“Nostalgic, Scenic, Timeless” describes The Old Trails Region that covers over one hundred miles of businesses, farmland, events, and entertainment through the heart of Missouri. The region follows the course of the original Sante Fe Trail through Missouri. Day trippers could not begin to enjoy the entire Trail in a short time. So… here are three destination suggestions for a trip on the Trail: Marshall, North Central Missouri Farm and Winery, and Lexington.
A dedication of the Jim the Wonder Dog Garden, a Llewellyn setter, was held in 1999. The garden was constructed on the site of the demolished old Ruff Hotel where Jim and Sam VanArsdale lived in Marshall. It includes a gazebo, interpretive signs, the statue of Jim, and a water garden. The Wonder Dog lived from 1925 until 1937.
Jim’s owner, Sam VanArsdale, stopped counting the number of birds retrieved when the total reached five thousand. VanArsdale soon found, while in the field one day, that his dog could understand what he was saying to him and carried out his commands. Documentation relates that Jim could “go out on the street and locate a car by make, color, out-of-state, or a license number. From a crowd he could select the man who sells hardware, and the one who takes care of sick people, or the visitor from Kansas City. He carried out instructions given to him in any foreign language, shorthand, or Morse Code... He chose the winner of seven Kentucky Derbies, and The World Series of baseball.” Jim also performed before the Missouri Legislature and at the Missouri State Fair” And, yes, Jim was featured by Ripley’s Believe it or Not. He is buried in Marshall's Ridge Park Cemetery with a grave stone. Caretakers say “his is the most visited grave there and is seldom without flowers and coins left on it.” The site of the Jim The Wonder Dog Garden is just off the northwest corner of the Square in Marshall.
And, while visiting the Marshall area take a little time and visit old Pennytown, Missouri, a historic black rural community located eight miles southeast of Marshall. About forty families lived in the area which stood on sixty-four acres of land in central Missouri. The Pennytown Freewill Baptist Church, first constructed in 1926, is now all that remains of that once bustling town. The church is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The VanTill Family Farm and Winery is located about six miles from Excelsior Springs in Missouri. Their vineyard has a total of seven different French and American Hybrids which are ideally suited to thrive in Missouri’s hill country. “We look forward to creating unique varietal wines from a sweet Concord to a dry Chambourcin or Norton, and in between with Chardonel, Niagra, Edelweiss and Vignoles.” The Greenhouses on the farm are used to “grow strawberries, vegetables, herbs and greens for the kitchen. “ Their weekend menu includes over-fired gourmet pizza.
The old town of Lexington invites the traveler to “follow in the steps of Santa Fe Trail traders, steamboat captains and Civil War soldiers. See Lexington’s storied courthouse, battlefield, beautiful antebellum homes and historic districts. Shop in our antique and specialty shops. Dine in our charming restaurants. Stay in our quaint B&Bs. Explore the beauty and bounty of Lafayette County’s orchard country and five wineries.”
Again, visitors will find one day too short to explore the town and surroundings of Lexington. Established in 1822, Lexington grew into a very important town west of St. Louis. A pioneer trade center, it served as an outfitting post for the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Today’s travelers will find historic buildings, vintage neighborhoods, and a 1839 cemetery – as well as, memorials and museums, parks, a historic military academy, and special events throughout the year. Shoppers will find a variety of goods for sale from antiques to wineries to a vast selection of places to eat.
The Battle of Lexington is better known as the Battle of the Hemp Bales. In 1861, Sterling Price began a siege against the Federal military post stationed in the old Masonic College. The Federal troops were commanded by Colonel James Mulligan. Price's army mounted a final assault using hemp bales as moving breastworks for his men. After three days of battle, Mulligan's army surrendered.
Old Trails Regional Tourism Partnership includes the rural counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette and Saline. Interested vacationers will find a vast amount of information at the Old Trail Region site at www.oldtrail.net.