(Click on the map markers to see locations. Click to jump to that town in this post.)
Lela, originally known as Story, Texas, sprung up at the turn of the century due to the railroads. The town had access to water, and boasted a school and post office. However, the nearby town of Shamrock began to overtake business, and Lela never truly thrived. Route 66 helped this town hang on for a while, but it quickly fell into disrepair. Although there are a few residents remaining, most people moved to Shamrock and left the homes and businesses to rot. You’ll be able to see the empty schoolhouse from 1928, along with the abandoned church and houses.
This town doesn’t quite qualify as a true ghost town, with a population of 235, but there’s plenty to see. This was once a bustling community with a post office, saloon, schools, churches, multiple gas stations, and even a veterinarian. This area thrived during Route 66’s heyday, but slowly declined until it was annexed by the nearby town of Wellston in the 1960s. Many of the original buildings still stand here, and some folks still call this place home. However, with a lack of commerce, it’s quickly becoming a ghost town.
From a piece of history older than Route 66, Plano is home to “The Wire Road” from the Civil War, which is where telegraph lines ran. This route’s history stretches even further back, as a part of the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, when Native Americans were forced to be relocated from their original homes. As you drive through this area, consider all that has happened here in just the last few hundred years. During the days of Route 66, this area had a gas station and general store. You’ll coast over rolling hills, while gazing at beautiful farmland and fields.
Route 66 State Park, Eureka, MO
This State Park is beautiful. However, it has a more treacherous story behind it. Times Beach was a resort founded in 1925 along the lovely Meramec River. During the Depression, times were hard, and the town always struggled. The tourism from Route 66 helped it stay afloat, but as the interstate system took over, the town dwindled to a lower-middle class city. Then, scandal broke, when in the 1970s the city hired a company to spray their dirt roads with oil to combat their dust problems. Horses began to die, and the CDC moved in to investigate. It was found that this oil was highly toxic, and by 1985 the entire town was evacuated- save from one elderly couple who refused to leave. Eventually the government bought out the area, incinerated all the soil, and deemed it safe to use. In 1999, the Route 66 State Park was opened, and now the area is filled with hiking trails, wildlife, and nature’s beauty.
Funk’s Grove, IL
Who doesn’t love a stack of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup? This historic ghost town is the home of that sweet, delectable condiment. First settled by the Funk brothers in the 1820s, the town was home to cattle ranching that feed Chicago’s beef industry. Yes, their name is funky (ha ha) but the Funk family made a major impact to Illinois history. Another claim to fame is that Abraham Lincoln was the attorney for the Funk family, and together they helped bring the railroad to this part of Illinois. Some Funk family members are even rumored to have hosted slaves escaping the south during the Civil War. Route 66 travelers relished the pieces of history that are visible, and are still standing today. In fact, the Funk family still owns the grove of maple trees that brought us one of our favorite breakfast treats- now designated as a Natural National Landmark- and a monument to the family is located at a rest stop nearby.
Did you miss Route 66 Ghost Towns Part 1?