Morehouse Hustler Promotes Little River Valley
“Better than gold mine is a farm in the beautiful Little River Valley.” “Soon the Little River Valley will be known as The Second Nile of the World.” These are two of the claims made about Southeast Missouri by the Morehouse Hustler, December 16, 1910. This idea went nationwide when in New York the Collier’s Weekly on July4, 1909 printed a feature story about the Little River Drainage District and much the same story later printed in the Hustler.
The per capital wealth (for each man, woman, and child) was a little over $2,000 in 1910, according to the 1910 Morehouse Hustler article. The assessed tax rate was one-third its retail value while the state rate was 17 cents and county 50 cents per $100 valuation. These figures were pushed proudly in the Hustler’s unashamedly proclaimed the virtues of Morehouse and the cleared land ready to be converted into farmland.
Claims were made for being able to raise two crops a year. Farming, near Morehouse, the paper proclaimed using the best land in the county would assure to “make a young man rich.” The county side was covered by fine home that have replaced the shacks that one were common. Future buyers were told they were not listing to a fairy tale; “nothing had been with held.”
While the land may have been cleared of timber, stumps by the hundreds on forty acres remained. As heavy equipment was not available, horses, mules, and oxen were of limited value in removing them. The most common means of removing stumps was to dig down under it and then place dynamite in the hole. This was hard dangerous work.
Before the land could be plowed came the problem of clearing the land of all the chunks of stumps scattered by the dynamite. We wouldn’t mention the holes left by the removed stumps. Not only was plowing new ground hard work, it was painful. A single breaking plow was pulled by a single, or pair of animals. The worker walked between plow handles struggling to keep the plow tip in the ground and the row straight. While the main part of the stump had been removed, all the roots had not. When the plow point slid under a big root runner, more often than not, one of the plow handles would deliver a stunning blow to the man plowing.
Everett Dick in his classical 1947 study, The Dixie Frontier claimed single field hand was able to maintain six acres. Thus, large families were encouraged and welcome as their labor was necessary for the farmer. Dick stated that if cotton or other crop was raised, an equal acreage of corn was produced for animal food.
A 1910 edition of the Hustler in praising the growth of Morehouse explained, “The small tenant house that were first built have been replaced by nice painted structures, many of them two story. Instead of a small cleaned patch in the woods, cleared fields were fast replacing the path through the wood. The old wooden bridges across the ditches are being replaced with modern all steel bridges.”
Headlight Plantation, near Canalou, was one of the farms established on the land cleared of timber by Himmelberger and Harrison. Xenophon Caverno, from Wisconsin, bought this land in the southern part of West Township in 1907. His favorite horse, one he bought in Kentucky, he named Headlight, thus the name of his plantation. With the purchase of a Model T, Highlight was retired. Highlight School, a one-room school for blacks was established in the area in 1926.
Honey Island was another area made more accessible as the timber was removed. An island in the southwest part of West Township of New Madrid County was made by the waters of Little River during flood season. The island was named for Mr. “Honey” Johnson, an early settler on Honey Island with the hobby of collecting wild honey.
Selling the Lowland
Morehouse Hustler promotes Little River Valley