Imagine yourself in 1870 and you hear of a group of men wanting to build a town on the barren prairie. You would have thought...what are these fools about? It was indeed a reckless thing—building a town with only a half dozen straggling farmers far to the north and another half dozen to the south and a few roving cow herders to support it. But this group of men rubbed their hands for joy. Already, they saw and enjoyed the city. Here will be the railroad station, one would say. You would respond by saying, But there is no railroad. They would respond with a grin, There will be one bye and bye. Here will be the public parks. Yonder will be the public schools. There will be the church and all over the 64 city blocks will be homes, secluded and comfortable under great elms, ashes and maples. Man alive! What are these men dreaming of, you would wonder to yourself. You point out that there isn't a tree or another person within sight. But this group of men did not hear your served up dose of reality, as their vision was clear and their plan was set, and the reality was yet to be changed. Friends, its no use arguing with a dreamer. They haven't any sense. They are reckless, unreasonable fellows. They see things where there are none. They enjoy things before they come to pass. These unconventional dreamers are always taking our reluctant, fearful fellow by the scruff of the neck and dragging him forward. Vandalia is here today, the Queen of the Prairie, the pride of every citizen within its borders and every man for miles round about, because a group of men, Aaron McPike, Amos Ladd, John Jouett Haden and Harmon Caldwell, came our way. Aaron McPike Vandalias City Founder and Community Leader He was of Irish descent, born in Henry County, Kentucky, March 16, 1814. His father was Edward McPike, a soldier in the Revolutionary War. His mother was Sallie Van Cleave, a descendant of one of the pioneer families of Kentucky. In the early 1800s, Edward, Sallie and their 12 children removed to Washington County, Indiana. Yet shortly after, disaster struck. Both parents died from milk poisoning in 1839, caused by a milk cow eating poisonous roots. He began his life absolutely at the foot of fortunes ladder, being left an orphan at the age of 15 years, the sole support for three of his sisters, Elizabeth, Ann and Rachel. For many subsequent years it required more than one-third of his earnings for their support until they reached an age where they became self-supporting. He immigrated to Missouri from Kentucky in 1838, settling first in Marion County, about seven miles from Palmyra. Here he resided until 1843, when he moved to Pike County and became an overseer on the large plantation of his cousin, Mrs. Alcy McPike. This plantation was located near Ashley, and its conduct required the employment of a large number of hands. He returned to Marion County where he engaged in farming for two years, then sold his possessions and returned to Pike County and purchased a small farm near Ashley. He soon became dissatisfied with this small estate, sold it and purchased a larger farm eight miles south of Bowling Green where he continued to reside during the six years following. This farm consisted of 800 acres of unimproved land. Within five years he had it in a splendid state of improvement, and when he sold the farm it was at sufficient profit to enable him, along with moneys he had been able to accumulate, to put $10,000 on interest and with the remainder of his capital he purchased 800 acres of prairie land about one mile south of Curryville. This $10,000, which Mr. McPike placed in the bank, proved to be the nucleus of the great fortune that in later years he acquired. From that date to the end of his life he never had less than his original $10,000 investment and a large portion of the time more than ten times that amount. He improved the farm, which he had purchased near Curryville, and two years later sold it at considerable profit and bought a well improved tract of 800 acres located about four-and-a-half miles southeast of Curryville. This was in about 1858, and he resided on this farm until 1864, during which time he was extensively engaged in the mule business and sold and furnished to the government many thousands of mules, shipping them by water to St. Louis, by rail, or driving them overland. At one time during this period he advanced to the government $50,000 for which he had sold mules, taking simply the certificates of purchase, which were afterward promptly redeemed. He continued to handle mules as long as he was actively engaged in farming and a large percentage of his money was made in this way. In 1864 he sold this farm and purchased another, four miles south of Bowling Green, where he resided only from spring until the following fall, when he sold it at a handsome profit and purchased what was known as the Crow farm, a tract of 800 acres lying about one-half mile south of Curryville. After a residence there of three years, he sold one-half of the 800 acres to Mr. William Biggs for as much money as he had paid for the entire farm. On the remaining half he built a large dwelling, together with extensive feed barns and other necessary Aaron McPike, founder of Vandalia 10 This page sponsored in memory of Dr. Wm. L. Howell by wife, Helen Howell
structures and improvements, purchased some adjoining land, and made this his residence until 1874. In the summer of 1868, he and Perry Curry laid out the town of Curryville. He also built a fine schoolhouse there. In 1874 he gave the Curryville farm, then consisting of 800 acres, and his mule business to his eldest son, J. E. McPike. He then moved to Vandalia in Audrain County, the town he, along with Amos Ladd, Harmon Caldwell and J. J. Haden, had laid out in 1870, by this time a prosperous thriving village. When the Louisiana & Missouri Railroad Company was formed, Mr. McPike, being a stockholder and active promoter, was elected a director and gave much of his time and more money than any other man to the carrying forward and completion of this enterprise. In recognition of his activity and interest in the railroad, the executives of the road voted him the privilege of locating two town sites on the line between Louisiana and Mexico, Missouri, and thus the beginnings of Curryville and Vandalia. Previous to the location of Vandalia, Mr. McPike had purchased large tracts of land surrounding what he afterward made the site of the town. After his move to Vandalia he gave his active and almost undivided attention to the building up of the town and the improvement of farmlands surrounding it, most of which belonged to him. He built many residences and storehouses with the necessary outbuildings and improvements on farms adjacent. These lands at the time of this purchase by Mr. McPike were wild prairie lands, but after a few years of cultivation and testing their worth for bluegrass, timothy and clover, the fact was soon developed that they were equally good for the production of all kinds of grasses. He took great pride in the growth and building up of Vandalia. It was his pet enterprise and he always called it the Queen of the Prairie. He was fondly called Uncle Aaron by his many friends and was widely respected and held in high esteem by all who knew him. Mr. McPike reared to adult age six children. To each of these children he gave in lands and money $40,000 during his lifetime. At the time of his death he had 17 grandchildren, to each of whom he also gave $1,000. He gave the Orphans Home in St. Louis $1,000. In 1880 when the Baptists were building their new brick house of worship in Vandalia, he gave $1,000 and to Stephens Female College and Hardin College each considerable amounts. To the Louisiana Baptist Female College he gave from $2,500 to $3,000. Since 1860 Mr. McPike was a director in one or more of the banks in Pike and Audrain counties, and was president of the Vandalia Banking Association at Vandalia, Missouri, and one of its directors. While he was not as active as he reached his late 80s, he still looked after, in person, many of his business affairs that he attended to in detail. The life experiences of Mr. McPike are that of a remarkable man. He started life handicapped, with no formal education, coupled by the burdens he had to bear in the support of others even more helpless than himself. At the age of 15 this condition confronted him, and he pushed forward step by step with never a serious reverse, never turning back from fortunes wheel, until he had accomplished more than what usually befalls one human being to achieve. The betterment of the people among whom his life passed added in a wonderful degree to the permanent wealth and prosperity of the Vandalia area. Aaron McPike died in 1904 at the age of 90 years old and was buried in a family gated plot near the center of the Vandalia Cemetery. Records show he was married four times. His first wife was Susan Pritchett (1828-1862) from Pike County. They were married on January 25, 1845, and had six children: Sarah Ann Sallie (McPike) Chamberlain, born 1847; Mary L. McPike, born 1850 and died before 1860; James Edward Jim McPike, born 1853 and died 1937; William F. McPike, born 1855 and died in infancy; Thomas Jefferson Tom McPike, born 1857 and died 1936; and Fannie D. (McPike) Daniel, born 1859 and died 1951. Mr. McPike married for the second time on December 2, 1862, to Lucretia Porter (1814-unknown). No children were born of this marriage. Miss Ellen Ferguson (1830-1889), a native of Virginia, was Aarons third wife, whom he married December 5, 1875. There were three children from this union: an unnamed infant, born 1876; Susan Eleanor Susie (McPike) Alford, born 1878 and died 1946; and Charles Hardin, born 1880 and died 1911. Mollie Carrico, a local millinery shop owner, and Aaron were married later in life. Amos Ladd Amos A. Ladd, by all accounts, was born in Ohio on January 8, 1813. Very little is known about the first 26 years of his life. The History of Audrain County, printed in 1884, reports Ladd to have been a circus actor, farmer, merchant, stonemason, surgeon, captain of a steamboat, newspaper editor and politician. Some unverified statements acquainted him with a Mr. Hoffman of New Jersey who wanted to found a town in the West. According to the story, Ladd helped Hoffman lay out a town in Jersey County, Illinois. Amos Ladd married Sarah Hoffman, his partners daughter, but it would not be his only marriage. Over Ladds lifetime, he would marry a total of three times and have 19 children. Ladd moved up the Mississippi River and settled in Fort Madison, Iowa, in the late 1830s. He became involved in city politics as alderman, and was appointed superintendent of construction of a 60-cell penitentiary being built in Fort Madison in 1839. Ladd was later listed as the first warden of the Iowa State Penitentiary. Steamboats on the Mississippi and other small river tributaries were becoming big business and Ladd, being the entrepreneur, purchased and became the captain of a riverboat called the New Purchase. Nauvoo, Illinois, was located south of Fort Madison on the Mississippi River and Ladd used this port for steamboat trade. However, the Mormons had a strong hold on this small town, and on June 15, 1844, Captain A. Ladd wrote a letter to Joseph Smith, president of the Mormon Church, denying a rumor that he was hauling an armed force to attack Nauvoo, Illinois. He assured President Smith that he was interested only in trade with the citizens of Nauvoo. On June 27, 1844, Ladd was reported to have taken an excursion on his steamboat and witnessed the slaying of Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram Smith at Carthage, Illinois, by an angry mob. By 1850 Amos and Sarah Ladd had moved to Monroe County, Missouri, near Florida, but had reportedly lived in Linn County a short period prior to this. There was no record as to what happened to the steamboat New Purchase. However, there were reports that a riverboat once went as far up the Grand River as Chillicothe, and an old riverboat captain such as Ladd was interested in dredging one of the tributaries of the Grand in the southern part of Linn County. It was also probable that plans were being made for the laying of a railroad across Linn County during the same time period by the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. This fact would have been a strong discouragement for a steamboat entrepreneur. Rebecca J. Hoffman, sister of first wife Sarah, became Ladds second wife shortly after Sarahs death on July 26, 1857. Sarah (Hoffman) Ladd was buried in a cemetery near Florida, Missouri. Around 1859 Amos Ladd moved to Audrain County and was elected sheriff in 1860 and 1862. His yearly salary was recorded as $82.50. He also received $100 for taking the census in the county in 1864. No published account has ever shown that Amos Ladd was once treasurer of Audrain County. However, according to county court records, he was appointed on September 5, 1865. It seems that A. R. Ringo, prominent in the history of Mexico banking, was the This page sponsored in memory of my husband, Gene Korpal
elected treasurer, but he refused to take the required loyalty oath. Amos Ladd served two one-year terms as mayor of Mexico during the late 1860s. He was apparently nominated for the legislature in 1868, but for undetermined reasons he withdrew from the race. One reason may be that in the 1865 Missouri Constitution the state could not provide financial aid to railroads in any way, and by 1868 Ladd was definitely interested in promoting a railroad in the county of Audrain. During the time Ladd lived in Audrain County, no name appeared in more real estate transactions in the Audrain County recorder of deeds records than that of Amos Ladd. He was the principle landowner involved in Ladds Addition and Ladds Extended Addition in Mexico. He was a principle landowner in Vandalia during its establishment and owned scattered holdings throughout eastern Audrain County. Possibly the most important of his holdings began as a partnership with Silas Wilson in November 1868. Ladd and Wilson acquired a 160-acre tract in eastern Audrain County. Over a short period of time Ladd had bought out Wilson and transferred this half to Colonel John Jouett Haden and his wife, Anna M. Haden, on August 16, 1870. Colonel Haden was Ladds partner in selling lots from the property between 1870-1874. During the course of this period of time, the settlement was named Laddonia. On August 20, 1874, Amos Ladd and Rebecca Ladd sold their half interest in the unsold lots of Laddonia to James A. Simpson. Colonel Haden and his wife retained their interest until October 30, 1875, when they too sold their interest to James A. Simpson. It was 1879, however, before Simpson gained complete ownership of the unsold portion of Laddonia. Apparently, Amos Ladd had been wealthy at one time but by 1874 he was in bad financial condition. On June 8, 1874, before he sold Simpson his interest in Laddonia, the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Mexico had been awarded a judgment against Amos Ladd in the amount of $256.91. Sheriff John J. Steel sold half interest in the unsold portion of Laddonia on January 19, 1875, to settle the judgment and George McFarlane purchased it for $72. McFarlanes quitclaim deed to Simpson was dated February 26, 1879. Financial troubles plagued Ladd the rest of his life. When Ladd married Mrs. Lillian Hiller in Vandalia on August 14, 1877, rumors spread that he had deceived his new wife into believing he was wealthy. Lillian said, About a week after we were married he told me he was financially embarrassed—more so than he thought he was. He told me he had no financial means at all. He told me before we were married he was not in good circumstances, so I was not disappointed. According to the 1884 History of Audrain County, on Friday, September 14, 1877, the people of Mexico were astounded at the news that Amos Ladd had shot himself. It appears from the evidence that Ladd got up and ate his breakfast as usual. He then went to the post office and while there had a chat with Dr. E. D. Graham. The doctor testified that Ladd was in his usual social mood. After leaving the post office with a paper and letter for his wife, he went home. He met Mr. DeJarnett at the door coming out, going to the depot. Ladd went into his room, pulled off his boots, and went out to the cloakroom to warm his feet. There was no man on the place; the colored girl was in the backyard. Mrs. Ladd was down in town, and Mrs. DeJarnett started upstairs to get her shop ready to open, but had just gone upstairs when she heard the report of a pistol. She ran downstairs and found Ladd lying on his back, with a Colts pistol by his side; she gave the alarm and in a few moments the house was crowded with people. Judging from Ladds position on the floor, he must have gone to the bureau, looked into the glass (mirror) and deliberately shot himself in the back of the head. A jury was called and Mrs. Ladd gave the following testimony: I last saw Col. Ladd alive between seven and eight oclock this morning. I noticed nothing strange about him this morning. During the last few days, I noticed he was very quiet. Late Sunday he told me again that he could not see his way through his troubles and told me he thought he would kill himself, and I said to him, ‘Oh! No, I never would be happy, and did not think anymore about it. There is a record that states Amos Ladd was buried in Elmwood Cemetery on April 4, 1878. No reason can be found why there is a difference of six months from this record to the actual date Ladd died. The cemetery records also do not show a lot number to indicate Amos Ladds gravesite. Ladds depth of involvement in Vandalia is unclear; however, records show Ladd as having been a part of the early development of the town and its filing for organization along with McPike, Haden and Caldwell. In addition, it is believed Ladd had significant political influence in solidifying the funds ($300,000) given to the Louisiana and Northern Missouri Railroad, in return for placing a railroad through the northeast portion of Audrain County, through Vandalia, Farber and Laddonia. Two of Ladds sons were instrumental in the growth of Vandalia. Jonas P. Ladd was the citys first assessor, and J. L. Ladd was the founder of the Vandalia Weekly Leader newspaper. Harmon Caldwell The earliest records of the Caldwell family show that three brothers, John, Alexander and Oliver, were seamen in the Mediterranean in the latter part of the 14th century, originating in Toulon, France, and settling nearby at Mount Arid. Later, they went to Scotland and purchased the estate of a bishop, which became known as the Cauldwell Estate. The descendants immigrated to America and settled on the James River in Virginia and in Kentucky. The first account of Caldwells in Pike County was in 1821 when John Kennedy and Sally (Utterback) Caldwell came to Pike County with their children: Walter, Harmon, Elizabeth and Matilda, all born in Bath County, Kentucky. Harmon Caldwell (1811-1898) married Mary Doke (1818- 1876). Harmon Caldwell helped to lay out the town of Curryville along with Perry A. Curry (for whom it was named) and Aaron McPike in 1866. Caldwell spent most of his life in the Curryville area and was a surveyor for Pike County. Judge Harmon Caldwells children were John Walter, Matilda Ann and James Harmon. John Jouett Haden John Jouett Haden was born on October 19, 1821, in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and apparently lived in the Lexington area as a young man. Colonel Haden and his wife, Anna, were partners with Amos and Rebecca Ladd in the origination of the town of Laddonia, Missouri, owning the 160 acres from which Laddonia was carved. The Hadens were also instrumental in the very early history of Vandalia. The will of Anna M. Haden was probated in Mexico on October 2, 1877. By its terms, J. J. Haden, her husband, received property. Also receiving property were Mary Stanhope, a daughter, and James C. Haden, a son. All property mentioned in the will was located in Mexico and Vandalia. About 1880 Colonel John J. Haden was an unsuccessful candidate for the legislature from Audrain County. He died at Bagley Station, near Texarkana, Arkansas, on June 29, 1900. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Mexico. He was buried next to his daughter, Mary (Haden) Stanhope, and her husband. 12 This page sponsored by Norwald & Wallace
It is not a tale of dates, data and events. It is a tale of the human experience... Over the past 130 years there have been several individuals who have taken the time to document, in writing, the lifes experiences of the people that have resoundingly impacted the Vandalia area. These writers not only documented the facts of such events, they wrote in such a style that gave their readers a life-like experience. When reading the result of such invaluable writings, it has offered us a vastly better understanding behind who we are and what our community has become. These individuals will help tell the history of the Vandalia area throughout portions of this book. Writers such as John Musick, A. Pennewell, F. B. Detienne, A. F. McCarty, Thomas Dodge, Georgia Irvine, Pete Steiner, C. B. Ellis and a host of others have taken the time to document these historical events, and we thank them all for the memories. CITY HISTORY...THE 1800S The Vision… Four rugged horsemen rode out of the east and drew rein in the midst of a vast, open, lonely prairie at a spot far removed from unfailing water sources. A place where rattlesnakes and biting green flies were prominent and prairie grasses were as tall as their horses, a barren place where pioneers would not settle. Other men had ridden across that same prairie with only a glance of contempt, including Ulysses S. Grant, who said this land was uninhabitable. Others could have had it for a song—the mere pittance of 121/2 cents per acre, but they looked upon it as a wilderness and a solitary place. But these four rugged horsemen came with the required spirit and insight to see beyond the obvious and would lay the foundation of what soon became the envy of many surrounding more elderly communities, prompting them to ask, what are they doing that we could have done? That spot was, in their eyes, especially well favored by the gods of fortune, and we may be well assured that as they contemplated the scene, the vision of a future city bustling with life and activity was a fascinating one. For in every direction stretched the pleasing outlook of rich uplands covered with lush grasses, holding the great promise of the bountiful crops of corn and wheat to come. The nearest houses were miles away, and farmsteads were rare indeed, but the men saw into the future and realized that a section so well favored by nature could not always remain so thinly settled, and they proceeded to shape their vision into a plan. The Plan... Aaron McPike started to make his dream become a reality when he purchased the land that was to become Vandalia in 1854. His purchase was a partnership between McPike and Harmon Caldwell and consisted of 160 acres, costing them $264. McPike later added to this purchase in 1868 and again in April 1869, an additional 316 acres for a total price of $245. McPike was a highly generous, yet industrious and successful businessman who had established a rather handsome fortune through real estate, farming and raising livestock, including vast amounts of mules. His marketing savvy led him to establish a respected business relationship with the Louisiana and North Missouri Railroad which he used extensively for the marketing of agricultural goods. This grounded relationship with the railroad eventually earned him a position as a director with this local railroad corporation. Managing a railroad was foreign to McPike, so he turned this opportunity to what he knew best—real estate and the marketing of agricultural products. When in the mid-1860s the Louisiana and North Missouri Railroad first proposed to build the Missouri branch through the northeast section of this state, McPike took an active interest in declaring its location along the present route, mainly in Pike and Audrain counties. It was through McPikes generosity and solid business sense, coupled with an offering of $900 of his own money, that McPike was given the right to locate a depot in the northeast part of Audrain County. When considering the future location of this depot that became the town of Vandalia, McPike largely considered its geography in comparison with communities already established. Two lines were drawn, the first from Louisiana to Mexico and the second from Hannibal to Montgomery City. The cross point was about two miles east of the current heart of Vandalia, but through the divine wisdom of McPike, he considered it too close to the newly laid-out town of Curryville. The cross point was also slightly further south of where the Louisiana and North Missouri Railroad had intended to build, but with McPikes additional offer to give his own land to the railroad to pass through this site, McPike single-handedly bent the railroad just west of Curryville. The city founders insightful vision was being molded. Years of commitment and focus were starting to become a vision of reality. Yet, their plan was only partly in play. In 1870 a single swing of a confident hammer produced the ring that still echoes today. This resounding strike made contact with the first stake that mapped out the original town that was to become Vandalia. This history-laden stake was driven into what was to become the southwest corner of the northwest Railroad Park. This done, they undertook and staked out 45 other blocks in the same year (1870) and rested until the following year when 15 additional blocks were laid off around the outskirts of the original 45. One of the city founders, Harmon Caldwell, from the recently laidout town of Curryville, was the surveyor. These 60 blocks were to be forever known as the Original Township. The current names of the streets that encompass these 60 blocks are Taylor Street on the east, McPike Street on the north, Union Street on the south and Oak Street on the west. The city founders original vision held great promise for the local commerce to be supported by the marketing of products via the railroad. The founders had taken from what other elderly neighboring towns had learned the hard way and specifically designated a commercial area on both sides of the railroad at the center of town. The blocks due south of the railroad, in the center of town, were designated as the Railroad Grounds and were used extensively for that purpose for years. The grounds due north were labeled as Railroad Park yet did not materialize as a solely dedicated park for decades. The northwest Railroad Park was originally used as a ground storage area for wood used for the railroad and local residents. The northeast Railroad Park was used as grain storage area and stockyard pens in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1871 and now in 2006, these four smaller blocks in the center of town (encompassed by Washington Street on the north, Jefferson Street on the west, State Street on the south and Main Street on the east) have been thought by most as the center of the community. The city founders also wisely took from their older neighboring towns experiences and designated a Courthouse Square for their future town, this being Block 48, or the current Vandalia Library block. Yet as the town began to grow, the reality of locating most of the towns original buildings closer to the railroad area materialized. Even to this day, when tempers flare between city and Audrain County officials, the old story is told of Block 48 being labeled in This page sponsored by Oden Hardware 13
1874 as a Court House Square. As the story is told, the Courthouse label upset the countys officials as, in their eyes, they saw it as a threat of the new towns future intent of separating itself from the rest of Audrain County. Block 4 on the original Plat (former location of the North School) was also designated for public use and labeled Seminary Square as the founders knew religion and education would need to prove themselves to substantiate growth. Back in 1871, the city founders vision was nothing more than many hours of lively discussion and stakes soundly driven in the rich virgin soil, hidden within the vast waving prairie grass. It was now time for the town to realize substance and breathe human life into its soul. It was a proud day when the first wagon came winding out of the east seeking a pole with a flag, placed by the city founders, marking the center of this newly staked-out town. The new towns location was described as on the rise of ground near a distant lone elm. From these wagons men with embedded determination leaped into the tall grass, and the battle was on. Lumber banged upon the ground, saws began to sing, axes rang, hammers pounded out a rhythmic chorus, and the song of progress was being sung. The Reality... The first two buildings (possibly three) were erected in 1870 by the 56-year-old McPike who, by this time, had acquired the name Uncle Aaron. The first was a hotel erected in Block 22 on the same corner as the current Methodist Church, located at 302 and 304 West Washington. The structure faced south and was a basic two-story structure with eight rooms, large windows and a wide spanning two-story porch located on the front. This hotel was managed by Martin Collins, the towns first carpenter. McPikes insight to build this type of structure early in the towns development was a key point in its future expansion. With this hotel, travelers would be warmly welcomed with accommodations and good food, served up with a dose of encouragement to settle in this soon-to-be boom town. Also in the hotel, Aaron McPikes first son, Edward McPike, was married to Martha Mattie McCune on June 26, 1875. In 1877 C. G. Daniel (Vandalias first city attorney) purchased the hotel and handsomely remodeled it into his family residence. C. G. Daniel frequently told the story of standing on the second story of the front porch of his home and watching thousands of cattle grazing on the prairie, the prairie that was soon to be the southern half of Vandalia. The house survived for many years and was sold to A. L. Motley in 1932. It was then sold to the Methodist Church in 1955 and was last used as a church educational center. However, the sands of time passed and Vandalias first foundation was removed, now land marked by the grounds of the current Methodist Church. The second structure in town was a store-house built in the same general area. Its exact location is unknown. This structure had a dual purpose as its name implies. It served as a residence for Pink King (brother-in-law to Aaron McPike) and a general merchandise store, opening in 1871. This property was later remodeled as a dry goods store managed by Canter and Co. Years later this building was again remodeled, adding a large two-story addition, and made into the City Hotel, the property of J. T. Glascock. Both of these structures, as well as several to follow, were constructed from lumber hauled from Louisiana by wagon, a distance of 36 miles. Later that same year (1871) C. P. Pearson and John Jefferies built the first small general stock store, dedicated solely as a business structure (located in Block 21). Within two years, two brothers of C. P. Pearson, Rufus and Marshall, bought out John Jefferies and partnered with their brother, forming Pearson Dry Goods. Then a drug store was called for, and Riney & Bro. opened a small apothecary shop (Scottish term for drug store). The town was evolving, now taking shape as determined by more than just its four city founders with whitewashed wood-sided structures and dirt paths stringing each together with prairie grasses still growing in the open areas of the town. Large portions of the first buildings in Vandalia were mainly located on the north side of the current railroad tracks. Businesses were starting to become closely clustered on what was then called North First Street, now known as the 100 and 200 block of Washington Street. You can be assured many dinner conversations of the city founders and new local residents were focused on the expansion of their dreams. Aaron McPike offered Charles Hart from New Jersey, an emigrant from Heidelberg, Germany, land for a home in exchange for opening a blacksmith shop. Hart built his residence in Block 12. Blacksmithing was a vital component of the community. Besides shoeing horses, their tasks were critical in maintaining Glascock Hotel, 1888-1898 14 This page sponsored in memory of A. Pennewell, Community Leader and Editor for the Vandalia Leader
wagons and forging many other tools and mechanical necessities used to battle the prairie. W. R. Gwilliam, originator of the first harness shop, was actually proposed as a candidate for the 1894 Democratic nomination for president of the United States (see Politics). Gwilliams shop was located on Main Street just south of the railroad tracks and was established in 1871, meeting another primary need of the town. These gearman, who were masters in harness making, were also skilled in the craft of cutting and fashioning leather for all uses, all stitched by hand. Martin Collins then built a hotel for the Pearson Brothers. The Pearson Hotel was later operated by Martin Collins as he masterfully fed the hungry and cared for the travelers in the evenings. Soon to follow was a young fellow named John Keisel who came from Bloomington, Illinois. With an awl in hand, he asked that he be permitted to make and mend shoes as shoes at the time were regarded as expensive and a fine craft from which to earn a living. Due to their expensive nature, it was not uncommon to see men and women carrying their shoes in bad weather, simply wiping their feet at their destinations and lacing them up for indoor use. Fritz Schriefer purchased the first pair of boots that were sold by this Vandalia merchant. One by one, new residents saw the reality of the city founders dream and started to arrive, on foot, on horseback, by way of the railroad and in wagons loaded with all their worldly possessions, all adding value and purpose in the development of this tightly-knit community. Aside from McPike continuing to build many new buildings, city founders Ladd and Caldwell built several new homes in the early 1870s, encouraging new pioneer residents. Webb Knight built a business store in Block 20 that later became the Read and Coons property. In 1872 a flour mill was put up by Parker and Purse, but in 1883 was consumed by fire. The first brick building was built in Block 14 in the year 1873 by Bailey Stelle. The K. A. Laird building stood on the corner where the future Farmers and Merchants Bank was to be located (northeast corner of the current Main and Washington streets). In 1875 this building was sold to Dr. J. H. Thole and Dr. D. L. S. Bland for $1,800. This real estate transaction was regarded as one of the first, if not the first, real estate transaction of any significance. It was later consumed by fire. Dr. J. F. McWilliams was Vandalias first dentist but later moved to Mexico. Dr. George Smith was our second dentist, and he also moved on to Hannibal. Gus Neidermeyer, who conducted the first barber business in the town, also moved on to Hannibal. Simon Heyman was the towns first clothing merchant. Our first tinner was W. C. Wilson. W. T. Igo was the first saloonkeeper, but unfortunately died in the year 1876. Cyndia Sanders was the first black woman to settle in Vandalia. The first Masonic funeral was that of J. T. Cowley, occurring on July 12, 1878. Jonas Wainwright was the first person in Vandalia to be killed by the railroad. There were no witnesses to his death, and it is believed he laid down on the track and fell asleep. He was run over and horribly mangled. Jim Boyden was the first postmaster. The German Lutheran Church was built in 1876 and was dedicated by Reverend Benger in the fall of 1876. In the towns earliest beginnings it was blessed with the services of a doctor. Fever and plague was the great enemy of health in those days, and there was much sickness, yet a bright young fellow named H. S. Walrath came and opened the first doctors office. The first wedding that occurred in Vandalia was the marriage of Jonas Ladd to Molly Slutter in 1872. Jonas Ladd was also Vandalias first undertaker and the towns first assessor. Ladd made his first assessment of the city in 1875. Mrs. Martin Collins was the first lady to cater to the fashions in Vandalia. Mrs. Collins was the proprietress of Vandalias first millinery establishment. John Thole, who was the towns first marshal, was also engaged in the blacksmith business. In 1872 George Morris was the first railroad station agent. Near the farm of George Lease (owner in 1896) in the southwest portion of the town could be found several graves. These graves marked the last resting places of some of the early pioneers who died before the city was established. The first house destroyed by fire in Vandalia was the store building occupied by J. M. Beashers. Regular land sales were held here in 1871; lots brought from $20 to $40. In Gods way, death visited the little community late in the year 1872 and took from among them Charles Hart, the village blacksmith. Every person in the village attended the funeral. The town was in shock, and the funeral services were regarded as a pathetic earnest talk, adorned with figures and examples drawn from the current times and circumstances. Since no cemetery site had been located in the new town, Hart was buried in the Curryville, Missouri, Cemetery. The first big picnic for this community was held in Smiths pasture two miles north of town in 1873. People for miles in all directions assembled at the gathering that was attended by nearly 3,000 people. The population of Vandalia at that time was about 100. Women who were among the first to help in shaping the towns early history and who were longtime residents here were Mrs. Hart, Mrs. Henry Thole, Mrs. Joe Beashers, Mrs. John Thole, Mrs. E. E. Galloway, Ms. Phil Hudson and Mrs. A. McPike. The Railroad, the anchor for the future... Aside from the construction of a hotel and a few homes and business buildings in the new town, in 1871 you would have also seen a swarm of sturdy laborers excavating here, making a level bed, laying it with cross pieces, binding it with great heavy pieces of steel, building a railroad. The Louisiana and North Missouri River Railroad was completed through Audrain County, built from east to west, on October 30, 1871, at a cost of $25,000 per mile. The origination of county and city financial aid to the railroad was of utmost importance in the post-Civil War era of railroad construction in Missouri as the Drake Constitution of Missouri prohibited the state from aiding railroads. However, a railroad for a new town in the 1800s was critical for long-term survival on the prairies, and no laws existed stopping counties and cities from pouring money into their construction. Audrain County was no exception and gave the Louisiana and Northern Missouri Railroad Corporation $300,000 as a bonus to encourage the building of the railroad. This enormous debt was vehemently protested by many older county residents. Those in the center of the county were less than willing to assume such a large debt as the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific had long since provided an even flow of commerce to that portion of the county in a satisfactory fashion. It was largely the political influence of Amos Ladd, then a Mexico resident and city official, that secured the funds. The W. R. Gwillam This page sponsored by David Schulze
money was given to the railroad, and the debt was relieved quickly with a great returned value as now there was an east to west connection with Audrain to the rest of the developing country, generating an even greater economic result than the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railroad currently servicing the center of the county. It was mid-1871 when the railroad construction was completed through this area. The vision of McPike and the three other city founders was laid in front of them like a wide ribbon stretching across the prairie. Their hopes and dreams were now anchored into the reality of a future metropolis soon to be enjoyed by the likes of entrepreneurs and frontiersmen. It was on June 4, 1871, when the first passenger train arrived, passing through the new town that had yet to find a name. Bewildered passengers got off the train, mentally measuring the town consisting of no more than three structures, unaware of the enormous labor and thought put into the little town thus far. However, in celebration of the first passenger trains arrival, Aaron McPike duly hosted a public dinner to all friends, train passengers and sympathizers of the then new railroad. This new railroad, the Louisiana and Missouri River Railroad (name changed to Chicago and Alton Company), was organized in 1869 and by 1896 owned and operated about 1,000 miles of road in Missouri and Illinois. It was Americas most popular railroad, according to many. The railroad had a reputation as one of high regard because of the courtesy of its officers and employees and because of its speed, safety and prompt arrival and departure. Its passenger coaches were not only neat, but also elegant in design and construction. Each train was supplied with reclining chairs, always highly esteemed by the traveler, whether the journey was long or short. (See Railroad) The rail service was not only the mainstay of Vandalia for commerce, but its value was equally as great as the main source of human transportation. Soon after the railroads development, it serviced six passenger trains through Vandalia every day. The first railroad depot, a tall rectangular structure with numerous tall windows, was proudly built as the first public building, circa 1872. It was located on the north side of the railroad tracks, slightly west of the depot that replaced this structure, built in early 1902. The anticipation of great numbers of people that were to pass through its doors fed the enthusiasm of the local residents. In the early days the depot was also used for devotional services and other times by those who loved the merry maze of the giddy dance as they would assemble there between coming and going of trains and dance to the music of energetic fiddlers. Original Vandalia Depot, 1873 Plat map of Vandalia, Missouri, 1877 16 This page sponsored by Dr. Joseph and Donna Glasford Corrado
Filing of the town plat... It was time...the original four horsemen, Aaron McPike, Harmon Caldwell, Amos Ladd and Col. J. J. Haden, filed the original plat of the town on July 24, 1871, with the county. Coincidentally, the plat and neighboring town, Laddonia, was filed at the same time. However, the official incorporation of the town would not be for a few years in the future as county officials would only accept application and give approval for incorporation of new towns that had proven their potential for longevity. Naming of Vandalia... At this point in time the original vision of a few had grown to many. The town name was not yet determined, but many were calling this infant town Pike City or Pike Town spawned by the fact that many of its early settlers were moving further west for new opportunities out of Pike County. Aaron McPikes dream was becoming a reality, so he took it upon himself to give this dream a name. McPike had previously ordered a Book of City Names, a not uncommonly used book for a country that was blooming with westward expansion and new towns in many areas. Friends and neighbors joined McPike and his oldest daughter, Sallie, to sit and review the book. When the name Vandalia was read, McPike and the others took a liking to it, stating it was a pretty name and so it became. Towns first beautification project... McPikes Grove was set out by Aaron McPike in 1872 in which nearly 1,600 maple and elm trees were planted. The trees thrived remarkably well, but most eventually succumbed to the march of the towns progress. The spot that was in pioneer days known as McPikes Grove was later built on and occupied by residents T. E. Moss, Cash Blackburn, Dr. J. O. Terrill, R. D. Chinn, W. H. Fox, Harve Coons, D. W. Hughes and Aaron McPike himself. This grove made up what was the future part of the northwest portion of Vandalia. Few trees still survive, but their use of shade over the decades should have been accompanied with a thank-you for McPikes efforts. First school... In the 1870s the citizens of the Vandalia area sent their children to a small white schoolhouse located on the northeast corner of Block 5. At the time, this portion of the town was vastly undeveloped. In those days an eager child sitting in this one-room schoolhouse would find it nearly impossible to gaze out across the vast expanse of waving prairie grasses without the use of a vivid imagination generating bands of raiders or even Indian war parties. Pupils from far and near came struggling over the unbroken prairies or through the lanes of the little town, submitting without complaint to physical discomfort, which no modern child of today would think of enduring. The first teacher in Vandalia was Mrs. Belle Waldrath. Mr. W. O. Fletcher was the second schoolmaster in the little white schoolhouse. (See Schools) From a letter dated June 9, 1908, to Associate Editor A. M. Pennewell of the Vandalia Mail and Express, C. P. Pearson recalls his first arrival into the newly founded community in 1871 and tells of his early findings. He wrote the following: Dear Sir: In response to your favor of June 4 - read and in reply will state that I located in Vandalia, Mo., (then called Pike Town) in July 1871. I found two houses there, both erected by Aaron McPike. One was a hotel building, and the other was a storehouse. In the hotel building I found M. Collins and wife, his two daughters and Dr. H. Walrath, his son-in-law. In the storehouse Pink and Jack King had a stock of general merchandise. Jefferies and Pearson built the third house on the place, a storeroom in which they kept a general stock of goods. The first marriage in the town was Mr. Jonas P. Ladd and Miss Mollie Slutter. The first births in the town were Pink King and wifes son (William) and Lula Riney, daughter of B. Riney and wife, both born on the same day. The first death in the town was Mr. Charles Hart, blacksmith. King Brothers were the first merchants. Dr. H. S. Walrath was the first doctor. The first school in Vandalia was taught by Mrs. Belle Walrath, the doctors wife. The first preacher to locate was W. H. Hook who later preached for the Christian Church. We had church services frequently. Preachers came to our town occasionally, and if they were Presbyterians, my partner, Mr. John Jefferies, would take them home with him and invite everybody to come after supper and we would have services at his house. We had preaching in the C&A Railroad Depot (then Louisiana and Missouri) several times. We built an arbor about 200 feet from the depot and Mr. M. M. Modisett came out from Louisiana, Mo. and preached for us on Sundays. The C&A ran a special train of flat cars that day and brought most of the congregation. I have no pictures of people now; they were all burned up in our big fire. If you will get the History of Audrain County, you will find, I expect, all you want to know about early days in Vandalia. I hope I have given something that will be useful to you. Yours Very Truly, C. P. Pearson Vandalia - Queen of the Prairie, an incorporated town... On August 3, 1874, the Audrain County Board, acting on a petition, declared the area included in Section 5, Township 52, Range 5 West, containing 640 acres, with a population of about 200 people, to be incorporated under the name of the town of Vandalia. The court appointed the towns first Board of Trustees. They were B. J. Riney, J. F. Crawford, M. C. Pearson, K. A. Laird and C. G. Canter. Officers elected for the newly incorporated town were C. G. Canter, president of the board; J. H. Thole, marshal (salary $10.00 per year); Henry Thole, treasurer; C. G. Daniel, attorney; and B. J. Riney, clerk. At the time of the towns incorporation, Roland & Parker was one of several general merchants, and it was at their store that the first meeting of the official city council occurred in 1874. Aaron McPike was never much on politics, and Uncle Aaron at this point was turning his dream over to other capable souls to manage. However, Uncle Aaron was a great stickler for law and order and so that all might know that the law of the little village was greater even than the founder of the village, he, in sport, discharged a pistol in the public streets, had himself arrested and brought before the mayor for so doing and pled guilty to a violation of the E. P. Pink King, proprietor of first general merchandise store, and son Jack, first child born in Vandalia, 1871. King was the first postmaster. 18 ordinance of the village and was fined $1.00 and costs, which he promptly paid, and in so paying gave the village its first fine. C. G. Daniel, the citys first attorney, recalls the early days of the newly incorporated town in a collection of memories dictated by Daniel in the early 1900s and written by Georgia Irvine. It was printed in the Vandalia Leader on February 4, 1924: To the Editor of the Vandalia Leader...from a recent issue of your paper I have learned that you are desirous of furnishing your readers with certain information relative to the early settlement of Vandalia and having had some part in its early history, I will note some of the happenings that came under my personal observation before and after we located here in 1875. First, I came to Vandalia in the early part of that year, having been employed by the board of trustees of the town to draw their first set of ordinances, and stayed here during most of that month engaged in this work. The town was incorporated by the county court as a village at its August term, 1874, with the following board of trustees to wit: C. G. Canter, J. H. Crawford, B. J. Riney, M. C. Pearson and K. A. Laird. These five, being busy men, had me to draw the ordinances during the day and would meet every night to pass and adopt their opinions with such amendments proper. Mr. J. G. Carter was elected president of the board of trustees and hence became the first executive of the town. This board, it will be remembered by the older citizens, was composed of some of the most prestigious and lively businessmen of the town of that time. When I had completed the work for which I had been employed, I returned to my house at Mexico never dreaming that I would in so short a time thereafter return to make this my permanent home. In the month of April following I was offered the city attorneyship and other inducements if I would locate here and enter upon the duties of my profession. After due consideration, I concluded to do so and landed here on the fifth of May with my wife and such law books as I had at that time and began the practice in a little shed-room adjoining Riney Brothers Drug Store that was situated about where Moss and Sons Livery Stable now stands, sharing the office with Dr. J. H. Terrill, the brother of Doctor J. D. Terrill. This association developed into a real friendship that lasted through the years until the prime encounter of Death came and claimed him, but the glad memories of those days and this association still linger and will through the remainder of life. I served as city attorney for several years after my appointment, after which I engaged in the banking business in 1882, buying out the Mays and Burkhart Bank that had been established in the spring that year. Mr. C. J. White (who in the meantime had located in our town) was given the city attorneyship. The seven years from 1875 to 1882 brought many evidences of the growth and changes in the town. Many newcomers cast their lot with us among whom were A. W. Robinson and family, Dr. J. C. Parrish in 1876, George Dyer the same year and George W. Daniel in 1877, Ray Leake, George Partridge, C. M. Fry, George Dyer, Abe Deigle, George W. Phillips, J. F. Coontz, W. S. Waters, G. W. Frost, W. G. and Guy McCune, J. H. Laird, George Laird, Dr. J. H. Terrill, W. H. Morrow (editor of the Leader in 1877), Judge W. B. Beashers, Frank Dye, A. E. Webb, the Ellis boys with the Mail and Express, and many others each of whom contributed in a large way bringing to notice the strategic situation of the town for future growth and the splendid body of farming lands surrounding it to sustain that growth. But I must not in this connection forget the pioneers that came in 1870 through 1873, among those being Col. Aaron McPike, who selected the site and gave the town its name and donated many lots for sites of churches, schoolhouses and parks. He was the life and soul of the town for many years during its early struggles among the green head flies, rattlesnakes and other hindrances, ever leading and encouraging others to see the vision for the town if all worked together to make this the social and commercial center for all of the surrounding country. The names of Dr. L. S. Bland, Judge Harmon Caldwell, Amos Ladd, J. J. Haden, K. A. Laird, M. Beashers, S. D. Ely, H. T. Davis, Henry Thole, C. G. Caster, J. F. Crawford, F. P. King, J. Laird, Jack King, George H. Utterback, B. J. and Dr. J. M. Riney, C. Pared, M. C. Pearson, John Jefferies, Elijah Galloway, Charles Hart (father of Mrs. Mollie Stuart, our first blacksmith), J. Linn Ladd, Matt Ellis, J. K. Roland, W. R. Gwilliam, J. T. Glascock, J. T. Garth, A. J. McPike, J. F. Turner, W. A. Price, J. A. Smith, S. W. Branstetter, R. D. Chinn, J. K Smith and J. H. Thompson should be intimately associated with the early settlement of the town and willingness in giving the town its early start. By no means the least of these was J. Linn Ladd who wheeled the editorial staff of your excellent paper, the Leader, which he started at this early date and which through its column pointed the way and gave much of his time and talent to furthering the different projects that were put in motion to transform this new and rather unsightly prairie town into a town where the coming inhabitants could live in comfort surrounded by convenience that we see today. Early in the establishment of the town these pioneers did not lose sight of the importance of schools and churches, and in 1871 the first school was started as a country school that at the time afforded facilities for the children then living here. Churches were also established into which all the people of the town could congregate and give expression of their faith in all ruling providence that was ever loving and guiding. We believe in all that was being done to make this a worthwhile city in which to live. Also in that year (1871) the post office was established with E . P. King, the (delegated) first postmaster. The estimated value of the real estate at that time was $20,000. The number of inhabitants as late as 1875 was about 500. The rate of city taxes in 1875 was $.50 on the $100.00. If I did not realize that I have taken too much of your space in this remembrance letter, I should like to follow this narrative up to the present time showing the men who early settled the surrounding communities and count their lots among us in a material way to make possible the growth of the town, also other contributed causes omitted for want of time that have enabled us to build our present attainments. Yours Very Truly, C. G. Daniel Agriculture, the first industry... In its beginning Vandalia sustained a gradual growth—a growth that was the pride of its founders. Taking into consideration the absence of manufacturers and other matters that excite the attention of capital, its advancement had been marvelous. Being of this Isaac Rolands store and Dr. Terrills office, location of first City meeting, 1800s 19 character, it had to depend upon the development and success of agriculture, which so far had proven to be equal to the occasion for the first several years of the towns existence. The towns early treasure was found here on the very surface of the earths soil and sprang forth at the magic of the gleaming sow plow. With the rise of Vandalia, these famous prairie grasses began to disappear. It was a signal for the Kentuckians, Virginians and Germans who had followed up the local streams and bottoms to the edge of the prairie, to ride forth to the conquest of the richest soil with which God Almighty had endowed the imperial commonwealth of Missouri. The sturdy men who planted themselves were a challenge to come forth and lay tribute upon the soil. From the north, south, east and west they came. A story is told of a farmer in the late 1870s from the north of Vandalia... Father, said a young fellow who had arrived at this majority, I am going to work for Mr. Moore for $20 per month. Dont do that, interposed his brother. I have $300. Lets buy that 80 acres over there and you can farm it while I go to school. It was agreed. The sod, wherein the implement of man had never been, was broken, corn planted and a good crop was yielded. The year following they bargained for another 100 acres and had the price almost wholly in hand. Another acreage was purchased the following year, and the whole tract was paid for at the end of the third year. From the west of town a story was told, Id bought 70 acres at eight dollars per acre. The first year was not counted a good crop year, yet the second year the whole cost of the land was paid for— twice. Today it would be difficult to imagine such a farming opportunity, yet these were the types of stories told of many farmers that settled on the evaporating prairie in the late 1800s. How was it done? Corn, corn, corn! Corn was king! It was the fall of 1879 when Ely and Laird, Daniel Brothers and Charles Harris were buying corn. There were wagon scales in front of the building at the northwest corner of North D Street (Main Street) and North First Street (Washington Street) and at the northeast corner of South D Street (Main Street) and South First Street (State Street). At the time, these scales were in front of Ed Wares Store and Phil Daniels Restaurant (current Vandalia Area Museum, 112 South Main). The city railroad parks then existed in prospectus. In the northeast park there were two rows of corncribs running from the C&A Railroad Depot to D Street (Main). In the southeast park was an elevator. Runners, as they were called, were sent out two or three miles on all roads leading to town to intercept the farmers and bargain for corn before they arrived in the mainstream of town. During the harvest season, all day and all night farm wagons poured into town. Streets were literally blocked. Men fought for turns at the scales, corn shellers, cars (railcars) and the elevator. Buyers bustled about the wagons haggling with the sellers. Drivers cursed and quarreled with each other. Dust from the industrious trade hung in the air, and shifts of men took turns at the elevator and corn sheller, dumping wagons and loading railroad boxcars. One dealer sold 40 cars for delivery to Chicago within two weeks. Within eight days he had the whole consignment on its way. The corn sheller and elevator were used to load numerous boxcars; both were kept running day and night during peak portions of the fall and winter harvest seasons. The whole town was corn mad. The town was corn glutted. The town was corn rich. Homes, farms and fortunes were made from corn. The foundations of the towns wealth and prosperity were made from corn. Oats soon allied with corn to swell the wealth of this country to proportions that guaranteed a stable future for the infant community. Money was so plentiful in those days that men were actually reckless with it as they always are in boom days. These were the days before banks had arrived, requiring currency for the towns business to be brought from Mexico. Banking services did not exist in Vandalia until 1882. Pioneer merchants told of stories that customers used to come in and turn over to them large rolls of money for safekeeping, without a scratch of a pen to indicate the amount of the transfer. It was laid away in the iron safe, and on demand the bundle was handed out to its owner. One firm of corn dealers utilized the show window of the building they occupied to display greenbacks, keeping a huge pile of the filthy lucre on exhibit to impress the selling public with their resources. With the growth of corn, then oats in this region, the era of open range cattle began to disappear, and hogs began to come in. But the hog business was far from a get-rich-quick venture. S. C. Foster bought a load of hogs at two cents per pound and lost money on them. While writing of the early hog market here, it is in place to say the first railcar of hogs shipped from Vandalia was by Henry Liter. Heim Bros. came in for the honor of second shipment. As nearly as 1874, there was another hint of coming change. In that year two young soldiers of fortune, the Kennedy Brothers, came from among the hills of Warren County as they had heard the call of the prairie and located near Pleasant Plains Church. Among other things, they bought 60 head of cattle in the early part of that year. In the autumn two cattle barons from the St. Louis area came and looked to purchase their cattle. When the cattle barons price was extended, the Kennedy Brothers shook their heads and said, No, we will feed them this winter. The barons looked astonishingly at each other and rode away laughing. Cattle feeding was almost unheard of in this section in the 1870s. In other words, this marked the beginning of cattle feeding on the Vandalia prairie. How the Kennedy Brothers came out in pioneer cattle feeding we do not know, but there are records that show they paid Aaron McPike $30 for 30 bushels of corn in that same year. After the first boom days of corn, farmers began to see that it was more profitable to feed their corn than to ship it. In addition, feeders from a distance took advantage of our great crops by shipping their cattle here to be fed. Thus Vandalia began feeding her enormous corn output and corn shipments declined. Suffice to say that Vandalia became one of the greatest stock shipping points on the Louisiana and North Missouri Railroad. Exports were made up of hogs, sheep, cattle, horses and at one point Vandalia was a famous shipper of high quality mules to distant markets, including those of Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and sometimes internationally. In 1883 alone, Vandalia produced sufficient agricultural products to ship 742 boxcars of grain and 263 boxcars of livestock. This shift in balance from grain to livestock induced the city officials to lease the northeast railroad park to the Louisiana and Northern Railroad to assure Vandalias stronghold as an agricultural exporter, possibly the largest agricultural exporter on the railroad between Louisiana and Kansas City. This lease to the railroad was negotiated for all the right reasons, but proved to be one of the largest controversies in Vandalias history. Vandalias first growth and prosperity... By 1880 Vandalia became a fourth-class city, defined by the state as having between 500 and 3,000 residents. This class change also created the change from one to two city wards. At the time the population was about 600 with the assessed valuation of about $86,000. In the same year (1886) the city officers were elected on the first Tuesday in April as follows: J. F. Crawford, mayor; R. A. Bates, marshal; S. D. Ely, treasurer; A. McPike (his only publicly held office) and J. M. Evans, aldermen from the first ward and H. T. Davis and J. W. Balthrop, aldermen of the second ward. A. McPike was elected president of the board, H. T. Davis, clerk, and S. D. Ely, treasurer. By the year 1880 the town had grown far beyond the capacities of the little white frame schoolhouse. The educational need had grown to two instructors, one in the original schoolhouse and anoth20 er in an overflow schoolroom fitted in the upstairs of a downtown business building. It was in the same year the town of Vandalia became a fourth-class city (1880), and the school district changed from a district school to a graded village school. The need for a new building was urgent. Bonds were issued to raise funds, and preparations were made to carry on the work. However, the bonds were not approved. Things were coming to a standstill when the school board, at the time composed of Dr. Bland, Mr. Ely and Mr. Daniels, borrowed the necessary amount and gave their personal signatures to secure the debt. H. A. Gass and George Bowman erected a handsome four-room brick and limestone schoolhouse with a wooden belfry in Block 5 at the cost of $5,000. (The same block as what was to become the future location of what was called the North School.) The enrollment for the first year was 164, and the success and permanency of the school was now assured. Attendance increased, the indebtedness was soon removed and in 1885 the east wing, consisting of four additional rooms, was added. In 1883 C. J. White was appointed as city attorney (replacing C. G. Daniel) and served in this capacity for many years. In 1883 about 50 additional buildings were built at a cost of about $20,000 (near as it could be calculated), a large portion of this expense going to pay the carpenters of our city who were an excellent class of hard-working citizens. Yet there was a great cry for residences as at the time more than 25 dwellings were available to be rented at a fair price. The following amounts show the mercantile gross trade of the town from January 1, 1883 to January 1,1884: Dry goods - $68,639, Groceries - $59,960, Drugs and medicines - $22,500, Hardware - $43,500, Lumber - $36,390, Bakery and confectionery - $2,944, Blacksmithing and woodwork - $6,700, Harness and saddlery - $3,050, Barbering - $1,706, Tailoring - $1,200, Millinery and dressmaking - $2,285, Sewing - $2,433, Livery business - $5,060, in addition to two hotels, a furniture store and two printing houses, all totaling $245,437. The well, Vandalias first public utility... One of the major obstacles of developing the Vandalia prairie was water. The cure for this issue was not fully addressed even up to the early 1880s. The story of the search for this cure was told that a salesman, a hard-headed businessman and a philanthropist had started it... It was in the autumn of 1883, nearly ten years after the village got its civic swaddling clothes. A green, raw country fellow, calling himself a salesman, had recently come in from Ralls County and donned his first commercial spurs. He proved to be a salesman of many items with a sideline of windmills and pumps. He carried with him a line of miscellaneous hardware, but the windmills and pumps were only pictures in a catalog. On this occasion, he had just ridden in from the country and was left no option but to leave his tired and faithful horses to stand in the hot summer sun with parched throats and choose either water from green slime-covered pools found in the occasional wagon ruts or wait until they returned to Spencer Creek for a refreshing drink. In this country, the embryonic salesman didnt take into account that the water supply of the high prairie was largely from artificial ponds and hand-dug cistern wells, therefore, painfully inadequate. He thought...why not dig down deep into the earth and get water. His theory was not that the fire of hell would be found, but that a great waterbed underlaid this prairie. The salesman also saw there was little hope for a town without sufficient water; indeed the future of this vast prairie was largely bound up with the solution to a sufficient water supply. To the hardheaded local businessman, the salesman went. However, this busy businessman had the towns real estate to sell and other important interests in the heat-parched village. He, too, had cast his family and fortune here and when hearing the salesmans idea, gladly grasped an opportunity to benefit the town with a potential source of water. To the philanthropist went the salesman and the hardheaded businessman, stricken with enthusiasm. The case for the well was stated, and the philanthropist characteristically said, Im getting damn tired of seeing these poor hard-worked horses stand around here with their tongues hanging out. The salesman, the hardheaded businessman and the philanthropist appealed to Mayor C. P. Pearson. The doors were opened, and like every other good thing offered the citizens of Vandalia, these three fellows nearly carried the doors off the hinges getting in. Right there the salesman sold his first windmill and pump. In 1883 the drilling of the Vandalia well was contracted for and finished in early 1884. The contract was for digging 400 feet at a certain cost per foot with the town reserving the right to stop if sufficient water was supplied at a lesser depth. George Lee of Monroe County was the contractor. At a depth of 180 feet the drilling equipment became stuck fast in the hole, and after trying for six weeks to get it out, the townsmen were in a panic. Tensions were rising as the contract for digging the well with George Lee also included an offer of room and board. Lees crew had located in the rented rooms over the merchants of the first block north of the railroad, directly across from where the well was being drilled. Townsmen were saying Vandalia will go broke if they have to continue to bear this unexpected expense. Mayor C. P. Pearson, responding to public pressure, negotiated with Lee, the hole was abandoned and another hole started three and one-half feet from the first. At a depth of 99 feet in the second hole, the solid or secondary limestone formation was reached and a five-inch iron casing inserted to this level. The casing rested on the solid rock, and the boring from that depth to the bottom needed no casing. The water in the casing was tested, and three and one-half gallons per minute was the result. A year later the water supply increased to four and one-half gallons per minute. So the well was dug and a great stream of as fine water as man or beast ever drank was the response of Mother Earth. The philanthropist, the salesman and the hardheaded businessman, along with all the residents of the town were bubbling with joy. A monstrous wooden water tank and windmill, 80 feet above the well, was built on D Street (Main Street) just north of the railroad. After many expansive and futile attempts to make the water tank tight, it was abandoned. Even without the water tank this waterworks idea germinated and helped to bring forth the cure the town was searching for, all by chance of a salesman riding into the town on a hot dry day. Immediately there was an epidemic of earth tapping in the Vandalia area. The prairies for miles about were peppered with windmills. The news that Vandalia had a copious supply of water was sort of a new dragnet that drew the trade from far and near. However, few residents at the time of this discovery would realize the place this water well would have in our comfort and prosperity. Aside from opening up an avenue to material gain, it was an immeasurable boom. The wells value was greatly heightened in the extremely dry year of 1887 when this old well was a savior of life to the town and country round about. Farmers came for miles and miles, from dawn till dark, to water their stock and haul home a supply of water for domestic purposes. Some days the street was literally jammed with eager men and thirsty stock. At times the crowds were so large and insistent that Mayor C. G. Daniel and the marshal, E. M Diegle, were compelled to spend the greater part of the day on horseback, keeping order and straightening out the confusion. Many were the times thankful men exclaimed, Whatever would we do without this well? In the years to come the well was the pinnacle for a gathering place. Many used its freshness at the dawn of the new day, some at the hot noon hour and others when the evening shadows had lengthened, resorting to its cool, crystal stream. Many used the well in the waking hours of nighttime to be lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of the turning mill. Like many historical places, to those that met there with their cups and buckets to fraternize with dear friends, the passing of the old well and the old windmill was the breaking of a tender tie that bound hearts to the past. Coal and fire clay, Vandalias second and third industries... In trying to solve one of Vandalias problems, two were solved. In their quest for the liquid crystal (water) they struck the black diamond... COAL! This was an item that made a crown of wealth for our nation in the late 1800s and early 1900s as there can be no material prosperity without fuel. For many years Vandalia had to take the timbered bottomlands for fuel. Even railcars of wood were being delivered to Vandalia, and long ricks of wood were stacked in the northwest railroad park for use by the railroad and sold to local residents. Subsequently, coal was shipped from Illinois. When the telltale water well drill came out of the mysterious hole on D Street (Main Street) at the depth of 57 feet with coal in its jaws, a thrill of delight ran through the heart of every forward-looking citizen of the town. With the discovery of coal, every man who had the future of Vandalia in his heart took a new grip on the wheel of progress and prepared for an altogether heave-ho, as the dimension which this town had experienced was about to take an alarming change. Not many weeks after that momentous day in 1884 when the earth gave up the secret the sun had hidden in her bosom untold centuries ago, S. D. Ely was making dirt fly on the future site of the Old Salamander (located west of the original town and south of the railroad). At 65 feet he uncovered a 36-inch vein of fine coal. What Ely did not anticipate was what lay beneath the coal. Its discovery was puzzling at first as this newfound substance was ten feet thick and comprised of a gray, wet substance. Its value at the time was unknown, but it was later diagnosed as fire clay. S. D. Ely had not pioneered in the coal business very long until he found the development of this great material resource too big a job for one man. He appealed to some of his fellow citizens to join him. All of these men understood the hazards of the first years new enterprise, but they felt that the welfare of the town required them to do this thing. They agreed to share the burden with Mr. Ely with the hope that they might at least get the legal rate of interest on the money invested. The Audrain Manufacturing and Coal Co. was incorporated in the spring of 1886 by S. D. Ely, G. H. Utterback C. G. Daniel, J. H. Coontz, H. T. Davis and others. These men suspected there was value in the bed of fire clay that lay under the coal and began to expand their enterprise in this direction. Beginnings were made in the manufacturing of pottery, tile and brick. Gradually the brick took precedence. Their plant was enlarged and renamed a peculiar name, the Old Salamander. The working force increased, both above ground and below ground. More men employed meant more houses built, more merchandise sold and a general stimulation of business. All of this was a source of joy to these men who had the good of the town upon their hearts. But they soon became conscious that dividends were not keeping pace with the community benefit arising from the plants activity. Some said, Shut it down, some said, Sell it. But who will buy a non-productive enterprise? Some locals actually proposed giving it away. One by one, the men of more limited means who had invested in the Old Salamander were crowded out by the increasing financial burden. One man actually mortgaged his home to meet the drain of this pioneer institution. The remaining investors persisted on operating the plant which benefited the community, but made inroads into their own private funds. At length the personnel of the company were reduced to S. D. Ely, C. G. Daniel, J. F. Coontz, H. T. Davis and G. H. Utterback. When at length these men closed out their holdings at a fearful sacrifice, it was discovered that they had danced to the tune of $25,000. In 1893 the Audrain Manufacturing and Coal Co. sold their plant to the Vandalia Coal Co. This compa- Old Salamander brick factory, Vandalia 22 ny of practical, energetic men operated the plant with limited success until 1900 when it was transferred to the great Mississippi Glass Co. On June 8, 1885, R. W. Frier and John P. Roberts came to Vandalia from Higbee, Missouri, with experience in mining of minerals. They visited Vandalia in quest of a new business location. They easily saw the advantages of the area coal supply and on the same day negotiated with Aaron McPike for a mine on his land immediately north of Mr. Elys. The story is told that these men from Higbee were so excited about the opportunity that lay beneath Vandalia that the next day, June 9, they commenced setting up the equipment to sink a coal shaft, and on June 10 the opening of the hole of the Vandalia Coal Company came to be and in 13 days coal was found. The first locomotive loaded with coal from Vandalia was an instrumental day, occurring on July 4, 1884, and for 20 years thereafter the Vandalia Coal Company held this contract with the railroad. The Vandalia Coal Co. brought with them a large number of thrifty home-loving people who added greatly to the general welfare of the city. However, the largest of the manufacturing interest to date was that of firebrick, tiling furnace linings and locomotive blocks. This was indeed possible because of the simple fact that the coal supply for heating the kiln used in the manufacturing of these items and the high quality clay itself was right at our doorstep. Coal and fire clay were mined in tandem, and the supply was considered inexhaustible. But wait...by 1895 it was becoming evident by the Vandalia Coal Company that the term inexhaustible was a miscalculation. The supply of coal on the McPike property was exhausted, and the company sought another stand. After months of fruitless negotiations by certain officials for a new contract for mineral and mining rights on other surrounding lands, the railroad became nervous and undertook the task of negotiating with the Farber Coal Company as a new source for their coal needs. The prospect of losing this valuable asset threw Vandalias businessmen into a state of frenzy. It was time for someone to take action to preserve this valuable asset. It was determined that the Galloway property west of Vandalia, located directly parallel to the railroad, was the only logical location for the new coal mine. When the negotiations between Mr. Galloway seemed hopeless and the loss of the company seemed certain, Dr. J. C. Parrish invited Mr. Galloway and a representative of the company to his doctors office. After they arrived, the door was locked, and when they emerged, Vandalia had a long lease on the new future site of their coal mine. Immediately thereafter the mine on the Galloway property was opened and began to pour a golden stream into the business of the town. (See Coal Mines and Brick Plants) Fire! One step back, two steps forward... In March of 1885, the demon fire made its sad ravages through one of the principle business blocks, destroying property valued at $50,000. This block is believed to have been the present 100 West Washington block, a stretch of brick and numerous wooden structures, many of the first buildings in the town. The faint-hearted thought it would be the end of Vandalia as they knew it; others brushed off the cinders and developed a plan. Among those suffering loss were J. R. Bratton, Winter Bros., Jessie Barnett, Alex Mergle and Clarence Jamison. But in the following year prominent local businessmen, led by J. C. Parrish, financed and orchestrated the replacement of the burned-out block with an even better class of brick buildings, ornately designed and soon ready for business on a grander scale. Prosperity and growth... Vandalia had the good fortune of maintaining a successive yearly increase in growth during all the years of the 1800s, starting from 1870. The following board was elected in the year 1886: First Ward - H. S. Greer and J. H. Caldwell, Second Ward - J. R. Bratton and J. B. Lewellen, Mayor - C. G. Daniel, Marshal - E. M. Dingle and Treasurer - J. F. Coontz. At that time Vandalias population reached around 1,500, and its 1885 assessed valuation reached the handsome sum of $146,250. It was time to expand, and in this 1886 election the citizens approved, by a handsome majority, extending Vandalias city limits one-quarter mile on the south, making its limits one and a quarter miles north and south and one mile east and west.