Traveling south my husband Keith realized we would be near the historic town of Deering, Missouri. He remembered the late IH historian Darrell Darst at one time writing that this town had been a lumber town founded by William Deering. We decided to stop and check it out!
Deering, Missouri history
Located in the Pemiscot County in Missouri’s Boot Heel, it is unincorporated. In Deering, Missouri there is a sign “Deering A Lumber Town” that shares the story. “In 1898, William Deering from Chicago, Illinois began purchasing tracts of land in this area. His interest was solely for the cypress, sycamore, gum, oak, ash, elm, hickory, cottonwood, hackberry and maple trees that grew on it.”
The wood was used for Deering harvester machines. They cut a daily average of 44,000 feet of lumber! According to the plaque, “It was the second largest lumber mill in the United States.”
When the boiler for the mill got stuck, they abandoned plans to locate the town five miles south. Instead, they built it here. Soon a company town sprung up.
Deering, A Company Town
What was undrained swampland became the lumber company town of Deering. The town was very isolated. However, the town had a doctor’s house, school teacher’s house, supervisor’s house, barber shop, and a company store. The store even had a bowling alley upstairs! There was also a main office building, hotel and Methodist Church. There is still a Methodist Church, but I don’t know if it is the original one.
A post office was established in 1903. We saw the post office in town. Sadly there was a for sale sign on the little building.
There was entertainment in Deering. With the bowling alley there was also an amusement hall. The Hall sported a player piano and ice cream parlor. In 1927 a school came. Amazingly all buildings were connected by a wooden walk. A fence surrounded the town. According to the plaque, “to keep out the wild animals”.
“It was a company town while International Harvester owned it. When the timber ran out, it was sold to Charles B. Baker of Kennett who was knowledgeable in agriculture,” the plaque concludes.
Charles Baker’s Impact on Deering
There is a second plaque, “Deering An Agricultural Town”. This plaque shared Charles Baker’s impact on the town. He farmed using the plantation style. Then he established a McCormick Deering dealership in Deering in the 1930’s. “Tractors replaced mules in farming and Mr. Baker filled the country with his mechanized farming equipment. When timber was cleared and tree roots dynamited. He made a sale…”
The Baker Implement website shares that the first dealership opened in 1938. Mr. Baker’s company was chartered in 1942. The dealership was then moved to Kennett We drove there and found the dealership is still in business and family owned. Besides the dealership in Kennett, there are also stores in Southeast, Missouri and Northeast Arkansas.
In Deering Mr. Baker built a large lumber shed, beauty shop and restaurant. In 1941, W.P.A laborers built a school. In 1956 Baker sold the Deering operation to J.F. (Bud) and Betty Calhoun. According to the plaque, in 1996, “Baker Implement became the seller of the largest volume of International Harvester equipment in the United States. It all started right here in Deering.”
What is There Today
There is not much in Deering today. A small former Amoco station, a gin mill, tanks, school, church, a few houses, and the post office. But there is certainly IH history. The little park delineating the important events shows what took place here.
Kennett and the Baker Legacy
With the Baker Implement company in town, the IH story continues!
We were excited to see this story unfold. Is there somewhere you traveled and found agricultural history in unexpected places?