I was invited to speak to the Wayne County [Missouri] Historical Society on April 5, 2021 and I have to say that I’ve never met a more welcoming, friendly and generous group of people. I would like to thank David Bollinger for the invite and all of those who came to listen to me speak. I had a great time and met so many great people afterwards. Wayne County, you really know how to make a guy feel welcome!
Below are some photos I took of the Luna Museum, located at 108 W. Elm Street, Piedmont, Missouri.
In early December, 1982 the towns of Lutesville and Marble Hill were devastated when area flooding caused Crooked Creek to overflow its banks and entered local homes and businesses. The flooding was so severe it made the headlines of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in its December 05, 1982 edition which reported:
“Lutesville- Crooked Creek is a stream that is so small that it does not show up on maps of Bollinger county in southeast Missouri, due west of Cape Girardeau. Usually it meanders harmlessly.
But by Saturday it had become a river, putting two towns on either side of it under water. Crooked Creek flooded an area one mile wide and six miles long, inundating Lutesville to the west and Marble Hill to the east.”
The Post- Dispatch reported that downtown Lutesville and Marble Hill was under at least three feet of water, the force of which was so strong it shattered the windows of the local IGA grocery store, leaving the communities without food.
The local pastor of the First Baptist Church, Don Simmons stated that his congregation was collecting food for those who were effected by the flooding.
Also quoted in the Post-Dispatch article was Southeast Missourian newspaper editor B. Ray Owens who stated:
“I can’t ever remember anything [flooding] quite this bad.”
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The March 14, 1929 Greenville Sun carried the obituary of Mrs. J. N. Birdwell (other papers reported her name as J.M. Birdwell), which stated, in part:
“Mrs. J.N. Birdwell, aged Patterson citizen, passed away at her home there Tuesday after an illness of almost three weeks with pneumonia following an attack of the flu. Mrs. Birdwell was born in Jackson March 11, 1847, and had passed her 82 birthday by one day. She moved to Wayne county when a small girl and had since resided here, making her home at Patterson for many years, where she was loved and cherished by all citizens.”
The obituary also states that:
“Mrs. Birdwell bore the distinction of having been hostess and cook to [Confederate] General Sterling Price and his staff officers when they came through Patterson in September, 1864 on their way to Stoney Battery and Pilot Knob, where they routed the Union forces. Because of the good cooking of Mrs. Birdwell, General Price left several of his men at the Birdwell home as a guard to protect the young woman, then Julia English, and her sister, mother and aunt from bushwhackers and marauders. The English home was guarded under special orders from General Price for several months. It was the means of saving the family from the raids of the Northern spies, who might have burned their cabin because it had sheltered Price.”
Interesting to note is the fact that Mrs. Birdwell’s father was a soldier in the Union army.
Since Confederate General Price was a former Governor of Missouri, one can claim that with the inclusion of taking care of former Governor Baker in her later years, she had served two Missouri governors.
The obituary states that Mrs. Birdwell was buried in the Old English cemetery on the Ironton road one mile northeast of Patterson.
The May 23, 1972 issue of The Daily Standard (Sikeston, Missouri) reported the robbery of the Bollinger County Bank the previous day. According to the paper a masked gunman entered the bank with a revolver and demanded the teller empty her cash drawer. The teller stated that she thought it was a joke at first and described the robber as being white, in his early 20’s, medium build and about five feet, nine inches tall. The suspect was driving a tan 1969 Ford Fairlane which was later discovered to be stolen from Cape Girardeau an hour before the robbery, the suspect got away with approximately $9,000.00.
On July 25, 1972 The Daily Standard reported that most of the $9000.00 (the actual amount stolen was $9,410.00) had been recovered and that the main suspect in the case was being held in the Bollinger County jail. The paper identified the suspect as Robert Chase of Chicago, Illinois. Chase had been freed from a Wisconsin prison a year early after serving a portion of a ten year prison sentence for robbery.
Chase led police where he had hid the money, which turned out to be two miles south of Crump on Route U near the Cane Creek bridge. The money was found in an overnight bag, along with the 38 caliber pistol he used in the robbery and 44 extra bullets.
The Daily Standard ended the story as follows:
“A car stolen the day of the robbery in Cape Girardeau and positively identified as having been used in the crime was found in the woods weeks after Chase was arrested. But no evidence could be gleaned from the vehicle, officers said.
After the recovery of the loot and other items, Chase made a full confession to the deputies, Trooper Kenneth Howell, Bollinger County Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Shrum and FBI agent Douglas Rosenberger.”
Lately I’ve been finding a lot of information on the railroad that passed through Bollinger county. Originally built by the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern, the line eventually fell into the hands of the Missouri Pacific railroad and though few signs remain to remind the public the railroad existed, it was once an engineering marvel, and an important part of the local economy. However, by 1970 times were changing. The December 15, 1970 edition of The Daily Journal (Flat River, Missouri) carried the news of Missouri Pacific’s plan to abandon the line, as well as efforts to save it by local elected officials. According to the paper:
“Congressman Bill D. Burlison spoke out strongly in a letter to the acting chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission last week, protesting the proposed abandonment of the Missouri Pacific Railroad line from Bismark to Whitewater, commonly known as the Belmont Branch Line.
“It is difficult to predict the full impact abandonment of the line would have on the communities it serves”, Burlison said in his letter to Dale W. Hardin, “We can not estimate the importance of new businesses which may not locate in the area because of the lack of rail facilities,” the congressman noted. “However, we have ample evidence on the impact of existing businesses and the more than 100,000 residents of the four counties.”
The Daily Journal reported that Black River Electric Cooperative received 1300 utility poles by rail in the first nine months of that year at Fredericktown and that the Lutesville Pallet Company had shipped 63 carloads of pallets and received 32 carloads of lumber in the first 10 months of 1970. Also noted by the paper was the news that representatives of businesses and local government had formed an organization and hired a law firm to oppose the abandonment of the Belmont Branch in public hearings.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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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The Perryville Weekly Union archives have really turned out to be a treasure trove for Southeast Missouri history. The May 15, 1863 edition of the paper reports of Frank Valle capturing capturing local militia members stating:
“Militia Captured – We are informed that on last Sunday evening, while Henry Farrar, Daniel Rhyne and Major Clifton, members of a company of the Enrolled Militia of this county were on their road to Iron Mountain, were captured by Frank Valle and his followers in St. Genevieve county. They were compelled to take the Confederate oath. Their horses were taken or stolen from them when they were set at liberty.”
The Perryville Weekly Union predicted that Southern sympathies would be short lived but (as I wrote in a previous blog post) a year later the Perryville Weekly Union reported that Frank Valle had been nominated as a delegate to the State Convention of 1864. The paper in its July 8, 1864 issue reported:
““We received a letter a few days since from some of our friends in Bollinger county, inquiring of us if Frank Valle was nominated by the Democracy of this county as a delegate to attend the Convention held in St. Louis by the Democracy last month. We say to our friends in Bollinger that Mr. Valle was nominated by some persons of Perry county at that meeting, but we are informed that he did not attend said convention, owing to not having received the news of his nomination.”
A year after its original prediction that Southern sympathies would be short lived, the paper was once again renewing its prediction, though less boastfully:
“Until recently this county has been peaceable and quiet, although a disloyal sentiment to a considerable extent has prevailed, ever since the commencement of the rebellion, and it is hoped, (the disloyalty of the citizens to the contrary notwithstanding ) that order and peace would not be disturbed. Many who saw, or thought they saw, into the future, predicted that peace would be of short duration. They argued thus wise , although many of the leading secessionists have much to lose, and fear to lose it, they will so manage to get all the evil disposed men of the community fully enlisted in the rebellion, that, by harboring Frank Valle and his gang, who have been frequently seen at houses of wealthy secesh by giving aid, comfort, information, and assistance to the enemies of the country, and fully assuring them of their co-operation and assistance.”
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Most of us were probably taught that the American Civil War was fought over slavery. In reality, the reasons for the war were far more complicated. Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation on January 1, 1863. This was done for political purposes.
“In August 1862, Lincoln stated: “If I could save the union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
“President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
In short, Lincoln’s proclamation only freed slaves in areas that the Union did not control.
In 1863 Perry County, Missouri was by and large controlled by Union authorities. Therefore, it is not surprising that the May 15, 1863 edition of the Perryville Weekly Union reported the following:
“NEGROES ARRESTED- Two negro boys were arrested last Monday morning, by Assistant Adjutant General Huff, of General McCormick’s staff, near Perryville and lodged in the Perry county jail. They told several conflicting tales, but from the best information obtained, it appears that the belong to a man by the name of Seabaugh, of Bollinger county, and were going to Illinois. Another was arrested on the same day by James Burgee and Augustus Doerr between this place and Chester, and brought here and placed in jail.”
Foothills Media LLC has a limited supply of signed copies of Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Edition. Paperback, 306 pages. Official records, newspaper articles, interviews with former slaves and personal stories were all used to document Civil War atrocities in Missouri , with an emphasis on Southeast Missouri.
From the June 19, 1867 Daily Missouri Republican, a story of a horse thief from Bollinger county horse thief named “Brake” and a Madison county sheriff who planned to “break” him of his hobby.
The writer of the article had fun with a little play on words. Quoting from the article:
“Sheriff Cooper, of Madison county, on the 12th inst., Alson J. Brake, of Bollinger county, and had him locked up in Fredericktown jail. Brake had “borrowed”a horse, saddle and bridle from a citizen of Madison county and roped him off into Bollinger, where his father resides. The intention is to break Brake of his fondness for the flesh of other people’s horses. If he don’t break jail, this may be done , though the horse was a bay and not dun.”