Cape Girardeau County Missouri Genealogy Trails
LOUIS HOUCK--Perhaps Southeast Missouri owes more to Louis Houck, of Cape Girardeau, than to any other one of its citizens for it was due to his energy and ability that this section of the state was supplied with railroad facilities. The impulse toward development given by the network of railroads constructed by him has had a remarkable influence in building up the country and in causing the construction of other lines and systems of railroads. Mr. Houck is a native of Illinois and is now seventy-one years of age. His early life was spent in Illinois and part of it in his father's printing office. He received two year's training at the University of Wisconsin and then published a paper for a time, but later began the study of law in 1862 in the office of William H. Underwood. Until 1868 he practiced law at Belleville and in that year removed to St. Louis and became assistant United States attorney under General John W. Noble. He became a resident of Cape Girardeau in 1869, engaging in the general practice of law until 1881. Mr. Houck became known as one of the most active and resourceful attorneys in Southeast Missouri. He was a diligent student and a man of unlimited energy. In addition to his work as a practitioner he published a number of legal texts and was also the editor of the 15th volume of Missouri Reports.
Although his profession had absorbed his energy to a considerable extent and although he found himself amply fitted for its work, Mr. Houck turned to other fields of labor. He had become interested in the resources of this section of the state and determined to begin the building of railroads. From 1881 up to the present time he has been engaged in this work. Southeast Missouri owes to him, however, more than simply a debt for railroad building. It is due as much to his ability as a writer as to any other one cause that the resources and opportunities of Southeast Missouri have been made known to the state at large. Numbers of articles have been contributed by him to papers and magazines in which he has set out with force and skill the situation actually existing in this part of the state. During all the years of his active life here he has given most intelligent attention to collecting material relating to the history of the state. His private library is one of the best and largest in Missouri and in spite of the numerous occupations which have engaged him, he has devoted himself to the preparation of an adequate account of the early days in Missouri. His history of Missouri from the earliest time to the formation of the state government is a monumental work which represents years of study, the accumulation of a great deal of material, and the expenditure of large sums of money. It is not a mere composition from second-hand authorities but has resulted from patient inquiry into sources of early history. A companion work, The Spanish Regime, is an account of all the old documents relating to the government of Missouri during the Spanish period, many of these having never before been translated.
It is doubltful, however, if the great work which Mr. Houck has wrought both as a railroad builder and as a student of history outweighs his service to the state as a regent of the State Normal School at Cape Girardeau. For more than a quarter of a century he has been president of the Board of Regents and during that time has been active and untiring in his work for that great institution. To him perhaps, more than to any other one man is due the credit for its buildings and continued growth. He has given it the best service of his life and his wide experience, his untiring energy and the respect and confidence in which he is held by a large circle of acquaintances throughout the state have enabled him to secure a consideration for the claims of the school not possible otherwise to be obtained.
--Source: History of Southeast Missouri, by Robert Sidney Douglass, c1912 by Lewis Publishing Co., New York & Chicago, pg. 548-549.