Birmingham, Missouri

I hinted yesterday that I might write about the Birmingham mentioned in the title of that story.  I will keep my promise.  Today, I will attempt to tell what little we know about a place that once existed on maps called Birmingham, Missouri.  Most of the information I have today is from a piece of research done by Edison Shrum in 1992 called A Brief History of Birmingham – Perry County, MO. 

Brief History of Birmingham Schrum

You will notice on the cover of this piece of research that the place identified as Birmingham points to a piece of land owned by Walter Gerler, one of the sons of yesterday’s character, Christian Gerler, who I referred to as the Mayor of Birmingham.  You can also see that Birmingham was located at the point where the Apple Creek empties into the Mississippi River.

The early history of this piece of land shows it was in the hands of several people.  The first evidence of its ownership was when Pierre Menard of Kaskaskia, is shown as being the owner of this Spanish land grant.  In 1834, five years before our German Lutheran ancestors arrived in Perry County, it was obtained by John Logan.  Then in 1836, the land was transferred to Amzi Osborn.  Not long after that, the land was purchased by John Scudder in 1837.

In 1847, a group of investors from St. Louis who organized under the name, The St. Louis and Birmingham Iron Mining Co, became interested in this land.  There were two transactions, one in 1847 and another in 1848, that placed the ownership of this property in the hands of that company.  In 1849, the Missouri state legislature approved the incorporation of this company “for the purpose of manufacturing iron, and such other metals as may be found on their lands.”

Even before the land was purchased by this company, John Scudder had a town platted, and it was given the name Birmingham.  John Scudder’s plat map is shown below.

Plat map of Birmingham 1

When The St. Louis and Birmingham Iron Mining Co. obtained the land, they also had it platted.  Below is that map.

Plat map of Birmingham 2

In 1850, an advertisement was placed in a Cape Girardeau newspaper, The Western Eagle, which was titled, “Great Sale of Town Lots at Birmingham in Perry County, MO”.  Here is a portion of that advertisement.

Newspaper article Cape Girardeau sale of Birmingham lots

The sale of lots was not very successful.  All along, the company had hoped to extract a large amount of iron ore from their land.  They relied on some earlier reports that such iron ore might be located there.  The nearby iron works in Grand Tower, Illinois just north of Birmingham, was also interested in acquiring iron ore from a location so close by.  The image below shows the iron works in Grand Tower during its heyday.

Iron Works Grand Tower IL
Iron Works – Grand Tower, IL

The bottom line is that very little iron was found in the area around Birmingham, and the development of this village never got off the ground.  About the only evidence we have of a town being developed in Birmingham comes from a biography of George Neubeck found in Goodspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri.  It is shown below.

George Neubeck bio Goodspeed
George Neubeck biography – Goodspeed

There are two gravestones to be found on the Birmingham land.  First, here is the gravestone of the daughter of Amzi Osborn.

Amzi Osborn gravestone Birmingham

Next, we see the gravestone of John Scudder.

John Scudder gravestone Birmingham

I am going to display portions of several early maps of Missouri which show this area where the Apple Creek empties into the Mississippi River.  I will display them in chronological order.  The first one was a map produced in 1846, even before The St. Louis and Birmingham Iron Mining Co. obtained the property.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1846

I find it interesting that on this map, it shows a road going from Perryville to Birmingham and then on to Cape Girardeau.  I have never heard of a road actually existing there, but if there was such a land shown on a map, it certainly would have given the impression that Birmingham was a prime location right along the river with a road connecting Perryville to Cape Girardeau.

The next map of this area was made in 1865.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1865

This map has several more towns identified, including Wittenberg, Altenburg, Seelitz, and even Dresden (Rememeber that Gerard Fiehler calls me the Mayor of Dresden).  Abernethy was where Longtown in now located.

Next, here is one produced two years later in 1867.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1867

This is might be the only one on which I have seen the Devil’s Bake Oven displayed.  That is where the early settlers dropped off Rev. Martin Stephan when he was exiled to Illinois.

The next one was made in 1874.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1874

This map is very similar to the one shown earlier from 1865.  However, I display it because it is the latest one I could find which displayed Birmingham.

The next one from 1879 no longer shows Birmingham.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1879

New Wells, Frohna, Union, and Longtown show up  on the above map.  Friendlytown shows up north of Perryville.  Anyone ever heard of that one?

I will also show two maps from the 1880’s, mainly because I found them interesting.  The one below was produced in 1886.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1886

On this one, you see Uniontown, both Longtown and Abernethy, Schalls, and Brazeau.

Finally, here is a map made in 1889.

Missouri map including Birmingham 1889

Lovejoy is a new one that shows up on this image just below what was once Birmingham.  We also see Seventy-Six being identified.

I am sure many of you will notice other interesting things in this selection of maps.  I know I found them fascinating.  The story of Birmingham is also a fascinating one that is not that well-known around here.  We can also be thankful to have Edison Shrum’s research to help us understand Birmingham’s history.

This is Fair Week around here.  I am going to include a gallery of photos showing what our fairgrounds look like these days.  A lot of preparations have gone into welcoming the thousands of visitor that will show up in Altenburg this weekend.  The thumbnails can be clicked to enlarge.







2 thoughts on “Birmingham, Missouri

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