DAY 1: This image is of Weiner in the late 1800s. Notice the train tracks? The few scattered buildings are long gone. The tall Rice Dryer we see today would be years in coming and would sit where you see the stack of cross ties on the left of this photo. WEINER was not first called "Weiner." Even today, the official name of the town is not "Weiner," but "West Prairie." When settlers first arrived here they found a prairie surrounded by virgin timber (a prairie is a large open area of grassland & virgin timber means huge trees in a forest that has never been cut). Notice the tall timber in the background of the photo? The unusual prairie in the middle of forests gave them the perfect name for the settlement. Today when people vote in local, county, state, and national elections they sign their name in the Register under "West Prairie Township." So why is it called Weiner?
The name of the settlement began as West Prairie. The construction of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad in 1881 led to more people moving to the area --sawmilling was the chief industry. Ox teams hauled stave bolts and rough lumber from the surrounding woods to be shipped on the trains. During the construction of the railroad, a St. Louis, Missouri railroad official stayed at the Weiner Hotel. He would take the train as far as the tracks had been built, oversee construction for the day, and return to the hotel in the evening. The people of West Prairie really liked Mr. Weiner, and he like them. People didn't have cars or trucks in those days --to get from one place to another you rode in a wagon pulled by horses or mules --some even had oxen. With the new train, people could now come by a much faster way. Each town had a train station called a depot where people got off the train. When the depot was built at West Prairie, the people decided to honor Mr. Weiner by naming the depot after him. This tribute is what caused the name confusion. People coming here were coming to West Prairie, but when asked where they were going they said they were getting off at Weiner --the name of the depot. The name stuck. The town became known by that name even though the township was officially listed as West Prairie, as it still is. Now you know
When the railroad was complete, the heavy black steam locomotives began hauling supplies and people. These locomotives used gallons of water to create the steam from burning coal. The huge water tank at West Prairie (Weiner) was a stop for all trains as they "refueled" with the water they needed.
On the left is the Weiner Depot named after Mr. Weiner in the town of West Prairie. Believe it or not, those are combines in the front in this 1930 photograph. The building on the right with the peaked roof is the Hotel where Mr. Weiner stayed.
DAY 2: WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THE OLD WEST IN COWBOY MOVIES?
Today when we think of Weiner we think of rice farming, however in the early years the main industry was timber. The abundance of virgin timber surround the town were just what was needed to make the cross ties for the railroad being built. Sawmill companies were booming, bringing down huge trees that were well over a hundred years old. The best part of the timber was used to make the cross ties. The rest, which was rough wood, was used to build the town. It wasn't uncommon for the front of a building to be finished out, while the sides and the back were made of the worst wood. At one time Weiner had shops that made wagons, there was a jail, mercantile stores (just like the one Nellie Olson's mother had in "Little House on the Prairie), and there was even a saloon! The saloon was probably why they needed a jail.
All PHOTOS are from Weiner
DAY 3 - The Many Schools of WEINER
Our school has been part of the Harrisburg School District for several years now. Most people would be surprised to know that Weiner was actually a consolidated school. At one time there was a K-12 school at Fisher and a K-6 school at Waldenburg. When the enrollment at those schools made it hard to financially keep them open, they came to school here at Weiner. BUT... PEOPLE WILL "REALLY" BE SURPRISED TO KNOW THAT AT ONE TIME, THERE WERE EVEN MORE SCHOOLS THAT WERE PART OF WEINER! Today we will visit a few of those that were eventually closed with students coming to Weiner. It is important to know that there were NO school buses. The stories you hear of someone walking miles to school in the rain and snow are true. Some students who lived several miles from Weiner had to find someone in town to live with so they could go to school. They lived in town during the week and tried to get a way home to see their families as often as they could. Remember...at first there was only horse and wagon that was needed for farming and later, when cars began to make an appearance --very few people had cars. Here we go!
Now you may be wondering why there were so many schools a long time ago and today there is only an elementary school left in Weiner... families a long time ago were much, much bigger. It wasn't unusual to have 6 or 7 brothers or sisters. Farming was hard work --there were no tractors. It took many people to work the land, including kids. Farms were small; a family couldn't farm very many acres even with everyone helping. Besides, most of the land was still in woods. Clearing land was grueling! (means harder than hard). If kids were going to get an education, it had to be nearby --that's why there were so many little schools that were actually pretty close to one another. Jump forward to the 21st century and think about how HUGE farm machinery is today...and think about how small most families are today. Farmers need very few people to work the farm anymore. The tractors and combines of today do what it would have taken hundreds of people to do. Fewer people means fewer schools.
DAY 4: A WATER PARK IN WEINER??? Grundon's was a favorite destination when the weather warmed up! “Grundon’s,” which was actually outside of Weiner -- just before Otwell, was a popular spot
in the 1930’s and the 1940’s. Mr. Grundon kept what was
actually a large pond, full of fresh, cool, running well water. On the northwest corner of the pond was a
large building over the water that contained dressing rooms and a dance floor. A person could even rent a bathing suit, if
he/she wished, which was laundered and then rented again. On weekends teenagers loved to gather, put
coins in the jukebox and shake a leg.
There were even drinks and snacks for sale –nothing alcoholic. Several people talked about getting the best
hamburger they ever had at “Grundon’s.”
The pool included a
high diving board with two heights to challenge even the most daring
swimmer. There were also two large,
connected screened-in areas to swim in located in the deep water. One of these had a taller roof that
accommodated another high diving board.
A swimmer would go under the water and come up inside –this kept the
pesky mosquitoes away when going for a night swim.
“Grundon’s” may have been home
to the first water slide –swimmers would actually ride down the slide on a sled
that was on a track, hit the water, skimming across the top, and then go
under. The sled then came back up the
track for the next person.
So small children
wouldn’t feel left out, “Grundon’s” had what looked
like a small ferris wheel in the
water. Many a mother spent many a minute
turning that crank.
“Grundon’s” was THE place to go
on the Fourth of July. Everyone from
miles around brought a picnic lunch and spread a blanket under the trees to
hold their spot. Often special
entertainment would be featured on the 4th.
Grundon’s closed in the early
DAY 5 - STORES AND BUSINESSES LONG AGO
Today many people go to Jonesboro to buy clothing, buy a lawnmower, eat out, and buy groceries. A long time ago everything you needed was right here in town. People seldom went to Jonesboro or anywhere else. Weiner had a doctor, a lawyer, three grocery stores (with fresh eggs and chickens --they were in the backyard of the store), four gas stations, a movie theater, a dress shop, a dime store (kinda like a Fred's), a furniture store, a cleaner's, several restaurants --the list goes on. Weiner had a local band and baseball team that provided the community entertainment! Saturday was a big shopping day in Weiner with families "coming to town" to enjoy seeing their neighbors and having a good time... and occasionally there was a cattle drive right through the middle of town!