Historical Highlights: That's where the first Crossroad was
Cameron grew up with the title “Crossroads of the Nation”. Exactly when we earned the title is unknown, however, why is easy to explain. Today we think of the crossroads as being US Highway 36 and Interstate 35. The intersection has become an incredibly busy commercial center. I can’t imagine how many vehicles pass through daily.
God blessed us with a great waypoint location for travelers, whether going state-to-state or just returning from other places to home nearby. Somehow the earliest settlers figured this out and capitalized on it. The purpose of stopping here for food, supplies and fuel is still the same as it was almost 190 years ago.
So where was the first crossroad and how did we earn the title? Isaac Baldwin was the first settler in Shoal Township in 1830. He chose a place that had ample prairie for livestock, wooded areas for trapping and water to keep everything alive.
He started up a little trading post he called Mount Refuge and before long two well-known trails crossed there. One was the Mormon trail going from Far West to Ft. Leavenworth. The other, a north south trail, was the “Haynesville Road” which went from Haynesville (near Holt) north into Iowa. As the area grew so did Baldwin’s business. The first school and the first post office were located at the trading post.
By 1855, railroads signaled the progress of the Western migration. Within a few years the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad going east to west, was crossed in downtown Cameron, by the Rock Island Railroad going north to south. By the turn of the century the community had earned the name “Crossroads of the Nation” with over 40 trains passing through the center of town daily.
By 1915 the automobile was changing the landscape. Horseless carriages required better roads than the old wagon trails. Three privately funded cross-country highways were built to connect New York to California and Canada to New Orleans. Two of the three intersected in downtown Cameron. The “Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean highway” passed through Cameron on 3rd street while the “Jefferson Highway” came down Chestnut Street through downtown.
In the 1930s US 69 and US 36 were built. Then in the 1960s US 36 was rerouted and Interstate 35 brought four lane cross-country travel to our crossroads.
Today we may think US 36 and I-35 are the reason for the title, but they only carry on the tradition started originally by Isaac Baldwin, nearly 190 years ago.
Where was Mt Refuge you ask? Just south of the old Nickerson Farms building at I-35 exit 48. Not far from Vinegar Hill or the McCartney Mineral Springs that I’ve written about previously. Next time you drive down I-35 past exit 48, look west and a couple fields to the south and you’ll know That’s where the first Crossroad Was.
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