Miller County Commerce


On April 9, 1903, the Eldon Advertiser announced that the railroad was secured and plans for construction were under way. The Rock Island eventually made the proposition that Eldon become the division point.

Furious work to prepare for the division began; it came in the form of a building boom that was, as yet, unequaled in the history of Eldon. A new lumber company was opened on Dr. H.H. Brockman's vacant lots south of the Missouri Pacific tracks and was called Brockman, Jordan and Haynes Lumber Company. C.S. Idsiari opened a hardware store. A.R. Granstaff started in the dray business and Dick Amos and Clark Vanosdoll started a carriage and wagon repair business.

 Dick Amos' dray service
Dick Amos' dray service

Several real estate agencies opened such as the Pioneer Land Company and the Eldon Land Company. J.N. Sartair hired out as an architect and building contractor and the Eldon Construction Company was opened by W.T. Teague and T.B. Goodwin. Builders were in high demand in Eldon in these times. The Eldon Brick Company was opened and managed by Ed Spangler. Land sales and building were a constant part of life.

T.J. Thompson started the Eldon Eagle Printing Company and put out a quality newspaper named the Eldon Eagle for several months. C.G. Kiessling opened the Eldon Grain House and G.M. Shore opened a new feed shed. N.E. Harvey bought the Eldon Roller Mills and the rumor that he was going to put in an electric light plant was spread. Eldon desperately needed electric lights to bring it into the 20th century. Another necessity that Eldon lacked was a long distance telephone company and a water system.

In the general merchandise line there was J.H. Stiffler, H.W. Frances and M.A. Dodson. W.A. Reynolds and J.R. Lawson opened a grocery store. The Williams & Routon Restaurant opened and G.M. Shores opened a luncheon shop. The Eldon Bakery was opened by Mr. Bougaurd.

The Fordyce Clothing and Shoe Store opened for business. W.G. Thompson owned a clothing store. W.D. Holley later went in partnership with Thompson and eventually bought him out to establish a shoe store. A new law firm, Baxter, Trecher and Baxter opened in Eldon.

 Annabelle Haynes Millinery Store, circa 1914
Annabelle Haynes Millinery Store, circa 1914

The growth of Eldon hit like a fury. The sound of hammers pounding and saws hacking away was the never-ending sound of prosperity. There was even talk of a new bank coming to town. New faces were everywhere and the town was buzzing. People were moving in and building new homes. Houses were built for the many railroad workers who came in with the new road. Eldon was booming!

Track was being laid at a rate of one mile each day. The bridge was completed across the Osage and trains had begun to run through Henley. That stretch of the railroad was known as the Becker Cut. Emil Becker of Eldon and his crew with 50 mules was contracted to lay the road bed on the strip.

 Shown is Emil Becker's road crew who built the
Shown above is Emil Becker's road crew who built the "Becker Cut" near Henley.

The tracks of the Rock Island reached Eldon on October 23, 1903-a day to remember. The whole town came out to watch the men at work that week as they laid the track that divided Eldon. On November 8th the first regular passenger and freight service began on the Rock Island.

By 1904 the excitement calmed down some but there were too many new and interesting things happening for it to die out completely. In February, the Rock Island began carrying the mail.

In 1900 the population of Eldon was 379. In 1904, H.A. Snyder, the town marshal, took a census and the population had increased to 1,566-a jump of 1,187 people in only three years. Many of these people moved here from Spring Garden, Aurora Springs, High Point, Bagnell, Tuscumbia, and Iberia. Most people came in to work on the railroad.

In February of 1904, a steam-powered bottling factory was opened by Will and Charles George and J.W. Buzan and H.K. Porter built a steam laundry in which S.S. Purdy was the manager.

Real excitement came with the talk of the new Rock Island depot. Rumor had it that the Eldon depot was going to be a 1,098 foot long and 40 foot wide, two-story brick building. By August, R.S. Harvey and A.J. Gorg of Union Missouri, contracted for building the depot. The cost was estimated at $12,000-a large amount of money in those days. Mr. Harvey was the main drive behind the building of the depot.

 eldon rr depot
Eldon RR Depot

In 1904 Eldon stepped up to a fancy telephone system. John Brockmeyer, originally of Versailles, decided to put a telephone system in Eldon. He was granted a franchise to put in an exchange and secured sixty subscriptions with more promised. Long distance connections were also installed. The central office was over the bank with Miss Vergie Christian in charge. It was called the Eldon Local and Long Distance Telephone Company.

 Eldon Telephone Exchange, circa 1913
Eldon Telephone Exchange, circa 1913

Then to top it all off, on August 4, 1904, the Eldon City Council passed an ordinance granting N.E. Harvey, Bob's younger brother, an electric light and power franchise. The plant was located in the Eldon Roller Mills and the business office was on Maple Street where the Montgomery Ward is now. On October 24, 1904, Eldon was electrically lighted.

The only thing left that Eldon didn't have was running water. Clark Vanosdoll took care of that by building a 50 foot tower with a 500 gallon tank. He ran a two inch main along Oak and Maple streets with connecting pipes to furnish water to the main parts of town. A gasoline engine pumped the water from a deep well. Mr. Vanosdoll provided Eldon with its first real fire protection by providing water that could be pumped directly from the main in the business district.

By the time 1905 marched in, the Railroad Division was getting bigger and better. The round house had added new stalls and the timekeeper's office, with Mr. J.B. Atkinson in charge, moved to Eldon. W.N. Joslin was the yard track foreman; W.C. Smith, the yard master; A. Dawley, the general roadmaster; F.J. Knochen, the chief train dispatcher; George Adams, foreman of the mechanical shop. The Smith and Ohmart Ice and Fuel Plant was opened on Fifth Street where the Osage Products shavings yard is now, and trains took on ice for refrigerator cars and wood for the engines. G.E. Smith's Ice House had an extra plus for the town. He installed Eldon's first bathing pool. It was made of concrete and was 50 feet long by 25 feet wide and was from 4 to 7 feet deep. The ice plant supplied it with warm water.

The businessmen in Eldon were still concerned about the ever-dreaded fire, so they pledged funds and contracted Clark Vanosdoll to build a big reserve tank and install fire plugs on the main water line. As Eldon grew and became more up-to-date, the fear of fire became greater, so the Eldon Hook and Ladder Company, the first fire department, was formed in 1905. Clark Vanosdoll made a horse drawn fire truck with a 30,000 gallon water tank.

Tuesday nights were assigned as practice evenings. The drill signal was the "wild cat" signal at the mill and light plant. Two shrieks were for practice, one whistle and one shriek for fire in the first ward, two whistles and two shrieks for the second ward, and three whistles and three shrieks for a fire in the third ward. Tuesday nights were great entertainment. They boys used to climb up on Elmer Graham's "Big Brick" for practice and throw water onto other buildings. It was great fun to watch, but the Eldon Hook and Ladder Company was serious and saved the town from a number of destructive fires.

The Osage Handle Factory opened with W.A. Bruce as superintendent. M.H. Terril was the foreman. Dr. H.H. Brockman was the president of the company; Henry Phillips, vice-president; E.A. Becker, secretary and Charles Kraus, treasurer. Eventually E.A. Becker became the sole proprietor of the Osage Handle Factory.

J.W. Temple was elected Mayor in 1905 with M.H. Moss as Clerk; F.M. Haynes Collector; H.H. Brockman, City Physician; and Dr. Walker, G.H. Smith, J.H. Stiffler, John H. Sears, J.A. Stevens, and J. Winkleman as Councilmen. This year there was a Board of Health and E. Becker, E.C. Weeks, and Albert Russell were elected Road Commissioners.

The years 1903, 1904, and 1905 were really important years in the history of Eldon. The town grew more modern in those three years than any others in history-they set the pace for the years ahead.

This information was reprinted from "Eldon…a look back" Published in 1982 as part of Eldon's centennial celebration. The Eldon Chamber of Commerce still has a few copies available for sale.

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