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Since Rayville has been in the news lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would be like without Rayville in our lives. Many things in Ray County would be different if Rayville never existed.
Now we are facing what would happen if we woke up tomorrow and Rayville was no longer Rayville. You can not erase the word Rayville from our minds and we would still call it Rayville. But would it still be Rayville? We would still call C Highway “the Rayville Road” and we would still have the “Rayville Station” store that sits at the intersection of Highway 10 and C Highway.
Rayville is more than just a name, it’s a place that is part of our lives. I’ve always liked the sound of the name “Rayville” because it is a true “Ray” County town, since it shares its name.
When I was young, my grandfather, Robert Schooler, was part of the Rayville Saddle Club. He did not live in Rayville, but it was where he hung out with the guys.
I remember seeing them ride their horses in parades as the “Rayville Saddle Club”. I am glad that the Rayville Saddle Club is still around and being enjoyed by others long after my grandfather and his friends have moved on.
I live north of Richmond and sometimes we take the back roads to Excelsior Springs and drive through Rayville on the way. It is always fun to come up the winding road that leads you into Rayville from the north. Rayville sits on top of a hill that drops off into several valleys as you head north and east out of town.
The 1973 Ray County History Book has a two-page story about Rayville written by Irma Transue Tindall. One of my favorite quotes by her is, “Between the town of Rayville and the coal mine, there was a massive rock formation. Beneath the overhanging layers of rock was a cave from which flowed crystal clear water. This was Cave Springs. The beautiful columbine and other wild flowers grew abundantly making a favorite place for picnics.”
I can tell that Irma loved the vision of Cave Springs as much as I do.
Many years ago, the town of Rayville was known as the village of Haller. The name was changed to Hallard in the late 1880s because it was discovered that there was already a town in Missouri named Haller.
The 1881 Ray County History Book has a section about the towns of Ray County. Page 454 tells the following story, “HALLER STATION—RAYVILLE POST OFFICE. This small village is on the St. Joseph branch of the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific railway, about eight miles northwest of Richmond, in Richmond township. It was laid out in 1871, and the same year a post office was established there, with J. O. Davis as postmaster. Thomas Hankins built the first house and owned the first store. In 1880, the district public school building was moved near the town, and is now used by the town and neighborhood. The first religious services in Haller station were held at the railroad house by the Catholics. Father O’Riley, a Catholic priest, was the first minister. The only official in Haller station, at present – April, 1881 – is Henry Clark, postmaster and justice of the peace.”
This same book lists Richmond, Rayville and Swanwick as the towns in the Richmond Township of Ray County. After reading this story, I realized that this town has been called “Rayville” for over 140 years. The name Hallard was dropped in 1904 and finally Rayville was the one and only name used for this Ray County village.
There is a local legend about how the men of Hallard pulled a flat car behind a railroad hand car and “swiped” the Rayville post office from Foote’s landing, a mail platform that was about one and one half miles west of Hallard and relocated it in their town.
Thanks to the railroad that stopped here, Rayville was known as one of the largest egg-and-poultry producing communities in all of Missouri. In its prime, wood, grain, livestock and poultry were shipped daily from Rayville to New York, Chicago and other major cities around the country.
The railroad that took many things out of Rayville also brought exciting things to town. One story is told about the day that William Jennings Bryan stopped at the local depot while campaigning for President. They claimed that he swept Ray Countians off their feet with his back-coach oratory.
Many business have been here over the years. In 1899, the population was around 200 people and there were nine business, a church and a school. Among other business were the Rayville Hotel, a lumber yard, some banks and all the stores that could be found in a small town.
One of the local doctors was the original Dr. Cook, who was the grandfather of the Dr. Cook that most of us remember. Another favorite merchant was the D.D. Narramore Company, which was also known as the “bon-bon” people Their candy store was known for miles around. Since I love old newspapers, we can’t have a story with out mentioning the first newspaper. On Feb. 18,1904, the first edition of the Rayville Enterprise was printed. It was printed on an old Army press like the ones used during the Civil War.
Rayville has its share of outlaw stories. Many local families have passed down stories about Frank and Jesse James riding through. The Turnage family was forever changed when Bill Anderson found an unfortunate lieutenant working in his field a half-mile east of Rayville and cut his throat. We will hear more about this story next week in the tales of Capt. Bill Anderson. There was even a gold mine in the Rayville area that may have caused other long-lost legends.
The 2010 census shows the population of Rayville at 223 people. It is interesting to note that there are 23 more people than in 1899. Today, Rayville is home to a number of churches and the booming business of “Van Till Farms and Winery”. Some things have changed in the past 100 years, but the town of Rayville still sits in the same spot and is still much loved by many people of Ray County.
Well I guess you have figured out that like many others, I would like to see Rayville around for many more years. I’m not ready to lose this little village like we have lost many others in our county. We may lose the 64084 zip code, but I hope we don’t lose the whole town.
I have heard other people comment about Rayville and the following statement expresses the sentiment of another Ray Countian, our Eastern Commissioner Allen Dale:
“Now we are engaged in a great debate, testing whether this city or any city so conceived and so dedicated, can endure. I can understand the concept of identity theft, but I am totally bewildered by the course set by the village of Rayville toward identity abandonment. I was raised in this world and taught everything in life can be taken away from you except your birthday and your faith. You are what you are. Why run away from the binding ties that make you what you are? If you feel the same as I, that Rayville is worth fighting for, the Ray County Commission will be proud to stand beside you. Thank You.”
Editor’s note: Dale, Rep. Bob Nance and others with an interest in seeing Rayville preserved have attended recent meetings of the village’s Board of Trustees. A petition hascirculated with the proposal to disincorporate. The village, in dire financial straits and beset by bickering among opposing factions, will soon hear the results of a state audit.