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.



             

 


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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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