Tucked away in northeast Marion County along Highway 44 is the place known as Improve.
"It's a peaceful community, it's scenic," said Chris Watts, curator of the Marion County Museum and Archive.
If you want to know where its name comes from, look no further than the house on Watts Loop, built in the 1840s. Nearly two dozen people were born in it. Nearly two dozen others have died in it.
"This home has been a landmark here for 175 years," said Watts.
The home looks a lot like it did 100 years ago and for the entire 19th century the community was known as the Morris Community, named after the man who built the house, Seaborn Morris. Eventually, one of his in-laws, a man named John Lott Watts took ownership.
"It was horse and buggy up in there through that time," said Watts.
His great-great grandson is Chris Watts.
"The post office is about where that gas tank is correct," said Watts.
It was in 1893, when John Lott Watts decided it was time this community got a post office.
"The blank where it says the name of the new post office, he wrote Watts, and then he marked it out. I don't know if it was a mistake or if it was an afterthought because right after that with a bold flourish he wrote Improve," said Watts.
No one knows exactly what was going through his mind when he did it, but there are some ideas, especially coming off the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
"I think he saw the post office here as being a huge improvement for the area," said Watts.
With neighboring communities like Advance and Good Hope, the name just fit.
"Just old country folk who help one another out," said Tommy Tolar.
For the folks who call this place home, like Tolar, there's no better fit for them.
"Everybody is laid back and most of us are farmers," said Tolar.
Tolar has lived here since 1976.
"We help one another out and all and don't get in no fuss or arguments or no feuds like that," said Tolar.
"The people who live here, love living in Improve. I can tell you that," said Watts.
That post office is now long gone, having served as such until 1918 when it was consolidated with Columbia. From there, much of the community just stayed in place. While much of the scenery has since changed, one spot still holds on to the past, just a stone's throw from where it all began. It's the final resting place of the people who shaped Improve and gave its name.
Copyright 2014 WDAM. All rights reserved.
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