Seventysix – the Town, Not the Trombones

A cold front blew through Cape this afternoon, bringing with it some spotty rain and wind. Hoping that I could get some colorful leaf photos between the clouds, Mother and I  headed up to Perry County. We checked in at the Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum, then headed over to Tower Rock where the river is low enough to expose an old stone quarry I hope to get to when the skies are sunny. Mother ate her fill of persimmons from our normal spot (and even found another tree down the road).

Then we decided to explore. My GPS said we were headed northwest, but it felt like we were going south to me. Finally, we hit a road where we could go right to the Mississippi River or left to somewhere off the screen. That still didn’t feel right, but I opted to go to the river.

Seventysix or Seventy-Six, take your pick

Right after we got on the road, I said, “I wonder if this is going to take us to Seventysix. I’ve heard about it, but have never been there.” By the way, the town is spelled both Seventy-Six and Seventysix. I’m going with the latter because that’s what the Conservation Department calls it on their display above. I first heard of the town when I was researching what is said to be Missouri’s last train robbery.

After bumping over a railroad track, we came to the river and this marker. We had arrived. Click on the display to see that Severtysix was once a quite sizable town.

River gives, river takes away

Like Wittenberg to the south, the benefits of being on the Mississippi River come with a terrible shortcoming: higher and more frequent floods as man tried to control the waterway. By 1940, the town’s population had dropped to 35 people; in 1957, the Post Office closed. The train depot was also abandoned.

Two sources for more information:

  • The Missourian’s James Baughn wrote about the town in his blog,  which has good directions, a link to a Google map and another link for a Conservation Department map of the area. I’ll send you there to give him a traffic bump and to save me the trouble of duplicating his efforts.
  • This site has some excellent information about Seventysix, plus some photos. I’ll quibble with a few of his facts (he says Seventysix was the only area Post Office; Wittenberg had a Post office, too), but it’s an interesting read.

Little remains of town today

A few foundations and a railroad spur where the depot used to be are about all that would let you know the town with a curious name ever existed here. By the way, you’ll have to follow one of the links above to find out how the town was named.

Mailbox was worth the trip

On the way out of town, I did a double-take, stopped the car and quickly put it in reverse. This mailbox was worth the drive. It’s not every day that you see a saluting cowboy made out of chains, wearing real cowboy boots and accompanied by his faithful dog.

8 Replies to “Seventysix – the Town, Not the Trombones”

  1. Thanks for sharing this with us, Ken, and for everything else you post here. Although I’ve never been to Seventysix, this virtual visit took me back to many of the places in rural Cape County where I wandered during my growing-up years, places where my family has roots generations deep. It seems these old haunts, no longer extant, are more real to me than those that exist today, more than thirty years after I moved away.

  2. Ken, if I keep reading these posts I may be forced to retire and go back ato SE Missouri to live for a couple years just to see all those places again. You really tug at my heart strings when you mention Perry County and the Museum!! Do me a favor and stay away from Daisy and Hilderbrand and other past towns in that area! Loved the beautiful fall leaves in the recent posts. Fall her is yellow, brown and very little red.

  3. I still say you need to charge them a fee. You do more to bring people to the area than any other advertising they could ever do.

  4. In a last search of the Town Pump before it was demolished to make way for the Downtown Merchants parking lot, the old countertop postoffice of Seventy-Six complete with po boxes and a barred window with doors was discovered in a rear closet. It then served for several years as a Valentine’s dispenser at Franklin and Campus schools.

    The spelling over the window was Seventy-Six.

  5. I have been unable to find out if the town had a more interesting side to it. My dad worked on the Mississippi from 1932 to Jan. 1942, primarily on a dredge, in Jan of ’42 going back into the Navy after Pearl Harbor. His first stint in the Navy was from 1926 to 1932. He mentioned Seventy Six many times in his stories, a place he stopped at, but he never got into the details of the place. He also told stories of seeing bodies floating down the Mississippi during the heyday of Prohibition. Apparently another favorites place to visit was Cape Girardeau. I have a couple old 2 1/4 inch photos of him, the kind with scalloped edges, in various places along the river. He passed in 1987, just short of his 80th birthday, lucky to live during the greatest time of the US.

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