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Descriptive Overview
 
Provenance: Gift of Charles A. Juden Jr., 2002.
 
Citation: Louis Houck Papers Accretion, Special Collections and Archives, Southeast Missouri State University.
 
Restrictions:  None
 
Related Collections: Louis and Gibboney Houck Papers
 
Biographical Note
 
Louis Houck was born in Mascoutah, St. Clair County, Illinois, the son of a printer. Before coming to Missouri, Houck studied law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar. He also published a German newspaper, The Volksblatt in Belleville, Illinois in 1859. In 1868, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was appointed Assistant U.S. District Attorney. Houck came to Cape Girardeau in 1869 to practice law with the stated hope that he could "wield greater influence and accomplish more." Shortly after arrival in Cape Girardeau, he became interested in the railroad business, and built his legacy.

In 1880, Houck raised the money to create his own line, the Cape Girardeau Railway Company. At this time the Missouri "bootheel" region was still primarily swamp land, yet there were a few towns and self-sufficient farms. Houck had traveled the southeast Missouri region as an attorney, and saw an opportunity to open the regional farmers markets to St. Louis and beyond, and brought more residents into the sparsely populated area in order to develop the region

Houck created three railway lines in his lifetime. He built the lines by purchasing established lines and then building short lines to adjacent cities. Through the process of purchasing and building, Houck created an extensive network that reached: North to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri; South to Leachville, Arkansas; East to Carbondale, Illinois; and West to Idlewild, Missouri.

Houck was an entrepreneur, but did not favor all of the regional developments. He was an outspoken man, and frequently published his thoughts in newspapers around the state. Houck opposed the formation of the Little River Drainage District and the electrification of the City of Cape Girardeau. Houck believed that the Little River Drainage District project would only result in the creation of more swampland in Cape Girardeau County and the surrounding area.

By avocation, Houck was a historian and author. His publications include: The Boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase (1901); a three-volume History of Missouri (1908); and The Spanish Regime in Missouri (1909). Houck was a thorough researcher, he located original documents and hired translators to interpret the primary documents. Houck's passion for historic research consumed the latter part of his life

Houck was integral in the development of the Missouri Normal School (currently, Southeast Missouri State University) in Cape Girardeau. In 1886, Houck served on the Board of Regents, and served as Board President from 1889 until his death in 1925. As President of the Board of Regents, Houck influenced all areas of the Normal School development, including: the construction of Academic Hall--opened in 1906, the planting of trees along Normal Street, the building of dormitories, and securing better pay for teachers. The Normal School was unable to obtain funds to build a football field, so Houck donated the land and assisted in fundraising for the project. After completion in 1930, the Houck Field House and Stadium was named in Houck's honor
 
Adapted with revisions from Louis Houck Collection finding aid, 2002.
 
Scope and Content
 
The collection consists of correspondence, maps, business and railroad papers, and court records from Louis Houck's various entrepreneurial ventures
 
Rules or Conventions: Finding Aid prepared using DACS
Kent Library
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