Marion City: What could have been was doomed from the start
January 1, 2015
This marker stands at what was once the junction of Eighth and Railroad streets in Marion City, near the current BASF plant. Becker Spaun, who researched the fledgling town while a college student in the late 1960s, said that Eighth Street was parallel to, and eight blocks from the river, and Railroad Street, which ran east to west, intersected Eighth Street. A railroad was to be constructed from Marion City to San Francisco, Calif., featuring wooden rail with metal on top. The tracks were laid from Marion City to the bluff near what is now Route 168. A flood in 1834 or 1835 washed the tracks away and ended the dream of this Marion County Metropolis. This sign is at the current intersection of Marion County Routes 413 and 411. MARY LOU MONTGOMERY, FOR THE COURIER-POST
By MARY LOU MONTGOMERY For the Courier-Post Posted Dec. 31, 2014 @ 7:17 pm
Editor’s note: Becker Spaun, brother of retiring Courier-Post editor Mary Lou Montgomery, majored in history at then-Northeast Missouri State College in Kirksville during the late 1960s. He wrote a term paper on Marion City, a doomed-hamlet built upon soggy soil in the Bay Island area just south of what is now BASF. Last weekend, Spaun and Montgomery traveled the gravel roads east of Route 168, and rediscovered the marker that denotes the former intersection of Routes 413 and 411, in the town of Marion City.
Marion City is a development that has drawn chuckles throughout the years. On paper, the town looked promising, and investors from “back East” were drawn to its potential.
Early Hannibal and Marion County authors paint a complete portrait of the failed town, including E.F. Perkins, who published “History of Marion County Missouri” in 1884; Thomas Bacon who wrote the the history for “Mirror of Hannibal” in 1909; and Hurley and Roberta Hagood, authors of “Story of Hannibal” in 1976.
A condensed version of the town’s development was published in the Quincy Daily Journal on Feb. 14, 1914. This capsule exerpted from a longer story lends flavor to a development dream that was doomed from the beginning.
Quincy Daily Journal
Feb. 14, 1914
“Mr. Muldrow, while engaged in the establishment of Marion college, held his prolific mind active with another scheme in which there was, to him, prospective millions, which was the founding of another town in Marion County; contemplating that it would ultimately become a large city – the metropolis not only of Missouri, but of the West.
“The site selected by Mr. Muldrow for his city was on the Mississippi river – about equal-distant between Quincy and Hannibal and six miles east from Palmyra. Here, some years previously, a Dr. Green had established a steamboat landing, which was but little frequented, but which became known as ‘Green’s Landing.’ The Mississippi bottom at this point was three miles wide, was low ground and subject to annual inundations of several feet in depth. The bottom grounds were knee deep in mud and mire the greater part of the year, when not covered with water, rendering them almost impassable, unfit for human habitation and entirely unfit for a city; the locality abounded in frogs, crawfish and mosquitoes, with turtles plenty and water snakes galore.
The Quincy Daily Journal article continued: “And Col. Ben Davies, and Matthew Fletcher and other wiseacres of a later period used frequently to remark, ‘If the land of the Marion City prairie between the Mississippi river and the South river bluffs had been 10 feet higher, the place would have been the banner city of the West, and Chicago and St. Louis would have continued to be small cities, and their size in keeping with Hannibal, Quincy and Keokuk.’