Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Railroad Comes to Springfield

The years immediately before the Civil War and especially the years immediately after the war were a time of great activity in the building of railroads across the Ozarks (and the whole country, for that matter). The history of railroad building in the Ozarks is a vast subject that is beyond the scope of a brief blog entry, but I'll briefly outline the events that led to Springfield, Missouri, finally getting a railroad in 1870.
The Pacific Railroad was chartered in 1849 to extend from St. Louis to Missouri's western border and thence to the Pacific Ocean. In 1852, an amendment to the law authorizing the Pacific Railroad created a Southwest Branch, which would diverge from the main branch at Franklin (appropriately renamed Pacific) and head southwest toward Rolla and Springfield while the main Pacific Railroad continued due west toward Jefferson City and Tipton.
By 1861, almost eighty miles of track had been completed along the Southwest Branch from Pacific to Rolla before the Civil War interrupted almost all railroad construction in the United States. Thus, work was halted on both branches of the Pacific Railroad.
Work resumed after the war, and by 1866, another twelve miles of roadbed for the Southwest Branch had been completed to Arlington. However, the Southwest Branch defaulted on its bonds, and the track from Pacific to Rolla and the roadbed to Arlington were seized by the state and sold to John C. Fremont, a Civil War general who had originally made his name as an explorer and had been the 1856 Republican presidential candidate. Fremont renamed the Southwest Branch the Southwest Pacific Railroad. (The main line of the Pacific Railroad was not sold, and it later became the Missouri Pacific.)
In 1866, the same year Fremont bought the Southwest Pacific, Congress incorporated the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad under his control with authority to build a railroad from Springfield to the Pacific Ocean. An entity of the Atlantic and Pacific purchased the Southwest Pacific in 1867, and rails were laid to Arlington on the already-existing roadbed the same year. However, that company, too, defaulted on its payments (although the main Atlantic and Pacific was still operating), and the state again seized the property in June of that year. Citizens of Springfield were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the railroad, but all the difficulty in getting a road built across the state made some people doubt whether Springfield would ever get a railroad. A St. Louis newspaperman supposedly remarked that the people who were working to get a road to Springfield were just as likely to get a railroad built to the moon as to Springfield. In 1868, the state sold the old Southwest Pacific property to a new company, the South Pacific Railroad, and it was under this name that the railroad finally reached Springfield in April of 1870. Thus the town was facetiously dubbed Moon City, and the name is still occasionally used today. For instance, the press of Missouri State University is known as Moon City Press.
Later in 1870, tracks were completed as far as Pierce City. The same year, the Atlantic and Pacific acquired the South Pacific, and the A&P was, in turn, acquired in 1878 by the St. Louis-San Francisco Railroad. The Frisco remained the dominant railroad in the Ozarks until 1980, when it merged with Burlington Northern.


Blogger A.P. Hill said...

The name change from Franklin to Pacific is very interesting. To see that town and know the association....is kinda funny.

July 3, 2015 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Bob Banks said...

The A&P became the Frisco in 1876 not 1878. I also question your explanation for the name "Moon City." When the South Pacific reached Springfield in 1870, it was notorious for locating its depot and rail yards just outside of existing towns and puffing new towns around its facilities. Various speculators offered the railroad free land to the north of Springfield if it would locate its depot there and proposed to build a new town called "Crescent City" around the depot. Moon City (as in Crescent Moon) was a derogatory term used by the Springfield newspapers to refer to the rival town. The name Crescent City for the new town was dropped, but the railroad did promote a rival town under the name North Springfield. Moon City was North Springfield. The Springfield Leader is online at the State Historical Society website. You'll find stories about the depot location and Moon City in the papers of April 15, May 6 and November 4, 1869, and July 21, 1870.

July 25, 2015 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Bob, thanks for the correction on the date the A&P became the Frisco. Not sure what the source of my misinformation was. As for the Moon City name, I was just repeating a legend I'd heard about the St. Louis newspaper claiming a railroad was as likely to be built to the moon as to Springfield. That's why I said "supposedly." I wasn't sure whether it was actually true or not. But I did know it was North Springfield, not Springfield, that was facetiously called Moon City. I just didn't make that point clear. Again, thanks for keeping me on my toes.

July 26, 2015 at 11:08 AM  

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