It is often a surprise when Morehousians
learn that the site where Morehouse is today, use to be at the bottom of the Mississippi River. But if they afford the
study they soon learn that the Mississippi River changed its course just below Cape Girardeau and left behind a low, wide river
bed between the Sikeston Ridge on the east and Crowley's Ridge on the west. Fed mainly by the Castor River and Little
River the low land was left covered in water most of the year. Morehouse was established there just above the converge
of those two rivers in a vast spreading swamp.
In 1541 Hernando de Soto
the famous explorer himself stood on the Sikeston Ridge and on a clear day could see Crowley's Ridge far in the distance across
the swamp. Aside from the many Indians that populated the area, he was the first white man to ever gaze upon what would
in time be named the "Morehouse Lowlands".
I get excited just thinking of it. You see, it's my home... the place where I was born. When I talk with young
people today they seem not to have an inkling about the history of this area. And if they have heard anything about
it, they too often repeat some fragment of an encumbered story full of effort but lacking entirely of body, a place and a
Oral histories are that way.
They tend to get twisted with sensationalism and/or humor until their telling becomes less worthy of place, time or accuracy.
When I was in school, I hated history because I could not relate to a fixed place or a given time. In this I discovered
the importance of having a frame of reference, a place and a time as well as events and names.
When one can go and stand on the exact spot
and look down at the ground and understand the event that took place there and fix it in the time of that era... and can see
the event happening... now that is "living" history... real history that you can feel in your blood. This is what I
have tried to capture from the oral histories that have been told about Morehouse from its early beginnings into its presence
Morehouse... Morehouse... The
name comes shimmering through the darkness of my dreams. When I see it on a written page, it leaps out at me with little
effort. You see, I have been recording the oral histories of Morehouse all of my life until it is so ingrained within
me that I am rarely from it any time at all. Its a kind of love-hate baggage that remains a great part of my psychological
It is said that no history is written without
an agenda. So in the course of writing and compiling these volumes of oral histories that is yet being created, it has
been necessary for me to form a point of view. Who's and what agenda should be served? Should we assign a moral
division and write only the good things and never mention the bad things? Should the histories be told favoring the
view point and honoring the town's founding fathers? Or should we focus on the tragedy and criminal elements as they
flourished? Who are we philosophically as Morehousians?
A well written history will answer some
of these questions and in so doing will perhaps tell us something about ourselves and our fore-fathers.
Did You Know?
...that the early site of Morehouse had a rare and unusual landmark dating far back, that
was visited by soldiers of both the Union North and the Confederate South and brought attention to this area in the middle
of the swamp long before either army ever existed?
...that before the Civil War, to cross from
the Sikeston Ridge to the Crowley's Ridge you had to hire Indians to take you across in dug-out canoes?
...that before there was any settlement
at or near the present site of Morehouse, that the adjacent Morehouse Lowlands to the northwest and west was first settled
circa 1840 followed by another settlement in 1843 and again in the mid 1860s?
...that north of the area around Morehouse
and the swamp that there was a natural bog that was set afire by farmers and that it burned for many years?
...that Dr. E.J. Malone's early mill had
its own cemetery adjacent to his mill and that it had been lost until the 1970's?
...that Morehouse's founding father Dr.
E.J. Malone is buried within 50 feet of Sikeston's founding father, John Sikes?
...that the longest wooden bridge in Missouri
was at one time located just west, outside of Morehouse?
...that Morehouse was buzzed by very low
flying heavy bombers during the second World War?
...that using each letter only once, you can make as many as 85 words from the letters M-O-R-E-H-O-U-S-E ?
(Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary)
a steamboat lies sunken in the mud bottom of the Little River channel within the Morehouse City limits?
...that the stems of General Douglas MacArthur's special
smoking pipes were grown at Morehouse?
...that there was one city block
in Morehouse where it has been estimated that over time, at least 15 men have been killed in shootings?
...that there is possibly a
serious bio hazard inadvertently created in Morehouse that has never been addressed?
...that there was only one Black
person to ever officially graduate from Morehouse High School?
...that Morehouse through out its
course in history was known as being totally a "Masonic town" and that for good or bad, the Lodge shaped the dynamic that
mostly made Morehouse what it was and what it has become?
...that when the Daniels family (Otis and Elizabeth who were Catholic) came to Morehouse
to teach mostly Protestant children in the Morehouse Public School, there was a great furor created by some of the Protestant
religious factions in town that led a group of angry sign-carrying protesters to gather at the city hall?
...that before the Civil War, the
Iron Mountain Railroad that had been completed from Charleston, west to Sikeston was intended and planned to continue west
down into the Nigger Wool Swamp, past present day Morehouse, then turn south to continue down into Arkansas and Texas...
but the plan was changed as punishment when the South lost the war and those states were denied the rail service when the
railroad was built continuing on west to Poplar Bluff.
...that a famous American credited with having contributed
to the start of World War II, entered Morehouse from the west on rails. And that later, another famous American credited
with having contributed to the finish of World War II entered Morehouse from the east on the highway. And that theirs
paths, frozen in time would pass in opposite directions within 30 feet of the other for a distance of two blocks... and
that upon their exit from town, they would again pass very close on their routes a second time in reverse... and their paths
...that there was a physician that was shot to
death on the street in Morehouse over a political difference?
...that Morehouse once hosted the upper end of the
largest cane brake in the State of Missouri?
...that Cole Younger, a well known member of the Jesse
James gang once gave a talk against crime in Morehouse and spent the night in Morehouse under armed guard?
...that a future President of the United States
gave a political speech on the first public speaking system ever used in Morehouse and that a drunk pulled his microphone
off the stage? (Later, when asked about the incident in the White House, the President did fondly
...that when one Morehousian moved to California and
started his own restaurant business, his business was soon visited by Duncan Hinze the nationally famous restaurant critic,
who offered for a large fee to hang a sign in the front of the business saying, "Recommended by Duncan Hinze". The Morehousian
took insult at the large fee, threw Duncan Hinze out into the street and hung his own sign that read, "NOT recommended by
...that for many years there were scores of trees in
the area of Morehouse that were simply too large to cut and that the earliest Houck Peavine Railroad was forced to weave
between and around these large trees like a "peavine" (thus the railroad's name) because no one in the area had either the
expertise or the tools to cut such giants as these?
...that in 1908 there was a railroad track that ran
south at a slight angle through what is today the northeast corner of the Bank in Morehouse?
...that the very first radio ever used in Morehouse
was set up in the 2nd floor of the Forrest Hotel by a visitor and that its very first reception was a piano musical broadcast
out of Jefferson City, Mo. named "Kitten on the Keys"?
...that South Benton Street was the very first street
built within the city limits of what would later be known as Morehouse, Mo.?
...that in the great fire of 1908 in Morehouse, when
the third floor of the Forrest Hotel caught fire from the burning mercantile immediately to the west, that there was a dead
man on the front porch of the Forrest Hotel?
...that Dr. E. J. Malone was at one time seriously
accused of having stolen a horse and that authorities called him to account?
...that the first full-length 3D motion picture ever
publicly shown in Morehouse was the 81 minute, low-budget, black and white production, "The Maze" (1953) starring Richard
Carlson, and was shown at the Dillon Theater. It required red-blue cellophane and paper glasses. It featured
a giant frog leaping off of a balcony, seemingly into the audience.
...that native American Indians used areas within
the city limits of Morehouse for burial and left behind visible written signs of their existence long before the white man
entered the area?
(The Indian writing was destroyed by the efforts of a single
Morehouse citizen in full public view in the early 20th Century)
...that Adolph Hitler and his resulting book "Mein
Kampf" was philosophically and politically influenced by a well known American that had visited in Morehouse.
...that Malone Avenue and Malone Park in Sikeston are
named after Dr. E. J. Malone, the founder of Morehouse and that Dr. Malone only worked in Morehouse, that he never lived there
and rarely ever spent the night in Morehouse?
...that one man who for a while lived in Morehouse,
was accredited with having effected the growth of Morehouse and the surrounding area more than any other individual, was a
little known and rarely heard of figure, Otto Kochtitzky.
...that while all eyes were on Morehouse's loudly touted
Basketball team a little known Morehouse school student in a last minute
choice and to her surprise with little or no prior preparation, was taken from her classroom, transported miles away and
stood alone in a vast assemblage to represent Morehouse in a Missouri State
spelling contest... and brought home regional honors with a spelling trophy?
...that the Morehouse city fathers hired a town Marshal with a reputation to "clean up the town"
and that this Marshal killed five men, two were brothers, one was beaten to death in the jail and another he shot in the back and
killed before he finished his term of office?
...that a 10 year old Morehouse child fell under a train and died as a result of having both legs
cut off and that the child's grave is now close to being lost because Sikeston has neglected the care of the cemetery?
...that there has been two Morehousians featured six times in the national TV program "America's
Most Wanted" since it started? Not bad for a sleepy little town with a little over a 1000 population.
...that while traveling enroute to Morehouse, the FATHER of one of our Presidents
of the United States was killed in an accident about three miles outside of Morehouse?
...that from 1919 through around 1965 the Residential Center of Morehouse
was geometrically located near the intersection of Front Street with North Madison Street?
...that there has been only one person that has ever been able to throw a
baseball and hit the bottom of the water tank on the Morehouse water tower? Witnesses said that when the baseball hit,
everyone present heard the sound.
...that the name "Morehouse" was first used in 1888 by Dr. E.J. Malone who
wanted to post the name of his preferred political candidate on his company rail depot so rail passengers passing through
could see the name of Albert P. Morehouse, candidate for the office of Governor of Missouri. When Himmelberger later
purchased the Malone holdings in New Madrid County, the depot sign was never removed.
...that there was an official Guinness World Record holder that did his training
in Morehouse to gain that record
...that there were slot machines in certain public places in Morehouse and
that they were very popular.
...that there was an abandoned 10 year old child found in Morehouse,
sleeping with hogs under a shed in the winter time, in order to keep warm.
...that a Morehouse girl got married and while on her honeymoon witnessed
the assassination of a US President.
...that there is a single house still standing in Morehouse where two different
people have resided at different times, who have been convicted of killing other people
...that there is a famous celebrity that when he left the area, that he had
gotten a Morehouse girl pregnant and never knew that he had a daughter.
...that two Morehousians served on Iwo Jima during World War II at the same
time and that one of them killed nine enemy while there.
...that a Morehousian was killed when his car fell off its jacks and crushed
...that a Morehousian and his wife were both brutally murdered in their home
at the same time.
...that there was a young Morehouse girl that was killed while she was planning
...that Morehouse had a school teacher that was beaten by his own student
in his own classroom.
...that a Morehousian set a record as a blood donor.
...that a Morehousian has his own Evangelist television program.
...that a practical joke led to a killing.
...that a Morehousian died from having cut himself with a razor while shaving.
...that an elderly woman turned back a mob and prevented a lynching in Morehouse.
...that a Morehousian wrote music that sold in Nashville, Tennessee and was
performed by professional performers.
...That Leprosy was discovered in Morehouse and that the victims had to be
sent off to a leper colony.
...that there has been recent discussion concerning the feasibility of
a History Museum in Morehouse.