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.’