Historical Highlights: Paths crossed at 2nd and Walnut streets
Railroads put Cameron on the map in the 1800s. In 1859 the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad was the first to cross Missouri and it came right through town.
Cameron soon became a crossroads for folks crossing the country from all directions. It should come as no surprise that many notable people came through Cameron as the nation grew westward. Two of my favorite, rarely told stories are about a couple people you might recognize and their journeys through Cameron.
The first story starts in August of 1859 when a little-known attorney from Illinois was travelling through Missouri by train to St. Joseph, then by riverboat to Council Bluffs. When the train came through Cameron there was no fanfare, brass bands or proclamations since the passenger wasn’t a celebrity at the time.
The train would’ve stopped for water and wood (fuel) at the old depot that was located on the south side of the tracks at what is now 2ndand Walnut. It’s now the location of the parking lot for Atkinson Welding. The rails located there today are on the same alignment that was in place in 1859, however the old depot is long gone, due to a fire in the 1870s.
A few years later in the frigid winter of 1863 a small group of travelling performers who had been appearing at Fort Leavenworth, were attempting to get back home to the east coast. They became snowbound in St. Joseph. The train they had intended on riding back east, was stuck in a snowstorm. After spending a few blustery days in St. Joseph, they decided to hire some wagons to bring them east and catch a train in Breckenridge. On the way they found themselves stopping at the Cameron train depot to rest overnight. Yes, the same depot that the other traveler had stopped at a few years earlier. The next day they continued their journey east.
Who were these mysterious unheralded travelers that stopped by our town before continuing? In August of 1859 the little known attorney from Illinois was a man named Abraham Lincoln. A few years later when a snow storm stranded a small group of actors here, they were lead by a man named John Wilkes Boothe. It’s not likely anyone would have recognized either of them at the time, but today we look back at the historical significance of these two men and realize their paths crossed at 2ndand Walnut streets.
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