Harg was a town in rural Boone County before 1913. It was on the Rand McNally map of the United States that my father found on a country road.
O.D. and Nancy Meyers bought a farm east of Columbia, and Dad was moving a mule from Montgomery County to Boone County. To move that mule, he rode it - all day! Along the way, he found a leather-bound road map, and he had nothing to do but read that map as the mule walked! Harg was a town on that map.
Harg also is marked on my framed 1910 "Automobile Road Map of Missouri." Harg is still very much alive for those who recall RFD - rural free delivery - or star routes, when mail delivery was contracted out to some local businesses.
Rural roads were a problem, and in 1851, the "plank road mania" struck Boone County. One plan was to build a plank toll road from Glasgow to St. Louis via Columbia, but the project failed. A unique plank road, extending southwest from Columbia to the river at Providence, was contracted in 1854 to two men from Hannibal. It was paved with wooden planks and completed in 12 months, but it rotted away in a few years during my lifetime.
The road between Fulton and Columbia, however, was graveled, and it became part of "the shortest route between New York City and Los Angeles, Calif.!"
There was not much traffic between New York and Los Angeles, but William McHarg, owner of Harg Store, installed an underground gasoline tank with a hand pump in front of the blacksmith shop, across the road from Harg’s general store.
There were only a few road signs, no free maps and no driver’s tests, written or otherwise. Parents determined when youngsters were old enough to drive. I saw a girl driving a tractor nine miles from Columbia, east on Fulton Gravel Road, at age 10! The tractor owner followed in his truck.
Tollhouses were discarded, motors replaced mules on roads and a few schools had buses. McHarg had a noisy Delco light plant that supplied electricity to home, store and Olivet Christian Church - free of charge! Late-summer customers ate the purple Concord grapes as fast as they ripened on the aged vine that shaded the benches on the store’s porch. John Turner played his French harp there daily; I hear it now, moaning, "Nita, Juanita Ö"
Tourists helped one another locate the choice cross-country routes and the best stops on those routes. Roads were not well-marked, and maps were not free from gasoline companies. One Saturday morning, Cynthia McHarg and her helper, Phanah Grant, were baking at the McHargs’ home, across the road from the store. The wonderful aroma of pies and cakes was in the air when a touring family stopped to wander through the store, drink orange soda and pick and eat grapes.
They smelled those pies and cakes and wanted to buy them to eat right then! They declared the treat was better than anything they had ever tasted! Of course, they told everyone they met on their trip, "Be sure to stop at Harg, in Missouri." A small table and four chairs added to the delight of home-baked desserts.
Until after "the slab" was completed north of Harg and almost parallel to Fulton Gravel Road, Harg was a favorite stop and the community center for many. Cynthia and "Mr. William"; their sons, William Jr. and Wilkes; and Cynthia’s father, retired minister "Brother Wilkes," stole all of our hearts.
More next Monday.