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Postcards: As if summer weren’t hot enough, in 1915 issue of ‘hitch racks’ boiled over

By Linda Emley

I had a friend ask me what was my favorite Ray County story. I couldn’t decide, but there was one that I really enjoyed finding in the old newspapers. I loved the “summer of 1915” and the battle of the hitching racks.
So what was the “hitch rack issue?” Richmond was building the new courthouse and the horse hitch racks were a hot topic. Jewell Mayes, a country boy, wanted to keep the racks close to the courthouse. George Trigg, the refined gentleman, wanted them moved away from the square because of the smell. He also claimed it wasted a lot of water when they had to keep flushing the streets of Richmond.
The Commercial Club was working on saving Woodson Institute and trying to resolve the “hitch rack issue,”  and Richmond was trying to decide if it needed to “Flush or not to flush.”
The automobile was new to Richmond and many people were still riding a horse. Some people wanted the hitching racks taken down and moved to a corner away from the courthouse and let the car rule the streets.
At the time, we had Jewell Mayes running the Richmond Missourian and George Trigg running the Richmond News. These two men were day and night. They did not agree on anything and both were very vocal. There were no “freedom of the press” issues in 1915 Richmond.

The issue of whether or not to continue having hitching racks around the courthouse was a hot topic in 1915, pitting the editors of Richmond’s two leading newspapers against each other. (Submitted photo)

The issue of whether or not to continue having hitching racks around the courthouse was a hot topic in 1915, pitting the editors of Richmond’s two leading newspapers against each other. (Submitted photo)

Jewell Mayes’s wife Edith died May 30, 1915 and left him to raise their only child, 9-year-old Martin. To make matters worse, Jewell and George Trigg fought all summer about the “hitch rail issue.”
Jewell had not taken a vacation in over 11 years, so he decided that he and his son Martin needed some time away from Richmond.
On Aug. 4, they got on a train heading west. He left three people in charge of his newspaper, but he did not just walk away. He gave everyone his address on the West Coast and urged them to write. The Richmond Missourian had this on Aug 7, 1915, about Jewell Mayes: “The Missourian man may have the chance to write you a little bunch of stories on the way and afterward. If you have occasion to drop him a line on any subject, the address is 3383 Washington St. in San Francisco. It will not be a long visit – a sort of hurry-along without any waste of time. We have no fear but what our faithful friends will fight our mutual battles for the right. Do not overlook the hitch rack situation.”
The Aug. 12 newspaper gave everyone an update on their trip. “Martin Mayes and His Pop Fully Feasted on Sagebrush and Prairie Dogs. Enroute, sometimes known as ‘Don’t Know Where But We’re on Our Way.’ We went through to the coast without changing cars, without touching foot on the ground from Kansas City to San Francisco. “
They had purchased their train tickets from Rolla Powers in Richmond and Jewell bragged on how well every coupon had been made out exactly right for each point on the route. The train trip took three days and three nights. Once in San Francisco, they spent time at the World’s Fair and saw all the local sights. They returned home via Los Angeles and enjoyed the ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles because the train ran along the scenic coastline.
Martin Mayes had a very successful life. He worked in many different positions for the U.S. Government and was a WW II veteran. Martin went to school at M.U., William Jewell, the University of Vienna and the University of Heidelberg. He was awarded the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees (cum laude) at Heidelberg, Germany in 1934. Dr. Martin married Countess Victoria Helen Von Tiesenhausen of Germany March 16, 1934. Their marriage made the society page of The New York Times March 17, 1934: “COUNTESS IS BRIDE OF PUBLISHER HERE; Victoria H. von Tiesenhausen Wed to Martin Mayes of Richmond Missourian.”
Martin and the Countess Victoria both studied in Heidelberg, so that may be how a country boy from Richmond married a German countess. I think we have another story to work on because I want to know how the Countess liked living in Richmond.
They were Richmond residents from 1934 to 1944 while Martin was the publisher of the Missourian. They had two daughters, Renate Elizabeth Stella, born in 1935, and Honika Edith Annette, born in 1939. Jewell moved to Washington, D.C. in 1952 and the countess moved there in 1960. Somewhere along the way they got divorced and the countess never remarried. Martin married Jane Cannon in 1955, then died in 1991 in Arlington, Va. at the age of 85.
I spent many long hours reading the old newspapers before I found out how the “hitch rack issue” was finally solved in 1916. This was in the Missourian May 11, 1916: “HITCH RACKS WENT BY NIGHT. At its last meeting, the City Council, by a vote of 5 to 1 (two absent and Ralph Brown voting ‘no’), ordered the balance of the hitch racks removed from around the courthouse square. Between dark and midnight Saturday night, the balance of the hitch racks was removed.The County Court, with whom the city authorities had previously been negotiating, were not conferred with. The County Court, in session this week, did not hand down any decision, but deferred the hitch rack  question to their next meeting on Monday, May 22.
“As the matter now stands, the result is seemingly a new and complete victory for our fraternal neighbor, editor and Councilman George Allen Trigg .
“The Missourian has not changed its convictions and opinions on the hitch racks question, but to let the action rest on its merits this week, free from newspaper controversy, this paper today refrains from discussion of the matter.”
A year after it started, the hitch rack issue was over. Jewell Mayes, editor of the Missourian, called it a done deal and washed his hands of the issue. George Allen Trigg, editor of the Richmond News, won. I was not surprised to read that George Allen Trigg was chairman of the City Council cmmittee appointed to remove the hitch racks.
I discovered that there was a $6,000 bond issue to remove the hitch racks. I find it hard to believe that it would cost that much because that was a lot of money in 1916. How hard is it to pull up a few posts ? It could not have been too hard because the task was completed in the dark of night and only took a couple of hours. The streets of Richmond would be flushed no more.
I found a July 9, 1914 newspaper article that said there were 204 automobile owners in Ray County. Each owner was listed in alphabetical order. Their license number and town of residence were also listed. Most cars were in Richmond, but Lawson, Hardin, Orrick, Camden, Rayville, Henrietta, Norborne, Polo and Elmira had a few car owners. There was no listing for Jewell Mayes or George Trigg. The two men who fought the most about the hitch rack issue didn’t own a car in 1914. This may be one of the reasons why it was such a heated topic for them.
Remember our judge that got stabbed in 1919? We can only hope that he enjoyed his last few years on this earth because he was one of the lucky ones that had a car. Judge Frank P. Divelbiss was license number 35543.
Missouri had to establish a few “rules of the road” when cars and horses started sharing the streets. It was illegal to honk your horn at a horse because it might scare them. I am sure this law was broken more than a few times. The roads of our county were never the same again.

Have a story for Linda? Send her a note at raycohistory@aol.com or see her on the hill at the museum during business hours Wednesday through Saturday.

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