The crossroads of America

We spent some time in a small town this weekend and learned we had stumbled onto the crossroads of America.

Whether that distinction was born of the town chamber’s marketing efforts, or by actual topography, Cameron, Missouri, “America’s Crossroad” turned out to be a pretty cool place to hang.

Historically, the town scootched itself into position to play a key role in America’s railway system back in 1855. Having learned they built their town on a site too steep to house a railway station, town founders hitched up their oxen and dragged the buildings one mile over to flatter land.

By 1871 the north-to-south running Chicago and Southwestern railroad intersected with the east-to-west Hannibal St. Joseph railroad right there at the newly built Cameron depot.

More than 40 trains a day chugged through the tiny town by 1920.

As automobiles began making their way across the country, Cameron held on to its crossroads distinction by hosting both the ocean-to-ocean route US 36 and the Canada-to-New Orleans Jefferson Highway, which became US 69.

According to Cameron historian Stan Hendrix, the roads that became those highways were built by farmers, local businesses and residents. They organized community work days during which dozens of families working horse and mule teams cleared the land and built roads to draw automobiles to their town.

Beyond its history and designation, I really enjoyed that the high school’s mascot is a dragon.

Such an intriguing combination of history and magic for a town of fewer than 9,000 residents!

Cameron celebrates both its agrarian and rail history…
And its mythological mascot.
The town was once the cross section of America’s railroads.
And now it’s a cross section of America‘s highways.
The Depot Museum was closed the weekend we visited.
But I still learned a lot. I enjoyed this story about how a young attorney named Abraham Lincoln rode through Cameron in 1859 and how, a few years later, a snowstorm trapped a traveling troupe of actors at the Cameron Depot. The trapped group of actors included John Wilkes Booth. “Now we look back at the historical significance of these two men and realize their paths crossed in Cameron.”
The town’s dedication to its history impressed me. Here’s a plaque honoring President Truman, whose hunting buddy lived in this house and who probably visited a time or two.
I really enjoyed the history…and the dragon pride.

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