Bollinger, Perry Counties Competed for Railroad

Bollinger, Perry counties competed for railroadsBollinger, Perry counties competed for railroads Fri, May 26, 1871 – 3 · The Perryville Weekly Union (Perryville, Missouri) ·

The May 26, 1871 Perryville Weekly Union documented a rivalry of sorts between it and the Bollinger county Standard. The cause of the rivalry was whether or not the Iron Mountain railroad would be built through Bollinger or Perry county. The Weekly Union quoted the Bollinger county Standard which had reported:

“Perry county is angling for two new railroads-one from Iron Mountain to Grand Tower, and another to connect there with in Perry county and extend southeast to Cape Girardeau. It is welcome to the former, if it can get it, but it is already chronicled that Bollinger county is to have the other.”

The Weekly Union warned the Bollinger county Standard not to be so fast, predicting that Perry county would win the route for the Iron Mountain and would probably win over the other railroad as well.

The Belmont Branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern already passed through Bollinger county and was completed in 1869. The railroad started at Bismark, Missouri through St. Francois county before entering Madison county through the communities of Fredericktown and Marquand, next it entered Bollinger county where it passed through Bessville, Glen Allen, Lutesville and Laflin. It continued on a southeasterly route into Cape, Scott and Mississippi counties culminating at Belmont, Missouri at which point it was connected via a ferry across the Mississippi River with Columbus, Kentucky, the Gulf and Ohio railroad and all points east.

St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern railroad tunnel, Glen Allen, Missouri

The proposed route from Iron Mountain never came to fruition but thanks to a helpful reader (who provided a Missouri Pacific Historical Society timeline the mystery has been solved.

The timeline , which can be found by clicking this link states:

“Jackson Branch Railroad Company chartered to build 35 miles of railroad from Attenville, Missouri through Jackson and on into Perry County to a point on the Mississippi opposite Grand Tower in Illinois; first meeting of the Board of Directors held June 16, 1883, with L. H. Davis appointed President; road completed to Jackson by January 6, 1885, and sold on that date to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern for $ 147,743.87”

If the line had been completed from Jackson to Grand Tower both Bollinger and Perry counties could have claimed the line, along with Cape county as the Jackson Branch connected to the Belmont Branch at Allenville.

Eventually Perry county did get a railroad that ran from Perryville to Cape Girardeau, the late James Baughn documented the history of the Cape Girardeau and Northern railroad in a blog posted on the Southeast Missourian newspaper website on March 24, 2010:

“Louis Houck, accidental railroad tycoon, wanted to build a railroad connecting Cape Girardeau with towns to the north, an area that had been ignored by other railroads. The first train on his Cape Girardeau & Chester Railroad ran between Cape and Jackson on Nov. 16, 1905. Soon the railroad provided service to Oak Ridge, Perryville, and beyond.

Houck’s railroads had a dubious reputation for low-budget construction and unsafe operations. Investigators for Missouri’s Railroad & Warehouse Department visited the railroad and reported, “We went over the line from Cape Girardeau to Jackson, a distance of 10 miles, and found it to be in a very unsafe condition.”

Baughn continues…

“The railroad, later renamed the Cape Girardeau Northern, reached its peak in 1912 before becoming a money-losing albatross. Houck, who at this point in his career was no spring chicken, was ready to unload his investment in the railroad. By 1913, he believed that he had found a suitable buyer, the Frisco Railroad. However, the deal collapsed when the Frisco went into foreclosure. Houck was stuck with the albatross, much to his dismay.

History may have been much different if the Frisco had successfully taken over the railroad. Located on high ground away from the Mississippi, the tracks between Cape and Perryville would have provided an alternate route during frequent river floods. Fruitland, Pocahontas, Oak Ridge, Daisy, Biehle, Lithium, and other small towns along the route might look very different today if they still had an active railroad.

Out of financial desperation, the Cape Girardeau Northern was forced to discontinue service along portions of the tracks. After Louis Houck died in 1925, a new owner was finally found for the railroad: the Missouri Pacific. However, they only took control of portions of the line near Cape Girardeau.”

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2 thoughts on “Bollinger, Perry Counties Competed for Railroad

  1. Thank you so much for posting this,Sir. Does this mean Cape only had Mo Pac trains on the line,for standard service? Then became Burlington North,SF,when lumber mill ,yard,closed,in 80’s. I recall seeing info that former mayor of Cape,Howard Tooke, had investment in M.E. Leming lumber,(known as Garver Lumber,in 1940’s)

    No quick reply needed. Thanks for the article.

    Lisa Boswell


    1. Lisa, the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern eventually became part of Missouri Pacific. Louis Houck had two lines with Cape Girardeau being headquartered there, the Cape Girardeau & Northern and the Cape Girardeau & Southern. Missouri Pacific bought the Cape Girardeau & Northern trackage in Cape Girardeau with Frisco purchasing the Cape Girardeau the Cape Girardeau Southern. The BNSF is the only line that passes through Cape Girardeau now with the exception of Motive Rail which services the SEMO Port.


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