The notion of having a private lake and rustic lodge for vacations or as a summer home was popular among the well-to-do in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these so-called rustic lodges were actually elaborate homes built in the Craftsman style. Bothwell Lodge, built north of Sedalia by John Bothwell between 1899 and 1929, was a local example of such a retreat. Another example, whose purchase was announced in the Sedalia Democrat in late March of 1919, was that of William H. Powell and Grant Crawford, of Sedalia.
William H. Powell was the son of William Powell and Susan Shively Rudy Powell. William Powell Sr., was the president and one of the founders of the Citizens National Bank, which in the early 20th century was one of Missouri’s most prosperous banks. In 1902, it was capitalized at $100,000, had deposits of $775,975, and surplus and profits of $39,362. William Powell Jr. served as vice president of the bank and later became president of the bank. He and his wife purchased a large home at 215 E. Broadway Blvd. in 1905.
Grant Crawford, son of Colonel J.D. Crawford and Annie Parberry Crawford, served as the assistant cashier of the Citizens National Bank. He later formed the Crawford Loan and Abstract Company located at 410 S. Ohio Ave. Crawford Loan and Abstract Company did a large business; according to historian William Claycomb, the company held mortgages on hundreds of Pettis County farms.
Powell and Crawford purchased property located in Section 6, Township 41 N, Range 19 W of Morgan County near the small community of Boyler’s Mill. The property was located 22 miles southwest of Versailles and 12 miles from Stover.
The town of Boyler’s Mill had been established early in Morgan County’s history by James Byler, who operated a water powered flour mill there. The spelling of the name of the community that grew up around the mill was changed to Boyler by the U.S. Postal Service when a post office was located there. Two stores, the mill, the post office, and a blacksmith shop constituted the business district of the town.
Much of the area of southwest Morgan County was unimproved, and land in the hilly area sold for between $8 and $15 per acre. The men had been looking for a scenic site for some time, Powell told a Democrat reporter. “There is no finer a spring or prettier location anywhere than this property,” Powell asserted.
The Democrat’s description of the purchased site noted the area around the mill was hilly, with “weird and rustic scenery.” The land was “rich bottom surrounded by lofty peaks.” Several springs burbled water from underground; the largest of these was about 60 feet in circumference.
The site was once on the stagecoach route from Springfield to Boonville, and many noted people had passed through the area. By 1919, roads had been improved to the extent that automobiles brought tourists through the area to admire the scenery.
Powell and Crawford intended to create a large lake fed by the springs and stock the lake with fish. They had originally planned to build a bungalow, but decided instead to remove the mill machinery and use the mill building as their lodge. The Democrat congratulated Powell and Crawford on their purchase, noting that everyone who has visited the area wanted to return.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.