Fruitland Railroad Depot

Fruitland Houck Railroad depot 04-15-2014Reader Keith Robinson tipped me off about Fruitland having a railroad depot dating back to the Louis Houck days, but it took me some time to get around to looking for it. After a couple of false starts, I ran across this building that had stonework that looked a lot like the depot and headquarters building on Independence Street near Lorimier School. It was located, appropriately enough, on Depot Road.

I knocked on the door to see if the resident knew the history of the building, but nobody answered.

Remnant of  the Cape Girardeau Northern

Fruitland Houck Railroad depot 04-15-2014I sent a copy of the picture to Keith to confirm that I was at the right place.

He replied, “Yes, that is the old Fruitland depot of the Cape Girardeau Northern. As far as I know the depot was built in either 1905 or 1906 when the Cape Girardeau & Chester (a predecessor Houck railroad) entered Fruitland on the way to St Genevieve. The CG&C failed and the CGN came into being in 1913. It suspended operations in 1919, with the track being removed through Jackson, Fruitland and north in 1920. Houck wanted the Frisco to buy the railroad in 1912 – 1913, but the Frisco went into receivership before that deal could be put together. Had that deal been consummated, the Frisco probably would have developed the line to have a way to avoid the river route during flood times. In that case, the towns along that line may have gotten a boost to develop further.

Keith pointed me to an excellent James Baughn blog in The Missourian that has lots of factoids about Southeast Missouri railroading.


Dr. Hayes and Hayti’s History

Hayes Cemetery - Hayti - 11-23-2013Mother has some serious eagle eyes. She can spot a tiny cemetery on the side of the road faster than Curator Jessica. On the way back from interviewing Bishop Armour in Hayti for my New Madrid baptism project, Mother pointed out some tombstones alongside the road mixed in with some strip malls and commercial buildings. It was worth a U-turn.

Dr. Granville M. Hayes 1827 – 1899

Hayes Cemetery - Hayti - 11-23-2013A tall stone dominates the tiny Hayes Cemetery. It says, Through the foresight and generosity of this early settler from Kentucky, the Hayes family farm was transformed into what is now the City of Hayti. Dr. Hayes generously donated all the land now designated as our streets. He gave one city block to Pemiscot County for a Courthouse and another block was given to the people of Hayti for a school. Portions of two other blocks were given for a jail and a calaboose. It is estimated that Dr. Hayes donated 75% of his original farm to the people of Hayti. It was his dream to have a town with a city square with “Lights and squirrels just like Memphis.”   Dr. Hayes died at a medical convention in Chicago and was brought back home by train and buried in this cemetery, but there was no monument erected at his grave.  This monument is erected to honor Dr. Granville Hayes, Hayti’s namesake and founder and to commemorate the centennial of Hayti. Erected 1995.

History is like a bumper sticker

Hayes Cemetery - Hayti - 11-23-2013

I was talking with Dr. Lily Santoro about doing a presentation for her SEMO historical preservation class. I hope I can get across to the students that historical markers are like bumper stickers: they are a quick read, but they may not tell the whole story.

When I searched for Dr. Hayes, not a lot popped up, but what did was fascinating.

At the time the Hayes and their daughters donated the land, the Pemiscot county seat was located at Gayso, several miles to the east. Louis Houck (remember him) and J.E. Franklin were promoting a railroad from Caruthersville to Kennett. They reached an agreement that they would run this road through the Hayes land if they would lay out a town on it and deed every alternate lot to Houck and Franklin. Block 29 was dedicated to be used for a courthouse and the other stuff mentioned on the memorial.

Then, partially because of a conflict between the “wets” and the “drys, Caruthersville, not Gayso City / Hayti was made the county seat. The June 9, 1910, Hayti Herald bannered a headline, “Likened Unto An Octopus – Caruthersville Has Waxed Fat at the Expense of the County Which Like a Lamb, Lies Dumb Before Its Sharers.” [Editor’s note: I wonder if the paper meant “shearers?”] Anyway, you don’t get to read many stories today where the word “Judas” is used twice on the front page. They, obviously, weren’t happy at the way things worked out. If you like the days when newspapers had real fire in them, check out this link.

 Now it gets REALLY confusing

Here’s where it REALLY got confusing. Since Block 29 wasn’t used for a courthouse, there was a bunch of wrangling over who should get the land. The matter hadn’t been decided when The Hayti Herald weighed in again on January 26, 1911. It did a pretty good job of summarizing the issues, but this nice turn of phrase jumped out: “So the county has itself no power to act in the matter, even in a thousand years or a million years or when Gabriel blows his horn, except to use the property for courthouse purposes, for the reason that every lot that has ever been sold in the City of Hayti have been sold with reference to this plat.

 Supreme Court Judgement

I’m not even going to try to interpret the twists and turns of Williams et al. v. City of Hayti (No. 17705) as reported in the Southwestern Reporter, Volume 184. You can read the Missouri Supreme Court Rehearing Denied March 30, 1916, report for yourself. I made a wise decision to go into photography and not law way back in high school. Taking pictures doesn’t make my head hurt.

Dr. Granville didn’t get Hayti made into the county seat and he didn’t get his courthouse. Now that I know what to look for, I’ll have to see if he got “a city square with ‘Lights and squirrels just like Memphis.’”


101 North Main Street

I was walking east on Themis toward the Common Pleas Courthouse trying to spot the old Teen Age Club that got to bouncing so hard one night that the city inspector shut it down because he was afraid the floor might collapse. On the opposite of the street was a nondescript red brick building that had a plaque on it. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

The Rotary Club plaque read, “Telephone Service. In 1877 the first long distance telephone line in Missouri was completed December 18, 1877, between Cape Girardeau and Jackson. In 1896 here in a 10′ x 12′ second floor room the city’s first telephone exchange was established by A.R. Ponder, L.J. Albert, J.F. Brooks and M.A. Dennison doing business as the Cape Girardeau Telephone Company.”

As a former telecommunications manager, I was vaguely intrigued.

I flashed back to when I was offered the telecom job just before I left on vacation to head back to Cape in the early ’90s. I knew absolutely nothing about phone stuff, but I remember thinking as I was going through little villages like Old Appleton, “Wow, if I take this job I’ll have a bigger  phone system than this town.”

That call to Jackson

I put the story on the back burner for a slow day. When Friend Shari Stiver and I took a stroll down Main Street one day when we were both in town, she said she’d like to swing by to look at the old telephone exchange, which had also been the Sturdivant Bank, the oldest bank in Southeast Missouri.

“The call may have originated in Cape,” she said, “but do you have any idea where it terminated in Jackson?”

Somehow or another, knowing Shari, I was pretty sure I was going to find out.

“The first call rang in my great-grandfather’s kitchen,” she elaborated. “He was the J.F. Brooks mentioned on the plaque. He was the engineer who laid out the railroad for Louis Houck. Houck wanted to be able to get hold of him, so he had him pull a phone line between Cape and Jackson.”

Major Brooks “advanced” down to Advance

“Are we talking about the Major James Francis Brooks who Houck told to ‘advance’ down the line another mile to a stand of mulberry trees where land for a train depot could be bought for $10 an acre instead of $30 an acre in Lakeville?”

That “advance” turned out to become Advance, Missouri, Mother’s hometown.”

Yep, it was the same guy. Major Brooks’ engineering ended up resulting in the establishment of many of the small towns like Sturdivant, Brownwood, Blomeyer and Delta.

Brooks came west on a spotted pony

Shari added that her great-grandmother, “Bookie” (Florence Adele Turnbaugh Brooks) played telephone operator after the initial excitement of the first couple of calls died down. Maj. Brooks got his engineering degree at Vineyard College in Kansas City after he rode his spotted pony west with a wagon train to get there.

The Turnbaughs were Southerners who owned slaves, which Shari suspects caused some heated discussions over a bottle of whiskey on the front porch of the Turnbaugh house in Jackson.

Brooks created SEMO terraces

The excellent history, A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck (Missouri Biography Series), describes how Houck was concerned with preserving the pastoral beauty of Normal School (which became SEMO) and reducing water runoff so he hired Maj. Brooks to landscape the terraces on the east side of Academic Hall that are still visible today.

The book said that part of the project was to build a two-foot sandstone retaining wall along Normal Avenue, “although admittedly this last project was more to stop wayward farm animals from straying onto the grounds.”

101 North Main condemned

The landmark building has been condemned by the city. You can read the details of the wrangling in this Missourian story by Melissa Miller.

Cable reinforces wall

As much as I love old buildings, I can see what the concern is. When you look through the gallery of photos taken over a three-year period, you can see that the upper level has deteriorated to the point that a covered walkway had to be constructed to protect passersby from falling wayward bricks.

A double cable around the top of the building keeps the walls from sagging outward. I don’t know that I can argue with a Missourian commenter who wrote, “Look how the front is shifting out. If it falls about all the plywood awning will do is separate the bodies better from the rubble.”

Sign says Cape Wiggery

I’m not sure what the last business was to be in the building. The sign still says Cape Wiggery Shop. The 1969 City Directory said Kay’s was in there.

Interior has been cleaned out

The inside, at least from looking through the window, looks pretty clean.

It’ll be missed

I’ve made some iconic pictures of the building over the years, so I’ll miss it if it’s pulled down. It would be nice to think it could be saved, but it sure has the sniff of a parking lot about it, based on what I’ve seen and the news stories.

101 North Main photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery. (Thanks to Shari for the Jackson house picture and for sharing the story of her great-grandfather.)

Advance Train Depot

The Advance train depot was originally supposed to be located in Lakeville, described in 1875 as a “thriving town” with a population of about two hundred and all of the necessities of life in that era: a post office, a Union church, Masonic lodge, hotel, public school, general store and a saw and grist mill.

When Louis Houck extended his Cape Girardeau Railway line through the Old Field, heading south and west, though, he balked at the $30 an acre price Lakeville owner Jacob Kappler was asking.

Land in Advance was $10 an acre

Houck agreed that Kappler’s price wasn’t THAT far out of line, but he instructed his civil engineer Major James Francis Brooks to “advance” about a mile west near a stand of mulberry trees and lay out a new town where Joshua Maberry would sell the land for $10 an acre.

New Lakeville thrived and was later named Advance, with the accent on the first syllable. The original town dried up when it was bypassed by the railroad.

Railroad abandoned

I shot these photos for a story that ran in The Missourian June 24, 1966. The first train trip on this line was made in 1881. The last was Nov. 30, 1965. The tracks which once carried as many as four passenger trains a day in the 1920s were being abandoned. The ties were sold to Vernon Lee of Puxico; most of the right of way became part of the property that it adjoined. (What a great rails-to-trails bike path that would have made.)

A Missouri Railroad Pioneer

I picked up a book, A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck (Missouri Biography Series), when I was in Cape in the spring. I quickly set it back down when I saw it was forty bucks.

Reader, railroad buff and frequent commenter Keith Robinson highly recommended it, so I swallowed hard and bought it when I was in Cape this fall. It’s a great read about someone whose name I had heard all my life. I knew he must have been important enough to have a SEMO stadium named after him, but I never realized how key he was to the development of the Southeast Missouri region. (There might not have BEEN a Southeast Missouri State University if there hadn’t been a Louis Houck, by the way.)

Paul Corbin

Another reader, Madeline DeJournett said I should give local historian Paul Corbin a call. We chatted a few minutes and he mentioned that Missourian photographer Fred Lynch had published some audio recordings of him talking about the railroad and growing up in the Advance area. They’re worth a listen.

The old depot wasn’t just a place where the trains stopped. There’s a sign on the building saying that it’s the Railroad Express Agency, the way you got stuff to you in the days before Fed-Ex and UPS. I had a big box of stuff shipped by Railway Express from Cape to Athens, Oh., when I was in college. (They crushed the box and I had a devil of a time getting them to settle, but that’s another story.)

Another sign proclaimed that it was the Western Union Telegraph and Cable Office. I suspect it was a mail and newspaper drop, too. The Missourian used to put out an early edition for train delivery. It was a mishmash of yesterday’s news, today’s news and bad layouts. You had to have wanted a newspaper pretty badly to accept that one.

I’m not sure when the depot was finally torn down.