On July 4, 1860, William Roberts entered into an agreement to deed forty acres of his land to the Chariton & Randolph Railroad Company. Later, Elijah Williams also sold twenty-five acres to the railroad. Both men received fifteen dollars per acre. Mr Williams’ home was built in 1859 and is located at 125 South Fifth, at the head of Burkhart. That makes it, most likely, the oldest house in Moberly that is still standing. The railroad company agreed to construct a line running west from the place where this land was intersected by the North Missouri Railroad and to lay out and plot a town site at the junction of the two roads. This is the Coates Street crossing of today.
At this time the only station within reach of the proposed junction was Old Allen, with a few houses and a post station located where the North Missouri crossed the old stage line plank road between Glasgow and Paris. In the summer of 1861 the Chariton and Randolph Railroad Company offered to all the residents of Allen who would move to the new site the same amount of land they owned and occupied in Allen.
Only Patrick Lynch, an Irish man, accepted the offer. He and his neighbors placed two long timbers under his small frame house. One end of each timber lay on the ground while the other end rested upon the axle of the detached front wheels of an ox-wagon. After hitching ten yoke of oxen to each pair of wheels, the drivers cracked their whips and moved the house southward. The house was set at the southeast corner near what is now Reed and Clark Street. Patrick Lynch, his wife, and six children lived there through the Civil War days.
April 28, 1864, saw the sale of the Chariton and Randolph Railroad Company to the North Missouri Railroad Company. The Civil War ended in April 1865, and the new owner of the railroad began making preparations to hold a lot sale. This sale was held on September 27th, 1866, and is considered the birthdate of Moberly.
On this date, free excursion trains ran from both the northern and eastern sections of the road. Many families came in ox carts, a few arrived in carriages, and others on horseback. A free lunch was spread on the land just north of what is now the Coates Street railroad crossing. After lunch, the auction began and the lots began coming up for bid. Comparatively few lots were sold that day. However, the railroad did deed lots 11 and 12 in block 12 to Patrick Lynch, since he had “held the city during the war without the loss of a life or a house.”
Moberly was named for Col. W.E. Moberly, who was a resident of Brunswick. He was the first president of the Chariton and Randolph Railroad Company.
A few other houses were built after the lot sale in 1866; however, it was decided to hold a second lot sale in the summer of 1867. After the second sale, more investors began to move in and growth was rapid.
On May 25, 1868, the Randolph County court organized and incorporated the town of Moberly.
The rest, as they say, is history. However, the biggest boost to the population of Moberly came when the railroad agreed to build their shops here. Moberly grew so rapidly, that it became known as “The Magic City”. That was because it seemed to spring up from the prairie like magic!
In 1872, the trustees of our city gave the railroad company 200 acres of land laying between the west branch and the main line for the erection of the machine shops. They also donated 618 acres one and one-half miles west of the tract and exempted the entire amount from city taxes for twenty years. The construction began almost immediately. The round house was 300 feet in diameter and had stalls for sixty locomotives. The machine shops, where engines and cars were built and repaired awas 120 x 216 feet in dimension. In the rear of this building was the brass foundry, 30 x 50 feet. A two-story building , 60 x 200 feet housed the general offices of the master mechanic and master car builder. There was also a paint shop, a car shop, and the planning mill. Beyond these were the carpenter shops where railroad bridges were fabricated. The buildings were all of brick, capped and finished with Grafton stone, and covered with slate. These shops employed 1200 laborers at this time.
Fast forward to the present. Moberly has grown, had its successes and failures. It has been home to both the famous and the infamous. But, mostly Moberly has been a nice place to raise a family and call home. In 1966, the 100th birthday was celebrated with a year-long party. Citizens who were just children or teenagers at the time recall fond memories of that event and now are planning an event to celebrate Moberly’s 150th birthday in 2016. The official name for such an event is Sesquicentennial. Since that is not the easiest word to pronounce, the celebration will be simply known as The Moberly 150.