Springfield-Fayetteville Road

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A lot of Ozarks’ history either trudged, marched or rolled up and down the Fayetteville-Springfield Road. Originally part of the Osage Trace, it became known as the Fayetteville-Springfield Road in the 1830s when pioneers began using it as a trade route. Those heading north usually referred to it as the Springfield Road, and those travelling south…the Fayetteville Road.

A few short years later, during 1837 to 1839, the Cherokee tribe trudged along its dusty path as part of the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The road became part of the Butterfield Stage route from 1858 through 1861. The road did not stay quiet for long as troops ran up and down its length during the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. It became better known as the Old Wire Road during this journey of its life, named for the telegraph wires that followed its path. To this day, many street signs along its route still carry the names of Old Wire Road or Wire Road.

To follow the road is a like a smorgasbord with a long buffet line of historical stops. To fill up on all is a several-day journey.

From Arkansas, the vision was a destination to the Missouri boarder, and ultimately for traders to reach Delaware Town. Delaware Town was the Indian trading post near the forks of Wilson’s Creek and James River. That was the center of commerce for what was still considered Indian Territory in the early 1830s.

Missouri became a state on August 10, 1821 and Arkansas followed on June 15, 1836. Even after Missouri became a state, there was a good part of it and Arkansas within Indian Territory until the removal acts of 1830. Land surveying and sales took even longer, so settlers were still squatters in many areas of the Ozarks.

Starting at Springfield perhaps provides the best route to see the historical perspectives and timelines of the Fayetteville-Springfield Road. Greene County officers established the footprint for the Fayetteville-Springfield Road on March 12, 1833 with that being the second day of business for the new county. Officials in Arkansas would lay out the plans for the other end of the road in 1835. However, Fayetteville was established as the county seat of Washington County in the Arkansas Territory on October 17, 1828. So, they were quickly looking to bridge the gap to northern neighbors when settlers poured into southwest Missouri.

Spring forward to our storyline of 1833 in Greene County. Leaders were busy instructing road commissioners to "view, lay out, and mark a public road from Springfield westwardly until it strikes the main fork of the Six Bulls, at or near Samuel Bogart's, thence in the direction of Fayetteville, Arkansas."

So where is the main fork of the Six Bulls? The Six Bulls in that day and time referred to the White River, and most usually the sections above where we now find Bull Shoals Lake. The term bull shoals originates from the pinpointing of shoals and the springs, “boils”, that met the rivers at those points. Or in pioneer speak… “bull shoals”. But the road was headed farther upstream on the Six Bulls.

History is unsure of who Samuel Bogart was. There is no other mention of his name. There was a Samuel Bogart living in Missouri in 1833, and a man of history as he was involved in the War of 1812 as a youth, and the Blackhawk Wars in 1832. Later he involved himself in the Mormon Wars in Missouri and later teamed up with the Texas Rangers and politics. His political career ended when he sided against secession prior to the Civil War. But this is not our Samuel Bogart (he lived in Ray County in northwest Missouri at the time).

We can only surmise that our Samuel Bogart was well known as a friend of the county, or perhaps had a trade stop along the White River. Does “westwardly” give us a clue? Not really, as the direction of travel really would have been south/southwest. We do know from historical note that the Old White River met the Fayetteville-Springfield Road near Delaware Town. That point is true to the path of the Butterfield Stage when leaving Springfield and the later Old Wire Road. The routes laid out in Arkansas match as well, so we can surmise that these future paths followed the old road. The road can be seen in maps of 1845, as well as the Old White River Road that forks off and runs to Forsyth, Missouri.

Prior to the disastrous upheaval of the tribe in 1830, the Cherokee signed a treaty in 1817 giving them lands in northwest Arkansas (south of the White River and north of the Arkansas River). Here they settled in amongst the Osage and Quapaw hunting lands and established agricultural communities, complete with mills, etc. Their ranks included the famed Sequoyah who ran a salt works on the north fork of the Illinois Bayou.

But pioneer settlements were always pushing westward and on May 6, 1828 another treaty sent the tribe into Oklahoma. Early settlers followed on a search to the end of the 722-mile long White River, leaving a scattered band of cabins and small settlements in their wake. As it began to slim to but a stream they came upon the previous lands of the Native Americans. Ironically, and sadly, the remaining members of the eastern Cherokee would have to travel through these lands during the Trail of Tears.

Fayetteville quickly sprang to life around the new settlers. Salt works and fur trading had been established by early frontiersmen, and during the Cherokee possession. As settlers came to the area, the fur trade had already began moving to the Rocky Mountains and the commerce was replaced with cotton production. Trade also involved lumber as evidenced by the vast milling operations of Peter Van Winkle or James Alexander Cameron Blackburn or others that began in the 1840s. Road and building construction were all the rage during those early years of Missouri and Arkansas statehood.

As previously noted, there is huge resource of history along the Fayetteville-Springfield Road. Each has its own tale of discovery that we will feature later.

What better point to start a journey down the road than at the Butterfield Stage stops in Springfield and Fayetteville? FYI, if you are planning a trip it is advisable to make it a long one or several as there is so much to enjoy in the matter of modern food and entertainment in both cities and points between, let alone all the historical stops between.

Coming shortly…the Butterfield Stage Route!

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