|Elsberry is located
fifty-eight miles north of St. Louis where the western margin of the
Mississippi bottomlands and the rugged hill country of the Lincoln Hills
region meet. An area of outstanding natural beauty surrounds Elsberry.
Rolling hills of oak, hickory, and maple are ablaze with breathtaking
scenery each fall and adjacent
farmlands, creeks, and rivers provide excellent habitat for many species of
wildlife. Three conservations and the nearby Lock and Dam #25 on the
Mississippi River provide exceptional opportunities to spot bald eagles in the winter months.
history of Elsberry began when Robert T. Elsberry bought 103 acres of land
in Lincoln County in 1868. In 1879 three Clarksville businessmen formed the Clarksville and
Western Railroad Company that was to run between Clarksville and Dardenne
(now St. Peters.) Elsberry and a group of local landowners decided to
found a town based on the railroad and convinced the railroad to build a
depot on his land. The depot was built in August of 1879 and the town of
Elsberry was platted in the same month.
the businesses and many of the homes of three small settlements near the new Elsberry depot, Lost
Creek, Cross Roads, and Nelson, moved almost
overnight to the new
town. Until the coming of the railroad all the shipping of stock, grain, and necessary
merchandise of the northeastern part of Lincoln County was through the
of Falmouth, three miles to the east. Elsberry
absorbed the businesses of Falmouth, most of the businesses of nearby New Hope, and
the post office from Nelson. Only New Hope has survived as a community to
|The first merchants were
Smither, Carroll & Co., who came from Clarksville with a stock of
groceries and hardware, and occupied one end of the depot. The first
businesses in town included a harness shop, a gristmill, a newspaper, and a bank.
Elsberry Flouring Mills was doing an extensive business by 1883,
manufacturing and shipping flour and meal. This grain elevator served as a
vital part of Elsberry and the surrounding agricultural community for over
120 years before this oldest building in Elsberry burned to the ground in
2003. A memorial marker along MO-79 marks the spot of this misfortune.
large number of business enterprises started up in Elsberry in its early
years in what now would be called a "bubble." A number of these
parties started with a small capital investment, expecting Elsberry to grow
so rapidly that their success was assured. Many of these businesses failed
but Elsberry, being in excellent agricultural country, managed to become a
prosperous town. Elsberry's most successful business today is
Forrest Keeling Nursery. This nursery specializes in growing trees using a patented
root production method technology. Trees from Forrest Keeling have been used
to reforest the wetlands that were damaged by the 1993 flood, other reforestation
projects across the country, and historical restoration projects.
the citizens of Elsberry petitioned and were granted their request to
incorporate Elsberry as a town. Shortly thereafter a wooden calaboose was
built. A calaboose was a common term for a jail in the west and southwest at
the time and the term comes from the Louisiana French calabouse, which was a
modification of calabozo, Spanish for dungeon. Local history says that about 8 to 10 years after the calaboose was built an impatient
prisoner set fire to some newspapers in order to attract attention and
nearly burned to death. The fire destroyed the jail and resulted in the town
council's decision to build a fireproof jail.
exact date of the construction of this new jail is unknown but is believed
to have been around 1896. Large stones were transported from a nearby quarry
creating a 15-foot by 11-foot building that is 10 feet tall. Iron bars
created a large cell on one side and a stove was located on the other for
heat. Once common in Missouri, there are only four or five calabooses in the
state left standing.
The City of Elsberry has restored the structure (photo left) and has relocated
an 1880s home to the same location. The Elsberry Historical Society is in the process of
restoring the relocated twin pin house to serve as a museum and its headquarters. On
Broadway rehabilitation projects have restored the Senate movie theater and a soda
fountain to their mid 20th century conditions.
most famous native son is Clarence A. Cannon (portrait by Charles J.
Fox.) After graduating from the law school of the University of Missouri in
Columbia in 1908 he began practicing law in nearby Troy. In 1911 Cannon went
to work in Washington D. C. as a clerk in the office of the Speaker of the House.
Elected as a Democrat to the House
of Representatives, Cannon served from 1923 until his death in 1964. Cannon rose to become Chairman of the powerful Appropriations
Committee and was instrumental in the creation of the dam that created Mark
Twain Lake in nearby Ralls County. The dam was renamed in Cannon's honor
after his death.
Elsberry area bills itself as the "Duck Hunting Capitol of the
Midwest." The majority of the land east of MO-79 is owned by either the Missouri
Department of Conservation or by one of over 25 duck clubs that dot the
bottomlands. A drive down any of the
back roads east of town during duck hunting season will reveal a number of flooded fields
(photo left) or fields otherwise prepared for the fall migration of ducks.
Department of Conservation maintains three wildlife areas near Elsberry. In
addition to hunting, the Prairie Slough and B. K. Leach Conservation Areas
and the Hamburg Ferry Access offer outdoor activities such as
fishing, hiking, bird watching, and wildlife viewing.
Little Town With A Big Heart" has been made great strides in preserving
its heritage with much more activity planned for the future. Its position on
the Great River Road amid the beauty of the Lincoln Hills and the
hospitality of its residents make Elsberry a good choice as a stopover on a
daytrip or as a destination in itself.