Picture of Main Street Fillmore. (Dated before 1920????)
The following article is taken from “Lives Interrupted”, written by Marvin W. Shores (1921-2002). It was written as a tribute to a relatively large group of young men from the small rural Midwest town of Fillmore and its’ surrounding community that were World War II veterans. We have included just the Fillmore history section at this time.
Marvin grew up in Fillmore, before leaving to join the Navy. After marrying his wife, Jackie, he came back to Fillmore for short time in the early 1950’s, but later moved to California. While living in Fillmore, his two children Marilyn Diane and Alan Murray were born. He was always proud of his heritage in Fillmore and stayed interested in the area and its people.
Fillmore History from “Lives Interrupted”
Why did the town of Fillmore evolve where it did? As the new world developed, particularly in North American, immigrants and pioneers initially congregated, early on, generally in such places as protected seaports and river crossings. Many of these concentrations of people eventually evolved into major cities. Many other settlements, villages, towns and small cities, developed around railroad fuel/water stops, at or near mines, near natural springs and adjacent to military forts or outposts. Many towns and small cities that appear on the maps do not fit any of these categories. Fillmore is an example. Probably most of them were established for the convenience of the surrounding farm communities. There is evidence that some settlements were established along wagon trails at overnight rest points which no doubt had a source of water and eventually supply stores and even other services such as blacksmith, harness repair and food rations. This might explain why Fillmore appears on the map.
This small town, located in northwest Missouri about 2 miles north of the 40th parallel, was initially call Greasy Site, then later Newark (or New Ark) and finally Fillmore. Greasy Site in the early 1800’s probably was an overnight stop on a wagon trail long before roads were established along north-south and east-west section lines. There is evidence that a trail once existed roughly in the direction of north-northwest and south-southeast along what is near the eastern boundary of Fillmore. The depression left by this trail was traceable both north and south of town in the thirties. Today a section of this trail is easily viewed by stopping at the first creek bridge north of town and looking south and left at the hillside. It appears likely that the trail originated in the city of St. Joseph. It has been suggested that the Amazonia Road, which terminates at the 275 (now 59) Highway, was laid out on or along an early wagon trail. It is probably that the same trail continued on to the settlement that evolved into the present town of Fillmore. A further theory suggests that the trail was routed north-northwest on toward a Nodaway river crossing maybe near Maitland and then continued on eventually to Council Bluffs. At some point in time a branch of the trail may have extended west from the Greasy Site settlement to a ford on the Nodaway near the present bridge and an early location of a hotel/stagecoach stop. The area around the east border of Fillmore is a high point on the surrounding terrain. It is roughly 20 miles from the St. Joseph and logically a probable overnight stopping point for wagon trains and stagecoaches.
Fillmore was always isolated from the railroads by at least 7 miles and at least 4 miles from two interstate highways. Yet in the 20’s and 30’s it was a thriving town because of this isolation and the numerous small self-supporting family farms in the area during that period. It was not unusual for the town to be temporarily cutoff from the rest of the world by muddy roads or snow drifts and even downed telephone lines. The road east to hwy. 71 became an “all weather road” after being coated with gravel in the early 30’s (almost all weather road if you exclude snowdrifts). In bad weather many families, living on small farm in the surrounding area still relied on the horse and buggy or wagon to reach town to bring in their eggs and cream and return home with their weekly supplies. Because of occasional isolation due to bad weather and the relatively low number of automobile owners in the community, the town of Fillmore could support many services.
At times, during the 20’s and 30’s, there were 4 grocery stores, 4 churches, 3 doctors, a dentist, 2 veterinarians, a classic drug store/pharmacy, 4 gas stations, 2 auto repairs garages, a blacksmith, a feed store, a funeral home, a clothing store, 2 hardwares, a shoemaker, a print shop (published the “Fillmore Gem” weekly newspaper), 3 barber shops, a new car dealer, a lumber yard, 1-12 school, two banks, many truckers, 2 ice vendors, a post office, 3 lodges, a hotel, an opera house, movie theatre, a stage show theater, a summertime Saturday night square dance with local musicians and caller (occasionally Arthur George), Dr. Holiday’s city park (just east of the lumber yard) the location of an occasional talent show and free merchant supported movies, a boy scout troop, a 4H Club, a telephone central operator, a cold drink stand, a slaughter house and two 60 foot hitching racks. Items that were unavailable in Fillmore could be ordered out of either the “Monkey” Ward or Sears and “Sawbuck” catalogues.
There were about 300 town residents plus many supporting patrons within and beyond the Jackson Township, roughly a radius of 4 to 5 miles that proudly claimed this small town of Fillmore as their hometown. Normally the biggest event of each day, weather permitting was the 9 a.m. arrival of mail from Savannah. The receipt of a catalogue order could make your day.