First Railroad Built Through Monroe City in 1857

The first railroad to enter Monroe County was also the first railroad built across Missouri. This was the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, on which the first train made a run entirely across the state on February 14, 1859. The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad later became a part of the present Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, one of the greatest railroad systems of the present day.

It was about 1846 that a public meet­ing was held in the office of John 1W. Clemens, the father of Mark Twain, at the old Union hotel in Hannibal. mc people of Hannibal wanted a railroad from Hannibal to Glasgow on the Missouri River and the proposed route of the new line was laid out at this meeting. It was to pass through Palmyra, Shelbyville, Bloomington, Linneus, Chillicothe and Gallatin, and on to the Mis­souri River at St. Joseph. The people of St. Joseph wanted the railroad also and that town had a coterie of very strong public men, among them R. R. Stewart, afterwards Governor of the State. The Hannibal & St. Joseph corporation of railroad promoters joined forces and the enterprise launched in Hannibal was soon converted into a project line from Hannibal to St. Joseph.

On February 16, 1847 the Missouri legislature chartered the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad Company. The incorparators from Hannibal were: Samuel J. Harrison, Zachariah G. Draper and Erasmus M. Moffett; from St. Joseph, Joseph Robidoux, John Corby and Robert J. Boyd; Shelby County, Alexander Murtry; Macon County, George A. Shortridge and Thomas Sharp; Linn County, Wesley Halliburton; Livingston County, John Graves; Caldwell County, Robert Wilson.

In 1852 a bill was introduced in Congress to give the road a grant, which was nearly defeated by Quincy, but was finally passed upon a promise to build a line from Quincy to Palmyra. The grant was for 600,000 acres of land and assured the building of the new road. In August 1852, a contract was made with Duff & Leaman of New York to build the entire line for $23,000 per mile. The road was located by Major James M. Bucklin. In 1852 ground was formally broken for the Hannibal & St. Joe railroad.

On November 5, 1885, twenty-five miles of the grade was completed and ready for the iron; June 1, 1857 the track was laid via Palmyra through Monroe City to Hunnewell, 37 miles west of Hannibal; September 9, 1857, to Clarence, 59 miles west of Hannibal; May 11, 1858 to Bevier, 75 miles west of Hannibal; November 29, 1858, 100 miles west of Hannibal. On Christmas day, 1858 the track was laid 107 miles west of Hannibal and by Jan­uary 20, 1859, extended 114 miles west of Hannibal.

 Construction commenced at St. Joseph some time prior to 1857. The construction force from Hannibal on the east and St. Joseph on the west met at a point near Cream Ridge, Mo., at 7:00 o’clock in the morning of February 13, 1859, and the connection was made which completed the Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad across the State of Missouri. The location is now designated by a concrete monument with a brass plate which reads:

“Construction forces from Hannibal on the east and St. Joe on the west, met at this point at 7:00 a in., February 13, 1859, and made the connection which completed the Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad, across the State of Missouri.

On June 10, 1856, the first train made the run from Hannibal to Palmyra. Grad­ually the building crew pushed the line farther across the state and on February 14, 1859, the first through train for St. Joseph left Hannibal.

In August, 1859, Abraham Lincoln rode over the line on his way to Council Bluffs, Ia.

On April 3, 1860, with Engineer Ad Clark, the famous Pony Express run was made. Up until this time the mail was hauled by boat to St. Joseph and distributed by pony through the west. The distance of 206 miles was covered by this train in slightly over four hours, averag­ing better than 50 miles an hour for the entire trip and running tA times, as fast as 65 miles an hour.

Just when prospects were rosiest, the dread calamity of the Civil War burst npon the land, and for the next four years the right of way was literally trans­formed into a battle field. Trains were wrecked, bridges burned, and coloniza­tion brought to a halt.

With the aid of federal troops the line was kept open and despite the hazards of war the road made one innovation of lasting importance. In July, 1862, an alert clerk in the St. Joseph post office con­verted a baggage car into a mail sorting car so that distribution could be made in transit, thereby expediting delivery to the famed Pony Express at St. Joseph. The result was the forerunner of today’s na­tionwide railway post office service.

The history of the Burlington dates back to 1849, when a charter to build a 12-mile line providing a rail connection into Chicago was secured by a group of citizens of Aurora, Illinois.

By 1856, through amalgamation with other small Illinois lines, it had reached the Mississippi River at Burlington, Io­wa, and Quincy, Illinois; and had taken the name “Chicago, Burlington and Quin­cy Railroad.” Later the line spanned Iowa, and during the ‘SOs extended to the foot of the Rockies at Denver, and to the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Min­neapolis.

Today the Burlington serves 14 mid­western states with nearly 11,000 miles of line, reaching almost every important commercial center in the Middle West from the Great Lakes to the Rockies. Through connections with its subsidiary, the Colorado & Southern, and with the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railways at Billings, the Burlington also provides a tidewater to tidewater line from the Gulf Atlantic to the Puget Sound Pacific.

Among the many noteworthy pioneer­ing achievements studding the Burling­ton’s history are the following:

The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, in addition to completing the first rail line to the Missouri River, operated the first railroad car in which mail was sorted in transit, forerunner to today’s nation­wide railway postal service.

Burlington rails reached Denver in May, 1882, forming the first railroad under single management to provide through service between Chicago and Denver.

The ‘Burlington inaugurated the use of fluorescent lighting in passenger trains, and was the first railroad to employ disc-type brakes. It also was the first railroad to use stainless steel in its passenger car fleet.

In 1934, the Burlington introduced America’s first Diesel-powered stream­lined train, the Pioneer Zephyr, now pull­ing through Monroe City, graoddaddy of the hundreds of Diesel-powered freight and passenger trains operated throughout the country today.

In 1945, the Burlington originated the first Vista-Dome car, and in 1949, together with the Rio Grande and Western Pacific railroads, inaugurated the Cal­ifornia Zephyr, the first trans-continen­tal Vista-Dome service.

The latest Burlington innovation, in­troduced with the inauguration of the new Vista-Dome Denver Zephyr trains late in 1956, was the Slumber coach, pro­viding low-cost private room facilities to coach travelers.