Missouri Historic Towns and Villages ~ Ironton,
Lesterville, Pilot Knob, Redford, MO
Footprints of the past come alive ~ Visit
these historic towns and villages during your Missouri Vacation
to the Arcadia
Valley Region & Black River Recreation Area. If you are
researching your family history, please see
our genealogy pages
for helpful resources. Better yet, travel to our region and
see for yourself!
a directory of Lodging, Bed and Breakfast Inns, Hotels, Cabins,
Cottages and Campgrounds near Lesterville, Ironton and Pilot
Knob, Missouri, please click
of our fine hosts are ready to help plan your Missouri history
tour in our region.
1895 Map of The
Black River Recreation Area and Arcadia Valley Region
Ironton, Missouri ~
History and Landmarks, Iron County, MO
Ephraim Stout built a log house in this valley (as early as
1805-1807) along the creek which still bears his name.
There were few settlers over the next three decades. Those
that did arrive, were drawn primarily by the abundant buffalo
and deer population, but in 1836 things changed. The vast
iron ore resources of Iron County were discovered. Mining
brought increased numbers of settlers to the region.
When Iron County was formed February 17, 1857, the name was
derived from its principal mineral. When the county
was organized, H. N. Tong and David Carson who operated a
mercantile business at the base of Shepherd Mountain, immediately
sprang into action and laid out a town. They named it
Ironton and entered it on the list with Arcadia, Pilot Knob
and Middlebrook as competing points for the county seat.
The election took place in 1857. Ironton was ultimately
chosen after the second round of voting, due in large part,
to the "sweetened offer" provided by Mr. Tong and
Carson after the first vote had taken place. Having already
cleared and graded a tract of land for town lots, they offered
to sell alternating lots, the proceeds of which would be donated
toward the building of a court house. In short, proceeds
donated to the county totaled $10,602.68, Ironton was selected,
and the historic Iron County Courthouse was built.
Prior to 1857, the only way for the Pilot Knob Iron Company
to transport its iron ore to market was over the old plank
road to Ste. Genevieve in oxen-pulled wagons. It was
a time of celebration throughout the region when the St.
Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad was completed all the
way to Pilot Knob, sister community to both Ironton and Arcadia.
Homes and businesses sprung up and Ironton became the center
of commerce for the area.
The region and Ironton were thriving; that is, until the specter
of the Civil War began to encroach upon Missouri . . . the
time of celebration came to a halt. The recently completed
railroad at Pilot Knob was valuable to both sides, Union and
Confederate, as it transported many raw materials to the city
of St. Louis. The war pitted Missourian against Missourian
wreaking havoc, pain, death and destruction in its path through
Missouri. The Battle
of Pilot Knob at Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob was one of
the most important battles in the state. Read
more about the Civil War in our region here. The
historic Iron County Courthouse still bears the scar of a
cannonball. Also in Ironton, General Ulysses S. Grant,
received his commission as brigadier general and became commander
of the union forces in southeast Missouri, while camped by
a spring which still flows in Ironton. A
monument to General Grant rests on the lawn of the Ste. Marie
Du Lac Catholic Church. (Please see photo at top of page.)
After the war, the area once again became a bustling community
and was popular as a nineteenth century summer resort for
wealthy St. Louisans and others. Today graceful antebellum
homes and turn of the century mercantile buildings recall
a rich history. Visit historic Main Street, tour historic
visit charming bed and breakfast inns or cottages. Stay
at attractive motels and dine at one of the many fine
in the area. Take a romantic carriage ride, take
in a live
music show or shop at the many colorful
and charming antique shops. Be
sure to stop by Whistle Junction Visitors Center on Hwy 21
for information and self-guided-tour driving directions.
For lodging and accommodations in Ironton, Missouri click
~ History and Landmarks, Reynolds County, MO
The oldest town in Reynolds County had its beginning in 1816
when Jesse Lester and his new bride left the mountains of
Kentucky on a quest to find good farming land. The search
ended about 3 miles west of where Lesterville is located today,
and Mr. Lester built a log home. Though it meant traveling
by wagon for supplies to Sainte Genevieve he soon established
a trading post with the Indians. Today,
although Lesterville is the hub of recreational activites
on the Black River and filled with tourists during the season,
many skeletons of the past still remain on historic Main Street
and throughout the community.
Lesterville was the first community in what is now Reynolds
County to have a post office. As Lester was the first
settler and considered to be a very prominent citizen, he
established the first post office in Lester, Mo.
in 1838. Mr. Lester owned much of the land in the area.
Soon, a hamlet rose up three miles to the west. Back
then, as now, convenience ruled. It was soon decided
the post office would be moved 2 1/2 miles away and that the
suffix "ville" would be added to distinguish
the two locales. To this day the Lesterville Post Office
stands on that very spot.
When Reynolds County was organized on February 25, 1845, Lesterville
became the temporary county seat. The home of Joseph
McNail was used as the first meeting place for the Circuit
and County Court until a permanent seat of justice and public
building could be established. After due deliberation,
neighboring Centerville was chosen as the permanent county
seat and in 1848, eighty acres of land was purchased at a
cost of $100 from John Buford, a politically influential,
wealthy resident who settled just south of Lesterville in
1825. In 1849, erection of a courthouse began on the
public square of the new county seat.
Lesterville has endured many changes throughout time. During
the Civil War the community suffered many hardships. The war
supply line came through the area from Van Buren to Ste. Genevieve
by way of Devil's Tollgate, the only passageway through the
Tollgate is located in nearby Taum
Sauk Mountain State Park.) Troops foraged for supplies
at local homesteads. Additionally, gorilla bands and "Jayhawkers"
raged through the area "killing fathers and stealing
the stock and food supply, leaving women and children to die".
After the Civil War, industry and commerce began to flourish
and the town soon had a large hub mill, a spoke mill, a felloe
mill, and a shingle mill. Lesterville became renowned for
its hubs and red shingles. The plentiful forest around Lesterville
combined with its prime location where the three forks of
the Black River join into a stream, provided for a booming
timber industry. During the lumber boom of the late 1800s,
Lesterville was the origin for floating logs and railroad
ties down the Black River to their destination, Clearwater.
Churches were built, a bank was established and the Lesterville
school was improved. Other small schools, Peola Valley School,
Shed School, and Hyatt’s Creek School soon followed.
Time went by, the forest became denuded from overcutting,
farm product prices dropped and mills closed. Even during
this time of depression, the self-sufficient pioneers of this
Ozark town remained. Credit is largely due to a gentleman
named Red Hunt, a successful farmer who began accepting visiting
“city people” on a pay basis. “Hunt’s
Farm” (now known as Black River Lodge) soon had a thriving
business which included tours to local sites such as Reed
Springs and Sutton
Bluff. Other resorts were opened in this amazingly scenic
area of Missouri, and Lesterville soon became the favorite
destination for many tourists who return each year to enjoy
the many resorts,
cabins, cottages and campgrounds, to float
the Black River, and to marvel at the spectacular beauty
that surrounds them. Visit Lesterville! Enjoy
the best Missouri
lodging, campgrounds and accommodations in Lesterville, Missouri
For Outfitters serving the Black River Area click
Pilot Knob, Missouri ~ History and
Landmarks, Iron County, MO
The history of Pilot Knob is inextricably linked
with its sister communities, Ironton and Arcadia.
A traveler will barely perceive the difference from one
community to the next, along the three mile stretch which
is seemingly continuous. History, however, sets each
apart as important events occurred and historical landmarks
appear, in all three.
previously outlined in the history of Ironton
and Arcadia, Ephraim
Stout built a log house in what is now known as the Arcadia
Valley (as early as 1805-1807). There were few settlers
over the next three decades, and those that did come were
drawn primarily by the abundant buffalo and deer population.
In 1836 things changed. The vast iron ore resources of Iron
County were discovered and brought increased numbers of
settlers as the industry boomed. Ultimately, in 1857
the Iron Mountain Railroad was completed all the way to
Pilot Knob providing the means to transport this important
commodity directly to St. Louis.
The mine at Pilot Knob was of vital importance to St. Louis
industry. The railroad served the southeast Missouri iron
mining district, running from Irondale through Iron Mountain.
When the Civil War began to encroach upon Missouri soil,
the Union established a post at Pilot Knob . . . not only
to protect the mines, but to also insure Union supplies
could reach their outposts at Farmington, Fredericktown,
Fort Davidson (at the base of the lookout,
Pilot Knob Mountain) was a strong defensive position:
hexagonal walls nine feet high and ten feet thick, surrounded
by a dry moat nine feet deep. Two long rifle pits ran out
from the walls and a reinforced board fence topped the earthworks.
Access to the fort was through a drawbridge on the southeastern
corner of the structure. In September of 1864, Fort
Davidson became the scene of one of the bloodiest and most
important battles of the Civil War in Missouri . . . the
Battle of Pilot Knob, where 1200 Confederate
soldiers were killed or wounded and less than 100 defending
Union soldiers were killed, wounded or missing.. Learn
details about Fort
Davidson and the Battle of Pilot Knob here. Today,
Fort Davidson State Historic site at Pilot
Knob honors those who gave their lives in this important
battle. Every third year, thousands of people gather
here to observe the reenactment of this important event.
In 2007, 30,000 visitors attended. The next scheduled
reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob will be in 2010.
Until then, tour Fort Davidson and the museum honoring these
Also, when in Pilot Knob, be certain to see one of the oldest
surviving churches in the Arcadia Valley, historic Immanuel
Lutheran Church located at East Pine and
North Ziegler. Founded by German immigrant August Gockel
in 1861, the church was occupied and used as a hospital
during the Battle of Pilot Knob. After the war, a second
story was finished in the back of the church and used as
a one room school house until 1936. Sometimes a pastor would
live in the back room of the church temporarily and one
lived in the small room with seven children and his wife!
As years went by the congregation helped found churches
in Iron Mountain (now Bismarck), Farmington, and Ironton.
Tours of this church, which is on the National Register
of Historic Places and still
contains much of its original furnishings, can be arranged.
lodging and accommodations in Pilot Knob, Missouri click
Redford, Missouri ~
History and Landmarks, Reynolds County MO
In the early 1840’s pioneers noted that as they
were crossing the bank of Sinking Creek, their horses
and wagons churned up red clay where they forded. Redford’s
pioneers found a beautiful spring which became known as
Spout Springs, running year round with clear cool water
along the creek. This quiet village was soon to
be colonized. Behind the Baptist
Church, established in 1890 (new
building constructed in 1952), lies
a cave that rumor holds, was used in the Civil War. Early
settlers used this cave for shelter from storms and before
Redford had electricity, townsfolk stored milk, butter
and eggs here.
As the lumber industry developed, this village became
the hub for wagons hauling lumber to Annapolis to meet
the Missouri Pacific Railroad, or to a point on Sinking
Creek where logs and ties could be floated down the Black
Soon after, a hotel/boarding home was opened where hungry
timber-men and traveling salesmen were served fine meals
and boasted about the clean and friendly well kept place
"with especially soft beds". Redford is the
home of the annual Reynolds County Fair and Logan Creek
Opry. The fair is held every Labor Day weekend and the
wholesome, Branson-style show of the opry performs for
your entertainment on the first Saturday of each month.
The fairgrounds are located on Main Street near old homes
For lodging and accommodations near Redford, Missouri click
Civil War Click
here to learn about the important roll the Arcadia Valley
and Black River Region played in shaping the outcome of
the war. Take a Missouri Civil War tour of our region
and learn about the Battle of Pilot Knob at Fort Davidson
and Fort Barnesville.
American History in Missouri & De Soto in 1541
Native American history in the Arcadia Valley Region, Black
River Recreation Area goes back to the Paleo-Indians, the
ancient peoples of the Americas who were present at the
end of the last ice age. They camped and hunted along Ozark
rivers, perhaps as long as 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.