Thebes Courthouse High on the Hill

Thebes, like Cairo, has been a place I always swing by on my way to or back from Cape. Like Cairo, there’s less and less there every time I visit. The floods have taken their toll over the years.

The one constant, though, is the Thebes Courthouse, sitting high on a hill overlooking what used to be a thriving river community. There’s plenty of historical information out there, so I’m not going to rehash it. Here’s a link to the official Thebes Courthouse website.

I’m just going to show you photographs of the courthouse taken between 1966 and 2011 (the black and white shots are from 1966). Some of the photos will look similar, but on closer examination, you’ll find they were shot in different seasons and different years.

Thebes Courthouse photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

12 Replies to “Thebes Courthouse High on the Hill”

  1. Years ago I met one of the guys who painted the RR briges for Union Pacific and he had a couple of great stories on painting these monsters over moving water.
    Thebes is an interesting town with a great view of the river. I looks like something is moving stuff away from the place everytime I drive by there too…

    1. Toni,

      That’s not only a railroad bridge, it’s one of the most significant railroad bridges over the Mississippi and it changed Cape history in many ways.

      You owe it to yourself to drive over to Thebes and marvel at how something that big could have been built in 1905. If you go up to the courthouse, you can see one of the 6000-pound pier blocks that hold it up. Think of what it must have taken to pile those up in the days before modern heavy equipment.

      There’s a fascinating story in A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck about how Louis Houck tried to derail the placement of the bridge so it would wind up in Cape, with maneuvering that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost the battle, Cape lost the bridge and he was unable to capitalize on land he bought on the west side of the bridge that was either going to block its construction or to make him very rich.

      Railroad buddy Keith Robinson will probably weigh in with more info.

      BTW, I missed seeing you when I stopped in at Old Town Cape on my last visit. It’s not the same place since you moved on. Still nice, but not the same.

  2. Randy Morse and I visited the courthouse sometime in the 60’s. We met an old gentleman who recounted that “…Lincoln and Douglas stopped here and debated. (Pause) They debated whether to stay or go on. (Pause) They went on.” We had a good laugh about that one.

  3. Aside from river flooding, the location of that bridge is another reason the Frisco Railway chose to build a new yard in Chaffee and make Chaffee the new division point on the River Division. The bridge made rail traffic crossing the Mississippi more efficient and less costly than ferries and served to route more cross country traffic within close proximity to Cape – a contributing factor in Cape’s growth. It provided easier access to Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky coal as well.

  4. I followed your link to the Thebes Courthouse site and found one of my relatives in the photo of the Class of 1962, Sharon Burns. My grandmother’s family is sprinkled all over the area. I still have cousins in the area but most have moved to bigger cities. Thanks for the beautiful photos Ken, and for the link to the Thebes Courthouse. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sharon’s picture in their photo gallery.

  5. I’m glad to see the railroad bridge is still there. In addition to the fascinating public history surrounding Thebes, its courthouse, and the bridge, there’s a bit of family history that ties me to that bridge. When my maternal grandmother was a young child living on a farm just east of Benton, she and her family rode a train over that bridge on the way to Cairo (a big thrill in her day). There she got her first taste of mayonnaise. She liked it so much, when she returned home she tried to make some on her own, trying everything she could think of to turn milk into that wonderful condiment. I don’t know when she learned the real trick.

  6. Thanks for posting. I especially enjoyed the 1966 pics as that would have been about the time I moved from Nebraska to Thebes as a child. I am president of the Historical Society, which has just gotten back in action in the past year or so. We have a big job ahead of us, but it is so worth preserving.

  7. The old courthouse is badly in need of repairs, which the Thebes Historical Society is working to do the repairs. Appreciate your sharing the photos.

  8. Thebes: I once played a gig in Thebes, it seems like I was playing organ in an old hotel dining room or maybe the only restaurant in Thebes. Skip Howell’s grandmother was dating this old man who, I believe lived with HIS mother so therefore he could not get married. They were in the crowd of 20 to 25 people. In conclusion, you have to start playing performing in front of people. They were some of the people who had to endure my early career as a musician. I thought the property faced the river 2 or 3 blocks up.

  9. Me again! Just saw your 1966 photos of the CH. Cousin and I have been working with Thebes Hist. Soc.to find ways to generate funds to repair, restore, and preserve the CH. Use the Angiers Railroard Bridge 1902-1905 Collection. Made a trial DVD with 170 Angiers images, photos of Old to present Thebes, Bridge, Depots, Events, Flooding, etc., and of course the CH. Response to DVD was good and did generate donations! New DVD to be ready for MD Weekend CH Event. Oldest photos of CH we have is from HABS May 17, 1934, next 2 prob. late 1930’s, 2 late 1970’s, late 1990’s to present. Possible to use 2-3 of 1966 photos? We are using photos from others and will be acknowledging and thanking each on the DVD Case Insert. Thank you. Lynda

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