By ERIC X. VICCARO
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Southeast Missouri contains a rich history, especially since this was the first part of the state to be settled.
During the Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen meeting on July 9, Nancy Cozean made a presentation regarding the Highways to History Bicentennial Project.
As Missouri celebrates its 200th anniversary, tourism efforts are ramping up – and that includes distinction for the Plank Road Trail.
Ste. Genevieve city administrator Happy Welch noted the aldermen would most likely issue a resolution recognizing the trail at a future meeting.
Welch said it’s important to give the Plank Road Trail special acknowledgment because of the road’s sheer historical importance.
The Plank Road began at the location of the current Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center, traversing Market Street past Mississippi Lime through to Iron Mountain – and eventually Pilot Knob – along what’s now Missouri State Highway 32.
A plank road proved to be a necessity.
“They tried different trails to haul the iron, but the oxen (and horses) would get stuck in the mud,” Cozean said. “That’s when there was a push to elevate the road with wooden planks.”
Plank roads became a commonality during the 1850s, and communities thrived across the region from Ste. Genevieve to Farmington.
“It was a true success story,” Cozean added.
The Plank Road Trail covered 43 miles, with five toll collection points. Local historian Bob Mueller said there was no information available on the cost of the tolls.
A 1927 Farmington newspaper article reported it took five days to make a round trip – giving travelers a “weekend off.”
When the state of Missouri took over control of the road, it was originally signed as Highway 68 before eventually becoming renumbered 32 – winding through locations such as New Offenburg, Weingarten and Valley Forge.