Jefferson Highway in Carthage, MO

Depending on the order you are reading these JH convention pages and links, you may realize by now that much of the Jefferson Highway through Carthage, Missouri, and westward in Jasper County, became U. S. Highway 66 in 1926. Thus, traveling the JH today is easy for this portion carrying the Route 66 Historic Byway signs.

One of the most memorable spots along 66 is "Whee Bridge," otherwise known as the Oak Street viaduct over the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Pictured below is the approach from Fall Street as taken from a Carthage High School yearbook. The image is used in several issues and the Powers Museum dates the image c.1925-26.


Bridge as it appears today (December 2015).

The passing of the Jefferson Highway, along with the Ozark Trails route through Carthage and Jasper County, helped spur the establishment of many automotive and travel-related businesses in Carthage. Of all these many businesses, only a few of their structures remain today. The Drake Hotel, located at West Third and Howard Streets, is now a senior apartment complex.

Drake Hotel

As for early gas stations, only two survive in town although neither is on the JH route. Research is still being undertaken to determine the various owner/operators of these service stations.

Northeast corner of Garrison Avenue & 10th Street.

NEW: This building is being turned into a wood-fired pizza establishment and may be open by time of the JHA Convention. An additon has now been added to the rear portion of this building.

Southwest Corner of Grant Street as it turns into Grand Avenue.

During the early Jefferson Highway period, Carthage also had an auto manufacturer -- the Lanpher Carriage and Auto Manufacturer. Pictured below is their light delivery truck which is featured in the 2016 convention logo design.

Lanpher's operation was located in a historic structure at 500 Grant Street in Carthage, Missouri, that previously had been the Platt Plow factory established in 1873. This building eventually became the Smith Brothers Manufacturing Company (after expansion and remodeling) where "Big Smith" overalls and other work clothes were made until the early 1990s. (Smith Brothers also had an office/factory in the JH town of Saint Joseph, Missouri, too.) Image above courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Another manufacturing concern in Carthage during the JH era was H. E. Williams Manufacturing which started out producing potato smashers and auto window shades as well as other automotive accessories. The plant was located during its formative years on the North Main Street JH route in Carthage then moved to South Main Street JH route when it took over the former Juvenile Shoe Corporation factory at Central and Main Street (SE corner; now Carthage Crisis Center).

Probably the best-known Carthage industry during the Jefferson Highway period was the local limestone industry.

The images above feature building details located in the finishing plant of Lautz-McNerney Stone Company that were used for the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri. The building, built by John Gill and Son, was finished in 1917. Many of the individual quarries in Carthage merged into the Carthage Marble Corporation in 1927.

Building image courtesy of Joplin Museum Complex.

Although limestone is no longer quarried locally for building purposes, Carthage limestone is still processed into crushed products for various uses, including road building just as it was during the Jefferson Highway era. (Other quarries are located in Jasper and near Sarcoxie today, too.)

Limestone and the mining waste from the area's lead and zinc mines (chert and mine chat) was crushed for early rock roadbeds and then used as foundations for early concrete roads in at least four counties in Missouri.

The image from Highway Engineer & Contractor, April 1922. The caption claimed there was enough chat and gravel in SW Missouri to gravel all of Missouri's 28,000 miles of highway.

For more information on the local lead/zinc mining and limestone quarrying industries, please consult the "Riches from the Earth" cooperative digital collection. The Joplin Museum Complex and the Powers Museum were two of the several organizational partners that created "Riches from the Earth." Also consult this portion of the JHA convention website.

Blocks of limestone line North Francis Street/Civil War Road in Carthage today.



The Jefferson Highway's first General Manager, selected by E. T. Meredith, was James Douglas Clarkson who had been a long-time good roads promoter in SW Missouri. Although born, educated, and initially engaged in the agricultural implement business in his native Illinois, Clarkson and soon-to-be brother-in-law Harry M. Cornell, came to Carthage in the late 1870s and set up several agricultural implement businesses in the region. In a few short years, Cornell devoted himself to lead and zinc mining while Clarkson continued in the implement business. Clarkson also invested wisely in the mining activities of Jasper and Newton Counties along with other real estate and farm investments.

Clarkson's home on North Main Street in Carthage in the 1880s and early 1890s. Eventually the Jefferson Highway went by this location.

By the late 1890s and the turn-of-the twenieth century, Clarkson was enjoying semi-retirement and although involved with his local Congregational Church and the Carthage Chautauqua Assembly (and Chautauqua activities in Chautauqua, New York, too), along with other civic duties and his real estate investments, he became involved with the Good Roads Movement and interacted with members of early special road districts in the region. The owners and investors of the district's mines and related mining industries were among the most outspoken supporters of the early rock roads and then cement roads. These same men often were the first appointees to the special road districts. Their companies provided chat and gravel -- often free -- to other areas for road development, too.

By the "auto trail" or "named highway period" of America's transportation history, Clarkson was being appointed by elected officials to attend national road conventions in and outside of Missouri. He was involved with W. H "Coin" Harvey and the Ozark Trails Association (OTA) and was a speaker at the 1913 OTA convention in Neosho, Missouri. To advocate for good roads, Clarkson came up with an approach to building early roads called 365 Day Road Clubs. He began speaking throughout Missouri and headed Carthage's 365 Day Road Club that assisted the Carthage Special Road District. Soon his reputation was gathering attention elsewhere in the Midwest and he was hired by Road Builder magazine of Moline, Illinois, to assist in the promotion of good roads in Wisconsin and Illinois.

In 1916, he became the Jefferson Highway's General Manager and returned to Carthage for a short period until moving to St. Joseph, Missouri, when JH offices were moved to that city. From there he and his wife, Ida Cornell Clarkson, promoted the JH for many years until his retirment in 1922. (Clarkson also promoted the Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean auto trail from the shared headquarters in St. Joseph.)

There is much more to Clarkson's life, but in order not to "tell all" before the convention, we will leave now to finish the story until then!

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