Route 66 – Spencer, MO

Not too long ago, I was making yet another run into Springfield, but had some time to kill on the trip back. I decided to veer off Highway 96 near Paris Springs Junction on N Highway, which is part of old Route 66. I have done this side trip just once before, and I had been meaning to swing by for a while. Just a mile or so from there, I turned right, crossed an old one-lane bridge, and found the old town of Spencer, Missouri.

Spencer, Missouri is one of thousands of ghost towns along Route 66, and among the hundreds of places in Missouri that sprang up overnight when the highway came through, and just as quickly faded into history.
Today, Spencer is just a wide spot in the road along Farm Road 2062 in Lawrence County. This abandoned little town has been sitting here for nearly 130 years, but many of the buildings were restored a few years ago.
I learned that this particular stretch of road is one of the few places left where the original highway still exists. It has never been paved over, widened, or changed. The concrete you see in these pictures is all original.
The one-lane steel truss bridge that takes you to Spencer is older than several states: it was built in 1926 over Johnson Creek, which is the same creek at the Paris Springs Junction water access. It’s strange to imagine driving on the same road that took people to California looking for work, or to places out west to build new towns.
Spencer today is just a quiet place on a road that very few people even know exists. In its heyday, the town had a service station, a church, a grocery store, and even a motor lodge, where people could rent little cabins for the night and rest. Our resident longrooffan could probably tell you a few stories about this place, too. It’s probably ironic that I was driving a throwback HHR, considering it’s just a Cobalt with a tall roof, but it drives like an old car, so I still got the experience.
[Photos Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Marcal Eilenstein]

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  1. longrooffan Avatar

    These last few posts of your have sure got my memories churning. Mind if I use a few of your images for a story or two about this area, less than a mile as the crow flies from the farm on which I spent my formative years?
    Also, thanks for the memories.

    1. mve Avatar

      Use them all you want. Happy to share.

  2. JayP Avatar

    I’ve seen one or two stations like this in Texas. Always at night without proper lighting.

    1. mve Avatar

      This “town” is now just some buildings sitting on private property, so they don’t get much use. There are maybe 20 cars that go by this place in an entire day.

  3. ptschett Avatar

    Man, that concrete looks good for how old it is. I suppose it’s far enough south that frost heaves aren’t the issue that they are here, and the highway was moved to a different alignment before trucks got to modern weights.

    1. mve Avatar

      You’re pretty much right on. I-44 came through in the 1960’s, which moved all the traffic onto the interstate.

  4. beefmalone Avatar

    Was hoping for at least one good shot of the bridge.

    1. mve Avatar


      1. JayP Avatar

        F’ me. This could be any road I learned to drive upon in the day. Broken asphalt, no shoulder and a one lane bridge. Reminds me of a song for some reason.
        In other news, the kid and I will be watching Rush take the stage in Dallas in exactly a week…

  5. Schm Avatar

    Hey, I’m live in Missouri. Yes, our state is well known for meth riddled shanty huts, wait scratch that, “quaint, semi-abandoned farmsteads” scattered about. My family goes back 5 generations or so of poor, Western Missouri farmers. I have never been to Spencer, but there are a couple of other little funny town I drive through, in particular Tightwad, Warsaw, and Crossed Timbers.

    1. mve Avatar

      Missouri has its share of problems, but I’d wager that you’ll find problems no matter where you go. Washington had a pretty bad meth issue, too, especially in the rural areas.

      1. Schm Avatar

        Sure every state does, I spent several years in Arizona and Meth and Heroin are major problems there also. We definitely do get a reputation for it, go watch Winter’s Bone if you haven’t, amazing movie but doesn’t do much to improve The Ozarks/Branson’s tourist reputation,
        Despite the epidemic problem, I believe Missouri is still the state with the most methamphetamine arrests, lab busts and deaths in the nation. However, while Independence was once considered the “meth capital” of America, the most meth busts in recent years have been in St. Louis I believe. The state has been somewhat proactive in dealing with the problem, allocating more money to rural police and treatment programs, plus way restricting Sudafed sales.

  6. Craig Blanton Avatar
    Craig Blanton

    I have stopped at Spencer a couple different times. Even did a little photo shoot with some friends. It’s a great place to take photos and the folks that own the land seem very nice.
    Uploaded is a photo of the famous Lucile when I was taking her to Chicago where she would meet her owner.