Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society

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   Fulton Page

Callaway County, Missouri


We are deeply indebted to John Garrett, who, at a very late date, volunteered to prepare an article on the history of Fulton. He did a great deal of research, talked to many people and prepared a quite voluminous article. The report which follows is largely based on John's work and article. However, several changes and additions were made by Jalie Sou/ware, who acted as Coordinating Editor for the section, and by Warren A. Welsh. John deserves the credit but this word of explanation seemed in order. The editors.

Fulton, the largest city in the Kingdom of Callaway and the seat of its county government, was founded and became the county seat in 1825 but was not incorporated until March 14, 1859. It is located 25 miles east of Columbia and 25 northeast of Jefferson City. Fulton is approximately seven miles south of the intersection of Interstate 70, east and west, and Highway 54, north and south. This intersection was at one time referred to by many as the crossroads of the nation.

 Fulton from 1897 Plat Map

The early residents of Fulton were from a predominantly Southern culture. The coastal and upland Southerners that settled on the land brought with them slaves and established an agricultural economy.

The general elevation of Fulton averages about 800 feet above sea level. The average annual temperature is about 55 degrees, Fahrenheit, with January's average 31 degrees and July's average 77.5 degrees. There are often abrupt and considerable variations but the coldest temperature seldom goes below minus 20 degrees and the high temperatures sometimes reach over 100 degrees. The period between mid-April through mid-October is virtually without frost and provides a very important growing season for gardens.

When the first history of Callaway County was compiled in 1884 the die had already been cast as far as the type of community Fulton was to be. The Missouri General Assembly had voted to establish an asylum for the insane in Fulton (February 26, 1847), the first mental health facility west of the Mississippi; the General Assembly agreed (February 28, 1851) to establish a school for the education of the deaf in Fulton. In 1850, Fulton Female Seminary was established by W.W. Robertson. Fulton College for men was started in 1851 by Robertson and members of the Presbyterian Church in Fulton. In 1853, after approval by the Synod of the Presbyterian Church, Westminster College was chartered and began classes in May of that year.

Being the county seat does not, alone, guarantee that a town will be the largest or most important in the county. But a look at a map of Missouri will show that to be the general case. There are several reasons for this. When folk in the outlying parts of the county travel to the county seat to take care of business at the county offices, they very often also do their banking, their shopping and buying of groceries. To know where to shop for one's needs one needs to read the local paper or listen to the local radio station. This in turn acquaints one further with the social things that are available. The county seat becomes one's shopping area. This has a decided effect on the finances and economy of that city. In addition friendships are made and a bond established between the individual and the city.

The Christian Church moved their Orphan School to Fulton in 1890. Whether or not they were influenced by the already existing colleges is not known, but Fulton's bid of $40,000 and the offer of ten acres of land was surely a factor. This school, which had previously been located at Camden Point, Missouri, later became William Woods College for girls.

The institutions were now in place that would denote Fulton as a city where the primary industries were institutions of higher education and custodial care. Since those beginnings the addition of three large buildings for custodial care of the elderly and another for care of the criminally insane have reinforced that image. Fulton had about 4,000 residents in 1880 with eleven churches, 3 public schools, a railroad depot, 10 lawyers, 1 policeman, 2 banks, 4 hotels, 6 restaurants, 9 doctors, a fair ground, an opera house, 3 saloons and a brewery, not including the other usual mills and shops such as blacksmiths.

According to the 1884 History of Callaway County (p.493), Callaway had a population of just under 24,000 in 1880. Thus Fulton would have accounted for about one-sixth of the total county population at that time. This source also reports (p.203) that Fulton's public schools had 923 students of whom one-third were black and two-thirds white.

Fulton had, at the end of the nineteenth century rapid growth in all areas including business, religion, schools, and colleges, doctors, lawyers, banking and of course the size of the city itself.

The way of life was changing rapidly all over the country in 1890 and Fulton was working feverishly to stay up with the times. City roads and streets were not paved and the clay soil in many areas made travel a painful undertaking during times of rain or melting snow. There were very few telephones, and no city operated sewers, water or electric lights. The wooden side walks had many boards in need of repair. The first public water system appears to have been instituted about 1890 and electricity was first available in 1895. The first sewer lines and manholes wer installed in 1904 but there was no sewage treatment plant until 1933.

But Fulton was on the verge of many strong and solid changes in appearance, in morals, conduct and even style. Holidays, as always, were still very social occasions with the citizens getting together for barbeques, school pie suppers, fish frys, and many other forms of recreation and festivities. The Souvenir booklet published in 1912 about Fulton gives the city's population as 5715. The nature of business conducted in Fulton in 1912 probably did not differ greatly from that of 30 years earlier - but there were a few notable exceptions. According to the Souvenir booklet Fulton had: an Electric Supply Co. (four years old); Lukens & Hook conducted "general repairing, storage and (an) auto garage, doing all kinds of repair on automobiles, steam or electrical machinery or engines" (established 6 years earlier); a couple of businesses were doing plumbing and as one article states "plumbing is an essential and one of the most important features of all modern house building, a fact duly recognized by State authorities and boards of health"; and at least two businesses were reported who specialized in furnace installation. These all denote shifts to automobiles, electricty, central heating and indoor plumbing.

That same 1912 Souvenir booklet listed several businesses that are no longer commonplace or even extant: A. D. Williams & Son operated a livery stable renting light and heavy, single and double rigs; Dennis Crowson had a similar operation with stalls for 100 horses and "can furnish swell rigs of all kinds"; R. H. Fowler operated a carriage shop where repairs, painting and trimming was done; Rohn & Stahlman operated a horse-shoe shop which gave employment to four "practical horse-shoers"; Shultz & Erdman turned out the "best high grade harness, vehicles, whips, robes and turf goods"; and there were several businesses engaged in buying poultry, butter, cream, eggs, furs and similar raw farm products.

Economy and agriculture were drawn together early in Fulton. Starting in 1876, farm auctions, began being held 'on the square' around the Court House. Eventually they were being held on the first Monday of every month. Reportedly there were as many as six auctioneers simultaneously crying stock sales all around the square. Thousands of dollars were involved on those sale days. One day in 1910, total sales receipts for the day were more than one and one half million dollars. Fulton's livestock sales made a great and strong market for mules, cattle, sheep, hogs, horses and other farm products.

Until the second World War, Missouri, Callaway County and Fulton were known world wide for their part in the wide spread use of the "Good ole' Missouri Mule." Fulton is part of an area that claimed to be the world's greatest mule feeding ground, shipping out and selling 2,000 to 3,000 mules every year. The largest sale days were usually during April and October. Considering all the mule has done to help Fulton it is somewhat grievous that the mule has almost become a curiosity and cannot even boast posterity.

The economy of Fulton was not only a result of the aforementioned but of many diverse types of businesses and professions which had their impact on the town as well. One of these, the Buffum Telephone Company managed by Mr. S. V. Lynes, was started in 1902 in competion with one started earler by M. F.Bell. Buffum Telephone was known as one of the most successful businesses of that time. In 1912 it could boast of five hundred seventy five subscribers, nine operators, three linesmen, one bookkeeper, and one collector.

The Fulton Overall Manufacturing Company located on East Fifth Street was established in 1909. They manufactured a complete line of cotton overalls with modern machinery and sixty five employees. The factory was managed by Mr. C. B. Copeland for the Star Clothing Manufacturing Company of Jefferson City, Missouri.

W. Ed Jameson established a real estate firm in 1884 with M. Fred Bell, located on the east side of courthouse square. Jameson later moved his office to the Adams Building at the corner of Court and Fifth Streets. In an article reprinted by the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society it is said that this business was the headquarters in this city and vicinity for real estate investments, fire or tornado insurance, first mortgage loans, or making of abstracts. W. Ed Jameson, the active head and successful proprietor of this business, was born in this city in 1865. Real estate interest of Fulton developed due to the alertness and ability of its businessmen, such as Mr. Jameson, who have done everything in their power to promote the industrial and commercial possibilities of the city and advertise its resources to those living in other areas. Real estate values had increased steadily, and Fulton still offered the greatest field for investment for anyone wanting to establish a home or invest capital.

Not only did the community reflect the leading architectural styles of the day, but one of the area's leading architects lived in Fulton. General M. Fred Bell was the architect for many of Missouri's State buildings.

One of buildings he designed is the "New Palace Hotel." Built in 1879, it is three stories high. It stands on the corner of Market Street and East Fifth Street on the northeast corner. It originally had two entrances, one being for men, the other for women. It continues to the present as a hotel and has been remodeled several times over the years.

The end of the century and the first decade of the new one showed growth in schools, businesses, and industries. The city itself was flourishing and stretching out of its boundaries. The opening of Pratt's Theatre in 1904 marked the beginning of a refining of social life. Pratt's Threatre featured local talent and touring groups and became a part of a cultural center for the community. One problem created by growth appears to have required immediate and stern action by the city council around 1910, there were about twenty five automobiles in Fulton and the city council set a fine of $5.00 to $100.00 for exceeding the speed limit of eight miles per hour.

A commercial club was organized in 1905 with 175 members from nearly every business and profession. The Commercial Club was instrumental in helping Fulton to acquire business and industry such as the overall factory in 1909 and the depot for the Chicago and Alton Railway. Through the efforts of this club the seven main roads were permanently paved and rocked for four miles leading into town. In 1924, the Commercial Club became known as the Chamber of Commerce. However before that change it had worked with the Fulton Woman's Club in forming a Library Association in 1908.

The Woman's Club held a meeting at the home of Mrs. J. K. Smith, February 25, 1907, to appoint a committee to form a public library. A permanent Library Association was formed and membership in it required payment of $5.00 a year while an associate membership was $1.00 a year, or donation of a book of some value. Miss Frances Watson was hired as the first librarian for fifty cents for every three hour period that the library was open.

Land for the library building at 709 Market Street was purchased from D. C. McCue for $2,750. General M. F. Bell was the architect and the building was completed in July, 1912, at a cost of $12,972. Before the library was housed in its own building it started with a fifty book collection in two rented rooms in the Odd Fellows Building located at Court and Sixth Streets. The Fulton Public Library in 1983 has over 37,000 books and five full and five part time employees.

The public school system started in 1868 in two rooms in the Baptist Church located at Fifth and Ravine Streets and lasted for a period of two months. At the close of theyear there were eighty-three students. Before that time schools were either private or conscription schools. David Dunlap was a one legged teacher who taught school in a log cabin on the east side of the street north of the Palace Hotel. David Dunlap is generally credited as being the first school teacher in Fulton.

In 1880 the first school for black elementary students was organized and held in the A. M. E. church and the Baptist church. A building was built for these students in 1882. All schools, white and black, were very primitive regarding facilities. It was said the building and grounds were enclosed with fences to "keep all stock off the same not authorized to run on the same."

August 14, 1883, records indicate that Fulton Public Schools had 923 students and the Board met and made estimates for school expenses as follows:

  • Teacher's wages......... $3,600.00
  • less State aid................. 615.00
  • Fuel............................ 135.00
  • Sinking Fund .......... 1,000.00 t
  • Interest on Bonds........... 320.00
  • Incidentals.................... 460.00
  • less cash on hand........... 400.00
  • Amount to be Levied.. $4,500.00

The first high school class had its first graduation in the spring of 1890 and at that time high school was only a one year school. In 1899 it was decided by the Board that all high school students be granted diplomas provided grades in all subjects were satisfactory except Latin.

By taking in the 180 acre farm owned by James Walth, all the school district was expanded in 1900. At that time student enrolment showed 793. There was a phone in each building costing $1.00 a month each. It was agreed that school holidays be given on Mondays instead of Saturdays, because of "Stock Sales Day" observed on Monday, as other community activities revolved around the sale days.

Mrs. Brent Williams was assigned the position of music instructor at a salary of $25 per month and later became the music and elocution teacher at a salary of $40 per month. In 1908 the first four year high school course was organized.

In the early years of the school system stress was put on the three 'R's.' The readers of that period were the McGuffey readers, and arithmetic used the Ray series and later the Milne arithmetics.

The board agreed to hold a nine month school term in 1909 and the school district expanded once again. The tax levy at that time went from $1.00 down to $.90 per $100 valuation. Fulton High School was admitted to the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1911. The superintendent, in 1912, had an annual salary of $1,300. During the annual Street Fair school was in session only one-half day for each of the three days of the fair.

During the school term of 1916-17 a new high school was completed. A community nurse working under the direction of the Supervisor of Health began working with the public schools. During physical examinations given to all students below the fifth grade, about half of the five hundred or more were found 'to be burdened with bodily ailments of more or less seriousness.

Teachers in 1924 wishing to be considered for work in Fulton grade schools needed at least sixty semester hours of college credit or they would have one year in which to qualify. A physical education department was established and used Priest Field at Westminster College for further training. In 1926-27 the Board agreed that the weekly holiday be on Saturday again instead of Monday.

The Board abandoned the four year high school program in 1932 at the North (Negro) School and transported students to Lincoln University in Jefferson City for several years. Mr. Harvey Gilpin was the first school bus driver.

On June 9, 1936, ten acres on East 10th Street, facing Grand Avenue, were purchased as a site for the new high school at a price of $6,000. Part of the $146,000 newly approved bond money was used to erect a new building to be the new North School. After the completion of the building, George Washington Carver was inscribed on its front as its name to honor the famous scientist of Tuskeegee Institute of Alabama. After a delay in the completion of the new high school, Fulton had its new building for the 1938-39 school year.

Vocational agriculture and vocational home economics received federal and state aid and were established with Kemmie Craghead teaching agriculture and Suzanne McDonald becoming the home economics teacher. The Fulton Chamber of Commerce donated $259 for band instruments, and G. W. Lawrence of William Woods College was hired for the remainder of the term to instruct students in high school band in March, 1938. When the old East School building was vacated after the move to the new high school, the County Court used the building as temporary quarters during the construction (in 1938) of the new Court House rental price $100 per month.

In September, 1940, the Fulton Board of Education purchased under contract one hundred acres of land south of town for $6,000. The Board sponsored the National Youth Administration program with courses offered in sheet metal work, auto mechanics, machine tool operation, trades and welding. The projects were taught until September 1943 when the buildings and grounds were turned over to the Fulton Board. During 1945 one of the buildings was rented to Missouri Hybrid Corn Co. for occupancy by war prisoners who were used in the surrounding area to detassel corn being grown to produce hybrid seed.

In 1951, Fulton Public Schools were given an AAA school classification by the State Department of Education. In 1954 fifty black students entered Fulton High School and participated in all curricular and extra curricular activities. The Board adopted name changes on December 13, 1960 for the new elementary schools, J. Tandy Bush, and J. W. Mclntire, and Don P. Bartley, the latter having formerly been called South Elementary School.

Between 1963 and 1966 many rural districts annexed to Fulton School District.

Bonds were sold March 10, 1966 for $600,000 after having been voted in 1,052 For and 188 Against. Construction was started on a phase of a future high school complex to be located on 76 acres north of town.

The first phase of the new school was completed in the 1967-68 school year and the second phase completed in 1980. Parents, teachers and school board members had worked hard through the years to provide the best schools possible for Fulton's young people.

The Fulton Municipal Airport in located approximately two miles west of the city. The present airport site contains approximately three hundred and twenty acres.

It was originally constructed in the 1930's as part of a Federal Works Progress Administration project. By 1941 the airport consisted of three hundred and twenty acres with turf runways as follows: north-south runway two thousand feet long and three hundred feet wide, a northeast-southeast runway the same size, and an east-west runway two thousand feet long and three hundred feet wide. Activity has fluctuated substantially during the forty years the airport has operated. During the 1940's the Robertson Aircraft Corporation administered the airport with several different managers. From 1951 through 1979, the airport gained stability with the same manager who not only administered the airport but was responsible for the construction of many of the present buildings.

In 1947 two hangars, a wind cone and a tetrahedron were added; in 1949 one hangar 46 by 80 feet with a 12 foot by 25 foot leanto was built; in 1961 three hangars were constructed with funds received for Federal Aid to Airport Programs (F.A.A.P. projects 1962-1965); in 1963-1965 installation of low intensity runway lights, a rotating beacon and lighted wind cone were completed. In 1966 the terminal building was constructed; in 1968 the apron, auto parking and access road improvements were made; in 1978-79 perimeter fencing, ASI-2, and the REIL beacon were installed; in 1981 a conventional hangar was constructed; in 1982 seal coat was applied to runway 5-23.

The city of Fulton has a Mayor-Council form of government. The City Council consists of eight members, two of whom are from each ward of the city. Elections for councilmen are held on the first Tuesday in April for terms of two years. George Oestreich is currently Mayor. The current Councilmen are: Kenneth Albert, William Hessler, Wilma Jones, William Kennett, Russell Logan, Thomas L. Maupin, Russell Shafer, and James Spradlin. The only other elected officials are City Attorney and Treasurer, which positions are currently filled by Granville Collins and David Shivley, respectively.

While the Mayor and Council establish policy, approve ordinances and generally oversee the city's operation, day to day operations are conducted by full time employees. The current heads of some of the principal organizations include: Evelyn Hopkins, City Clerk; City Engineer, Thomas Wilcox, Chief of Police, Richard Gillespie; Fire Chief, Lloyd Stiers; Department of Public Works, Byron Dysart; Parks and Recreation, Ronald Mooney; Finance Director, John Carter; Director of Administrative Services, Yvette Thayer; and Building Inspector and Health Officer, Frank Hazelrigg.

According to information obtained from the Callaway County Public Library the population of Fulton was 1,200 in 1853; twice that or 2,409 in 1880; had doubled again to 4,883 in 1900; then took 50 years to double again reaching 10,052 in 1950. Fulton's population reached 12,148 in 1970, and declined to 11,046 in 1980. Whether this decline is significant or a trend can only be told by a future history. With Callaway County having a population of 32,252 in 1980, Fulton then represented about one-third of the total.

Occasionally in the life of a city, as in the lives of individuals, there are events that occur which bring continuing changes. One such event that occurred in the last century was the selection of Winston Churchill to give the John Findley Green Foundation lecture at Westminster College in 1946. Suddenly, Fulton was front page news all over the world. That, in itself, would have created only temporary change. However, the famous "Iron Curtain" speech given by Sir Winston has, like a voice crying unto the hills, created echoes that are still reverberating here. One has only to travel out West Seventh Street and view the Churchill Memorial or to read the newspapers to learn about activities that would not be occurring if that lecture had not been delivered on that March day thirty-seven years ago.

A second, but quite different, event in the surrounding area that has had and will continue to have a great impact on Fulton is the construction of Missouri's first nuclear power plant at Reform. This plant, built for Union Electric Company by Daniels International Corporation of South Carolina has, since late in 1975, been in the construction phase. During the intervening years many changes have occurred. Scheduled at first to construct two atomic units, Union Electric has, for several reasons, not the least of which may have been the recent economic recession, decided to halt construction on the second unit.

During the construction phase, with the importation of skilled workers from other counties and states, many areas, such as housing, public education and the financial industry, have undergone changes due to this influx and to the increased spending power which has resulted. It will not be surprising to see continuing changes emanating from this one source.

W. C. "Pat" Murphy was mayor of Fulton from April 1965 to April 1978, a period of 13 years or more than one eighth of the past century. Near the end of his last term Mr. Murphy asked the city engineer, the late Bernard Browning, to compile a report on Fulton's growth during that 13 year period. It showed expenditures on new structures and on major expansions and improvements of nearly 150 million dollars in the public and private sector. The list, used with Mr. Murphy's permission, included 10 projects at Westminster College; 16 at William Woods College; two at the Missouri School for the Deaf; four at the State Hospital; and 160 involving private businesses. It also showed over 560 new houses, duplexes and apartment units in the private sector and over 120 housing units plus a Community Center effected by the Fulton Housing Authority. Also listed were 14 projects by the city of Fulton, including expansions and/or renovations to the sewage disposal system; water, gas, and electrical systems; police station, City Hall, the Fulton Airport; and several bridges, parks and parking lots. During this period new pavement was added to 8 streets and a dozen or more new paved streets were completed. It appears reasonable to assume that such growth and the changes represented are symptomatic of the vitality of Fulton, there being no intent or desire here to single out the accomplishments of any one administration.

According to Tom Wilcox, present city engineer, a survey conducted in October of 1982 yielded some interesting insights about how the citizens of Fulton view their present city government and the facilities and services it provides. The majority of those responding to the survey felt that Fulton's present park system is adequate for Fulton although only 70% of them use these facilities at least one time each year.

The survey indicated that there is a significant storm drainage problem after heavy rains but the majority of those responding felt that street conditions, street lighting and drinking water were satisfactory. Other city services such as fire and police protection were also viewed favorably. The two most critical areas in the city as indicated by the responders were utility rates and the condition of roads and bridges.

In response as to whether Fulton was a desirable place to be, 62% felt that it was. In addition 32% felt it was a very desirable place to live. With 94% of its citizens who responded expressing satisfaction with Fulton as a place to live it would appear that Fulton has a continuing bright future ahead of it as the major city in the Kingdom of Callaway.

We are indebted to Evelyn Hopkins, Yvette Thayer, Tom Wilcox, members of various city government offices and the Fulton Public Library for their help.

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