A few miles northeast of Carthage, Missouri, and just off Route 66 is Red Oak II – a ghost town, but not really. But it has authentic old buildings and an old cemetery, and it looks like a ghost town. Well, it is, and it isn’t.
Red Oak II was the brainchild of artist Lowell Davis, who grew up in the “real” Red Oak, Missouri, about 18 miles northwest of the “new” Red Oak II. Like many other rural agricultural towns across the country, the original Red Oak started to fade sometime after World War II when people began to move to the cities in earnest.
After Davis had left the area for several years, he returned in the 1970s to find his hometown had become a ghost town.
In 1987, Davis lived on a farm near Carthage that was little more than an empty cornfield. His creative inspiration soon led him to turn his acreage into a tribute to his hometown, and before long, Red Oak II was born. He began to buy homes and businesses from the original townsite and other rural ghost towns, painstakingly moving them to the new site and restoring them to their original “grandeur.”
Referred to as the “Norman Rockwell of Rural Art,” Davis loved the past’s simpler times, which are reflected not only in his “new” town but also in his paintings and sculptures. Of his re-created town, he said: “Red Oak II is a combination of a painting and a sculpture, and it is just made from things that someone else threw away.”
Today, each of the buildings in Red Oak II is privately owned. Davis lived in the Belle Starr house, where the infamous lady outlaw grew up, and owned several other buildings. Lowell Davis passed away at home with his wife Rose by his side in November 2020 at 83. The individual owners of the other buildings all maintain their own properties, which include private homes, stores, and museum-type exhibits.
Today, this quaint “ghost town” includes a Phillips 66 station, an old schoolhouse, a feed store, a diner, a town hall, a jail, several homes, and more. Two important buildings in Davis’ life are the blacksmith shop, where his great-grandfather once practiced his trade, and the General Store, run by Lowell’s father, where he learned to sculpt and paint. Both buildings were moved from the original Red Oak townsite. Situated throughout the property are numerous Davis sculptures and old vehicles. Frozen in time, a walk through Red Oak II is a vivid stroll through the past.
Directions to Red Oak II – Take MO-96 east of Carthage about one mile. Turn north on Road 130 for about two miles to Kafir Road, turn right (west). Red Oak II is about 3/4 mile down the south side.
Red Oak II