Experts discuss moving the towers

(Editor’s note: This is the second of a four-part series about fire towers in Missouri.)

In this edition of the River Hills Traveler, we will continue our look at the forest lookout towers of Missouri.

Last month, we looked at the development of the Google Map tower project and the story behind it. My first stop for this article was to seek the input of the creator of the Google Map project that I contribute to, Chris Polka. He supplied me with a good list to start work with.

Picture by Chris Polka.

With 78 cubic feet of concrete below each footing or pier of a 120 foot tower, they were not meant to go anywhere. Nature on occasion had its own ideas.

The Neosho and Dogtown towers both showed a direct tornado hit could move a tower. The Piney tower was brought down by a windstorm. It seems the Doniphan tower was taken down by a tornado and one of the footings was pulled right out of the ground.

When that footing was made right, and the base worked on, another tower was erected with tower parts from Ellington.

What also proved to be true is that the same workers who had erected the towers could dismantle and put them up again. In fact, they elevated it to an art form.

Picture by Jim Sorenson.

As I looked for the story behind these moves, I examined several sources. As always, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) workers, past and present, were ready to help.

Conservationist Jim Lyon had put out surveys to district offices years ago which he was willing to share. Jim Parker was one of the “go-to guys” on one of the top crews, according to everyone.

Jim Sorenson was chief forester in the Lebanon district. Max Gorman had a variety of historic information. He is retired from MDC and helped take the Eminence tower down. Bob Cunningham and Charlie Tatum had lots of MDC knowledge about the Doniphan area.

What emerged was a varied and interesting story.

A common tale was the moving of towers from where they were no longer needed to a location where they were. Many times this involved replacing older wooden towers that were costly to maintain, with the durability of galvanized steel.

Other times it was an upgrade in style or size, such as: Gipsy to Cascade, Swedeborg to Proctor, Eminence to Panther Hill, Drake to Washington, or Cottoner to Whitewater/Womac.

At times, towers even left the state or were brought here. The Benton tower was donated to the Cimarron National Grasslands with the stipulation that they come move it. Several towers near Daggett, Mich., were purchased for $1 each with the stipulation that the MDC come get them.

Four towers were acquired from Michigan. Three were 80-footers and one was a 120-footer. One 120-footer supposedly went to Goodman and was later moved again, or so one tower story goes.

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