The University of Missouri Press has republished a history of Louis Houck, the man whose expansion of rail in that state has seen him called the “Father of Southeast Missouri”. Authored by Joel Rhodes, A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck (2017) explores how Houck, between the 1880s and 1920s, created a track network of some 500 miles in the southeast of the “Show-Me” state. Rail opened up that region to industrialization and development.

Missouri railroad pioneer
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Overcoming the vast wetlands of southeast Missouri to extend track into northern Arkansas, Houck would create the rail lines of the St. Louis and Gulf Railway (selling the company in 1902). Houck then sought to connect his town of Cape Giradeau, on the banks of the Mississippi River, with communities to the north. The Cape Giradeau Northern Railroad was completed in 1905 and its ownership would be assumed by the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1925.

Born in Illinois in 1840 to a German immigrant family, Houck was a “Renaissance Man” in many respects. A lawyer, journalist and businessman, he also wrote a history of Missouri’s period as a territory. Houck would pass away in Cape Giradeau in 1925.

Modern-Day Cape Giradeau  (Image –

Part of the Missouri Biography Series, A Missouri Railroad Pioneer: The Life of Louis Houck runs 312 pages, with 11 illustrations. The first edition was originally released in 2008. The official link for the book can be found at MISSOURI RAIL PIONEER.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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