File prepared and contributed to Lincoln County Missouri History Page by Patricia SummersSmith, 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

From The History of Lincoln County, Missouri, (Chicago : Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1888), p. 408.



Is situated on the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railroad, fifty-eight miles north of the city of St. Louis. It is located at tlae western margin of the Mississippi bottom, and on the north side of Lost Creek, which cuts through the bluffs and flows to the Mississippi River. It was surveyed and platted in August, 1879, by Z. E. FREER, civil engineer, for Robert T. ELSBERRY, John C. ROBERTS, William McINTOSH and Henry S. CARROLL, the original proprietors, and named in honor of the former. The plat was acknowledged by these parties May 21,1881. As shown by this plat the town originally contained twelve blocks of ten lots each, the lots being 50x115 feet in size. In June, 1885, the same proprietors laid out an addition to the town, and in the same month Robert T. ELSBERRY laid out a second addition. The first house built in Elsberry was a railroad warehouse, which is still standing. The first merchants were SMITHER, CARROLL & Co., who came from Clarksville with a stock of groceries and hardware, and occupied the warehouse first built, one end of it being cut off for a store room. Soon after this Messrs. ELSBERRY & WILKINSON put up a two-story frame building, in which they opened a general store. This house was located on the hill some 300 yards from the depot, the town being now divided into two parts, "on the hill" and "under the hill." This firm did not remain long, but sold out, and after several changes the house came under the control of the CANNON Bros., who still continue the business. After this house was built the "boom" had a slight cessation, but early in 1880 a number of business houses were erected, among which was the Etter building, on Main Street, "under the hill." Three other buildings, on the north side of the Etter building, all under the same roof, were constructed at the same time, one being occupied by R. T. WIGGINSTON & Co., another by SMITHER, CARROLL & Co., and the other by J. M. GIBSON, druggist. Later in the spring of 1880 SOUR & REUTER erected a business building near the depot, and commenced merchandising, but soon went into bankruptcy.

The following is a statement of the business of Elsberry in 1883, when the town was only three years old: Dry-goods, CANNON & Sons, ETTER's  O. P. C. H. (one price cash house); groceries, GIBSON & SHIPP and BROTHER & SINGLETON; drugs, J. W. BIBB, NICKLIN & HAWKINS and LEE & HOWARD; hardware, "Yank" ELLIOTT; farm implements, WATTS & ELSBERRY and GIBSON & SHIPP; jewelry, J. W. STEADMAN; millinery, the Misses KNOX; boots and shoes, H. H. REUTER; lumber and undertakers goods, Robert E. BLACK; grain dealers, WATTS & ELSBERRY, also the Elsberry Milling Company; cooper shop, James COOPER; boot and shoe shops, Tim. MULCAR and T. J. POTTS; livery, GENTRY & CANNON; hotel, "Richards' Hotel," by Samuel RICHARDS; restaurants, W. N. GIBSON and Mrs. H. HITT; blacksmith shops, H. W. LEO, Gordon T. FELTY and J. K. GILILLAND; wagon shops, John CARTER and John DAWKINS; butcher shops, ELSBERRY & GATEWOOD and C. L. GENNIS; ice dealers, Robert T. BLABERRY and C. L. GENNIS; merchant tailor, James SAULSBERRY; saloons, WATTS & ELSBERRY and R. T. BOOTH & Co.; physicians, R. T. HAWKINS, S. H. KERR, B. J. LEE and W. A. HEMPHILL. The Elsberry Flouring Mills, erected by the Elsberry Joint Stock Milling Company, was doing an extensive business in 1883, manufacturing flour and meal and shipping the same to other points. The foregoing shows a large number of business houses and business enterprises for a town only three years old. In fact, the business was overdone, several parties having commenced business with a small capital, expecting the place to grow so rapidly and the demand of "home consumptions to become so great that their success was assured. This, however, was not to be; a railroad in a country lying close to large towns and cities could not cause a city to come into existence, as if by magic, at the site of Elsberry. But being located as it is in an excellent agricultural country, there was, and is, a good prospect for a substantial and prosperous town at Elsberry, notwithstanding the fact that at first too many individuals embarked in business enterprises.

The following is a directory of the business of the town in 1885:  General stores, GIBSON & EASTIN, and CANNON Bros.; groceries, A. D. SHIPP and B. S. CANNON & Bro.; drugs, NICKLIN & HAWKINS and C. M. HOWARD; boots and shoes, H. H. REUTER; millinery, the Misses KNOX and Mrs. T. R. GOODMAN; lumber, undertaking goods, plaster, lime, etc., R. E. BLACK; builder and contractor, A. A. BROTHER; hardware, G. C. ELLIOTT; blacksmiths, G. T. Felty and J. M. McDonald; wheelwright, J. C. Carter; livery, J. S. CANNON; hotel, C. B. LINDSEY; restaurant, Mrs. HITT; saloon, W. W. WATTS; butcher shop, J. A. Sour; barber, L. D. GATEWOOS; apiary, HEMPHILL & GOODMAN; physicians, S. H. KERR, LEE & BAILEY, and W. A. HEMPHILL. Up to this time one church, the Methodist Episcopal South, had been erected, and was then used by several denominations. The large high-school building was erected prior to 1883. It is one of the largest and best school buildings in the county, and is constructed of brick. In 1883 Prof. SEAMAN, principal, and Miss Callie Towles and Miss Nonie ELGIN taught the schools. In 1885 the schools were taught by Prof. NICHOLS and his assistant, Miss Sophia SEATON, of Troy.

The business of Elsberry at this time, July, 1888, is as follows: Dry goods, Rose & Eastin, Cannon & Alloway; groceries and farm implements, A. D. SHIPP, B. S. CANNON & Bro.; drugs, D. F. FOLEY; furniture and harness, BAILEY & MORRIS; millinery, Mrs. T. R. GOODMAN; millinery and dressmaking, the Misses KNOX; farm implements, W. W. WATTS; restaurants, Mrs. PFORDT and Mrs. HITT; blacksmiths, James McDONALD and W. P. MORTON; livery, CANNON & Bro.; boot and shoe shop, John STAHL; hardware and lumber, BLACK & LUCKETT; barber, L. D. GATEWOOD; "Hotel Palmer," William PALMER, Jr.; bank, BLANK, BLOCK & HARVEY. The large flouring mill is now idle. It is claimed that all the mills on the line of the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railroad in Lincoln County cannot compete with other mills until they are provided with the roller apparatus and machinery, there being no demand for flour manufactured by the old buhr method. Attached to the mill of the Elsberry Milling Company is a large warehouse, and there is another warehouse near the railroad depot owned by ELSBERRY & WATT. The physicians of Elsberry are Samuel M. BAILEY and B. J. LEE. The town now contains four frame churches, one owned by the Southern Methodists, one by the Baptists and Presbyterians combined, one by the colored Baptists, and one by the colored Methodists.

There is a lodge each of the I. O. O. F. and A. O. U. W., and both use the same building. There is also a lodge of colored Odd Follows.

The Elsberry Advance, a weekly newspaper, was established by H. F. CHILDERS, who published the first number October 8, 1880, and continued to publish the paper alone until March, 1881, when J. P. POWELL, bought a half-interest. CHILDERS & POWELL then continued its publication until December, 1861, when Powell bought his partner's interest. Mr. POWELL then continued the paper alone until February, 1884, when he sold it  to W. T. REEDS, who published it until May, 1885, and then sold it to J. W. POWELL and B. T. ROBINSON. These gentlemen published it together until July, 1887, when ROBINSON sold his interest to R. H. WOMACK. Messrs. POWELL & WOMACK, the present publishers, have since continued its publication.

Elsberry has two local attorneys, J. W. POWELL and W. A. DUDLEY.

In 1883, H. W. LEE, J. C. CARTER and fifty-two other citizens of Elsberry, petitioned the county court, praying for the incorporation of the town. In November of that year the court granted the prayer of the petition, and duly incorporated the town according to Article 6, Chapter 89, Revised Statutes of Missouri. The boundary line of the district incorporated was described as follows - "Beginning at a stone on the north bank of Lost Creek, where a continuation of the Bluff Road south would intersect said creek; thence north with said Bluff road to the northern line of Lincoln Street, as shown by the recorded plat of said town; thence east on Lincoln Street to Sixth Street; thence north on Sixth Street to the north line of Hill Street; thence east on the north line of Hill Street to the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railroad; thence southwest with said railway to Lost Creek; thence west along the north bank of Lost Creek to the place of beginning." The town was incorporated under the name and style of "The inhabitants of the Village of Elsberry." The board of trustees appointed by the court were James W. POWELL, J. M. GIBSON, Charles A. MAYES, J. R. CANNON and George C. ELLIOTT.

Elsberry is very pleasantly located at the western margin of the valley, that portion of the town known as "under the hill" being on an even plateau gently sloping eastward toward the Mississippi, and that part known as "on the hill " being located  on an elevated plateau, that might with propriety be called a bench of the bluffs. From this bench, where a part of the business houses and most of the residences are located, a delightful view of the Mississippi Valley and of the hills beyond the river on the Illinois side is obtained, and by looking southward and southwestward, a pleasant view of the hills of the western bluffs is obtained. On the whole Elsberry has a picturesque location.

File prepared and contributed to Lincoln County Missouri History Page by Patricia SummersSmith, 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

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