On April 19, 1851 the Memphis Commercial Appeal carried the following story from "The New Madrid Herald says that the shock continued longer and was more severe than any felt for several years.A rumbling noise resembling thunder, preceded and followed the shock. Near West Lake the earth opened in several places, and also on the farm of W. Connelly, eleven miles from the town. On the farm of Silas Beavers, six miles from town, it opened and threw sand and water to the height of forty or fifty feet. The earth had not opened  before since 1812.
 
 
Others Sawmills


Morehouse was a mill town. While Himmelberger and Harrison was the dominant economic force in town, there were other lumber and timber mills. With a 1920 peak population of 1913 people Morehouse was able to support five lumbers and saw mill operations. Not only did each operation have a saw mill but also at least one other finishing factor.

Bimel Ashcraft Manufacturing Company make spokes for wagons. They were located at the North end of Bates Street on the east end of town. Their property in 1919 crossed the St. Louis Iron Mountain Rail Road.   Branching off the rail line here was a siding that joined and crossed the Frisco lint running into Himmelberger and Harrison’s property.  A saw mill supported the Bimel Ashcraft manufacturing enterprise.

North-north-west of Himmelberger and Harrison was John H. Kohl Company. They manufactured staves and headers. Their operation consisted of a saw mill, two dry kilns, and a stave mill (a stave is a thin, shaped strip of wood set edge to edge to for the wall of a barrel or bucket).

Located north of Himmelberger and Harrison, Morehouse Stave & Manufacturing Company produced tight & sack barrel staves as well as wagon spokes.  A sawmill produced raw materials for the manufacturing plant. Two warehouses were serviced by a siding of the St. Louis San Francisco Railroad.  Located near Little River where a wooden railroad trestle crossed.

Hanna & Young Handle Company was located 250 feet south of the Bimel Ashcraft spoke shed on the east end of town. Hanna and Young produced a variety of handles; broom, mop, shoves, hoes, and other home yard tools. Their manufacturing plant and stock shed had electric power and lights by no heat; water came from a well.

By 1911, the Miles Loper grist and saw mill on Spruce Street had closed.  However, a grain warehouse set on a Frisco siding was still in business.



  Little River Drainage District



The dredging and draining operations that I. Himmelberger started in 1896 later became the model later for the Little River Drainage District. Fifteen years after the initial effort of draining southeast Missouri, the Little River Drainage District became a formal taxing district able to issue bonds. Construction was financed by an $11 million in bonds beginning in 1913. Each landowner paid a small tax, based on property value, to a quasi-governmental agency.

The Little River Drainage District was incorporated on November 30, 1907 in the Circuit Court of Butler County with Cape Girardeau as the headquarters. Land owners meet at Morehouse for the first time on December, 30 of that year.

  John H. Himmelberger as president of Himmelberger became a major force in the formation of the Little River Drainage District.  Draining the “swamplands” of southeast Missouri was of financial advantage to Himmelberger-Harrison’s lumber interest.  With the swamp drained, cutting and moving timber became simpler, thus, decreasing the cost of each board feet of lumber furnished by his operation.

A five-member Board of supervisors was elected by the district’s landowners. Daily work by the district was to be overseen by a Chief Engineer and later the position of assistant Chief Engineer was added.



 Otto Kochtitzky was the first Chief Engineer charged with drawing up plans for draining Southeast Missouri. While not formally trained, he had experience and knew the land as he had mapped New Madrid and Pemiscot counties and laid out a route for a rail line between New Madrid and Malden. To help drain the swamps, he invented a walking excavator for ditching.

 The Little River Drainage District, one of the largest in the United States, encompassed 750,000 acres upland and 1.2 million all told in seven counties; Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Dunkin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, and Stoddard. Little River Drainage District was responsible for draining an area 90 miles long and from 10 to 20 miles wide.

The District knew they could depend on gravity to move the water. Topographical maps showed the elevation of the land dropped one foot per mile to the border.

Ditches extended from Cape Girardeau south to the Arkansas border. The main ditches maintained by draglines are 200 feet wide and able to carry water 8 feet deep. Smaller ditches are 30 to 40 feet wide.  

The longest ditch in the lower district is Ditch Number 1, which is approximately 100 miles long running from the northern end of the district to the Arkansas   state lin. Also in the main district, they are five ditches running parallel, which requires over one-quarter of a mile wide, 265,000 acres of improved acreage of farmland

Water carrying capacity is estimated to be over 31.5 million gallons of water through the system annually. Eventually all this water flows into the Mississippi River near Helena, Arkansas, by the St. Francis River. Some of the water travels 231 miles to get there.

Otto Kochtitzky Chief Engineer                                  Little River Drainage District

         

At the start of their work, the district had only 22,000 improved acres. This was increased to 265,000 acres of improved acreage of farmland. Less than 10% of the land was water free with the formation of the Little River Drainage District. When they had finished, 96% of the land was water free year round opening the land for habitation and farming.


Little River Drainage District between 1914-1928 cut 957.8 miles of ditches, built 304.43 miles of levees and three detention ponds. One source said dredging operations moved more dirt than moved to construct the Panama Canal; more than one million cubic yard.  Work in the area around Morehouse starting in September 1914, north of Highway 60, with Drainage District became the responsible of U. S. 

The Little River Drainage District, one of the largest in the United States, encompassed 750,000 acres upland and 1.2 million all told in seven counties; Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Dunkin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, and Stoddard. Little River Drainage District was responsible for draining an area 90 miles long and from 10 to 20 miles wide.


Little River Drainage District: Northern District


The Headwater Division Channel is a canal in southeast Missouri. Flowing west to east, it diverts the headwaters of the Castor and Whitewater’s (northern part of Little River) rivers, and Crooked Creek directly into the Mississippi River south of Cape Girardeau. The head water channel was built between 1912 and 1916, to divert the streams that formerly flowed into the Little River and still does in the downstream portion of the district.

On November 27, 1912, a contract was awarded to D. C. Stephens Company of Buffalo, New York, with the work expected to start in 1913.  This contract required a drainage ditch thirty miles long from near Allenville on the west and the Mississippi River on the east. A channel would be dug approximately one-hundred feet wide and twenty feet deep to carry the water from the north and west that had for generation regularly feed the great wetlands of Southeast Missouri, giving rise to the name “Swampeast Missouri.”

Stephen’ contract was for $1.25 million for clearing 4,000 acres of timber, building approximately forty miles of levees on the south side o the headwater, and moving eight-and-one-half million yards of soil. Roughly 34 miles long, this channel serves as a flood control structure and is not considered navigable. This was the largest single contract for movement of earth in world history.




Houck V. Little River Drainage District, John Himmelberger:

U. S. Supreme Court


 Louis Houck in 1898 builds a railroad, later to become part of the Frisco system, into Morehouse and beyond. Although the construction was shoddy and unsafe, its building rewarded him thousands of acres of swampland. As a supporter of Southeast Missouri builds railroads into this swampland to bring settlers into it. 

 As the Little River Drainage District work increased the value of the land Louis Houck owned, at first thought, you would think he would support it. Yet, he fierily opposed the Little River Drainage District, especially its power to tax. Twenty-five cents per acre does not seem much to pay for what you would get in return. But if you owned several thousand acres and was over extended financially, $1,000 was a lot of money (think in terms of 1909 dollars).

So, on October 27 and 28, 1915, Houck challenges to Little River Drainage District’s right to be able to level taxes; that the state of Missouri did not have to power to grant such an enterprise the right to tax. He also claimed he was deprived of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution without due process of law.  

The U. S. Supreme Court agreed with the Missouri Supreme Court in saying that the plaintiffs, Houck, was wrong in all its claims. Missouri’s Constitution bestowed the right to create the Little River Drainage District with taxing powers. In this instance, this tax did not deprive him of Due Process. The power to tax is not to be confused with eminent domain; it is not necessary to show special benefits in order to lay a tax, which is an enforced contribution or the payment of public expenses.


 
 
           Himmelberger and Harrison 1900


One has difficult realizing the extent of the Himmelberger and Harrison operation in 1900. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, one could walk for sever miles with stacks of rough lumber taller than their heads on either side of them.

From Mill Number 1 (closed by 1919) the lumber was hauled to the various stacks by trucks or elevated tracks. The lumber being stacked from the high tracks; with each layer separated by slim strips of wood to allow air to circulate between the layers to help dry, or cure, the lumber. Lumber Yard 1 (closed by 1919) was much higher than at Lumber Yard Number 2, which was twenty feet tall.

Lumber Yard Number 2 was stacked from the ground from lumber hauled by wagons. This was green lumber fresh from the saw mills. Here, the lumber remained for ninety days to season slowly.  After seasoning for six months, it was considered “bone-Dry,” which later became a trade mark for the company. Lumber Yard Number 2 had a capacity to hold 5, 000,000 feet of lumber.

However, a considerable amount of lumber, especially one inch thick or less, was shipped before three months In the Yard.

 Each mill had a dry kiln where the lumber was place on large trucks and enclosed in an area where the temperature is kept at about 160 decrees. Each section of the kiln was laced with a series of hot pipes. Wood scraps from the mills fired steam boilers to furnish heat.  The heated air in each kiln was circulated by large fans.  By 1910, Himmelberger and Harrison had lost three kilns from fire.

Not all the lumber shipped was air dried or green from the saw mills. Some of it spent ten days in a dry kiln before shipment. Air dried lumber was considered superior to that artificially dried in kilns. 

A Planning Mill was constructed in 1902. Here flooring, ceilings, molding, and about any custom wooden articles wanted for any variety of use was cut. Also in the Planning Mill furnished dimension materials for that part of the operation that worked in hickory products.

Saw Mill Number 2 was constructed in 1904. That was also the year the last of the Billington Mill was moved to Morehouse. This new mill was state-of-the-arts with a capacity to cut 50,000 board feet in a ten hour shift. This was done by a large 30 foot diameter band saw on one side of the mill and a large 20 foot diameter re-saw on the other side.

Belt and chain conveyors carried dimension squares to the Planning Mill where they were cut into the desired product and made ready for shipment. Slabs and offalls (unusable scrape pieces) were conveyed to the boiler area to either be burned to heat the kilns or send to a wood pile that could be used by the citizens of Morehouse for heating and cooking.



                    Himmelberger and Harrison Reaches Out for Raw Materials


1910, most of the usable timber close to the Morehouse mil had been cut. Logs had to be transported thirty miles from the south. Therefore, Himmelberger and Harrison built a short line railroad that joined the Frisco road at Risco.  Logs loaded on flatcars in the woods

Operation at Risco started almost as soon as Louis Houck completed his railroad into in 1900. The St. Louis San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) acquired the line a year later. Himmelberger and Harrison, very shortly after Frisco brought the line started logging operating with a four 2-2 steam locomotives, (two sets of smaller wheels in front and powered by two sets of larger wheels behind them). 


The St. Louis San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) acquired the line a year later. Himmelberger and Harrison, very shortly after Frisco brought the line started logging operating with a four 2-2 steam locomotives, (two sets of smaller wheels in front and powered by two sets of larger wheels behind them).



During construction an empty Frisco boxcar set at the end of the line which was used as an office.  The R was missing from the company name, so the construction site became Risco, a name the settlement around it kept the name.  At Risco, one steam engine serviced the log loaders and did the switching, and another transported logs to the mills at Morehouse.  Another locomotive was used in the Morehouse yard for switching; the fourth was held in reserve.


Where possible and when the ground was dry and hard, almost of the logs were transported to the train by horses. During the wet season, oxen were used. They had broader hoofs and thus more stale in mud and water.



Logging was a seasonal occupation being done largely between July and December. As many as 250 teams were used at the same time during the busier September and October.


The short line (tram) road was 25 miles long. Two long loaders loaded 100 flat cars. To feed all the mills when they were running required 20 acres of timber.

Tram Switch was a log loading station on the Frisco just north of Canalou. On the maps, it was Deshler, named after the man overseeing this operation for Himmelberger and Harrison, who built this short line track. Within the company, it was Tram Switch. The tram, or tramway, is a short roadway or railway used for transporting logs or lumber from the camps to the railroad.

Trams also ran into Stoddard County. Indian Spur was laid out in 1907. Himmelberger and Harrison ask Frisco to name seven mile spur. As the Himmelberger family came from Indiana, the railroad chose the name, Indian Spur.


Not only were logs delivered by tram.  A great many were came from upstream on Little River. During low water, logs were dragged to the river bank. There they were chained together.  When the river rose, they were floated down stream.

Himmelberger and Harrison also used their engines and loaders on the main Frisco tracks north as well as south of Morehouse.  Little River made a large loop as it crossed Himmelberger and Harrison property. A canal was dug to cut off and shorten the river, thus forming Birdwell Island. A short ways downstream, the company constructed a dam. Afterwards, the depth of the river could be controlled and logs floated to the Himmelberger and Harrison the year around.                       


The men worked at Himmelberger and Harrison six days a week. Monday through Friday their working ten hours and ten minutes a day. Saturday’s work day was one hour shorter.

Realizing the families of their work force needed decant housing Himmelberger and Harrison build homes for their labors. Unlike many mill towns that rented their housing to their employees, Himmelberger and Harrison sold theirs to their workers and others under an installment plan.

Build on long and narrow lots with enough room for a garden and chicken pen. These houses were simple in design. Behind a front porch was a living room with two doors, each opens into a bedroom. Both bedrooms opened into the kitchen. On the back was another porch, a protected area to do the laundry during bad weather. At the back of each lot was a coal shed and out-house with an alley behind.

Himmelberger and Harrison supplied jobs for about 250 men at Morehouse and a larger number of men in the woods. When all the mills were operating, a car load of lumber was sawed every forty-five minutes.

Capitalized at $600,000, the corporation is worth a dozen times that amount. Himmelberger and Harrison set on 75 acres of ground west of the Missouri Pacific Rail Road and the bulk of Morehouse’s business district.

 Four miles of 16 feet wide, three-inch lumber in plank roads traversed the mill yard. These roads used more than a million feet board measure of lumber. Add to this, there were vast amounts of lumber used for truck runways, stack foundations, loading docks, buildings, and other uses to load about 150, or more, rail cars. For the average county saw mill, this would be about six month’s production. 

Canalou, like Morehouse started as a sawmill town. This was around 1900. Until 1904, the settlement had neither a post office of store. Canalou is about six miles from Morehouse and had limited shopping. Therefore, Morehouse became the shopping center for Canalou (which in Spanish means “where is the channel” an appropriate name as in the spring, the channel of Little River was hard to find). In 1902 Canalou, 52 lots were surveyed on Himmelberger and Harrison land. Later, Canalou had three more additions plotted on Himmelberger and Harrison property.

By today’s standards, an industry capitalized at $600,000 is not much. But recall, the average wage in 1900 was $438 a year, (nationwide) an average of between .17 and .22 cents an hour. School teachers made, on average $328 yearly. Men’s shirts cost from between .22 to .69. Women’s dress skirts $4.98.



 

 
 
Harrison Joins Himmelberger


Seemingly, while in the prime of his life and in good health, Isaac Himmelberger was suddenly stricken with an illness and died July 16, 1900. John H. Himmelberger became president and resident manager. 


Buffington and Morehouse was still the site for their saw mills. Besides cutting timber and making dimension lumber, a planning mills making char squares, draw stock, making custom parts for furniture manufactures, a spoke factory, and other items.



Lumber was shipped out to the building industry and they were supplying other mills with timber. Himmelberger was national known and within a thirty year had grown from a small crude sawmill to become one of the largest factories in its industry.

In 1902, Luce was no longer connected to the Morehouse operations.  That year, W. Harrison acquired the greater part of the Luce interest to form Himmelberger-Harrison Lumber Company. The reach of the company continued to grow. They made acquisitions and dispositions of land that included ownership, warrants and leases to lands in southeast Missouri and into northern Arkansas.

During 1900 W. J. Harrison joined the company and moved the corporate offices to Cape Girardeau. Leaving a career in railroads, he became vice-president and treasurer when he realized how large I. Himmelberger and Co. had grown.


During 1907-1908, Himmelberger and Harrison built the Himmelberger and Harrison Building at 400 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. In a story on July 17, 1906, the Cape Girardeau Daily Republican featured a story declaring the Himmelberger and Harrison Steel Structure the first of its kind in Southeast Missouri. The structure was a five-storied red brick, H-shaped building exemplifying the Commercial Building, ca 1850-1950.

During 1907-1908, Himmelberger and Harrison built the Himmelberger and Harrison Building at 400 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. In a story on July 17, 1906, the Cape Girardeau Daily Republican featured a story declaring the Himmelberger and Harrison Steel Structure the first of its kind in Southeast Missouri. The structure was a five-storied red brick, H-shaped building exemplifying the Commercial Building, ca 1850-1950.




 

           Himmelberger and Harrison 1900


One has difficult realizing the extent of the Himmelberger and Harrison operation in 1900. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, one could walk for sever miles with stacks of rough lumber taller than their heads on either side of them.

From Mill Number 1 (closed by 1919) the lumber was hauled to the various stacks by trucks or elevated tracks. The lumber being stacked from the high tracks; with each layer separated by slim strips of wood to allow air to circulate between the layers to help dry, or cure, the lumber. Lumber Yard 1 (closed by 1919) was much higher than at Lumber Yard Number 2, which was twenty feet tall.

Lumber Yard Number 2 was stacked from the ground from lumber hauled by wagons. This was green lumber fresh from the saw mills. Here, the lumber remained for ninety days to season slowly.  After seasoning for six months, it was considered “bone-Dry,” which later became a trade mark for the company. Lumber Yard Number 2 had a capacity to hold 5, 000,000 feet of lumber.

However, a considerable amount of lumber, especially one inch thick or less, was shipped before three months In the Yard.

 Each mill had a dry kiln where the lumber was place on large trucks and enclosed in an area where the temperature is kept at about 160 decrees. Each section of the kiln was laced with a series of hot pipes. Wood scraps from the mills fired steam boilers to furnish heat.  The heated air in each kiln was circulated by large fans.  By 1910, Himmelberger and Harrison had lost three kilns from fire.

Not all the lumber shipped was air dried or green from the saw mills. Some of it spent ten days in a dry kiln before shipment. Air dried lumber was considered superior to that artificially dried in kilns. 

A Planning Mill was constructed in 1902. Here flooring, ceilings, molding, and about any custom wooden articles wanted for any variety of use was cut. Also in the Planning Mill furnished dimension materials for that part of the operation that worked in hickory products.

Saw Mill Number 2 was constructed in 1904. That was also the year the last of the Billington Mill was moved to Morehouse. This new mill was state-of-the-arts with a capacity to cut 50,000 board feet in a ten hour shift. This was done by a large 30 foot diameter band saw on one side of the mill and a large 20 foot diameter re-saw on the other side.

Belt and chain conveyors carried dimension squares to the Planning Mill where they were cut into the desired product and made ready for shipment. Slabs and offalls (unusable scrape pieces) were conveyed to the boiler area to either be burned to heat the kilns or send to a wood pile that could be used by the citizens of Morehouse for heating and cooking.

 
 
Himmelberger-Luce Land & Lumber Company v. Blackman and New Madrid County and Missouri Supreme Court

 


       In 1885 New Madrid County made a contract with Charles Luce to do reclaiming work by cutting ditches and to take payment in swamp. Work was to be paid for by the county at 14 cents per cubic yard and swamp and overflow land at the price $1.25 per acre. Included in the

contract was land in section 18, at $1.25 an acre. What part of section 18 was not specified in the contract; just a general statement about that block of land.

Before the contract was fulfilled, Luce died on September 15, 1886. At this time, work has started, but not completed. In fact little work had been stated, however little had been accomplished. Contract terms called for the work to be completed by January 1, 1894. On May 20, 1893, the contractor’s widow and his heirs successfully applied to the county court for an extension of the contract.

The heirs of the contractor assigned all their interest in the contracts to the lumber company.  A clause in the renewed contract allowed “any person in actual possession of any of the lands, who had made improvements and is not residing thereon, shall have the right to  purchase” eighty acres of the same at $1.25 per acre, paid to the contractor for land in payment for improvements.

In 1887, one Shelfer settled on the eight acres under dispute. He builds a fence, cleared and cultivated 15 or 18 acres, put up a house, and lived there until 1889. At this time he sold the property to Blackman and conveyed to him all rights and who the next year applied for a patent and was issued one to the settler, not the lumber company.

Under Missouri law, a claim of ownership by a “squatter” was to make “improvements” on the property.

Lawyers Oliver & Oliver for the lumber company claimed Blackman was not in possession of the land as required by clause eleven of the contract. Shelfer made the improvement to the land, not Blackman and had never lived there. Therefore, he did not meet the terms of the original drainage contract and thus ineligible to retain ownership of the land in question. Thus the county court had no right to dispose of that land as it had no jurisdiction in this matter.

Defense lawyers, H. C. O’Bryan said the county court was authorized to dispose of this land.  Blackman had a legal title to the land and he had made improvement, by at least a provable $400. When the original 1885 contract with Luce was made, the law in force recognized the right of settlers included proper right and improvement to any quality of lands, not seceding 80 acres.  Both the original and renewed contract must be read together.

J. Gantt, for the Missouri Supreme Court agreed with O’Bryan. The original contract between New Madrid County and Charles Luce in December 1, 1885, Luce agreed to dig a certain ditch or canal in the county from the Iron Mountain Railroad near Morehouse in a southern direction along Little River some twenty-three miles. This ditch was to be about 40 feet wide and ten feet deep for the draining and reclaiming swamp and overflowed land in the county.

When inspectors declared the contract completed, the lumber company submitted a bill for $267,114. 18 with the right to claim swamp land at $1.25 per acre (which divides out to 213,691 acres). As neither the old or new contract stated ownership of what land would full fill the county’s obligation, Blackman’s title was valid as the county had more than 400,000 acres to disperse, and therefore, other land was available to fulfill the contract.


               

 
 

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

 
    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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