P-95 Photograph Album of Gayaso, Missouri, 1907 | UMSL
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P-95 Photograph Album of Gayaso, Missouri, 1907

ABSTRACT: Photograph album depicting the lost town of Gayaso Missouri, which today is buried in the silt of the Mississippi River.

SCOPE: The album contains various scenes of Gayaso, Missouri in 1907.

EXTENT: One photograph album, 76 silver gelatin photographs.

HISTORY: Gayaso was originally settled in 1799 and incorporated in 1851 as the Pemiscot County seat. By 1898 the ever-meandering Mississippi threatened to swallow the town whole, and the county seat was moved several miles south. Though the river changed course and briefly spared Gayaso, by 1900 its post office closed and today any remnants of the town are buried deep in the silt of the Gayaso Bend Conservation Area.

The images in the album show rising floodwaters overtaking the remnants of the dilapidated town, carving away at river banks and inundating the surrounding land. Townsfolk can be seen poling rafts through floodwaters, and in one striking image men and children wade through standing water to cut lumber, most likely to repair flood damage. Other views show riverbank erosion, a collapsed pier, boats traveling up and down the river, and intimate scenes of families in the community, including a woman and child in front of a clapboard house with a rotting porch and crumbling roof, a man giving a haircut to another outside a house, and a group of boys in front of a building, possibly the schoolhouse. Even in the most casual of pictures, ones where families pose together near their homes, the river is ever-present creeping closer and closer from over their shoulders, a constant reminder of the town’s eventual fate. Overall the album provides a visceral depiction of the hardships and challenges faced by many neglected river towns after the end of the steamboat era.

ACCESS: This collection can be viewed on-site in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the material may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, subject to condition and other access restrictions. Information on conducting research with the archival collections of the Library, including current building hours and reading room policies, can be found on our Research pageThe St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building on the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ north campus. 

Preferred Citation note: The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.”