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“Down the Wire Road in the Missouri Ozarks,” by Fern Angus, T&I Publishing, Purdy, MO, revised 2004. The Wire Road or Telegraph Road is the name given the famous Rt 66, now I-44 as it passes through Missouri–St. Louis to Tulsa and on to Los Angeles and Chicago. In this 167-page paperback, Angus tells us the Wire Road arrived before the railroad when in 1859 the Missouri and Western Telegraph company was chartered to build and operate lines west of the Mississippi River. However, the route chosen followed ancient Indian trails, especially the Pike Trail. A map shows the Indian trails of Missouri (and nearby modern highways) but its source is not identified.

The author expands coverage to include stories of roads in Southwestern Missouri and into Arkansas to Ft. Smith. The result is a popular history of transportation centered especially on Springfield, MO. Included is the 1861 Battle of Wilson Creek, the major Civil War battle fought in Missouri south of Springfield. The South won, but retreated to Arkansas leaving Missouri in the hands of federal troops under martial law. Two chapters describe the Trail of Tears. As Cherokee Indians were relocated from the Carolinas to Oklahoma, they passed through Missouri rather than Arkansas as Missouri had better roads. The Arkansas route required travel through swamp lands.

A chapter describes the Butterfield Overland Stage system, which operated from 1858 to 1861. Most are well aware of the Transcontinental Railroad from Omaha, NE (completed 1869) , and the Pony Express from St. Joseph, MO (1860-1). A first mail service operated from Springfield to Fayetteville, AR in 1846. After discovery of gold in California, Congress authorized mail service in 1857 from the railhead at Tipton, MO (north of Springfield) to San Francisco. Hence, the first Overland mail service went south from Missouri through Ft. Smith rather than over the famous western trails. John Butterfield of Utica, NY won the federal contract. Angus describes the equipment used, and provides maps, and locations of stations along the line. Biographies and stories are included of 18 families who lived along the Wire Road. Cemeteries are described. Legends and stories along the Wire Road are included. She even works in a few stories of Jesse James and Ma Barker

A final chapter describes life in the Ozarks. Here Angus collects lists of home remedies, old sayings, and a full page list of old games.

Down the Wire Road gives us a brief look at history of the area. It cites only 19 references, often stories from local newspapers. Hence, we get a popular look at the subject. The book includes numerous maps and illustrations. It whets the appetite for more.
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