Route 66 – part 5

Our journey had taken us to the outskirts of Missouri to a place called Stanton and the pictures we had taken did come out quite well we are pleased to say.

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We went to a place called Meramec Caverns which have existed for the past 400 million years, slowly forming through deposits of limestone. In centuries past, Native Americans used the cavern system for shelter.

During the 18th century, the cave was used for extracting saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder. In the Civil War era, the Union Army used the caves as a saltpeter plant, but the plant was discovered and destroyed by Confederate guerrillas, likely including the future infamous outlaw Jesse James. According to local legend, James and his brother and partner in crime Frank used the caves as a hideout in the 1870s. One legend in particular claims that a sheriff tracking the Jameses sat in front of the cave, waiting for Jesse and his gang to emerge; however, they had found another exit. In 1933, the extended cave system was discovered, revealing the present 4.6 miles (7.4 km), and was introduced to the public as a tourist attraction in 1935 by Lester B. Dill, who also invented the bumper sticker as a means of promoting the caverns.  In midsummer of 1972, Meramec Caverns provided the cave settings for Tom Sawyer, a musical film which was released to theaters that following year. In the 1998 movie Deep Impact (film) a reference is made to the limestone caves of Missouri as the location of the ARC shelter.

jesse James

Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or alleged economic justice.

Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas or Bushwhackers during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers, including the Centralia Massacre. After the war, as members of various gangs of outlaws, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains. Despite popular portrayals of James as an embodiment of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang shared their loot from the robberies they committed.

The James brothers were most active with their gang from about 1866 until 1876, when their attempted robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota resulted in the capture or deaths of several gang members. They continued in crime for several years, recruiting new members, but were under increasing pressure from law enforcement. On April 3, 1882, Jesse James was killed by a member of his own gang, Robert Ford, who hoped to collect a reward on James’ head.

The entrance to the seven tier tall caves.

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Marker for Jesse James

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After our trip to the caves and learning about Jesse James we found a Walmart for some supplies, what we hadn’t banked on was the selection of arms. Does anybody ever ask “Can I have a hot southern fried chicken and I will take that nice semi automatic rifle with 250 rounds too please”.

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One thought on “Route 66 – part 5

  1. You are in my home State. Lots of small towns with stretches of 66 for the next 500 plus miles. Go thru Joplin Missouri where a devastating tornado hit a few years and get inspired by their recovery effort. In Oklahoma, there is one small town with a particularly good sample of 66 life both old and new. Can’t think of the name but there are lots of signs. In Texas, there is a Rest Area devoted to Hwy 66 history that you must stop at. When you get to Alberq. (I never could spell it) NM consider going north to Farmington, then up to the Four Corners, then around to Monument Valley, then to the north rim of The Grand Canyon, then to Flagstaff NM, then south to Sedona, Arizona (go into the town) then south to Phoenix. You might miss a little Hwy 66, but you will see some of the most magnificent America scenery around. It will take a couple days if you don’t mess around. Just a few suggestions for your trip through America.

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