Our Past, Present and Future
Pulaski County has a rich and diverse heritage. Pioneers from Kentucky and Tennessee settled our area of the Ozark Mountains in the early days of Missouri’s statehood. Settlers harvested the timber and first homesteaded along the fertile valleys of the Roubidox, Gasconade and Big Piney Rivers. Although pioneer life was never easy, the area’s natural resources including the many springs and caves eased the challenges of the frontier life.
During December 1837, and again in March, 1839 Pulaski County played an unfortunate part in the removal of the Cherokee Indians. Because of government orders, bands of starving Cherokee Indians were forced from their homelands, across southern Missouri, and into Indian Territory. During their march camp was made very near Roubidox 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 Countians chose sides, joined up and went off to fight -in some cases against their brother, neighbors, and friends. Although no major battles were fought within the county boundaries, the area was strategically important. Fort Waynesville, a Union camp, sprang up overlooking Telegraph Road that ran between Saint 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.
After the war, when the railroads resumed their westward expansion, they began laying their tracks in Pulaski County. Our railroad towns, Dixon, Crocker, Richland were born along those lines in 1869. Later, the Frisco Railroad was instrumental to the area’s first tourism boom. Droves of people rode the rails to the town depots and then traveled via ‘hacks” to the areas many fishing resorts and hunting lodges, many continue to operate to this day.
In the late 1920’s, 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 US 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 army base as the population increased, the City of St. Robert applied for a charter in October 1951. In 1954 an election was held, incorporating the area as the City of St. Robert which is now home to hundreds of businesses; both local and nationally known franchises.