History - Unique look at southern Webster County in 1941

In this Missouri State Highway Department map from 1941, two-lane U.S. 60 is shown as it covers the corridor in Webster and Wright counties. For more about the southern Webster County's communities from the 1941 book "Missouri: Guide To The Show-Me State," see the story that appears on Page 11 of this week's newspaper.

The U.S. 60 corridor in southern Webster County was an active one in 1941 when the book “Missouri: A Guide To The Show-Me State” was published in partnership with the Missouri State Highway Department.

The 652-page book includes nearly 20 driving tours, including “Tour 6,” which includes a trek through the southern Webster County corridor from Cedar Gap in the east to Fordland in the west.

At the onset of the local tour at the border of Wright and Webster counties, the book reads, “There is a junction here with an unmarked gravel road. Go left here (if traveling west) to the tiny village of Cedar Gap, 1,687 altitude, 135 population, scene of the annual Cedar Gap Singing Convention during the first week of June. Families from the surrounding  hills bring their baskets of food for dinner on the grounds and sing the old-time hymns and ballads from morning until sundown.”

In the book, it notes the area around Cedar Gap commonly is referred to as the Ozark Divide.

“North from it flow the creeks and spring-fed streams that form the Gasconade River,” the book reads. “Southward flow the tributaries of the White River. A grove of oak trees half a mile east of town marks the highest point on the plateau, from which, it is claimed, the distant Three Brothers Knobs are visible. Cedar Gap Lake, a half-mile west of the village, offers excellent bass fishing.”

The book continues, “Breaking the forest hardwoods between Mansfield and Diggins are extensive and prosperous apple, peach and cherry orchards.”

Next on the tour was Seymour.

Of Seymour, the book reads, “Seymour, 1,642 altitude, 751 population, on a high plateau is the center of extensive clearing, was surveyed for Ralph and Frances Walker in 1881, when it became certain a railroad would be built through this point.

“The farm products of the surrounding region are prepared for market here in a milk condensery, two vegetable canneries and a flour mill. Seymour ships apples each month of the year — freshly picked fruit in the summer and fall, as well as stored fruit in the spring and winter.”

Ten miles west of Seymour, Fordland was the next stop on the tour.

“In the midst of the state’s greatest fruit, tomato and berry areas, Fordland, 1,592 altitude, 331 population, has chosen to be economically dependent upon nuts,” the book said.

“This is because of W.A. Hagel’s successful Nut Exchange business.”

Hagel’s business is described: “Hagel began a local trade in black walnuts and pecans in 1931, and he now fills orders for 60,000 pounds of nut meats a year. During the rush season in fall and winter, approximately 200 Fordland people, employed on a piece-work basis, earn a weekly payroll of $1,500. Nuts are trucked in from Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.”

The tour then continued to Springfield, skipping Rogersville, as the book noted Springfield’s population as of 1941 was at 61,238.

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