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Transportation and taxes were the main deal in 1916 Richmond

A vintage postcard of the east side of Richmond Square about 1916. (Postcard courtesy of Linda Emley)

A vintage postcard of the east side of Richmond Square about 1916. (Postcard courtesy of Linda Emley)

By Linda Emley

The year was 1916. Ray County had a new courthouse, and Camden was no longer riverfront property. We had survived the heavy rains of 1915 and business was booming. The Jan. 27, 1916, Richmond Missourian gave us a colorful look at our day-to-day operations.

Our current courthouse had just been dedicated two months before on Nov. 20, and we were still working out some of the details. “The County Court met, Monday, with Mr. C. D. Cole a representative of the Great Western Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, for the purpose of figuring on the construction of an ash elevator to be installed at the new courthouse for the purpose of hoisting the ashes and cinders out of the furnace basement.”

I’m not sure if we got an ash elevator, and I couldn’t find anyone that could answer this question for me. I’ve now added this to my list of things to look for in the court records of 1916. I did visit the basement of the courthouse last year when we had a tornado blowing over the county. At first I thought it was a dark and spooky place, but then I saw the old boiler that is still there. It’s a beautiful old piece of iron, but I’m happy the power didn’t go out and leave us down there in the dark.

Many of the folks in Ray County paid their taxes on time and the county treasurer had a nice chuck of change to deposit. “On Saturday County Treasurer John J. Pardue deposited in the Ray County Savings Bank the sum of $131,067.53. which represents the amount of the December 1915 tax collections by Collector Robert E. Bates. Last year’s deposit for December 1914, was $118,367.54.”

The next article told a bit more. “On Saturday, County Treasurer John J. Pardue received from the State Auditor’s office the sum of $535, which is Ray County’s apportionment for the good roads and auto fund. This money is used each year in dragging the roads in the various districts.”

The county’s budget is bigger now, but the roads of Ray are still an important part of the day-to-day operations of the road districts. Now, I need to add another question to my list of things to research, because I wonder if the road districts are the same now as they were in 1916.

Richmond got a taxi service in 1916. “Mr. Roy Shelly, the proprietor of Richmond’s two garages, has established a jitney service in Richmond, the car making its first trips on Monday morning. Trips will be be made to all parts of the city and the charge is 10 cents. This is a new venture in Richmond and if it proves successful Mr. Shelly will likely add another car to the services in the near future.”

A few days later, there was an update on our jitney service. “The Jitney has become a local institution in Richmond. The Roy Shelly garage management is much pleased with the outlook for success. The cordial welcome from the first day grows as folks observe the practical advantages, ‘anywhere in town for a dime’ should be encouraged. Both old and young will find the jitney a joy- better than a street car for Richmond.”

There were several other taxi services in Richmond’s future. I searched the old phone books and found a few of them. In 1940, Ray’s taxi was located across from the Farris Theatre. Business really picked up in 1949 because Richmond had three taxi services: R &G, Lee’s and Waller’s. The 1957 phone book had Ralph’s on West Main and the folks in 1970 could call Virgil anytime because he was on call 24 hours a day.

One of my favorite taxi stories is when there was a taxi stand in the alley across from the current Richmond News office. It was located behind Macey’s Bail Bonds. When they got a call, they would come flying down the hill and run out on North Main Street. Everyone learned to watch out for the flying taxi cab.

My only taxi ride in Richmond was in 1972. I had walked up town from my house on Crispin Street and was getting ready to walk home, but two ladies made me take a cab home. I think it cost $5, but I’m sure they paid for it. I was a young hippy girl in 1972, but these two dear, proper ladies didn’t like the idea of me walking alone around town, so I think they used the heat as their excuse. Times sure have changed.

I assumed that Virgil’s Cab was the last one in town, but the 1979 phone book proved me wrong because it had Bryan’s Cab and Richmond Cab. Please let me know if you have any cab stories about Richmond and if you have any old phone books you would like to donate.

Ok, now back to 1916. The businessmen of Richmond were always looking for ways to help their businesses. “Merchants Met Yesterday to Consider Plans on a System. A representative number of the merchants of Richmond met at the new courthouse, yesterday afternoon, with Mr. Lee Blain of Liberty, who was here for the purpose of talking over and making arrangements with the business men for a merchant’s delivery system, similar to the one now in operation in Liberty, Excelsior Springs and other towns in northwest Missouri. Mr. Blain has charge of the delivery at Liberty and it has been quite successful both from a financial standpoint for himself and from the point of convenience for the merchants and the customers as well. The town would be divided into districts and five wagons would be used in the service. Four regular deliveries would be made daily in each of the districts – 8:30 and 10:30 in the morning and 2:30 and 5 in the afternoon. On pay days at the mines an extra delivery would be made at 6 p.m. Special orders would be delivered at any time throughout the day for 10 cents which would be paid by the customers.

“Similar systems have been tried out in a number of the towns in this section and in most instances they have proven to be good and have solved the delivery problem and made it much easier than the old way of each territory at the same hour daily. And the customers know when their goods will arrive at their homes and what hours to send in their orders.”

I’ve always found it amusing how some people would just swap properties or business many years ago. This newspaper was full of such transactions. “The Tucker and Young Realty Co. made a deal Tuesday, trading Mr. Austin Robinson’s property on North Thornton St. to Mr. Charles Crispin for some vacant lots in northeast Richmond.” Sometimes it was a bit more complicated. “McGaugh Brothers of Rayville have traded their $40,000 stock of hardware, implements and lumber to Mr. W.H. Hauser of Polo for a 160 acre farm in northern Ray and a residence at Polo. Mr. Hauser, and his son, Herbert, will locate in Rayville in the spring and take charge of their new business.

“Mr. Oliver Herbert has traded his east side clothing store to Mr. Walker White of Chetopa, Kansas for a 164 acre farm near that place. Only $5,000 worth of the clothing stock was included in the deal. The land is valued at $9,500. Mr. White arrived here, Tuesday, and an inventory is being made of the stock.”

Well it looks like Mr. Oliver Herbert got tired of being a Richmond merchant and moved Kansas to be a farmer. I found this story to be odd, so I tried to dig a little deeper. Mr. Herbert and Mr. White couldn’t be found in the 1910 or 1920 Missouri or Kansas census, so I assume they both moved around a lot.

Ray County has always had many farms, but I found one that was a little bit different in 1916. “Mr. Marion Pettus, the local nursery salesman, informed us that the past week he sold to Mr. W.A. Mayfield near Hardin, 30,000 strawberry plants, 2,000 blackberry and 2,000 raspberry plants. Mr. Mayfield , it seems, is going into the business right, and we hope he will be successful.”

And now a little flood humor that we can appreciate after all the rain we’ve had. “Truthful James gave one faint gasp and expired after listening to the flood stories that a Missouri man was telling a reporter at the depot. ‘We haven’ had so much rain 15 years.’ he declared. ‘Why there were 5-year-old bullfrogs where I lived that just drowned this spring because they had never had a chance to learn to swim before; and one rain was so hard that the water was standing 6 feet above my cistern. One old fellow had a beautiful long beard and he happened to get caught out in the rain one day and before he could get home his beard was so full of fishing worms that the fish were jumping out of the water too –’ but at this point the train pulled in” – and this tall tale was over.

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