History

The roots of the Waynesville/St. Robert area run deep through American history. As early explorers and pioneers migrated west, the state of Missouri was formed and divided into a number of counties. Pulaski County was born and recognized by the State Legislature in 1832; its name was derived from the 1818 Territorial Legislature in honor of Count Pulaski, a Polish patriot. Waynesville was designated as the county seat, deriving its name from the famous Indian fighter "Mad" Anthony Wayne.

The first sessions of court were held in private homes. The first log courthouse in Pulaski County was built in 1837, replaced three years later by a brick building that was badly burned in the Civil War and torn down in 1870. A second brick building was built and burned in 1902; it was replaced by the Old Courthouse, which today houses a museum which features Pulaski County artifacts, including blacksmith and carpentry tools, quilts, school materials and Civil War era items. The current $4.4 million, 50,000 square foot Pulaski County Courthouse opened in January of 1990.

Waynesville is rich with historical landmarks. During the Civil War, a Union fort was built on the bluff overlooking the Roubidoux Spring. The fort's mission was to protect the Old Wire Road, which was the main supply route of the Union Army between St. Louis and Springfield. A historical marker on Fort Street is all that remains.

The pre-Civil War Old Stagecoach Shop, standing on the east side of the courthouse square, is the oldest building in Pulaski County. It was built in the late 1850s as a tavern and stagecoach shop for travelers on the St. Louis to Springfield Road, and has stood as a silent witness of the eras of Pulaski County history. It survived through the settlement, Civil War, reconstruction, the traffic on Route 66, and World War II. Always evolving with the times, it was also used, at varying points in history, as a hospital, hotel, dentist's office and tourist inn. Effort is now focused upon restoring the interior of the Old Stagecoach Shop to representative eras of its history, with interpretive rooms depicting a tavern, Civil War doctor's office, 1930s dentist's office, a room with excavation artifacts, a display of World War II memorabilia and the Museum Shop.

The construction of the United States Highway 66 through Waynesville opened up an economy outside of agriculture. The "Mother Road" cut through ten counties in Missouri, covering a 300-mile span. Originally a graveled state road, Route 66 follows an ancient ridge that was trod by migrating game, and traveled by Indians in search of food. Before the Civil War, white settlers knew the route as the St. Louis to Springfield Road. It became a communication corridor during the Civil War for moving men and material. Eventually, business enterprises- such as motels, a hillbilly store and basket sellers settled along the road, serving as catalysts for the area's growth.

The construction of Fort Leonard Wood in World War II launched the county's last 50 years of growth and development. Established in 1940 as an infantry division training area for World War II army soldiers, Fort Leonard Wood quickly took on an engineer training mission until the end of the war in 1945. It served as a training facility once again during the Korean War. The military demands of the Cold War and aggressive efforts by local community leaders led to the decision by the Army to make Fort Leonard Wood a permanent installation, which resulted in substantial funds for renovation, and the Vietnam War resulted in a significant increase in training load. Today, the fort is the home of the U.S. Army's Chemical, Military Police and Engineer Schools and is a state-of-the-art, diversified center for service to the nation.

The Village of Waynesville incorporated and became the Town of Waynesville in 1901. In 1931 the City of Waynesville was incorporated as a City of the Fourth Class, and in 1971 the status changed to a City of the Third Class.

St. Robert was incorporated on October 1, 1951. St. Robert was first chartered as a village with 500 residents; today it is a fourth class city that offers water, wastewater treatment, electric and natural gas to its residents. In the last six years, the city has more than tripled in size.

The Waynesville/St. Robert area has grown in amazing ways since its beginnings, and is looking forward to a future equally as extraordinary!

 

 

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