- Adventure 1-The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
- Destination 5-Arrow Rock National Historic Landmark
As we enter the National Parks Anniversary year of 2016, we head out to our next stop on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail…part of our plan to visit every national park site in our home state of Missouri. Our destination is Arrow Rock National Historic Landmark.
As Lewis and Clark traveled through present day Saline County in June of 1804, on the Missouri River in what would become the state of Missouri, they noted that the area had many salt springs. In 1805, Nathan and Daniel Boone, sons of the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone, set up salt production at these springs. The briny water from the springs was put into large iron boiling pots, and boiled in stone furnaces until the water evaporated, leaving salt crystals. The Boone brothers shipped this salt to St. Louis where it was needed for food preservation and for tanning leather.
This iron pot was used by the salt works at Boone’s Lick. You can see it, and learn more about the Boone brothers salt operation by visiting Boone’s Lick State Historic Site.
At the same time, the area saw many settlers arriving from the Upper South, the states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. As more people arrived, and settled permanently in the area, it became known as “Little Dixie”.
The path used by the brothers as they moved their salt east, and by the settlers traveling west from the Upper South became known as the Boone’s Lick Trail. As time went by, more and more settlers, moving further and further west, used the Boone’s Lick Trail after it joined the Santa Fe Trail from where it began in Old Franklin, MO. Settlers also used the Boone’s Lick Trail as they traveled from St. Louis to join other trails to the most western lands of the United States.
Arrow Rock National Historic Landmark
Along the Boone’s Lick Trail, you will find the small town of Arrow Rock. Many years ago, before it was a town, the Missouria and Osage Indians used the flint from the cliff at Arrow Rock to make their arrow points, and it became known as Pierre a Fleche, the Rock of Arrows. When Lewis and Clark passed by the Rock of Arrows in 1804, they not only noticed the salt springs. They were also stuck with the suitability of the site as a western American settlement or a military fort.
William Clark passed by the Rock of Arrows again in 1808, as he traveled down the Missouri River to establish Fort Osage (Destination #4). George Sibley, the factor at Fort Osage, came and built a new trading post at Arrow Rock when he had to abandon Fort Osage during the War of 1812.
A ferry began to take travelers across the Missouri River in 1817, and in the 1820’s. Arrow Rock became the place where travelers on the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river. Before leaving, the settlers would fill their barrels with fresh, sweet water from the Big Spring on the edge of the settlement.
Today, there is a small park at the Big Spring.
In 1829, the town of Arrow Rock was founded, the newest port on the river. Its population rose to as many as 1,000 people as more and more people from the Upper South settled in the area, establishing farms and plantations where they raised hemp and tobacco. They brought their slaves with them to Missouri to work in their fields. When the Civil War broke out, the majority of these “Little Dixie” residents, dependent on their slave labor, sided with the South.
Following the war, this once vibrant river town began to decline as the railroads took much of the business that had kept the riverboats along the Missouri River busy for so many years. The town suffered devastating fires in 1864, 1872, and 1901. People left Arrow Rock, looking for work in other parts of the state, in other parts of the country, and Arrow Rock fell upon very hard times.
In order to preserve this piece of Missouri and American heritage, Arrow Rock became Missouri’s first historic site in 1923. In 1963, it was named a National Historic Landmark. Today this small town receives over 100,000 visitors each year who come to enjoy the many activities it offers to the twenty-first century traveler.
George Caleb Bingham, the famous Missouri artist, had his home and studio in Arrow Rock. It is one of the popular places to visit in town. Another popular attraction is the Dr. Sappington Museum. Dr. Sappington developed quinine pills, used to treat malarial fever.
The Dr. Sappington Museum in Arrow Rock.
One of the most popular stops in town is the J. Huston Tavern. This two-story brick building was built in 1834, and served as a hotel and restaurant for many years. It is, in fact, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River…and serves really good fried chicken. It is operated by the Missouri Division of State Parks.
The J. Huston Tavern has been serving delicious food longer than any other restaurant west of the Mississippi River.
When the Civil War ended, plantation slaves moved into town to find work. They became the dock workers, the warehouse hands, and the construction workers in Arrow Rock. They built the stone gutters, seen here in front of the tavern, that run along Main Street yet today.
The reconstructed courthouse
…and if you did not fare well at the courthouse, you might get to spend some time in this one cell stone jail.
Arrow Rock served as the county seat of Saline County from 1839 to 1840. You can visit a reconstructed courthouse from the era and learn about how justice was served at that time.
But my favorite place to visit in Arrow Rock is the Lyceum Theater, Missouri’s oldest repertory theater. It has been staging Broadway caliber plays since 1960 in an old Baptist Church building. The play season is from June through September, and people travel from all over the state to see a quality performance on a summer evening, eat a great meal, and maybe even stay the night in one of the bed and breakfast inns in the area.
The Lyceum Theater
Arrow Rock National Historic Landmark is a gem tucked away along the Lewis and Clark Trail. There are hiking trails in the area, as well as a campground. It is truly worth a visit. You can plan you visit to Arrow Rock by visiting its website.
I mentioned earlier that the J. Huston Tavern makes a delicious fried chicken dinner. Unfortunately, the last time we visited, the tavern was closed for the season. We stopped on our way at an historic inn that touted its own fried chicken. It was absolutely wonderful, and reminded me so much of the chicken my mom taught me to make. It is the chicken our children grew up on, and it is the chicken our youngest daughter named “Sticky” Chicken…the name has “stuck” ever since.
So I decided to share my recipe for our favorite family chicken…
- 3 1/2-4 lb. cut-up chicken
- 3/4 c. flour
- 1 T. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/3 to 1/2 c. lard or vegetable shortening
- 3 T. flour
- chicken broth
Combine the 3/4 c. of flour, the salt, and the pepper in a gallon sized plastic bag.
Heat the 1/3 cup of lard or shortening over med-hi heat in a cast iron skillet. Shake the chicken pieces in the bag of flour to coat them completely, and brown them a few at a time in the skillet, until they are golden brown on both sides…about 6 to 8 minutes per side. As you brown the chicken, it may be necessary to add a little more lard.
Place the cover on the pan a bit off center, and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake an additional 20 minutes or until the chicken registers 165 degrees at its thickest point.
To make the best gravy ever…
Remove the chicken to a plate and keep it warm. Gradually add the 3 T. of flour to the chicken drippings in the skillet over med-hi heat, stirring for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the chicken broth and cook until the gravy is the thickness you prefer…I use about 3 soup ladles full of broth.
Note…Nothing makes this chicken taste as good as it tastes when cooked in a cast iron skillet.