Heading west from Springfield, Missouri on old Route 66, travelers will make their way through a scenic stretch of the Mother Road that provides numerous peeks at the past along this almost abandoned piece of payment.
This stretch of the road was once the Springfield to Carthage stagecoach road, but as automobiles became more common in the early 1900s, the Ozark Trail was developed in 1915 that made its way from St Louis, Missouri, across Oklahoma, Texas, to Romeroville, New Mexico where it met the Old Santa Fe Trail.
When Route 66 was created in 1926, the old Ozark Trail was utilized as the new alignment through the area from Springfield to Carthage. Along this stretch were several towns, including Halltown, Paris Springs Junction, Spencer, Avilla, and more that thrived when the new highway came through.
Unfortunately, in 1961, portions of the old road between Spencer and Paris Springs was realigned in anticipation of the new Interstate-44 that was planned. At this time, the other towns along the road between Springfield and Carthage fought to keep the designation of US 66 and threatened to sue. However, their fight was in vain and highway officials responded by building the new four-lane farther south. By 1965, all of these towns were completely bypassed.
Though this old road is still populated by large farms and ranches, this slice of the highway has long passed its prime Some of the settlements along this section still have a few people living in them, but almost every one of the dozen or so towns that once thrived here, have become ghost towns or don’t exist at all anymore.
Yeakley is Gone Today
Old Route 66 meanders westward out of Springfield on Missouri Highway 266 through rolling hills that are situated along the western edge of the Ozark Plateau. Within a few short miles, the highway comes to what must be one of the oldest cemeteries on Route 66 – the Yeakley Cemetery, established in 1852.
Named for a prominent farmer and rancher named Thomas Yeakley, this well-tended cemetery also boasts the Yeakley Chapel, built in 1887, that continues to provide services today.
The town of Yeakley that once stood here had a post office and a population of about 30 people in the late 1800s. All that remains today are the church and cemetery.
The Ghost Town of Plano
A few more miles brings travelers to the junction of Missouri 266 and Farm Road 45 where the small community of Plano, Missouri once stood. Today, there are but two buildings left that clearly pre-date Route 66.
A crumbling stone building on the northwest corner of an intersection looks like it might have survived a number of Missouri’s many Civil War battles when this old route was known as the “Wire Road,” a strategic path that extended from St. Louis to Fort Smith, Arkansas. The tree-infested limestone building is sometimes said to have served as a casket factory and mortuary, but that is not true. The 50-by-60-foot building was constructed from native limestone by John Jackson and his family. On the first floor was a general store that was managed by Jackson’s son and two daughters. On the second floor, were the family’s living quarters and a large room that was utilized for meetings, dances, and church services for area residents.
The confusion regarding the history of the building comes from the fact that there was a mortuary and casket factory later built in a wooden building across the street, which no longer stands today.
A rock building on the southeast corner of the crossroads once served as a Tydol gas station and store. Today it is a private residence. When I-44 replaced Route 66, Plano died.
The old road continues to roll over gently sloping hills before arriving at Halltown.