Lebanon’s Place on Route 66
If you’re wondering where is Lebanon Missouri, read on. You’ll discover not only where it’s located, but also how important Route 66 (and later I-44) was to its development, and why, despite the odds, Lebanon continues to be a healthy, attractive place to live in or visit for so many to this day.
Many people take the network of highways that stretch across our nation for granted. For most of us, they’ve been there since before we were born. It can be easy to forget just how important they are to our daily lives, and to our economy. Without them, moving goods and people across country would be a difficult, dangerous, time-consuming chore. But most people know little about the roads they travel over, or the history behind them. Those living in Lebanon, Missouri probably know more about the history of one particular road than most; Route 66. After all, Rt 66 has been the lifeblood of the town for over a hundred years, going all the way back to a time when Native Americans, wild animals, and even wilder settlers were the only traffic.
The origins of Rt 66 can be traced back to 1857, when a Naval officer working for the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers by the name of Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale was tasked with building a government-funded wagon trail along the 35 parallel. In time, this fledgling trail would grow into a major artery of travel for an entire country. John Woodruff from Springfield, Missouri and Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma were instrumental in the creation and promotion of the concept of a national highway running between Chicago and Los-Angeles, though it took years of hard work and determination to finally see their dream come to life. Among its other distinctions, Rt 66 was the first highway to be completely paved in 1938. Before that time, most highways were either dirt, or graded gravel, making it safer and easier to navigate at speed than most other roads of the time.
Because of its central location on the route, and the long, level stretches that made life easier for long-haul drivers, Lebanon, Missouri began to see considerable traffic flowing in either direction. Mills, factories, restaurants, and motels began to sprout up, and travelers began to notice the many benefits of the area, including the fantastic fishing opportunities at Bennett Spring, excellent farmland, ample hunting, and even magnetic waters rumored to have healing properties.
Time and interstate highways have taken their toll on what used to be called “the mother road”, pushing travelers and businesses away from its narrow, sometimes twisty course toward newer, safer pathways. But whether because of its history, or the beautiful countryside it passes through, the old road has never completely lost its charm. People from all over the world still enjoy making pilgrimages up and down it, sharing stories old and new of the road that runs across America. In Lebanon, you can still find buildings and businesses that have existed since the heyday of Route 66, and individuals that regard it with a kind of awe. Few roads have had such an impact on an entire country, and fewer still continue to do so. The fact that Route 66 has made such an indelible impact on so many is a testament to its influence and importance in our nation’s history.