Bush History

Bush is a village, the greater part of which lies in section 8 of Blairsville Township. It grew up around the mine of the Western coal and mining company, a subsidiary of the Missouri Pacific railroad. This line, originally the St. Louis valley railroad, was completed to the Franklin-Williamson county line September 1, 1903. During the year preceding, Bush mine number 1 was sunk, the shaft on the line between sections 7 and 8, and 330 feet south of the section corner. Johnson Hubbs of Hurst sold the mining company their land in section 7; Mrs. Paralee Murphy, that in section 8.

Benjamin Franklin Bush (1860-1927) was fuel agent for the railroad and president of the mining company at the time. Mr. Bush began his railroad experience as rodman on the Northern Pacific, and became president of the Missouri Pacific in 1911. During the World war he was a regional director for the national railroad administration. The railroad station, then the village, was named for him. At Bush he is remembered as a jovial fellow, given to uproarious laughter, who seemed without a worry in the world. He was a Pennsylvanian, by birth.

A company store was opened west of the mine in 1903, with John H. Pumphrey as manager. Jack Pumphrey was also postmaster when the office was opened July 25, 1904. Mail was handled in one corner of the store until a post office building was erected and William Winchester was named postmaster. Service continued until April 15, 1938.

A village plat was surveyed May 11, 1904 on land in section 8. Store, mine office, and hotel were across the section line westward. By the summer of 1905 population had grown until there was talk of incorporating as a village. A petition was signed August 17 by Postmaster Pumphrey, Mine Superintendent John Duddy, Dr. Frank Deason, Rollo A. Martin, Monroe Howard, Thomas and Martin Duddy, John and Mike Murphy, Ed Harrison, J. L. Cross, and Delbert Cobb among others. A charter was granted the new village September 7, 1905.

Fred Hawkins, brother-in-law of Mr. Bush, came to the village that fall as farm boss.

The Missouri Pacific was part of Jay Gould’s railroad empire, inherited by his sons after his death in 1892. One of them visited Bush in the early days and inspected the properties. At the company store Edwin Gould was outfitted with overalls and other necessities for going below. Jay Gould’s daughter visited Bush to inspect the monster Y. M. C. A. building that served as community center for railroad men and miners. Miss Helen Gould, later Mrs. Finley J. Shepard, devoted her life to philanthropies such as Y. M. C. A. groups connected with the railroads in which her father founded his huge fortune.

A tornado struck Bush just one week after the world was appalled by the Titanic disaster. Shortly after six o’clock Sunday evening, April 21, 1912 the wind struck. The first row of houses built in the village, twenty-two, two-story homes, were directly in the path. Fifteen killed were on the first list, others died of injuries. J. W. Campbell, the section foreman, his wife, and six children were killed when the storm demolished the section house. Roundhouse and store building were blown away.

The tri-state tornado of March 18, 1925 also struck Bush with a death list of seven and eighty injured. The roundhouse was partially destroyed and the railroad loss reached $50,000. Thirty-three of the 323 homes in the village were destroyed, 158 were damaged.

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)