Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


Chapter 7
Transportation
by A. M. Haswell


The early immigration to Missouri naturally settled along the valleys of the navigable streams. The pioneer who could load his family and household possessions upon a flatboat and float the cargo to his chosen destination, took the water route as a matter of course. For, slow and toilsome as it was, to row, or push, or tow the awkward craft against the current of the streams, yet the progress was more rapid and the labor less than that required in dragging heavy wagons along the narrow and hilly trails that were the only paths through the wilderness.

Early in the history of Missouri the advent of steamboats upon the western rivers gave great impetus to the settlement of such lands as were within fairly easy reach of the Mississippi, Missouri, Osage, Gasconade and other navigable rivers. On the rich alluvial land along the larger of these streams settled wealthy planters from the more Southern states. Bringing their slaves with them, these immigrants developed a great acreage of the most fertile lands in the state in a surprisingly short time. But these river valleys were of comparatively small area, and were all taken up before the main tide of immigration flowed into the state.

Later a wholly different type of immigrants appeared. These to a large degree sought the southwestern part of the new State. They were the sturdy hill people of eastern Tennessee, whose ancestors had for generations wrung a scanty subsistence from the valleys and "coves" of the Cumberland mountains, men who rarely owned slaves, and many of whom brought to their new home few worldly possessions more than their good right arms.

But they had heard of a region in southwest Missouri, known as the "Ozark Mountains," which consisted largely of wide, gently rolling plateaus and fertile valleys; a land of springs and swift, clear streams; of plentiful timber and mild climate; a country from which the United States government had but lately removed the Indians; a territory vastly more fertile than their native mountains, yet with enough of the same characteristics to render them attractive to men born among the hills.

This was the class which, in the early thirties, settled in Greene county. And, because their chosen home was remote from any navigable stream, they came into their Canaan wholly by land. Among the very first of them probably some came on horseback, with their few possessions upon the backs of pack horses. For these first corners were compelled to follow the narrow trails that had for ages been trodden by the red men, trails that in many instances are today followed by lines of railroads, so unerringly did these wild men of the past select the best routes. These trails soon developed into rough frontier wagon roads, and over them came the Tennesseeans in ox wagons, horseback, or on foot, to take possession of their promised land.

As the country became more populous, and the improved circumstances of the people demanded something more than the bare rude necessities of pioneer life, small stores were opened, where a few of the commodities of older communities could be had for cash or barter. The trade flourished and before long developed something approaching a regular system of transportation. There grew up a class of men, farmers of the region mostly who spent a large part of every year in the business of freighting, hauling the deer skins, peltry, medicinal roots and herbs and other frontier products taken by the merchants in exchange for their goods, to St. Louis two hundred and forty miles away to the northeast, and returning laden with new supplies to replenish the stock of the traders. [185-186]

HOW MERCHANDISE WAS OBTAINED.

As soon as regular lines of steamboats were established on the Missouri river, it was much more expeditious to have merchandise sent up the river to Boonville, in Cooper county, some one hundred and twenty-five miles north of Greene county. Old Franklin was another of the points to which southwestern goods were sent by water. From these points it was hauled to Springfield with a saving of about one-half in distance as compared with the St. Louis route. For years this was the course for nearly all the merchandise brought into Greene county. Boonville street in Springfield got its name because in those early days it was the beginning of the "Boonville road." Jefferson street and St. Louis street also indicate the destinations toward which they pointed.

But, after a score of years had passed from the first settlement of Greene county, the railroads crossed the Mississippi and began that marvelous march that was to end only when the Golden Gate had been reached. Impressed with the delusion that the public domain of the United States was so large that it was practically inexhaustible, Congress had thought it good policy to offer immense bodies of it to those railroads which should build their lines through the unsettled Western territories. There were several of these land grants made in Missouri, and one extended to and through Greene county. These lands were donated by Congress to the State of Missouri, with the stipulation that they were to be used as directed in the act establishing them, for the encouragement of railroad building. Companies were quickly organized to take advantage of the opportunity to obtain these great domains. One of these railroads was the Missouri Pacific, which ran westward from St. Louis. Thirty-five miles from St. Louis on this line was the town of Franklin, now for many years called Pacific. From this point the "South West Branch of the Pacific Railroad" started toward Springfield and Greene county. The land grant for this line was made in 1852, and the building of the road began soon after.

The grant for this particular road comprised all vacant government lands .upon the even-numbered sections for a distance of six miles on each side of the surveyed route. It was specified that the company had the right to take all vacant land, up to a distance of fifteen miles on each side of the survey, to make up an equivalent of six miles solid alternate sections. The survey crossed Greene county diagonally from about the center of the east line to a point but a short distance from the southwest corner of the county. The fifteen-mile limit was followed the entire distance across the county, and there were about one hundred thousand acres of railroad land in Greene county. Some of this was the finest prairie, for the original settlers, not being familiar with land that grew no trees, doubted the fertility of the prairies, and settled where they were sure of the two prime requisites of life, as they viewed it, timber and water. Thus some of the finest lands became railroad property. The great Haseltine orchard, five miles west of Springfield, is part of a solid section of beautiful prairie that was originally railroad land.

The great panic of 1857 brought railroad building to a standstill. It was slow to start again, and when the Civil war broke out in 1861, the terminus of the road was at Rolla, a scant half-way from St. Louis to Springfield. Freight shipped over the railroad could, of course, be delivered at the end of the track in a fraction of the time required to send it to Boonville by boat. Hence the terminus, changing from time to time as the road advanced, was the point from which freight and passengers were taken over one of the roughest sections of the entire state.

A regular line of stages had been operated from the time that the country had become sufficiently settled to make it profitable, and delivered passengers and mail in what seemed then to be remarkably short time. The through line of stages from St. Louis to the Pacific coast passed through Springfield, but, being discontinued during the Civil war, was never re-established. A regular line of stages was, however, maintained to Fort Smith, Arkansas, until the railroad, as extended to the west, made other points more convenient from which to reach the Arkansas city. [186-187]

Greene county is on record as voting a special tax levy of $20,000.00, a princely sum for such a community in those days, as a bonus to the railroad to hasten its arrival in the county. This tax was actually levied and collected in 1856. Whether the money was presented to the railroad company, history does not say. Certainly, if it was, it wholly failed to produce the desired effect, for when the war put an end to all railroad building, five years later, terminus was no nearer than Rolla, one hundred and twenty miles away.

The war, as stated above, halted railroad building for the four years which it lasted. It is, however, true that in 1864 Col. S. H. Boyd, at the time representing this district in Congress, urged upon the government the a visability of extending the road to Springfield for military purposes. But the engineers sent to investigate the project reported adversely, giving as the reason that it would be too expensive to warrant the construction, in which report they were doubtless right, for time was to prove the line for man miles one of the costliest description.

But John C. Fremont, the general who commanded in the state for the Union during some of the earlier months of the conflict, was evidently impressed with the idea that a railroad into the southwest would be a paying venture, for within a year after the close of hostilities we find him at the head of a company and building toward Springfield. The road had been taken from the original company by the State of Missouri for non-fulfillment of contract, and Fremont purchased it, with all its equipment and appurtenances, for the ridiculously small sum of $1,300,000.00.

The first instalment of purchase money, $325,000.00, was paid, and the road was finished to the eastern bank of the Gasconade river, twelve miles west of Rolla, where a station was built under the name of Little Piney, now known as Arlington. The survey called for a long and expensive tunnel on the western side of the Gasconade, and the Fremont company had completed some thousand feet of it, when they defaulted on the second instalment of the purchase money due the State, and the road at once was taken from them, reverting to the State of Missouri once more. Here on the eastern bank of the Gasconade the road halted until about the middle of September, 1868. Meanwhile another company had been organized and obtained the charter from the state. Another survey was run, which, by a system of sharp curves at a heavy gradient, climbed out of the Gasconade valley to the uplands, thus eliminating the troublesome tunnel from the problem. It is, however, a fact that at different times during the past twenty-five years railroad authorities have debated the advisability of building a "cut-off" along the old survey, shortening the distance several miles, and furnishing much lighter grades. Many are of the opinion that increasing traffic will ultimately compel this to be done. [188]

FIRST TRAIN ARRIVES.

The new company pushed the construction actively, and in the spring of 1870 the whistle of the locomotive first wakened the echoes among the hills of Greene county. The first train of cars, forming the construction outfit, pulled into the depot in the woods of North Springfield just before sunset on April 21,1870. Nearly all the population of Springfield, and a large part of that of the nearer parts of the county, were there to greet it, and music, cheering and speeches were the order of the day.

But the grand and more formal celebration of the completion of the road to Springfield did not take place until the 3d of May. On that date the first excursion train that ever came into Springfield arrived from St. Louis. It had among its passengers the governor and lieutenant-governor of the state, the speaker of the house of representatives, Francis B. Hayes, the president of the road, and other men prominent in State and nation.

A stand had been erected in front of the court house on the Public Square, and from it many speeches were delivered. So, with music and feasting and booming cannon, Greene county welcomed the day that saw her at last in communication with the outside world, by steam and steel rails rather than by horse power over rugged and mountainous roads.

It must be told here that long before the arrival of the railroad there was great agitation in Springfield over the location of the depot. The original survey, made about the year 1852, had passed along the brow of a low ridge that forms the northern limit of the plateau on which most of the city of Springfield is built. This route was something over a mile from the Public Square, which was the business center of the town, and passed through an unsightly region of stony brush land. When it was evident that at last a company had taken hold of the railroad able and willing to build it, the question of the location of the depot for Springfield became at once of prime importance.

At that time the late Dr. E. T. Robberson, then and until the day of his death one of the most prominent and best loved citizens of Springfield, owned a tract of some five hundred acres, extending for nearly a mile along both sides of the survey. Some year or so before the arrival of the road in Springfield, Doctor Robberson sold an undivided two-thirds interest in this five-hundred-acre tract to Charles E. Harwood and S. H. Boyd. The partnership was called Harwood, Robberson & Boyd. These gentlemen then proceeded to make the following proposition to the railroad company: If the road shall follow the original survey, and the depot be located upon our land, we will give the company a right-of-way two hundred feet wide across the entire five hundred acres; also the deed to a forty-acre tract on which to erect the railroad shops and, lastly, we will lay out two hundred acres into a town and give the company an undivided half interest in it.

On the other hand, the railroad company was approached by delegations of merchants and property owners of Springfield, urging that the depot be located near the Public Square. At one time the company made an offer to deflect the road to the south far enough to locate the depot upon Center street, about half a mile from the Square, if the citizens would pay the added expense, estimated at about $25,000.00. Some of those interested were in favor of accepting these terms, but a strong element, including some of the richest men of the town, were wholly opposed to paying a cent to the company, claiming that the charter of the road compelled it to be built into "Springfield, Missouri," which the former survey certainly did not touch. At length, early in December, 1868, two men reached Springfield as railroad commissioners, with authority to locate the depot and settle the question finally. These men were Andrew Pierce, of Boston, Massachusetts, a typical New England Yankee, afterward for some years president of the railroad, and Thomas McKissick, a prominent railroad man of St. Louis. Several conferences were held by these gentlemen with the principal residents of the town, but the faction who opposed any concession to the railroad company were so active in advocacy of their point of view that the conferences developed rather into controversies.

"Your charter compels you to build into Springfield," said one prominent citizen to Andrew Pierce at the last of these meetings; "you have to build into Springfield, and we do not have to pay you one cent for doing it!"

At that, Pierce leaped to his feet, and, smiting the table with his fist, shouted: "All right, that settles it. I'll very soon show you where I'll put that depot!" And he did!

Thus the depot was located on the land of Harwood, Robberson & Boyd, and the rival city of North Springfield came into being. It required twenty years of strife and jealousy before the two corporations finally decided to unite, and were consolidated by a practically unanimous vote in the autumn of 1887.

The railroad did not tarry at Springfield, but pushed rapidly to the southwest, and within a year formed a junction with the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad at Vinita, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, one hundred and thirty miles from Springfield.

Meanwhile, more than a year before the completion of the South West Pacific to Springfield, the craze that about that time was epidemic all through Missouri, of issuing county or municipal bonds as bonuses to secure the building of railroads, had struck Greene county. All around us our neighboring counties had voted bonds for various proposed roads, most of them myths and destined always to remain so, and Greene county must needs keep up with the procession. [189-190]

OLD GULF RAILROAD.

Especially after it was certain that the Pacific road was not to be located immediately in Springfield, did this mania spread through the community. A company had been organized called the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis railroad, and in 1869 it was building south from Kansas City, and apparently uncertain just what direction it was to go. Intense interest was aroused in Greene county in an effort to have this road follow a route through the county and Springfield. Meetings were held. Petitions to the County Court were circulated asking that tribunal to take stock in the road and to issue bonds to pay for it. In September, 1869, the County Court submitted a proposition, to be voted on at the November elections of that year, proposing that Greene county subscribe for $300,000.00 of railroad stock, $180,000.00 of it to be stock of the Fort Scott, Springfield & Memphis Railway and $120,000.00 that of the Kansas City & Memphis company. In spite of the lengthy petitions of voters who had asked this action from the court, and although large and enthusiastic meetings were held in its behalf, the measure was decisively defeated at the election.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Greene county, that defeat did not settle the matter. The next year, 1870, a mass meeting of delegates from several counties interested in the building of the road met in Springfield and held an enthusiastic session. This resulted in further meetings, petitions and pressure of all sorts upon the County Court to take stock. This time $400,000.00 was the amount named. The petitions asked that the proposition be submitted to the voters as before, but the court, under legal advice, assumed the responsibility, and ordered the issue of the $400,000.00 of bonds. Some $220,000.00 of them were sold, and work was begun on the road in Greene county. From that date, for many years, there was almost ceaseless litigation. A strong element in the county were bitterly opposed to being taxed to pay interest and sinking fund for bonds which they declared were illegal because not having been submitted to a vote of the people. Many emphatically refused to pay the tax assessed against them for the bonds. There were indignation meetings, protests and suit after suit, both by bond holders clamoring for the interest on the bonds they had bought, and by the county officials, trying to rescind the former action of the court and repudiate the bonds. But all resistance proved in vain, and at length the United States Supreme Court ruled that the bonds sold were in the hands of innocent purchasers and must be paid. For some years after that a portion of every dollar of taxes paid in Greene county was applied to interest on these bonds or to a sinking fund for their final payment. The rapidly increasing wealth of the county furnished an income that wiped out the entire indebtedness in far less time than had been, thought possible.

But, as stated above, work had begun on the road after the sale of the bonds, and, before the panic of 1873 came to paralyse all railroad building for awhile, the grading had been completed through Ash Grove to the west line of the county, some twenty-four miles northwest from Springfield. There it rested for more than four years, gradually going to ruin under the action of the elements.

Then, in 1877, a group of Springfield business men determined to again attempt to gain another railroad for Springfield. They organized the "Western Missouri Railroad Company" and went bravely to work to lay the track to Ash Grove, twenty miles away. And here it is right that the names of these men should find permanent and honorable record, for, as a result of their foresight and courage, Springfield, Greene county, and, indeed, all southwest Missouri, received an impetus for good that has not ceased to this day. It was at no small financial risk to themselves that these men revived the dead and buried enterprise, and their names should be forever remembered in Greene county. They were L. H. Murray, L. A. D. Crenshaw, Charles H. Heer, W. J. McDaniel, Charles Sheppard, Ralph Walker and H. E. Havens. All now, with the possible exception of Mr. Havens, are in their graves, but the results of their action stand as a perpetual monument to their memory.

The little twenty-mile road, promptly christened "The Jerk Water Route" by some irreverent scamp, was finished to Ash Grove. It was equipped with a hired locomotive, a passenger and baggage coach and a few freight cars. But it was operated regularly, and it was destined to be a vital factor in the future prosperity of Springfield and of Greene county. It should be stated here that these men who built the twenty miles of railroad had substantial support and encouragement from their fellow citizens. Meetings were held, both in town and country, and a total of about $35,000.00 was subscribed. For every dollar the subscribers received "transportation certificates" to the full amount of their subscriptions.

The first train on this little road came into Springfield about 3 P.M. on the 20th day of May, 1878. It was greeted by as enthusiastic a welcome as that which received the other railroad eight years before. Bells rang, whistles blew and cannons roared. And this exultation was justified, for, for the first time in its history, Springfield proper had a railroad within her limits and could justly claim at last to be upon the railroad map. But the benefits the enterprise was to bring to the town and county had as yet hardly begun. Within less than three years this twenty miles of track and the grading done in 1870, put together, proved a sufficient magnet to bring the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis line through Greene county and Springfield. On the 25th of May, 1881, the first through train from Kansas City rolled into Springfield, and the little road had fulfilled its mission. From that day the future of Springfield was assured. It marked the turning point in the city's history. Never since then have her citizens faltered in faith and courage. Beginning then, realty values have steadily risen. Factories by the dozen have located here as a result of improved railroad facilities. And the faith and pluck of the group to Springfield men to whom it was all due have been justified a thousand times. The Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis road did not tarry at Springfield, but was pushed rapidly to Memphis, Tennessee, and afterward to Birmingham, Alabama, thus adding very largely to the territory within reach of the city's business houses.

In May, 1901, a consolidation was effected between the Frisco system and the Memphis line, and the depot in the north part of the city was abandoned, all trains on both roads arriving and departing from the former "Gulf" depot in the older part of town. The main freight yards of the united roads are located in the northern part of the city and are of large extent.

In 1907-8 the Frisco built the largest railroad shops in the Middle West on a fine tract of three hundred acres, about a mile west of the city limits. This large tract was bought by the citizens of the town for the sum of $45,000.00, and given to the Frisco as a location for these great shops.

In addition to the two main lines of railroad already described, Greene county has several branch lines. Of these the first built was the Ozark Branch, in 1882, from Springfield to Ozark, the county-seat of Christian county, twenty miles southeast. The line was soon extended fifteen miles farther, and the little city of Chadwick has grown up at the terminus. Several surveys have been made from time to time, with the view of extending the road to some point farther south, but none of these efforts have resulted in any more road building. [193]

THE BOLIVAR BRANCH.

In 1885 the Frisco also built a line to Bolivar, county-seat of Polk county, thirty-five miles north. This line was eventually continued to Kansas. City, and was the Frisco's only entry to that city until the consolidation with the Gulf road. The extension of the Bolivar branch to Kansas City was really a matter of self-protection on the part of the Frisco, in order to meet and checkmate the advance into Frisco territory of the Kansas City, Clinton & Springfield Railroad, known at the time as "the Bailey road." That road was finally built to a junction with the Memphis line at Ash Grove, in Greene county, and was finally absorbed by the Frisco. The main line thus became the owner of two parallel roads, which cross and recross each other repeatedly. Under the laws forbidding the joint ownership of parallel roads, the Frisco had to dispose of its acquisition, and it is operated as an independent line, with offices in Springfield.

In 1902 the Missouri Pacific extended a line from Carthage, in Jasper county, Missouri, to a junction with the Iron Mountain & Southern, in north-eastern Arkansas. Springfield worked hard for a connection with this line, and in 1905 sufficient inducements were made to the company, and it built a thirty-five-mile branch from Crane, in Stone county, to Springfield. Many people hope that now that this system has built into Springfield, it will continue the line eighty miles to the northeast, to a junction with its own Jefferson City branch, at Bagnell, thus realizing the dream of many years, of a northern road, independent of the Frisco. Such a line would pass through a fine country, and should be a paying venture from the start.

Greene county has as yet no interurban electric lines. Surveys have been lately made for two or three such lines, and with the introduction of cheap electricity generated by the exhaustless water powers of the Ozarks, it is inevitable that the future will see such electric roads radiating from Springfield like the spokes from the hub of the wheel.

While Greene county as a whole has no electric lines as yet, the city of Springfield has one of the most extensive and best equipped systems of street railway of any city of its size in the entire Union. The germ of the city's present street railways was planted in 1869, even before the advent of the first steam line. In that year a charter was granted under the name of the Springfield Railway & Transfer Company, to J. M. Doling, C. B. Holland, N M. Rountree, C. B. McAfee, James Vaughan, Henry C. Young and W. J. McDaniel, to "operate a railroad on any street in Springfield, by steam, or with horsepower."

For some reason this road was never built. It seems, however, that "city fathers" of Springfield were in sympathy with the effort to procure street railways for the town, for we find that on the 8th of March, 1870, the council voted in favor of an issue of $30,000.00 in city bonds, "to aid in building street railroads." As the law did not permit the issue of bonds as a bonus to any enterprise, these astute councilmen directed that the bonds should be used in "grading and macadamizing Jefferson street from the northern boundary to Water street, and Water street from Jefferson to Boonville street."

Thus these streets would have been turned over to the street car company graded and ready for the ties and iron. The scheme, however, did not work, and the streets named were not "graded and macadamized" until years after this date. After this the project seems to have slept, for there is nothing on record telling of any new enterprise of the sort, until September, 1874,when another franchise was granted to a company of Springfield men, in the same name as the old organization of 1869, viz: "The Springfield Rail and Transfer Company." This company, too, proved able to do nothing. Why, history does not tell us. After this failure there is a blank in the records of more than six years, until October 20, 1880. At that date a franchise was granted to three prominent citizens of Springfield, under the title the "Springfield Railway Company." These men were Homer F. Fellows, Robert J. McElhaney and James A. Stoughton. The capital stock was $25,000.00 and the object of the company is set forth to be: "To construct operate a street railway, or railways, from the city of Springfield to and within the city of North Springfield, and to run street cars thereon, to be drawn by horses or mules." [194]

At last a company was found willing and able to fulfill the purposes of its charter. Within a year the cars were running on a belt line composed of the Public Square, Boonville street, Commercial street, Benton avenue, Jefferson street and St. Louis street. The road, with its humble equipment of cars "drawn by horses or mules," paid from the first day, and was extended and improved rapidly.

August 9, 1885, a company, composed of Charles H. Rogers, at the time general manager of the Frisco, and R. C. Kerns, a St. Louis capitalist, together with Charles Sheppard, L. H. Murray, C. B. McAfee, John O'Day, J. C. Cravens and some other Springfield men, took over the lines in operation, changed the power to electricity and added greatly to the trackage in operation. , In February, 1890, followed the "Union Rapid Transit Company," and this in turn was followed the same year in July by the "Springfield Electric Street Railway Company." In 1895 this was succeeded by the "Springfield Traction Company," which, under different managements, has continued till the present.

The Springfield Traction Company has now in operation twenty-three miles of track and a capital stock of $400,000.00. It reaches Doling Park on the north and the new shops off the west, both points being outside of the city limits. Besides these, it has a line to the city limits on the south, and covers all important sections of the city. The road is provided with a large modern power plant, standing at the corner of Main street and Phelps avenue. This plant is now used only as an auxiliary, as the road is operated with power from the great hydroelectric plant at Powersite, on White river, forty miles away. [195]


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