A Day in the Arcadia Valley of Missouri

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Welcome Center Fort Davidson Pilot Knob, MO

My long time friend David Tripp journeyed from Texas to visit his parents and he got in touch with me and we decided to take a trip to the Arcadia Valley in Missouri.  The temperatures were bitter cold but we didn’t let that stop us.  We decided to start our day with lunch at the Fort Davidson Restaurant in Pilot Knob, MO.

After an excellent lunch we headed to the site of Fort Davidson. The only thing left of the fort is the earthworks of the fort, surrounding the huge hole that was caused by a powder explosion.  The site is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The Civil War Trust (a division of the American Battlefield Trust) and its partners acquired and preserved 41 acres of the battlefield that are now a part of the state historic site.

The Battle of Fort Davidson, also known as the Battle of Pilot Knob, was fought on September 27, 1864.  It was the opening engagement of Price’s Missouri Raid during the American Civil War.  Price had the Union army  outnumbered by more than 10 to 1 but Thomas Ewing’s men held off Price’s Confederate army during the day and when night time fell they were able to slip away leaving the Confederates with possession of the fort.

On the site is a granite monument that marks where a mass grave is.  Maps are available at the Visitors’ Center that can be used to do a self-guided tour.  The visitor center offers a narrated version of the battle and its context within the Civil War.

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Dam of the Iron Mountain Lake  in Missouri

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Wooden bridge spanning the creek that handles the overflow.

After visiting Fort Davidson we headed over to see Iron Mountain Lake in St. Francois county of Missouri.  It is located in the city of Iron Mountain Lake whose population was estimated in 2016 to be around 736.

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View from the top of Taum Sauk Mountain in Missouri

Our next stop would be Taum Sauk Mountain which is a part of the St. Francois Mountains.  It is the highest natural point in the state of Missouri coming in at 1,772 feet.  It is believed that Tom Sauk Mountain was named after Sauk-Ton-Qua a Piankeshaw chief.  The view on top is quite breathtaking in the least.

There is a state park on Taum Sauk that is made up of 7500 acres.  There are a series of trails in the park including a portion of the Ozark Trail.  There is a 12-site basic campground and a special use area for non-profit youth organizations.  For day use there is a picnic area.

The park has its own legend.  It is a Native American “Romeo and Juliet” story.  The daughter of Piankeshaw chieftain Sauk-Ton-Qua’s daughter Mina Sauk fell in love with an Osage Indian warrior.  They met secretly and one day she was caught in his arms.  There was a trial and he was found guilty and he was executed.  Mina Sauk was so heartbroken she plunged from a cliff and took her own life.  This tragedy unfolded at a place on the mountain now called Mina Sauk Falls.

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View on top of Tom Sauk Mountain

We loaded up and headed to Elephant Rocks State Park, a geologic marvel. The park encompasses an outcrop of Precambrian granite in the Saint Francois Mountains.  The name comes from a line of large granite boulders that resemble elephants.  Recreation is available in the form of picnicking, rock climbing and trail exploration. It is managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  The land that makes up the park was donated by geologist John Stafford in 1967.

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Elephant Rocks

 

The last stop was the historic Caledonia, MO., a small town located in Washington county.  The town was laid out in 1819 and was named after the Roman Empire’s Latin name for Scotland.  The town has had the presence of a post office since 1819.  The 2010 census showed a population of 130.  The town is also known for its annual Pumpkin Festival.

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Two historical homes of  Caledonia

It was a good day and there is so much to see in the Arcadia Valley.  There is also Johnson Shut Ins, Royal Gorge, Marble Creek Recreation Area and Immanuel Lutheran Church 1861.  There are places to camp or one can choose to stay in one of the many Bed and Breakfasts, Inns or motels.  The towns of Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob are located within the valley.  It is a great way to spend the day or weekend.  I highly recommend Fort Davidson Restaurant if you are looking for some great cooking.

Spread the love and be kind to each other.

 

Let Us Not Bury the Past

 

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In Memory of

Thomas Robert Burnette

January 31, 1915 – November 14, 1992

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“Mining is a dangerous profession.  There’s no way to make a mine completely safe: These are the words owners have always used to excuse needless deaths and the words miners use to prepare for them.” – Tawni O’Dell

Mr Burnette was a resident of Flat River, MO and he worked in the lead mines.  He worked at the St. Joe Lead Number 9 mine in  Farmington, MO and at the Pea Ridge Mine. He dug ore for nearly 30 years.  When he worked in the mines they didn’t do blood tests to check for lead poisoning.   During his time in the mines he cut a finger off and got caught between two ore cars and suffered a broken hip that had to be pinned.  After he healed up, back in the mines he went and worked there until he suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire at the age of fifty-eight.  His daughter remembered seeing his checks and said he cleared fifty dollars a week.  He was married and reared five children.  He is just one of many who worked in the mines and his family is just one of many that have all the memories of their families working in the mines.

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The Old Lead Belt is located deep within the eastern Ozarks of Missouri.  The Southeast Missouri lead district is a major part of the lead belt and has been a major player in Missouri’s economic and social fabric for more than 280 years.  In early 1700 a European by the name of Pierre Charles LeSeur led the first mineralogical expedition into the Mississippi Valley.  Missouri’s ore deposits have made it the nation’s major source of ore for over 90 years.  The abundant ore deposits brought thousands of workers to Missouri, where over the years they created 1,000 miles of abandoned multilevel mine tunnels,  300 miles of underground mainline railroad tracks and a legacy of 108 years of mining operations in the area.

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Drum roll……………., I am stepping onto my soap box.  Here is my beef.  In 1923 St. Joe Lead CO. purchased the Federal Mill No. 3 lead-concentrating complex.  They all ready owned nearly 950 acres in Bonne Terre that was bought in 1864.  In late 1975 they donated the Federal mine mill complex and its adjoining lands to Missouri for the purpose of creating a state park.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources took possession of the 8,244 acre tract in 1976 and named it St. Joe Park and in 1980 the 25 acre mine mill was designated as Missouri Mines State Historic Site.

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I just visited the site along with Mr Burnette’s daughter and step son.  I am appalled by the way the state is letting the old mill fall into ruination.  I know money is tight but they could do more.  This site holds a lot of memories for the miner families in Bonne Terre, Desloge, Park Hills and the surrounding areas.  People died in these mines. Why let it die off?  This could be an amazing tourist attraction for these towns.  This site has so many possibilities.  There is so much history here.  PLEASE don’t let it fall down and disappear into the past.

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The 16,00 square-foot mine-mill powerhouse is being developed into a large museum providing information and the history of the mining business in Missouri with displays and old mining machinery and a huge collection of minerals.  It is a start but the site has the potential for so much more.

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In 1981 Doug and Cathy Georgens bought the rights to the Bonne Terre Mine and invested their money in the mine and have built it into a diving mecca.  They have daily tours also.  I have took the tour myself and it is fascinating.  The state of Missouri could save the history of mines in St. Joe and should do just that.  I urge them to set up a fund that people can give to the mine exclusively.  I also urge them to start funding the mine and start rehabbing the buildings.  Please for the sake of those that worked in and died in the mines save the mine.

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In closing I ask for anyone’s help in saving this mine.  Please write your representatives and if you haven’t, take the tour.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  Help save the history of Missouri’s mines.

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