1836 - 1922
After Missouri became a state in 1821, the U.S. Army began searching for a road to connect St. Louis and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The route they established followed a path used by Osage Indians and was commonly known to Missourians as the “Military Road,” or the “Fayetteville Road.” From 1858 to 1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company used the road to carry mail and passengers from St. Louis to San Francisco, California.
The road got its famous name during the Civil War when Union forces strung telegraph wire along it. This new technology became an important target for Confederate troops and their guerrilla allies. Armies from both sides used the road extensively during the Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove campaigns. Use of the Wire Road declined in the early twentieth century as cars became more common. It was formally abandoned in 1922 when the Missouri State Highway Commission approved the construction of new roads.
The Wire Road can be seen outside of the John Ray home at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Ray was a postmaster, and his home was a mail stop.
Date: 1836 - 1922
Contributing Institution: Springfield-Greene County Library District
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Photographer: Michael Price