're still valuable characteristics to have,” said Dr. Halley.

And while it's just the way it's always been for those in Putnam County, it can be a surprise for those not familiar with the tradition.

“I know of some instances where people have shared, 'Hey we were wearing our attire someplace and somebody said, ‘I can't believe you're wearing that.’ We've had conversations with different organizations, Little People of America discussing who we are and what we represent and they've shared their concerns,” said Dr. Halley. “At this point, obviously, we don't mean any offense, again it's a point of pride and dignity and honor for us and sure don't mean to make light of anyone's situation. We're just really proud of our community and our school.”
“It's always been our midgets,” said McDonald. “We've been very proud of the midgets. Couldn't think of them being called anything else.”
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