From Berryville to North Springfield Via Kimberling City - a Bit of Mid-Ozark History.
Just after the Civil War, the first settlers of the Mid-Ozarks, aware that the railroad was about to arrive in Springfield, decided that it was time for the farm and product producing lands of the Ozarks to be connected to oncoming civilization by a road suitable for commercial transportation. They labored from dawn to dusk, tying many existing game and Indian trails together. For years they cleared, widened and leveled the rugged paths and created The Wilderness Road of the Ozarks. This rugged, but wonderfully useable route quickly became the lifeblood mainline of the Mid-Ozarks.
Hundreds of freight wagons immediately began transporting farm produce and homemade items to Springfield, while the same returning wagons brought all the manufactured and mass produced goods essential to progress, increased production and a bit of domestic joy in life back down the Road to the farmlands. At every place where The Wilderness Road of the Ozarks crossed a well used Indian or game trail people camped out to await traders to accept their goods and sell them, or trade with them, for things they needed or badly desired to have. School children were employed to drive flocks of turkeys and herds of food animals up the Road, along the full length of Campbell Street, to the then brand new freight yards in North Springfield.
Where the town of Kimberling City now stands once lay the Radical Campground, a place where as many as two hundred wagons would camp, awaiting the lowering of periodical flood waters in the mighty White River, in order that they might cross and proceed with their trade routes. In time the Maybry Ferry was built to haul stock and wagons across the White in all but high flood times. Later it became the Kimberling Ferry and the town of Radical grew on the banks, by the ferry and lying on The Wilderness Road. In time the first metal bridge replaced the ferries. Now the roads, the ferries and the old steel bridge all lie beneath nearly two hundred feet of Table Rock Lake's waters. Thus passed the many decades of years, and thus came inevitable progress.
Many little towns grew up at the crossroads of The Wilderness Road; Blue Eye, Lampe, Radical (now Kimberling City), Linchpin (now Branson West), Stutts (now Reeds Spring Junction), Dutch Store (now Highlandville) and Delaware Town (now Nixa). Of course, the anchor towns at both ends, Springfield, Berryville, and Harrison all prospered and grew rapidly with the trade that the several commercial routes, funneled by The Wilderness Road, brought to them.
The perhaps "final note" of this is that all of these towns are still being served by The Wilderness Road routes some 150 years later, and probably will be served by the network of roads tied to The Wilderness Road for many decades to come. Because, you see, the Road is still there, its route pretty much as it was first built - though it has since been straightened, graded, graveled, widened and eventually paved to today's standards. But the old routes lie there beneath the highways. Hundreds of freight wagons then, thousands of eighteen wheeled trucks now. Countless people on foot or horseback then, more than ten million people each year in autos and busses today. But - just as there was no other way to get from there to here in those days - so it is today. In the Mid-Ozarks you must come and go over the Old Wilderness Road of the Ozarks.
By: Jim Barrett
If you are interested in historical photos and stories about the Ozarks area contact Jim Barrett at RT's Restaurant in Kimberling City.