Like many small towns and communities nestled in rural mid-Missouri, there is an almost Rockwellian quality to the town of Lincoln.
A description of Lincoln written by Margret Davis for a class paper and published in the Lincoln Independent of March 23, 1911, states, “in an early day, when the population of south-central Missouri was sparse, the only highways of commerce and communication were the old stage routes and wagon roads, connecting the few towns that were there at the time.
“There was such a route as this between Sedalia and Springfield,” Davis wrote. “For the greater part of the year, roads were in good condition and travel was fairly easy but during the rainy season the journey was accomplished through considerable difficulty.”
More than a century later, Lincoln, although modernized, remains much as it did during its founding. A connector to Sedalia and the Lake region, the community remains one where people still wave and greet each other as they pass and where families and friends are dedicated to the welfare of others.
On the eve of the 150th anniversary, the community is preparing to celebrate its heritage during the Fourth of July weekend.
When asked to describe Lincoln, Pastor Leonard Poppe commented, “Historically, hard work, fervent religious faith, and devoted family life have characterized Lincoln.
“Years ago, it was quite a self-sustained community until the Farm Crisis of the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Poppe, one of the anniversary celebration organizers, continued. “That event brought huge changes for farming families, and many family-owned farms and businesses folded in those years.”
According to author Florence Ransdell, Lincoln was “founded as an outgrowth of an older settlement that developed around Wiley Vincent’s tavern on the Springfield road. A well-traveled stage route etched its way through the territory at that time and Vincent selected the present site of Lincoln as the location for a tavern pause for travelers on their lengthy trip between towns.”
Named for President Abraham Lincoln and incorporated in 1869, merchants established businesses in the community including a hotel, drug store, and blacksmith shop as well as the tavern.
“Close on the heels of the merchants came the first wave of families,” Ransdell wrote for the 125th anniversary of Lincoln. “Many Germans newly arrived from Europe were the first to settle.
“Mr. Fred Boehmer started a general merchandise store in the early 1880s,” she continued. “At that time, the town was divided into north and south Lincoln, the southern part being almost entirely German. The first Lutheran church stood where the present church stands today.”
Twenty years following the town’s incorporation the first school was built in 1889. Some records indicate the first school may have been built nine years earlier. Despite the discrepancy in the date, the first school was a one-room structure.
According to Ransdell, a female teacher was paid $18 a month to teach all grades in 1894. By 1917, the townspeople raised $4,000 in a bond drive for the construction of a new school.
Ransdell wrote the building was destroyed by fire. Proving their commitment to helping others, “the rest of the school term was finished out in the lodge hall and other buildings in town.”
Then, as now, the school remains a source of community pride.
“If agriculture is Lincoln's No. 1 economic driver, the Lincoln R-II School comes a close second,” Poppe said. “The school is truly a source of pride for Lincoln. Dedicated teachers produce graduates who are career and college ready. The music and sports programs have excelled in recent years.”
During the 2018-19 school year, the district’s softball team placed first in the state with the football program finishing second in the state during their respective seasons.
With the 1880 railroad expansion from Sedalia to Warsaw came more industry. The township continued to prosper for several decades.
Norman and Virginia Gerken described one such business in the town’s 125th Anniversary History Book.
“Brill & Wisdom – Attwood & Henry – this store was the mecca for all the area. They had anything and everything,” a passage reads. “The heating stove, which was in the center of the building, was the place to be every day.
“Gossip, news, deaths, marriages, politics, everything was discussed,” the couple wrote. “The colored people who lived west of town always came in to trade for groceries and to borrow from Mr. Bill and Mr. Charlie. They always sat on one side of the stove. The school kids were always welcome and were steady customers. The school bus even stopped on the way to school so they could purchase candy, pop, etc. before class.”
Many a traveler down U.S. Route 65 can recall visits to Rigby’s Truck Stop for a Sunday buffet or a visit to Estes’s Drive-In. Rigby’s was sold in the mid 1970s. The building was destroyed by fire in the early 1990s. Estes’s celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year.
The future of the town remains rooted in its citizens. With a reported population of 1,200 in 2010, the community members continue to look out for one another, according to Poppe.
“Maybe the nationally declining birthrate has bottomed. Lincoln is a great place to raise a family,” Poppe commented when asked about the town’s future. “I could see people working in Sedalia choosing to live in Lincoln.
“We are proud of Regal Beloit, and Wenig — it would be nice to see another industry or two take advantage of our workforce and location,” he added. “You will not find any historically noteworthy events in Lincoln's history, but as aforementioned, hard work, family, caring about neighbors and faith are ways in which God has blessed us.”