Application to Lawrence Scripps Wilkinson Foundation
Collection of Famous Trains
Brief Narrative History of Bevier, Missouri,
Bevier’s first settlers, English and Welsh nationalities, filed a claim for the city in 1858, using land donated by Lewis Gilstrap. Named for Colonel R. S. Bevier, a Civil War commander, the town emerged through years of industry, work, and miracles into the prosperous days of coal mining boom town and into its present status of a friendly, small village.
Alex Rector’s accidental pick stroke created the impetus for the town’s record-breaking coal production. While digging for water, he found coal, the black diamond of the Midwest. In 1862-63 the railroad began to take an active part, sinking a shaft near the depot to utilize steam to hoist coal. During the 1870’s through the early 1900’s many more shafts were sunk, including the state record breaking Mine Number 68. The town welcomed immigrants from Italy, Germany, and many other countries to enrich the city with their natural desire for success and achievement. Through it all the railroad emerged as a vital lifeline for industry, commerce, and trade. Before the days of the railroad, the town existed through struggling attempts to unite with the outside world. Stage coach roads were often threatened by winter storms, spring floods, boggy bottom lands, and washed out bridges. The passengers faced raids by Missouri Indians, as well as the natural dangers of land travel. However, on February 16, 1847, the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad was chartered to build between the cities and provide a short-cut between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Coupled with Alex Rector’s chance discovery and the entrepreneurial spirit of Thomas Wardell, the railroad began shipping coal, and history was set into motion.
The Bevier and Southern (B&S) Railroad began in northeast Missouri prior to 1898, operating as a coal spur from Ardmore to Excello, where it connected with the Wabash Railroad. For many years the B&S operated to haul coal and also the two round trips daily passenger trains. Its usual passenger list included seven miners’ cars and coach, number 204. The line, enhanced by a Roundhouse and Slackwasher, continued well into the 1900’s, with more than sixteen miles of main line. It connected to six miles of mine tracks and had up to 80 steel coal cars, two flat cars, and five modern steam engines. Although the railroad did not continue to carry huge loads of coal, it continued for several years. Today the Bevier community nurtures a giant steam engine, carefully and ceremoniously located on its main street. This train engine remains a loving tribute to the men and women who mined, worked, and cherished the town during those famous early years. Currently a freight train, the Burlington Northern, slices through Bevier daily, continuing the tradition of railways through the countryside.
The community has a strong religious background, which helps hold it together throughout times of adversity and prosperity. Churches today include the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Bevier First Baptist Church, Church of Christ, and Bevier Congregational Church.
Although the town has seen a decline from the glorious “boom town” days, it continues to maintain a growing number of independent businesses. The town has a branch bank, a wonderful grocery and meat market, three restaurants, two convenience/gas stations, a US Post Office, a RV and mobile home park, a doctor’s office, several gifts and antiques shops, beauty shops, automotive repair, carpentry, and other businesses. Each year in August a Bevier Homecoming celebration includes family reunions, local and Nashville entertainment, carnival expos, parade, and other social events. This annual event in its sixtieth year marks the town’s desire to keep in touch with those who moved away following the demise of the coal boom.
Bevier continues to prosper as a small, rural community in Missouri. Its school system, initiated in rural schools and churches during the 1850’s, evolved to the current building located on Bloomington Street. For most Bevier graduates, the history of the town is undeniably linked with the railroad as students have studied the railway’s impact and posed for many pictures with the giant steam engine on their city street. The Bevier Wildcat athletic teams are proud of their heritage, as well. They boast several victories in baseball, softball, and basketball, including state championships and personal records established by graduates. The educational sense of pride remains uppermost as the school has earned several honors of scholastic distinction during the past decades.
Members of the town, former graduates, and local citizens joined together to create the Black Diamond Preservation Organization in 1991. Its goal: To organize, preserve, and maintain Bevier History and to further education of tomorrow’s citizens. The primary location of this preservation centers on the Black Diamond Building, a former lodge. Inside a visitor will find beautifully carved woodwork and examples of old brickwork. The structure is used for community events, the annual Christmas extravaganza, wedding receptions, Proms, and other events. All events maintain careful respect of the treasured artifacts of Bevier history. Black Diamond members have also integrated a variety of display cases and preserved shelving to showcase the illustrious past. This building will house trains donated by your fine organization if you choose to honor our town’s railroad heritage with such a fine gift. The building has excellent care and is maintained for the purpose of community education and service.
The Wilkinson Foundation seems to be a special kindred spirit to this town. The spirit of collecting, of historical modeling and accuracy, and of generosity exhibited by your foundation would be a perfect complement to the efforts of our local citizens to enhance this community during its Sesquicentennial celebration this year of 2008. We are so grateful to have heard of your organization, and we are eager to hear your decision regarding this grant of application for model trains. Enclosed is a copy of our non-profit status, photos of our town, the Black Diamond building where the train(s) would be housed, and other sites of community interest. For further notices of our town’s history and Sesquicentennial events, you may link to our blog: www.beviersesquicentennial.blogspot.com