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Versailles

Versailles, the county seat of Morgan County, has a population of 1,420. It is situated in the northwest corner of Township 42, Range 17, Section 6 -- its elevation giving it a commanding view in every direction, especially over the prairies west and northwest. While it is not the highest elevation in the county, yet the waters part, to run south and north to the Osage and Missouri Rivers, at the north and south sides of the public square.

Location and Surroundings

The original town plat, made in 1835, was a donation to the county by Wyan & (Hugh) Galbraith. They gave thirty-six blocks, each 170 feet square, one of which, next to the north tier of blocks, was made a public square. The town was long and narrow, being three blocks wide and twelve blocks in length. North and south there were but two streets, while there were ten running east and west. The highest point was selected as a public square. The vast and unbroken view to be seen at that time from this point, nearly overlooking the county, was evidently the determining point in the mind of the locater of the county seat, and which was approved universally by the people. To the southwest, west and north are the beautiful, rich, gently rolling prairies, and to the east and south are seen the deep wooded pastures in gentle swells passing away to the distant blue ridges. For beauty and health there are few spots anywhere that surpass Versailles. To these may be added a climate without extremes, [This guy was obviously never there in August.] and then one can gain some idea of the capital town of Morgan County. Mr. Street Thruston was commissioner to locate the county seat, and this point was selected and named Versailles in February, 1835. The lots of the county seat were sold at public vendue.

Manufactories and Business

Hugh Galbraith built the first house, in which he opened the first store. The next merchant was Levi Blackwell. In 1836 William Hicks opened a three-room log tavern. Zebulon Moore built a log house on the northeast corner of the public square, and the same year (1836) Joseph Steele built on the south side of the square. Daniel Williams opened a blacksmith shop in 1836. The same year a man named Freeman opened the first saloon; Milton O'Bryan, carpenter, built his residence, and John T. Harmon erected a dwelling in which he kept a boarding~house in 1836. T. & P. Miller opened a store on the northwest corner of the square in the winter of 1836-37. Dr. J. B. Thruston settled in Versailles and commenced the practice of medicine in 1836, and is still acting in the profession. It seems he was alone in the medical line until 1838, when Dr. John J. McClellan came. Nelson opened his store in 1839. In 1840 Hugh Miller was keeping a store. In 1840 the population was a little more than sixty or seventy, and there were about twenty buildings in the place.

The first bricks ever made in the county were by a man named Jones, and of these was built Hugh Galbraith's store. The first steam merchant mill was built in 1872. It now has the "roller process," and is a first-class mill. (J. F.) Taylor & Goddard (William H.) carried on merchandising from 1852 to 1856. Henry C. Dunn and Crook & Tooley were also merchants at one time, about 1850.

Incorporation

By a vote of the people Versailles was made an incorporated village February 13, 1866, and B. S. Walker, A. J. Hart, W. C. Reed, E. Lindley and R. Boyd Williams were the trustees, W. C. Reed, chairman, and J. Tyler Campbell, clerk, The other adjuncts in the way of necessary legal and official machinery were put in operation. There was not, it seems, very much government meddling needed, and the different officials appear to have run the town smoothly and economically.

May 21, 1881, an election was called, on the question of incorporating the town under the general law as a fourth-class city. The total vote cast was seventy-two, and the result was a majority of eight voted in the affirmative. Then July 9 following was held the first election for mayor and aldermen. Two wards, east and west, had been created. B. R. Richardson was elected mayor, and James McNair, James L. Townley, George W. Petty and John D. Neilson, aldermen.

At the April election, 1881, Max O. E. Joachimi was elected mayor, and J. F. Townley and William Lewis, aldermen; 1882, L. S. Wright, mayor, and John T. Baal and D. A. Fairly, aldermen; 1883, Samuel Livingston, mayor, and in 1884, S. R. Woods; 1887, B. R. Richardson, mayor.

The present officers (1889) are William L. Stephens, mayor; J. B. McGuffin, clerk, and James McNair, G. W. Petty, M. F. Jones and Carl Biersach, aldermen.

Banks

The first attempt at banking in Versailles was by J .B. Kelsay, in 1875. He put in a small capital, and ran along five years and closed. The losses to patrons were trifling.

The Bank of Versailles was founded November 22, 1882, with the present officers: P. G. Wood, president, and WV. L. Stephens, cashier. The bank organized with the smallest capital the law allowed, because of the uncertainty as to the prospects caused by the failure of a bank a short time previously. Therefore its capital was placed at $10,000, but the actual capital issued by the bank soon exceeded $25,000. The bank is a successful and prosperous institution. It is in the Wood's Block, north side of the public square. P. G. Woods is President, and W. L. Stephens, cashier.

On April 16, 1889, the Bank of Morgan County began business at Versailles, with W. E. Maynard, president; Jno. Lumpee, Jr., vice-president; W. W. Moore, cashier, and J. S. Thruston, assistant cashier. In addition to those mentioned (except Mr. Moore), Jno. T. Williams, Hon. Conway Jones, James McNair, Geo. W. Petty, and David Hardy are directors. The capital stock is $15,000, to be increased as the necessities of business may justify. With such names connected with this financial institution -- a guarantee of careful and strict management, its success is assured. Among the correspondents are the Hanover National Bank, New York city, Fourth National Bank, St. Louis, Mo., and the National Bank of Commerce, Kansas City, Mo.

Present Business

The enumeration given below of the enterprises and business now carried on in Versailles, while they make a respectable showing for a town of its size, may not give the reader a sufficient idea of the many inviting advantages the city possesses. The leading stores are large concerns, carrying complete stocks of goods, and doing an extensive business, and even the smallest establishments are usually crowded with customers. There is a wide, rich range of country that contributes to the trade of Versailles -- east, south and west, especially, there being no competing point for many miles. The following are the principal concerns and proprietors: Elevator, flour warehouse and ties, Freebairn & Joachimi; merchant, steam mill (roller process), Banks & Moser; clothing John Lumpee, Jr.; general stores, John Lumpee, Jr., Spurlock Bros, Beckman Bros., Banks Bros., C. H. Long, John Freebairn; grocers, E. Thayer, I. Dodson, T. D. O'Bryan, James Poe and C. J. Polston; drugs, J. M. Lumley, J . F. Stephens, C. L. Woodbury, Samuel Martin; agricultural implements, P. Damph, Hardy & Mason; hardware, M. F. Jones, Curtis & Gray; livery, Clark & Williams, Fairley, Ivey & Price; restaurants, Mrs. Maroney, C. Bauer; tobacco and confections, M. Spidel; photographer, E. A. Clodfelter; blacksmiths, Henry Jacobs, William Smith, John Sass and Padgett & Johnson; wagon-makers, Jacob Rains and J. R. Slocum; painters, Duff & Benson; shoe-makers, Joseph Luckley, Otto Kuhn, Gus Walters; lumber yards, Summerhauser & Co., Petty & Drnmgold; carpenters and builders, John Rankin & Son, Duff & Duff, Kidder & Bro., Riley Rainwater, Luther Johnson, J. Tillett & Son, William Ragsdale, George Leatherman, Joseph Stearne and A. L. Bernay; saddlery and harness, John Wassung, A. Klahn; butchers, Hardy & Mason, Swindler & Price; furniture, A. F. Treakle, David Kidwell; hotel, Samuel Martin; jewelry, George B. Bohling; stationery, James M. Cliffton; millinery, Miss Philips and Mrs. Burkhart, Mrs. E. A. Sackett, Bowels & Clifton; real estate, Davidson & Arnold, Richardson & Taylor, McGuffin & Cravson, J. D. Neilson.

Versailles Attractive Features

The north side of the public square is built up solidly, nearly all new two-story bricks, in modern style and plate-glass fronts. The business blocks, new two-story bricks, on the west side of the square, require but a few more houses to occupy them solidly. On the east and south sides are mostly frame buildings, though on the southeast corner is a new two-story brick block. On the streets immediately from the square on the north and west sides, are some new and elegant brick structures. During the past year eleven new brick business houses have been erected. In the residence part of town are in every direction new and modern style houses, and several in the course of construction. From the new, neat cottage to the spacious and elegant mansion to be seen on every hand, are evidences of prosperity that impress the visitor strongly. On adjoining lots are frequently to be seen the ancient southern architecture, with two-storied porticos or verandas, and great outside chimneys, and the most modern swell fronts and plate glass. In the early planting of shade trees the people made the mistake of using the black locust. These are rapidly being taken away, and their places will be taken by the elm and the maple.

The supply of water is abundant and inexhaustible for all future manufacturing purposes. In the center of town are some wells 165 feet in depth, and then in the corporate limits are strong flowing wells with considerable pressure. At one time in digging for coal in the north part of town, the water, within a few feet of the surface, flowed in such quantities as to force the men from the shaft. Adjacent to town are strong springs, one of which has an eight-inch flow. The sole thing necessary to render this place one of the best in the country for manufactories of all kinds is cheap transportation. The proper energy and vigilance of the people in behalf of their own interests will surely soon bring this about.

Coal Mine

Within a few yards of the city's eastern limits is the Martin coal mine, with steam sawmill attachment. Here, if no other is ever discovered, is a cheap and easy of access supply of fuel that will last for generations.

Fires

No serious destruction by fire occurred until October 23, 1886, when one commenced in Fairley & Freebairn‘s livery stable, northwest of the public square, spreading from there to Freebairn's agricultural implement house, and then destroying a two-story frame building, in which was a butcher's shop, the second story containing the I. O. O. F. and G. A. R. hall. It then crossed the street, and burned the two-story frame in which was the Masonic hall, and traveling south, destroyed the City Hotel and Freebairns's two-story frame residence and business house. This was quite a public calamity, as there was but little insurance on the property. But the people went to work and cleared away the debris, and for the burned inferior buildings put up good, substantial modern business houses.

October 2, 1887, the second and greater fire visitation was inflicted upon the people. This commenced in Lumpee's block, on the northwest corner of the public square, burning out that corner down to Lumpee‘s present brick store-house, and then extended east on the public square, destroying everything to the bank building. A high northwest wind prevailing carried the burning fragments to the court-house, and to the old house on the southeast corner of the square, and destroyed it.

The whole community was fairly prostrated for some time by this calamity, coming as it did so soon upon the heels of the previous one. So quickly, however, did they rally and again put up new and better buildings, that all are now enabled to see that in the end it was but a part of the town's good fortune.

Societies

The A. O. U. W. Lodge, No. 150, was organized August 16, 1879, by P. G. Woods, J. T. Beale, Elwyn Price, R. T. Walker, F. H. A. Fuegner, John Briscoe, John Grills, Lewis Walter, John Watson, T. D. O'Bryan, J. B. Kelsey and J. W. Morton. First officers: P. G. Woods, P. W. M.; Lewis Walter, M. W.; J. W. Morton, G. F.; E1wyn Price, O.; J. T. Beale, Rec.; J. B. Kelsey, financier; R. F. Walker, receiver; F. H. A. Fuegner, G.; T. D. O'Bryan, I. G.; John Wassung, O. G.

The present membership is nineteen, and is officered as follows: Charles Banks, P. G. Wood and W. H. Kavanaugh, each P. M. W.; J. T. Beale, F.; J. T. Williams, O.; George Decker, G.; John Wassung, R.; J. W. Morton, Rec.; Elwyn Price, F.; Charles Banks, I. W.; J. D. Bohling, O. W. Their hall is in the Versailles Bank building.

Versailles Lodge No. 231, I. O. O. F. There was a small organization of this society here several years ago, but its charter was surrendered and it went out of existence. The present organization was formed in 1883, and elected the following: Louis Lumpee, N. G.; E. M. Dufi, V. G.; John Wassung, Treasurer; W. L. Stephens, Secretary. The present membership is twenty, and the officers are as follows: E. M. Duff, N. G.; W. S. Huffman, V. G.; Joseph Popper, Secretary; John Wassung, Treasurer. The charter members were Louis Lumpee, John Wassung, E. M. Duff, H. Spurlock, W. L. Stephens and G. W. Miller.

The charter of Versailles Lodge No. 117, A. F. & A. M., was dated May 10, 1850. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire October 23, 1886. The charter members were L. E. Williamson, W. M.; W. J. Tutt, Sr. W.; W. B. Tooley, Jr. W., and John Murray, Thomas Monroe, William M. Anderson, S. P. Hunter, Andrew Livingston, W. A. Parks, Thomas R. Jones and J. B. Thruston. Its present membership is ninety-one. The officers are Elwyn Price, W. M.; A. L. Ross, S. W.; John E. Sims, J. W.; P. G. Woods, Treasurer, James McNair, Secretary; William R. Estes, S. D.; W. O. Huffman, J. D.; H. P. Bond, Tyler.

Royal Arch Chapter, No. 72, was organized June 13, 1871. with the following officers and membership: J. V. Allee, M. E. H. P.; D. Williams, E. K.; L. E. Williamson, E. S.; R. C. Armstrong, Captain of Host; D. E. Wray, P. S.; J. B. Clemmer, R. A. C.; William Simpson, M. 3d V.; W. H, Goddard, M. 2d V.; J. P. Ingram, M. 1st V.; W. R. Litsinger, Guard. The charter is dated October 7, 1871. The officers given above constituted the charter members.

The chapter now has forty-two members and the following officers: P. G. Woods, M. E. H. P.; H. R. Fish, E. K.; O. A. Williams, E. S.; E. Price, Treasurer; James M. Clifton, Secretary; James H. Painter, Captain of Host; E. Price, P. S.; William Lewis, R. A. C.; O. W. Biersach, M. 3d V.; T. R. Brown, M. 2d V.; L. B. Hawks. M. 1st V.; H. P. Bond, Guard.

The Versailles G. A. R. Post was established in May, 1881. The first officers were Maj. W. A. Mills, Commander; Maj. George Stover, Senior Vice; Samuel Tillett, Junior Vice; M. Joachimi, Officer of the Day. The following were charter members: M. Joachimi, Willis B. Jones, Hobert Ripley, Robert Phillips, George Decker, A. J. Williams, Henderson Marple, George H. Stover, John P. Sullens, Otto Kuhn, James F. Craig, Aaron Weare, David C. Duff, August Walters, Samuel Tillett, H. T. Talbot, M. C. Ogden, J. R. Slocum, W. A. Mills and H. W. Smith.

The organization is prosperous, and now has a membership of forty-five. Present officers: M. Joachimi, Commander; Samuel Tillett, Senior Vice; W. H. H. McCarty, Junior Vice; Orrin Hamlin, Quartermaster; M. Moore, Officer; Otto Kuhn, Officer of Guard; John Holloway, Chaplain.

The Y. M. C. A. was formed in 1877, the active parties being J. K. Gwynn, R. S. Harker and Mr. Buck, with thirteen members. They meet in Masonic Hall, and have thirty-seven members.

The Versailles Building and Loan Association was organized in 1887, and now has 150 members and 500 shares. They are preparing to start a new series. A. F. Treakle is president, and W. P. Banks, vice-president, John D. Neilson being secretary.

A branch of the Sedalia Building Association has commenced business in Versailles. They have disposed of seventy-five shares. J. M. Taylor is agent.

Newspapers

Morgan County has been creditably represented in the press fraternity since 1858, and its two newspapers now published indicate that they are conducted by men who keep up with the spirit of progress in the country.

The Morgan County Forum was the first newspaper enterprise started in Morgan County; a six-column folio, established and run by John Henderson and brother. Its first number was in 1858. The paper was continued until the breaking out of the war, when the boys went off on a jolly soldiering, and the paper ceased, and has never been revived.

The Morgan County Banner was the second newspaper venture in the county, and the first that was republican in politics. Its first issue was in 1865, started by William J. Jackson, a six-column folio. After running it about one year Mr. Jackson sold to B. S. Walker, W. A. Mills and J. H. Stover, a publishing company. In this manner it was published about one year. In the spring of 1867, by purchase of the others' interest, W. A. Mills became the proprietor. In the fall of the same year Mills sold out to W. H. H. McCarty, who conducted it until 1870, when it again passed into the possession of Mr. Mills. He conducted it until January, 1871, when he sold the concern to John A. Hannay. The Banner was then furled.

Morgan County Gazette. Immediately after purchasing the Banner office, in 1871, John A. Hannay started the Gazette, a six-column, Democratic paper. In 1874 the name was changed to the Versailles Gazette. Under this name it had a prosperous life until 1875, when the office and good-will were sold to J. K. Gwynn.

The Morgan Messenger was started by J. K. Gwynn October 9, 1884, an eight-column, Democratic paper. He published it successfully until October, 1886, when it was destroyed by fire. He then purchased the Gazette office of John A. Hannay, and consolidating the two papers started the Messenger-Gazette, first issued in November, 1884, as an eight-column, Democratic paper. It prospered, and was regularly issued until the fire, in March, 1887, when the office was totally destroyed, and the paper was never revived.

The Versailles Vindicator, a seven-column folio, was started by P. R. Crisp in 1868. It was Democratic in politics. After running one year it stopped, and the office was removed by Mr. Crisp to Kansas.

The Versailles Argus existed as a Democratic paper in 1871, by Monroe Brothers. It had a brief existence of only a few months, and expired. It was a six-column, Democratic paper, and from the fact that it issued a semi-weekly for a short time it is supposed the paper overreached itself, and was discontinued.

Morgan County Leader, A. W. Villmoar and R. A. Wright, proprietors, was started January 6, 1887, by Villmoar and John D. Bohling. It is an eight-column folio, and is Democratic in politics. At the expiration of two years Mr. Bohling sold his interest in the concern to R. A. Wright, present member. They are young men, practical printers, and the mechanical make-up of their paper is an evidence of their skill; the editorial columns also manifest their abilities as writers on the political and economic subjects of to-day. Its main interests, however, are in the growth, welfare and development of Morgan County. The subscription books show over 1,500 names.

The Journal was a Republican paper, started in Versailles in April, 1872. It was a six-column quarto, and though run in the name of the Missouri Printing Company, was presided over by George Cook. It was sprightly and enterprising, and buffeted nobly the troubled waters of the sea of journalism for over two years, but was probably for the time started upon too large and expensive a scale, and it ceased to exist in the fall of 1884.

The Methodist Monitor, as its name indicates, a church paper, was started in the early part of 1888, by Rev. J. M. Stully.* When the conference sent Mr. Stully to new fields of usefulness, he took the paper with him, and is now publishing it at Wright City, Mo.

The Versailles Statesman, a seven-column folio, is Republican in politics, but its strongest faith is in Morgan County, to which its editor, proprietor and founder, J. F. Mounts, is ever a devoted and active friend. It was launched in the world of journalism September 29, 1887, and already can claim a circulation of 800. The mechanical work on the paper shows that a practical printer is at the helm, and its general make-up and matter are evidences that its proprietor is a trained newspaper man; and, what is better than all else, its general tone of prosperity indicates on the part of the paper a lively appreciation of the press as an educator and friend of the county's institutions.

Reedsburg

Reedsburg was platted and made a legal village January 1, 1858, by Norman Reed. It was on Section 2, Township 41, Range 18, on the line of the contemplated railroad across the county. If the road had filled expectations then the town of Reedsburg would also have no doubt done likewise. As it is, it is mostly non est inventus.

Excelsior

This town was platted February 3, 1868, by John C. Radcliff. It is situated on Sections 18 and 19, Township 43, Range 16, and is east and a little north of Versailles. It has fifty inhabitants, a postoffice, store, blacksmith, flour-mill and church.

Florence

The first settlers of Florence were Dr. Sherman, who settled at this point and started a store, and William Baughman, blacksmith, who opened a shop. It was laid out and platted June 3, 1882, and now has a population of sixty. Its largest industrial interest is J. M. Hummell's pottery. There are general stores kept by Charles Steinbach, C. L. Hughes, John Camerick, Shroder & Rodekohr, and a saddlery shop, blacksmith and wagon shop. Churches of the Lutheran and Baptist faith, and a Reformed Church (St. John's) exist. Before railroad times the town was an important business center. It suffered from fires during the war, and since has never recovered its prosperity fully.

Syracuse

Syracuse was originally called Pacific City. The first settlers were J. H. Sand, E. S. Ralston, John Finley and T. J. Shanklin. A part of the land on which the town is built was entered by Ralston. He and George Shacklelord's farms composed the original plat, as laid out January 25, 1859, by Kendall, Honk & Co., and George Shackleford. The first store was by W. E. Tomson & Son in 1859; the second by Charles Pringer, started the same year. For nearly two years this was the terminus of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The population is 250. There are four general and one grocery store, kept by H. M. Keevil, David Crowe, W. H. Carpenter, Joel Bonnell and L. M. Cardry. The town also contains a blacksmith and wagon-maker, the Union Church, a school and postoffice.

Proctor

Proctor is situated one mile north of the Osage River, on the Springfield and Boonville road. It was settled at an early day by Samuel Willison, and in time became a small trading point, and was made a postoffice. General stores are kept by Talbott & Bryan and J. W. Hemphill; a drug store by T. J. Gibbs; also a tavern and blacksmith shop. It has about seventy-five inhabitants, and a church and school house. Rich coal and mineral lands lie all about it, and the location is dry, healthy and picturesque.

Gravois Mills

Gravois Mills was platted and made a village January 22, 1884, by Humes Bros. It has a population of thirty; contains one general store, by J. T. Washburn, one grocery and one drug store and a blacksmith shop. Near the village is the Gravois Mills, water power, flour and saw, and a short distance above the mill is a woolen factory, which was started in 1870 by Humes Bros. The early settlers in this vicinity were James Faris, James Lamb, Daniel Richardson and John Kayes. The first store was by Charles Swanson. Josiah S. Walton originally built the mill.

Other Villages

Akinsville

Akinsville, a station on the Versailles Railroad, contains a postoffice, blacksmith and wagon shop, and a general store kept by Davinna Bros. The population is thirty.

Glensted

Glensted, six miles north of Versailles, a station on the railroad, has a population of twelve. A church and two residences, and a store by Joseph Milburn, constitute the town's interests.

St. Martin's

St. Martin's, east of Glensted four miles, has a postoffice, a blacksmith shop and a general store kept by James R. Lewis.

Boyler's Mill

Boyler's Mill, sixteen miles southwest of Versailles, contains a water flour-mill by Frisch Bros, a postoffice and store by W. P. McKean.

Barnett

Barnett is twelve miles southeast of Versailles. Population, thirty. It has a church, drug store, blacksmith-shop and postoffice, and general store by F. W. Inglish.

Cape Galena

Cape Galena is eighteen miles south of Versailles. The merchants are J. W. Calfee and Henry Dougherty.

Pyrmont

Pyrmont, a postoffice hamlet, has a store kept by Gehrs & Warnke.

Bebra

Bebra contains a general store by Carl Hildebrandt.

Stover

Stover, ten miles west of Versailles, has a church and general store by George Brankhorst.

Post Offices

In Morgan County there are twenty postoffices, as follows: Akinsville, Barnett, Bebra, Boyler's Mill, Cape Galena, Crittenden, Excelsior, Florence, Gladstone, Glensted, Gravois Mills, Proctor, Pyrmont, River View, St. Martin's, Search, Stover, Syracuse, Todd, Versailles.


History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.