Where do you find the county with the most caves, the Tower Rock that Lewis and Clark mapped, a living history Lutheran heritage and genealogy site, and a full-size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC—plus a great brew pub?



By Pam Clifton

Grab some gear … and an appetite … for an adventure in Perry County!

Missouri Life Adventurer Meredith Hoenes continues the Spirit of Discovery with Season 5, Episode 5 of Missouri Life TV

Living Lutheran Heritage and Genealogy 

When German Lutherans settled in the area in 1839, they raised their families, established churches, farms, and businesses to provide the county’s foundation.

A visit to Frohna’s Saxon Lutheran Memorial is like walking back in time. The site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, commemorates German Lutheran migration, with its log cabins and period artifacts. 

Local blacksmith Mark Petzoldt opened his shop onsite to show traditional blacksmithing techniques passed down from previous generations.

After Mark’s father’s forge went untouched for years, Mark started blacksmithing on his own and finds the work relaxing. 

“Blacksmithing is art,” he says. “It’s the thrill of making stuff. You take a blank piece of steel and make it into something that’s a beautiful piece. It’s artistic but it’s usable and will last forever.” 

Located about five minutes from the Saxon Lutheran Memorial is the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum of the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society in Altenburg. The museum documents, preserves, and interprets the area’s rich history and offers the chance to trace local ancestry and heritage. 

Lynn Degenhardt says many immigrants used the area as a “toe hold to move on to other places.”  

“A lot of people use this place to find their roots,” she says, “and that makes it all worthwhile for the staff members.”

St. Mary’s of the Barrens Church is nestled among the aging trees and corn fields in Perry County. The church, established in 1818 and designed after one in France, is the first Catholic settlement west of the Mississippi. It has served as an educational institute, seminary, and common gathering place for paying homage to Catholic heritage in the county. 

Murals on the church’s interior walls were once rolled-up parchments from France; another came from Germany. 

The expansive, well-kept grounds are magnificent and feature a peaceful grotto, built from stone found in the onsite quarry.

Eggers & Co. General Store B&B

Located about 10 miles east in Farrar is Eggers & Co. General Store B&B. This quaint historic building tells the story of mid-1900s rural America through original artifacts, architecture, stories, and cuisine of the era. 

In 2004, owners Steve and Ellen Frye purchased the building, built in 1896. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ellen says her grandfather and his brother owned the store for 46 years. Her mom grew up in the area. The building is part of her heritage and has “told so many stories” that it was destined to become a bed-and-breakfast.

“The history of this place is not just the history of my family, this place tells the story of this community, which was like many other rural communities that don’t exist anymore,” she says.

Steve says the general store was once a community pillar.

“The fabric of America was woven in towns like this, the principals and values we’ve come to hold dear to our heart,” he says, “and a sense of community was developed in towns just like this.”

Grandma Bea’s

Local artist Debbie Statler also honors the past with her “Little House living.” She utilizes natural resources growing around her farm to create skin care items and home remedies, a craft she’s turned into a small business called Grandma Bea’s Natural Products. 

Debbie’s love for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the books are inspiration for her little “schoolhouse,” where she makes her wholesome, homemade, and all-natural products.

“Grandma used to say God gave us everything we needed within a 100-mile radius,” she says, “but I’ve condensed it to here on the farm.”

Debbie fondly remembers her grandmother when she makes products. 

“I love sharing my Little House world,” she says. “I’m very passionate about it.”

Perry County’s rich history, culture and community come together to create a truly unique experience in Missouri.


The geological landscape is one of the most unique aspects of the county. 

The limestone rock formation Tower Rock is located in the Mississippi River and is about 400 years old. It was spared in the 1800s by a presidential order and mapped by William Clark on Lewis & Clark’s expedition of exploring the river. Many Lutherans also consider Tower Rock their Plymouth Rock because it’s the area they set up as their new home. 

Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area, located at the base of a 50-foot limestone cliff, reveals a complex underground cave system, in which heavy rainfall erodes sediment into smooth polished rock. 

Perry County, or “Cave County,” has the highest density of caves in Missouri, with complex connected systems of underground streams, sinkholes, and caves.

Local spelunker Gerry Keene says there are more than 700 caves in the county. Some caves are “living and breathing” with their own echo system, while others are not.

Brew Pub and Pizza

There are plenty of places to explore in Perry County, like Jackson Street Brew Co. where craft beer and flavorful pizzas are served.

Owner Matt Ruessler constructs tasty creations like his personal favorite Philly cheesesteak-inspired Always Sunny or top-selling Dragon Slayer with chipotle roasted chicken.

“Every bite is a little something different,” he says.

Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial

The final stop for this Missouri Life TV episode is Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. Vietnam veteran Jim Eddelman used his personal resources and donations from around the nation to create this exact duplicate of the Washington, DC, Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

When Jim was in Vietnam in 1968, he promised himself if he returned home, he’d do something to show his respect and honor for his comrades. 

“Some people can walk right up to the wall and look at a name and reflect on it,” he says, “but some cannot do it. They might sit back or stand back and look. It’s a very emotional time.”

Jim concludes: “Thank a veteran for his service.”

Perry County is truly a special place, with numerous geological wonders, cherished history, and opportunities for human connections. The people are passionate, whether it’s about their projects, products, or veterans.

This Missouri Life TV episode is evidence of why travelers should meet the people and see the places of Perry County.