Growing Up Along the Old Wire Road
by Greg Wadley
Posted July 22, 2023
In the early 60’s growing up was a time without computers and cell phones and some of the toy’s I remember were blocks of wood with numbers and letters on them. It was a different time when black and white TVs were fuzzy, but your imagination could run wild in technicolor. Kids went out and played and if you wanted to know where everybody was, just find the yard that had several bicycles thrown over in the front yard. Mom and Dad would take us out and we would picnic and swim on the area river swimming holes. We went to the James, Finley, and the Sac rivers. They were all our playground and I remember learning to swim in one of those rivers. I spent the most time playing along Fassnight creek and walked every foot of it from Wilson Creek to the underground section at Phelps Grove Park. You had to be careful when you played along the creek in Elfindale because it was owned by the St. de Chantel Academy for girls run by the Sisters of the Visitation until 1964. After then it became the Saint de Chantel Retreat House and the nuns ran that with a firm discipline of self-respect and self-restraint on the part of the pupils. They did not allow any boys sneaking around or playing along the south side of the creek and they would run you off if they saw you.
I remember the Old Wire Road where it crossed Grand and then present-day Catalpa streets in Springfield. The old trail came from the Springfield Square and angled across through the Fassnight Farm on Fort Avenue and there was a ford across the creek below the Mansion at Elfindale. A spring bubbled out of the bluff there close to the Deacons House and you could see where the Oday’s had put a dam in the creek to make a lake. There was a connector trail that went east by a small pond above the creek bed where another spring was at. It continued along the creek towards Fassnight Park. This was all before Catalpa was built and there were not any houses at all along the north side of the creek and you could still see the two trails in that farm. I suspect the old wagon wheels, hoofs and feet had compacted the dirt to the point that the swales were still evident in the 60’s.
Two of my Great Grandfathers walked the road to the south and fought at the battle of Wilson's Creek for the CSA and others in my family were at that battle for the Union. That has given me the lifelong interest in the Old Wire Road through the Ozarks. I now wish I had taken pictures of the trail along the creek and the ford now but all I have are memories. I have been back, and all signs are erased now of the original trail by development at Elfindale and the farm along Fort Avenue is smaller now and the plow has erased the old trail. The Oday’s had a connector road to the west side of the mansion that in the early 1900’s the Old Wire Road was still used to the south-west through the property that became the Federal Medical Center for Prisoners.
Parts of the old trail can still be seen but you have to go into the Battlefield where they are maintaining it or north at the South Dry Sac and close to the location of Evans Station. There is a Fulbright Greenway trail that passes under Old 13 highway and there is a trailhead parking lot there and a Diorama of the history of the area to see. It is located where the Butterfield Overland Mail route ford was on the river. Later development built a bridge there on the road to Booneville there and you can still see the north fill and the bridge abutment. At this point you are about 5.7 miles to the Nicholas Smith Tavern Station and about 3.5 miles to Evans Station. During the years of the Butterfield Stagecoach, depending on the hills and hollers the horses and mules pulling the stage had about a 6–10-mile limit and needed to be changed out. So, around Springfield you had Evans and Smith Station in Greene County and Ashmore Station just south of Terrell Creek in Christian County. That station was just west of where Wilson Creek and the James River met in Christian County. Most of these areas are now on private property and can only be seen with permission of the landowners but the supports for the large fireplaces at Evans Station can still be seen and there is a foundation at the Dry Sac Location. I have read that there was a tavern there as well as north of the Springfield Zoo that were both stops for the stage for mail and passengers. At the Ray House in the Battlefield as a postmaster he would place a red flag out on the front porch to signal that mail had to be picked up for the stage to stop. He also had a chalk marker board on the front when someone’s mail was there and neighbors passing by would see that and let them know “You’ve got Mail”!
Photos posted below courtesy of Greg Wadley