More than 100,000 Native Americans were forced from their homes in the southeastern United States and marched thousands of miles to “Indian territory” (now Oklahoma) in the late 1830s. This forced migration has been known as the “Trail of Tears.” The march found its way along the Roubidoux Creek in Waynesville, Missouri. Natives camped here during their travels through Missouri.
The “Trail of Tears” is one of the significant historical events or attractions that runs through Pulaski County. Waynesville is the seat of the small county nestled in the Ozark Mountains in south central Missouri. The “Trail of Tears” is remembered with a series of markers along the creek in Laughlin Park.
Native Americans from five tribes – Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee and Seminole – were affected. Thousands died during the relocation.
The Pulaski County trail covers a section of the route used to transport the Cherokee. Seven stops along the short trail highlight information regarding the “Trail of Tears” and the Waynesville area. During our visit, we observed a few people walking the trail and reading the information.
Pulaski County’s history includes the Civil War and the 20th century’s Route 66.
The Civil War didn’t feature a battle in Pulaski County. Rather, the area endured skirmishes. Pulaski County residents supported both sides of the war – the Union and the Confederacy. The Union army controlled the area, building a fort in Waynesville. The only reminder of it is a marker at the fort’s old spot atop a hill.
The Old Stagecoach Stop has served a variety of roles during its lifetime. The only pre-Civil War building open to the public in Waynesville served as a Union hospital during the war.
The Civil War “returned” to the area during our visit in late July, as 100 reenactors dressed in authentic wardrobes helped recreate wartime scenes, such as campsites and battlefield encounters.
Following the war, Waynesville was the site of a “poor farm.” The Poor Farm was essentially the dumping ground of destitute, elderly and single mothers. It didn’t take much to get someone committed to the Poor Farm, which operated between 1874 and 1953. The old farm is located along a gravel road between Waynesville and St. Robert.
People were buried in unmarked graves in a cemetery on the farm’s grounds. A group of local history advocates has worked to locate the graves. Thus far, about 36 graves have been identified and marked with white crosses made from PVC pipes, according to Laura Huffman, who also works for the Pulaski County tourism bureau.
Fast forward a few decades and America was looking for places to drive their fancy automobiles. Route 66 was built to provide a main road between Chicago and the Pacific Ocean. The highway runs through Waynesville.
Pulaski County has several roadside attractions along Route 66. Perhaps the best known is the Devil’s Elbow. It’s a bend in the Big Piney River that was labeled a “Devil of an elbow.” Today, a bridge over the river and a local bar are top tourist stops.
The United States Army came to the Waynesville and St. Robert area in 1940 when Fort Leonard Wood was commissioned. The base exists today. The Old Stagecoach Stop again served a different role during the 1940s. It was a hotel at this point, and men working to help build the base stayed there. They paid $1 a shift to rent a bed. The hotel rented the beds based on a 24-hour schedule to cover for the workers building the base.
Today, the Old Stagecoach Stop serves the public as a living history museum. Visitors can take in the original log cabin building. Additions include a former dentist office, hotel kitchen and dining room, side rooms, as well as a second level, which was used for sleeping areas.
The Old Courthouse has seen its days as a provider of local justice put behind it. It is the local history museum. However, the second floor still has a courtroom. Old law books and files are located in the circuit courtroom. A judge’s robe, as well as a corrections officer’s uniform, is featured for viewing.
The courthouse is actually the fourth version. The first three were torn down and burned in fires. The courthouse was built in 1903.
The railroad had its impact on Pulaski County, mainly the northern part. The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Co. – “The Frisco” – helped communities such as Dixon, Crocker, and Hancock. The railroad eventually merged with Burlington-Northern. Frisco Park in Crocker offers an attractive caboose set near the working railroad tracks.
Dixon encourages visitors to view murals painted along building sides or in the front of some older buildings.
Checking out the history of Pulaski County can create quite the appetite. While the county is home to a plethora of historical interests, it’s also home to international cuisine. We dined at restaurants featuring Korean, American, German and Italian fares.
Café Korea in St. Robert was our first tasting of Korean food. We were not disappointed. The restaurant opened a few years ago and is popular with the local military. It makes sense, as several members of the Army have served in South Korea.
The food is delicious. I tried the beef bulgogi. The server brings out pre-meal samples of side dishes. Very good.
Hoppers on Waynesville’s main street offers a great selection of pub food. We started with an appetizer of frog legs. They were very tasty. I had a burger and fries, while Lisa had a quesadilla. Neither of us were disappointed. My burger was cooked perfectly. The bar has 66 beers on tap. Can you guess why?
I love German food. Three years in Deutschland will do that to a guy. Ursula’s Schnitzelhaus hit the spot. My eyes were definitely bigger than my appetite. I ordered the triple bratwurst plate. The brats came with German potatoes, as well as an extra order of red cabbage. I managed to finish one of the large brats, while sampling a bite or two of the others. It made me long for my days at Spangdahlem Air Base and a brat stand in Bitburg.
Our food tour around the world landed us in Italy. Ok, actually, it was just outside Dixon. Di Trapani’s offers an amazing menu of Italian options. I have to first comment on the dinner salad. What makes a dinner salad so special, you ask? The restaurant’s salad dressing is amazing and makes any salad that much better.
The entrees were impressive. I went with chicken parmesan. The chicken breast was coated just right and was moist and tender. The bed of pasta was perfectly made. Lisa’s Chicken Marsala met her expectations (which were high, based on people’s recommendations).
Dessert was simply astonishing. We split a Crème Brule. The top coating was perfect. Plus, the entire dish tasted delicious.
By the way, we left with a bottle of the salad dressing. It is amazing!
Our busy days and nights left us exhausted at night. Our room – actually – small suite at the Z Loft Hotel was excellent. The bed was comfortable. It provided for a couple nights’ quality sleep.
The chair I sat in reviewing and editing photos, while watching television was quite comfy. I may have dozed off a couple of times.
We enjoyed a great visit to Pulaski County. Our visit included a lot of historical attractions, because we enjoy learning about events and places that we visit. Pulaski County offers a lot of nature and recreational attractions, as well, including boating, kayaking, fishing and camping. So, it offers quite a bit to visitors. Another great thing is the sincere niceness of people. We met people who offered suggestions on places to check out, as well as referred us to other people for more ideas. We highly recommend visiting Pulaski County.
For more information on Pulaski County attractions, please visit www.visitpulaskicounty.org.
Disclaimer: Thank you to the Pulaski County tourism bureau, Z Loft Hotel and local restaurants for the complimentary meals and hotel stay. However, all opinions and views are ours.