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Bloomfield Road MassacrePosted Monday, July 25, 2011, at 6:10 PM
Photo courtesy of Ken Steinhoff at capecentralhigh.com
For you sharp thinkers out there, who were expecting a story from the Civil War, sorry--this isn't it!
"Minimizing" or "clear-cutting"? You decide!
Those of us in Stoddard County have been watching helplessly as the events in Cape County unfold around the historic Bloomfield Road, leading into Cape from the south.
When the Cape Special Road District first put out the word that the old road was going to be widened for "safety purposes," the district assured concerned citizens that they would handle the work with care to "minimize" the effect on the centuries-old trees, which (if you remember) arched over the road to form a yellow, shaded canopy in the fall. Breath-taking!
Unfortunately, the agency in charge seems to have a different definition of the word "minimize" than I do.
My good blogger friend Ken Steinhoff (capecentralhigh.com) came to Advance Wednesday to interview Paul Corbin for a history blog--then he and his nearly-90-year-old mother, Mary Lee Welch Steinhoff, went back to Cape by Bloomfield Road.
If you watch Ken's blog like I do, you know that he photographs everything he sees, as he travels around the U.S. His photos are spectacular, and he is fearless! (So is Mama Steinhoff!)
The photo above is his, taken on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. The results are clear: To heck with "minimizing"....those trees have been "clear-cut"!
Why do we care?
In case some of you are wondering why we Stoddard Countians care about Bloomfield Road, here are my own reasons, which are shared by many others in this region:
* The road is an important part of the history of this entire Southeast Missouri region. Before the region was developed, the road was an Indian trail, whereby the indigenous folk could travel from Cape south down to Arkansas along Crowley's Ridge above the swamplands.
* The ridge, of course, received its name from Benjamin Crowley, the first European settler to reach the area (near present day Paragould, Arkansas) sometime around 1820. The Civil War Battle of Chalk Bluff was fought on Crowley's Ridge on May 1--2, 1863. Benjamin Crowley obviously traveled this route, which was later to be known as the "Cape to Bloomfield Road."
* The old Bloomfield Road played an important part in the Civil War, as troops from both the north and south traveled up and down its length, stopping to camp at various springs along the way.
* One of those springs exists along the Bloomfield Road section which will be stripped in the next installment of the Cape "improvements." Heaven only knows what will happen when the forces of "Progress" meet with the forces of nature.
* The history of the region is further enhanced in my mind because of the estate of a man I greatly admire--Louis Houck. I consider him one of the most important men in the history of Southeast Missouri--and not just because his railroad resulted in the founding of Advance in 1881.
Houck's home of Elmwood lies behind that beautiful white fence, which so many wayward vehicles have crashed through. Houck rode his horse in from Elmwood to supervise the building of Academic Hall back in 1905.
* On the purely aesthetic side of the issue, I am one of many travelers who has welcomed a drive along that scenic road, lined with ancient trees and sprinkled with wild sweet Williams. I've seen spotted fawns standing in the grass, watching traffic in that beautiful section where those idiots keep going too fast and breaking through the white fence. Yes--I said "idiots"! This is my blog, and I do not have to be politically correct here! If you want to report me to my boss, so be it!
Over the years, I've taken visitors to see that beautiful drive into Cape. It is--pardon me--"was" a showpiece.
Why would anyone want to destroy it? Who could be responsible for its destruction? Is it really, truly as "unsafe" as the Cape Road District says it is? Are there larger forces at work here? Might those forces have to do with a tiny hard ball that people hit over long distances??
As I understand it, someone (don't know who, but it would have to be a descendant of Houck, I should think) sold 900 acres of the historic estate to the developers of Dalhousie Golf Course.
Money talks, doesn't it?
According to the current publicity, there will be more hearings on the next section of development of Bloomfield Road (the present "improvement" was estimated to take 11 months). Officials are dangling a carrot in front of Cape voters, it would seem, telling them that they certainly can come and offer "suggestions."
My sister, who worked 28 years for the City of Springfield, Mo., said that it sounds like the Public Works Dep't of her city. They set up a website for resident comments on a project, but the city manager said, "This is not a popularity contest! We're going to do what we want to do."
There you have it. Sorry, Mr. Houck! You lose!
To see the full story and more photos, go to Ken's Blog at www.capecentralhigh.com/cape-photos/city...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.