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   Millersburg Page

Callaway County, Missouri


by Elizabeth Wise

From the History of Callaway County, published in 1884, we find these statements concerning Millersburg:

 Millersburg from 1897 Plat Map"Millersburg was laid out in October, 1829, by Thomas Miller. It is twelve miles west of Fulton. Christian and Baptist societies and a public school are here. The population is 200. Hogs, sheep, cattle and mules are the principal exports. David A. Robnett is postmaster. The business directory is as follows: John Bush, shoemaker; J. C. Hulen, physician; Alonzo Miller, blacksmith; Mrs. Mary Porni, general store, East side of the road; D. A. Robnett, general store, West side of the road; W.S. Price, Justice of the Peace and County Court, J.G. Sexton, general store, West side of the road; M. P. Sexton, physician; A. W. Smirl, saw mill."

There are also recordings of other businesses: a cooper's shop, a saloon, a harness shop, a grist and saw mill, a small factory that carded wool, dress-makers--Pearl Carr and Ella Barnes, and a mortuary complete with hearse and a fine team.

Communication has always been of supreme importance to a community, and, in this respect, Millersburg was fortunate. Since the town was located on the Boone's Lick Trail and was served by a a stagecoach and freight line, the delivery of mail was frequent and began early. Millersburg had a post office in 1832, the first postmaster being Archibald Reed from November 2, 1832 to October 7, 1834. The first official name was Millersburgh. The "h" was dropped in 1862.

In 1884, Millersburg was getting mail three times a week from Fulton, probably by stage service. By 1904, there was a daily mail supply, a locked pouch service from the Fulton post office by R.F.D. carrier. This service was continued until 1953 when the fourth class post offices were discontinued. In 1907, the carrier from the Millersburg office to box holders was W. D. Kennett, followed by Ray Kennett in 1908. He was the mail carrier for fifty-five years. Mary Allison Walker, a pretty, neat, petite lady was a hard-working, efficient postmistress for nearly fifty years. Millersburg box holders now get their mail from Fulton Route 5. The postmasters in Millersburg from 1884 were: David A. Robnett, 1884; Jesse Sexton, 1890; W. E. Weir, 1893; Joel Adcock, 1895; Elmer L. Koontz, 1897; George Selby, 1900; James H. Smith, 1900; Mary Allison Walker, 1900; Bertha Hubbard, 1947-1953. (This excellent material on post offices was given to me by Bill Hamilton.)

In the early days of the nineteenth century, telephones in rural areas were financed by the neighborhoods, with a committee to see to repairs. Each subscriber was charged a fee and then levies were assessed to keep the lines in operating condition. The lines were coordinated at a switchboard located in a home and operated by the lady of the house. These were some of the switchboard operators in Millersburg: Nell Truitt, Amanda Kennett, Polly Carr, lona Atkins, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Reed, Mrs. Elizabeth Alien, and Barbara Seip.

The telephones were operated by batteries and the phones were rung by a hand crank. Each phone had a ring-longs and shorts in various combinations. These phones were very helpful and also very undependable. Sometimes the line over a road would sag so much that it had to be held up by a long pole for a reasonably high load of hay to clear. The personal touch was lost when Bell Telephone came along, and the demise of the party line took away a form of entertainment, known as "listening in."

The blacksmith shop, a necessity in pioneer days, was probably on the same site until the building was demolished. Early blacksmiths were the Ficklins, Matt and Nat. Matt Ficklin, supposedly, built the log part of the house owned by Lewis Baumgartner. In 1884, Alonzo Miller was the blacksmith. Later Sam Carr and his sons, Taylor and Jim, carried on the family tradition of blacksmith. Taylor Carr was aided by his brother, Jim--Taylor working the iron and Jim the wood, as he was also a carpenter. They did various kinds of iron work, repaired wagons and buggies, rebuilt the wheels and beds, and generally kept them running. In addition, they worked at horse shoeing, made plow parts and sharpened plow shares, and performed other repairs to farm equipment.

The shop was on the east side of the road, south of an old road between the shop and the east side store. This old road ran east and then north and was considered the world's worst, as it crossed Owl Creek and the marshy low land there. It was closed in the teens-about 1915.

The shop had a porch with a railing on its roof. The Carr brothers stored lumber on this balcony, and the men of the neighborhood loitered on the porch, visiting, exchanging views, and betting on almost any circumstance arising, however impossible. The shop had a loft, or second floor, inside for storage. On cold, rainy days, the "loafers" would move equipment to the loft, draw a circle in the dirt floor and shoot marbles all day long. There were always pegs driven in the ground on the south side of the shop and, in slack seasons, sometimes four men would pitch horse shoes all day long. Hebert Fisher was the blacksmith in the teens and twenties. After Henry Ford changed the face of the nation with his homely little car, Herbert began repairing "internal combustion" motors, changing tires, and doing other car repairs. Herbert, his wife Ethel, and son Homer lived in the house by the store on the west side of the road, where Taylor Carr had lived.

The tradition of having a repair shop for vehicles in Millersburg has not passed into oblivion. The Millersburg Garage, owned and operated by Alien Baker and located on Route J, is in full swing and giving good service. Here you may have your car or truck repaired and get your inspection for license as well. This is a trim, well kept garage and the tradition goes on.

At times, since 1884, there were as many as two doctors living in Millersburg and ministering to the village and outlying district. Dr. White was an early doctor who lived in the two-story white house on the east side of the road. Perhaps he had this house built. Dr. Nichols lived in a house west of the Green. Dr. Head lived next to the store on the east side of the road. Dr.'s Rushby, Howard, Carl, Frank Hulen, Baker and Wilfley were here for brief times. Dr. Stowers was the last doctor to locate in the town and he stayed from 1910 to 1918 until he moved to Columbia. He was a good doctor and much loved by all. He and his wife and one son lived in the house Lewis Baumgartner recently owned. After Dr. Stowers left, no other physician located in Millersburg, but there were two at Stephens who responded to calls.

From 1829 to 1984, Millersburg has had a store, or stores, with many different owners. The building on the east side of the road was formerly a Missionary Baptist Church located at the east edge of the present Millersburg Cemetery in the midst of a grove of cedar trees. A group of members splintered away and built the present church. For a time there were two churches there. A new church was completed in 1893. The old building was purchased and moved to Millersburg to become a general store. A Mr. and Mrs. Paul Porni seemed to have been the first proprietors, and Mr. Porni was postmaster in 1862.

Later, an upper floor was added to this building, with an entrance by boardwalk on the south side of the store to steps entering from the outside in the rear. The upper floor, or hall as it was called, had a stage. The entertainment was varied. Home talent plays were produced. In the winter, oyster suppers and parties were held there, and also dances. Somebody would decide to have a dance, call a few friends "via switchboard" who would "spread the word." If possible, "Jackie and Mollie" were impressed for duty as the musicians. "Jackie and Mollie" were Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Selby. Sometimes, their daughter, Lois, substituted for Mollie. At times, the furniture was moved to the walls and the hall became a skating rink. Later, movies were shown,here. Such early short features as "Our Gang" were presented.

Owners and operators of the store were: Mrs. Mary Porni, 1884; George Waters; Charles Sexton; E. L. Koontz, 1893-1908; James Smith, 1911-1918; and Major Black, 1923-1929. After 1929, the store was not opened again.

The store on the west side of the road also had a variety of owners and operators. This building seemed to have remained much the same through the years, with repairs and upgrading. One side of the building was a storeroom with a basement or cellar below. The dress material, spool cabinet, shoes, thread, lace, underwear, and hose were at the long counter to the right upon entering the store. The post office was in the northwest corner, and the pot-bellied heating stove occupied the honored spot in the center of the building. The stove actually was encircled by several chairs, used by visitors, friends and loafers. This building burned in 1981 and nothing remains to show for a remarkable period in the history and tradition of middle western villages.

At one time, when travel was limited for many people, everything could be bought in "The Burg"--staples such as sugar, flour, coffee, tea, some canned goods early on, and more things such as seed, dresses (I have on good authority that pretty dresses could be bought here), shoes, hats, toys (dolls, trains, puzzles, blocks, rocking chairs, wind-up-toys), china, lamps and many more. Lots of lovely old dishes (pie plates, bowls, sugar and creamer sets, pitchers) sold at auctions in this area in recent years came from the Millersburg stores.

On Saturday night people would come to "town" to bring produce for barter, to buy necessities, to visit while the young folks played on the Green and became acquainted with various members of the opposite sex.

The owners of the west side store from 1884 were: David Robinett, 1884; Thomas Mauriner; Will Weir and David Adcock; George Selby and Durk Jacobs; Jim and Will Crews; R. E. Thomas, circa 1900; E. V. Phillips; C. S. Walker, 1918-1948; Reuben Fisher; Claude Bryant. "Cart" Walker acquired the store in 1918, and very shortly after married Grace Frost. Together they ran the business efficiently, neatly, and with a goodly measure of success. "Cart" dealt in several things: poultry, eggs, and wool to mention a few. This store (along with the churches) was the center of the community for thirty years. Both store buildings are gone, but that does not mean that we do not have a "Millersburg Store." There is now one in operation on the "Old Paris Road"--Route J--new and different in most respects, but still a gathering place for local people to have a cup of coffee, "cuss and discuss" issues, and buy groceries. This store is operated by Richard and Frances Vaughn, and Bill and Betty Calvin. The store is clean, neat, and pretty. The proprietors are charming and friendly. They stock a variety of merchandise and serve lunches, as well as operate a service station and a laundromat. Thus we find a continuance in the history of Millersburg from 1884 to 1984.

We cannot leave early Millersburg without mentioning the various occupations in and around the area. Farming, of course, led the list, as this was essentially a rural area. Cattle, sheep, horses and mules, chickens, and eggs were produced for money. The area was still timbered and there were saw mills in the village. Around 1897, Nehemiah Kennett and son, W. D. Kennett, operated a saw mill and a grist mill in Millersburg. There were two coal mines, one on Jim Carr's land south of the Baptist Church, and one past the Minnie Teal home. Seasonal farm work was a source of income to those who owned no Iand--"hired hands" as they were called. Trapping was profitable for a winter source of income. Now many of the residents around the area are employed in Columbia, since the rise of that city as a major medical and educational center with attending service occupations. The distance to commute over a good road is much less than that traveled in the cities. Fulton also offers chances for employment and both locations allow people to live in a rural atmosphere. Other occupations, in and around Millersburg today, are: the garage, the store, the restaurant at Little Dixie, and a beauty parlor, not to mention a Stuckey's on Route J at the junction of I-70.

Millersburg has had three school buildings, one built before 1884, and the other two built in the 20th century. The first school of which we have any knowledge was the traditional one room school with two or three windows on each side, a door in the middle of the front, a wood-burning stove for heat, rows of desks, double seats on each side of the room, a black board across the front, and a picture of George Washington or a school clock, if the district was affluent, over the blackboard. Isaac Turtle taught the Millersburg school for many years. In a school picture that was taken in 1905, he was the teacher. Mr. Turtle was anxious to bring some higher education and culture to Millersburg, and to help with this idea he taught some high school classes. This school was held in the building on the Green, formerly a saloon.

About 1916 a new building was erected on the same site as the old one. Watt Truitt bought the old building, moved it back to his field, and used it for a granary. The new building was larger than the old one, with desks and seats accommodating only one pupil, a side entrance with an enclosed porch and two doors, two coat rooms, and shelves for books. The books on these shelves were scarce, but included a complete set of the Elsie Dinsmore Series of books for girls. The stove in the new building had a jacket around it to make the heat circulate, supposedly. The building was as cold as a morgue until the jacket was removed.

This building burned in 1955 and the present building was erected-a very nice brick edifice. The school was closed in 1981, and the children of the district are now bussed to Fulton.

Millersburg has had many good dedicated teachers besides Isaac Turtle: both Clara and Wilma Ward, Ben Freiberger, Claudia McCray, Lelia Craig, Amanda McClel-lan, and Frances Hanson, to name a few.

In 1923 there were several graduates from the elementary schools in the area who were anxious to attend high school. This was an almost insurmountable difficulty at that time, as the cost of tuition and transportation was more than many of the parents could afford. Haden Dun-can said he had a vacant house, located near the Miller's Creek Methodist Church, which he offered as a location for a school. The parents hired a teacher, Mrs. Celia Whitlow Craghead, bought some coal and a secondhand stove, a few reference books, and the school was in business. There were thirteen pupils, nine freshmen and four sophomores. This school, continuing for three years, was called Duncan High School and was financed completely by the parents of these thirteen students.

A Millersburg high school was maintained for pupils in the Millersburg area for at least ten more years, with no governmental aid. In the later years the school was held in the last little house on the east side of the road in Millersburg and, also, in the upper floor (or hall) of the store building on the east side of the road. Millersburg High School was phased out in the late thirties when the students could be bussed to school. In the 1890's, the progressive merchants in the town had a boardwalk built on the west side of the road extending from the first house past the Green to Jim Carr's house. This was a source of pleasure to ladies visiting friends and to school children trudging to school.

"The Green" was plotted by Thomas Miller when he planned the town in 1829 and was not to have a building on it, but to be used by the townspeople for recreation. It did, indeed, serve this purpose as it was used for ice cream socials, children's games, tent shows in the summer, and sledding in the winter. It did have one building on it, erected by Noah Martin, called a drug store, but really a saloon. This building remained on the east edge of the Green, being used as high school for a time, and as a poultry house. Cart Walker moved it back of his store and used it for a warehouse. Since the town was located on the old "Boone's Lick Road," the Daughters of the American Revolution had markers planted to show the route this trail had taken. In the summer of 1815, Colonel Nathan Boone, a son of Daniel Boone, with a company of fifty men, surveyed and marked out "Boone's Lick Road" from St. Charles to the "Lick" in Howard County. These markers were placed in 1913, and one is still in existence in the yard of the small house on the east side of the road in Millersburg.

The road through Millersburg was fairly well traveled as it was a main artery from Fulton to Columbia, and also across the state from St. Louis to Kansas City. In 1911, money was appropriated by the county to gravel this road, at least through the village. Claude Baumgartner said he worked on the road at that time, driving a grader and also a scoop to cut down the grade in front of the house where he now lives, and to fill the dip below. Creek gravel was used here.

By the end of the 1910-1920 decade, the American public was beginning its love affair with the automobile and many people had "itching feet," wanting to go to California. Through Missouri was the logical route, Missouri's roads were notorious for their mud. The campaign slogan for the state in the 1919 election was "Get Missouri Out of the Mud," which meant Millersburg, too. Money was forthcoming, and the task of graveling Highway No. 2 was begun. Prison labor was used, especially in hauling gravel. A prison camp was erected on the southeast corner of the curve on the road to Miller's Creek Church. The gravel was hauled from a quarry on Cedar Creek near the Henry Baumgartner farm and crushed on the scene by an old steam engine that stood there for many years. The transportation used was old Packard trucks from World War I, which had a capacity of five tons.

Expectations ran high in "The Burg," thinking that this new white, mud-proof road would help make a fortune for the little town. These expectations did not materialize as the cars putt-putt-putted straight through to Columbia. In a few years Highway 40, the road to end all roads, was started on the location of the present 1-70. "Old Forty" was opened for traffic in Callaway in 1927, and Millers-burg was by-passed. After Highway No. 2 was completed, one of the pastimes for the children (at least two that I know of) was counting the cars that passed "our house" in one day. Sometimes the total would be one hundred in the tourist season. Another great treat was watching for the mail carrier so that we could get a wave from "Uncle Ray" and watching for the bus, "The Purple Swan," a fore-runner of the "Greyhound." Who needed video games with such enchanting pastimes as these?

Owl Creek had always played a prominent role in the lives of the residents in or near "The Burg"-a tame little rivulet most of the time, but a rampant, arrogant, and swift-moving flood when a heavy rain was in progress. The fields on the E. A. McCray and the Elmer Baumgartner farms would be flooded, and if one was visiting at one's grandmother's house, one could not get home until Owl Creek ran down.

The Missouri Conservation Service came up with the idea of building three small lakes in Callaway County for recreational purposes. It was suggested that they build one large one. From aerial photos made by the Conservation Service, the possibilities for damming up this boisterous little creek to make a lake seemed feasible. The Conservation Service agreed to build the dam if the local citizens could buy up the land to be submerged. During 1946-1948, this was accomplished and Little Dixie Lake was born. The lake has been an asset to the area and a source of pleasure to fishers and picnickers. But, somehow, I feel a sadness for poor old Owl Creek, in chains for all enternity.

Millersburg has been fortunate in having two active churches within the town--the Baptist Church to the west and the Christian Church to the east. Millersburg Christian Church has a beautiful new building, having had the first service in November, 1976. This was the second renovation in the twentieth century and is evidence that the Christian Church is active and growing.

Millersburg Baptist Church was organized in 1840 by the Reverend Noah Flood. Another building was constructed in 1892. This same basic church is part of the building now in use, with remodeling through the years and a recent addition of Sunday School rooms and a multi-purpose room. This church is very active and has excellent attendance. There is additional information elsewhere in this book concerning churches in Callaway County.

The young people of the Millersburg area are very progressive, and when Fulton discontinued fire protection to the county, the Lion's Club of Millersburg instigated a movement to organize a fire district. In 1979 the community bought one and a half acres in the east section of town. A nice building was erected and equipment purchased. The first equipment (besides a fifteen-year-old Jeep, donated by the Conservation Service) was a 1947 International Fire Truck, bought in 1980 from Boone County. Later in 1980, a 1957 fire truck was bought from the city of Columbia. Another truck was donated by the Conservation Serice and used as a water truck. The department hhas fifteen volunteer firemen and needs more. In the operating time, the service has answered approximately these calls: 20 house fires, 50 grass fires, and 20 accidents. In accident cases they prevent the spread of fire and administer first aid. These services need technical training and each volunteer is required to pursue eighty hours of training.

Millersburg's fire chief is Ken Owens, who works for the Columbia Fire Departmentg; he is an efficient, hardworking chief and is doing an excellent service for his community. The Lion's Club of Millerburg began with a small building owned by Lewis Baumgartner, on the road just north of Little Dixie Lake. A larger metal building has now been purchased and erected. The Millersburg P.T.O. had bought playground equipment for Millersburg School, and when the school was closed, gave this equipment to the Lion's Club for their park. They have recently laid off a baseball diamond. A short time ago the community entertained their senior citizens with a very nice dinner. Lately, a family reunion of the McCray family was held here. This is a boon to the neighborhood. The "Lions" have been instrumental in the success of several ventures, such as the fire district. Millersburg has a T-Ball team. The horse owners have a club, the "Easy Riders," and have horse shows. There are varied pastimes for all who wish to participate.

The 1870 census showed Millersburg as having 200; in 1980, the census total was 40. There are 589 box holders on the mail route. The growth in building has been around the fringe area, especially toward Columbia, which is understandable, since that's where the labor market is. On the east of Route J from the overpass to WW, there are approximately thirty new homes, and on the Rock Creek road to the west are that many again. Millersburg is growing.

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