Macon County Towns and Villages

Old Centerville

Old Centerville seems to have been the first trading point in the county. It was situated in the southeast corner of the county, near the lines of the three counties, Shelby, Monroe and Randolph, and was in its day the center of considerable influence. Its name for years has been Woodville. It is still a trading post, having a blacksmith shop, store and post office.


About ten miles west of old Centerville, in years agone, stood the village of McClainesville, which the necessities of the pioneer life had called into existence and the rich prairies that surrounded it made it a point of much prominence and importance at one time.


Some six miles farther west, in about 1850, sprang up the little hamlet of Floretta. This was located on the main stage road from Huntsville to Bloomington. For many years large quantities of tobacco was bought and shipped.

College Mound

In 1852 McGee College was located at College Mound, some two miles almost due west of Floretta. There were several stores, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, boot and shoe shop, mill, tobacco factory and quite a number of other things that went to make a thriving little village around the college and overshadowed Floretta, which gradually declined. College Mound held its own during the war fairly well, and is still a flourishing town.


About two miles north of the old town of McClainesville the Wabash Railroad established a station, Excello, sometime in the '80s. This became quite a village by reason of the mining of coal in the immediate vicinity.


In the early '90s the village of Ardmore, lying about half way between Excello and College Mound, was laid out by the Kansas & Texas Coal Company, who opened their main store there in connection with several mines. It is a mining camp, having the usual luck of such villages.


In Morrow Township on the southwest there has existed since the 70s a trading post called Kaseyville, near the Randolph County line, where they have stores and the usual shops.


Some five miles north of Kaseyville is the post office of Barryville, which is a store where there is a fair amount of trading.


With the building of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, a station was established in Round Grove Township on the east side of the county, which still continues to be a thriving trading point for a large and wealthy community. In the '90s the railroad company changed the name to Anabel.


The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad placed a station five miles west of Macon and about four miles south of old Bloomington and called it Bevier. This was in 1858. It soon became a hamlet of some importance. In 1865 coal was discovered in great quantities. The original mines have been worked out, other mines have been opened and traffic goes on. Mining camps grew up at mine ''61." Keota and other shafts were sunk and a railroad was built some ten or twelve years ago from. Bevier passing by these several shafts and villages, including Ardmore with its surrounding shafts and camps, and running into Randolph County. Bevier, today, is a good strong town of two thousand people, having many nice residences, hotels, business houses, churches and all the general features of an organized community.


In 1858, sometime in the late summer, the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad reached Callao, where its trains stopped for a while until its tracks could span the bottom of the Chariton and reach the western bluffs. From that day to this, Callao has grown. It has a population of intelligent, refined and enterprising people and does business for a great country to the north and south, its trade extending into Randolph County.

New Cambria

The next stop in the county for the railroad was New Cambria, in range 17. The town for years has had an active, thriving trade, serving the great territory far into Chariton County to the south and extending even farther to the north, until its northern trade was somewhat clipped by the building of the Santa Fe Railroad.


In the early '70s coal was discovered along near the western line of the county and a station was located and named Lingo. Shafts were sunk and a large quantity of coal mined and shipped. The village grew around it and continues, notwithstanding the coal has been largely exhausted. The community is largely Bohemian, a cheerful and happy people.

Ten Mile

On the line of the old Hannibal and St. Joseph stage road was a post office from the earliest times, called Ten Mile post office, in township 58, and, the country around being rich, it was not long until it became the nucleus for a village and was pushing ahead with vigor when the railroad came in 1857. It still remained a post office, but it was a ''star router."

Vienna or Economy

Some ten miles north and west of Ten Mile post office, in the northern part of the county, out on the great prairie in township 59, and near the Salt River, was a little village called Vienna in the olden time, but later dubbed Economy. When the railroad came and, later, the war, its brightness began to tarnish, but, still, by reason of the wealth of the community around it, it is a considerable trade center.


When the Wabash Railroad pushed north from Macon in 1866, it established & station almost west of Vienna and called it Atlanta. From that day on Atlanta was a growing town. It is a good place to live in and will grow as the country develops. It has in this good year of 1912 established a local fair, and its first meeting in September would be a credit to any rural community.


In the latter part of the '70s there sprang up a store out on the prairie in range 15. This was called Barnesville. It was simply a necessity of a growing, thriving people, and it is still there. The start of this little town showed the growth of population and the spirit of business in the community. It is almost ten miles west of Atlanta.


Some six mites farther west there sprang up in the '90s on the eastern bluffs of the Chariton, a post office called Cash, There is a store there and its existence means that the Chariton bottom had begun to be drained and the farming community needed a local store.

Coal Mine in Macon County


There had in the meantime grown up a store and embryonic village called Dodd. It lay on the north side of the prairie, on the south of which old Winchester had formerly existed.


In the ante-bellum days in township 60, range 16, there grew up a trading post called Mercyville, situated at the foot of the bluff where Sand creek wound its way toward the Chariton River, and bespoke the fact that the second bottom of the Chariton in that country was being inhabited and cultivated. The old town is still on the map, although it has been absorbed in a measure by its younger neighbor, Elmer.


This brings us to another old town. At the edge of the timber on the Richland prairie in the early days was a store and post office and a little community called Newberg. This must have been in existence in the '40's, In fact, it seems to have been quite an early town of some importance. It was beautifully located and it was impossible to get np the divide in range 15 without going across this prairie and striking the timber to the west.


The principal rival of old Newberg was LaPlata, some eight miles to the east on the Wabash, although it existed as a town in the early '50s. But the coming of the Wabash in '67 gave it new life and the timber was hauled past old Newberg to LaPlata, and the stock came from all directions to the pens of LaPlata, The fact is that its active merchants, careful traders, daring shippers and the general enterprise and intelligence of its citizens make LaPlata the second town in the county. It has some two thousand inhabitants. The town is neat and clean. The residences are nice, tasty and comfortable. It has a fine school building and some six or eight churches. The Santa Fe and Wabash railroads maintain good stations and large yards. It made money off the timber trade and the shipping trade, horses, cattle and hogs and is the mart for the farmers who own the highly productive fields around. It draws largely from the southern part of Adair County and has a large territory to the northwest and northeast. For its size LaPlata can be safely said to be one of the most enterprising and thrive ing little cities of the fourth class in the state.

Sue City

In 1865 the Missouri & Mississippi Railroad was laid out from Macon City to Alexandria, Missouri. In Johnson Township, in the northeast corner of the county, a town was laid out and called Sue City. As the road was slow in coming, the town did not wait, but moved ahead. The country around is broad prairie land with good farms and nice farm houses.


From 1858 to 1877 the Hannibal & St. Joseph and the North Missouri were the only railroads in the county. In the latter year the Santa Fe was projected, entering the county from Linn County just north of Bucklin, and running northeast for twenty-six miles, and passing into Adair County just northeast of LaPlata. The road was built in one year from Kansas City to Chicago, and the first train went over it on the 1st of January, 1888. It passed through a country that was sparsely inhabited, on west of the Chariton, and, as a matter of course, had to have stations, and that made towns. Southwest from LaPlata the first station is Lacrosse, where there has grown up an ordinary village, with stores and post office and doctor.


The next station to the west is Elmer, which was built just three-quarters of a mile southwest of old Mercyville, the object being, no doubt, to wipe the old town off the map and build a new one. It is certain they built a new one, and a nice town it is, with its bank, several stores, churches and schoolhouse, two or three timber factories, charcoal pits, etc. It is situated on the edge of the Chariton bottom and has a large country trade in all directions.


The next town to the west on the Santa Fe is Ethel. It is a good town. It has a large territory to the northwest and immediately to the south and draws from the western bottoms of the Chariton, a most productive agricultural district. In fact, the pressing in of the population on the Chariton and its tributaries had the effect to bring under cultivation these great bottoms, which in that part of the country are large as well as productive. Ethel is a good shipping point for livestock and it has the distinction of being the largest turkey shipping point in the state, the southwest of Adair, the southeast of Sullivan and the northeast of Linn being tributary to it for shipping purposes. It has quite a number of thriving stores, banks, poultry houses and schoolhouse, churches and all the things that make a live rural village.


The next point to the west is simply a stopping point called Hart. There is a general store for the convenience of the community, which thickened up with the coming of the Santa Fe, and the store is doing well.


In the early '80s there arose on the line between townships 59 and 60, about six miles north of Ethel, a town called Goldsberry. The movement of the population to the northwest and the opening of farms made a trading point a necessity. A general store, drug store, physician, blacksmith shop and such things needed by a farming community followed. It still remains about the same and holds its own, notwithstanding the establishment of Ethel and Elmer.


Further up in the township, some six or eight miles to the northwest, had sprung up the post office of Tullvania, which meant there was a store and the people demanded postal facilities by reason of that growth. It still maintains the store without being specifally more than a crossroads with blacksmith shop, etc.

New Boston

But long prior to these two villages, there had existed up in the township right on the west banks of Muscle fork, in 1848, a town called New Boston, and in its day it was something of a town. It had as many as two general stores, blacksmith shop and hotel. It continued to be a center until after the war, when its condition and unfortunate location in the bottom served to wipe it off the map, and in 1872 a town with the same name was started on the west bluff of the creek, which is in Linn County, and remains as a considerable center today. Doubtless its removal contributed quite largely to the building of Goldsberry and Tullvania, to say nothing of the village of Walnut to the northeast, situated on Walnut creek, which has grown to be quite a little center.

Old Winchester

Among the early towns in the county was the village of Old Winchester, about half way between Old Bloomington and the Chariton River on the old stage road. It had some prominence as a tobacco center. It had a store and there was a splendid timber and prairie country, which would be attractive to early settlers, and it was close to the water and this made it still more inviting. It was some five miles north of the present town of Callao, and with the coming of the railroad and the ceasing of the stage its struggles for life began. The fates were against it, for the population to the north in the meantime began to have centers, such as Barnesville and Mercyville, to attract them, as well as the railroad towns of the south.


Some six miles to the east of Old Bloomington was the Richardson home, situated at the crossing of the stage road and the old Bee Trace. It had received the name of Moccasinville, tradition says, because at one time the men were compelled to wear moccasins for want of shoes.

In 1837, when the commission to name the county seat was appointed, these three towns, Winchester, Moccasinville and Box Ankle, were rival claimants. Possibly Box Ankle was the least known of these claimants. But it had some advantages. Its inhabitants were pushing and influential and it was situated very near the center of the county, as it was anticipated the county would be in the near future. The commissioners reported in favor of Box Ankle, which was confirmed by the county court. The court subsequently changed the name to Bloomington. After these events, as a matter of course, it got to be quite a considerable town. It was the center of a great country, and when the war came on it was not asking favors of anybody, not even of railroads, and let the Hannibal & St. Joseph go by. The war came and with it came many things, among them being the removal of the county seat. This did good old Bloomington up and it has settled down into quite a humdrum little crossroads town. Its appearance speaks of the past and not of the future.


In about 1900 some promoters started to build a railroad down to the Chariton River from Centerville, Iowa, called the Iowa & St. Louis Railroad. The road was in fact built as far south in Macon county as old Mercyville. The first station in Macon County was Gifford. But so great was the boom that one Gifford was not sufficient for the community, and a new town called South Gifford was started. The towns join one another. ''They have a bank in each town and stores and difficulties with the United States government about the post office. But they are both thriving little towns and while neither or both of them may ever rival St. Louis, it will not be the fault of the promoters if they do not. They are wide awake little villages and, as a matter of course, will be one town, as they ought to be.


While Moccasinville has gone off the map, the settlement still remains, a thriving community, and about two miles and a quarter away is the station of Axtel, having a post office and store, being situated on the Wabash, showing that Moccasinville was not a dream but a necessity and now lives in another name.

Macon City

When in 1857 the railroad reached the present site of Macon City, the town was laid out and plotted just north of its depot. After the contractors had moved on west, the town continued to increase and became quite a thriving village during that year. In 1858 the North Missouri Railroad reached a junction with the Hannibal & St. Joseph, and laid off a town some quarter of a mile south of the junction and called it Hudson. The parties that managed the site were thrifty men, consisting of James S. Rollins, D. A. January and Porter C. Rubey and others, and the consequence was that in 1858 the two town companies, as well as the two railroads, had a friendly understanding and they laid out a new town between Macon City and the railroad junction, and the name was changed to Macon. In 1859, '60 and '61, the town grew and made strides in business. A union depot for both railroads was placed at the junction and Macon grew and got its first great boom. All the country to the Iowa line and extending a very considerable distance east and west had come to Macon to get their goods and to ship their produce. Then the war came on and the garrisons that were in the town during that time tended to keep business very lively and there were thousands and thousands of dollars disbursed by the government to maintain the garrisons.

In 1864 a bill was prepared it is said at Macon, changing the county seat from Bloomington to Macon. There is no indication anywhere that the matter was mooted publicly, even in Macon City or Bloomington. The bill was prepared, it is said, and taken to Jefferson City, and in forty-eight hours the messenger returned with the bill passed and approved and certified and the matter was then made public. One would think rather swift work. Yes, but those were rather swift days.

The next session of the circuit court was held in Macon City. The town company immediately laid out a large addition to the city, called the ''County Addition," near the south line of which the courthouse was located, looking down the principal business street of the town, Rollins street. In 1865 the jail was built and also a very decent courthouse for the times and conditions.

Life in Macon City during the war was not as pleasant as it might have been for the Southern people. Southern sympathizers all over the county detested the town. As a matter of course, the Union people praised it. This sentiment, however just or unjust, followed the town for years.

After the war the farms of the county began to be cultivated and provision made to take care of the surplus products. During the war large tobacco factories were opened in the city, but with the close of the war still larger ones were opened and every spring until way up in the '80s the city's barns would be loaded with tobacco and its streets crowded with tobacco wagons and its merchants were reaping something of a harvest and getting their bills paid.

Macon today is a thriving city by reason of the great growing agricultural community surrounding it. Socially Macon is equal to any county seat in northeast Missouri. In civic pride she is among the foremost. She has a fine waterworks and electric light system, a large and extended sewerage system, a splendid telephone system, well connected with the large telephone systems of the country.  


© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913