top of page


The Depression Hard on Farmers and People in Small Towns

Another cause of Cooper County’s population change was the Depression of 1930-1939. Jobs and farms were lost as a result of business failures, lack of income due to loss of crops and/or jobs, and many farmers lost their farms due to bad loans or inability to pay their mortgage. Small farms were sold, some at bargain prices, and purchased and consolidated by wealthy land owners. Hard times were felt all over the entire country. Plus, the Depression caused populations to dramatically decrease in the more rural areas as people used their trucks and cars to move to towns that were larger, still had trains, and/or offered more job opportunities or better pay.


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

“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 also suffered during the Depression from drought, insect swarms and lower farm prices. Many family farms were lost to creditors during this time. The problems with locusts, hail storms, tornadoes, drought and floods also caused a population change, especially in the farming communities. It is sad to see towns that were once vibrant, just slowly disappear. The census reports, earlier in this section, will help to fill in some of the details.

Courtesy of: Missouri Bicentennial Timeline

This is a good concise explanation of the Depression: Wikipedia


Another explanation from The Balance: Great Depression Timeline

After the Depression

One of the greatest improvements for the rural people in Clifton City was made when farm to market roads were established. The farm to market road, was built 1934 and 1935. There are now two paved roads going through Clifton City, Highway BB coming in from the South to connect with Highway 135 and 135 is connected to 50 Hwy. The coming of cars and trucks hurt the railroad shipments, since now farmers could now take their produce and cattle to market with their own trucks. So this was the beginning of a slow death to the small town that was at one time a very busy town due to the train coming to and from with two passenger trains one ran west in the morning and one ran east around 11:00 P.M.

Florence Owens Thompson in 1936 with two
of her nine children during the depression.
She worked in the fields in California as a
migrant farm hand to support her family.
Photo by Dorothea Lange

bottom of page