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Publisher against publisher, all over the 1915 hitch racks

The Ray County Courthouse with hitch racks still in place and horses tethered to them – prior to their removal in 1916. (Photo courtesy of Linda Emley)

The Ray County Courthouse with hitch racks still in place and horses tethered to them – prior to their removal in 1916. (Photo courtesy of Linda Emley)

By Linda Emley

Afriend asked me what was my favorite Ray County story. I couldn’t decide, but one of my favorites is the “summer of 1915” and the battle of the hitching racks. I wrote this story a few years ago, but I am sharing it again since it started 100 years ago this summer.

So what was this all about? Richmond was building its new courthouse and the horse hitch racks were a hot topic. Jewell Mayes, the 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 because 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, 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 horses. Some people wanted the hitching racks taken down and moved to a corner away from the courthouse so cars could rule the streets.

We had Jewell Mayes running the Richmond Missourian and George Trigg running the Richmond News. These two men were like day and night. They did not agree on anything and both were very vocal. There was no “freedom of the press” issues in 1915 Richmond, but there was a good newspaper battle.

Jewell Mayes’s wife Edith died May 30, 1915, and left him to raise their only child, 9-year-old Martin. To make matters worst, Jewell and George Trigg fought all summer about the hitching rails.

Jewell had not taken a vacation in 11 years, so he decided that he and his son Martin needed some time away from Richmond. On Aug. 4, 1915, 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, Aug. 7, 1915, wrote the following 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, address  it to 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 3 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 on March 16, 1934. Their marriage made the society page of The New York Times on 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 lived in Richmond from 1934 to 1944 while he was the publisher of the Richmond 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. Martin died in 1991 in Arlington, Va. at the age of 85.

I spent many long hours reading old newspapers before I found out how the “hitch rack issue” was finally resolved in 1916. Richmond 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 were 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 has deferred the hitchracks question over to its next meeting on Monday, May 22nd.

“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 Richmond Missourian, called it a done deal and washed his hands of the issue. George Trigg, the editor of the Richmond News, won. I was not surprised to read that Trigg was chairman of the city council committee appointed to remove the hitch racks. There was a $6,000 bond issue to pay for their removal. I find it hard to believe that it would cost that much because it 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 horses 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.

There were several other stories that made big news in 1915. The headlines on July 15 read, “New Channel Cut By the River at Camden Bend.” The folks of Camden went to bed as a river town and woke up the next morning with the river gone. I will share this story in July on its 100th anniversary.

I love both of these stories, but honors for the biggest event of 1915 go to Ray County getting a new courthouse. The new clock chimes could be heard over three miles away. We will celebrate the 100th birthday of our courthouse on Nov 20, 2015.

So now we know – the hitch racks around the square were taken down in 1915 and life went on. It was time for the horses to move over because the automobile was the new king of the road.

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