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.


    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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    Little River's Geographic Past