Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eureka Landing

Excerpted from Wilton, Boone County, Missouri: History and Stories of a River Town, by David P. Sapp, 1993, pp. 7-9. Available in the Wilson-Wulff History and Genealogy Library at the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum. This entire 145-page book is available for purchase by contacting the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri.

Sometime prior to 1854, a steamboat landing was developed to exploit the booming traffic on the Missouri River and promote access to southwest Boone county near present day Wilton.  It was located about one-half mile west and slightly south of the present town, near the line between sections 27 and 34 of Township 46, Range 13.  It’s hard to be certain who was responsible for building the landing although it probably was James H. Fulkerson or his father, Richard. 

James Henry Fulkerson was the son of Richard and Susannah (Livingston) Fulkerson, natives of Virginia.  James H. was born in 1821, the year that Missouri became a state, after his father and mother migrated here from Virginia and Tennessee.  He was one of the many Boone countians who headed to California around 1850.  After he returned, he married Miss America Crump, daughter of Patrick Crump, on April 4, 1850.  He died July 18, 1872, and was buried at Goshen. 

It is likely that the landing operation began between 1850 and 1853.  The venture had to compete with many others, each developer hoping to prosper in the steamboat boom.  By the time of the 1879 Missouri River survey, landings appeared at a frequency of about one per mile upstream of Eureka.  The most intense competition nearby was Providence landing, eight miles northwest.  Providence was the shipping point for Columbia and extracted more than its share of the 30-40 steamboats that daily plied the river.(#1) 

One persistent story connected to the Wilton area derives from this time.  The often crowded steamboats did not lend themselves to good sanitation.  People of all persuasions were forced together under sometimes primitive conditions.  As a result, cholera outbreaks were not unusual.  It is said that one such outbreak occurred on a steamboat nearing Eureka and that a group of immigrant workers, possibly Chinese, was put ashore there.  Shunned by the locals, the group camped just north of present-day Wilton, where many of the party died.  The dead were reportedly buried in a mass grave in Whiteside Hollow.

Fulkerson was doing enough business in the 1850s that he felt he could get a post office commission.  Of course, every budding river operation wanted a post office -- it could be very good for business.  He proposed adding it to the previous Columbia to Providence route, even though it required a ten mile one-way addition to the old route.  The application that Fulkerson filled out claimed forty families resided within two miles of the proposed post office and that it would be called Eureka, a name that he imported from Livingston county, Kentucky.(#2, #3)  The U.S. Postmaster considered this sufficient, and established the new post office on May 10, 1854.  The Columbia newspaper reported that "The Postmaster General has ordered the establishment of a Post office at Eureka in Boone county, Mo., and the appointment of James Fulkerson as Postmaster thereof.  Capt. Vandiver is now making up a club for the Statesman at Eureka, and as hereafter the paper will be regularly received by mail every Saturday evening a large number will no doubt subscribe."(#4)

The Eureka post office never amounted to much.  In 1856, it did the smallest volume of business of all the ten post offices in the county.  It had net revenues of $3.18 compared to $823.03 at Columbia.  Fulkerson received a whopping $4.70 compensation for running the post office that year.(#5)  Of course, the operation probably profited Fulkerson's landing business.  The post office was discontinued on July 19, 1862, possibly due to the dangers and disruptions of the Civil War.(#6)

The main road to Eureka from the "high country" led from Ashland to the river on the Goshen church road, crossing Bonne Femme creek at Spencer's Ford just west of present day Wilton.  One could normally reach Eureka along the river road from Claysville and Burlington to the south or from Providence to the north, but during heavy flooding these bottom roads were sometimes inaccessible.(#7)

Eureka appears to have consisted of only a few buildings.  James Fulkerson's store and post office there in 1854 may well have been the only commercial enterprise other than the landing itself.(#8)  Nathan Hagans, who operated a ferry out of Marion in Cole county during the Civil War, started a grocery business at Eureka soon after the Civil War ended.(#9)  By 1868, Willis Feely also had a store in Eureka, though it may have been the same one that Fulkerson or Hagans had operated.  Feely's store was burglarized the night of May 11, 1868 and William and Richard Ray were jailed for the crime the next week.(#10)  The 1875 Boone County Missouri atlas shows four buildings right on the edge of the river.  The adjacent landowners are J.H. Bierly and B.F. Conley, though it is unknown what role either of them played in the formation of the landing.  Likewise, the 1879 Missouri River survey shows Eureka landing with only three or four structures evident.(#11)  Undoubtedly, one or two of these buildings were the typical warehouses where stores such as wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, tobacco, apples and dried peaches were kept until they were loaded onto a boat.(#12)

If Fulkerson and Hagans and Feely operated like most landing businesses in the area, they made their money by buying and selling commodities on commission.  Though business was generally profitable, proprietors could also be held responsible for goods in their care and that added some risk.

Early maps of Missouri dated 1861, 1865, 1869 and 1871 show Eureka on the Missouri river in southern Boone county, either in Section 27 or 34 of Township 46, Range 13.  No mention of Wilton occurs on these same maps.(#13)  Wilton was not used to refer to this area until the Wilton post office was begun in 1875.

Sometime between 1879 and 1898, Eureka landing was wiped out by the changing course of the Missouri River.(#14)  Its location is now under water, but even present day navigation maps of the river carry the name Eureka Bend for the bend at mile no. 162 at Wilton.(#15)    

1. [Columbia Missouri] Harold, 11 May 1896.
2. United States Post Office records, Film #MS-287, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.
3. Ramsay, Robert L., The Place Names of Boone County, Missouri (1952) 17.
4. Columbia Missouri Statesman, 2 June 1854, p.3/col.2.   The reference to Capt. Vandiver would be to Capt. A.L. Vandiver, born in Hampshire, Virginia, in 1820.  He came to Boone county in 1839 and put together large land holdings in the vicinity of Burlington, south of Eureka.  His residence is pictured in the 1875 Boone county atlas, p. 55.  He died March 27, 1877, and is buried at Goshen.
5. Colton's United States Post Office Directory, 1856,  (Reprinted 1985 by Theron Wierenga) Access # 383.42 C722, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.
6. North Todd Gentry, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, Ellis Library, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, Mo., Collection #49, Folder #139.
7. Jefferson City, MO., topographical map (Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 1894).  Copy viewed at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Dept. of Geography, Stewart Hall.
8. Columbia Missouri Statesman, 19 August 1853, p.3/col.1.
9. Columbia Missouri Herald, 24 January 1902, p.10/col.2.  This contains Nathan G. Hagans' obituary.
10. Statesman, 22 May 1868, p.3/col.2.
11. Missouri River, map, (Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., under direction of Major Chas. R. Suter, 1879 Survey).  Viewed at the Univ. of Missouri-Columbia, Dept. of Geography.
12. Gentry, Collection #49, Folder #139.
13. Fiala and Haren, New Sectional Map of the State of Missouri 1861 (St. Louis, MO: Gray & Crawford, 1861) - contained in a reprint 1979 by VKM Publishing Co., ISBN 0-916440-09-5, call # R977.8Fi viewed at Trails West Library, Warrensburg, MO.  Also Parker's 1865 Map of Missouri; Cram's 1869 New Sectional Map of Missouri; and the 1871 map to illustrate Tracey's Missouri Guide and the Missouri Gazateer published by R.P. Studley Co., St. Louis,  all viewed at the State Historical Society of Missouri,
14. Herald, 24 January 1902, p.10/col.2.  Nathan G. Hagans' obit.  We also know that the 1879 Missouri River survey shows Eureka landing, but that the 1898 Boone county atlas shows the course of the river drastically changed, covering the location of the old Eureka landing.
15. Missouri River Navigation Charts, K.C., Mo. to the Mouth,  (U.S. Army Engineer Division, Missouri River, Corps of Engineers, Omaha, Nebraska: Date unknown, but estimated 1950-1980).  Viewed at the Univ. of Missouri Columbia, Dept. of Geography, Stewart Hall.

© Copyright David P. Sapp 1993

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