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History Towns and Villages Grow: Cedar Gap

 

Cedar Gap, 1882 - Present

Cedar Gap lies on the highest ridge in Wright County, 1,687 feet above sea level. Nearby Lead Hill, at 1,744 feet, is the second highest point in Missouri. The village of Cedar Gap was first settled in 1882 when the railroad was built from Springfield to Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Soon there were general stores, a sawmill, flour mill, hotel, meat market, hardware store, building contractors, blacksmith shop, train depot, and livery stable. In addition to the businesses there were a Presbyterian Church and a two-room school. In its heyday, six passenger trains stopped in Cedar Gap daily. 

1909 Cedar Gap depot
The village got its name because it stood in a gap of a ridge surrounded by cedar-clad hills. At first the railroad bridged the gap on a trestle nine hundred feet long. Later, dirt and rocks hauled to the gap replaced the trestle with fill; deep gorges fell off to each side of the track. At about the same the time, the railroad built a beautiful forty-acre reservoir one mile north of town to supply water for the steam locomotives. They pumped it to a water tower near the railroad station. 

The railroad ran an excursion train to celebrate completion of the railroad and to drum up business. When Louis Erb, a passenger and produce wholesaler in Memphis, saw Cedar Gap, he thought it was an ideal place for orchards. He returned to Cedar Gap, purchased and leased land, hired workers to clear the land, and planted over one thousand acres of orchard - mainly peaches and apples. As the trees began producing, he built a warehouse, a cold-storage facility, cider mill and an evaporating plant to produce dried apples. During apple picking season the Erb Fruit Farm employed as many as two hundred people. 

Erb built a twelve-room house for himself and other houses for members of his family. He knew this beautiful area would appeal to his friends and former associates in Memphis who wanted to get away from its hot, muggy summers and occasional outbreaks of yellow fever. He offered to lease land to them for building summer cabins. They eventually build about fifteen cabins in the "Memphis Summer Colony," which flourished for several decades. This part of Cedar Gap became known as Memphis Park. 

In 1896, the town organized an annual singing to be held on the first Sunday in June. It was a big event with some people arriving by horse and buggy and others by a jam-packed morning train. Festivities included singing, picnicking, and an afternoon baseball game pitting the Cedar Gap team against a team from Seymour, Mansfield, or Hartville. 

With the coming of the diesel train engine, the cancellation of passenger trains, and greater use of automobiles, Cedar Gap began to fade away. In 1992 only residential housing remained in the area. The beautiful lake has been drained and only the annual singing continues to remind us of the glorious days of a once very important, bustling community. 

   

The Cedar Gap Conservation Area is 391 acres of deep timbered ravines that contain some of the headwaters of Bryant Creek.

Historic Railroad Photo
The 1909 Cedar Gap depot, thanks to Jack Forbes and MissouriDepots.com

More railroad towns:
Ava
Willow Springs
West Plains
   
 
 

Source: History and Families of Wright County.

This is the Web site of the Bryant Watershed Education Project, based in West Plains, Missouri. Our site is a toolkit for exploring the Bryant Creek, North Fork, Eleven Point and Upper Spring watersheds in the southern Missouri Ozarks.
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