Queen of the Prairie
Monroe City, located where the three counties of Monroe, Marion and Ralls intersect, was layed out in 1875 by Mr. E.B. Talicott. Talicott had earlier been in a partnership with a Mr. John Duff concerning the building of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. This knowledge allowed him to ascertain where stations would be needed along the railroad. One of these stations was called Monroe Station, later Monroe City. On July 4, 1857 at a public barbecue, a public sale of lots took place. Almost immediately houses and businesses began to be built and by the close of that year a small town was beginning to emerge.
Talicott shortly thereafter severed his ties with Monroe Station when he made a deed of trust to John L. Lathrop giving him the power to make deeds and convey all of the land which could be sold in the town. One of the earlier deeds was made by Lathrop to the Monroe Institution for a plot of ground on which was built the Monroe Institute. The school was opened in 1860.
As the dark clouds of the Civil War approached and began to envelop the nation, it also had a profound effect on the small town of Monroe Station. It was centered around the Monroe Institute and it was the only battle in Monroe County in which cannons were used. A young Colonel in the Union Army also had an indirect part. His name was Ulysses Grant. The engagement was a union victory. As the war moved on and eventually ended, the small town of Monroe Station evolved into Monroe City in 1869.
Early expansions to the town were the Piersol and Bailey’s additions. Dr. Elijah Bailey, who came to Monroe Station in 1852, was responsible for the MK&T Railroad to run through Monroe. The Monroe City Bank and many other businesses began to locate and prosper here. Bailey was also the first Mayor of Monroe City.
In 1876 the town had a population of about one thousand. It had thirty two stores and schools. In 1871, the Hannibal and Central Missouri Railroads were completed between Hannibal and Monroe, Missouri. This line was leased to the Toledo, Wasbash and Western Railway Company. The two railroads enabled farmers and merchants to acquire and ship products to all parts of the country.
In 1898 Henderson Produce Company was formed. This business played a pivotal role in the growth of the town and a vital role in World War II when its poultry products were shipped all over the world. Monroe City continued to grow with the help of additional businesses. The two most important enterprises that led to growth and prosperity were Monroe City Diecasting known as Kuhlman Diecasting owned by L.O. Kuhlman. By 1951, the company employed 125 people. By 1957 much of their defense work ended and the workforce was cut in half. As the company changed, the workforce expanded the economic impact on Monroe City was greatly enhanced. Kuhlman Diecasting continued until Pace Industries leased the factory in 1990. In 1996 Pace Industries was acquired by Leggett and Platt. Recently Pace reacquired the factory from Leggett and Pace Aluminum Group. The recent economic downturn has made the future of Pace Industries uncertain.
A second major diecasting and diecasting factory was founded in 1960 by Don Westhoff, Albert Spalding and George Spalding. Its original purpose was to establish a tool and die shop to assist diecasting enterprises in the mid west. In 1973, the City issued bonds for the construction of a facility located on 9 acres of land at 801 Second Street. In 1990, Diemakers was sold to Kanematsu, USA. There were 650 people in its workforce. By 1998, their employment reached 1,185 people located in Monroe City, Palmyra, and Hannibal. This factory has also suffered from economic downturns and has since been sold. It now operates as Missouri Metalcraft.
Monroe City has endured both downturn and prosperity during its time. The town has survived the Civil War, the depression of 1874 and 1929, two world wars and the present difficulties. The faith that the people have showed has always been our backbone. The people and City look on our future with hope and a resolute confidence that we will be here for many more years.