New Madrid's street names tell much about the 215 years of the town's history and growth. The town as originally platted by the Spanish had all of its streets named for Saints, save one, which was the northern limit of the town, designated appropriately as Limit Street.
The Mississippi River steadily encroached upon the town from its founding in 1783. Movement back from the river continued until the early 1890s, when the bank was finally stabilized with mats and rock. The distance from present day Waters Street south to the old Limit Street is just over seven tenths of a mile.
As the town moved back, new additions were added. The County platted a new addition north of Limit Street in 1823, when it moved the County's seat of government from Winchester, located just south of Sikeston, back to New Madrid. Other additions followed as the river necessitated, they were Hunter's Addition platted by William W. Hunter in the 1840s, Watson's Addition, platted by Richard W. Watson about 1851, and Powell's First Addition platted by John E. Powell in the early 1860s. All of these additions have fallen into the river.
As the town receded just ahead of the caving banks, street names running parallel with the river were lost. These were Limit, Lawrence, Perry and Prairie, to name a few. Streets running north, especially after the Civil War, tended to retain their names, although some early ones fell in disuse or were changed, probably due to the lack of street signs. Jefferson Street at some point came to be called Main Street. And Limit Street appears to be the extension of old Market Street. Other north/south street names such as Franklin, Washington and Monroe were lost to history.
Currently, the city has a variety of street names of various origins. The names of Saints were used in the most recent additions platted by Sam L. Hunter, Jr. Three bear the names of trees - Sycamore, Maple and Locust while three others are for States - Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. Two others, Kentucky (Pinnell Lane east of Main) and Texas (in Powell's 4th) are no longer used. Here are the origins of the names of some of our older streets.
Waters Street was named for New Madrid pioneer and settler, Richard Jones Waters. The area north of the present street was owned by Waters and referred to as Waters Pasture. A native of Maryland, he was engaged in the mercantile business in Louisville, Kentucky, when he joined Colonel George Morgan in his expedition to establish New Madrid. He was a successful businessman. He established the first water mill in the district on St. John's Bayou and the road to that mill most likely bore his name and is present day Waters Street. He died in 1807. Waters Street was nowhere near the Mississippi River until the 1880s. All but two of the current street signs wrongfully identify the street as Water Street.
Vandenventer Street was named for Louis and Joseph Vandenbenden. The first misspelling occurs on the plat of Powell's Fourth Addition. It may simply be a matter of poor penmanship as the final "n" appears as "r" thus Vandenbender. The next alteration appears when a city map was later drawn and the name becomes Vandenbenter. Brothers Joseph and Louis Vandenbenden were from Holland and are associated with the early history of the City. Louis was a civil engineer and did work for the Spanish. Joseph and several partners constructed a water powered flour mill on St. Thomas Bayou (the current location of the levee along the east side of the city). The area was known as "Mill Prairie."
Mill Street for many years had various mills located at its eastern terminus with St. Thomas Bayou. Those mills shipped their products by river which was accessed through the bayou. Early water driven grain mills were later replaced by steam powered lumber and stave mills. The street's name first appears on Powell's Second Addition which was platted about 1867. The map shows the street running west through present day Kingshighway. In 1906 when the Hunter-Phillips-Tanner-McCoy Addition was platted, Mill Street west of Kingshighway was renamed Phillips Street. That name didn't catch on.
Mott Street was named for John A. Mott, an important figure in New Madrid County in the latter half of the 19th century. Born in Kentucky in 1820, Mott moved to New Madrid in 1852. Mott was a New Madrid merchant, the profession of his father, and opposed secession, despite the fact that his brother served in the Confederate Army.
Following the collapse of the civil government in New Madrid in March 1861, Mott was appointed by the Union government to fill the positions of County Clerk, Recorder of Deeds and Circuit Clerk. He served by both appointment and election in the County Clerk's position until 1871 and in the joint Recorder and Circuit Clerk position until 1902, when he retired. He died in 1910. His home still stands on the southeast corner of Main and Vandenventer Streets.
Church Street is, of course, a descriptive name. However, its origin is unclear. The name first appears in Powell's Second Addition, beginning at Prairie Street and running north four blocks to Mill Street where it intersected with a corn field. Curiously, the plat, which designates owners along its course, does not show any churches. Extension of the street since that time places both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches along its course.
Powell Street was named for John E. Powell, a landowner, merchant and developer, who platted two additions in the business part of the city. During his career Powell held various city positions and from 1887 to 1898 served as Presiding Judge of the County Court, an office that he occupied at his death. The street bearing his name was originally designated by him as Emerson Street, a name of unknown origin, but perhaps a friend or business associate.
Kingshighway has had more names than any other New Madrid street. The Spanish designated the route as El Camino Real or The Kings Highway. Before the Civil War it was known as Big Prairie Road and with the establishment of Sikeston in 1860, soon became known as Sikeston Road. In the early 1870s when Napoleon B. Byrne platted Byrne's Addition he renamed it "Hatcher Avenue" in honor of New Madrid attorney, Robert A. Hatcher. Hatcher had a distinguished legal, military and political career, serving in both the Confederate and U.S. House of Representatives. The street bore this name until the Daughters of the American Revolution undertook the task of marking the original Spanish road along its entire length. By the early 1960s the street was again known as Kingshighway. Street signs along its length in New Madrid inconsistently mark it as Kings Highway Old Kingshighwayas well as Kingshighway. Also a second street bears the same name because Highway 61 (yet another name for the route) followed the street south through town before turning west on Mott Street. When the current bypass was constructed, west Mott Street was designated on a 1940s city map as Old Highway. Three street signs along west Mott Street erroneously designate that street as Old Kingshighway.
MAIN AND LINE STREETS, BRUSH PRAIRIE ROAD
Only three other streets in the oldest part of town bear mentioning. The first is Main Street. When the County Court platted the County Addition it positioned the public square between Market and Jefferson Streets. Most businesses ended up relocating to Jefferson Street and at some point it became the main business street of the city, thus Main Street. Line Street which was the eastern property line of John E. Powell's Second addition and appears on Civil War era maps as The County Road to Brushy Prairie. That road meandered east along St. Thomas Bayou after it left the city limits and the current street of Brush Prairie Road is a remnant of that road. Line Street also appears to be an extension of Market Street from the County Court addition of 1823.
Article written by H. Riley Bock and taken from The Weekly Record newspaper, New Madrid, MO, Friday, October 30, 1998.