& Meramec Caverns - A Favorite
Route 66 Stop
Just about ten miles southwest of St. Clair,
Route 66 brings you to Stanton,
which has a number of attractions and outdoor activities to entertain
cross-country travelers. Stanton is a small unincorporated community that
became a favorite stop for Route 66 travelers due to its proximity to
nearby Meramec Caverns, which has always been prominently advertised on
billboards and on the sides of barns, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
town today appears to be even smaller than it was back in 1946 when Jack
D. Rittenhouse wrote A Guide Book To Highway 66. At that time, the small
town was called home to about 115 people and Rittenhouse described it as
having a Triple A garage, a gas station, a good cafe called Wurzburger's,
a store, and a few cabins. The only continually open business remaining
today is a gas station. The
Wax Museum, one of the remaining features of this small town is open daily
in the summer, weekends in the spring and fall, and closed in the winter.
addition to Meramec Caverns, the area also provides canoeing, float trips,
and fishing along the Meramec and
Bourbeuse Rivers; a number
of other caves, wineries, and various other attractions such as the Jesse
Nearby Meramec State Park offers
year-round camping, picnicking, hiking trails and water enthusiasts
will enjoy swimming, fishing, rafting and canoeing in the Meramec
Caverns - Hideout of Jesse James
Meramec Caverns is a set of natural limestone caves that features
beautifully sculpted patterns of stalactites and stalagmites. Formed more than 400 million years ago, the caverns have a long and
rich history. First used by
Indian Tribes as a shelter, they
were first discovered by "white men” when a French Miner stumbled upon
them in 1720. Discovering saltpeter in the cave, which is used
to make gunpowder, Renault named the cave Saltpeter Mine and mined the
resource until 1742. Later, Spanish miners utilized the cavern
as a base of operations for lead mining.
Civil War, saltpeter mining was revived in
the cavern and Union troops used it as a munitions powder mill from
1862 to 1864. However, when
Quantrill and his irregular band of Confederates discovered it,
they destroyed the plant. One member of Quantrill's band, namely
Jesse James, would remember the location of the cave and use it later
outlaw years. It was
also during this time that the cave was said to have harbored runaway
slaves on the "Underground Railroad.”
In 1874, Jesse James, along with
gang robbed the Little Rock Express on its way from
to Little Rock,
at a small town called Gads Hill. Pursued by a posse, the gang
escaped 75 miles northeast to the cave. The sheriff and his men
soon tracked the
deciding to starve them out of the cave. However, after three
days, the gang did not emerge. The lawmen entered the cave only
to find the gang’s horses. It has been long believed that the outlaws escaped by swimming from a shallow underground river to
the Meramec River outside the cave.
By the 1890's the cave was owned
by a man named Charley Rueppele who was interested in prospecting it. However, Rueppele allowed some of
elite to use the cave for ballroom dances. During the hot Missouri
summer months in the days before air conditioning, the cave provided a
wonderful respite. Today, the same area of the cave can still be
rented for special events.
In the 1930s, a
local cave enthusiast by the name of Lester Dill leased the cave
from Rueppele with an option to buy it. Along with partner, Ed
Schuler, they built the access road and entrance to the cave,
renamed it "Meramec
Caverns” and opened it to the public in
Dill uncovered miles of new passages and
spectacular views and began to heavily market the cave to the many
travelers of Route 66. Marketing efforts included the use of "bumper signs”
before the advent of "bumper stickers,” as well as painting the sides and
roofs of barns all along Route 66. Soon, the cave became known as one of the most famous stops along theMother
Meramec Caverns include tours through seven underground levels, a
restaurant, and a museum that features the life and times of the caverns.
Outside the caverns, a campground and motel are available along the banks
of the Meramec River. For outdoor enthusiasts canoes and rafts can
be rented for float trips, a tour boat is available for a scenic trip
along the river, and visitors can pan for gold at the Meramec Mining
Company. Open year-round,
Meramec Caverns can be reached by I-44 Exit 230 in Stanton.
On your way to
Meramec Caverns, you will pass by the
Ranch, where you can see the largest collection of snakes in the state of
from pythons, to boas, cobras, rattlesnakes and more. Not limited to
snakes, you can also get a scary look at alligators, scorpions, and
tarantulas inside the complex. The outdoor view provides foxes,
turtles, goats, emus and a Leo the Lion. As of this writing the Reptile
Ranch is open Memorial Day through Labor Day 10:30a.m. to 6:30p.m.
Back in Stanton, on the south frontage
road at Exit 230, is
the Jesse James Wax Museum, a Route 66
icon, for some 40 years, you will hear the story of how Jesse James
wasn't really shot to death in 1882. Instead, this place will
convince you that he died of old age in Granbury,
1952. Check ahead of time for hours of operation, as they vary throughout
Other "signs" of a once more prosperous
the closed Delta Motel,
later called the Park Inn 66, at 2420 S. Service Road and the Stanton
Motel, across the interstate at 2497 N. Service Road East, which is also
The Riverside Reptile Ranch on the way to
Meramec Caverns, Kathy Weiser.
Continue your journey of
Route 66 on Springfield Road through the small
hamlet of Oak Grove Village before reaching
of America, updated March, 2017.
The old Delta Motel at 2420 S. Service Road in Stanton is closed today,
Kathy Weiser, October, 2012.
Coming into Stanton, the highway is dotted
with Meramec Caverns Advertising,
Kathy Weiser, October, 2012.
From Legends' General Store
Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases - - By
Owner/Editor of Legends of America
Autographed From the wild
and woolly mining camps, to the rampages of the Civil War, to the many
cowboys riding on the range, those frontier folks often used terms and
phrases that are no longer used in everyday language today. Yet other
words and sayings were often specific to certain regions and never used
across the states. These terms, as in the past, are still sometimes heard
in specific areas, but are “foreign” to the rest of us.
From the pages of period newspapers, books, and century old dictionaries
comes the slang, lingo, and phrases of the American Frontier. Even if
you're not looking for a definition, you'll get a peek into the charm and
character of a historic era. In addition to the hundreds of words and
phrases, readers will also enjoy more than 150 vintage images.
Signed by the Author. 6x9", paperback -- 132 pages. Published by
Legends of America, 1st edition, October, 2015.
Made in the USA.