Randolph County Cities, Towns and Villages

The cities, towns and villages of Randolph County hold nearly three-fifths of the population. Their citizenship aggregates 15,600 people, while the 2,500 farms hold the other 10,582. The census of these municipalities in 1910 was: Moberly, 10,923; Huntsville, 2,247; Higbee, 1,215; Clark, 300; Cairo, 220; Renick, 213; Jacksonville, 200.

Moberly and Huntsville are cities of the third class. They deserve some separate mention.


Huntsville, the county seat, is the oldest and most historic town in the county. Its streets are paved with macadam and ancient elms grow in the yards and fringe with shade its avenues. It is hard to realize when looking down the spacious streets that the first county court ordered all persons cutting timber in the streets to remove the brush and cut the stumps not more than one foot high. Huntsville has five blocks of business houses and many beautiful homes. Two blocks of Main Street are paved with vitrified brick and granitoid walks are being laid. It has three churches, two newspapers, two banks, a modern hotel, a rake factory and axe-handle factory, three livery barns, the public buildings, radium springs with salt baths, an electric light plant and new water works system owned by the city. It is the principal mining center and enjoys a large rural trade. Its Commercial Club is a wide awake, aggressive body. The public school building is one of the largest and handsomest in the county and its school district is assessed at $600,000. The railroad station is about one-half mile from the courthouse and all trains are met with a bus.


Sometimes called the Magic City, in allusion to its sudden appearance and rapid growth, Moberly, located near the center of the county on the Wabash Railroad, is within forty miles of the center of the state, 148 miles west of St. Louis, 129 miles east of Kansas City and seventy-five miles from a larger city. At the close of the Civil War it contained a population of one man; its population now is fourteen thousand. It covers compactly two square miles of ground, and but few of its seven thousand town lots are unimproved. Half the people of the county live in Moberly. It has eighty miles of streets, twenty-five miles of which are paved with vitrified brick, and 160 miles of sidewalks, now changing from brick to granitoid by blocks and streets. Moberly never deserved the name of magic city more truly than now. During Mayor Rolla Roth well's administration of four years, the city increased in value thirty-three per cent, or $3,000,000, purchased Forrest park and reconstructed every public utility in the city. The city is worth on the basis of its assessment, $10,000,000. From the date of the first lot sale to the last deed recorded is forty-six years.

An old photograph of Seelens store, one of the first buildings in the town, shows a little barelegged boy leaning against the awning post, about ten years of age, named Johnnie Lynch. The lion. J. E. Lynch is not yet fifty-seven years old.

The city has developed in a lifetime. It was located upon a treeless, trackless prairie. A birds eye view of it from the top of one of its buildings shows it nestling now beneath a forest of shade. The seal of the old common pleas court had for an emblem, a deer chased by a pack of hounds. It was suggested by the judge, Hon. O. H. Burckhartt, because he had caught a deer where the "white way" now sheds its lambent light upon the throngs of evening shoppers.

The directors of the Randolph & Chariton Railroad first platted Moberly in 1858 and notified the village of Old Allen, one mile north to move down. Patrick Lynch put his house on wheels and with a yoke of oxen hauled it to Moberly and settled on lots 11 and 12 in block 12, original town, on Clark Street opposite the Merchants hotel.

The war stopped the building of the new railroad and with it further development of the town. After the war, the North Missouri Railroad again laid out the town and on September 27, 1866, the lots were auctioned by Barlow, Valle & Bush, terms $10 cash and balance in one and two years. Tables were set near the Coates street crossing and solid and liquid refreshments were served. Lots brought an average of $45.

Where the Merchants hotel stands, brought $150. A marshy pond of water was on the rear of that lot. Excavation for a gas main shows the original surface of the ground to have been four feet lower there than at present and where the brass bands now discourse sweet music beneath the verandas of that fashionable hostelry, the moping frogs did erstwhile to the moon complain.

Bill Robinson, O. F. Chandler, Doctor Tannehill, Elijah Williams, John Grimes, Ernest Miller, C. Otto, J. G. Zahn and Patrick Lynch were bidders at the sale. Tate's hotel at the comer of Reed and Clark Street was the first house completed. The first business houses were frame buildings. Adam Given sawed the lumber for the first house. One by one the first buildings were destroyed by fire and replaced with brick structures. The ordering out of the old board walks as the city grew met with much opposition and at times almost created conflicts. The miring of vehicles in the streets during the early spring thaws brought a demand for paving. The first laid was a square of wooden blocks on Reed street at the depot, by Superintendent Butler. Then Reed Street in 1888 was laid with brick and Williams street next improved.

The location of the Wabash shops in Moberly in 72 was the beginning of lively times. The big pay roll of the Wabash ran riot through the veins of business and in the circulation was felt the mounting tide of life. The wheels began to turn, and not only the car wheels, but the buggy wheels also. Livery stables were more profitable than picture shows. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go on the bare prairie except to go buggy riding. The street crossings were all wooden walks and placed above grade to keep foot travelers out of the mud, so when the joy riders hit the crossing on high gear the "auto sensation" was lost in the clouds of dust which arose. Family horses learned to trot a block and stop, then go another block and stop. Low license and dram shops prevailed.

One of the crises through which the town passed was the adoption of the stock law and withdrawing the keys of the city from the cows. The fences were taken down. One of the handicaps of young Moberly was that the roofs of the houses were too small to keep the cisterns filled with water and at each drought the city went dry. It was not known that an abundant supply of water was beneath the surface. In the early days when everybody went to the post office for their mail, it was the best business asset in the town. The postmaster was compelled to rent a building for the office and furnish the boxes at his own expense. This supplied both the incentive and the opportunity for keeping the office on wheels. The inside machinations of the removal conspirators plotting against each other would put to blush the courtiers of Genoa. In 1906 a $50,000 federal building was erected for the post office and an additional $35,000 has been appropriated for its enlargement. 1,500,000 pieces of mail were received and delivered and 1,181,000 pieces dispatched last year. A money order business of $346,502.23 was handled in the same time. The monthly pay roll of the Moberly office is $3,000. Its rural carriers serve twenty-five thousand.

It is said that a man is what he eats. Moberly consumes annually: one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand loaves of bread, one million pounds of beef, one million pounds of pork, three million eggs, three hundred and twelve thousand pounds of butter, one million pounds of cheese, eighty thousand pounds of mutton, eighty thousand pounds of lard, fifty miles of sausage, thirty thousand pounds of flour, twenty-one thousand gallons of ice cream, fifteen thousand baskets of grapes, ten thousand bunches of bananas, eight thousand boxes of oranges, six thousand cases of strawberries, five thousand boxes of lemons, two thousand gallons of oysters, two thousand crates of pineapples, Moberly exports twenty-six million eggs, three million, seven hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds of poultry, seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds of groceries. Her intellectual yearnings are satisfied with four thousand, five hundred volumes in the Carnegie Library.

Her artificial ice plant has a capacity of sixty tons daily.
Her brick plant makes 110,000 brick daily.
Her poultry house does an annual business of $752,688.11.
Moberly has two wholesale grocery houses, three banks with $2,000,000 resources and gaining at the rate of $100,000 per year,
Shoe factory employing 193 men and 124 women, who make 2,600 pairs of shoes daily.

One Y. M. C. A. with a membership of 512, has $200,000 invested in churches, $160,000 in school buildings employing fifty teachers, with an enrollment of 1,500 and an enumeration of 4,500, disbursing $35,000 annually for instruction under the superintendence of J. C. Lilly, one of the foremost educators in the state. The assessed valuation of its school district is one-fourth million with $57,000 outstanding bonds.

Moberly has two daily newspapers, a finely equipped hospital, two machine shops, a cold storage and produce plant, planing mill, Standard Oil storage capacity of 150,000 gallons.

Moberly owns her own water system at a cost of $150,000.

The streets are lighted by 102 arc lights from a plant of 1,200 horse power. The main business street is illuminated with a decorative collection of many white globes creating a fairy scene of beauty.

The gas plant has a capacity of 175,000 feet, and seventeen miles of mains.

The telephone system cost $100,000 and has a switchboard of 3,500 capacity. The outstanding obligations of the city amount to $240,000.

Other towns; Cairo, Clark, Higbee, Jacksonville and Renick

These statistical statements are set out not that we may glory in our greatness now, but that future historians commenting upon their smallness may have the data by which to measure the city's future growth. Looking at the marks upon the wall which have been made in the past we see how each time this child of destiny has been measured, the index shows a head taller. Many things of interest have been left out and that which has been said could have been told better. We believe, however, that it meets the essential requirements of truth. "The truth needs no ornaments and what she borrows from the pencil is but deformity."


© 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