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HIGHWAYS & BY-WAYS OF ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY

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Articles Below:

First 200 Years of Missouri's Highways
The Old Plank Road Between Iron Mountain and Ste. Genevieve
Plank Road War Over Toll Gate
Plank Road - It Has Its Stories   
Old Plank Road - History Link for Farmington Area Communities 
The County Road System (by Thomas Holdman, 1924)
New Road Planned South From Middlebrook (1928)
Country Scenes (by L.L. Richardson, 1950)
Highway 67 Right-of-Way Awards Paid (1948)
Highway 67 (by Joe Layden, 1987)
County Roadways (by Leroy Sigman, 1987)
Reporter Has Fond Memories of Route 67 (by Leroy Sigman, 2002)

THE FIRST 2OO YEARS MISSOURI'S HIGHWAYS
By S. M. Peterson

It seems highways have histories all their own and our's in Missouri are no exception.

We hope the following history will make you feel proud of the accomplishments made and aware of the need for their continued support for its future progress.

THE FIRST HIGHWAY MAKERS

Missouri's first "highways" were its many rivers. But the first venturesome white men soon found the needed overland routes.

A ready made system was there for them. This consisted of the ancient Indian trails, and natural paths stamped through the forests by the animals.

Nine Indian trails penetrated into almost every area of Missouri. They included the trail from the Osage villages to the Missouri River, the hunting trail from the villages to the Verdigris and Red Rivers and its return trail to St. Louis, hunting trails from the villages to the White River region and the return trail to Boonville, the Shawnee or old "Indian Trail", the St. Louis-Natchitoches Trail, the Sacs' and Foxes' trail to the villages of the Osages and the Vincennes-Natchitoches Trail.

But the white man's coming in the early 1700's signalled the beginning of the end for the Indians in Missouri. Slowly but inexorably, the white settlers pushed the Indians west and south out of the territory.

By 1836, after about a century and a quarter of use and abuse, the Indians ceded their final claims to Missouri land. But they left behind a system of trails whose dim outlines still mark Missouri's Highways.

THE THREE NOTCH ROAD

Around 1720 lead mines were opened up at Mine La Motte. In the mines early days lead was hauled to the river along a well-beaten Indian trail. It was called the Three Notch Road, because the route was marked by three notches in trees along the way. This Indian trail from Mine La Motte to the Mississippi River was the first road developed by white men in the Missouri Territory and it played a pivotal part in opening the southeast region of the Mississippi River.

THE KINGS HIGHWAY

In 1770 when the Spaniards took over control of Upper Louisiana, the country was still sparsely settled. Missouri's total population was only 6,028.

At first, the Spaniards showed little desire to promote settlement but they soon changed their outlook. They lured settlers with liberal inducements, such as tax free land, including mineral lands. They encouraged miners to settle the country and work the mines.

In 1803 the United States bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon for $15 million. In 1808, Territorial Governor Meriwether Lewis signed a law providing for the first specific road in the territory. It was to be laid out from the town of St. Louis to Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau and New Madrid. The road mainly followed the ancient Indian Trail through that area.

In 1814 the Missouri General Assembly passed a law describing the standards for public roads. One section of this law reads "all public roads laid out as now in use, or which shall hereafter be laid out, shall be cleared of all trees and brush at least 20 ft. wide and no stump shall exceed 12 inches in height."

So the old Indian trail grew and became known as "The Kings Highway." The road was a challenge to all who traveled it. Marked by stumps and mudholes, it was often impassable to wagons and carriages. Sometimes travelers made the mudholes passable by filling them with rocks or logs, more often a new path was chopped out of the woods or the trip was cancelled until the holes dried up.

But the path filled the white settler's needs -- for that moment in Missouri history. It would change more as the needs of the people who traveled it changed.

THE TRAIL OF THE OSAGES

Another Indian trail led southwest to hunting grounds on the Verdigris, the Arkansas, the Red and the Canadian rivers. By 1820 settlers were pushing into the wooded hills of southwestern Missouri, assuring the white men's use of that end of the Osages' trail.

The first legislation for a road between St. Louis and Springfield was approved in 1837. By then immigrants into the region were flocking over it. Early settlers called it the "Osage Trail" or "Indian Trail". Later it was called the "Kickapoo Trail". But the white man's stamp was marked indelibly on it when it became known as the "old Springfield road."

Progressing through various names and numbers, it became the fabled U.S. Route 66, and today, in the latest stage of its evolution as Interstate 44.

THE BOONS LICK COUNTRY

When Daniel Boone moved his family into Missouri from Kentucky he set in motion a series of events, which were to stamp Missouri forever with the Boone name and which were to open up the first early road not based on an Indian trail.

The tide of settlers pushed on westward, many in coaches as the land became civilized. This influx of settlers soon made a road out of the old Boonslick trace leading west out of St. Charles.

In 1837 the St. Louis and St. Charles Turnpike Co. was incorporated. The incorporation stated that the road should be at least 80 ft. wide with at least 24 feet of it covered with rock.

But it was 1865 before the company reported that the entire road between St. Louis and the Missouri river opposite St. Charles had been entirely constructed of rock. Thus it came to be called the "St. Charles Rock Road."

The westward rush stretched the stage and mail coach lines the roads over which they traveled and the taverns where they stopped started a new era, which lead to new contributions to the development of Missouri.

PLANK ROADS

Mid 1800's saw the first plank road opened.

The idea of wooden roads looked like a god-send. The roads were similar to the plank sidewalks of frontier towns.

The most famous of these roads and the longest in the United States was the Ste. Genevieve, Iron Mountain, and Pilot Knob road. Completed in 1853, the 42 mile road connected Ste. Genevieve and Iron Mountain by way of Farmington. Heavy wagon loads of Iron ore and farm products creaked over it and through its five toll gates. Until 1857 when the Iron Mountain Railroad sounded its death knell.

The plank roads were doomed. The planks either sank into the mud or curled up. The upkeep on these plank roads led to the financial disaster to most investors.

Hastened by the coming of the railroads and stagelines and then came the Civil War, the passing of the plank roads came swiftly. The Civil War and the railroads combined to stymie the little progress being made on roads. The railroads dominated long distance travel and roads became a carrier of local travel and feeders to the nearest railroad. Good roads must wait until the passing of the Iron Horse and the coming of the Tin Lizzie.

Then came the Tin Lizzie and a new era for Missouri and its Highways.

Today Missouri's Highways are a far cry from what they were even 50 years ago. The Tin Lizzie has taken over and Missouri has prepared for it with good highways. Some of them are not as smooth as we would like, but then it took us 200 years just to get started.

Published by THE LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Wed. July 12, 1967.


PLANK ROAD
By Richard Northcutt, Daily Journal Staffwriter

Stretching 42 miles between Ste. Genevieve and Iron Mountain, the Old Plank Road was touted as the longest, most famous, and best to ever have been built.

Regardless of the billings, mere words alone could not emphasize the importance of this vital trading link to St. Francois County. Development of industry in the area benefited tremendously from the steady flow of traffic moving up and down the plank road.

Constructed from 1851 to 1853, the Iron Mountain-Pilot Knob Plank Road, for the most part, followed along what today is Route W from Iron Mountain through Farmington to Highway 32 east to Ste. Genevieve.

The road was built mainly in response to mine owners who were having problems transporting their mined mineral and ore. Prior to the building of the plank road, mining shipments were transported by wagons over deeply rutted trails.

The weight of the loads were often so heavy that the wagons would get bogged down in the mud, and would be unable to complete the journey. Due to this, shipments were scheduled around the seasons, and even then, there were no guarantees the load would not be delayed.

James E. Sauer, a businessman in the region, saw the need for a new kind of road construction. To finance the project, he issued three hundred shares of stock, selling for $50 apiece. He took out $15,000 in insurance and started the plank road. All told the road would cost about $200,000 to complete.

Despite warnings from state officials that gravel roads were smoother and easier to travel, the people in the area persisted in their idea of travelling on mud-free roads.

Construction of the road was fairly simple. Top engineers were employed for the project because the builders felt the route between the mines and the Mississippi River at Ste. Genevieve would be critical to the future success of the region.

The actual building of the road consisted of placing 8-foot long timbers, which were about 2 1/2 inches thick, crosswise on sills, and then nailing them in place. Most of the materials were obtained from the surrounding densely wooded areas. In fact, saw mills were often built near the road in order to maintain the road, and remove broken and rotted timbers.

The road being just 8 feet wide, allowed only one-way traffic. Westbound traffic had the right-of-way, while east bound traffic had designated places where they had to turn off and wait. Although the design was somewhat inconvenient, it allowed most people to make the round trip in 5 days.

In order to sustain the road, five tollgates were placed along the road, two of which were located in Farmington and Doe Run. The cost of the toll was 25 cents per wagon and 10 cents for a man on a horse.

In the course of traveling the road, many people tried to avoid paying the tolls. One of the more famous ways was to call out the name "John Hunt" to the tollgate keeper.

John Hunt was a prosperous farmer in the area who used the road frequently. Instead of paying the toll each time he passed, he had an agreement with the keeper to charge it to his account, which he payed at the end of each month.

However, the word soon got out about the arrangement Hunt had. People began passing through the tollgate and saying they were with the John Hunt group. When Hunt got the bill at the end of one of the months, he decided to start paying in cash.

The plank road greatly contributed to the growth and economic development of the Mineral Area. It allowed a quicker route for the miners to export their goods, plus it opened the area to railroads, and paved the way for better roads.

When the cost and maintenance became too much, the owners of the plank road sold it to the respective counties, through which it ran. The road continued to operate for sometime under the counties supervision. Ste. Genevieve eventually closed its portion of the road, but St. Francois kept their end opened toll-free until 1903.

Parts of the old road may still be seen today. One marker is along Route 32 between Farmington and Ste. Genevieve.

Although its use was short for the mining industry, and it was not quite what the builders had hoped, the plank road did provide a needed link between the supplier, miner, and consumer. The road enabled the mining companies to make more deliveries and increase productivity. This in turn created more jobs and the need for more people to move to the area.

Although the lead mines are attributed to spurring the potential growth of the Mineral Area, the old plank road allowed the people to move in, the deliveries to get made, and the prospect a reality.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 24, 1987 in a special supplement "Reflections: View of the Past--A Look To the Future."


PLANK ROAD WAR OVER TOLL GATE
By Roger Forsythe, Daily Journal Staff Writer

In the days immediately following construction of the Old Plank Road, the pervading belief was that the "futuristic" byway would serve as a major link between the busy Mississippi River and area's iron mines.

Good idea, right?

Well, you would think so--unless you and your family had settled on farm land nestled between Farmington and Doe Run. Libertyville natives were also up in arms over the one-way wilderness route.

Built as a cost of $200,000 (without the relative cushion of federal or state funding), the plank road was an expensive undertaking. As may be expected, such a high-ticket expenditure attracted considerable controversy.

For example, when toll gates were placed along the 42-mile route, the idea was that those transporting supplies to and from Ste. Genevieve and Pilot Knob would gladly pay for traveling the improved route. The only other alternative, of course, was mud--lots of it.

In a concerted effort to pay off the debt incurred by the road's construction, five toll gates were installed along the route. Unfortunately, two of those gates stood between Farmington and Doe Run.

Because Farmington was the county seat, local residents frequently traveled the road. The going fare of 25-cents for a man and wagon--and 10 cents for a man riding horseback--was the same regardless of how far one traveled, or how often.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Delassus residents were not amused about having to pay the fare--not once, but twice!--every time they had to go to court or pay their taxes.

With two blocks of land set aside for public use near Delassus, much talk centered on moving the seat of government out of Farmington, so everyone could take care of their business without being unduly charged.

The issue grew more and more heated until those managing the road finally decided to close the gate closest to Farmington. This appeased the local residents and preserved Farmington's claim to the county seat.

In Libertyville, residents were equally dissatisfied with how the plank road was being managed. More specifically, they believed that funding collected from use of the plank road was finding itself into less-than-public coffers.

At the time the plank road was built, the standing agreement was that any profit to be made by the road would be equally shared by those towns lining the busy thoroughfare.

Doubt soon evolved into red-faced anger as speculation swirled around how the toll gates were being operated and who was getting the money that should have been rightfully shared with the people of Libertyville.

Finally--so the story goes--Libertyville residents stormed the county courthouse with farm tools and weapons in hand, demanding to see all the books detailing where, how, when, why and to whom the plank road tolls were being distributed.

Once all their questions had been answered and nearly everyone was satisfied that no wrongdoing had been committed, the mob quietly disbanded and the residents returned home.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 24, 1992 in a special supplement "Myths...Legends...Tall Tales of St. Francois County and the Ozarks."


PLANK ROAD
The Highway to Progress For the County During the 1800s Has Its Stories
By Roger Forsythe, Daily Journal Staff Writer

All that remains of the longest, most famous and best plank road ever built is piled in a loose stack of rocks along Highway 32, just east of Farmington.

Like most Ozark myths or Missouri tall tales, if you drive by too fast -- not taking the time to notice the lay of the land around you -- it will be missed completely in the casual blur of haste.

Such is the history of the Old Plank Road, a local legend perhaps best remembered by the younger generation because of the all-night "inn" that bears its name to this day.

With the lengthy routes to and from Ste. Genevieve, Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob great improved, Farmington took advantage of its central location by catering to the shipping and lodging business in great demand by the teamsters making the five-day, round trip journey.

Built in two years (1853-1855) at a total cost of $200,000, the road featured a wooden surface that stretched 42 miles. It served as a major supply and shipping link between area iron mines and the busy river traffic gliding up and down the Mighty Mississippi.

While five toll gates dotted the route, two of them were stationed between Farmington and Doe Run.

The going fare at the time was 25 cents, round trip, for a man with a wagon full of supplies. By comparison, a man riding horseback was charged 10 cents at the toll gates.

At the state level, officials were not enthusiastic about the idea and called the plank road old-fashioned, costly and rough. They preferred gravel roads because they were better and smoother.

Local residents, however, dreamed of traveling over mud-free roads, so top engineers were employed to develop plans for this grand expressway of the future.

A corporation that had formed in Jefferson City on Feb. 7, 1851 was hired to serve as the chief contractor. Workers toiled long hours over the simplistic plans because they envisioned the plank road to be a long-term investment for the future.

Constructed in a series of eight-foot sections with planks to tie them together, the road was built from planks measuring eight feet long and two inches thick. Local saw mills along the road cut the timber that was hauled to the construction sites.

Despite all the preliminary planning, a rather significant flaw was discovered as soon as the wooden toll road opened; the planks were far too narrow for two-way traffic.

Eight feet wide even at its widest point, the road allowed barely enough room [for] one-way traffic. Although large, three-oxen teams pulled heavy loads of iron ore east to the river, west bound traffic was granted the right of way.

According to the rules of the road, supply teams going east had to wait at one of the few cut-off points to allow west bound traffic to pass.

Not unlike some of the treacherous roads driven today by coast-to-coast truck drivers, travel along the old plank road was rough, bumpy hard work. As one old-timer put it, "We didn't get rich but we did make a living."

John Hunt, who often used the road between Farmington and Doe Run, learned what he later described to be a valuable lesson.

"I drove the road a lot at night," Hunt later told a historian. "I got into the habit of passing the toll gate and just calling out my name."

As Hunt related the story, the gatekeepers would then charge the bill to his account. At the end of the month, he would settle his fare with them.

Other teamsters learned his trick and would pass through at night, unseen by the gate keeper, and call out, "The team of John Hunt!" After Hunt received his bill at the end of the month, he paid cash every time he went through a toll gate.

As may be expected, the use of toll gates along the road declined as more roads opened. Ironically, however, the part of the toll road snaking its way through St. Francois County later operated under the guise of the St. Francois County Gravel Road Co.

In 1902, nearly half a century after the planks were first cut and pieced together, St. Francois County officials purchased the plank road and make it a toll-free part of the county system.

Parts of the historic thoroughfare may still be seen --- especially along Highway 32 between Farmington and Ste. Genevieve, where sections of the pavement still follow the course of the original ox teams.

But Highway 32 is not the only remaining roadway where the original plank route has been greatly improved -- and lost to time out of mind. Other highways still trace the lay of the land as our forefathers knew it.

While the history of the Old Plank Road is, indeed, short and the use of planks in highway construction was not the wave of the future -- as its builders had hoped -- the plank road provided a vital link between supplier and miner, east and west.

Like its most noteworthy counter-part, Highway 32 today, the Old Plank Road also provided an important basis for growth in Farmington during the days just before the Civil War.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 24, 1992 in a supplement "Myths...Legends...Tall Tales of St. Francois County and the Ozarks."


OLD PLANK ROAD WAS HISTORY LINK FOR
FARMINGTON
AREA COMMUNITIES

     It was billed as the longest, most famous and best plank road ever built.  It began in Ste. Genevieve, ran to Iron Mountain and on to Pilot Knob.  But Farmington took advantage of its location and became a hub of development and shipping for the teamsters moving along the road.

    Built during the 1850s, the road had reached from Ste. Genevieve to Farmington by 1853.  It continued to Iron Mountain and finished late in 1855. 

     At a cost of $200,000 the r42 miles of wood-surfaced highway served as a link between area iron mines and the supply and shipping links needed by those mines.

    There were five too gates along the route, two of them between Farmington and Doe Run.  A journey along the road would cost a man with a wagon of supplies 25 cents for the round trip.  His counterpart on a horse would be charged only 10 cents at the gates.

   Despite the state officials’ warnings that gravel roads were better and smoother, use of the plank road continued because people dreamed of traveling over mud-free roads.

    Construction of the road was simple, but top engineers of the time were employed to develop plans for the road.   The builder, a corporation formed in Jefferson City on Feb. 7, 1851, wanted to make sure every thing was right because it saw the route between the iron mines and the Mississippi River at Ste. Genevieve as a vital link for the future.

    The road was built with planks 8 feet long and 2 inches thick.

    The road was constructed in a series of 8-foot sections with planks to tie them together.  Local saw mills along the road cut the timber that was hauled to the construction sites.

    Being only 8 feet wide the road allowed only one-way traffic for the three-ox teams that carried massive loads of iron ore.  Westbound traffic had the right-of-way.  Teams going east had to wait at one of the cutoffs to allow westbound traffic to pass.  A round trip on the road took five days.  Many of the teamsters made the round trip each week.  As one put it, “we didn’t get rich but we did make a living.”

    John Hunt, who often used the road between Farmington and Doe Run, learned what he later described as a most valuable lesson.

    “I drove the road a lot at night,” Hunt later told a historian.  “I got into the habit of passing the toll gate and just calling out my name.”

    The gatekeepers would then charge the bill to Hunt.  At the end of the month he would settle with them, Hunt said.

     Other teamsters learned his trick and would pass through at night and call out, “The team of John Hunt.”  After Hunt got his bill, at the end of the month he paid cash on each trip. 

            The use of toll gates along the road began declining as more roads opened.   But the part of the toll road through St. Francois County continued to operate under a firm called the St. Francois County Gravel Road Co.

   In 1902 St. Francois County purchased the road and made it a toll-free part of the county system.

    Parts of the old Road may still be seen.  One marker is along Route 32 between Farmington and Ste. Genevieve.  Part of Route 32 runs along the old plank road and there are other sections or roads that use part of the old right of way.

   While its history was short and it was not what the builders had hoped, the plank road provided a vital link between supplier and miner.  It also provided an important basis for growth in Farmington in the 1850s.

The Daily Journal, Flat River, Mo., Monday, March 19, 1979/Transcribed by Jeanne Hunt Nassaney.


THE ROAD SYSTEM OF ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY
By Thos. H. Holman (1924)

The original beginning of the road system of St. Francois County was the trails of the Indian tribes who inhabited Missouri. These trails served the needs and purposes of their time, and no doubt were used by the white pioneers as they explored the territory west of the Mississippi River. With the establishment of the first white settlements in widely settled communities came the demand for opening pioneer roads connecting these communities.

The government survey maps show that prior to 1815 there were several well-defined roads thru St. Francois County. Notable among these pioneer roads was the road from Ste. Genevieve to Potosi, which passed through the northern part of St. Francois County, crossing Big River at Big River Mills. In explanation, Big River Mills was quite an important village located about one-half mile north of the mouth of Flat River. But "the place thereof shall know it no more"--It is deserted, obliterated, gone. So are many of the original, or pioneer roads--they are abandoned and forgotten.

Following the organization of St. Francois County, and the selection of the County Seat, the work of locating the real roads of the county was begun. An inspection of the map of St. Francois County, as of most any county, shows these original roads radiating out from the county seat in the direction of the county seats of adjoining counties. In recent years we have designated these as the "County Seat Highways."

As the population increased, and new farms were developed, the cross roads, or neighborhood roads were established. However in establishing these roads, but little was done except to secure the right-of-way, and cut down and remove the trees. Bridges and culverts were few and grades were unheard of. The natural soil was the road, and the traffic was light, so for most of the time the going was good. If a part of the road became impassable it was easy to make a detour over adjoining lands. However, with further development of farms the roads were confined to lanes, making detours impossible, and at times the roads would become impassible on account of mud. The pioneers would cover these places with poles laid cross-wise the road, as closely as possible, and with an earth covering. This gave relief. The only other alternative was to wait until the mud dried up.

Thus passed the first half of the nineteenth century--with much increase in road mileage, but no improvement of road surfacing. By the year 1850 the development of iron mines at Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob had produced an enormous amount of freight business between those points and Ste. Genevieve. Pig iron was hauled east and the return trip brought machinery, merchandise, groceries and supplies of all kinds; supplies not only for the mining towns, but for the vast country lying west and south. In those days, St. Francois County was the "gateway to the west." Be it remembered that at this time the railroad had not crossed to the west of the Mississippi River; and therefore all freight and passenger business was by wagon over the dirt road. Those were the days of the prairie schooner, or covered wagon. People moved that way, or moved not at all.

With traffic so heavy between Iron Mountain and Ste. Genevieve, in wet times the roads became impassible. Business was urgent, supplies were necessary--something must be done. So in 1851 a corporation was formed, known as the "Ste. Genevieve, Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob Plank Road Company," the purpose being to build, maintain and operate a toll road. The road was surveyed and laid out by a competent engineer, as evidenced by the fact that since that time but few changes have been made in the location. The road was well graded and the creeks bridged with wood bridges. Then the entire road was covered with heavy oak boards like a bridge floor. Think of it--a single track bridge floor from Ste. Genevieve to Pilot Knob impossible today--but then the virgin forest stood by the wayside waiting the ruthless hand of man. The problem was solved and business moved as it had never moved before along that road.

The plank road was maintained for 10 or 12 years. But when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad was completed to Pilot Knob in 1857, the freight business over the plank road ceased, and its maintenance was discontinued. That portion of the plank road in St. Francois county was held and operated as a toll road by the St. Francois Gravel Road Company, who maintained it as a gravel road, until 1902 when it was purchased by the county court of St. Francois County and the toll gates removed.

Previous to 1897 there was little permanent improvement of public roads. In and around Iron Mountain were several miles of good roads made of cinders and slag and built of poll tax from the several thousand people living there, and by the donations of the Iron Mountain Company. After the mines were shut down, and the people moved away, maintenance ceased. These roads were soon washed away and destroyed. We are glad of the return of Iron Mountain of some of its former life and prosperity, as among other things it means local support of the roads in that part of the county.

The first rock road, built in 1892, jointly by the county court and the city of Farmington, was on the Potosi road--now Potosi street in Farmington--about one quarter of a mile long. This was built of limestone rip-rap and surfaced with gravel, and successfully cured a very bad mud hole. The south end of this road has been replaced by six hundred lineal feet of experimental concrete construction, which after four years use is proving up well.

The first and perhaps the greatest step toward the building of a permanent system of public roads for St. Francois County was taken in 1897. The county court, consisting of H. Sleeth, presiding judge and W. F. Doss and W. M. Smith, associate judges, appropriated $5280.00 and such other sums as might come into the county treasury from the tax on dram shop licenses between March 4 and October 15, 1897, to be expended in building a rock road between Farmington and Flat River. The contract was let for a rip-rap road twelve feet wide, and work was commenced near the Oak Hill school house. The specifications were soon changed to a sixteen foot width of rip-rap, and the contract completed on that basis. The following year the same court contracted for 2 and seven-eighths miles of additional rip-rap road between Farmington and Flat River, and also let contract for gravel dressing over the rip-rap first placed to the amount of $1000.

The expenditure of a large part of the dram shop revenue by contract, and for expensive rock and gravel roads, was a wide departure from the old method of distribution of the money among the overseers of the various road districts, to be used in the maintenance of dirt roads. This policy of building rock roads called out severe criticism on the court and was probably responsible for the retirement from office of Judge Sleeth and Judge Doss, who were succeeded by E. E. Swink, presiding judge and Jno. A. Saffel, associate, Judge W. M. Smith being re-elected. The precedent had been set, and men of vision could see that St. Francois County could get out of the mud onto hard roads by persistent expenditure of the current revenues for that purpose.

The new County Court in 1899 with Judge Swink, presiding and Judges Saffel and Smith as associates, entered at once on a vigorous program of rock road building, and during the four years following, built many miles of rip-rap and gravel roads.

These early rock roads were built for the most part without the use of a rock crusher, and were not so smooth as the roads being built at this time, yet they were a great improvement over the mud road. In recent years most of these old roads have been re-dressed with crushed rock, and are most excellent roads, and cannot be surpassed any where in the state. Since the adoption of the hard road policy no county court has had the audacity to go back to the old policy; but, almot to a man, have stood for the expenditure of the maximum revenue for hard roads, concrete culverts, substantial bridges, and the purchase of equipment necessary to carry forward a real progressive road program. The result is that St. Francois County has a road system equal to if not better than any other county in the state. We are proud of our road system which consists, approximately, of 110 miles of rock roads, 100 miles of gravel roads, and 80 miles of well graded earth roads waiting to be surfaced with rock and gravel. But the program is not finished, for the county has about 200 miles of unimproved roads.

In the matter of bridges, the county stands high, with 37 steel bridges and 10 steel and concrete bridges, giving more than one mile of bridge floor. Long ago we lost count of the concrete culverts, but no doubt there are at least 600 of them, also many tile and iron culverts; all of good design and substantial construction, and giving continuous service without the expenditure of anything beyond the first cost. When we consider the money that has been put into our road system we are at first prone to say that results are not what they should be; but we must not forget the disasters to bridges and roads from floods and frost or the constant and ever growing destruction of the traffic. All that we have now, or had in the past, has come without a bond issue, being financed with the current taxes and such donations as come voluntarily.

While we look with some satisfaction to the achievements of the past, we also look with great hope and expectation to the future, knowing that a citizenship that has become accustomed to good roads, will never be satisfied until the best roads are obtained.

The automobile and truck traffic over our roads is now intensive, even terrific and subjects them to such strains and abrasions that the ordinary processes of construction and maintenance do not suffice to keep them from being destroyed. What then shall we do as traffic increases? Maintenance costs are becoming excessive, and lack of maintenance lays a heavy toll upon the users of the roads. Maintenance is the big problem which has not been solved here in St. Francois County. If there are methods of construction or maintenance in use any where that give better results than we are getting here, we should discover those better ways and use them, and if possible, improve on them. One man's opinion is not necessarily the right process; for every man who travels a road has a perfectly good opinion as to how the road should be built and maintained. Many of these processes are sound and right for a light traffic road. But when the traffic becomes as heavy and intense as it now is between Farmington and Bonne Terre all the ordinary processes fail.

Will the State Road solve our problem? We think not. But on the other hand, when the State Road is completed many tourists will pass our way, and with the normal increase in population, will add greatly to the traffic. The problem of taking care of this traffic is ours to solve in our own way. The construction of some of the so called "permanent type road" that will need but little repairs would go far toward the solution. But the type of road and the matter of financing should first be given consideration. These are engineering problems and can only be determined after proper surveys and investigations have been made. Then the facts should determine and not "guess work."

THE STATE HIGHWAY

St. Francois County is fortunate in being so located geographically as to be on the route of the proposed "Primary Road" leading south from St. Louis. This road has been surveyed through Jefferson County and striking the northern boundary of St. Francois County at a point about one and one half miles southeast of the Valles Mines Station. From there the route is in a south westerly direction to a point on Big River at the old pump station of the St. Joseph Lead Co., then south to the Bonne Terre Catholic cemetery; then in a south easterly direction to a point about one half mile west of Big River Mills; then south to Cantwell; then south easterly to the Mo.-Ill. railroad, which will be crossed over head at a point near the No. 5 shaft of the National Lead Co.; then south easterly to a point on the Farmington and Flat River road just west of the Masonic cemetery. From this point the route will lie along or near the present road toward Fredericktown, except a detour to the north side of Farmington. This route is a good one and, if adopted, will accomodate as many of our people as any route could.

The rights-of-way are being taken for the State Road in this county; and the county court has been assured that as soon as the rights-of-way can be secured, contracts will be let for some of the grading and culvert work. It is greatly to be hoped that condemnation proceedings many not be necessary, as any such proceedings would cause tedious delays. In that case the money now available would be spent in some other county that was ready to receive it. It is important that all assistance possible be given in this preliminary work so that actual construction work may get started. The building of this primary road through St. Francois County is one of the biggest things that could happen. Let's help.

Published by THE LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. March 14, 1924.


NEW ROAD PLANNED
SOUTH FROM MIDDLEBROOK

Officials of Iron and St. Francois counties have been contemplating road construction between Middlebrook and Pilot Knob for some time, the object being elimination of the dangerous railroad crossings encountered there and the creek ford at Middlebrook.

In connection with this projected improvement, members of the St. Francois county court met with officials of Iron county last Saturday and looked over the situation, which will call for construction of approximately 1,800 feet of road, all but three hundred of which will be in this county. New work is planned to connect with stretches of the old road on the east side of the Iron Mountain tracks, thus keeping the road entirely free from dangerous grade crossings.

It is a good move and one which will meet with approval of most of our people.

Published by THE LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. June 1, 1928.


COUNTY SCENES
By:  L. L. Richardson, LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 21, 1950.

There is a great deal of talk about Missouri's highways these days. I recall when Highway 61 came through our Lead Belt and the days before. This highway was being built in 1924 and prior to that time it was extremely difficult to get around our Southeast counties by motor. Practically an impossibility during the winter and bad weather.

My stepfather, Lucius Hartle, came from Cape Girardeau. We would go down to his home about once a year from St. Louis. Illinois was way ahead of Missouri in road building so we'd cross the river in his big Nash touring car, go down Illinois No. 3 to Chester where we took a ferry back over to this side. Here was a great network of Missouri gravel roads that led us through Perryville and points south. Stepfather became lost more than once as there were no signs pointing the way.

He had a sister living on a large productive farm north of Jackson so that is where we always headed for first. In some places the concrete highway had been constructed but the pleasure of riding on it was of short duration. After a few miles you hit the dusty old rattling gravel trail again. Down that way the hills are steeper and sharper than those of St. Francois County. By way of mention, Highway 61 came through right past Mr. Hartle's sister's house; past their back door as the residence was built to face an older road years before. There was some speculation of having the house turned around to properly face the then new roadway.

Coming back to St. Louis from the Cape we generally stuck to the Missouri roads. Every few miles the old Nash would have a flat tire. It was a disgusting hot long wait while the car was jacked up, wheel unscrewed, innertube scrutinized diligently for tiny puncture which was frequently most elusive! Scratching the rubber and plastering on the patch. Anything could cause a puncture, a nail, tack, bit of glass or flinty-sharp gravel. We'd be on our way for five or ten more miles when the old tire would spring another leak. The worst part of this procedure was putting air in the tube by handpump, a backbreaking task if ever there were one. Stepfather had the patience of Job, not once did he curse or complain when an old tire began going down and the wheel to wobble. He was a man of very few words and there is no telling what he was saying inside of him.

On our way home we passed through the romantic villages of our Southeast and the cities of Fredericktown (we always stopped off at Mine La Motte to visit my very aged great grandmother Claywell), through the pine groves to Farmington and then deep in the heart of our Lead Belt.

At Flat River the hill was too steep for most autos of that age and horses were employed to pull the stalled cars up the grade. We felt a sense of pride when our Nash took us up in hesitating low grinding gear without assistance. We would stay overnight with our relatives in Bonne Terre before tackling the last half of our long journey.  

From Bonne Terre the graveled trail led over the old DeSoto road. This road is the most up and down thoroughfare in the entire state. It is a continuous ridgework of hills till you hit the Jochim creek at DeSoto. In Jefferson County our way led down the Joachim to Herculaneum and from here followed some of the present Highway 61 and then led westward going up what must be some of today's Highway 21. When we crossed the bridge on the Meramec near Fenton we began to feel we were nearing home although there were many more miles to travel down Gravois road to St. Louis.

We arrived in St. Louis more tired than if we had taken a junket in a prairie schooner on the uncharted trails out West and felt we had made an accomplishment as befitting as any pioneer could boast of. Mother, stepdad and the rest of us said, "Never again!" But when the next summer rolled around dad took his Nash to the garage to get overhauled, threw in a couple of new innertubes on the back seat and we were on our way down Illinois Highway 3 to Chester for a repeat performance.

I was on hand when Highway 61 came over the hill north of Bonne Terre. My father, Howard Richardson, was watchman of St. Joseph Lead Company's old iron pump house on Big River at that time and I had come to spend my summer school vacation with him. Those were really monster machines that laid that ribbon of cement. Dad Howard was not enthusiastic about the new highway as it was destroying those hills he loved so well. In fact, the concrete was poured right over the site where he and I used to go fox chasing on moonlight nights. Dad said, "That highway ain't going to be for them motorists. It's for the government so soldiers can get across the nation in a hurry because we are expecting a war." That was back in 1924, mind you, when there was no thought of a World War 2.

The North Big River bridge proved a very difficult engineering problem and required more than a year to build. Dad Howard elected himself unofficial supervisor over the work and went down there every day offering his advice--it may be because of him is why the work was delayed! Different pumps had to be brought in to keep the water out while digging for a solid rock foundation, meanwhile the big pump house across the river was torn away as it was in the direct path of the highway which had crossed the river and gone on through Bonne Terre.

Howard was miffed at why they should tear down a huge perfectly good St. Joe pump at the very sight and bring in these tiny gasoline pumps unable to hoist a glass of water, he snorted, "It just goes to show how extravagant and wasteful our government is of our funds."

If dad Howard was a little disgruntled about the highway coming through, he has a nephew who expresses his sentiments. While this was being written a letter arrived from my cousin, Arnold Richardson of Hazel Run, he writes, "I wish there never were any cars or highways built. I used to get a thrill out of hearing wild turkeys gobble and drummings of pheasants. It has been several years since I've heard or seen them which is due to game hogs and automobiles. During the hunting season there is a general bombardment around my house here. Some hunters come inside the fence without asking permission. I am a great lover of wild animals and would like to see them spared. Recently there was a possum that would appear regularly in my back yard just before sundown. I put out feed for it until it stopped coming. Some hunter or something else must have gotten it."

Cousin Arnold is perhaps the last lover of the Richardson clan of our hills. I wonder though, if we had pheasants back in Hazel Run? The old-timers speak of them, yet, what is believed they were prairie chickens which is a bird about twice as large as quail. Prairie chickens were perhaps gone forever.

This is a new age of highways, aeroplanes, atom bombs and flying saucers. I think it an era my stepfather Lucius Hartle would have delighted in were he living, although he was a man of few words.


HIGHWAY 67 RIGHT-OF-WAY AWARDS PAID
Published Dec. 24, 1948, Farmington Newspaper

        Last week we stated that the money from the State Highway Department for the awards made by the commission in the condemnation suits for the new location of highways 61 and 67 through the north part of Farmington had been paid into Circuit Court.  We also stated the money, $72,725, had been ordered transferred to the Jefferson County Circuit Court as the Highway Department's appeal from the awards made had been taken to that Court on a change of venue.  Later the order to transfer the money was rescinded and on Tuesday the attorneys filed stipulations in Court which permitted the distribution of the money at this time and that is being done.

    Following are the awards and the sums, totaling $72,725, which are being paid:  Chandler's Spanish Inn property, $15,000; G. J. Crabdree property, $5,000; Donze property, $25.00; Mary Ledbetter $7,500; A. G. Vandergriff property, $7,000; Mae Brookshire, $4,000; Iva B. Derk, $3,500; Yeargain - Rhodes Greenhouse, $25,000; E. D. Shinn property $200; Robert S. Tetley property, $5,000.

    The Highway Department had previously made out-of-court settlements with all of the other property owners along the new 200-ft right-of-way.  Altogether over 30 pieces of property will be crossed by the newly located road.


HIGHWAY 67
By Joe Layden, Daily Journal Managing Editor

It cuts through the eastern part of the county like a lifeline pumping dollars into the economy of every community it touches.

The four-lane concrete strips supplies a smooth traffic flow for more than 2,000 county workers who daily make the trip to the pay envelopes of the city while still able to enjoy the benefits of life in rural America.

It is now called U.S. 67 but finds roots along Route 9 in the very first effort to create a state highway system in Missouri.

Back when cars traveling its dusty two-lanes carried letters like T, A and B for names and came in a choice of colors that ranged from black to black the southern part of the roadway that was to become U.S. 67 was dubbed Route 9. It followed a path very similar to that now called OO.

The battle that created the state highway system started about the time dress hemlines were on their way up and flappers were being created. The idea stemmed from a plan to build a roadway between Kansas City and St. Louis. But by 1920 the plan had run into the problems which often beset state programs--it was slow and out of money.

State officials turned to the voters for a $60 million bond issue which passed but leaders quickly found that opinions differed between rural and urban residents over where and how the money would be spent.

As the temperature of the summer sun warmed, so did the battle over how the dollars should be spent. The urban folks fought for that link between the two population centers, while the rural folks wanted highways they could travel around the state.

The General Assembly postponed the battle for a special session in 1921 that dragged on and on throughout the late summer in Jefferson City.

Finally they reached a compromise, which both sides believed to be very poor, called the Centennial Road Law. For the first time Missouri's highway system moved from one controlled by the counties to one controlled by the state.

Today that compromise so melined by those involved in hammering it out, is called some of the best work ever done by the General Assembly.

It is through the act in 1921 that state Route 9 was created and the first steps toward a link from Flat River to St. Louis was began. Route 9 ran from Flat River to Fredericktown. The road north was still gravel and ran through DeSoto.

A map of the system in 1921 shows the proposed route of what was to be Highway 67 to link up with Route 9.

The first construction began north of Farmington with a 30 feet roadbed and 18 feet of portland cement concrete pavement. This was accomplished between 1925 and 1928 as the "Roaring Twenties" had its volume turned up full blast.

Then, as the stockmarket crashed, the depression set upon the land but work continued as the state moved to upgrade the part of the highway south of Farmington along what had been Route 9. This was done on a 36 feet roadbed and a 20 feet portland cement concrete strip in 1930. This roadbed can still be found as Route OO.

Names had already started to change. A 1926 map shows the roadway south of Farmington was called Highway 61 and the northern road was Highway 67. Later the northern part would be called 61-67 up to the 1950s when the state renamed Highway 25, which ran from Jefferson County through Ste. Genevieve County, to Highway 61.

Today the path of two-lane 67 is hidden from that Route OO in names like Flat River Road, St. Joe Street, Vo-Tech School Road and them simply "Old-Highway 67".

Gone are the service stations like Texico Town at the intersection of 67 and 32 where white-shirted attendants with leather bow ties in place rushed to the pumps, washing windshields and checking the oil as they "filled 'er" up at the price of 25 cents a gallon.

Gone too are places like Heck's, just across the road from Texico Town, where while Mr. Heck and his staff was filling it up, you could get a "cup of Joe" and piece of pie and walk away with change from a half-a-dollar.

Old timers will tell you, "Yet, it was a busy road back then. Why, on a summer Sunday night you could set in Bonne Terre and tell when the traffic light changed in Festus."

A trip to the city in those days was a three-to-four-hour ordeal filled with stop signs and cars turning left. But there was always a stop at the Summit Cafe for a break in the driving time.

Flat River was well known, in those days, by people who traveled by bus. The Midway Bus Station was where the Greyhounds made their stop. A sign of the times was the two entrances marked for Whites and Blacks so segregation could be preserved.

The station can still be seen on St. Joe Drive. It is being remodeled but once housed a laundry.

The importance of the traffic on the roadway can be seen by the efforts made to draw the traffic to business districts. There was such an effort made by businessmen in downtown Flat River. They raised the money to help buy the land and build the roadway now called Main Street to Route 9 so drives would have an easy access to the business area.

Today's county bus stop, Ozark Village, is also an outgrowth of business that develop[ed] because of the traffic along the busy highway.

Seven years before the route change south of Farmington was made, work was started on turning U.S. 67 north of there into a four lane highway.

Building the four-lanes of the roadway took from 1957 to 1971 when the last section between Bonne Terre and Flat River was opened in late summer.

For more than 10 years state officials tried to find the money to build the four-lane section between Farmington and Fredericktown. Then in 1984 that work was completed.

In 1964 there was a change in the highway as the route was moved from the path of what is now OO south of Farmington to the new location on the west side of the city. While the roadway there remained two-lane, the right of way was purchased for the expansion to a four-lane road.

When the final four-lane section opened, the link up with St. Francois County to St. Louis was completed. The trip that once took three to four hours is now a non-stop drive of a little over an hour via U.S. 67 and I-55.

Much of the expansion in the area along the limited access highway is still going on today. Motels have been and still are being developed. There are plans to expand areas around several of the intersections with the roadway.

The quick and easy access to the metro area, and the many services found there, has proven to be a drawing card for industry. Shopping malls have been built along the highway. Towns that once were built along the borders of the old Highway 67 are now reaching out to incompass the new roadway.

A trip home from the city on a Sunday night is no longer one where cars pile up at the stop signs but it is still greeted with long lines of headlights as weekend vacationers return to the city after a visit to the lakes or one of the state parks that dot the area.

Little could those who spent that long hot summer working out the transportation rules for Missouri have known what they were building but their foresight in planning old Route 9 brought a life line to rural Missouri that has meant growth and a better life for those who live here.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 24, 1987 in a special supplement "Reflections: View of the Past--A Look to the Future."


COUNTY ROADWAYS
By Leroy Sigman, Daily Journal Staff Writer

County commissioners who now struggle with maintaining nearly 400 miles of roads and over 100 bridges may be no more overwhelmed than when earlier county administrators tried to layout and construct the first public routes through St. Francois County.

Records indicate the task began in 1823 when the County Court plotted roads to lead in all directions from the county seat in order that the principal towns could be reached. All of them being simple, dirt roads, travel during bad weather was still difficult if not next to impossible.

The first "all weather" road was the historical Plank Road, which was constructed from 1851 through 1853. But that road preceded by more than 40 years the first concentrated effort of the county to establish a permanent road system.

It was in 1892 that the County Court and the city of Farmington shared in the cost of constructing the first rock road. Then known as Potosi Road, it was the stretch of what is now Potosi Street in Farmington from Liberty Street to Maple Street, but then Liberty Street was Caledonia Road.

Political prejudice was alleged in road work then as it has been in years since. In 1897 a major controversy developed over an appropriation of $5,280 from the county road fund for construction of a rock road between Farmington and Flat River. According to history books, the decision was so unpopular that two county judges were defeated in the next election because of it.

The next 13 years saw a boom in road and bridge building for that era. By 1910 there were about 65 miles of hard-surfaced roads that included 35 miles of permanent rock road and 15 miles of gravel roads. By this time, the county also had 15 large bridges and five small bridges of the steel span type.

The first concrete road in the county came about in 1919 at the same location the first rock road was built. Described as "sort of an experiment," the county built 600 feet of 24-foot wide concrete from Liberty Street north on Potosi Street. After eight years in which the concrete pavement showed virtually no sign of wear, the county took deeper interest in this type of road construction.

The first quarter of the 20th century saw such economic and population growth in the county that the road and bridge building boom continued. [By] 1923 when the Missouri General Assembly passed the Centennial Good Roads Law, the county had more than 300 miles of rock, gravel and chat roads and more than 30 steel and concrete bridges.

It was about 1925 when the public made contributions to assist the county in a $100,000 project that resulted in constructing three miles of "high type concrete highway" from Desloge, through St. Francois, to the top of Federal Hill. This came at about the same time that the state paved a highway from Jefferson County to a point just south of Esther, a distance of 18 miles. It was not much later that the state extended the highway to Farmington.

That state-constructed highway was to become U.S. 61 and later U.S. 61-67, running the entire length of the county. By today's standards it is a snake trail, but then it was one of the most modern highways in the state.

In an era when by-pass routes around communities to less traffic congestion are considered essential, the U.S. 61 project met just the opposite reaction in Farmington. Original plans called for it to skirt the edge of Farmington, but business interests persuaded officials to construct the highway through the city. It was not for another 25 years that the Highway 32 bypass known as Karsch Boulevard and then still carrying U.S. 67, was constructed.

It was in the mid 1930s that the state undertook the construction of farm-to-market roads throughout St. Francois County. Most of those, now lettered routes, were originally county roads which the state took over and improved. Some, like Route K east of Bonne Terre, were constructed by the state.

There are still many citizens around who remember when current highways were rustic roads. Route D, which runs north out of Farmington, was the old St. Louis Road. The reason for that was obvious because it was the main road from Farmington to St. Louis around the turn of the century. It wound around taking travelers through such places as DeSoto and Hillsboro, though there was also the Hillsboro Road, which ran parallel.

Before the county got into a semblance of an organized road program, winding trails through forests, over hills and across sometimes impassable streams provided the only routes. Even well into the 20th century horses still provided the safest and most efficient method of travel because of the difficult terrain and poor roads. In bad weather, wagons and later vehicles would sink "to unbelievable depths" in the resulting mud.

A trip to town was a day-long adventure for farm families well into the new century. A trip to the "big city" of St. Louis was much more than that. It was an event that many did not experience through much of their life unless they traveled by rail.

Oddly as it might seem when transportation was so difficult in rural areas of the county, delivery of the daily St. Louis Globe-Democrat to the farm families was commonplace as early as 1910. The newspaper provided many farm families with their only contact with the outside world.

Tales of walking miles to attend one-room rural schools may sometimes be exaggerated, but there are many older county residents who can tell the truth about such experiences. It was a luxury to have a horse or mule free from the farm work to ride to school. Usually that occurred only in extreme weather and the girls and younger children got to ride while the older children led the way.

The one-room schools such as that at Salem community took students through the eighth grade, all in a single classroom and with a single teacher. When students completed that grade they either went to town to attend school or their formal education was finished. Because most could not afford to board in town and the trip to town was too difficult, families found a high school education more than they could attain--though education was held to be highly important.

Some families who found town schools out of reach had a unique approach to the problem. When their children had completed the eighth grade, they would send them back for a second year in that grade to make sure they had learned all they could.

Those fortunate enough to own the early model automobiles also describe their adventures of travel, those coming without having to leave the county. With the old Model T Ford, for example, the only way to get over steep hills was to back over them because of the gear ratio. During periods of heavy rain, travelers would often sit for hours waiting for swollen streams to recede in order to ford them.

Many of the original steel bridges built in the early part of the century are still in use, though most carry limited loads and have long been rated as inadequate, out-dated and outright dangerous. One is the Cedar Falls Road bridge over Flat River just east of Desloge. It has been scheduled by the County Commission for replacement, but funds from a federal program are not available and it may remain in service for at least three more years.

Those early days when roads were rugged and modes of transportation still inefficient, many communities--like rural families--found themselves isolated. What were communities around the turn of the century hold little in the way of community life now because they are no longer cutoff.

The county now has minimum standards that must be met before roads will be accepted into the county system. They involve both the type of construction and the width of the right-of-way.

Using both the regular road and bridge tax levy, money from the general sales tax and a three-year capital improvements sales tax, the county is spending about $1.3 million per year on road maintenance and improvements. The commission finds this is not nearly enough to do the work that is needed.

One of the problems, and nobody is certain when it started, is the number of roads that were blacktopped years ago. Many have an inadequate road base and even more have poor drainage, both factors causing major deterioration. The maintenance cost of the blacktop roads that were improperly converted is much greater than the cost of maintaining rock or gravel roads.

There has been discussion about converting some asphalt surfaces back to gravel or rock in recent years, but commissions have found strong opposition from rural residents.

Bridges have become a priority with all levels of government and recently more than 60 percent of all bridges in the state were found to be unsafe, inadequate or obsolete in a federally sponsored survey.

Where rail traffic once flourished and air traffic has become only mildly common, the roads and highways are still the main means of transportation in St. Francois County. They are an economic, political and socialogical issue with the public. One traffic-snarling snow is evidence enough of their importance.

Published by THE DAILY JOURNAL, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. April 24, 1987 in a special supplement "Reflections: View of the Past--A Look to the Future."


REPORTER HAS FOND MEMORIES OF ROUTE 67
BY: LeroySigman/Staff Writer, Daily Journal, Sept. 30, 2002

With all of the talk of upgrading it to freeway status through St. Francois County, some of us ancient inhabitants are tempted to look back with generally fond memories of when U.S. 67 was a narrow, two-lane highway that often carried bumper-to-bumper traffic on summer weekends.

It may not have the romance of Route 66, immortalized in song and a television series, but many who can recall the old highway will tell you it had its own character.

There are many who can remember further back than I about the highway and some of my recollections might be just a shade off in accuracy. It has been a half-century or more since most of these items of travel trivia existed.

******* In the beginning ********

Going back to the beginning, the state constructed the first concrete highway through the county in the late 1920s. One article noted survey work and engineering began in 1925. The old Big River bridges north of Bonne Terre and Desloge were built in about 1928, some records indicate.

Many will recall when it was U.S. 61 and 67, that designation carrying through until the late 1950s or early 1960s. What came as a surprise to me was that it was originally U.S. 67, according to a 1934 county map.

It was U.S. 61-67 from St. Louis to Fredericktown in the period from the 1940s until about 1960. At Fredericktown or more accurately Junction City, the two highways split, U.S. 61 going to Jackson along what is now Highway 72. The other, U.S. 67, wound through Fredericktown and then south to Greenville and Poplar Bluff. Most of the current highway between Cherokee Pass and northern Butler County are the original route.

For younger generations and newcomers to the area, the old highway is now Berry Road north of Bonne Terre starting at Route JJ. Raider Road and UniTec between Bonne Terre and Desloge is the next stretch of old highway. Through Desloge it is now State Street and in Park Hills it is now St. Joe Drive. The northern stretch of Woodlawn Drive in Leadington was the old highway. Between Leadington and Farmington it is now designated as Flat River Road.

The highway meandered through Farmington on Weber Road, Potosi and Liberty streets past the County Courthouse to Ste. Genevieve Avenue and then south to Fredericktown on what is now Route OO.

Drivers of those days will also recall much of the old highway had a lip on the side. Rather than dropping a wheel off the pavement if you strayed too far to the right, it was like jumping a curb. Another disadvantage to that engineering feature was water drained onto the roadway rather than off, making hydroplaning a common problem.

***** Billboards, barns and taverns******

There were billboards in those days, but not as many and generally not as large. Just about as common were the barns painted with advertisements for everything from tobacco products to tourist attractions. Some of the messages were on barn roofs, but some covered the entire barns. Of course, barns were more plentiful in those days, too.

Commercial development was less concentrated on the highway in those days, retail businesses and services generally being located in downtown business districts. But there was commercial development and some colorful ones at that.

Being too young to frequent them on my own, my recollection of all the taverns and road houses along U.S. 67 is limited. There aren't many of them left, but a lot of people will recall some of them.

There were a few north of Bonne Terre, but the one still visible is The Shamrock between Bonne Terre and Desloge. It is now one of the more popular steak houses in the county and attracts a much wider clientele.

Between Flat River and Farmington were such memorable places as the Silver Star, Melody Inn, the Big Elm. In the 1940s and '50s the classy place was The 61 Club, about halfway between Flat River and Farmington. It was considered a night club rather than a tavern.

Since state law did not allow clubs to sell "hard liquor," there was a liquor store in the same building as the night club, but customers had to go outside and into the liquor store to purchase whisky and the return to the club. Back in the club, they then purchased "set ups" to mix their drinks.

It was in the 1950s that Bill and Bob Greif moved to the area and opened the Clover Club, a much classier night club that offered area residents the opportunity for an evening of dining and dancing. It also was located about midway between Farmington and Flat River.

The Greif twins also eventually opened Suburban Furniture, a business that survived many years and was one of the larger retailers in the county.

Located in Esther where the Windmill Station now stands was the Green Castle. While you could get sandwiches, it was no White Castle and its most popular fare came in bottles and glasses.

***** Popular places to have a meal *********

Some of the more popular eateries were located along the highway, two of them near the current intersection U.S. 67 and Highway 8 in Desloge. What is now the Southfork Restaurant was originally Heck's Cafe, built in the 1930s by Emmet and Myrtle Heck. It later became Andrews' Restaurant and what is now the Econo Lodge was added. Heck's had tourist cabins behind the restaurant.

Just north of the intersection about where McDonalds is located was Texaco Town. It was also a combination restaurant and service station. One of its more notable owners is still around, Paul (Fiddle) Adams Jr. of Park Hills. After selling Texaco Town, a very popular eating establishment, he opened another in Flat River, the A&W Restaurant on top of Federal Hill.

Would you drop in to L&S Auto Parts in Park Hills for a meal? You would have nearly 50 years ago, only then it was Rosener's Drive-in Restaurant. They had car hops but also a fine dining area inside serving the same meals that became even more famous when they moved out on the new highway.

Ozark Village was located at what is now the Highway 32 and Route OO intersection in Farmington. The same old building, refurbished, is now El Tapatio Family Restaurant. While there is a trailer park there now, Ozark Village also had a motel.

Just east of the same intersection was one of the most popular eating spots in the region, Maude Hopkins' Restaurant where she served fried chicken as well as chicken and dumplings, family-style. You sat down and they brought the food out in platters while you ate all you could.

****** Tourist cabins and truck stops *********

There were tourist cabins where the Daily Journal office is now located in Park Hills. Tourist cabins sprung up as highway travel increased and they are the forerunners of the modern motel. About the only old motel from the old U.S. 67 era still to be found in this county is the Friendly Motel at the south edge of Farmington.

Also more common, though they were truck stops in those days, were the small gasoline stations every few miles along the highways. Some had service bays, some also had adjoining cafes and even tourist cabins. South of Farmington along Route OO at the Little St. Francis River is one of the last remaining old gas station buildings with the columns and gas pumps still there.

The owners have converted it into a home, but the woman living there had an interesting anecdote A couple stopped by and asked if they could buy one of the old tourist cabins in back. It seems the man had spent a night there during World War II and had fond memories because the station also sold moonshine liquor.

The best she could collect, being too young know about the old days, she said the station was apparently built sometime in the 1920s or 1930s. The station is of a style popular before World War II.

Just a mile farther south was the infamous Rainbow Inn, another popular road house or tavern. Many a story can be told of that place even up into the 1960s. It is now gone.

A deteriorating building at the corner of Lewis Street and St. Joe Drive in Park Hills is a reminder of another popular business found along the highway, the mom and pop groceries. Early on it was owned by John Hunt, but became even more popular when Roy Honbeck offered the most spectacular cold-cut sandwiches one could buy and inexpensive, too.

Also still to be found halfway between Leadington and Farmington are the remnants of the old Corral Drive-in Theater. The battered sign, like the twin box offices, still stands but is obliterated by trees and weeds.

The area's first discount store, Big Adolph's, was located south of Leadington. It featured a mix of used and new merchandise, including a lot of war surplus items.

Also between Leadington and Farmington was what was first known as Ozark Golf Course and later became known as the Empire Country Club.

Whatever happened to U.S. 61? It now runs from Jackson to Festus on what was previously Highway 25. Actually, it parallels Interstate 55 from the Arkansas line to St. Louis and then north along the Mississippi River to the Iowa line.

Just ran out of memory and ink. There is a lot that has been overlooked, but then there is not enough space to tell it.


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