Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Exploring Our New Home State and a Little More

Mostly settled in for the long term at the "Fort Alexander" compound in Warsaw, Missouri, it is definitely time to explore more of our new home state, with a few short trips into adjoining states. We head south on Highway 65 before scooting southeast toward a little town called Windyville. I had written about this small ghost town several years ago, as well as its many alleged ghosts. Alas, I had to take the story down as my article spawned too many crazy "ghost-hunters," who created vandalism and late night drunken runs through the small community. After having received a petition from every resident in this small burg, I gladly removed it from the website. However, I'll probably put it back up again, this time sans ghosts. A cool little stop and I'm glad to report that the Windyville Store is open once again.

We then venture down to another almost ghost town - Long Lane, which features the smallest ever bank in Missouri. Opened in 1910, it survived the Great Depression and a robbery in the 1930's, but was finally merged with the Bank of Buffalo in 1938. However, the tiny little building still stands. From there, we venture to Mansfield, Missouri and make a stop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder home. The author of the Little House on the Prairie series, she wrote her books here and lived in this home until her death at the age of 90 in 1957.

Next stop -- Big Spring State Park. Tucked in the side of Conococheague Mountain, Big Spring State Park features Big Spring, whose waters form the scenic Shermans Creek. The first white man to report the spring was Pocahontas Randolph, who followed Indian reports of "a spring that roars" in 1803. Because of the rugged terrain, the site remained obscure until purchased by Henry Sawyer in 1913. Roads were not built until the spring became one of the first Missouri State Parks in 1925.

This is the largest spring in the state, and one of the largest in the world. On an average day, some 278 million gallons of water gush forth from subterranean passages, swelling the nearby Current River. Like all Ozark springs, Big Spring is busy dissolving away the walls of its underground passages. One researcher estimated that about 175 tons of calcium carbonate rock are carried away by Big Spring's water every day. Over the course of a year, this is enough rock to produce a cavern 30 feet high by 50 feet wide and one mile in length. The park is located near Van Buren, Missouri.

Heading eastward, I can't resist a detour to a town called Mill Spring, just two miles off the highway. Sure I'll find a mill or a spring, I find neither, but do discover another interesting little almost ghost town. This little place sports only a convenience store and an open post office with no other open businesses; however, it's got a lot of people, all of whom seemed to be outside in their yards or standing in front of the post office visiting. I always wonder what keeps these folks living in these small towns? I also wondered why none of them seemed to have jobs. It was a Wednesday. Hmmm?

We then continue onward to Bollinger Mill and the Bufordville Covered Bridge in tiny little Bufordville. Burfordville Covered Bridge is the oldest remaining covered bridge in Missouri. Joseph Lansmon began its construction in 1858, but it is unclear if the bridge was completed before or after the Civil War. The bridge was not mentioned in St. Louis newspaper accounts of the 1861 burning of Bollinger Mill, located next to the bridge. After the Civil War, the bridge became a vital link, especially to farmers driving wagonloads of grain destined for the mill. The road going through the bridge was part of the toll-road system between Burfordville, Jackson and Cape Girardeau. Today, the Burfordville Covered Bridge is open to pedestrian traffic only. Bollinger Mill also dates back to the Civil War period. Visitors can still observe corn being ground into meal by water power at the massive four-story stone and brick building. This was a great stop and you can just bet our photos will wind up on a postcard.

From here, we're on our way to Cape Girardo, where we will explore the town, along with parts of the Great River Road in Missouri and other area interests. Stay tuned.

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