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Sikeston, Missouri

Following is an excerpt from A History of Sikeston by Audrey Chaney, a book sponsored by King’s Highway Chapter of the DAR.  It was provided by Cay Sikes of Sikeston, MO and previously appeared in The Tributaries, Volume 6, #2

    After the disastrous earthquakes the seat of justice for the New Madrid District was removed to Winchester, the first town in the neighborhood of Sikeston.  It was located about where the South Wye now is, and was named for Colonel Henderson Winchester who lived in the vicinity.  Lots were sold to Daniel Sparks, Samuel Phillips, Edward N. Matthews, Stephen Ross, Thomas Phillips, John Shields Senior, and Moses Shelby.  A store was opened by Thomas Bartlett, and a tavern by Hartwell Baldwin, Later David Hunter, Mark Hardin Stallcup, and Christopher Houts were engaged in business at this place.  When Missouri was admitted to the union and the counties organized, the seat of justice was removed to New Madrid, and Winchester speedily went down.

    Mark Hardin Stallcup, who had served in the War of 1812, came to Winchester from near Springfield, Kentucky, soon after the war and engaged in business.  In 1817 he married Hannah Hunter, daughter of Joseph Hunter and it is interesting to note that he was the man who once owned the whole site of the present town of Sikeston, having bought the land from Michael F. and Luceal Taylor, his wife, on December 11, 1844.  At his death, December 11, 1848, the property went to his three children, Catherine, Lydia, and James.  Catherine married first Andrew Myers, January 9, 1840.  He lived about one year.  She then married John Sikes, January 14, 1844.  Mr. Sikes died in 1847 and much later  in life she married Judge Noah Handy of Charleston, Missouri.  James Stallcup and Lydia Stallcup Brown, the other heirs to this property, which contained the original town of Sikeston, sold their interests to John and Catherine Sikes on December 14, 1859.

    On June 9, 1853, a meeting of the citizens of Charleston was held at the courthouse to take action to secure a railroad, Judge Noah Handy was chosen chairman, and John C. Thomas secretary.  After many trials and tribulations a survey in 1856 was run from Bird's Point.  In 1857 work of construction was begun, During the summer contracts were let for the grading of the road from Bird's Point to Charleston and on October 1, 1857, the contractor, Colonel H. J. Deal threw the first s hovel of dirt.  The work was pushed forward as rapidly as circumstances would permit and on April 1, 1859, the first train drawn by the locomotive "Sol G. Kitchen" entered Charleston.  The formal opening of the road did not take place until July fourth, when a grand celebration was held.  As Abraham Hunter had sold stock in the railroad, he rode into town on the train and made the main speech of the day, The railroad had another locomotive, the "Abraham Hunter," named after him.  The work of construction continued and the road reached Sikeston in 1860.

    This road was called the Cairo and Fulton (Arkansas).  The War between t he States interrupted construction soon after.  It was not extended on to Poplar Bluff until about 1872.

    During the Civil War the government took over the railroad, and much of the rolling stock was removed or destroyed.  There was a turntable just north of the present South grade School until the fall of 1866.  The railroad passed into the hands of the State of Missouri by a sale under lien and on January 7, 1867, it was sold to McKay and Company for $350,000, The company immediately transferred it to Thomas Allen, president of the Iron Mountain Railroad.  It was extended to Poplar Bluff and known as The Cairo, Arkansas and Texas Railroad until 1874, when it was consolidated with the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad, and was known as the Cairo Branch of that system.  The people generally spoke of it as the "CAT" railroad from the initials of Cairo, Arkansas, and Texas. There are people who say that the railroad made Sikeston; others in the community argue that the growth is due to local industry.  Nevertheless, all agree that whether or not the railroad "made the town" it did give it a mighty boost in the beginning.

    John Sikes had a store where the First Baptist Church now is located, He stated in a land title: "I, John Sikes, am going' to start me a town and I am going to call it the Town of Sikeston." The original plat of the town is a matter of record in the county seat.

    John Sikes was the son of Needham and Mary Shields Sikes, previously mentioned, who lived south of Sikeston across from the present Fairview School.  John Sikes and Catherine Stallcup Sikes had one son, Needham Sikes II.   They lived directly across the road from the store, on their farm which extended to the railroad.  It stood back from the road quite a bit.

    During the War between the States there were turbulent times throughout this area.  There was a band of outlaws, called guerrillas, that roamed the country and made life miserable for the settlers.  During 1864 they came to the Sikes' store and tried to make Mr. Sikes tell them where the family money and jewelry were buried.  He refused, so they hanged him to a big oak tree in front of the store.  Mrs. Sikes, who saw the whole thing, took one hundred dollars hidden in a sack of cotton on the porch and sent it over to them by a Negro girl.  Mr. Sikes had turned quite black in the face, but they cut him down and he recovered.  The Confederate and Federal soldiers both were after the guerrillas, but somehow were never able to catch them.

    About a week later the Sikes' house was burned in the night, the family being unaware of it until the structure was falling in, Mr. Frank Boyce, a nephew of Mr. Sikes, ran in and picked up a big featherbed.  When he laid it down on the ground, two little girls rolled out of it.  One of them was the mother of this writer, Mary Catherine "Kate" Brown, and the other Ella May Brown, her sister.  Their mother, Lydia Stallcup Brown, Mrs. Sikes' sister, having died in 1863, Mrs. Sikes had taken the two little girls...

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