History of Dexter

Dexter and the surrounding area are rich in history from the early 1800’s to the present.

The Original Town of Dexter

Dexter was planned by the Cairo, Arkansas and Texas Railroad Company, also known as the CAT Line (Cairo to Arkansas with the dream of going to Texas). The streets were named by the railroad company. They followed the usual pattern by naming streets for trees. Walnut Street was the central north-south street with Locust, Elm and Poplar to the east and Mulberry, Sassafras and Catalpa to the west. North Main was north of the railroad and South Main was south of the railroad. The next street south was Stoddard. The person who mapped the town had anticipated the town would move north. After North Main, came Market Street, Castor Street, then St. Francois Avenue. (Maps are available at the Heritage Museum.) These streets have retained their names with few changes. One Mile Road is supposed to be one mile from the center of Walnut Street, the center street of the original town, Two Mile, Three Mile, etc.

Mobile Station, Dexter, 1913

Sharing Dexter’s History

Compiled by Revalee Minton

The original map of the town of Dexter was filed in St. Louis County in 1873 by Thomas Allen, president of the Cairo, Arkansas and Texas Railroad Company. However, many settlements in the area already existed. After the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, land was surveyed and An Act of Congress of the 24th of April 1820 entitled “An act making provision for the sale of public lands” was passed.

Jackson, Missouri, was the location of the Register of the Land Office for this area. James Dowdy (father of Sibble Dowdy Crytes) purchased 40 acres Certificate #8334 in 1843 and 120 acres Certificate #14460 in 1853. These are recorded in Book 25, pages 597-598 Stoddard County Land Records. Ridgetop Acres are part of these lands. 

Dexter: A Pictorial History

A Glimpse of the Past

We are indebted to Mrs. Veda Ladd Oliver for her writing of the history of Dexter. The town had been in existence a little over 50 years at the time she wrote her story. Her information source included people who were actually present at the sale of Dexter’s first lots on July 4, 1873.

Today we have access to information filed in the Missouri State Archives and the Missouri State Library. This information provides us with the history of “our” first railroad. In 1859, in Bloomfield, Missouri, a newspaper, The Herald, was published by A. B. Bedford of Charleston, Missouri. Its main objective was the promotion of building a railroad from the Mississippi River westward. The railroad was begun and by 1860 was completed to Buffington.

The coming of the Civil War stopped most railroad building. Many of the railroads in existence were damaged and had to be repaired. The interest in railroads continued but the difficulty in getting rails caused the location of the roads to be more selective. A line was completed from St. Louis to Pilot Knob before the war. This road was one selected to be completed southward to Arkansas with a dream to go to Texas. This was the Cairo and Fulton line. April 2, 1873, was the day of the first run of a train from St. Louis to Moark. Thomas Allen acquired the Missouri part of the Cairo and Fulton lines in 1867. The Cairo, Arkansas and Texas Railroad Company was formed May 16, 1872. It received the old Cairo and Fulton property from Allen.

Also acquired was the old Cairo and Fulton Land Grant of about 65,000 acres. Thomas Allen was the president of the Company. This company was formed for the purpose of connecting the river port on the Mississippi with the terminus at Poplar Bluff. This was a line approximately 72 miles in length with about 30 miles completed by 1860.

Believed to be Dexter’s first fire engine