Big Bend Road Mystery

When I come to Cape, I like to cruise around looking for familiar places and to find roads my Mother and I have never been on. While on one of our explorations, we came across this foundation at the corner of Bertling and Big Bend Rd. Neither of us could remember what had been there.

The building had tile floors

The layout didn’t feel like a house or a gas station.

It was of considerable size

The two square foundations in front of the big foundation, with a walkway between them, are odd, too.

Where did these stairs lead?

We thought that it could have been some kind of business. Maybe the steps lead to the owner’s house higher on the hill.

I was planning to file these away until I could poll some other folks, but I saw that DrummingFireman was equally curious.

He posted a comment on Fred Lynch’s Southeast Missourian blog, “Anybody know, or have any pictures of what used to be at the corner of Bertling and Big Bend. There’s what looks like a foundation, and some concrete steps. Always wondered what used to be there.”

I figure I’ll throw this up for someone to fill in the gaps for Mother, DrummingFireman and me.


You readers have done a great job helping solve this mystery. Fred Lynch and Sharon Sanders found photos of the old buildings and added a lot of details about the fatal fire and the history of the site. Only Sharon (and her predecessor, Judy Crow) could dig up stories about things like the Great Chicken Thievery that wasn’t discovered until a neighbor noticed chicken heads on the side of the road.

This is a great piece of historical reporting, even if you’re not from Cape.

27 Replies to “Big Bend Road Mystery”

  1. I seem to remember a tavern owned by Molly Kester (Kester’s Place ) located on that corner. It burned down years ago.

    1. Thanks, Mary.

      I can’t place it. That must mean that it wasn’t one of my favorite watering holes or it was too much of a favorite watering hole and my memories have been blotted out.

      Any idea where the stairs up the hill led?

  2. The mystery foundation may have been for a little grocery or bar that was on that corner. My aunt and uncle lived up on Flint Hill behind it. I remember it burning and maybe someone was killed in it. I think we had an assembly with the fire department and they told us the the kids who lived there in an apartment with their mother would draw on the walls with burned matches. The theory was that they used unburned matches and set the place on fire. I won’t swear to the authenticity of this story but I certainly seem to remember it this way.

  3. I remember it as a bar, also, but could have been a grocery store at one time, too. I remember it burning but I don’t recall Margi’s story although it sounds pretty likely. Ken, I think I remember all bars I’ve been in and that was not one of them. Darn, now I wish I had gone there at least once!

  4. The Nance family lived in the apartment over the tavern when it burned, their youngest daughter died in the fire.

  5. The concrete steps are what makes the site so intriquing!
    Ken, as long as we’re talking about old buildings in Cape, there are two old ones that I’ve been curious about for years. I was driving along Kingshighway with a friend recently and noticed the houses again. They’re on prominant hills – one south off Bloomfield Road where those apartments have been built – and the other just north of Independence. It’s easy to see that they were there long before the rest of the town built up around them.
    This is probably a question that’s been answered long ago, but I’m new to your system. I guess I should check with Fred Lynch, too, shouldn’t I?
    Isn’t it funny what we can notice when we’re not the one driving the car?

  6. It was Molly’s Tavern. A gentleman that once lived on Green Acres, across Bend Road from the tavern, told me it was owned by a Poplar Bluff police chief. He couldn’t remember the owner’s name. When he was building his home in the late 50s he would go across to Molly’s Tavern and get sodas and sandwiches for his helpers. He said it burned but couldn’t remember when. Maybe the 70s or even early 80s. After that a couple of local business men wanted to put in a quick shop but he said he opposed that because of the anticipated constant noise. So nothing was ever built there. I remember it was a school bus stop in the early 60s as I went to Washington School.

  7. The propety is owned by Cape resident, Bill Adams and his wife Jo Ann. Bill is a retired MO State Highway Patrol Sergeant and former Poplar Bluff, MO Police Chief. Molly Kesterson was Bill’s mom. Jo Ann’s father (Percy Little), is the former Cape Girardeau, MO police chief who was also a retired MO Highway Patrol Sergeant. You could not want to know a better or finer couple than Bill and Jo Ann Adams.

  8. I remember the night the little girl died in the fire…it must have been in the late 1950’s as I don’t think I was in high school yet. What a horrible night that was as word spread around the Red Star neighborhood. The place was rebuilt, but I never drove by there without thinking of her.

  9. Re:Madeline DeJournett’s question about the house on Bloomfield Road near the apartments. That would be the Kimrich{?} Burroughs estate property. Somewhere I have an old photograph of the property with sheep nearby. I believe Mr. Burroughs was a lawyer.

  10. I, too, remember the night of the fire….I was told the little girl died in her closet while playing with matches. I lived on Brucher, just off Bertling, and we could see the light in the sky from the fire that far away. For the past 50 years I have thought of that little girl every time I pass that corner.

  11. Ken , The foundation at you have a picture of was of a storethat my maternal Grandfather Barney Hodge ran before selling it to a Gentleman named Fritz Kester and family around 1948 I think.That property did belong to Bill Adams for years. My Grandparents had a home one lot to the north and the next four lots north was for his children to build on. My parents built one and one uncle Clark Hodge did as well. Keith Jones (a graduate in 1957) lived on one of the lots for his entire childhood.I will send you a picture of the store that stood there in the early 40’s

  12. I should have used spell check. It was Barney Hodge not Hoge and Molly Kester(Bill Adams’s mother)was the wife of a son of Mr. Kester. The foundation that is in the picture was actually a portion of an addition that Molly added on later. The stairs just led to terrace’s that were used to reach the garden’s that was used during WWll for a victory garden.

    1. Since I have super status, I changed the spelling in your original post so that it’s correct. That way it won’t confuse someone if they find it in a search engine. I usually don’t touch comments made by other folks, but I thought it’s important enough factually that you wouldn’t mind.

  13. Mary Gayle Moore has the story correct. It was a tavern called Kester’s Tavern and Molly did own and run it for many years. My aunt and uncle lived 3 houses up from it and Molly lived next door to them at one time. I remember going down there often as a young child with my cousin and playing on the pinball game. We didn’t think a thing about going in a travern in those days with Molly there. Mary is also correct about a little girl dying in the fire that took the building.

  14. The steps went to the home of Barney Hodges the father of Molly Kester who ran the bar.
    The bar by most was known simply as Molly’s.
    Mr. Hodges had his name in out of the past not long ago for having a number of chickens killed by an animal.
    A story I remember is one afternoon there was a man who had a little too much to drink was doing some serious flirting with Molly and she flat told him she would decide who she wanted in her life and it wasn’t him. She could have any man she wanted if she wanted the next man who walked in the door all she would have to do is ask.
    The next man who walked in was young enough to be her son and she promptly said Jerry will you marry me? Jerry smiled and said ok. The men in the bar pushed for a time they set the date got married and lived together for over twenty years until death ended the marriage.

    1. Great story, James. You guys are the best. Since y’all are so quick to come up with the answers to my questions, does anybody know this week’s lottery numbers in advance?

  15. I believe that James Pledger is talking about Jerry Sample, it that correct James? I am going to ask my cousin Keith Jones, who grew up 3 doors up from the tavern, about the steps in the back. He should know I would think.

  16. This was Molly Kester’s Grocery. They sold beer but I never considered it to be a bar. When soda bottles became valuable at 2 cents each, I spent a lot of time on my bicycle collecting the bottles and taking them to Molly for the reward. She led me to believe that it was an aggravation to have to deal with them.

  17. Keith Slinkard
    The mystery of the Big Bend Rd. foundation is solved. The foundation is of a Grocery store owned by my Maternal Grandfather Barney Hodge from at least 1932 till he sold it to the Kester Family around 1945. One of the Kester family sons Fritz, who married Molly Adams ran it until his death and Molly (Kester) ran it after that. The stairs went up to terrace’s that led to garden areas that was used for Victory Gardens during WWII. My Grandfather lived just north of the store until his death and I lived just north of him for a period around 1944. I will attempt to attach a photo of the store taken in 1938.

  18. I remember stopping at Molly’s with my Grandpa. He would always ask if I wanted a “sodie” and he would have a beer. On the way out, he would always tell me “don’t tell Grandma”.

  19. the store was known as kester,s place. my grandfather, fritz kester owned it from the 40,s until he sold it to his son emery later emery(better known as stick) married molly (kissy) adams. her son bill was a trooper with the state olice. uncle stick died of a heart attack in the 50,s and kissy ran the store, I left in the 60,s and went in the service for 30 years. don,t ever know what happened to aun t kissy . just know the store had good memories for me
    the stairs had 2 landings and plots were used for gardens. the house at the top of the hill just above the store was once occupied ny my uncle and aunt john and doris kester who later moved out on big bend road.

  20. Boy through the years when I was younger, my mom and dad would pass that place and all I could do was look at and wonder, one day I had asked my dad what had been there, he told me at one time it was a store and then a bar, but they still sell sodas, he said that it had brunt down but didn’t know why, are how, I think he didn’t want to tell because of the death of the little girl, When I see things on FB about remembering Cape Girardeau I will read it, love the history, does any one remember the old shoe factory, my grandpa worked there as a young man until and old man, he retired after many years there, I remember when he cut the tip of his finger off, he ran the machine that cut the soles out, he would say I just couldn’t move that fast and it got me. Keep putting the history out and I will read them, Thank you

  21. I grew up at the end of N.W.End Blvd. and Bertling. I was born in 1965. I didnt know if the Store /Bar was there when i was born. What year was it when it was no longer a Store /Bar? When I was little sometimes it seems like I remember a Store/Bar there. But again I was youngster and dont really remember. I have allways wondered. All the Comments about the place are amazing. As far as the Old Shoe Factory, my mother worked there, she allways smelled of Leather when she come home from work. She worked at the Shoe Factory for 30+ years and Retired from the factory when it was on Hwy 74. I ask on FB on a site called Growing Up In Cape Girardeau. Did anyone remember the Store/Bar at the bottom of Bertling and Bend Rd, and Ken Steinhoff sent me this Web Site. So Thanks Ken. It was just what I was looking For!!

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