Called by many names down through history, forever to be remembered as "The Old Wire Road" where it crosses the battlefield

It should be understood that there were many trails bearing the same names. Multiple trails were called Osage Trace and Telegraph Road, and the Butterfield Route would later go through Kansas after the war began)

Osage Trace (used for generations by migrating Indians. The Osage moved south during summer months for hunting, then north during winter) Wilson's Creek was in an area dominated by Osage until about 1812, then Kickapoo and Delaware's until about 1830. All tribes had moved, or been driven west by 1832.  

The Fayetteville Road (originally a trail laid out in 1836 between Versailles, Missouri and Fayetteville, Arkansas) (referred to by those in Arkansas as the "Springfield Road"). During this time period, "roads" were usually named by the locals by the next large town.  

The Butterfield Overland Mail Route (1858 to 1861 mail by train to Tipton, Missouri, then south along Fayetteville Road to Fort Smith - part of 2,800 mile trip to San Francisco, California) <route map and Missouri's stations listed below>

The Military Road (1861-1865 Springfield became military depot - road used as main avenue for supply and troops south )

The Telegraph Road (telegraph arrived in Springfield in 1860 and extended to Fort Smith during Civil War)

The Old Wire Road (after automobile's made paved roads a necessity, the old trail was forever to be known as the "Old Wire Road")


The History

If you visit, and especially through, Southwest Missouri today, chances are good you will travel on Interstate 44. It is the main east west route taken between Chicago and Los Angeles. I-44 replaced the older Route 66, that has gained in nostalgia in the last few decades. Popularized by a television series, remnants of this old highway can still be found and many thousands of travelers use it each year to rediscover the America that the new interstate highway helped us avoid. Known as "Bloody 66" in southwest Missouri, the hills and curves of the Ozarks proved deadly for many a traveler.

Before the advent of the automobile, and the need for paved roads, Southwest Missouri was criss-crossed with old dusty trails. Most famous of these was the northeast to southwest main trail that would be called by many names, but eventually "The Old Wire Road". While the Indians had used this trail for migration purposes for generations, the route would become famous in 1858 when the Butterfield Mail Route would use it as part of their 2800 mile trip from St Louis, Missouri to San Francisco. This mail route would be halted by Congress in February of 1861, due to the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war, the new Butterfield route would cross through Kansas and bypass southwest Missouri. During the war, the telegraph would be strung into northwest Arkansas from Springfield by the Union Army, and the route became known as the Telegraph Road and Military Road. Troops moving into and out of southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, used this trail as a primary means of moving vast armies. The Wilson's Creek area became a popular camping spot for Union armies. Armies posted here helped protect Springfield's southern flank from possible invading forces coming up this route. Springfield grew to become a major military depot during the early part of the war. Along this trail, just across the border in Arkansas, both armies would clash at Elk Horn Tavern, or Pea Ridge in 1862. And in 1863, Southern forces would use it to attack Springfield. When armies weren't using it, civilian's were. And with the civilian's came the bushwacker's.

Bushwacker's were small groups of renegades, loyal to either the North or the South, that worked at disrupting the enemy by primarily attacking the civilian population. Armies, needed elsewhere, had to expend much of their manpower and resources trying to keep the bushwackers in check. Most of these bushwacker's, under the guise of their patriotic duty, became nothing more than murderer's and thieves, preying on innocent citizen's. It would be Southwest Missouri's darkest hour for the civilian population. Hundreds upon hundreds were murdered for either their political convictions, or personal grudges.

After the war, the road returned to a major trade route. It also remained a main avenue for migration into the Southwest, although not as well known as the more east-west routes through Kansas. Eventually, the railroad entered the area, and traffic on the Telegraph road was limited to more regional travel. With the advent of automobiles, and new roads, the "Old Wire Road" faded into history. What was once a major route of travel for Indian's, explorer's, invading armies, and migrating families, is today only visible in a few preserved places.

One of these is the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, southwest of Springfield, Missouri. For additional reading on this trail, I recommend reading "The Old Wire Road" by  Fern Angus.

Butterfield Mail Route

Owned and operated by the newly formed American Express Company, run by John Butterfield
Journey time - under 25 days (average 22), 2757-1/2 mile journey, wagon travels 24 hours a day, stops for change of horses  and sometimes change of wagon - two stop's daily for meal
Average journey - 5 mph / 120-125 miles per day
Cost - $200 west bound / $100 east bound
Luggage - 25 to 40 lbs limit
3000 lbs Concord coach carry's 6 to 9 passengers inside/more on top if necessary/pulled by 6 horses (Celerity coaches used for rougher sections)
Primary purpose - carry mail at 10 cents an envelope

Stop's in Missouri (usually 2 coaches a week passed thru, left Tipton Monday and Thursday morning)

St. Louis (by train to Tipton)

Tipton, Missouri

Shackleford's (George Shackleford) - 7 miles south of Tipton.

Mulholland's - 23 miles from Shackleford's.

Burn's Station - 20 miles south of Mulholland's.

Warsaw - 25 miles south from Burn's Station.

Forded the Osage River and crossed the Pomme de Terre River on a covered bridge near Fairchild.

Bailey's - 21 miles south of Warsaw.

Quincy - 20 miles south of Bailey's

Yoast's Station - 26 miles from Quincy.

Bolivar - 26 miles from Yoast's Station. Station located at the old Franklin Hotel, owned by Ahab Bowen.

Smith's Tavern- operated by Nicholas Smith (located on east side of Booneville, one-half block north of Springfield, MO public square. Here passengers switched from Concord wagon to the Celerity wagon. The Celerity wagon is lighter than the Concorde and has canvas sides that could be opened in the heat. This is the wagon most commonly seen in movies today)

Evan's Station - Station run by Joseph Evans

Springfield - (Nicholas Smith's Tavern) 9 miles from Evan's.

(passes by John Ray House and through Wilson's Creek valley - best estimate of the 4 wagons that passed weekly, the 2 west bound wagons that passed the Ray House, if on time, at about 6pm Tuesday's and Friday's, and eastbound, which was far less likely to be on schedule would usually pass Wednesday and Saturday afternoon's. Please remember the schedule was for 25 days while most trips only took 22 days. Therefore the passings estimated above were in the minority, especialy for east bound wagons)

Ashmore's - 26 miles south of Springfield. Run by John C. Ashmore.

Smith's - 7 miles SW from Crane, MO. Operated by John J. Smith.

Crouch's Station - 25 miles SW of Smith's Station (John D. Crouch).

Harbin's Station - 26 miles from Crouch's(1 mile southwest of Washburn).

6 miles south to the Arkansas state line.

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