Tour de Oran

Oran grain elevators 02-03-2013_1778I was really intending on checking out Chaffee, but I was tempted by a sign pointing to Oran. I don’t think I’ve been there in 40+ years, if ever. The first thing we saw when Mother and I went around a curve into town was the imposing Guardian Angel Catholic Church. It’s even more impressive inside than outside. I’m saving it for another day.

The second largest building to catch my eye was the grain elevator at the edge of town. I thought it might be abandoned, but I heard a faint noise and discovered a vent fan blowing and mildewed corn spilled on the ground. At least part of it much be active.

Iron Mountain Railroad depot

Oran Chamber of Commerce - Train depot 02-03-2013I identified this building as a train depot before I saw the sign and even without railroad tracks running next to it.

Jim Razor: born 1869; Died 1969

Oran Chamber of Commerce - Train depot 02-03-2013If the signs are to be believed, it was once the Iron Mountain Railroad depot and is currently being used by the Chamber of Commerce. It doesn’t look like it gets too much activity: a tombstone for Jim Razor, born May 10 (?), 1869, Died May 10 (?), 1969, must be a leftover from the town’s 1969 Centennial celebration.

Red building

Oran building 02-03-2013I don’t know if this building has any significance. It was behind and near the Chamber of Commerce depot building. I just liked the way the afternoon sun brought out the red.

Oran City Hall

Oran City Hall 02-03-2013

My first guess was this building was the Oran Library, but that turned out to be next door. This is the Oran City Hall. The use of local stone makes it striking. It has the feel of a WPA project, but I didn’t notice any markers to indicate that (not that I looked too hard. It was turning chilly when the shadows started drawing long).

Oran photo gallery

Here are more shots of the buildings mentioned above. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery. Wait until I get around to running the church photos. I don’t know how a place as small as Oran could support such a magnificent building.


30 Replies to “Tour de Oran”

  1. I love this story, Ken! I taught at Oran for 20 years and drove past these buildings every day. You’re right about the Guardian Angel Church–It’s the most impressive in the area. My son was married there, and the wedding photos are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The priest’s house next door is also beautiful. When Father Lewis was there, he had lovely gardens.
    Too bad you and I both missed Louie Hershowitz’s old department store, which used to be on the main drag, across from the bell. When I first came to Oran, the window displays were covered with colored plastic, and the store was closed up, intact.
    Another priceless old building was the two-story high school, where I taught in 1983. They tore it down, when they built the new school in, I think, 1989, after the old gym fell in.
    It’s a colorful town, and I loved teaching there. Thanks for the memories!

    1. (Kicking myself) I saw the bell on the way in to town, but went out a different way and forgot to go back to shoot it.

      I assumed the house next to the church was for the priest, but what in the world did he need a house that big for? It’s not like he would have had a large family to house.

  2. The Oran City Hall was actually built using rocks from the local landmark on HWY 77, Lone Rock. Lone Rock is located off the highway between Chaffee and Scott City. It was built in the early 1940s so it very well could have been a WPA project. Next time you swing through Chaffee send me a notice and I would love to show you around some of the landmarks and be sure to stop by the Signal as well 🙂

  3. Don and I spend a great deal of time in this wonderful little community! He was graduated from Oran High School in 1966. His Mother (94) still lives there. Thanks for posting!

  4. too bad you weren’t there before the Milde Soda sign was painted over. There was a nice painted advertisement on a brick wall of an old market building, it’s been covered for probably two years now. I do have photos from a stop made back around 2008. (side wall of what might be a social services office, south of the old depot.)

  5. Oran was once and may still be an important point on the commercial airways, used by airlines and others. First there was a very powerful beacon turned on at night and later that was replaced by a radio beacon, both to guide the airliners. Everyone who flew in that part of the country knew Oran.

    1. I’ll have to look at an aeronautical chart to see if Oran is still listed. It’s always interesting to listen to the readbacks and hear obscure little places like Oran mentioned.

  6. Ken,
    This set of photos along with others you have taken on the road, reminded me I wanted to share another resource for those who love the “Blue Highways.” You may know the book by that title by Least Heat-Moon based on his 14,000 mile journal in the late 70s across America. in 2012, Edgar Ailor III (CHS class of 1964 and Yearbook photographer, now a MD in Columbia, Mo) and his son published “Blue Highways Revisited” (University of Missouri Press). The two of them recreated Heat-Moon’s journal, taking many wonderful photographs of the places he visited and where possible the people he met.
    For anyone who likes such story telling and photographs as the Ailor’s took, I recommend the book very highly. For these folks, I remind them they should be able to buy it through Ken’s website, helping to support his wonderful work.

    1. “Blue Highways” is one of my all-time favorite books. Did William Least Heat Moon have any response to this recreation of his journey, and the “Blue Highways Revisited” book?

  7. Unfortunately you’re correct about the rail yard at Chaffee. It was the largest between STL and Memphis. Last piece (depot) was demolished in 1984. Stop by anytime and I will give you a your.
    The priest house in Oran is so large because the Sister’s of the church lived there when the church still had Sister’s.

  8. When you do Chaffee, for old time sake do a photo of Lake Tywappati (been so long I can’t remember how to spell it!)

    1. I just saw a photo of the lake (I’m not going to try to spell it, either) somewhere in the last couple of days. I can’t remember if it was on Facebook or in The Missourian.

      I’ll keep it in mind.

  9. The first picture is of the old Scott County Milling Co.which had a flour mill in Sikeston, Dexter and Oran.
    The red building was used by Metz Cleaners. Clifford Metz just confirmed to me that when he started that business in 1950, it was the only vacant building in the City at the time and after a few years he moved the business to another location on Railroad Street. The City Hall Building was completed in 1941 by a government program to train youths in learning a trade.
    One of my older brothers worked on the building when he was 17 years old.
    Incidentally Ken, do you happen to be Tom Steinhoff’s son? If so, your Dad sanded and finished the hardwood floors throughout our home which I remodeled about 1947.

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  10. A couple of people commented about the large Priest House. The building was constructed in 1907 when very few cars were used so a large building was needed to house and accomodate the Bishop and his entourage who traveled from St. Louis at the time.

  11. Didn’t expect such a quick reply, Ken! My family purchased a farm located on a gravel road one mile south of Oran in 1943 and we left there in 1955 (I think!). The flour mill was directly north of us, and the Frisco railroad ran north & south about 1/2 mile east from our house. The gravel road crossed the Frisco track about 1/2 mile south of town. I took piano lessons for years from Sister Alfreda in the Nun’s House, which was just south of the Catholic School (1st-8th grades) and across the street from the Guardian Angel Catholic Church. We attended the Methodist Church. I visited the Oran Library every week. Think I read everything in it! I remember going to the Frisco Railroad Depot with my father to pick up things and send things off. Sometimes, someone would come visit us by train. The steam engine drivers (wheels) were much taller than I was when I was still small! There was also a MO Pacific RR that ran thru town, but there was NO St. Louis/Iron Mountain RR there at that time. I do remember the new school gym being built (my father was on the school board), I’d guess about 1953 or’54. There was Heisserer’s Dept. Store with a movie theatre above it, and also a Hirschowitz Store, and lots of other businesses, including a newspaper. I haven’t been thru there in about 15 years, but have lots of good memories from there! Ken, as for the Mr. Gerhardt (or Gebhardt) that I mentioned to you earlier, I’ve no idea what date would have been on the article, but it does give a good historical insight into the building of Cape. I will watch for it and let you know when I locate it.

  12. Hi. I’m wondering if anyone recalls Tom and Nellie Smiddy. They were my great grandparents and I have fond memories of them in a little house along the tracks. It was a short walk into town but I can’t remember the street name. My great grandpa use to sit with me on the front porch, sing, and watch the trains. Unfortunately, I just lost my grandma who also lived in Oran…Georgia Smiddy (born Douglas) and lived by other tracks in town. She would have had the info on the tip of her tongue.

    Any info or recollections anyone might have are most appreciated. I’ll be bringing my oldest son to Oran soon — he loves to play guitar and banjo and I’m really hoping the house is still there and I can show him the front porch where my great grandpa sang train tunes. Thanks, in advance, if anyone recognizes the name and can help.

  13. My wife and I both knew Tom & Nellie. The house they lived in is no longer there but was on Mountain St. I was in High School with Sterling who was in the class of 1947,

  14. Thank you so much for the information. Sterling’s brother, Thomas Duree, was my grandfather. Is Mountain Street the one along the tracks? I’m sad the house is gone; I was hoping to show my boys. Thank you, again.

  15. Yes Mountain St. is beside where the Missouri Pacific RR tracks used to be, but the tracks have been removed.

  16. Lawrence,

    Thank you so much for this updated information. Of course, things change. I’ll hold that front porch and those tracks close to my heart. Is there one place in Oran where old photos might be held/stored/on exhibit? Anyone I should contact? Again, thank you so much.


  17. Lorie, the old Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot which was given to the City of Oran is now used as a museum
    and I feel certain you could display a couple of old pictures in there. Contact Leroy Eftink, phone 573-270-2347.

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