Back in April, this blog re-published an article written by Peter Hilty that first appeared in the Heritage Review newspaper in November 1972. It provided readers a glimpse of Cape Girardeau in 1873, the year Southeast Missouri State University was founded.
Large celebrations were held marking that institution's 50th, 75th and 100th anniversaries, with special editions appearing in the Southeast Missourian in 1923 and 1948 outlining the history of the school.
I found several of those articles interesting, including this one published Oct. 25, 1923. It offers information on Cape Girardeau County in 1873.
The second county courthouse in Jackson "was a specimen of architecture of the kind in then in vogue, not massive and inclined to be colossal, but lightly and airily built." (Southeast Missourian archive)
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY PRIMITIVE DISTRICT IN '73
By JOHN G. PUTZ
Five decades ago, in the year 1873, Cape Girardeau County had just about passed the 50th milestone of its existence as a settled community. Although the first settlement occurred much earlier, at about the beginning of the 18th century, order was brought into the chaos of conditions about 1823.
Picture, if you can, the county and its condition in 1873. Heavy forests covered the greater part of its area, and the southern part of it was one impenetrable swamp. True, several large plantations were then in existence. Jackson, the county seat, had become a small city, and was becoming ambitious in the way of street improvement, business enterprises and trade affiliation. But the surrounding country presented the Kentucky aspect of freshly cleared ground, with "deadened" trees slowly decaying and breaking down under their own weight.
In the year 1867 and 1868 the "free schools," or public schools, were established in Missouri. So far as Cape Girardeau was concerned, there was a difference of opinion as to which was the better course, to have public or free schools or not. The leaders in the movement for free schools in Cape Girardeau at that time were Sen. George H. Green, Jacob H. Burrough and George H. Cramer (father of Wilson W. Cramer). At the time when the Normal School was built at Cape Girardeau, the public school system was still in its infancy in Cape Girardeau County, but there were enough highly educated men and women in the county to make a promising beginning. Soon the graduates of the Normal began to take charge of the schools in this county, and among those who were the first graduates were persons of high ideals, high culture, and splendid character.
There were no roads that could be traveled all year round, except the gravel road from Burfordville to Cape Girardeau, the Scott County macadamized road and the Bloomfield rock road. Other highways in the county were morasses during wet weather, and only travel possible in the winter months was on the back of a horse or mule.
There was no telegraph, except from Cape Girardeau to Perryville, along what was known as the "Telegraph Road," now known as the Perryville Road, traversing the county from the southeast to the north. There were, of course, no telephones in the county.
Mail by horseback
Railroads had not progressed further than the building of the Belmont Branch of the Iron Mountain through the southern part of the county. Mail was carried on the backs of horses, and was slow in progressing. Often, in bad weather, the mails were delayed and carriers and their animals suffered from the cold, being often totally exhausted. The life of a mail horse was usually short. The mail was brought to Cape Girardeau by river steamer, and from there distributed by carriers.
Order had been brought into governmental affairs which had been somewhat chaotic during the first decade after the closing of the rebellion. In Cape Girardeau County the elections were orderly, and about the year 1873 all county officials elected were running on the so-called Democratic-Liberal ticket. Robert A. Hatcher of Charleston was elected that year to represent this district in the lower house of the United States Congress. Robert Wilson was chosen to represent Cape Girardeau County in the General Assembly at Jefferson City. George H. Green of Cape Girardeau was the State Senator from this district at the time when the State Teachers College was established in Cape Girardeau. He died in office. The County Court was composed of John Henderson, Michael Dittlinger and Andrew Miller, and its clerk was William Flentge. David C. Hope was judge of the Probate Court. Wilson W. Cramer prosecuting attorney, Thomas B. Penney assessor, Charles Welling county treasurer, N.C. Frissell county surveyor, Sam M. Green superintendent of public schools, William E. Alexander public administrator, N.C. Harrison circuit clerk, John Albert sheriff and collector, and Honore G. Fugue coroner.
The tax rate at that time was as follows: State tax, 45 cents on $100 valuation; county tax, 60 cents; road tax, 10 cents, to which must be added the school tax which differed in every district according to the wishes of its voters. The assessed valuation of the county in 1873, real estate and personal property, was $3,912,205, as compared with $28,719,860 this year.
At that time the debt saddled upon the city and township of Cape Girardeau on account of the proposed Cape Girardeau and State Line Railroad was $300,000, and the County Court leveled a tax of $1.75 per $100 on all taxable wealth in the city and township of Cape Girardeau for the payment of the bonds and interest. This staggering debt was finally paid off and all bonds redeemed only a few years ago.
At the same time, in the year 1873, the County Court also levied a tax of 10 cents per $100 valuation to create a fund for the purchase of a county farm.
The courthouse in Jackson, the second one in the county seat, had just been finished, and was a specimen of architecture of the kind then in vogue, not massive and inclined to be colossal, but lightly and airily built, with a good deal of what would now be termed "ginger-bread work" round its facades and the stately steeple, or dome.
Newspapers in Cape Girardeau County then were The Cash-Book, with W.L. Malone as editor; Marble City News, with W.A. Casebolt as editor, and Westliche Presse, of which Charles Meide was the editor.
August VonCloedt, civil engineer, was paid $200 for making a map of Cape Girardeau. He was a German of the nobility, and did a great deal of work as surveyor and engineer in this county 50 years ago.
Judge D.L. Hawkins occupied the bench as judge of this district in the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County. During the year 1873, the grand jury (then composed of 18 men) returned an indictment for murder against Thomas T. Kelleher, and the trial lasted three days, ending in a verdict of "not guilty." Wilson W. Cramer as prosecuting attorney was opposed by James B. Dennis for the defense.
The facts about the murder were about thus: Henry C. Kurre was owner and proprietor of a saloon in Cape Girardeau at what was know as "Franck's Garden," in the locality near the present Broadway School on West Broadway. Kelleher came into the saloon in an intoxicated condition, and Kurre proceeded to put him out. After taking Kelleher out of the saloon, Kurre took the infuriated man towards the street entrance to the garden and in the scuffle Kelleher's hat dropped to the ground. At that juncture Kelleher promised to go away if Kurre would let him have his hat, and Kurre stooped to pick up the hat. While in a stooping position, Kurre was stabbed in the side by Kelleher with a long dirk, and died of the wound. Kelleher lived in the neighborhood of Jackson, where he later died of tuberculosis of the lungs. The jury in the trial of that case was composed of David Slinkard, James C. Hauck, William J. Strong, James O'Connor, Reuben Golliher, H.G. Morton, W. Pillarton, Columbus Catner, Stephen Horrell, William, Tucker, John Cobb and W.S. Looney.
Marriages of 1873
During that same term of court, Fredrick Hoch and William Kiehne were admitted to citizenship.
Marriages in October, 1873: David C. Masters and Mary Meyer, Henry Oaks and Mollie Kofer, John M. Utley and Sarah Hudgerson, Louis Martin and Susan Harrison, E.S. Frey and Hattie Casebolt, Ferd Schivelbein and Mollie Maier, Edward Thilenius and Emily Brandes, William Ponty and Marie Wehmueller, William Klementz and Mary Klaus, William Dunn and Katherine Wills, Elijah Kinder and Lunnda Oliver, Otto Buehrmann and Lucinda Williams, James W. Mitchell and Sarah E. Borion, Francis M. Pickering and Amanda M. Call, Eli C. Nations and Mary C. Allen. Only four of these couples were married by clergymen, the others by county and township officers.
Land values at that time were incredibly low in this county. During the year 1873 the commissioner appointed by the County Court to sell the "swamp lands" sold 40 acres to George Stovall for $60; 40 acres to Charles Hedge for $60; 80 acres to Philip VanFrank for $120, and $40 acres to John G. Davis for $120. The commissioner appointed to sell lots in the city of Jackson reported having sold lot 183 to Stephan Phelan for $76.25; lots 162, 163, 175 and 184 for $58; lots 118, 119 and 201 to Greer Davis for $77.50; lots 202, 208 and 209 to R.M. Hendricks for $37.50; lots 23 and 59 to the town of Jackson for $490; lot 205 to J.W. Shorter for $65.50; lot 204 to Silas Brown for $18; lot 164 to C.H. Roberts for $36, and one acre "east of Hubble Creek" to William Tiedemann for $32.
In the year 1873 the World's Fair was held at Vienna, the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, and flour made from Cape Girardeau County wheat was exhibited at that fair. Not only was the first prize awarded to the Cape County product, but a large gold medal as special prize was given the exhibitors. At that time Cape Girardeau County ranked first as agricultural county in Southeast Missouri.
The flour was produced in the Cape City Mills in Cape Girardeau, of which Col. G.C. Thilenius was the owner. Nicholas Jaeger, father of the present clerk of the Circuit Court, Charles B. Jaeger, was the miller who produced that flour, and he employed what was then known as the "Hungarian system," learned by him in Germany. The system consisted in an alternate dampening and drying the wheat before milling it, all of which is now done in all modern mills by machinery and the application of steam. At the time this flour was produced, Henry Astholz was the buyer at the Cape City Mills and Edward Thilenius was the clerk.
The 'good old days'
Progress has marked each and every year of the 50 that has passed since the founding of the Normal School at Cape Girardeau. Not only has agriculture progressed, but day by day in every way, betterments in living conditions, in industry, trade, health, education, etc., have been brought about. No one wishes to go back to the conditions of the "good old days" of a half century ago, when there was no automobile, no typewriter, no tractor, no picture show, no radio, no concrete sidewalk, road or street, no electric light, no running water in the home, no heating plant, no binder, no cream separator, no ice-making machinery, phonograph, Pullman car, airplane, when there were few school houses, fewer churches, no daily newspapers (in this county), when sanitation was practically unknown, when medical science was helpless in epidemics, when there was no world series of baseball, no championship football game, etc.
Fifty years ago the population of Cape Girardeau County was 17,558; today it is (estimated) 35,000.
In summary: The last five decades have brought to Cape Girardeau County the steady growth that is much more preferable than is the boom or mushroom growth that is in danger of collapse at any time. Built on a solid basis, the economical and social conditions are calculated to endure and steadily progress towards still better attainments.