The swamps’ dense forest contained millions of feet of markable timber. Some oaks reached circumferences of 27 feet and some cypress to 10 to 12 feet. In the late 1800’s, lumbermen recognized the value of the abundant timber buying up the land for next to nothing.

Without transportation, most of these large trees would still be standing because the finished product needed a market. Trains provided transportation to market. Large bulky loads could be carried out of this swampy wildness and transported long distances to furniture and building markets.

Dr. E. J. Malone had his saw mill on Little River. The “Cat” (Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad) crossed the river here to head towards Buffington westward to Dexter and Popular Bluff. Dr. Malone’s holdings, equipment and land became part of I. Himmelberger & Co., a partnership between Isaac Himmelberger and his son John Himmelberger. At this time the decision was made to move their milling operation from the Stoddard County community of Buffington to Little River Station.

At least, until 1895, the community was still Little River, according to the 1895 Matthews Northrop map. The east-west railroad was now a train stop was called Little River Station. This was the year the Himmelberger’s consolidated their lumber interest with the heirs of Charles L. Luce to form the Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company.



In 1898, Cat branch of the Iron Mountain Railroad became owner of the Houck Road. Lonas Houck builds this road in a shoddy manner. Ties were too far apart. Light steel rails were used. Instead of removing large trees, the railroad was run around them. Still, the road was able to fulfill its purpose that of hauling freight from the swamplands.

According to George Franklin Cram’s 1901 map old “Cat” branch railroad became the St. Louis, Morehouse, and Southern Railway for a short time.  The road went from Popular Bluff to Jackson, then over to Cape Girardeau and became part of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway.

Changing ownership again in 1902, the “Cat” road became part of the Frisco system. Now this branch of the Frisco railroad was called the “Pea Vine” road. Improvements were started by laying heavier rails on new ties and straightening the roadbed by removing trees instead of going around them. In 1906, four years after Frisco acquired the old Houck Road, a depot was erected. One freight and one passenger train was scheduled each day for Morehouse.


 
 
While it is generally accepted that most earthquakes are caused by continental drift; however, this does not explain the New Madrid Earthquakes as we are not where near the edge of a continent. Recently I came across the following on the internet and was out of it before I realized I would want to quote it and have not been able to find it. So it will be presented without giving the authority posting it.

 About a billion years ago the earth had cooled enough for surface rocks to be strong enough to support the first great mountain range. The worn down nubs of these ancient Himalayas (above, across the center of the landmass)  still stretch across Quebec and Northern New York State, now called the Laurentide mountains and giving their name to this particular toddler continent. But in the formation of Laurentia the bedrock of igneous granite and quartz was broken and cracked, then buried under a few billion tons of sedimentary sandstone and limestone washed down from the Laurentide Mountains.

For most of the next three quarters of a billion years, Laurentia slowly drifted, her west flank adding new terrains in more collisions, until she reached adulthood as the North American tectonic plate. And then, like a Mexican omelet that brings up last night's sweet and sour pork, about a million years ago a lump of ice brought back up that lump of broken rock in our belly.

It was the glacier melt that realigned North America's rivers from north to south. The Mississippi now carried the weight of the Rocky Mountains to America's abdomen, depositing billions of tons silt at low water right on top of the undigested meal. The piling weight caused the broken bedrock to occasionally shift. We know it shifted 2,500 years ago, again 1,800 years ago, and again 600 years ago. And then, one more time, 200 years ago. That last time, it happened to people who wrote the experience down

In 1777, on the outer bank of a great westward bend of the half mile wide river (above), 175 river miles south of St. Louis (and 70 air miles south of the mouth of the Ohio River),the Spanish established a fort they named after their capital - New Madrid. One year later Azor Rees, a farmer from Pennsylvania arrived with his wife and 3 year old daughter Eliza. The Rees willing swore allegiance to the Charles III of Spain, and adopted Roman Catholicism. They were successful in the community, even after Azor died in 1796. Then in 1803, with the Louisiana Purchase, they became Americans again.

Seven years later, the town of New "MAD-rid" had 400 residents, including the now 31 year old Eliza Rees Bryan – married to a United States Army surgeon. Having a government job, Dr. Bryan received a regular paycheck, and Eliza's mother also operated a boarding house, making them a very important family in this small frontier town. So it was natural that Eliza, in a time and a place where an educated woman was still a rarity, would be asked by a visiting evangelist to record what she had experienced. This is what Eliza wrote.

“On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating...The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro....the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrogade for a few minutes....formed a scene truly horrible.” The town's graveyard even disappeared into the river.

Fifteen miles to the south, and closer to the epicenter, stood the 27 houses of the river town of Little Prairie. Here 16 year old Ben Chartier and his mother were standing in the cabin doorway overlooking their orchards though the crisp 40 degree air. Abruptly, "The ground burst wide open and peach and apple trees were knocked down and then blowed up.” The leading citizen of Little Prairie was George Roddell. As swamps next to his property “rose up and became dry land”, he watched his home and grain mill swallowed by the collapsing earth. Within fifteen minutes the residents were waist deep in the cold roiling Mississippi. Stumbling in the dark water, without lights, Roddell led his 100 neighbors in search of dry land. They did not find any until the village of Hayti, eight miles to the northwest.

As the riverbed below the New Madrid Bend rose up, the river was sent rushing backward, swamping 30 flatboats tied up for the night. Their crews were heard calling in terror as the darkness and the mad river swallowed them. On one of those boats that survived, Scotchman John Bradbury was awakened by “a most tremendous noise. All nature seemed running into chaos, as wild fowl fled, trees snapped and river banks tumbled into the water.”

Below the Bend another earthen block was thrown up, creating a waterfall that continued for days. Eliza observed that small shocks continued, “...until about sunrise...(when) one still more violent than the first took place... The inhabitants fled in every direction to the country...In one person, a female, the alarm was so great that she fainted, and could not be recovered. In all four died in New Madrid.

In St. Louis, two hundred miles north of the epicenter, a reporter for the Louisiana Gazette noted he had been “roused from sleep by the clamor of windows, doors and furniture in tremulous motion, with a distant rumbling noise, resembling a number of carriages passing over pavement – in a few seconds the motion and subterranean thunder increased....The agitation...lasted about one and three fourth minutes....At forty seven minutes past two, another shock was felt...much less violent than the first...At thirty four minutes past three, a third shock...(lasted) about fifty seconds...About 8 o'clock, a fifth shock was felt; this was almost as violent as the first, accompanied with the usual noise, it lasted about half a minute...”.

In South Carolina wells went dry and people were awakened from their sleep. In Washington, D.C., chairs slid about wooden floors and chandeliers were sent vibrating. Church bells rang in Philadelphia and as far north as Boston. Two hundred thirty miles from the epicenter, at the falls of the Ohio River, in Louisville, Kentucky, Zachary Taylor recorded, “The sight was truly awful: houses cracking, chimneys falling, men, women and children running in all directions in their shirts for safety, and a friend of mine was so much alarmed as to jump off a window and was very much hurt.”

By current scientific figuring it was at least a seven on the Mercalli scale, and maybe an eight. If the later, that meant at least two aftershocks in the seven range, four above six and at least eight above five. But superimposed over this pattern, On January 13, 1812, in St Louis, the Governor of Louisiana Territory, sent an urgent request to Washington, arguing “provisions ought to be made by law for or cashiered to the said inhabitants relief, either out of the public fund or in some other way”. But “the Supreme Being of the Universe” as Governor Clark called him, was not yet finished with the residents of New Madrid.

On January 23, 1812, there was a second major quake measuring between a seven and an eight, this time centered even closer to New Madrid. Artist James Audubon, on a boat trip to paint the new country, wrote in his journal, “ I heard what I imagined to be the distant rumbling of a violent tornado…at that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move...The ground rose and fell in successive furrows like the ruffled waters of a lake.” Godfrey LeSieur saw the ground, “rolling in waves of a few feet in height... These swells burst, throwing up large volumes of water (and) sand...(Leaving) large, wide and long fissures...I have seen some four or five miles in length, four and one-half feet deep on an average about ten feet wide.” George Crist, a farmer in Kentucky, confided to his diary, “We lost our Amandy Jane in this one – a log fell on her...A lot of people thinks that the devil has come here. Some thinks that this is the beginning of the world coming to an end.”

Then, as Eliza Rees Bryan noted, on the 7th of February, “..about 4 o'clock A.M., a concussion took place so much more violent...At first the Mississippi seemed to recede...leaving for the moment many boats, ...on bare sand...It then rising fifteen to twenty feet....the banks were overflowed with the retrogade current, rapid as a torrent - the boats....were now torn from their moorings, and suddenly driven up a little creek...nearly a quarter of a mile. The river falling immediately...with such violence, that...whole groves of young cotton-wood trees...were broken off....A great many fish were left on the banks...The river was literally covered with the wrecks of boats, and 'tis said that one was wrecked in which there was a lady and six children, all of whom were lost.” There was now not a house undamaged nor a chimney standing within 250 miles of New Madrid.

At the headwaters of the Tennessee River, in the village of Knoxville, “the river rose several feet, the trees on the shore shook...hundreds of old trees that had lain perhaps half a century at the bottom of the river, appeared...” Six hundred miles from the epicenter, in Charleston, South Carolina there was, “Another severe shock....Books and other articles were thrown from shelves, and chairs and other furniture standing against walls, made a rattling noise...”.

Back in New Madrid, membership in the Methodist Church went from 17 in 1811 to 165 in 1812. Eliza Rees Bryan noted, “The site of this town ... (has) settled down at least fifteen feet, and not more than a half a mile below the town...numerous large ponds or lakes....are elevated...fifteen to twenty feet....And lately it has been discovered that a lake was formed on the opposite side of the Mississippi (above)...upwards of one hundred miles in length, and from one to six miles in width,.” This came to be called Reelfoot Lake, and it is now a Tennessee Recreation Area. Responding with typical government efficiency, in 1815 congress voted to offer the December 1811 survivors of New Madrid, 640 free acres each, anywhere else in Missouri they wanted. Land speculators beat the government communications to the riverfront town, and bought up most of the claims for $40 to $60 each. Like earthquakes, mountains and continents, human greed is a repetitive story.

About a billion years ago the earth had cooled enough for surface rocks to be strong enough to support the first great mountain range. The worn down nubs of these ancient Himalayas (above, across the center of the landmass)  still stretch across Quebec and Northern New York State, now called the Laurentide mountains and giving their name to this particular toddler continent. But in the formation of Laurentia the bedrock of igneous granite and quartz was broken and cracked, then buried under a few billion tons of sedimentary sandstone and limestone washed down from the Laurentide Mountains.

For most of the next three quarters of a billion years, Laurentia slowly drifted, her west flank adding new terrains in more collisions, until she reached adulthood as the North American tectonic plate. And then, like a Mexican omelet that brings up last night's sweet and sour pork, about a million years ago a lump of ice brought back up that lump of broken rock in our belly.

It was the glacier melt that realigned North America's rivers from north to south. The Mississippi now carried the weight of the Rocky Mountains to America's abdomen, depositing billions of tons silt at low water right on top of the undigested meal. The piling weight caused the broken bedrock to occasionally shift. We know it shifted 2,500 years ago, again 1,800 years ago, and again 600 years ago. And then, one more time, 200 years ago. That last time, it happened to people who wrote the experience down

In 1777, on the outer bank of a great westward bend of the half mile wide river (above), 175 river miles south of St. Louis (and 70 air miles south of the mouth of the Ohio River) , the Spanish established a fort they named after their capital - New Madrid. One year later Azor Rees, a farmer from Pennsylvania arrived with his wife and 3 year old daughter Eliza. The Rees willing swore allegiance to the Charles III of Spain, and adopted Roman Catholicism. They were successful in the community, even after Azor died in 1796. Then in 1803, with the Louisiana Purchase, they became Americans again.

Seven years later, the town of New "MAD-rid" had 400 residents, including the now 31 year old Eliza Rees Bryan – married to a United States Army surgeon. Having a government job, Dr. Bryan received a regular paycheck, and Eliza's mother also operated a boarding house, making them a very important family in this small frontier town. So it was natural that Eliza, in a time and a place where an educated woman was still a rarity, would be asked by a visiting evangelist to record what she had experienced. This is what Eliza wrote.

“On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating...The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro....the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrogade for a few minutes....formed a scene truly horrible.” The town's graveyard even disappeared into the river.

Fifteen miles to the south, and closer to the epicenter, stood the 27 houses of the river town of Little Prairie. Here 16 year old Ben Chartier and his mother were standing in the cabin doorway overlooking their orchards though the crisp 40 degree air. Abruptly, "The ground burst wide open and peach and apple trees were knocked down and then blowed up.” The leading citizen of Little Prairie was George Roddell. As swamps next to his property “rose up and became dry land”, he watched his home and grain mill swallowed by the collapsing earth. Within fifteen minutes the residents were waist deep in the cold roiling Mississippi. Stumbling in the dark water, without lights, Roddell led his 100 neighbors in search of dry land. They did not find any until the village of Hayti, eight miles to the northwest.

As the riverbed below the New Madrid Bend rose up, the river was sent rushing backward, swamping 30 flatboats tied up for the night. Their crews were heard calling in terror as the darkness and the mad river swallowed them. On one of those boats that survived, Scotchman John Bradbury was awakened by “a most tremendous noise. All nature seemed running into chaos, as wild fowl fled, trees snapped and river banks tumbled into the water.”

Below the Bend another earthen block was thrown up, creating a waterfall that continued for days. Eliza observed that small shocks continued, “... until about sunrise ... (when) one still more violent than the first took place... The inhabitants fled in every direction to the country...In one person, a female, the alarm was so great that she fainted, and could not be recovered. In all four died in New Madrid.

In St. Louis, two hundred miles north of the epicenter, a reporter for the Louisiana Gazette noted he had been “roused from sleep by the clamor of windows, doors and furniture in tremulous motion, with a distant rumbling noise, resembling a number of carriages passing over pavement – in a few seconds the motion and subterranean thunder increased....The agitation...lasted about one and three fourth minutes .... At forty seven minutes past two, another shock was felt...much less violent than the first ... At thirty four minutes past three, a third shock...(lasted) about fifty seconds...About 8 o'clock, a fifth shock was felt; this was almost as violent as the first, accompanied with the usual noise, it lasted about half a minute...”.

In South Carolina wells went dry and people were awakened from their sleep. In Washington, D.C., chairs slid about wooden floors and chandeliers were sent vibrating. Church bells rang in Philadelphia and as far north as Boston. Two hundred thirty miles from the epicenter, at the falls of the Ohio River, in Louisville, Kentucky, Zachary Taylor recorded, “The sight was truly awful: houses cracking, chimneys falling, men, women and children running in all directions in their shirts for safety, and a friend of mine was so much alarmed as to jump off a window and was very much hurt.”

By current scientific figuring it was at least a seven on the Mercalli scale, and maybe an eight. If the later, that meant at least two aftershocks in the seven range, four above six and at least eight above five. But superimposed over this pattern, On January 13, 1812, in St Louis, the Governor of Louisiana Territory, sent an urgent request to Washington, arguing “provisions ought to be made by law for or cashiered to the said inhabitants relief, either out of the public fund or in some other way”. But “the Supreme Being of the Universe” as Governor Clark called him, was not yet finished with the residents of New Madrid.

On January 23, 1812, there was a second major quake measuring between a seven and an eight, this time centered even closer to New Madrid. Artist James Audubon, on a boat trip to paint the new country, wrote in his journal, .  . .  I heard what I imagined to be the distant rumbling of a violent tornado…at that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move...The ground rose and fell in successive furrows like the ruffled waters of a lake.” Godfrey Lessieur saw the ground, “rolling in waves of a few feet in height... These swells burst, throwing up large volumes of water (and) sand...(Leaving) large, wide and long fissures...I have seen some four or five miles in length, four and one-half feet deep on an average about ten feet wide.” George Crist, a farmer in Kentucky, confided to his diary, “We lost our Amandy Jane in this one – a log fell on her...A lot of people thinks that the devil has come here. Some thinks that this is the beginning of the world coming to an end.”

Then, as Eliza Rees Bryan noted, on the 7th of February, “..about 4 o'clock A.M., a concussion took place so much more violent...At first the Mississippi seemed to recede...leaving for the moment many boats, ...on bare sand...It then rising fifteen to twenty feet....the banks were overflowed with the retrogade current, rapid as a torrent - the boats....were now torn from their moorings, and suddenly driven up a little creek...nearly a quarter of a mile. The river falling immediately...with such violence, that...whole groves of young cotton-wood trees...were broken off....A great many fish were left on the banks...The river was literally covered with the wrecks of boats, and 'tis said that one was wrecked in which there was a lady and six children, all of whom were lost.” There was now not a house undamaged nor a chimney standing within 250 miles of New Madrid.

At the headwaters of the Tennessee River, in the village of Knoxville, “the river rose several feet, the trees on the shore shook...hundreds of old trees that had lain perhaps half a century at the bottom of the river, appeared...” Six hundred miles from the epicenter, in Charleston, South Carolina there was, “Another severe shock....Books and other articles were thrown from shelves, and chairs and other furniture standing against walls, made a rattling noise...”.

Back in New Madrid, membership in the Methodist Church went from 17 in 1811 to 165 in 1812. Eliza Rees Bryan noted, “The site of this town...(has) settled down at least fifteen feet, and not more than a half a mile below the town...numerous large ponds or lakes....are elevated...fifteen to twenty feet....And lately it has been discovered that a lake was formed on the opposite side of the Mississippi (above)...upwards of one hundred miles in length, and from one to six miles in width,.” This came to be called Reelfoot Lake, and it is now a Tennessee Recreation Area

Responding with typical government efficiency, in 1815 congress voted to offer the December 1811 survivors of New Madrid, 640 free acres each, anywhere else in Missouri they wanted. Land speculators beat the government communications to the riverfront town, and bought up most of the claims for $40 to $60 each. Like earthquakes, mountains and continents, human greed is a repetitive story.

 
 
Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Company drew up the first formal plat of the Village of Morehouse in 1898. By now, the population had grown to 900 with sixteen businesses, two of which dealt with the lumber industry. Drawing up a plan for the proposed town was the first step towards incorporating a community.

In 1908, the Village of Morehouse was recorded in the Recorders office at New Madrid recognizing the City of Morehouse as a forth class city adopting a mayor-alderman system of government. The 1910 census recorded a population of 1636 residents. This was nearly an 82% increase in ten years.

The name came from A. P. Morehouse, lieutenant-governor of Missouri. He became governor at the death of Marmaduke in 1887, serving until 1889 when he retired from public life. Two years later, he died; committing suicide. 

Missouri in the only state in the Union with town named Morehouse.


Himmelberger-Luce Starts Dredging

Himmelberger-Luce Start Dredging


Between 1860 and 1890, three important developments helped pave the way for drainage of southeast Missouri’s swamplands. The land within the Little River Drainage District was given to Missouri under the Swamp Land Act of September 28, 1850.

Hoping to encourage development, the state transferred large tracks of these lands to the counties. Counties always needing monies to support the local government hoped their ownership would encourage more aggressive actions by local developers to buy the land especially as it would be to the county’s benefit. Not only would they be able to collect taxes for developed lands, the money from their sale would go to the county government.

The land was offered for sale far as little as $1.25 per acre. Few people were interested in the land for farming operations. A few land spectators did take advantage of the offer. However, it was the logging interest that made most of the purchases

Himmelberger-Luce Land and Lumber Co. desiring to dredge the Little River channel contacted the county about a contract to do the job, which they got.  The channel was shallow, crooked, and chocked with trees and brush. Instead of draining the watershed, the river overflow flooded the whole area. Instead of taking a short cut for the swamps of Arkansas the rainfalls and headwaters left the channel flowing over the level county around.

From around Cape Girardeau to the Arkansas   state line, there was a 100 feet drop in elevation. As the distance is about 10 miles, that is a drop of one foot per mile.

Draining timbered swampland was a formidable task. To use shovel-wielding men or mule–drawn scrapers to excavate the massive ditch as needed to drain the swampland was virtually impossible.

Floating dredge using yard-wide bucket operated by steam power and dynamite made the job possible. Floating dredges moved up to one-thousand cubic yards of material daily were used.   While this cost up the $3,000 a day, it was the only feasible way to drain swampland.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, large tracks of land in Southeast Missouri were selling for pennies per acre. In nearby Stoddard County one such body of more than 8,000 acres sold for $663.95.

Dredging operations in 1896 cut the channel deeper while crooked places were cut off by ditching across them to straighten the channel out. Staring at the Iron Mountain Railroad, at Morehouse, the dredging operations ended at the south end of the county. This was the real beginning of draining the swamps of New Madrid County.

  In neighboring counties, other drainage projects quickly followed. By 1910, all the land north of the Iron Mountain Railroad and east of Little River is thoroughly drained and a large portion is under cultivation.  The rest of the counties in the Little River Watershed in Missouri were activity draining their swamps.

 Land that appeared in 1880 to Isaac Himmelberger as worthless, except for the timber growing on it, was becoming rich farmland. Being able to grow 75 to 100 bushels of corn per acres raised the selling price of $1.25 per acre in 1880, to $100 per acre in 1910.

Himmelberger-Lucy Land and Lumber Company was paid by the county in land for dredging Little River receiving several thousand acres of land for their work. A large portion of this acreage already had the timber removed. Much of it had been sold and resold several times and was in a high state of cultivation.

Dredging operation of the Little River ended in 1899. Within the three years of its operation, the county changed from an economy built entirely on lumber to become increasing an agriculture-timber mixed economy.

Entrepreneurs were encouraged to build railroads into and out of the swamps. To encourage railroad development strips of land was given to those building railroads along their roadbeds. This was a common practice. Between 1850 and 1870, over 129 million acres, seven percent of the continental United States, had been ceded to 80 railroads; most of it west of the Mississippi River. Ten square miles of land was given for each mile of track laid. Usually, the state was given an equal amount of land by the federal government.

Land titles of several thousand acres of land were given to the Fulton & Alton Railroad Co. in 1857. This was part of the government’s efforts to encourage develop the west. Twenty-one years later, in 1878, the Cairo, Arkansas, & Texas Railroad Company laid rails through the area where Morehouse later developed. This line was called the “Cat.”

By 1892, Little River Station’s business district had grown to include C. L. Armstrong, hotel owner and barber; Berry and Hawk Meat market; H. F. Emery & Co., general Store; I. Himmelberger & Co., saw mill; John Himmelberger, express agent; W. H. Marshall General Store; Lud Myer, temperance saloon; James Roberts, grist mill; and James Ryans, hotel.

 




 
 
Morley & Morehouse Railroad v. John Himmelberger

Supreme Court of Missouri


On July 1, 1897, Stephen B. Hunter entered into a written agreement with the Morley & Morehouse Railroad Company, Hock’s Missouri & Arkansas Railroad Company and Louis J. Houch.  Hunter agreed to furnish $20,000 for the purchase of railroad materials, payments were to be made on delivery of rails, ties, and other construction materials to the Morley & Morehouse Railroad Company.

Five years for the date this agreement was signed, the Morley & Morehouse Railroad, Houck’s Missouri & Arkansas   Railroad company and Louis Houch agree to pay Stephen B. Hunt $20,000 plus eight per cent interest per year, all interest payable annually. Hunter was to be issued a trust deed on the proposed rail line from Morley to Morehouse. An additional security promise by Louis Houck to Hunter was a deposit in a bank of $20,000 in bonds of Houck’s Missouri & Arkansas Railroad.

Hunter, a real estate merchant, large land owner, would later establish the community Huntersville in Stoddard County about 1904. By 1938, he was director of the Missouri penal institutions. Before dealing seriously with Houch, Hunter made an agreement with I. Himmelberger to assign his rights to the lumber company.

Houck wanting to make sure the rail line was assured revenues. Therefore, an additional agreement was reached giving Hunter and his assigns, certain specified freight rates guaranties. Covered were lumber and all other manufactured forest products from Morehouse to Cape Girardeau, East Cape Girardeau, and Commerce. Also included were logs and spoke butts from any point on the Morley & Morehouse Railroad. Hunter and his assigns (I. Himmelberger & Company) claimed the right to haul logs with their own engines and cars at the same rates on ties and pilings shipped to Cape Girardeau and Commerce at the lowest rates given any other shipper.

This contract was to be in force for five years from the date of its’ signing. Hunter inserted an escape clause; this contract binds him to fulfill it “unless prevented by fire or other unavoidable accident to give, furnish and deliver, or causes to be done by others, to; whom he may assign of transfer his rights hereunder.

Five thousand dollars of freight was to be delivered to Morley & Morehouse Railroad each of the five years of the contract. Part of this money was to be put on in interest with the rest applied to the principal. If Hunter does not fulfill his part of the deal, he agrees to take first mortgage bonds on Houck’s Missouri & Arkansas Railroad.

Louis Houck can be given a lot of credit for opening up the swamp lands of Southeast Missouri. By training, the Illinois born son of a printer, became a lawyer. For a year, 1868-1869, he lived in St. Louis where he served as an Assistance U. S. Attorney. After moving to Cape Girardeau to practice law, his interest shifted to railroads. His first adventure into railroad build came in 1880 when he promoted and build the Cape Girardeau Railway Company.



             

 
 
Picture
Educational Beginnings


In 1889, serious thought was first given to the idea of a school for the developing community. Everyone assumed that the area was included in the Pharris Ridge School District. The Thursday, May 10, 1900 edition of the Southeast Missourian, New Madrid ran a story placing Pharris Ridge settlement eight miles southwest of Sikeston. This location came from a story reprinted from the Sikeston Clarion.

Citizen around the Himmelberger mill thought the Pharris Ridge area should be considered within the same district they lived in. Therefore, children from both areas should continue to attend the Pharris Ridge School. The citizens from that school district disagreed. Because of their objections, an election was held in that district. Recognizing the importance of the issue, John H. Himmelberger closed the mill for the day. Wading through the swamps to Pharris Ridge to the voting place, Morehouse residences out voted that district.

Pharris Ridge was not happy with the outcome of the election. So great was their disaffection and complaints, the case was taken to court. Surveyors were brought in and Pharris Ridge lost, as it was proven the school was not in their district.

      This action alerted the leading citizens of Morehouse to the necessity of creating a local school district. In 1891, John Himmelberger donated land on the east side of Jackson Street and gave part of the lumber, and some money to build a one room school. To raise the rest of the money needed, funds were raised by entertainment events of assorted kinds until the building was complete and paid for. Himmelberger saw this as advancing the town and the populace into better, more active citizens. He realized a content mother meant a happier husband and in turn, a better employee.

At an unknown date, the one-room was partitioned into two rooms and an office for the principal. Three teachers were soon hired. Then in 1903, this structure burned.

Classes for the rest of the year were held in the “Temple,” located across from Rauch’s Drug Store in the Vanausdale Store Building located on the corner of Front Street and the Farm to Market Highway

 
 
Himmelberger bought out the small sawmill started in 1880 by E. J. Malone. A small area was cut out of the wilderness to erect the mill and build a few houses for the workers along the banks of Little River. It was not much of a mill. However, it did attract workers who brought their families. This was the beginning of Morehouse.

 The workers and their families that moved into the wilderness around Morehouse had to be able to put up with a great deal of discomfort.  Heat, cold, flies, mosquitoes, humidly, and snakes, were all part of daily living. Housing was not, by today’s standards, suitable for a dog house.

 Some of these shacks were clustered close to the saw mills; others were in the woods set apart from the others. Most were only one room, build on stilts, made of green lumber of unequal thickness that shrank and warped as it seasoned. Also coming from the cull pile, was bark covered strips used to cover the gaps between the outside wall boards. Doors were loose fitting and homemade. Windows, if they had them, may have been oiled newspaper. Pricy was unheard of. 

The number of houses and amount of people increased for a number of years. However, the community was not stable. Because so many of the families were transit, the community and work force was in a state of flux.

Like the people living by it, Little River was uncontrolled.  With the land relative flat, the river’s spread was determined only by the amount of water it carried. Especially in the Spring Little River claimed much of Little River Valley.

   

This community in the northwest corner of New Madrid County, in 1889 had three businesses; I. Himmelberger & Co. saw mill; Casson Weakley Hotel; Winchester and Marshall General Store. Population was now 150. The nearest bank was five-and-one-half miles away at Sikeston.

By 1900, the population reached 900; the community was now starting to stabilize into a more civilized society. Commercial hunting became less important.

Even as the population increased, the buildings looked much the same. They were built with rough timber. Because of the frequent flooding, they were built on stilts. Even the sidewalks, what few they had had been also build on stilts.

Little River was not a navigable stream except for small gasoline launches. Sundays found the river full of young men and their small water crafts. The river furnished a variety of fish for the residents’ dinner table.

 
 
Early Settlement


First settlers in Morehouse arrived around 1880. When they arrived, the only permanent building in the area was a railroad section house, a building used to store roadway repair equipment, for the Cape Girardeau and Caruthersville branch of the Cairo Arkansas and Texas railroad commonly called the “Cat”.  Work was done to keep the road in good repair.

The “Cat” road was soon operating two passengers and one freight train each way a day. Poles were set and strung with two telegraph wires. Morehouse was then connected to the outside world.

In 1867, Isaac Himmelberger started a lumber and saw mill operation at Logansport, Indiana.  Around 1879, his son, John H. Himmelberger with I. Himmelberger started operation at Bluffingtion, in Stoddard County, Missouri.  Because the mill in Missouri only had a small amount of equipment, Himmelberger augmented the equipment by moving more equipment for Logansport.  

Buffington, at this time showed promise of becoming a thriving town. From 1886 to 1904, a post office was located there. Only by the luck of the draw did Himmelberger choose to move the major part of his operation to Morehouse.

The Buffington mill, as bought was powered by a thirty-horse power plant and employed from forth to fifty men. Its production could not come close to meeting the orders they had.

Orders were coming in from Northern Illinois and Iowa for material for plows; wagon parts orders came from Kentucky and Illinois. Handles made from gum sold in the Chicago and New York markets.

Business was so good that in 1886, the mill’s capacity was doubled. Still they were unable to meet the demand for lumber.  Another mill was build powered by a fifty house-power plant. Employment went up to sixty more men. Daily, the production reached 40,000 board feet.

Within a few years Isaac Himmelberger joined a partnership with John Burris making barrel staves at Dexter, Missouri. Because his other businesses demanded so much time, this relationship did not last long.

With the establishment of the Missouri mill, John Himmelberger became the bookkeeper and manager. Then in 1887, he became a full partner and was in charge of the Stoddard County business.

 
 
In late 1890, the federal government declared the frontier closed. More men started drifting into Southeast Missouri. Workers entering the swamps had to be hardy people to survive. Working condition were the worst. The weather was blistering hot in the summer and miserably cold during the winters while finding it difficult to stay dry any time of the year. Isolation and loneliness along with sickness was a constant problem. With water all around, none of it was fit to drank, therefore, moonshine became the drink of choose.

The work was backbreaking. To stay out of the water, Titer boards were used; which meant a notch was cut in a tree above the water and a board was inserted. Then you balanced yourself while cutting a tree that may have a diameter of twenty feet. Hard men were necessary to cut the timber to feed logs to mills.

Axes and one- and two-man felling saws were the common tools. Falling trees went were they were inclined to in spite of the sawing angle and driven wedges.  Falling tree trunks became projectiles of huge weight and momentum when they fell. Sawn trees hung up on standing tree making weapons of the sawed tree trunk, making them “widow-makers.”

Logging was a dangerous job that required hard physical labor and brute strength. Stihl’s gas-powered chain saws were not mass-produced until the 1930’s and not widely used until after World War II.

No wonder Morehouse and the other mill towns in the area had an undesirable reputation among citizens of more settle regions. Many frontier towns had less than savory reputations. This was especially true of lumber camps, and mining towns. Upstanding, highly moral and upright men were not attracted to the life required to work in these areas.  Morehouse was considered one of the roughest placed in the state


 
 


 On April 9, 1851, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported the New Madrid Herald said the earth there shook longer and was more intent than any felt for several years. Preceding and following the shock a rumbling noise resembling thunder was heard. The earth opened near West Lake in several places and on the Wm. Connelly, seven miles from town. Six miles from town on the Silas Beavers farm the earth opened and threw sand and water to forty to fifty feet into the air. This was believed to be the first time the earth opened since 1812.

March 2, 1851 Commercial Appeal


 
 
However, the vast quantities of timber attracted humans. Trees were here because of the land. The rivers brought the soils to form the land. In a word, “geography” created a system that birth Morehouse. The land and its products determined the economy of an area. Especially, this is true in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, frequently called the Delta.

Early maps of the Morehouse Lowlands showed how much they did not know about the area. An 1823 edition of the Bradford map named what is now known as Little River, White Water River.  Anthony Finley and David H. Vance published a map in 1826, Missouri and Territory of Arkansas, which also showed White Water Creek, not Little River, running through the area. 

 Tanners’ 1833 New Map of Arkansas with its Canals and Roads shows an unnamed river running north from Arkansas stopping before reaching as far north as New Madrid. Morris and Breese 1845 Arkansas map showed Little River not leaving the Bootheel.

The headwater of Little River rises in the St. Francois Hills flowing south through New Madrid, Pemiscot and Dunklin Counties into Arkansas. Whitewater is the name that seemed to apply to the entire stream shortly after the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812.

To the Indians, it was Ne ska or Unica. Schoolcraft says the Osage name was Unica, meaning white, but he is believed to have confused the White River, largely in Arkansas   and Whitewater, this stream. The Chippeway name for the river was also Ne ska, meaning white water it is often written Niska. Early Spanish explorers called it Rio Blanch and the French La Rivier Blanche or L’eu Blanch.

In the English translation it became Whitewater by which name the entire stream was known as late as 1817. The name “Little” seems to have been given between 11817-1822, in the French form La Petite Riviere, with reference to the size of the Mississippi and St. Francis with which Little River lies between and was compared to the two.


 
    Having grown up on Little River, I have been fascinated with it. Over the past several years, as a local historian, this area has been a special interest. 

     These areas have been treated much like step-children by Jefferson City and Little Rock. They seem to believe nothing has ever happened here.  Our history has been long and varied. Hope you enjoy my trip.  

    Near Puxico is the swampy Mingo Wildlife Refuge. One hundred and fifty year ago, most of the Little River Valley appeared that way. This valley covering two million acres was part of the largest wetland in America.

    Floods frequently intimated the Valley. Between 1815 and 2011, 15 major floods covered or threatened the area.

    Timber companies came in at the end of the 19th Century to clean cut the forest. Louis Houck, a Cape Girardeau lawyer and railroad builder, envisioned a rail network that covered the wetlands.

    Little River Drainage District (LRDD) Corporation was established in 1907 by an act of the Butler County (MO) Circuit Court. 

    Between 1909 and 1928 the LRDD dug nearly 1000 miles of ditches and constructed 30 miles of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of swamp and overflow land in Southeast Missouri. More dirt was moved than in building the Panama Canal.

    One surprise I had was the number of settlements in the area before 1811-1812. Another was the water connection between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis and I had no idea that Little River had enough current to run a grist mill.

    Norman Vickers

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