Caddo, Missouri on the Old Wire Road
|Information is being added as found
There are two so-called "wire roads" in Webster County, Missouri, and the ghost town of Caddo, MO, is located on the lesser known of the two. Once a thriving little community, nothing remains to prove there was ever a town at the intersection of State Highway DD and County Road J. The photo above is the Caddo school house, known as the Bodenhamer school, taken sometime between 1931-1936. It too has disappeared.
My research has discovered very little of the town and residents of Caddo, Missouri - but will be included as it comes available.
Post Office - 1891-94, 1898-1906
37.°20'31" N 93°2'49" W
Section 29 Township 30N Range 19W
Elevation = 1317
Grant Township, Webster County, Missouri
Campbell's New Atlas of Missouri 1874
I know little about the "original" wire road of Webster County, and I hope to learn more as I meet others who have researched the history of the trail. I became interested in this old wilderness road when a Caddo neighbor advised me that the southeast corner of my property bordered the wire road. This was contrary to the general history which I could find, which clearly stated the Wire Road in Webster County generally followed Old Route 66 (known as Bloody 66), which, in Webster County, runs fairly parallel to its replacement, Interstate 44. But the locals of this area were very adamant, the Wire Road ran thru Caddo. So I began to research.
One of the earliest written examples I found of a wire road in this general area was a Civil War memoir. In the Battle of Springfield in January 1863, Confederate General Marmaduke attacked, but was unable take Springfield from Union control. The next day his force moved eastward along the Wire Road. "At 10 o'clock on the morning of the 9th, Marmaduke's command was well out on the wire road leading to Rolla, seeking to join forces with Col Porter. At Sand Springs the advance of Porter was met and a halt was made. Here the prisoners were all paroled and sent back, and the united command began to retreat eastward by way of Marshfield and Hartville." Sand Springs is located directly northeast of Caddo, and had a post office from 1863-1875, and from 1877-79. It is also nowhere near what is accepted as THE wire road in Webster County.(Sand Springs was the site of a Union fort which fell easily and was destroyed by Marmaduke, as was Marshfield. The fort at Hartville was stiffly resisted, but fell and met the same fate). Interestingly, all three of these forts sat on major trails.
Here is the US General Land Office 1866 map of Webster County.
Notice the road thru Webster County is the well known Wire Road, that travels thru Marshfield.
Also note, the trail was established by Congressional Act June 10, 1853.
Another 1866 map
For the remainder of this article, the well known wire road that travels thru Marshfield shall be referred to as Wire Road 2, while the road of this article shall be called Wire Road 1**. The reason for these numbers will become clear as I attempt to prove that long before Wire Road 2 became popular by the railroad, Wire Road 1 was a major southwest trail used by settlers as they moved west from St Louis. Wire Road 2 follows what is known as the Ozark Highlands thru Webster County. To the north of this ridge, rivers flow north, and to the south of the ridge, they flow southward. This ridge offered many advantages to railroad builders, allowing them to bypass the numerous springs and rivers that dotted the land slide, and offering less hills to master than the surrounding countryside demanded. With the completion of the railroad, Webster County experienced a major population shift toward the lines. This would spell the eventual doom for many small towns, including some on the smaller map above. Included among these would be St Mark, located above the letter W in Webster.
St Mark was one of the older towns of Webster County, showing a post office open in 1857 and closing in 1860, one year before the outbreak of the Civil War. One of its churches would be destroyed during that war. St Mark would die out and today, nothing remains to prove its exact location. However, we do know it sat directly on Wire Road 1. On this same map, we also see the former town of St Luke. St Luke, although no longer an incorporated town, still remains a community in northern Webster County. Between St Mark and St Luke, sat the town and fort of Sand Springs, and in the latter 1800's and early 1900's, Caddo.
In the above 1930 map of northern Webster County, we see the St Louis-San Francisco Railroad moving from north central part of the map south to Niangua, then southwest thru Marshfield and Northview into Greene County, Missouri. By now old wire road's, and Indian traces had been replaced by dirt county roads. Wire Road 1 can be followed starting just north of the southwest corner of the map, traveling north, northwest thru Caddo, then Old Fort Sand Springs, near Beach, St Luke, and finally Forkners Hill.
Drawing a straight line from Springfield to Rolla, takes you right along where Wire Road 1 sits. Thus, for the early traveler, the "quicker" way would appear to be Wire Road 1. However, the topography was much rougher than the Ozark Highlands and flooded streams and rivers, could easily negate the straighter advantage. Thus, by the time of the railroad and the Civil War, Wire Road 1 was no longer the primary route of travel thru Webster County.
Below is a satellite photo of Caddo in which remnants of wire road 1 can still be seen. Caddo sat around the T junction in the middle of the photo. This T of dirt roads has been replaced by paved Highway DD (to the east)curving into J Road (to the south). The stretch of road leading to the west remains gravel to this day.
The wire road ran from the center-bottom of the photo to the northeast. The outline of the trail seen above has since disappeared, although farmers along its route find a lot of evidence to this day of its existence.
Research- this is an active research project for me, as I have time, and
I am very interested in speaking to anyone who has information about Caddo
or the Old Wire Road. If you have any information, or have photo's you would
like to share, please e-mail me. E-mail
**Please note - while I call this trail Wire Road 1, I have been unable to find proof there was ever any telegraph wires strung along this section before, during, or after the Civil War. On the other hand, there is clear evidence the trail thru Marshfield, called Wire Road 2 in this article, was used for telegraph, and this, got the nickname "Wire Road". I am still looking.
Also, I am discovering that much that is 'known' about Wire Road 1, is from stories that have passed down thru generations and thus has become tainted with innocent errors, or exaggerations, that are now accepted as the gospel truth.
Post Office openings in Webster County (courtesy Missouri Postal History Society)
Towns of Wire Road #1
Saint Luke - 1858-1862
Beach - 1897-1906
Sand Springs - 1863-1875, 1877-1879
Caddo - 1891-1894, 1898-1906
Saint Mark - 1857-1860
Towns of Wire Road #2
Sampson - 1904-1935
Marshfield - 1856-Present
Northview - 1873-1876, 1880-1973
This image of the Caddo General Store was donated by Steve Trantham of Strafford, who wrote "At the time the photo was taken my great grandfather, John Melton owned the store and is listed as a postmaster. My grandmother and her brother are setting on the end of the porch. I believe she was born in 1896".
From postcard mailed in 1910 - owned and used with permission by John Berry
from The Country Gentleman June 1919 issue
Information provided by Lindel Snider of Marionville who has researched old Southwest Missouri trails for years....
From 'Highlights in Webster County History'
page 3 - "The Federal Government had established a road from Rolla, Missouri to Fort Smith in the Arkansas Territory in 1838, more of less following old Indian trails. This road ran diagonally across what would later become Webster County in a northeast to southwest direction. This road would later be called at various times and by different generations the military road, the telegraph road, the St. Louis to Springfield road and the wire road."
page 127 - Route U. S. 66, originally planned to follow the wire road across Webster County, taking it through Forkner?s Hill, St. Luke, Sand Springs and Caddo was re-routed by way of Sampson, Niangua, Marshfield, Northview and Holman. This change was made in the last reading of the bill in the state legislature. The road will now more or less parallel the railroad across the county.? (This was in the 1920?s) In 1941 the state announced a plan to move Highway 66 north of Marshfield along the route followed by the Old Wire Road, but was protested and rejected."
According to records early settlers came along this general route to Webster and Greene County in 1829 and the early 1830?s, following the old Indian trails. Following a trail with no name into the wildness.
The military road established in 1838 from St. Louis to Ft. Smith, considering the hills, terrain and rivers of the area of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, would have provided the best overland route for troops, wagons and supplies traveling to and from the Indian Territory. The Arkansas River furnished a water route to Ft. Smith, but this Military Road across southern Missouri provided an overland route to the area.
The St. Louis to Springfield Road:
When Springfield was established and more and more settlers and freight wagons used this road, it became known as the St. Louis Road. For the most part, it depended on which end of the road you were at, as to what it was called. If you were at St. Louis, it was the Springfield Road, from Springfield to Ft. Smith it was the Ft. Smith Road, but later became known as The Fayetteville Road.
There was the Boonville Road, which was also, became known as The Bolivar Road, or from these towns to Springfield, known as the Springfield Road, and so on with the other trails.
According to the Postal records there was apparently a stage route that followed the St. Louis Road.
The Telegraph Road:
In 1862 with the outbreak of the Civil War and the problems in Missouri there was a push to get the Telegraph put through from St. Louis to Springfield, making a connection between St. Louis and Ft. Smith. The most likely route would have been along the road most used at that time and was used by the military to and from Ft. Smith. Also, the roads at that time that ran from Conway through Marshfield to Strafford, zigzagged through the country. Also, it is stated that the Telegraph line ran along a road near Marshfield.
Also, I found a piece that had been torn from an old news paper pertaining to the Old Wire Road, (no date). It says their father, Thom L. Wood had a store at Lebanon during the Civil war and mentions the one wire that ran along the road from Rolla to Springfield, which at that time would have been the Telegraph wire.
This route for the telegraph would most likely only been for about a 10 year period from about 1862 to 1872, then being moved to follow the railroad.
The Old Wire Road:
Having gone by many names when the many telephone wires ran along this road is when it became well known to people throughout the area as the Old Wire Road. It may have earlier been called the Old Wire Road, or Telegraph Road, but the telephone wires brought it to the name known as the Old Wire Road, and is still called that by many of the older people of the area to this day.
Mr Snider can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
More info from Mr Snider
As for The Old Wire Road, before Springfield became a town in the 1830’s, it was basically an old Indian trail or trails. Springfield was first known as, Stump Town.
I am sure there were places along the old trail that the early settlers had to make some deviations from the old Indian trails to be able to cross streams and access hills with their wagons.
When Springfield became a town, the Road became known as The St. Louis Road. At times some may have referred to it as the, Military Road, Wire Road or Telegraph Road, but the common name and most used was, The St Louis Road.
From what I have been able to find, about 1878 is when telephone lines begin to go up along the road from St Louis to Springfield. By 1900 or shortly after there were several telephone wires on the poles along the St Louis Road. About this time is when the people through the area begin to call it, The Old Wire Road. This name stuck and the name St Louis Road was dropped. By 1950, there were many cross-arms on these poles and many telephone wires on each cross-arm. Then in the 1950’s the wires and cross-arms begin to come down, but for all of those that knew this old road, it still was called, The Old Wire Road. Many of the articles that were written after around 1900 usually referred to it as, The Old Wire Road.
Many of the military coming into the area during the Civil War, especially the Southern Army, would not have known the name of the road and most likely referred to it as, The Wire Road because of the telegraph line.
Like I have said many of the old maps are not reliable as to showing the route through the hills that many of these old roads took. I base most of my information on them from bits and pieces of info from old letters and articles that were written in the 1800’s and people that I knew that were born back in the 1800’s, of which I knew many. For example, my Grandfather Floyd Snider was born in 1883, which he told me what his Grandfather had told him about what the area was like when the Snider family came to Greene County in 1843 from North Carolina. Great-Great Grandpa Alexander was 17, when they came. My Bass relatives came in 1830. I have a copy of a letter written in 1844 by Paschal Minor in North Carolina to his son Augustine Minor. Augustine was in the group with the Snider’s that came in 1843; Augustine settled about a mile north of Caddo. Where Augustine settled was mostly prairie at that time.
Here is a piece that I think is interesting and also gives info on the St Louis Road.
From a copy of the land record I have on the Mt Pisgah Cemetery.
Commencing at the half mile corner between Sections Seventeen (17) and Eighteen (18) and running North Thirty-nine Chains to a Cotton Rock in the St. Louis Road; Thence in a South West direction with the St. Louis Road Seven Chains and fifteen Links to a Cotton Rock, Thence South Thirty-three Chains and Thirty-three Links to a Cotton Rock, Thence East five Chains to the beginning, Containing Four Acres & one half and acre, more or less, in Section (18) Eighteen, Township Thirty, of Range Nineteen.
The above described land to be held by Fredrick V. Goss, Wilson Merell, and Nicholas Rhodes (Trustees) and their successors) for a Public Burying Ground.
Land was sold by James A Grier and Candace S. Grier, his Wife.
Sum of, Forty-Five Dollars.
Date: August 30, 1871.
In 1888 Grandpa Wilson and Grandma Sarah Bass donated the land for the Mt. Pisgah Church. I also have a copy of that land record.
Very early on there was a trail that went north from the Webster County area to Linn Creek on the Osage River up by Camdenton; this is where many of the early settlers went to the trading post. (This was Old Linn Creek, not the present Linn Creek.) Even after a store was put in at Springfield, many still went to Linn Creek for some time, it being on the Osage River where supplies were brought up the river from the Missouri River, most likely a better stock of goods and cheaper prices.
The trail to Linn Creek connected with the Jefferson trail in the Linn Creek area.
Early on there was a trail that came from Rolla to Grovespring in Wright County, then west to Niangra, then southwest to what became Marshfield, then southwest along the Turnbo Creek to the James River, where it connected with the old Hartville trail.
Many took the trail from Marshfield down the Turnbo to the mill on James River.
John Cardwell was one of the earliest settlers in what became Webster County. Early on he helped layout the trail that ran from Marshfield to Sand Springs, on to Elkland then west across southern Polk County to the Boonville Road, which ran from Springfield through Bolivar and on to Bonnville; this trail out of Webster County was called the Bolivar Road. The area being open large timber and prairie, it was not a matter of cutting a trail but, finding a route which wagons could travel. It was staked out and then as wagons begin to travel along this route, it became a road. This was the case for many of the local trails through the area. With time these old trails were rerouted in many places, some just disappeared over the years.
John L. Melton had the store and post office at Caddo around 1900.
Very interesting tid bit
2 arrows facing right - bottom one is pointing to the Caddo School pictured above
And for those who might be
doubting if this 'wire road' is legit or not, the top right arrow is
pointing to where #1 crossed the North Fork of the Pomme de Terre
River. Here is an article from The Motor World Volume 24 dated 1930 - Restoring the Old Wire Road which includes a very cool photo of this crossing
September 1862 Camp at Mill Springs Monday 22'' With but little or no breakfast, no dinner and a poor show for supper we rest beside a little meandering stream tonight from which oozes a hundred tiny springs. The day has been hot and the road very dusty and we present an appearance of a lot of dirty scallowags and we feel about as sorry as we appear. But water is plenty and this little creek at Mill Springs furnished more water to clean the exterior of soldiers tonight than it will ever do again perhapse. This is a fine place for a camp, in an extensive wood where there is no underbrush or small timber and the huge trees arch their branches over us thus affording us a cool retreat from the sun. At noon today we passed Sand Springs where there is a fort called Fort Snelling. It is garrisoned by a small force and is a halting place or camp for trains passing between Rolla and Springfield. There are 21 prisoners confined in it. Distance today 15 miles. http://iagenweb.org/civilwar/books/mcintyre/bfmc_2.htm
Report of Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke, C. S. Army, commanding expedition.
Colonel CRABB, HDQRS. FOURTH DIV., FIRST CORPS, TRANS-MISS. DEPT.,
Batesville, Ark., January 18, 1863.
….I burned the forts at Sand Spring and Marshfield. After passing Marshfield, I formed a junction with Porter, who had burned the forts at Hartville and Hazlewood. All the forts burned were well-built works, generally large block-houses, with stockade and good earthworks around; so strong that 100 brave men, well armed, could defy 1,000 infantry or cavalry…
Report of Colonel, Joseph O. Shelby, Missouri Cavalry (Confederate), commanding brigade.
HEADQUARTERS SHELBY'S CAVALRY BRIGADE,
Camp Carter. January 31, 1863.
….…..After the men had all breakfasted the next morning, after ammunition had been distributed, and a leisurely forming of the brigade effected, we started from the scene of a hard-fought battle. The mission had been accomplished; two forts had been captured, a piece of artillery taken, several hundred prisoners paroled, considerable commissary stores destroyed, and we, after making almost a circuit of the town with floating banners and waving pennons, left it alone in its glory, because all had been done that could be done.
Friday, the 9th, moved east with my brigade on the Rolla road, and camped for the night at Sand Spring, where your escort and Lieutenant Scott had fired a Federal fort.
The 10th, we marched through Marsh field, and after burning the fort there, which was done by Colonels MacDonald and Thompson, and after forming a junction with Colonel Porter's command, we camped again for the night, but with orders issued to move at 3 o'clock upon the enemy, as our scouts had brought information of their close proximity…..
Among the claims the Special Agent had for in
vestigation near Marshfield, was one, a rather un
usual one, of his namesake, Joseph C. Brittain for
standing timber alleged to have been taken by and
for the use of the Army in constructing a fortified
position of stockade and blockhouse at Sand Spring
on the Military Road from Rolla to Springfield, and
for fuel for the detachment of Missouri State Militia
stationed there to protect the telegraph line and
keep communication open between St. Louis and
There were two of these fortified positions be tween Rolla and Springfield, the one at Sand Springs and the other near the Gasconade River Southwest of Rolla. There was a company of mounted State Militia kept at these stations to protect the mail coaches carrying the mail and passengers, between Rolla and Springfield, and also to keep the telegraph line open between those places. A half dozen or so men was required as an escort for each mail coach, and detachments were kept out on scouting duty to obtain information in regard to the movements of bands of guerrillas or Confederate recruiting de tachments, a kind of patrol duty that kept the sol diers at each of the stations busy.
In a claim of the nature of Mr. Brittain's, the Special Agent considered it advisable to drive out and inspect the ground on which the timber had grown to ascertain as far as practicable from the stumpage the amount of timber that had been cut and the amount of lumber and cord wood it would have made, but the ground had been cleared for cultivation and nearly all the stumps removed, making it more difficult to form an estimate of the claimant’s losses.
To get at an approximate estimate of
the number of feet of lumber and the number of cords of wood, the
timber alleged to have been cut from the tract of land would have made,
the claimant and the witnesses were required to testify to the number
of acres of timber cut, the number of trees from the smallest to the
largest there were to the acre; the average number of eight-foot cuts
there were to the tree, and how much of a cord the limbs or branches
would have made.
All the witnesses agreed that the claimant had not less than so many acres of timber, and that not less than so many trees to the acre had been cut that would have made not less than so many eight foot cuts to the tree; that the cuts would have made so many rails and the branches of the trees so many cords of wood, and by taking these sworn minimum estimates the Special Agent was able to get at some thing like an approximate estimate of the number of feet of lumber and the number of cords of wood taken from the claimant, and after fixing the price of lumber per thousand feet, and wood per cord, to recommend for allowance this minimum estimate, which cut the claim down about three-fourths.
There was a feature of the old
Military Road from Rolla to Springfield, that if observed by others the
Special Agent had not heard mentioned, and that was
the manner in which so much of it had been washed
out and had become unusable since the war.
In his work he had driven along stretches of miles
of this road where it was still open, and along other
stretches of miles beside it where it was not open
on account of deep washouts. After twenty-five years
its width was clearly marked by the failure of veg
etation to grow on the places worn down by constant
travel of heavy trains and animals during the war.
It did not pass over a sandy formation, but over
a formation of clay, gravel and pebbles, up and down
the valleys and over ridges not defined by sharp in
clinations or declinations, and seemed impervious to
rapid erosion; but the heavily laden wagons during
rainy or thawing weather, sank deep into the roadbed,
and when torrential rains came, was in fit condition
for rapid erosion; small pebbles or large ones starting
at the summit of a swell in the road, and at inter
mediate points, gathered momentum in their down
ward course, and increased the tearing force until
arrested by finding a level, or immovable obstacle.
While the face of the country had been changed
since the war, and while the railroad running along
the divide that separates the waters of the Gasconade
from the waters of the Osage River had crossed and
recrossed the Old Military Road many times and
miles of it had been brought within the area of
fenced farms, preventing its general use between
distant points, its deep, eroded gulches will likely
remain to distant ages.
The Aftermath of the Civil War