La Russell, MO

The old water pump in La Russell, Missouri has historical value

CJ Coombs
The hand pump surviving modern encroachment in 2010 on the middle of Main Street at La Russell, Missouri.Traveler7, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

There are some things in a town you grow up in that you hope never change including seeing anything get torn down. It's not all about familiarity as much as it's about history.

La Russell, Missouri which is part of Joplin's metropolitan area, has one of those things and it's an old water pump.

The small community founded in 1903 (134 as of the 2020 census) was named after the vice president and general manager of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, Russell Harding. La in Russell is French and the chief reason it was added to the front of Russell was that there was another town named Russellville and they didn't want the towns confused.

La Russell is located in the valley of the Spring River near the Jasper and Lawrence County borders.

Spring River is fed by Big Spring near its source, Big Spring has a daily flow of 12.3 Million Gallons of water a day. Spring River is a fast-paced stream for the most part of Missouri but slows down once hitting the flatlands of Kansas. The river was very important to Native Americans and was known as one of “Seven Bulls,” a term used by Native Americans describing the rivers of southwest Missouri. (Source.)
Spring River as seen from the headwaters area of La Russell, Missouri on State Highway U.Traveler7, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, because Native Americans used to live near this area, artifacts can still be found today when the fields are plowed close to the river. The railroad helped to establish La Russell. Early settlers were arriving as early as the 1830s.

A public school established in 1838 in Jasper county would come to be the future site of La Russell. This school also served as a church and headquarters for Civil War Union military militia. It also served as a temporary courthouse for Jasper County in 1865 after the destruction of Carthage in the war. That building still exists.

In 1904 when the Missouri Pacific Railroad went through, La Russell was established and a 2 room, red brick building was built on a hill west of La Russell where the school now stands.  A new modern room was added in 1962.  The La Russell school consolidated with Sarcoxie school in 1966. (Source.)

In 1905 the city of La Russell continued to grow as it became a railroad stop for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad. La Russell is still a small rural community that is predominantly agricultural including the raisin of livestock.

The La Russell Water Pump

Dating back to around 1904, there was a water pump located on Main street right in the middle of the roadway. This pump has become somewhat of a cultural icon in La Russell going back to the inception of this community. Of interest, there was another water well that existed near this one.

Imagine community residents going to the pump with their buckets to collect water to take home. People traveling through town by horseback could get a drink there. Then, it became a place for automobile drivers to get water for their radiators.

In Auguspumpt 1907, a base made of concrete was made for the pump. Due to its location, imagine the number of vehicles that have hit the base or other accidents causing people to wonder if it was a safety hazard. Because of its history, though, people wanted the pump to stay.

People in the community love this pump so much that it gets decorated during Christmas. It's small-town Americana worth visiting.
The La Russell Water Pump at Christmas time.Charles Taylor, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author; 30 years of legal secretarial experience; BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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