BY State Rep. Bruce Sassmann
Missouri’s 61st District
I want to start by saying “thank you” to the city and the citizens of Gerald for being the first …
I want to start by saying “thank you” to the city and the citizens of Gerald for being the first ground-breaking along the East 144 miles of the Rock Island Trail.
This is a Historic Day. Jan. 26, 2024, will be the anniversary day to be celebrated in years to come. It will be the day recorded in newspapers and history books.
Thank you Gerald for making this day a day to remember.
I also want to thank Director Dru Buntin from the Department of Natural Resources and Director David Kelly from State Parks. Your work is very much appreciated.
Thanks to the City of Belle, the City of Owensville and Gasconade County for being leaders in trail building. Thanks to Eldon, Versailles and Cole Camp for believing in this campaign.
Thanks to individuals like Gary, Chrysa, Mark, Kim, Rick, Matt, Brent, Eric and a hundred others that are the cheerleaders for this Rock Island Trail.
All of the communities and individuals working to make this trail a reality are working for the benefit of generations of people they will never know. These communities and individuals are building on a legacy that future generations will give thanks to for their vision and their perseverance.
I grew up in one of these Rock Island Railroad towns. I remember going to the railroad depot to pick up freight, I remember jumping on empty box cars and riding between Bland and Belle. I remember walking these railroad corridors hunting rabbits, and it was long before I ever imagined the absence of trains or the transition to a trail.
I remember when our little railroad town was alive with activity. My hometown of Bland had a population of 643 when I was growing up. In that small town with those few people we had a railroad, a shoe factory, five businesses that sold bread, milk and eggs. We had three service stations that would pump gas, change oil, and fix your tires. We has two barber shops, a meat market, two drug stores, a dress shop, a mercantile where you could buy shoes and men’s suits. There was even a business that sold pianos.
My hometown along the Rock Island was not unlike the other towns along this corridor. There were towns with great feed mills and majestic churches. Every town celebrated their people and their success. Every small town has a rich and proud history and I am so proud to have lived it.
But times change, the railroad quit running, the factories closed, the big box stores caused the little mom and pop stores to close their doors. Our fast cars and our faster-moving societies raced away from and out of our little railroad towns.
Today we celebrate another shift in our culture. People are slowing down. They are parking their fast cars and walking or riding a bicycle. People are coming back to our small railroad towns and remembering history and a simpler time. Today we celebrate this great day in Gerald. I’m proud to be here. Thanks to those that invited me and thanks all of those up and down the trail that made this day possible.