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.

 


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    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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