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Livingston County History
Celebrating 150 Years, 1821-1981
Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program
Livingston County was already past fifty years old when one of its villages emerged along the new railroad that was being built across the county. The new town was named for the post office that had recently been established for Monroe Township by a prominent attorney and congressman from the district, Henry S. Pollard. He sponsored the bill creating the new post office in 1877 and after approval, he named it Ludlow, in honor of his birthplace in Vermont.
A settlement had grown up around the churches and cemetery at Monroe Center but all buildings were moved one mile south in 1887-88 when the Milwaukee Railroad was completed. This was the beginning of Ludlow. There had been at least two earlier settlements in the township, one called Austinville and the other Bluff City. Austinville was described thusly in the Chillicothe Constitution Jan. 23, 1873.
Mr. Editor: I write from an old village that flourished in our neighborhood some 20 years ago. V.1% then, had a post office, a grocery and a “still house.” We generally met at this place once a week, bought our groceries, received our mail matter and drank, if we chose to do so, some pure rye whiskey . . .
The site of Ludlow had been the location of the old Treat School but when the railroad went through a new school was built, a more modern three room building, and the old school was sold to the Christians of the area for a church. The Baptists moved their church from the cemetery to a site across from the new school, one block west of main street.
One of the earliest stores in Ludlow was owned by Henry Walburn, James Wilson and A. A. Bryan. It carried a line of general merchandise. New homes were quickly constructed. One of the finest was built by Judge Brock and he followed this with a town hall just south of his residence.
A list of early residents of Ludlow is: Mr. and Mrs. William Harold, Mr. and Mrs. Culling, Judge Brock and Family, the Sanford Jones family, the Smith Toners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Donald (agent for the railroad), the Hatchitts, Lenharts, Miss Belle Tracy (teacher), Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bryan, Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Skinner, the Rudolph family, the Copples, the Alonzo Wells family and the Sanford Smiths.
In 1890 the population was 100. There was a hotel whose proprietor was Pierce Copple; the physician and druggist was Dr. C. O. Dewey; a general store was operated by Proctor and Wilson; a livery stable was operated by Wm. Copple; Postmaster was H. C. Snider; Justice of the Peace was R. E. Gudgell; a grocery was operated by B. H. Kile; and a grain dealer was Sanford Smith.
The R. Lee Lumber Company was organized in Ludlow in 1893 and it later expanded to Mooresville, Dawn and Chillicothe. Another line of business was the newspapers of Ludlow. There have been three: The Daily Herald, editor, C. R. Fleming, that was publishing by 1905; the Ludlow Nation; and, the Weekly Chronicle published by Martin and Miller in the late thirties. Few copies of these are still in existence.
Dr. Dewey returned to his home in Breckenridge and Dr. Fisher Johnson moved in to take the practice. He was accompanied by his brother and sister. Two other doctors who soon made Ludlow their home were Dr. George Morse who arrived in 1902 and Dr. R. W. Murray who was practicing by 1910, and who was reported to own the first auto in Ludlow.
A branch of the W. C. T. U. was organized in 1890 and continued to be active into the 1920’s. Secret organizations included the Masonic Lodge, Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Royal Neighbors, Eastern Star and Woodmen of the World.
Engineering reports were made in 1909 concerning a drainage project on Shoal Creek. The contract for building the ditch called Dredge Ditch was let August 4, 1910, and was about nine miles long starting just west of Ludlow.
The summer of 1910 saw the census enumerated by Ward A. Norman. Population of Monroe township was 992. Land was sold just south of Ludlow for $53 per acre. Hogs sold at the market in Kansas City for $9.40 and they were expecting 80-bushel corn that fall.
By 1913 there were two banks, The Farmer’s Bank with R. J. Lee president, and the First National Bank with Scott Miller president. Jo Dusenberry was cashier of the former and D. J. Ballantyne was cashier of the latter. The grain elevator was built in 1912-13 by Noah S. Warner with an interest in the business held by Jo and Elmer Dusenberry.
The local banks were each robbed. The Farmer’s Bank was robbed before 1918 and the robbers were caught quickly. The First National Bank was robbed in the ‘20’s. It appeared to be a well organized plot. Telephone lines were cut and the night operator, Mr. Fred Toner, was tied up and held. The robbers blew open the safe and got away.
In the first twenty years of the century, residents became used to automobiles for transportation. Livery stables were slowly being replaced by garages. Since the advent of the railroad local residents used the rail facilities for shipping livestock to market in Kansas City and for personal travel. It was not unusual for Ludlow residents to go by train to attend to business in the county seat by using the passenger service that took them to Chillicothe before noon and returned them to Ludlow by 4:00 p.m. Trips to Kansas City left early in the morning with a possible return by 9:00 p.m. the same day. Attendance at Kansas City auto shows, livestock shows, shopping trips and visiting were often reported. It was very easy to work in Kansas City and return home each weekend.
Fourth of July picnics, elections, family gatherings, church socials, plays and parties were the fun things people enjoyed. They worked together to make quilts, harvest grain and hay, cut wood or do the work of a neighbor who was ill or injured.
Teachers in the community in the early teen years included the following: Saide Close, Davie Critchfield, Mary Gilliland, Nettie Harlow, Ada Mossbarger, J. L. Vincent and Ethel Kinzy.
Ludlow loaned a number of her young men to the U. S. military service toward “the war to end wars.” Everett Bryan, Carl Goll, Herbert A. Ledwell, Grover Boggs, Edgar Lewis, Everett Wm. Mann, William Slater, Raymond F. Smith, Jess Ward, Frank Welker, and Ira Wells were among those who served from the Ludlow area.
The roaring twenties saw continuing growth in the area. Sports were enjoyed by the fans and participants alike. Basketball softball, baseball and croquet were the most often played. Maurice Hatchitt was the most well known pitcher in the locality.
When the depression hit late in the 20’s the First National Bank closed its doors but the Farmer’s National became the Ludlow National Bank. As banks were failing or closing to keep from failing (often more than one per day in the state) the Ludlow Bank was reported as very sound.
By the late thirties some of the businesses in Ludlow included the Ludlow Elevator owned by A. N. Bailey, The Ludlow Chronicle (published by Martin and Miller, edited by Mrs. Ray Smith), the Ludlow National Bank, Hatchitt’s Grocery, Robinson’s Grocery, Jamison Produce, Copple Oil, Ludlow Market, Ray Smith’s, the Farmer’s Store (owned by Inez Miller), Davis Cafe, Borrusch’s Drug Store, Lee Johnson’s Shoe Repair, Jess Ward Garage, the Ice Plant (managed by Grover Boggs), Ludlow Hotel (managed by Mable Stewart), R. Lee Lumber Co. and Stewart’s pool hall. The telephone office was owned and operated by Fred Toner. The railway depot was operated by Marvin Pollard who was also the local lawyer. Dr. George Morse was the physician, while the post mistress was Mabel Mossbarger and the carrier was Mr. Baker.
The spring of 1938 saw the roads being graveled from the railroad north to the cemetery, distance one mile. Traveling play troupes came through and performed plays once a week. An example was the Sid Kingdon Troupe and one of the plays was Jesse James, performed in December, 1938. By the spring of 1940 the merchants were providing free movies once a week. They were shown outside on a mowed vacant lot and each patron provided his own seat (often a blanket or quilt). Soon, the town hall purchased by H. T. Wolcott, was the location of the weekly movies and it was possible to show them year round, but inside they did cost a small sum and popcorn was available for purchase.
Fire was feared by most town business and home owners. There was no fire department or organized fire fighting plan. Most houses and buildings were wooden and the walkways in front of many businesses were wooden planks. In the brick buildings the floors were wooden and often oiled. Many businesses did burn; but, probably the worst fire occurred March 22, 1939 about midnight. The conflagration completely burned the two-story frame hotel and a brick garage. Inside the garage four autos were burned, two owned by the mail carrier, one by Ray Smith and one by Russell Toner. The businesses were a total loss but there was no loss of life.
In the summer of 1938 there was a big picnic held in honor of Dr. George Morse, the local physician who had served the community for 36 years. It was held in the Ludlow Park near the depot and there was a special register to sign for all those who attended that Dr. Morse had delivered at birth. There were more than 100 of Dr. Morse’s babies there.
World War II was costly to the community but it did unite the population in the war effort. Bond drives, Red Cross work, scrap drives for grease, metals and tin cans as well as collections of old tires and milkweed pods were made. Probably the greatest contribution of the local area was the food produced on the farms of the community.
Some of the local boys who served in the military were the following: Russel Beckley, Minnis and Virgil Buntin, John Busby, Gordon Hawkins, Charles Holden, Charles Hughes, David Hughes, Lee Johnson, Edwin Johnson, Donald, Richard and Robert Lee, J. Willard Stewart, Hubert Welker, Clifford Webb, Chancey Smith, Billy Dean Slater, and Lee Wolcott.
After the war was over several businesses burned. The ice plant was no longer needed as electricity was available to the rural population. Use of the railroads for travel also declined due to the proliferation of automobiles. Many of those who had gone to serve did not return and the town’s population slowly receded.
Today, the Ludlow National Bank, the Elevator, Post Office, Schoeller’s Market, Gladys’ Beauty Parlor, Jones’ Gas Station, the Lion’s Club, Shoal Creek Association and the Baptist Church and Community Church make up the area of downtown Ludlow. The school has been moved outside Ludlow. Ludlow High School was closed in 1951. The old school was torn down in 1979 but a consolidated school was established in 1956 to include the towns of Ludlow, Mooresville, Utica and Dawn and it has served the area almost 20 years. The new school is known as Southwest and includes grades kindergarten through senior high.
A water district has been organized and served the same area as the school district wiith safe public water service. There is fire protection provided by the volunteer fire department from Dawn but a number of local Ludlow residents are volunteers.
Present population is about 175 and the farmland is selling for about $1200 per acre. A retirement home was completed in May, 1980, and there are plans to build a sewer system.
The railroad still is in operation along the tracks of the Milwaukee but passenger trains no longer serve the area. The town and the railroad area still support each other.
-- M. S. Jones