Jerome, Missouri: Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial

Folk art, Ozark-style; rocky creations and metaphorical statues. Larry's self-portrait sculpture sits next to the entrance, offering a friendly wave to passers-by on Route 66. Larry died in 2003.

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Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial.

Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial

Larry Baggett [who passed away in 2003] was one of those interesting old guys you hear about but rarely get to meet. His brand of folk art is, I think, the sort of dementia concretia that only an Ozark shaman like Larry could have come up with.

His self-portrait sculpture sits next to the entrance to his property along old Route 66, offering a friendly wave to passers-by. The entrance reads "TRAIL OF TEARS."

There's a sculpture illustrating some folk tale he told us about a deformed boy and the white buffalo he had as a pet. A wishing well he'd built out features a man pouring water out of his pitcher via a pipe connected to the spring that once fed the swimming pool at the late, great Stonydell Resort.

White buffalo and mutant boy.Larry's whole place was set up as kind of a monument to the Cherokee Trail of Tears, which goes across the property. Larry once told us a great ghost story about how he kept hearing a knock at his door late at night. He'd just built a retaining wall next to his house, and right after that, he started hearing this mysterious knock. He'd go answer the door, and there was nobody there -- and the ever-vigilant watchdog who slept next to the door never woke up when the knock would come.

This happened several nights in a row, and finally an old Cherokee happened to come by for a visit (Larry was kind of a homespun mystic -- he studied Indian lore, and he studied herbs, astrology, numerology, he'd studied with Edgar Cayce, and when he was young, he'd trained to be a Jesuit priest). Larry mentioned the knocking to the Cherokee, and the guy said, "Well, yeah -- you've built that retaining wall right across the Trail of Tears, and the spirits can't get over it, so they're just congregating around your front door."

Larry asked if he should tear the wall down or what. The guy said, "No, just build some steps so they can get over it." Larry built the steps, and he never heard the knock again.

Larry Baggett in 2003.He was quite a character. First time we met him, we'd gone up the long driveway leading to the house, and as we were turning to leave, he came out of the house in Big Smith overalls and said, "What's your hurry? Stop and visit!"

After exchanging pleasantries and telling us a couple of stories through the car window, Larry invited us in for a cup of tea. We don't normally make a habit of accepting invitations to come into a complete stranger's home in the middle of nowhere, but in the span of three minutes, we'd learned that Larry was into beekeeping, herb gardening, tree-hugging, and Route 66 -- our four greatest passions -- so we figured he was a kindred spirit and it was probably worth the risk.

We were right. Not a road trip goes by that I don't think of Larry and thank God we had the good sense to stop and visit with him while we had the chance.

[Emily Priddy, 12/18/2006]

We're sorry we waited too late to meet Larry! The property, now posted as "private," was sold in 2005, and serious deterioration was reported in Jan 2006, so there's no guarantee the sculptures are still there.

Wishing well.

Trail of Tears Monument

The "monument" is very dilapidated and has "No Trespassing" signs posted. Very sad as it looks like it was once a pretty interesting stop. The statues are breaking apart and falling over, and everything wooden is badly disintegrated.

[Ursula Rogers, 01/24/2006]

Larry Baggett self-portrait sculpture.

Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Monument

Along a largely abandoned stretch of Route 66 near Jerome, Mo., about a quarter-mile from the remains of the former Stonydell Resort, lies the most glorious example of dementia concretia we have ever witnessed.

Driving under a stone archway labeled "Trail of Tears," between a white plaster statue of the place's proprietor and a similar statue of a character pouring out a bucket of water (an effect achieved with a fountain fueled by the natural artesian spring running through the area), we passed a wishing well made of stone, a plethora of stone walls, and a sign describing the plight of the American Indians who traveled the Trail of Tears (which once ran through the property) before coming to a big stone house whose front room actually is constructed around three living trees. In front of the house is an enclosed gazebo sort of building containing a hot tub (empty at the moment).

As we followed the signs to the U-turn at the end of the road leading up to the house, the owner's red heeler favored us with a menacing bark. We were beginning to wonder if we were going to be shot for trespassing, but when the owner himself, 76-year-old Larry Baggett, greeted us with a friendly wave, we stopped to say hello.

Upon learning that we were Route 66 enthusiasts, Baggett invited us in, read our astrology charts, taught us some Bible lessons and told us that he considers himself only 30 years old, because he didn't "really start living" until 30 years ago, when a doctor gave him 18 months to live because he'd had two heart attacks and was suffering from diabetes. Baggett said he healed himself with a combination of cider vinegar, honey and Jerusalem artichoke ... and began building his monument to the Indians, who have been known to knock on the door of his house, which a Cherokee Indian told him is located directly in the middle of the Trail of Tears.

Cool place. Even cooler old guy. We highly recommend the trip.

[Emily Priddy and Ron Warnick, 02/04/2001]

Larry Baggett's Trail of Tears Memorial

Address:
Hwy D, Jerome, MO
Directions:
I-44 exit 172 (Jerome). Turn north, then right at the T-intersection onto Hwy D toward Jerome. Trail of Tears Memorial is a few hundred yards on the left.
Hours:
Sa-Su 10-5 Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Bar with Bras on the CeilingBar with Bras on the Ceiling, Devils Elbow, MO - 6 mi.
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In the region:
Missouri State Penitentiary Tours, Jefferson City, MO - 47 mi.

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