A Glimpse At The Past

Posted by Rural Missourian on Jun 11th, 2007

I thought I would stop and spend a little time enjoying a glimpse of the past with you, as there is so much to learn from it, especially in developing a better perspective of where we have come and where we are going. Since moving to Rayville seven years ago, I have really enjoyed and profited from learning what history I have of Missouri, especially Ray County – which was once known as the “Free State of Ray” – and of course Rayville, which is situated in the heart of a little known region called  “Little Dixie,” a major hotspot during The War of Northern Aggression. Jesse and Frank James grew up on a farm about twenty miles northwest of Rayville and Bob Ford, the scoundrel that murdered him, grew up about 2 miles east of here.

Originally, Rayville was nothing more than a loose knit, unnamed community of farmers that first settled the area around 1815, but when the St. Joseph Branch of the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway was built, which passed directly through the community, it soon incorporated as the Village of Haller, Missouri, in 1871. In the late 1880’s the name was changed to Hallard after it was discovered that the name Haller was already being used by another community in Missouri, for which time hast lost.  Due to the heavy influence of the railroads, some old maps refer to Hallard as Hallard Station (see the photos below). In 1904 the name was changed one last time to Rayville. The story goes that it was named after the Rayville Post Office, a small mail platform that was situated at Foote’s landing on the tracks of the AT & SF Railroad three miles west of present day Rayville, which platform was “stolen” and relocated in the village at what was later to be the corner of Crowley and Second Streets. Though no one would know it by the looks of our tired little village today, Rayville was once one of the biggest poultry and egg producing centers in all of Missouri. During its heyday from one car to a trainload of wood, grain, livestock, and poultry was shipped daily to New York, Chicago and other cities. Young couples would walk arm in arm along the wooden boardwalks and many families would come from miles around to buy staples or see a doctor. Little is left from those more prosperous days, as the Great Depression ravaged this little village, as it did many small communities throughout the Midwest. What the Great Depression did not destroy, debt-based economics has in displacing the family farm and local community with the enormous juggernaut of global corporate farming and banking.

No, there is far more to the war the James brothers fought than we are told, but since modern Americans wholeheartedly embrace the revised history of the public school system and Hollywood, they will soon have to relearn the painful lessons of history that come upon all people that turn from God to the state as their savior and provider.

Local history has it that Jesse and Frank would visit the Crowley farm (which was situated just east of the village) at night to have their horses fed and get a little rest, only to move on before the sun rose. They had many such loyal sympathizers throughout Clay and Ray County, as the horrific memories of Union atrocities and sanctioned plundering were still fresh in their minds. This area has had more than its share of infamous outlaws or famous heroes, depending on which side of the war one sides with. William Clark Quantrill and his brave band of partisan rangers fought a noble defense in the Sni-A-Bar region of Jackson and Lafayette counties just south of here along the Missouri River. Bloody Bill Anderson died in the Battle of Albany twelve miles south of Rayville, and is buried eight miles southwest of here at Richmond, the county seat of Ray, named after the fine southern city of Richmond, Virginia.

The history is indeed rich and something that gives me a far greater appreciation for the land where the Lord was pleased to place our family and small Christian community, land where blood was shed and lives lost to defend hearth and home, but like other costly memorials to the war their blood and lives have been paved over by the “progress” of the modern corporate state. So much has changed since those difficult days that it is hard to imagine the pioneering generations that stewarded this rich country by hard toil and the sweat of their brows.

Most of the locals, including many that go back for several generations, have no clue to their regional history and, worse yet, they could care less for they, like so many Americans, have been lobotomized by the dazzling world of pagan dominion.  Even so, should one take the time to sit on the bank of the great Missouri on a hot summer night, watching the lightning bugs dance while quietly waiting for the catfish pole to double over, one can still hear the clocklike paddlewheels of steamships, the homespun love ballad on a lonesome banjo, and the loud rebel furies of brave men long dead, but not forgotten.  

As I mentioned many posts ago, I like to learn history through the various collectables I find. Some are from Rayville and the state of Missouri. Still others are from the earlier days of draft animal logging and of course my favorite is the mule, particularly the “Missouri mule.” Many will eventually adorn the walls of Missouri Wood’s office. I have found the most affordable collectables are postcards, where for a few bucks one can gleam a treasure trove of historical insight and humor.  I have included a few below that deal with Rayville and Missouri, though the last one deals with the science of weather.  I have added my observations so you get a glimpse of what I have learned through them. I hope you enjoy them and please comment, as history is something far too valuable to keep to ourselves. — The Missouri Rev


This postcard is an advertising promo from 1889 for “Ariosa Coffee” from the Arbuckles Bros. Coffee Company of New York, whose motto is “costs more and is worth more than other brands of coffee.”  Try selling that pitch at Wal-Mart today!! On the right is a picture of river traffic and on the left a mule roundup. 


This postcard is postmarked August 1937 from Rockaway Beach, Missouri.  It states, “Uncle Ike,” the old postmaster at the cross roads, Notch Missouri. Uncle Ike is a character in Harold Bell Wright’s book, The Shepherd of the Hills.  The man in the picture is Levi Morrill (1837 to 1926) who actually was the postmaster at Notch, Missouri, whom Wright based his character on.  I wonder if old Levi fought in the war? 


Here is a picture of the mail carrier and a team of mules posing with old Levi Morrill (courtesy of the Harold Bell Wright website — hbw.addr.com.)   

On the reverse side of the postcard is found truth funnier than fiction and so typical of the humble Ozark folks. It reads, Dear Belle, Bob & Ruth . . . Going over to Shepherd of the Hills country tomorrow to see Uncle Matt’s cabin and the place on the other side of this card.  The girls and Richard are having a good time.  Fern fell down the Capitol steps at Jeff City and broke herself up.  Caught a big mess of fish at Bagnell Dam fifteen.  We’ll be home late Sunday night . . . Love & Kisses Fern & Jack.   


This card states, On our way to success . . . Now all together.  It is a promotional card for Limestone Valley Farms of L.M. Monsees & Son, reknown jackstock breeders of Missouri.  The woman is pulling the mammoth jack (ass) while one young man is leveraging it from behind with a pole and another is about to wack it.      

The reverse side states, Home of the largest and best herds of prize-winning registered mammoth jacks and jennets in the world.  This card is from around 1904 when telegraph and telephone stations coexisted.   



This postcard is a real gem.  It pictures “The Old Stick Chimney” and states, the Nathan Swafford house was built in pioneer days by Larkin Shelton, Sr.  It has hewed puncheon floor, clapboard roof and round logs daubed.  Although it was one of the relics of pioneer days, it is still occupied.  This house is on the farm where the legendary McElwee gold mine is supposed to be located.  I hunt on the same Swafford farm today, which is located about two miles north of Rayville in the lush valley of Rocky Fork Creek.  Though I have never found the lost mine, I have had some wonderfully rich times trouncing in the deep forests which surround it.  What the card states next tells it all as it regards the heritage of freedom this land once enjoyed, This postcard is sent as a souvenir of the “Free State of Ray” and as a reminder of the good old days of Missouri.  Should we forget the example of our forefathers and the words of wisdom and common sense that come down to us from those happier if not better days of the past?     

The reverse side gives the postmark, Vibbard, MO – Aug 19, 1908.  Five miles northwest of Rayville, Vibbard is now but a small cluster of homes.  The post office has long left. 


Pictured is the train station in Rayville around 1900.  If you look carefully you can see the old faded name of HALLARD under the new name of RAYVILLE.  


This postcard was made specially for the one pictured, which was a common practice.  The young man is posing most likely for his darling.  All spiffed up in suspenders, a tie, and a clean white shirt, he is ready to “go a courtin” in a fine buggy.  I am not sure where this was taken, but the postmark is from Rayville, MO – Aug 1908.    

The reverse side gives some clues to the man’s intentions, Hellow Flossie . . . How are you   I got your Post Card and I will answer it So By By.  It is addressed to a Miss Flossie Tarwater, Harlem, MO.  It makes you wonder what became of them.   


I end on a humorous note with a postcard that is postmarked June 1907, which features a classic “mule barometer,” a precision instrument which is scientifically accurate . . . when used according to the complicated directions:

Hang outside

If tail is dry..Fair

If tail is wet..Rain

If tail is swinging..Windy

If tail is wet and swinging .. Stormy

If tail is frozen..Cold


I have plenty more postcards to share with you.  Let me know if they have been worth it for you.