The St. Louis Spring has been nothing but a “Crap Shoot” among the local weather forecasters. Rain in the forecast meant you had a 50 percent chance of accuracy. After much planning, fussing and discussing, combined with a lot of risk management, we established a nice May weekend date for our tour. We thought it would be nice to include some other clubs and members of Cadillac-LaSalle, Jaguar and the Rolls Royce Owner’s Club were invited along. Quite simply, the more the merrier. We started out from Ballwin Plaza in West St. Louis County…a variety of cars…Classics 1941 Cadillac 8, 60S Fleetwood Sedan driven by Bob and Sonja Abbott, John and Rose Gibson in the absolutely spectacular 1931 Pierce-Arrow 8, 43 Dual Cowl Phaeton, Wendell Smith and Jan Yarbrough in a gorgeous 1925 Rolls Royce, 6, Silver Ghost Limousine, Brewster, Series 768 and rounding out the Classics were Todd and Amber Tobiasz with their 1936 Cadillac 8, 7029, Conv. Sedan. We had quite a smattering of non-Classic Rolls Royce motorcars and Bentleys as well as a couple of XKE Roadsters and a vintage Mustang followed by those somewhat less brave in modern iron. I rode “shotgun” in Gary Sudin’s 1966 Jaguar XKE Roadster, Type 1. Gary represented the Jaguar Club and his cat purred as a Jaguar should. The journey led us out Highway 100, previously known as Missouri Route 66 for part of the way. We detoured down scenic Highway T through the rolling countryside with a side journey through the quaint town of St. Albans, MO as we wound our way towards the sleepy river/railroad town of Washington, MO known as the location of Missouri Meerschaum Corncob pipes that were made famous by General Douglas MacArthur and a whistle-stop on the way to Kansas City.

In Washington, MO we landed at our first destination, which was the Iron Spike Model Railroad Museum. The Museum is unbelievable and a model railroader’s playground. It is a converted car dealership filled with massive Model Train layouts in variety of different scales from N to Lionel. All of us car buffs are largely into nostalgia and trains too, having grown up in a time when the requisite train set around the Christmas Tree rounded out the holiday season. It was most difficult to get everyone to depart this location to make it down the Highway 100 another ten miles to New Haven, MO, an even sleepier town on the Missouri River. New Haven has become sort of an artist’s colony spurred on by our primary destination, the Astral Glass Factory where we witnessed glass being blown by talented and creative craftsman. A sidelight adventure took some of our members to a “tasting” at the Pinckney Bend Distillery just around the corner on the square.

After packing up hand blown glass and “libations” for future use, growling stomachs dictated that ten-mile journey back into Washington, MO to the legendary Old Dutch Tavern for lunch. Tin ceilings and belt driven fans added to the nostalgia and history of this old tavern and hotel, a way stop for weary travelers heading towards westward expansion and the pioneer lifestyle. “Pub Grub” is always good and this was no exception, but food and beverage couldn’t come soon enough. This served as a good refueling stop to regain some energy from our westward ramble following the banks of the Muddy MO. The only disappointment was that there was no chicken potpie. I had been told that this was the specialty of the Old Dutch Tavern and promised folks such. Alas, it is a dinner specialty and not a lunch one. We made up for that with a scrumptious Shrimp Po’boy.

Our final destination was the “crescendo” to cap off the morning of touring. Entering the early afternoon we headed back east, retracing our tire tracks. We were headed to find the namesake of our tour…Grand Army Road in Labadie, MO. Grand Army refers to “Grand Army of the Republic…otherwise the Union Army.” Our tour was historic in nature. During our journey, we traced back in time to the settlement of the area beginning with explorers Louis and Clark. John Colter was a scout for Lewis and Clark and he settled in New Haven, MO and one of our reasons to visit New Haven. However, railroad and the river were the sustaining lifeblood of the area. The Pacific Railroad from St. Louis to Jefferson City was completed in the Fall of 1855. On November 1, 1855, on its inaugural run to Jefferson City, the dignitary-filled train plunged into the Gasconade River with significant loss of life. Ultimately, the line was complete from St. Louis to Kansas City in September 1865. Note that Civil War Raids (Southern Raiders) greatly damaged Missouri’s Railways to such an extent, combined with Missouri’s rugged geography that it affected St. Louis not being a location on the choice of the route of the transcontinental railroad which opened in 1869.

Missouri was a divided state regarding the issue of slavery. Many non-slave owners supported slavery as an “accepted system of labor” prior to the Civil War and during the war some slave owners joined in the Union Army’s anti-slavery fight. The latter is evidenced by the example of Frederick Steines. In 1850, Frederick Steines, a German immigrant was a resident of Boles Township and had a farm in nearby Franklin County. Steines owned two slaves and hired out a third slave, Malinda, from the John C. Coleman estate in neighboring Meramec Township.

During the war, however, Steines served in the Union Army as a member of the Missouri Home Guard. Most Missouri slave owners lived in the central part of the state in a region known as “Little Dixie.” In 1860, there were 1,156 slave owners and 4,340 slaves living in St. Louis County. Ironic that slave owners and non-owners lived side by side throughout St. Louis County.

Over 1,260 civil war battles (period of 1861 to 1865) and armed skirmishes took place throughout Missouri. The area we toured was essentially along a dividing line. During the war, Missouri was a border state whose citizens supported both the North and the South. Most Missouri men served in some capacity during the war. Many joined the Confederate States Troops, but most pledged their allegiance to the Union. More than 110,000 Missourians fought in the Union Army and nearly 40,000 joined Confederate units. St. Louis was under Federal Marshall Law for most of the war while bands of Confederate soldiers roamed the countryside, as evidenced by the Rebel Camp on the nearby Meramec River in 1862. The Union had several military organizations in the state during the war, including the Missouri Home Guard, the Missouri Militia and the Missouri Volunteers. After the war, Union Army Veterans established a fraternal organization of former Union Soldiers called the Grand Army of the Republic of which many Missourians became members. With this knowledge we followed Grand Army Road and found our final destination, ultimately buried in the deep woods on a picturesque Labadie, MO hillside, Ruth Guerri’s Cabin in the Woods. Ruth will forever be famous as Miss June 1983, Playboy Magazine. However her career as a professional model turned to Master Chef, pioneer woman cabin builder and purveyor of regional antiques.

The final stop on our journey created a spectacular setting to snap a few photos of the noteworthy cars on the tour, do some antique shopping and then plan on a trip back into St. Louis to beat the rains.

Photos by Larry Hassel and Wendell Smith