Our Past, Present, & Future
Pulaski County boasts a rich and diverse heritage. Pioneers from Kentucky and Tennessee settled our area of the Ozarks in the early days of Missouri’s statehood. Settlers harvested the timber and first homesteaded along the fertile valleys of the Roubidoux, Gasconade, and Big Piney rivers. Although pioneer life was never easy, but the area’s natural resources including the many springs and caves eased the challenges of the frontier life.
In December 1837 and again in March 1839, Pulaski County played an unfortunate part in the removal of the Cherokee. Due to government orders, bands of starving Cherokee were forced from their homelands, across southern Missouri, and into Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). During their march, camp was made very near Roubidoux Spring in Waynesville. Today, this is one of only seven sites on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in Missouri.
Missouri and Pulaski County had divided loyalties and sympathies during the Civil War. Many Pulaski County residents chose sides, joined, and went to fight — in some cases, against their brothers, neighbors, and friends. Although no major battles were fought within the county boundaries, the area was strategically important. Fort Waynesville, a Union camp, overlooked Telegraph Road, which ran between St. Louis and Springfield. From that vantage point, pickets were deployed to ferret out the “bushwackers” who conducted their war from the cover of the rugged landscape. During this time, the Waynesville Stagecoach Stop served as a Civil War hospital.
When the railroads resumed their westward expansion after the Civil War, they laid their tracks in Pulaski County. Our railroad towns — Dixon, and Richland — were born along those lines in 1869. Later, the Frisco Railroad was instrumental to the area’s first tourism boom. Droves of tourists rode the rails to the town depots and then traveled via “hacks” to fishing resorts and hunting lodges, many of which operate to this day.
In the late 1920s, people took to the roads to “motor west” along Route 66. Auto courts and tourist camps dotted Pulaski County and each proprietor had their pitch to encourage travelers to pull off the road, fuel up, eat, and spend the night at their roadside enterprise. Pulaski County entrepreneurs used handcrafted baskets and hillbilly crafts, fried chicken, and even petting zoos as their lures.
In 1940, Pulaski County experienced what might be its biggest transition to date. In a matter of months, Fort Leonard Wood was carved from the virgin timber. United States troops trained here before being shipped out during World War II. Millions of U.S. Army careers have begun in Pulaski County.
Workers from across the United States came to Pulaski to assist in the construction of the Fort Leonard Wood. As the population increased, the City of Saint Robert applied for a charter in October 1951. Saint Robert was incorporated in 1954 and is now home to hundreds of businesses, including local and nationally known franchises.