My wife Nancy and I just returned Saturday evening from a three-day trip to St. Louis, Mo.
As we have grown older we don't often venture out on trips that will have us staying the night somewhere besides home, but we hadn't had a visit to St. Louis to see Nancy's sister Peggy and family in quite some time. So, we decided to try traveling again. We call it traveling if we have to drive more than 100 miles. The St. Louis trip is about 300 miles, involving something like six hours on the road. We drive 68 miles an hour. Apparently everyone else on I-44 in Missouri drives 75 to 80 miles an hour, including the 40 million 18-wheeler trucks who passed us on the way. Despite the very busy Interstate Highway, we had no traffic problems to speak of, at least on the way there. Coming back was a little different story. which I'll save for later.
Nancy's sister, Peggy Greene, like us, is a native of Pea Ridge. She graduated in 1953 and married Daryle Greene, the son of Howard and Mildred Greene. Daryle had grown up on a farm at Twelve Corners, and Peggy's family lived on a farm northeast of Pea Ridge on what is now Patterson Road. Her parents were Ray and Zula Patterson. Both families were long-time Pea Ridgers and Twelve-Cornereans. Daryle graduated from Pea Ridge High School in 1949, studied Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas and at the University of Illinois. Early on, he became employed by Ralston-Purina Company (the checkerboard feed company well known in Pea Ridge through Webb's Feed and Seed Store). After a year or two of teaching at the U of A in Fayetteville, Daryle and Peggy returned to St. Louis and Daryle pursued a long career with the Ralston Purina Company, serving several years as a vice-president of the company.
Their two younger daughters were born in St. Louis, and all four of the children grew up there, in the cities of Crestwood and Webster Groves, which are part of the metropolitan St. Louis area. St. Louis has long been a great mid-American city. It has been known as the gateway to the west, because many of the pioneers intent on finding a new life in the western areas of our country launched from St. Louis on their way westward.
During the Civil War, St. Louis was a major supply city for the Union Armies as they ventured into the south to engage Confederate forces. Our own Battle of Pea Ridge (or Battle of Elkhorn) was very much about St. Louis. The objective of General Earl Van Dorn and the 16,000-man Confederate Army under his command was to overwhelm the 10,500-man Union force under General Samuel Curtis between Elkhorn Tavern and Little Sugar Creek (Brightwater), clearing the way for an advance to Springfield, Mo., and ultimately to occupy St. Louis, thereby neutralizing and breaking up the supply lines which supported the Union armies in the south. This is why we regard what happened at Pea Ridge as a crucial engagement, which had considerable impact on the progress of the Civil War. Interesting, that word "civil." Of course the Civil War was not very civil, and some prefer to call it the War Between the States.
Some 115 years ago, in 1904, St. Louis, Mo., hosted the St. Louis Worlds Fair, a very momentous and significant event. Some of the World's Fair structures still stand in Forest Park of St. Louis. Forest Park is one of the largest city parks anywhere, being comparable to New York's Central Park in size. The park features the St. Louis Zoo, facilities such as an outdoor theater, golf courses, walking and running trails, and other features. We drove by the sizable structure from the World's Fair which displayed many of the world's species of birds. I think of it as like a football-sized bird cage, large enough that the birds can fly about at will, almost as though they were in the open air, yet they are enclosed, and not likely to "escape."
On other occasions, such as back in the 1970s, when we were all in our 30s and our children were young, we used to visit the St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Gardens together, and a great time would be had by all. However, this time, since we are all in our 80s or almost there, we decided that we'd rather stick to the drive-around, and let others do the walk-around.
If we had been taking our St. Louis trip back when Pea Ridge was a new town, in the mid- to late 1850s, we would probably have had someone drive us to Elkhorn Tavern in a buggy, and there we would have boarded the stagecoach for the trip north on Old Wire Road. Actually the telegraph didn't come to the road until 1860, so we might not have called it the Old Wire Road at the time. If we had waited until 1862 or 1863, we most likely wouldn't have been going at all, because of the war. If we had set out in the mid-1880s for our St. Louis trip, we probably would have gone by buggy to Avoca or Rogers or to Seligman, Mo., where we would have boarded the Frisco train.
The St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad was completed between Monett, Mo., and Fort Smith, Ark., in 1881, beginning a great era of transportation in northwest Arkansas, a great boost to passenger travel and a momentous boon to the budding apple industry which thrived in Benton and Washington counties in Arkansas at least through the 1920s.
I think I would have liked to go by train rather than driving for six hours.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 621-1621.
Editorial on 08/07/2019
Print Headline: A trip to St. Louis recounted