MAJOR MISSOURI/COOPER COUNTY EVENTS 1874-1993
Map of Missouri showing cropland devastation by the Rocky Mountain locust plagues of 1866 and 1874, State Historical Society of Missouri Map Collection.
(1874) “The GRASSHOPPER PLAGUE” began in western Missouri as the first swarms of locusts from the Rocky Mountains traveled eastward eating everything in its path. (Courtesy of the Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“Small flying grasshoppers, known as Rocky Mountain locust, hatched in an unusually large number in the spring and by the summer of 1874, the locusts began their travel eastward in search of food. Kansas and Nebraska were their first stops and heavily hit, devouring crops in large swaths stretching from the interior of Canada to the southern border of Texas, including the western regions of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. The following spring of 1875, trillions of the locusts hatched, a number unseen since that time. The large swarms continued until 1877, causing an estimated $200 million in crop damage. Not only did the locusts eat crops, it ate leather, wood, sheep’s wool, and reportedly the clothes off a person’s back! Vivid firsthand accounts told of the clouds that hailed grasshoppers, falling to the ground like snowflakes. Missouri offered $1 a bushel for locusts collected in March in an effort to stop the insects from multiplying. Later, farmers planted more resilient crops such as winter wheat that matured in the early summer before the migration of locusts. It’s uncertain what led to the end of the plague, but researchers have studied and theorized what caused this fortunate mass extinction of the Rocky Mountain locust.”
(1896) JESSE JAMES TTRAIN ROBBERY.
The infamous James train robbery at Otterville on July 7, 1896 received little newspaper attention since it was at the same time as the battle of Little Big Horn out west. Keith Daleen, a Civil War reenactor and historian, has researched the eight robbers who boarded the stalled train at Rocky Cut, robbed the passengers and the railroad safe, and disappeared to divide the loot at Flat Creek. They netted about $15,000 from the robbery, a nice sum in those days. Their names were Jesse and Frank James, Cole and Bob Younger, Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts, Bill Caldwell (aka William Stiles) and Hobbs Kerry.
Jesse had many friends in the Otterville area and would hide out in an old building on the edge of town when he came to Otterville. So, the gang was very familiar with the area and the best escape routes.
Frank James was jailed for a very short time in the Cooper County jail, but was released on bond. Kerry was the only one convicted and jailed. The others were later convicted of robbing the Northfield Bank in Minnesota and were known then as the James/Younger Gang. Later, the others were convicted of robbing the Northfield Bank and jailed.
There is a descriptive marker at “Robber Cut” at the Brownfield
Roadside Park on old Route 50 overlooking the place where the robbery occurred.
You might like to take a video “tour” of the old Cooper County Jail and see the luxurious accommodations that Frank and Hobs Kerry enjoyed as a guest.
Marie Oliver Watkins stands behind the original Missouri flag that she designed, 1943 circa, (P1103) State Historical Society of Missouri.
(1913) The OFFICIAL MISSOURI STATE FLAG designed by Marie Watkins Oliver, was signed into law. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
In 1908, the Daughters of the American Revolution appointed Marie Watkins Oliver chairperson of the committee to design a flag for Missouri. Oliver gathered information about how other states had designed their flags and began work on a design centered on the Missouri coat of arms signifying Missouri's independence as a state. The blue stripe in the flag represented vigilance, permanency and justice. The red striped represented valor and the white stripe represented purity. Oliver asked Mary Kochtitzy, an artist from Cape Girardeau, to paint the flag on paper for a State Capitol viewing in 1908. The bill to make the flag official failed to pass twice because of a competing design. After the Missouri State Capitol fire of 1911 destroyed Oliver’s original sample, a second flag made of silk was completed and Governor Elliott Woolfolk Major signed the bill to make Oliver’s design the official state flag.
The Missouri State Flag.
Adopted by State Legislature
Sheriff John Grothe and Deputy James Morton with captured moonshine still in St. Charles, 1924, (S1083) State Historical Society of Missouri.
(1920 - 1933) PROHIBITION era begins across the U.S. affecting many of the German immigrant-owned beer companies in Missouri(Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“Beginning in 1882, Missouri counties and towns passed local option laws to turn communities dry. By World War I, over 90 of the state’s 114 counties were dry through these laws. On January 16, 1919, Missouri ratified what would become the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Under the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, Missouri's flourishing alcohol and wine industry took a significant step back, particularly German-immigrant owned breweries. After a decade of inefficient enforcement, and with the deepening of the Great Depression, the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, was ratified in 1933.”
Boonville had a very successful brewery, Griessmaier & Roeschel Brewery/Winery, which opened in 1874 and closed in 1878. After prohibition, another brewery known as the Haas Brewery, operated from 1933-1942. So Cooper County did not have any “legal” establishments put out of business during prohibition. There is no record about where, or if, County residents obtained “adult beverages” during prohibition.
1929 Stock Market Crash (Courtesy of the Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
St. Louis Soup Kitchen, 1939. Charles Trefts Photographs (P0034) State Historical Society of Missouri.
(1929) The stock market crash led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. (Courtesy Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“The Great Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as “Black Thursday,” started in the late Fall of 1929 when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. The crash caused an economic downfall throughout the state as Missouri businesses struggled to survive. About 300 Kansas City industrial companies closed by 1933 and other cities and towns across Missouri would suffer from the fallout of the crash. The fallen markets, alone, did not cause the Great Depression. Only 16 percent of Americans were in the market. However, it caused widespread panic that worsened an ongoing recession, it lowered consumer spending, and contributed to the banking crisis”.
The “Great Depression” was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. It started after the stock market crash in October 1929 when over one million investors were wiped out.
Farmers suffered during the Depression from drought, insect swarms and lower farm prices. Many family farms were lost to creditors during this time.
This is a good concise explanation of the Depression.
Another explanation from The Balance
(1937) Missouri voters approved a CONSTITUTIONAL AMMENDMEENT to create the Missouri Conservation Commission. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“On July 1, 1937, the constitutional amendment creating the Missouri Conservation Commission took effect, creating a politically-appointed, science-based conservation agency with exclusive authority over forests, fish and wildlife. Over the next 75 years, the “Missouri plan” allowed the state agency, Missouri Department of Conservation, to build what is acknowledged as one of the nation’s top conservation programs. Prior to the creation of the commission, Missouri’s forests, fish, and wildlife resources were being quickly depleted in the state”.
(1939) CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS (by Elizabeth Davis)
FDR’s Alphabet Soup Comes to Boonville
Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was Governor of New York when Black Tuesday hit on October 29, 1929. The Great Depression followed and lasted the better part of ten years.
In 1932, the Democratic Party talked FDR into being their candidate for President of the United States. In his acceptance speech, he promised the American people a New Deal. Elected by a landslide, FDR took office on March 4, 1933. Five days later he called the 73rd Congress into emergency session. By the end of the month, Congress had passed the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act and it had been signed into law. On April 5, FDR issued Executive Order 6101 authorizing a program which would become known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
But this was just one of FDR’s New Deal programs to get the unemployed trained and back to work. At the time, twenty-five percent of the population was unemployed. His first program: recruit the young and unemployed, create a peacetime army, and fight to save our nation’s natural resources.
On January 21, 1935, The Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 was passed by joint resolution and signed by the President on April 8. FDR signed Executive Order 7034 on May 6 of that year which established the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It was renamed the Work Projects Administration (still known as the WPA) in 1939.
Both these programs took the unskilled and unemployed young men of this country, put them to work on public projects, and taught them skills for the future. Because most of the President’s programs became known by their acronyms, they were collectively referred to as FDR’s “alphabet soup”.
The CCC Campsite was active in Pilot Grove from 1939-1942. The CCC program dealt mostly with land and conservation while the WPA put up thousands of public buildings around the country. In 1939, the WPA came to Boonville. Sumner School was built for the black students in the community. That changed in 1959 when desegregation became law and all students went to the same school.
The Emergency Conservation Work (EWC) Act, Senate Bill S.598, was introduced on March 27, passed both houses of Congress and was on Roosevelt’s desk by March 31. Executive Order 6101, dated April 5, authorized the program which would become known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Robert Fechner was appointed director and an Advisory Council consisting of representatives of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and War, was created.
The first enrollee signed up on April 7, and, ten days after that, the first CCC camp opened. By July 1, over 275,000 men occupied 1,300 camps in all 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Single men who were between the ages of 17 and 25, out of school and unemployed were eligible for enrollment. The pay was $30-a-month plus food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Mandatory monthly allotment checks of $25 were sent to their families. For those who had no family, the funds were held in an account for him until discharged from the program. Communities close to these camps profited as well. They averaged $5,000-a-month additional revenue which saved many small businesses from going under. Almost immediately, two important modifications became necessary.
Enlistment was extended to about 14,000 American Indians who were living well below the poverty Level. Over time, the program helped more than 80,000 of them reclaim land that had once been theirs. About 25,000 locally experienced men (LEM) were also authorized to enroll in order to train inexperienced men with axes, shovels, and other skills they needed to perform their jobs. This had the added benefit of allowing the locally unemployed to be eligible for enrollment.
On May 11, 1933, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6129 which opened enrollment to about 25,000 Spanish American and World War I veterans with no age or marital restrictions. They performed duties in conservation suited to their age and physical condition. Nearly 250,000 veterans were given belated opportunities to rebuild their lives after serving their country.
With unemployment down and World War II just around the corner, CCC was on its last leg. Congress never actually abolished the CCC program; they just stop funding it. CCC officially went out of existence on June 30, 1942.
A partial summary of the work accomplished by the CCC between 1933 and 1942 includes: the erection of 3,470 fire towers, construction of 97,000 miles of fire roads, 4,235,000 man-days fighting fires, the planting of more than three billion trees, and the arresting of soil erosion on more than twenty million acres of land. During those eleven years, nearly 3 million men found employment in more than 2,650 camps.
While 137 camps are listed in Missouri, it should be noted that Pilot Grove is the only location listed in Cooper County. According to the CCC Legacy website (www.ccclegacy.org) a camp was established in Pilot Grove on October 17, 1939. (SCS-34, 3762). However, records indicate that a second CCC camp was established in Pilot Grove on June 30, 1941. (SCS-38, 1771)
Thanks to previous research done by Judy Shields, it appears the first camp was outgrown and a second camp was built either adjourning or close by the first one. When completed, the first camp was closed. When asked, Shields said she had been unable to identify any original buildings from the camp.
A bronze plaque has been provided by the Friends of Pilot Grove and was dedicated at Pilot Grove’s City Park by city officials in 2018.
HISTORICALLY YOURS, by Liz Davis (Published Jan 31, 2018)
(1945) Missouri ratified the state's fourth and current constitution. (Courtesy of the Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“The first Missouri Constitution was written in only 38 days and was adopted July 19, 1820. Subsequent drafts were drawn up because of changes related to the state, such as population size and major events like the Civil War. The fourth Missouri Constitutional Convention took place in Jefferson City on September 21, 1943, and took just over a year before it was approved. Voters ratified the changes made to the Missouri Constitution on February 27, 1945.”
(1984) Missouri voters pass a one-tenth-of-one-percent sales tax to fund state parks and soil and water conservation efforts. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“Missouri had the second highest rate of erosion in the nation and a statewide park system in much need of repair at the time the state sales tax was passed. The tax portion for soil and water conservation measures assist agriculture landowners through voluntary programs developed by the Soil and Water Districts Commission. The other portion of the tax revenue provides most of the budget for operation and development of state parks. The tax has a sunset clause of 10 years, and has been renewed by more than two-thirds majority of Missouri voters since 1984.”
(1990) The first section of the 240-mile Katy Trail along the Missouri River opens at Rocheport for walking and bicycling by the public. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“The Katy Trail is the longest rail-to-trail in the US, running largely along the Missouri River for 240 miles. It was built on the former corridor for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and was converted to a walking and bicycle gravel trail by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources with a large donation from Edward D “Ted” and Pat Jones, and supported by a Missouri trail advocacy group. The Katy Trail takes visitors on a journey along part of the trail explored by the Lewis and Clark’s expedition. There are more than two dozen trailheads and four fully-restored railroad depots along the trail, as well as the state’s oldest and beloved Burr Oak “Big Tree” at McBain in Boone County. The Burr Oak was a young tree when Lewis and Clark traveled by it. Construction of the Katy Trail began in 1987. The first section of trail at Rocheport was opened in 1990. The trail’s 25th anniversary was celebrated in 2015.“
Katy Trail history began more than a hundred years ago during the golden age of railroads. In 1865 the Union Pacific Railroad built the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and established the network as the Southern Branch. The route was also commonly called the KMT, (Kansas, Missouri, Texas) and eventually the Katy.
The last KATY train to leave Boonville was in 1986. Through legislation, land grants, and donations, the first section of the Katy Trail opened near Rocheport in 1990. Since then, more sections have been added, extending the trail to its current 240 miles. The trail winds through some of the most scenic areas of the state with the majority of the trail closely following the Missouri River.
Katy Trail is also part of the American Discovery Trail, and has been designated as a Millennium Legacy Trail, and was added to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame in 2008.
(1992) Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved terms limits for state legislators by amending the Missouri Constitution. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
The Missouri State Legislative Term Limits, also known as Amendment 12, was on the November 1992 ballot. The law, approved by voters, caps service at eight years (two terms) in the Missouri House.
(1993) Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. (Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)
“The Great Flood of 1993 destroyed farmland, homes, and other properties through the Midwest with some towns never recovering. In 1992, the Midwest experienced an unusually wet Fall causing high soil moisture. To make matters worse, the area was hit by persistent storms, sometimes lasting four days at a time. Water began to fill the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their tributaries between May through September 1993, causing major flooding in Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The Great Flood resulted in over 50 deaths and billions of dollars of damage. Crest was 37.10 feet.”
(2019) Second worst flood of the Missouri River and the longest flooding event in Missouri River history. May 31, 2019, the Crest was 33.73 feet.