History of Clifton City, Missouri
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
N 38° 45.743 W 093° 02.456
15S E 496443 N 4290409
Quick Description: Towns history, the railroad influence, and migration influences of the area...
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 3/3/2020 5:56:33 AM
Waymark Code: WM125E3
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
Views: 0

Long Description:

County of marker: Cooper County
Location of marker: MO Hwy BB, Katy Trail State Park Trailhead, Clifton City
Marker erected: 2010
Marker erected by: Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Marker Text:
1830 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Mill on the Lamine River
Although Clifton City is a railroad town, the Lamine River is the original reason for the town's location. George Cranmer of Paris, Ky., settled in the Lamine in 1832, at what later became the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway (MKT of Katy) river crossing. With James Glasgow, Cranmer built Cranmer's (later Corum's) Mill, which produced our, meal and lumber. Named for the cliffs, or high bluffs, [not true, named for Clifton Woods, a prominent farmer and land donor] over the nearby Lamine River, the town was called Clifton. The river was first named Riviere a la Mine (River of the Mine) around 1720 by a prospecting party under Phillip Renault, director-general of the French colonies in America. Renault looked for copper and silver in Missouri, but found mainly lead.

Shipping Point for Agriculture
With the railroad's arrival, Clifton City made fast progress. The MKT built outward from Sedalia, first southwest to Fort Scott, Kan., then northeast to Boonville. This Sedalia-Boonville line was surveyed in 1871, and tracks reached Clifton City on April 10, 1873. Track-laying continued at about half a mile a day, and the Katy reached Boonville seven weeks later.

Clifton City was platted soon after, on Sept. 29, 1873, by Herman Bidstrup and Peter Ladue. J.E. Potter purchased the first lot in December 1875 for a store and post office, and the Methodist Church [Today the Katy Trail Family Church] bought five lots. The MKT depot was built in 1874 for $1,937. From the Clifton City train depot, cattle, hogs and sheep (for wool and mutton) were shipped to market.

Devil's Half-Acre
Clifton City was once known as the "Devil's Half-Acre." According to the 1876 History of Cooper County, a grocery in town sold bad whiskey, probably distilled from raw corn, which often led to "skirmishes." During the Civil War, oral history evidence suggests Confederate raider William Quantrill used this pat of the country as a place of refuge. After the war, bank robbers Jesse and Frank James, who served under Quantrill, may have done the same.

1870 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Railroad Towns
Most towns and cities in America were founded along rivers, wagon routes or railroads -- that is, along major transportation routes of the 18th and 19th centuries. Missouri towns along the old Katy Railroad, like Clifton City, are no exception. Larger places such as Sedalia and Boonville were transportation hubs, where river and railroad merged, or two railroad lines met.

Small places, however, made the truest railroad towns. many towns along the Katy Trail State Park like Green Ridge, Beaman, Clifton City, Pleasant Green and Pilot Grove were platted around the time Katy tracklayers arrived. The railroad preferred to have stops spaced about 10 miles apart to resupply trains with coal and water.

But the railroad towns became far more that train stops. Katy towns in Cooper and Pettis counties became important agriculture centers from which grain and cattle were taken to distant markets by train. They had a full range of businesses to be self-sufficient, cultural activities, and good schools and even colleges. They boomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s when the railroad was dominant in American life.

Farther east on the Katy Trail, along the Missouri River, many other towns thrived with the Katy and declined with its disappearance. Wainwright, Tebbetts, Steedman, McKittrick, Gore and Peers not only depended on the railroad for their creation, but were named after railroad investors officers.

Most of these places along the Katy Trail still show the traces of their railroad heritage. Here and there, old building fronts, grain elevators or telegraph poles give hints of the busy old days, when wheat, hogs and wood were shipped out by rail and new products arrived from around the world.

1920 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rails to Roads
Greater prosperity came to Clifton City in the early 1900s. The original MKT depot burned down in 1907 and was replaced by a slate-roofed depot. Many locals worked in Sweeney Quarry -- visible from the Katy Trail at milepost 212.7 -- one of the largest in the area, which sent crushed and block limestone around Missouri and out of state. Some of the original ballast of the Katy rail bed was quarried here.

Cue Higdon's mule barn on the southeast corner of highways 135 and BB shipped mules around the country. Higdon provided larger mules to wheat, cotton and corn areas, and smaller animals to rice-growing areas. During World War I, Higdon had an Army contract for pack mules. Local histories say that despite qualification for age, height and soundness, the army rejected only one mule from Clifton City.

During the 1920s, two passenger trains went through Clifton City, westbound in the morning and eastbound at 11 p.m. The town claimed three general stores, two doctors, two blacksmith shops, two drugstores and a lumber yard, stockyard, hardware store, bank, pay telephone office, barber shop and garage.

The garage business was a sign of the future. Soon automobiles took business from passenger trains, and trucks from freight trains. Clifton City farmers who had used the railroad to ship their corn, wheat, oats, hay and livestock had other transportation choices. A farm-to-market road connecting Route E to Highway 50, built in 1934-35, was the beginning of the end for the railroad and other town businesses that had grown with it. The last day of school in Clifton City was in 1951. Mt. Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, serving its members for more than a century, closed in 1974. The last run of a Katy Train was in 1987.

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