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



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Leave a Reply

    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


    January 2015
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    Little River's Geographic Past