After he died in 2003, Larry Baggett’s Trail of Tears property fell into disrepair, and Route 66 travelers who drove by the unique site near Jerome, Missouri, wondered whether it ever would be restored.
Now it appears military veteran Marie Ryberg, who recently retired, bought the property and aims to restore the landmark and reopen it by spring 2018, reported KY3 in Springfield, Missouri.
Here’s the video report:
The key excerpt:
She wants to add healing gardens alongside Larry’s stone structures. She also wants to have a cafe that serves food grown right there on the property. Most of all, Ryberg wants the monument to be a place to reflect and also to learn.
“I want to leave a legacy behind,” she said. “I feel like that’s my calling, it’s my passion. I love doing this, I’ve been waiting to do this for years and I’m all excited about it.”
Ryberg hopes to have the monument open for visitors by the spring of 2018.
Here’s a video, probably from the early 1990s, of an interview with Baggett:
We visited Baggett a couple of times before his death. The first time, he was a vigorous and stout-looking old man. The second time, he’d lost about 50 pounds and obviously was ailing.
But he was fascinating to listen to both times. Emily Priddy recalled one of those visits during a guest post to Roadside America:
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.
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.
I also recall Baggett saying he’d suffered two heart attacks and suffered from diabetes in his 40s. Because he figured he’d have not much time left, he built the Trail of Tears as a resort so his wife would have income after he died.
But all that hard work building the site — plus eating cider vinegar and Jerusalem artichoke, he said — cured him of his diabetes and heart trouble. He wound up outliving his wife and lived into his 70s.
(Hat tip to Jax Welborn; image of Larry Baggett’s Trail of Tears entrance in January 2016 by Eric Swanger via Flickr)