Ad Pages-East columnist Chuck Haney, who also authors the monthly “Slice of Life” feature in that publication, was contacted by email by Sandy Sappington in regard to the Old Bloomington Trail that they were researching. They seek help from the people of Linn, Livingston and Daviess counties in regard to any information about the Old Bloomington Trail which ran across northern Missouri. Since that time the Sappington’s (Howard and Sandy) and the Livingston County Historical Society also have published information in two articles in the newspaper in Chillicothe and one in the Brookfield paper.
With the permission of Mrs. Sappington we are using her article to Mr. Haney as a Slice of Life feature in both the East and West editions of the Ad Pages with a combined circulation of 21,000.
Here is her letter:
I thought you might like to read some of the background about the covered wagon trail, the Bloomington Trail, we are researching.
We were intrigued about the trail two years ago when I read a sentence in the History of the Gateway to the Green Hills 1976, which ran across northern Missouri that was used by so many covered wagons that the wagons were so close together that the front animal could touch the back of the wagon in front of it and stretched as far as the eye could see.
Years before, we had seen the swales, or ruts left by the Santa Fe Trail wagons in Kansas so we wondered if there could be swales to be found here. We found that yes, there are still swales to be found here, but it takes the community to tell us what they know about trail history.
We’ve had great success in tracing the trail in Linn County. We ran an article in the newspaper at Brookfield and asked if anyone had heard of the Bloomington Trail and if so to let us know. That began many weeks of people calling and writing us about family histories, about seeing it in the description on their land abstracts, or sharing stories of the stagecoach relay or maybe an inn. With the information told to us and using what we had already learned, we know that the Bloomington ran from Hannibal to St. Joseph and so far we have been able to trace it across from Macon and Linn County to Linneus.
The trail was first an Indian trail, and then used by fur trappers and bee tree hunters. Then when settlements sprang up, it was the connector between them. It was called the Old Trail and the when Bloomington became a crossroads in what is now Macon County, it was called the Bloomington Trail.
In 1822 the new legislature passed a law that all the counties would have a road to connect the. This northern tier of counties was not even organized, but by 1837 they were. So with just a few minimum improvements, the trail was then called Old State Coach Road; it was also called the Bloomington to Plattsburg road.
The most traffic was during the 1840-1850’s when people went to the California gold fields and to Oregon territory for free land and used it to cross Missouri and hook up with the Santa Fe and Oregon trails in St. Joseph. We know it was still being used in the 1880’s because we have been told a family history that says they used the Bloomington Trail when the came here from Ohio.
It is our hope that people may remember hearing family histories about the trail and right now we are focusing on the area between Linneus and Chillicothe. We know it came into Linneus behind the old school building; it followed Jefferson Street north of the courthouse, past a stable used as a stage stop then on out of town.
It went through where Cleo Munsterman has small lakes behind his home, behind where the county poor farm was located and watered at a spring at the bottom of that hill. It crossed Locust Creek then followed where fence row is now and came out close to the junction of B and Y three miles west of Linneus. One history books says the trail forked one mile west of Linneus, one fork went to Trenton, it doesn’t mention the other fork but we assume it went to Chillicothe since it was connecting the county seats.
This is where we have no more information until it crosses Medicine Creek (now Muddy Creek) where we believe there was a stagecoach stop and perhaps a cemetery used by the travelers on the trail. Today this is near Livingston County road 232 at Roger Bernskoetter’s then Collier’s Mill was on the east bank of Medicine Creek west of the stage stop.
One history book calls this area the Medicine Swamp and tells the story of a stagecoach caught in a flood in about 1857 and the local settler had to send oxen to pull them to dry land. The trail came into Chillicothe on east Jackson Street. We are working that section now.
We believe that people in the community may know just a part of this story, but when we put several parts together we can have more history to pass down. We want to ask this of your readers: Do you know of any stories, know about Collier’s Mill, did it have it own community? We have been told there may have been an Indian settlement near there at one time. If your family had land near where the trail may have passed is it described on your abstract? D you know of any small settlements as we have found they sprung up about every 15 miles to meet the needs of travelers.
“Our goal is to trace the trail as it leaves Chillicothe, crosses the Grand River on a ferry and goes to Springhill, Cold Springs, Millport and on to Gallatin. Would you contact us if you have any information? As long as we receive information from the readers we will pass it on.
Thank you and the Ad Pages for all your help with this project.”
Howard and Sandy Sappington, 1310 Miller Street, Chillicothe, Mo. 64601. Phone 660-646-6098 and email [email protected]