Lamplighters Once Served Gallatin

For only a period of 10 to perhaps 12 years, Gallatin used the services of a gas lamplighter at selected locations before electricity came to town. As the old song goes, the lamplighter… "made the night a little brighter wherever he would go, the old lamplighter of long, long ago. His silver hair was so much whiter beneath the candle’s glow, the old lamplighter of long, long ago."

For only a period of 10 to perhaps 12 years, Gallatin used the services of a gas lamplighter at selected locations before electricity came to town. As the old song goes, the lamplighter… "made the night a little brighter wherever he would go, the old lamplighter of long, long ago. His silver hair was so much whiter beneath the candle’s glow, the old lamplighter of long, long ago."

Gas lamps were not installed in Gallatin, MO, until late 1885. The city purchased six lamps and posts in August, 1885. They were placed at the First Methodist Church corner, the First Baptist Church corner, the Presbyterian Church corner, Mrs. Pryor’s corner, the B. Yates corner, and at the Alexander M. Dockery corner.

According to old city records, Scott Rowland was Gallatin’s first lamplighter, starting someting in late 1885. In 1886 Dick McGill and Lewis Williams shared the chores. They were replaced in 1887 by George Runnells. In 1888, the city council agreed that City Marshal Scott F. Hoover would be paid $5 a month extra to tend to the lamps — and that they were to be extinguished at midnight to cut costs.

In 1889 Martin Brooks and Robert Stoakes shared the duties and the pay was raised to $5.50 a month. Robert Stoakes held the position in 1890, 1891, and 1892, and the pay was raised to $7 per month. In 1893, the job was assigned to nightwatchman William West. In 1894, the city made the title of "City Lamplighter" official and appointed Arthur Venable to the position at a salary of $10 per month. He still held the position in 1895 when the city began negotiations with different companies to bring electricity to town.

Old council meeting minutes from 1895 to 1903 were either destroyed or lost, so it is not known when the last gas lamp was used in Gallatin. It is known, however, that an electrical generator plant was built at the foot of "Lamma Hill" in the late 1890s (near the city’s sewer treatment plant today). This made the job of lamplighting obsolete.

Written by Jimmy Eskridge, Gallatin, and published in the Gallatin North Missourian