Lebanon’s second chance

Gary Sosniecki

Gary Sosniecki

By: 
GARY SOSNIECKI

This weekend’s Lebanon Route 66 Festival has a theme of “Celebrating 100 years of the Ozark Trail.”

The theme recognizes one of the most-momentous days in Lebanon history – June 28, 1917, 100 years ago this month – when Lebanon was selected to be on the Ozark Trail, the predecessor to Route 66 and, later, Interstate 44.

This was a big deal. Meetings had been held in every town that aspired to be on the Ozark Trail, including in Lebanon’s filled-to-capacity opera house. Don O. Vernon, Sam R. Farrar and William H. Owen (great-great uncle of Bruce Owen) were chosen as Lebanon’s delegates to attend a three-day meeting in Amarillo, Texas, joining more than 5,000 delegates from other communities – including James Armstrong from Pulaski County and Phil M. Bennett from Dallas County – who met in a tent in Amarillo.

It took five days for the group to reach Amarillo, driving 744 miles over a route that, years later, Vernon remembered as “abominable.” Vernon, an attorney, gave a passionate speech promoting the Northern Route through Lebanon as a better choice than the Southern Route from Rolla south to Cabool, then west along the future U.S. 60 through Mountain Grove, Mansfield, Seymour, Fordland and Rogersville.

The Northern Route was selected, triggering celebration in Lebanon.
“A large proportion of our people are not fully appreciative of what we have gained in securing the Trail,” the editor of one of the Lebanon newspapers proclaimed. “What we have gained is practically equivalent to a new railroad.”

For the complete column, see the Weekend print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.

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The Lebanon Daily Record

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