Chamois, Mo


In 1832, Dr. John M. Townley , age 31, came from the state of Virginia to Osage County Missouri, riding on horseback. He settled southeast of Chamois, more than 20 years before Chamois was a town. In 1834, he built a one-room log cabin out in the boondocks, which he used as his medical office, later adding on a room that became the first school in the area.

In 1854, a man named Morgan Harbor gave the name Chamois to the small community that had grown up along the newly constructed Missouri Pacific railroad tracks. Legend has it that he named the town after a deer he saw, which he thought was a chamois.

The first building in Chamois was a two-story log hotel and bar, built in 1854 on the north side of the railroad tracks, on the west side of Main street, next to the future location of the red brick Masonic Hall, built in 1856. Later, a large brick hotel was built on the west side of Main Street, right next to the railroad tracks.

The red brick butcher shop on the west side of Main Street, that was opened in 1888 by Frank Stonner, was empty when I visited Chamois in September 2008.   In front of it is a bench where people can sit.

Frank Stonner’s son Ralph and his grandson, Jack Stonner, ran the butcher shop when I lived in Chamois.

There used to be a small white building on the north side of the butcher shop and next to it was Pete Shobe’s store, which closed in 1960. Shobe’s store and Ernie Topel's tavern, which used to face Pacific Street, have been replaced by Jerry's Stop and Go gas station. In the 1920’s, my father ran the O.K. restaurant in the tavern building; this was during Prohibition when liquor could not be sold.

Next to the Butcher Shop on the west side of Main Street used to be Homer Bezoni's cafe that later became Buck Schieder's soda fountain and restaurant until  it closed in 1965. It reopened as Kats Cafe, but the building was empty in September 2008. Homer Vuilcott's barber shop, on the west side of Main Street, where my father used to socialize on Saturdays, was closed in 1969.

Otto Noak's former store at the corner of 1st and Main, on the west side of Main Street, is the building with an awning over it. This building was a  business office in September 2008.

Don Smith, a life long resident of Chamois, filled me in on the recent history of Chamois, when I came back in September 2008 for my High School Reunion. He told me that the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street has been raised so that the ledge where the men of Chamois used to sit and talk is no longer there.

A new facing of bricks has been added to the buildings, so that the buildings are now one foot closer to the street; the awning over this part of the street has also been changed. 

The east side of main street has also changed since I left Chamois in 1951 to go to college.  The concrete block building on the north side of the post office used to be a tavern and later my brother Woody’s garage. The tavern used to serve Griesedieck beer, made by the Griesedieck Brothers brewery in St. Louis. (The name is pronounced greasy dick.)  Woody and I used to play with the bottle caps which we collected from the garbage can in the alley behind the building.

Main Street ends at Third Street where there is a steep climb up to the “Old schoolhouse on the hill.”  The blue water tower that holds the town’s water supply is visible from Main Street.

Hutchingson's Sundries, the drug store built in 1914 on the corner of 1st and Main, was torn down after a fire in the building and only the concrete step at the former entrance remains.  For Chamois Day on September 20, 2008, a display booth was set up on the grass where the drug store used to be.  That’s where I learned that the small  town of Mokane, MO has far surpassed Chamois because a nuclear power plant was recently built there.

The office of Dr. W. H. (Doc) Townley, who practiced medicine in Chamois for 65 years, used to be in the rear of the drug store building. Doc Townley was the grandson of Dr. John M. Townley, who rode into town before Chamois was a town. Doc Townley used to make house calls. He would give me some pink pills when I had the flu, but I now suspect that they were just harmless placebo pills.

The white frame house which faced 1st Street, behind the drug store, was where the telephone switchboard used to be; it has also been torn down. Helen Bruce, the telephone operator from 1949 to 1952, knew the phone number of everyone in town.  The numbers were no more than two digits long. 

Before Hutchinson’s drug store was built in 1914, there was a two-story wood frame building on this same lot at 1st and Main Street, where Kelita Townley, the son of Dr. John M. Townley and the father of Doc Townley, had a drug store. It was moved two blocks down 1st Street, where it became a private residence, at one time owned by Lawrence Morton.

There is a vacant lot where A.B. Schuth's ice cream parlor and grocery store used to be located on the east side of Main street. This store was sold to Mon Townley in 1942; it was located across from the "picture show" which opened in 1931 on the second floor above the Catholic School. The last picture show was in 1957. The school closed in 1969 and the building has since been torn down.

Next to the school building was the Most Pure Heart of Mary Church which is still standing on the west side of Main Street.  The church has been remodeled and new stained glass windows have been installed.

On the south side of the church, there used to be a chain between metal posts where horses could be tied up. 

The blacksmith shop on the east side of Main street, once owned by Fred Remus, is long gone, as is shoe cobbler George Wuelling's shop; both were formerly located where the City Hall now stands.

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photos of Masonic Hall, Old Post Office, and Catholic Church

In 1913 the People’s Bank opened on the east side of Main Street in the brick building that later became the Post Office. This building with its classic columns is possibly the most beautiful building in Chamois. It is now a Bed & Breakfast called A Whistle Stop Inn and the red brick building next to it, which used to be Bauer’s hardware store, is now a restaurant and bar. The new Post Office is on the other side of the restaurant.  In the 2000 census, Chamois had a population of 456. The town is located 23 miles from Hermann and 45 miles from Jefferson City.