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History of Stronghurst
& the Railroad


Pioneers Recall Railroads
Transforming Cornfields into Villages in this County

Published in the
Stronghurst Graphic
June 20, 1935

Reproduced on the Henderson County genealogy site
with permission from
HANCOCK-HENDERSON QUILL, INC., copyright holder.

D.E.Fussell, local Santa Fe agent presided at the community meeting Thursday evening at the Farm Bureau hall in honor of Railroad Week, sponsored by all western railroads. Mr. Fussell thanked the mayor and the village board of Stronghurst for publishing the proclamation in The Graphic June 6th which complimented the Santa Fe railroad for its improved service, reduced rates, employment given local people, taxes paid this village, etc., and urged local citizens to observe Railroad Week. He also thanked The Graphic for giving favorable publicity to Railroad Week.

Saw Santa Fe Built Here

Dr. I.F. Harter, one of Stronghurst's most active citizens today, and the first purchaser of lots in the village of Stronghurst, its first physician and first postmaster, told how a cornfield was transformed into a magic village called Stronghurst when the Santa Fe Railroad was built thru here in 1888. (Stronghurst was known for years as the "Magic City" because it appeared suddenly in an area where the nearest town of size was Olena.)

Dr. Harter said: "The Santa Fe Railroad Company had an auxiliary company under the name of the Santa Fe Land and Town Site Co., which purchased several tracts of land along the route which they considered favorable locations for future towns between Kansas City and Chicago. They purchased 100 acres from Isaac Nichols and 80 acres from Mr. Dixson, deceased. Mr. Dixson, as most of you know, was the father of the Dixson brothers, George, Del and Joe. Mr. Dixson became a stockholder in this company and was appointed local agent for Stronghurst. I want to speak in the most complimentary terms of Mr. Dixson as a man of great ability, keen foresight, a kind husband, father, friend and neighbor. And I predict that if Mr. Dixson had not have met with a fatal accident on New Years Day, 1893, this village would have continued to make a rapid growth and become the county seat of Henderson County.

"Early in 1887 Mr. Dixson came to us with the information that Stronghurst was to be born early in 1888 and if we wanted to officiate on such an important occasion, we should dispose of our Carman home and make ready for the call. We did dispose of our Carman home and by the kind influence of Dixson, leased some rooms in the Nichols house from Mr. Charles Johnson, father of Frank and Waldo Johnson. We moved to our new home in November. When we arrived, we found the Fort timber north of Lake Fort full of mules, Negroes and tents. The contractors here worked mules and Negroes, and campfires in the evenings would have been weird if it had not have been for their spiritual songs.

The original town site was surveyed and platted in November and was named Stronghurst in honor of the then president of the railway company, Mr. William B. Strong who passed on August 3, 1914, and vice-president Mr. R.D.Hurst, who passed on June 10, 1879.

Dixson permitted us to erect a large office building 14 by 18 just outside and west of the town limits and when the lots were placed on sale on February 2, 1888, Mr. Dixson gave us first choice. We selected lots numbers 1 and 2, block 15. In a few days we took advantage of a six inch snow, put our office building on a couple of bob sleds and transferred it to lot number 2. March 3, 1888 we were advised that a post office by the name of Stronghurst had been established with I.F.Harter, postmaster. And this 14 by 18 was the first post office building.

The railroads have always cooperated with the people in the towns and villages along the lines. The Santa Fe has always willingly assisted in every public movement here. And the company merits our sincere thanks for the many carloads of cinders they have given for the benefit of drives in our beautiful cemetery. If it had not have been for the building of the Santa Fe, the Santa Fe hospital and shops at Fort Madison, Decorra, Stronghurst, Media, Smithshire, Ponemah and several other villages between here and Chicago would not be on the map."

Stronghurst Ships Train Cattle

George Dixson, a son of the founder of this town and a small boy when the Santa Fe was built, told of some of his experiences when Stronghurst was becoming a village. He said his father brought about a hundred head of horses from Texas and the Negroes building the railroad would try to ride the wildest of them. He told how his father and Mr. Joe Moore, the father of A.E. Moore, local contractor, were killed by a train shortly after the railroad was built when the pony they were driving lodged its foot between a wood plank and a rail at the crossing where the viaduct now is. Mr. Dixson still has the hoof of that pony which was carefully preserved. He complimented the Santa Fe upon its recent safety programs, including viaducts and signals at crossings.

Soon after the Santa Fe was built the company officials honored Mr. Dixson with a special train of sixteen cars to transport a big shipment of fat cattle to Chicago. This was the biggest shipment of cattle from one shipper to go from this vicinity.

Lauds Railroads

Chas. Fort, Jr., told of the value of the railroad to the community in bringing mail, freight, express and passengers. He said the railroads paid a large share of government expense, the Santa Fe paying in taxes to local school districts $3,000, the township $800 and the village $900 last year.





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Copyright 2006 by Connie Lovitt Bates


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