Old Wire Road

Down the Wire Road cover
Cover to Down the Wire Road in the Missouri Ozarks by Fern Angus

Old Wire Road from Early Barry County
The historic Old Wire Road crossed Barry County from the northeast to the southwest and was a significant feature in settlement and later events. Its name was derived from the telegraph line which followed it from Springfield to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Fort Smith, built in 1859. The road was in existence long before that, however, having been used by the early settlers from Tennessee and Kentucky and Virginia, and must have been an Indian trail before the settlers came.
John Lock's place was a tavern of sorts with a rough reputation at what is now known as the Brite Spring, about a mile above McDowell. He had a racetrack in the valley across Little Flat Creek from what is now McDowell. McMurtry Spring beside highway 37 southwest of Cassville is the head of Big Flat Creek. Littleberry Mason was one of the earliest settlers. His double log house stood in what is the southeast edge of Cassville.
Marching troops used the Old Wire Road during the Civil War, especially in the movements of Confederate General Sterling Price and his Federal pursuer to the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, General Curtis. A favored camping place close beside this road was what is known as Camp Bliss Spring north of McDowell. In early times water flowed out through a pool at the foot of a limestone bluff. It is said that many unsuccessful efforts were made to plumb its depth. Soldiers who camped there chiseled the name Camp Bliss on the bluff in letters six or seven inches high. If cold, clear, running water meant bliss to sick and weary soldiers or travelers on that road, then it was well named. Many a barrel of water was hauled from it, too, by local residents and in time of severe drought such as 1901 and 1934 and 1936 it saved the lives of countless head of livestock.

Old Wire Road sign
Old Wire Road marker in front of Barry County Court House in Cassville 1959
"Along this route a Butterfield stage carried the first overland mail through Cassville september 17, 1858. Named the Old Wire Road in 1859 at completion of the telegraph line paralleling the road to Ft. Smith, it was used in moving Union and confederate troops."