Our Iowa Heritage: The Boyers – The Rock Island & Trenton MO.


William Hollis Boyer, Edith Mae (Agee) Boyer and my mom, Dixie Lee.

(P-0088) A Unique Friendship Postcard from 1923 Postmarked November 28, 1923 in Trenton, MO. Hometown of my mother, Dixie Lee Boyer.
(P-0196) Christmas Greeting postcard for back home, but just a bit latepostmarked January 4, 1923 in Iowa City, Iowa – But because of procrastination, I have a postmark when my Mom, Dixie Lee Boyer, was only 3 days old – born Jan 1, 1923 in Trenton, MO!  

(M-0010) The Rock Island Railroad played a big part in our Boller history. My grandfather (on my mom’s side), William Hollis Boyer (1881-1957) lived in Trenton, Mo and worked for the Rock Island Railroad his entire life.  According to his obituary, Hollie (as he was known) retired from the Rock Island in 1951 after 53 years of service. My grandmother, Edith (Edie) Boyer (1894-1988), had a spouse’s life-time Rock Island pass that she used up until the latter part of her life.

(P-0247) This rare 1911 postcard pictures the Rock Island switching yards where Hollie Boyer worked.

Most of those 53 years Hollie was a fireman (shoveling coal), assisting the engineer on steam locomotives, and then, during the last two years of his career he ran switch engines in Trenton, which was a crew-change point east of Kansas City and west of Eldon, Iowa on the Rock Island’s main line between Chicago and Kansas City. Read more about Hollie & Edie Boyer here.

As you can see from the map, the Rock Island served many communities in our neck of the woods!

(L-0011) Trenton, Missouri – 1959. This picture of downtown Trenton shows Boyer Drug Store in 1959. My grandfather Hollie (William Hollis Boyer) had two brothers; Herold and George. George worked at, and eventually owned this Drug Store from the 1920’s into the 1970’s.

331-1912-Trenton RockIsland-1534

(P-0086) Rock Island Train Depot & The “American House” – Harber Hotel– Trenton, Mo. This depot was the heart of the Rock Island Railroad in Trenton, Mo. Across Water Street (Main Street) stood the Harber Hotel. Thomas B. Harber bought “The American House” hotel in 187 and as 1881 (The History of Grundy County, Missouri by Birdsall & Dean) this once struggling hotel was thriving.

1931-RockIsland Lines

The Des Moines/Kansas City RPO of the Rock Island railroad ran directly through Trenton, MO. Trenton was a switching station for the Rock Island, a main connecting point for the railroad. If you look at the map (above), Trenton was the connecting point for all trains going north to Des Moines, east toward Davenport, west toward Topeka, and south to Kansas City.

266-1898 DM-KC-RPO
(C-0075) 1898 – Des Moines, Iowa & Kansas City, Missouri RPO – Rock Island Railroad.
266-1898 DM-KC-RPO1
Derrahs, Missouri: a small town no longer in existence in Lewis County/NE Missouri – NW of Quincy, IL. Note the Postmaster in Derrahs reversed the numbers when dating received letters on Feb 19, 1898. Back in the day, postmarking tools were all handset type!

(L-0012)  July 24, 1889 – Trenton, Missouri. Our first letter is from C.C. Parker, Adjusting Agent Office, Southwestern Division, to Thomas S. Wright, General Attorney for the Rock Island in the Chicago Office. The letter concerns “Voucher 198 covering the purchase of earth for filling Bridge No. 5 near Washington (Iowa?).” My grandfather, William Hollis Boyer (1881-1957), began working for the Rock Island in Trenton, MO as a young man and did so until his retirement in 1951.

(L-0013) October 8, 1888 – Oskaloosa, Iowa. This letter is from J.C. Coombs, Asst Superintendent Office, Keokuk and Des Moines Division, to T.S. Wright, Esq (Rock Island attorney in Chicago). The letter concerns forwarding two months of pay to Rebecca Dowell, mother of C.M. Dowell, a Rock Island brakeman, who was killed in an accident in Ottumwa, Iowa on September 3, 1888.

(L-0014) January 17, 1891 – Davenport, Iowa. A letter from S.S. Stackhouse, Office of the Rock Island President (R.R. Cable) – Davenport branch, to T.S. Wright Esq (yup, it’s him again) in Chicago. The letter concerns the lawsuit of Allen Hopkins of Centerville, IA, who had some horses and a cow killed at a Rock Island crossing. Apparently, there have been issues like this before (in nearby Unionville, MO) and Mr. Stackhouse is apparently informing Mr. Wright about on-going crossing issues that have resulted in other legal issues.

(L-0015) 1887 – Joliet, Illinois. A letter from H.N. Marsh, Freight and Ticket Office to an unknown source (possibly T.S. Wright once more?). The letter concerns one William Davidson, a stone quarry man, C. Smiley, J. Hallock, and the possession of some whiskey that had been delivered to Hallock at the Auburn House, signed for by Mr. Smiley. Apparently Smiley, who Mr. Marsh calls a “scalawag,” skipped town with the whiskey, leaving Mr. Davidson, Hallock, and the Rock Island Railroad high and dry. Sorry for the pun!

Hats off to William Hollis & Edith May Boyer – my grandparents in Trenton, Missouri.

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