Monroe City, MO
Monroe City, located where the three counties of Monroe, Marion and Ralls intersect, was layed out in 1875 by Mr. E.B. Talicott. Talicott had earlier been in a partnership with a Mr. John Duff concerning the building of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. This knowledge allowed him to ascertain where stations would be needed along the railroad. One of these stations was called Monroe Station, later Monroe City. On July 4, 1857 at a public barbecue, a public sale of lots took place. Almost immediately houses and businesses began to be built and by the close of that year a small town was beginning to emerge.
Talicott shortly thereafter severed his ties with Monroe Station when he made a deed of trust to John L. Lathrop giving him the power to make deeds and convey all of the land which could be sold in the town. One of the earlier deeds was made by Lathrop to the Monroe Institution for a plot of ground on which was built the Monroe Institute. The school was opened in 1860.
As the dark clouds of the Civil War approached and began to envelop the nation, it also had a profound effect on the small town of Monroe Station. It was centered around the Monroe Institute and it was the only battle in Monroe County in which cannons were used. A young Colonel in the Union Army also had an indirect part. His name was Ulysses Grant. The engagement was a union victory. As the war moved on and eventually ended, the small town of Monroe Station evolved into Monroe City in 1869.
Early expansions to the town were the Piersol and Bailey’s additions. Dr. Elijah Bailey, who came to Monroe Station in 1852, was responsible for the MK&T Railroad to run through Monroe. The Monroe City Bank and many other businesses began to locate and prosper here. Bailey was also the first Mayor of Monroe City.
In 1876 the town had a population of about one thousand. It had thirty two stores and schools. In 1871, the Hannibal and Central Missouri Railroads were completed between Hannibal and Monroe, Missouri. This line was leased to the Toledo, Wasbash and Western Railway Company. The two railroads enabled farmers and merchants to acquire and ship products to all parts of the country.
In 1898 Henderson Produce Company was formed. This business played a pivotal role in the growth of the town and a vital role in World War II when its poultry products were shipped all over the world. Monroe City continued to grow with the help of additional businesses. The two most important enterprises that led to growth and prosperity were Monroe City Diecasting known as Kuhlman Diecasting owned by L.O. Kuhlman. By 1951, the company employed 125 people. By 1957 much of their defense work ended and the workforce was cut in half. As the company changed, the workforce expanded the economic impact on Monroe City was greatly enhanced. Kuhlman Diecasting continued until Pace Industries leased the factory in 1990. In 1996 Pace Industries was acquired by Leggett and Platt. Recently Pace reacquired the factory from Leggett and Pace Aluminum Group. The recent economic downturn has made the future of Pace Industries uncertain.
A second major diecasting and diecasting factory was founded in 1960 by Don Westhoff, Albert Spalding and George Spalding. Its original purpose was to establish a tool and die shop to assist diecasting enterprises in the mid west. In 1973, the City issued bonds for the construction of a facility located on 9 acres of land at 801 Second Street. In 1990, Diemakers was sold to Kanematsu, USA. There were 650 people in its workforce. By 1998, their employment reached 1,185 people located in Monroe City, Palmyra, and Hannibal. This factory has also suffered from economic downturns and has since been sold. It now operates as Continental Casting and today is a major employer in Monroe City.
Monroe City has endured both downturn and prosperity during its time. The town has survived the Civil War, the depression of 1874 and 1929, two world wars and the present difficulties. The faith that the people have showed has always been our backbone. The people and City look on our future with hope and a resolute confidence that we will be here for many more years.
The following history of Monroe City, was taken from the News, in its issue of July, 1876: -‘The first time the writer saw the place where Monroe City now stands, was in the early summer of 1841 or 1842. This whole prairie was then a pathless sea of grass: there were a few small farms in the edges of the timber, but from the spot on which the seminary now stands, no improvement whatever was visible in any direction. The place last named was called “The Mound,” and one of the land-marks along with “’The Round Grove,” “ The Lone Elm “ and some others, by which travelers were guided in traversing the lonely prairie. It was not until some ten years later that the farms began to encroach much upon the great body of open land lying between North and Salt rivers. In 1852, the first accurate surveys for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad were commenced; these were completed in the following year, and 50 miles of the road, extending from Hannibal to the head of Crooked creek, were put under contract. After that date there was a steady increase of immigration to this vicinity, with a corresponding extension of old farms and opening of new ones. The work on the railroad progressed slowly, so that it was not until 1857 the track was laid in Monroe county. Mr. E. B. Talcott was at that time partner of Mr. John Duff in the contract for building the road. This placed him in a position to know where stations would be needed and using that knowledge with the business energy and judgment for which he was conspicuous, he purchased the east half of section 13, township 56, range 8, and laid off the north half of it into what is now known as the “ Old Town of Monroe City.” This was in the spring of 1857. He also immediately commencedthe erection of the hotel now known as the Livingston house. The present proprietor of this hotel and Mr. J. M. Preston made the first improvements; the former having made a contract on the 1st of March with S. F. Hawkins for the erection of a store house, in which, on the 1st of April following, he opened the first stock of goods offered for sale in the town. On the 4th of July the same year, an old-fashioned barbecue was held and a public sale of lots took place.
Several of the purchasers immediately commenced the erection of 2 stores and dwellings, and by the close of the year, the place began to assume quite a village-like appearance. The proprietor of the town, Mr. Talcott, having offered to give the outlot upon which the seminary now stands for the site of such an institution, a charter for such a purpose was secured from the Legislature. The stock was mostly taken by the farmers in the neighborhood, and the buildings were erected in the summer of 1860; and in the autumn of the same year by the Messrs. Comings, who, have had the control of it uninterruptedly ever since. During the war this building was taken possession of and occupied by the United States troops in 1861, and the town was the scene of one of the most satisfactory battles fought throughout the entire campaign most satisfactory, because not a drop of human blood was shed on either side. The effect of the civil war was not only to check all improvement, but in fact to diminish the population of the town. But immediately on the restoration of peace business was resumed and business revived. The original town plat embraced only the north-east quarter of section thirteen. An addition on the east was made by T. W. Davis, the plat recorded February 7, 1867, and another by Dr. E. Bailey on the south, the plat recorded March 4, 1872. The first church building erected was St. Jude’s, which was begun in 1866, and first occupied for worship about July 4, 1867. This was followed by the Christian Church in 1869; the Baptist in 1870; the Presbyterian in 1871; the Methodist South is now in process of erection. A building which had been used for a private school-room by Mr. J. M. Mc Murry, was purchased for public school purposes in 1867, and has been used for such purpose until the close of the past scholastic year. One which it is hoped will do more credit to the town and afford better facilities to both teachers and pupils is now under contract to be finished in time for the fall opening at the usual time. The incorporation of the town was effected in 1869, trustees being Messrs. H. Cary (who was elected chairman), W. P. Bush, T. M. Hubbard, S. E. Coming s and F. B. Sheetz. The town owes its existence to the construction of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and its prosperity has been furthered and its facilities increased by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, which commenced operation in 1871. A. banking institution under the title of the Monroe City Bank commenced operation in 1875, John B. Randol being president and W. R. P. Jackson cashier. At the present time the town has a population of about 800, has eleven stores for dry goods, groceries and general merchandise, three drug stores, one printing-office, two hardware and tin stores, two furniture stores, two wagon and carriage manufactories, one for agricultural implements, one marble yard, one flouring mill, one jeweler and one lumber yard. If the growth of the town has been slower than that of some others, it is a satisfaction to know that it has been substantial ; relying on the basis of a good surrounding country, peopled by those who for intelligence, industry and enterprise will bear comparison with any similar community in our State. The future of the town, it is believed, will depend upon the enlarged development of the agricultural resources of the surrounding country—on the continued encouragement given our educational institutions, both public and private -on the liberal support and increase of our manufacturing interests -on the continued activity and enterprise of our business community, and above all, on the maintenance of a public character, marked by morality honesty and liberality. Monroe City, which now contains a population of about 1,200, is the largest and most important town in the county, excepting Paris. The people are wide-awake and enterprising, and have done much to forward the interests of their little city, both its material and educational interests, and are justly proud of the advancement they have made, and the present position the town occupies, as to business and financial solidity. It is the only town in the county which has the advantage of two railroads. These, centering as they do at Monroe City, give the farmers, business men, and shippers, ready and cheap markets for what they may buy or sell.
The surrounding country consists principally of level prairie, which presents to the eye a pastoral landscape of great beauty. This prairie is dotted over with farm houses, many of which have been built not merely as places of abode, but exhibit in their construction and outside appearance and equipments, much taste and ornamentation. The farmers are generally thrifty, not a few of whom are large landed proprietors, and have made the pursuit of agriculture a success. Here they surely possess, in a great measure, that most essential prerequisite to good farming, rich land, and have ample room to carry out their most sanguine wishes as tillers of the soil. As already stated J. M. Preston erected the first building that was put up in Monroe City. It stood on Winter street. J. M. Preston opened the first business house, it being an eating house. The first regular dry goods store was opened by John Boulware. John Wells was the first saddler. Al. Gorrall was one of the early blacksmiths. Dr. Thomas Proctor was the first physician, locating in August, 1864. Judge Thomas Van Swearinger was the pioneer attorney, becoming a resident before the Civil War. Buchanan & Freeman, agents of Rowe & Toll, of Hannibal, Mo., were the first lumber merchants in the town. Mrs. Locke taught the first school; Prof. J. M. McMurry taught the first public school, in 1866. The present public school-house is a brick building, and was erected at a cost of $4,000. Dr. Thomas Proctor and Prof. J. M. McMurry opened the first drug store. John Gates was the first postmaster. Among the manufacturing institutions are the Monroe City Creamery Company, which was chartered during the latter part of the year 1872 by a joint stock company, J, A. Peirsol, general manager; the broom factory of Patrick Cochlin, and the hay stacker and rake factory of Eli Wayland. S. B. Gilliland also makes hay rakes. C. H. Poage also manufactures hay rakes and bee-hives, and operates a planing-mill. Two wagon factories are in operation.