(By R. H. Ross.)
With the laying of the track of the Kansas City, Clinton & Springfield railway in the spring of 1885 there
sprang into existence along its line a number of prosperous little towns, among others Creighton. The town was
named in honor of John B. Creighton, an early settler in Cass County and a schoolmate of the late George H. Nettleton,
then president of the above named railway company.
The fact that the town was located in one of the most productive farming and stock raising belts in western Missouri,
with its inexhaustible bed of shale of a quality well suited to the manufacture of brick, tile and sewer pipe,
within one fourth mile of the railway depot, in a territory underlaid with rich deposits of bituminous coal, and
at a point midway between Clinton and Harrisonville, and almost on the dividing line between Holden and Butler,
made it certain that the new town afforded good opportunities for the wide awake business man. Nor were the business
men of the towns which had hitherto profited from the trade incident to the territory tributary to the newly laid
out town unmindful of the natural advantages possessed by it.
The well known hardware firm of Stearns and Little of Holden, Missouri, were among the first to make substantial
investment. Within one year from the time the depot was located, this firm had completed a substantial two story
brick building and began business with a line of hardware that would have been a credit to a town of one thousand
inhabitants. The R. J. Hurley Lumber Company, then of Butler, Missouri, lost no time in establishing a lumber yard
and sent Oscar Jenkins of Holden as their manager. The Duback Lumber Company also established a lumber yard and
sent G. A. Talbert of Clinton to take charge of their interests. The town of Grant, three miles north of Creighton,
moved en masse to the new town. Dayton sent A. L. Metzler to establish a drug store. Metzler built the first brick
store building, put in a nice line of drugs and continued the business for many years. He was a good druggist,
a public spirited citizen, a man of liberal education, sterling integrity and up to the time of his death in 1910
was a recognized factor in the business and educational interests of his community. Austin contributed three of
her most active and public spirited business men to help found the new town.
The railway track was laid as far as Creighton in the month of May, 1885, and in July of the same year, T. P. Shadowens,
one of the men who had done more perhaps than any other person to give Austin the enviable reputation as a moral,
educational and business center, so justly held by it, had cast his lot with the new community and had a large
mercantile establishment under full headway. Along with him came J. H. Schooley, now holding a good position with
the Department of Interior in Washington, D. C., and a little later J. H. Hubble, one of the most efficient druggists
in Cass County. Mick Miller moved his store building from Mayesburg, Bates County and engaged in the grocery business
; during the summer of 1885 Peter V. McCool with his estimable family came from Johnstown, Bates County, built
a building and engaged in the hotel business. He built the McCool House, just opposite the railway depot and for
many years conducted a hotel that enjoyed a liberal patronage and attained the reputation of being one of the best
conducted hotels along the Clinton line.
It was here that W. P. McCool, who seems to have a life tenure as agent at Harrisonville for the Kansas City, Clinton
and Springfield Railway Company, learned telegraphy under H. L. Peck. For a few years McCool served as agent at
Creighton, and it was during this time that L. M. Jones, a boy without either money or influence and with no other
educational advantages than those afforded by the country public school district of which Creighton now forms part,
came into the office with young McCool and began to learn telegraphy. Completing his study under McCool, Jones
went direct to the general offices of the Santa Fe Railway Company, where he began work in a capacity little better
than office boy. Just twenty years from the time he entered the general offices he was made superintendent of telegraph
of the entire Santa Fe railway system, a position which he still holds. The McCool family seemed to cast their
lot with the railway. There were two girls, one, Alice, is the wife of Harry L. Peck, agent for the "Leaky
Roof" at Clinton; the other, Druca, married H. H. Edmondson, well known in railway circles and who during
his lifetime always held a good position with the Frisco system.
The first store in Creighton was a little grocery owned and conducted by Charles Gregg, son of George W. Gregg,
who then owned a good farm about three and one half miles northwest of Creighton. John V. Pettigrew built the first
hotel. Jerry Goodwin of Independence, Missouri, was early on the ground and built a little house just across the
street west of what is now the Morlan Block. This building was for a time used as a boarding house and later became
the first postoffice site. Tom Brooks was among the first to get into the game with a stock of groceries, and J.
D. Brooks built the Union Hotel in the summer of 1886. W. T. Worley of Butler, Missouri erected a frame store building,
during the first year of the town's existence, and put in a line of dry goods. In the fall of 1885 Dr. Johnson,
from the old town of Grant, built a substantial brick building on the corner, afterwards occupied by George C.
Carter, and where during a period of fifteen years, more goods were sold for less money than in any establishment
in Cass County. It was in this building that Sarepta Johnson, wife of Dr. Johnson, conducted the first millinery
store. E. W. Morlan and brother, who had long enjoyed a good business at the old town of Grant, were early on the
ground with a good line of general merchandise, contesting with the newcomers from a more distant field for a goodly
share of the patronage to be accorded to the new town. J. P. Sublett erected the first two story business building
and put in a nice line of groceries. Of all the men who invested in the new town, for the amount invested, than
The first newspaper published in Creighton was The Creighton "Clipper," published by Samuel McElheny.
J. T. Carter and son, George G., came to Creighton in the early nineties and engaged in the grain business. Later
the firm engaged in the mercantile business. The senior member of the firm died in 1896, and George C. Carter became
owner of the business and for a number of years was an important factor in the business interests of the town.
The Farmers and Merchants Bank was organized in the summer of 1885, with a capital stock of fifteen thousand dollars.
Its first board of directors were J. N. McDonald, George Caldwell, W. A. Wade, Chris Goodson, James H. Creighton
and Daniel Stearns. W. A. Wade was the first president and J. N. McDonald the first cashier. A few years later
W. A. Wade sold his interest to Samuel A. Sloan and organized the Farmers Deposit Bank, with a capital stock of
ten thousand dollars. A short time after the organization of the Farmers and Merchants Bank J. N. McDonald sold
his interest and D. S. Wallis became cashier. The first school taught in Creighton was made up from private subscription,
but early in the year of 1886 a school district was organized and a two story brick building was erected. Two teachers
were employed. George M. Summers, now a Pleasant Hill lawyer, was the first principal, and Miss Breaker of St.
Louis, was his assistant. Dr. D. R. Griffith was the first to engage in the active practice of medicine. Dr. S.
S. Hughes preceded him, but gave his attention in the main to the drug business.
In religious matters the Presbyterians were the first in the new field. The denomination, previous to the founding
of the new town, had maintained an organization at Grant and had a house of worship at that place. This they moved
to Creighton in spring of 1886. Two years later the Baptist and Christian denominations each built a house of worship.
The next denomination to erect a church building was the Seventh Day Advents, who completed their building in 1908.
Since that time the Methodist Episcopal church has erected a nice brick edifice. The German-Lutherans were the
latest to establish an organization here and are now probably the most prosperous of all the religious denominations
represented. They maintain a private school and church combined where the German and English languages are taught
along with the regular eighth grade course, the minister being the teacher.
The town of Creighton was incorporated as a village in October, 1885. Samuel P. Harper, Elisha W. Norlan, Christopher
C. Cliser, I. D. Wallis and James P. Sublett were the first board of trustees. In December, 1895, the town having
attained a population of five hundred inhabitants, by proclamation made in accordance with the Missouri statutes,
became a city of the fourth class. W. H. Cochran, a skilled mechanic and for many years one of the most unique
characters to be found in the community, was the first mayor.
The length of this article will permit of little more than a mention of the names of some of the men who have left
their imprint which the lapse of time has failed to erase. V. E Halcomb's name will ever be associated with the
history of our public school. It is doubtful if Cass County ever produced a greater teacher and the four years
of his life devoted to the cause of education in Creighton left an impress in the mental and moral makeup of those
who came under his instruction which will be to them a heritage of untold value. Leaving Creighton, Halcomb went
to Liberty, Missouri, where for a period of eleven years he directed the course of the public schools of that city.
While at Liberty he was elected as superintendent of the schools at Carrollton which position he filled for two
years and after completing his work at this point he returned to Liberty and retired from the profession.
Dr. S. S. Hughes, elder in the Presbyterian church, was a factor in the moral and religious history of the early
life of Creighton. A man of small financial means and frail in body, he was devoutly religious and took a firm
stand for right and good morals wherever questions effecting the public welfare came before the people. He could
not be called a leader, but few men have lived in Creighton who exerted a greater moral force.
E. W. Morlan, W. W. Morlan and Chris Goodson built the stately brick building on the corner one block north from
the railway depot. S. E. Ball is responsible for the existence of the Ball Block, now occupied by John Bundberg
and Son. Victor Swanson tore up the old wooden sidewalks and caused them to be replaced with granitoid, and to
his energy and perseverance can be traced the origin of our electric light plant. The plaintive strains of music
seem to still echo from J. D. Mason's violin and the lovers of music will not forget that J. D. once lived in our
town, running the mill during the week and playing the violin in the church choir on Sunday. Of the men who commenced
business here when the town was organized T. P. Shadowens is the only one now actively engaged in business. Christ
Drefahl is probably our most representative German citizen, a man of extensive property interests, a fine gentleman
and a leader among the German people who are fast making this community a thriving German settlement.
I have cited briefly the history of the town of Creighton, omitting names of many who have had as much to do with
its development as some I have mentioned and omitting events and enterprizes that have in a way effected the community,
but let the foregoing suffice. I now undertake to state briefly some of the reasons why Creighton has not measured
up to the standard expected to be attained by it in the beginning.
During the first ten years of its existence the town had prospered to a degree, but not to the extent to which
it was entitled for reasons that I shall recite later, but with all the mistakes that had been made at the end
of the first ten years, it was the best town between Clinton and Harrisonville. Opportunity had certainly knocked,
but factional strife and selfish greed had closed the door and the master of human destinies had passed unheeded.
We hope Ingals was wrong when he said "Opportunity never knocks but once." How often has a false step
in early childhood ruined a life that had ever promise of becoming of great moment to the community and sometimes
to State and nation ; likewise towns which are after all naught but aggregations of individuals from like mistakes
suffer similar disaster. Scarcely had the stake been driven designating the location of the railway depot when
two factions sprang into existence, and each faction wanted to dictate the line of procedure which the new community
When the first bank was organized, if the stockholders could have been selected so as to interest the leading men
who possessed the capital so necessary to the development of the new community, much would have been accomplished
towards uniting the community and both the bank and the new town would have been placed on a much firmer basis.
But a controversy arose growing out of personal disagreements and dislikes more than anything else, which forfeited
the support of the strongest men, financially with the result that their influence and money went to Garden City.
Not only did the bank suffer from the loss of money that would have been controlled by it, had the wealthier men
who were left out been included in its organization, but doubtless the loose method of conducting banking business
would have been checked, and the greatest disaster that ever came upon the town would have been avoided. The bank
closed its doors in October, 1895, a little more than ten years after the town was founded.
There was no exception to the general rule that with business disaster everything that affects the welfare of man
languishes. It was soon discovered that the depositors would suffer practically a total loss of the money which
they had intrusted to its keeping. Nothing will enrage a community more than having the money they have toiled
for taken from them by an institution, managed and controlled by men in whom they had recently the greatest confidence.
Interest in school, church and public enterprise sank to a degree hardly possible to conceive. The prestige of
the town was sacrificed. Men who had lost money in the bank were ready to charge the whole community with trickery
and dishonesty. For more than three years things drifted towards chaos, and while more than twenty years have elapsed
since that disaster, you may yet find a few distempered individuals who are still trying to find a few new "cus"
words in order to give vent to their feelings.
Six months after the Farmers and Merchants Bank closed its doors, the agitation, which waxed warmer with the lapse
of days and the discovery of illegal practices, caused the Farmers Deposit Bank to close its doors and the town
was left without a bank. The Farmers Deposit Bank paid its depositors in full, principal and interest, and thus
W. A. Wade, who was president of the institution, vindicated himself before the people; but his advanced age made
it impossible for him to come forth as a leader to better things, financially. The towns on either side, not unnaturally
took advantage of the adversity that had befallen Creighton. Enraged depositors who had lost their money readily
found words of encouragement to lend their influence to the support of a community that had never taken money without
rendering value received. It was tauntingly said, and with much truth, that our institutions were all without money
and our prosperity had been built up on watered stock and hot air.
But the bank disaster was not the only impediment that the new town had to contend with. Creighton is just three
and one half miles north of Grand River, which forms the dividing line, at this point, between Bates and Cass Counties.
Forty per cent. of the trade which rightfully belongs to Creighton should come from Bates County. Grand River bottom
has always been a great hinderance and has much impeded the development of the town. When the bridge over Grand
River was built, three roads led to it from the south. Each of the roads cross the bottom at some place, and the
bottom is one mile wide. It was early recognized by all parties that a good road from the upland of Bates County
to the bridge was essential to the development of the town. The bone of contention was and still is, where should
the road be built. One group of people contended for the center road, one for the west and still another for the
east road. A sum of money was raised sufficient, had it all been spent on one route much would have been done towards
accomplishing the desired end, but the money was divided between the adherents of the center and west road, with
the result that little of a permanent nature was accomplished. Had the people been united, the money spent on one
road and a few hundred dollars added when needed, we would now have a good road to Bates County.
Grand River bottom was not the only road impediment. There are men of good business judgment in most things, who
know the value of farm land and property of every description and have a liberal education, but when it comes to
a question of public highways, use less judgment than a child. Just one half mile west of Creighton there is a
high elevation or bluff that is on the section line along which the public road runs, which leads to town from
the west. This hill or bluff is perhaps fifty or sixty feet high, of clay and limestone formation and so steep
that it is almost impossible to establish a reasonable grade over it. The owner of the land adjoining the road
offered for the sum of fifty dollars to grant a right of way around the hill which would avoid all but a moderate
grade and make the distance less than two hundred and fifty yards further, but the stanch old fanner who controlled
the situation insisted that the road should remain on the section line. More than a thousand dollars have been
spent trying to establish a road over the hill and while a great deal of work has been done it will require a much
larger expenditure to make a good road on the line. The foregoing are only a few of the many mistakes made during
the early life of the town. Had the early inhabitants of the town foreseen the evil effects of their folly, doubtless
many of the mistakes would have been corrected and Creighton would, today, have been a town of more than one thousand
inhabitants and among the first in the county as a business center.
Notwithstanding the many mistakes made and the disasters that have befallen it in the past, Creighton is at this
writing, a good business town. As brute strength in a mortal combat will finally overcome scientific training,
so must natural endowment outstrip artificial pretenses. After thirty years have elapsed since the founding of
the town the seeming insurmountable things which have long retarded its growth are at last to be solved. The banking
business is now in the hands of well trained business men with the wealth and influence of the entire community
giving them full support. Grand River bottom is to be drained within the next few years and when the bottom is
drained the question of a road to Bates County, the greatest problem with which the town has had to deal will be
solved. Already steps have been taken that will give Creighton a good road from the west. The town is on the line
of the Clinton and Harrisonville County Seat Highway and the Osage Valley Trail passes through the city limits.
More work has been done to improve the roads in its vicinity in the last three years than in any other community
in the county.
The town has an excellent school building with four large commodious school rooms, a like number of cloak rooms,
a good basement and during the present season will be made modern in every respect. The school board employs four
teachers. The work done has the approval of the state board of education and school spirit is fast reviving. The
churches and Sunday schools are well attended; social life is on a high plain and the lawless element that at one
time gave the town an undeserved reputation, is no longer in existence. The farms surrounding the town are fast
passing into the hands of thrifty German farmers and our business houses are enjoying a fine trade. Our clay industry
which has languished for the last few years on account of the fire which destroyed the plant is being re established.
It is only a question of a short time when our coal mines will again be in operation and with the development of
the farming, stock, poultry, mining and manufacturing interests have we not a good right to expect Creighton to
make rapid progress in the near future.