The historic obelisk that marked a crossroads of the Ozark Trail near Stroud, Oklahoma, recently was cleansed of graffiti.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association stated in a Facebook post Friday:
The Ozark Trail obelisk near Stroud, OK has long been marred by graffiti. Thanks to the efforts of Route 66 enthusiast Sam Murray, the old pillar stands clean and refreshed. It doesn’t take much to have an impact for the good of the road and the thousands of visitors that come through each year.
People asked how the obelisk was cleaned. Association president Rhys Martin stated in a comment:
After consulting with the National Park Service, it was determined that the options available at the time for stripping the old paint could’ve lead to further deterioration of the concrete. So it was a simple paint-over operation with water-based, breathable exterior paint.
The old Ozark Trail ran from St. Louis to El Paso, Texas, or Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1913 to 1925. Much of that path served as a precursor to U.S. 66 that was established in 1926.
According to a 2010 story in the Plainview Daily Herald in Texas, seven of 21-foot-tall concrete obelisks that helped guide travelers down the Ozark Trail survive.
In 1913, organization founder and Arkansas resort owner William Hope “Coin” Harvey suggested erecting “white pillars bearing the inscription ‘Ozark Trails.’ ”
At the group’s 1918 convention, Harvey galvanized his proposal by suggesting that concrete obelisks — four-cornered slender shafts topped by pyramids — be erected at junctions where the Ozark Trails branched and at intersections with major roadways. He initially envisioned a string of 12 large pyramids — from Springfield, Mo., to Romeroville, N.M. (near Las Vegas, N.M.) — where a 50-foot shaft would mark its junction with the historic Santa Fe Trail.
In 1919 the group agreed on a standard design — a tall, tapered concrete shaft resting on a square base and illuminated by five lights. Along two or more sides were painted names and distances of towns along the Ozark Trail.
There are four obelisks in Texas — in Tulia, Tampico, Dimmitt and Wellington. The other Oklahoma one is in Langston. The lone Ozark Trail obelisk in New Mexico is in Lake Arthur.
Alas, nobody seems to know what towns the Stroud obelisk would have pointed to.
You can follow the old Ozark Trail from Davenport, Oklahoma, to the obelisk and on into Stroud. It’s a gravel road, and parts of it seem little-changed from 100 years ago. If you’re on Route 66, a small sign about two miles west of Stroud will direct you to it.
Graffiti vandals may tag the monument again soon. Regardless, it’s worth checking out for a glimpse of roads in the pre-certification era.
(Before-and-after image of the Ozark Trail obelisk near Stroud, Oklahoma, by the Oklahoma Route 66 Association via Facebook)