For towers, it’s all about the name

(Editor’s note: This is the seventh and final part in a series about fire towers in Missouri.)

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked. If it is a Missouri lookout tower, the answer may be an interesting story,  even a mystery.

I won’t attempt a definitive study, but will note some ideas and hope to hear from you for contributions if I left your favorite out.

The answer for many lookouts is simple. Many were named for the community nearby. From the “A” in Avon Pole Tower to “W” in Womac/Whitewater, nearby locations were very common for name selection. 

For the tower researcher, this often proved to be useful. However, it could also be confusing. The Squires Tower is even today located right at Squires. However, the Thomasville/MDC Tower sits nine miles “as the crow flies” NW of Thomasville.

Jim Parker cautioned me that often, but not always, towers are located close to the town that it is named after. When the Blue Slip Tower was built, right between Norwood and Macomb, neither community was used and instead Blue Slip was selected. That mound is named Blue Slip?

Probably to nobody’s surprise, hills and mountains are very popular. Consider the following: Shell Knob, Mountain View, Blue Mountain, Rosehill, Tusher Hill, Timberknob, Lone Hill (twice), Mt. Hulda, Highmont, High (Hill), Stegall Mountain, Sullivan Hill, Twin Knobs, Bell Mountain, Blackjack Ridge, Johnson Mountain, Cottener (also Cottoner at times) Mountain, Pilot Knob (U.S.F.S. & M.D.C.), Rocky Mount, Stono Mountain, Bunker’s Knob, Panther Hill, and Mud Lick Mountain (Tip Top at one time – one of several Tip Tops in Missouri).

We find the creeks fairly well represented. There is a Sinking Creek Tower (located south of Fremont – Missouri has several “Sinking Creeks”) and had a Lost Creek Tower. Corn Creek Tower sat north of Flat and Brushy Creek Tower above Ellsinore. 

Believe me, as I searched for Brushy Creek Tower, I learned Missouri has many Brushy Creeks. The Caney Towers were named for the cane which grew in the creeks below.

There was also a Cedar Creek Tower. Big Springs, Siloam Springs, Climax Springs, and Reed’s Spring Towers can or in the past could be included in the flowing waters I suppose as might the Piney Tower that sat above the Big Piney River.

The animals show here and there. West of Poplar Bluff is Beaver Creek and Beaver Mountain, which gave rise to Beaver Tower, I suppose. Blue Buck Tower was named after a particularly large buck brought in for resettlement.

Eagle Tower sat above Van Buren and Deer Run sits north of Ellington. Panther Tower sat just west of the Current River and Bee on Bee Hill.

Then there are two of my favorites — Wolf Mountain Tower and Possum Trot Towers (two at that location at different times). Wolf Mountain certainly evokes a certain image and I suppose wolves must have roamed the area at some point.

Possum Trot is a favorite. Much like “Brushy Creek,” “Possum Trot” usage shows on many topogs here and there.There were two Possum Trot Towers south of Winona with the footings for the smaller 50-footer set concentrically inside the larger 100-footer. Possum Trot, one of my favorite tower names.

There are a few oddities. Highway 60 Tower was not on Highway 60 by a few miles down Highway B. Macedonia Tower was named after the community and church, but I have been unable to determine how those rough and tough Greeks gave their name to a community and tower in Missouri.
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How about the Buick Tower? Named after the community which was named after the first car in town. Forestry Camp Tower was built, you guessed it, at the then Forestry Camp.

A “Tram” is a timber train roadbed which Tram Tower south of Winona was built near, Max Gorman told me. Horn Lookout was named after the geographical feature, “Devil’s Horn.”

There is a Kaiser and Czar Tower. Kaiser is German for Caesar, and Czar is Russian for Caesar. That means by tower translation, Missouri has two Caesar Towers! Some of the simplest still elude me – how did the Jay Tower get it’s name?

Tower life can also be confusing. There was a Pilot Knob (U.S.) and there still is a Pilot Knob (M.D.C.), and there was a tower at Little Pilot Knob west of Potosi that was changed from Little Pilot Knob to “Floyd” for the community.

Don’t get your “Dogs” mixed up as in Dogtown and Dogwood (Dogwood, Neosho, and Piney were all taken down by tornados/high winds).

There is a definite Native American influence on the tower names. Taum Sauk, it seems, was a Piankeshaw chief named Sauk Ton Qua – Taum Sauk Tower. Neosho means “clear cold water” and Tecumseh was chief of the Shawnee nation.

It seems Tywappity was a Native American term for the flat bottomlands below Cape. The term may have been rearranged some by the Spanish. Indian Trail Forest gives its name to Indian Trail Tower. It seems hunting and movement trails crossed the area in Woodland Indian times.

Then, the “Trail of Tears” also passed through. Research continues on trail locations particularly as they moved west. The name Montauk is used in several ways – the community, park, and tower. It seems “Montauk” was brought by settlers from Long Island, New York, who adapted the name from the Montaukett Indians.

Kelleter Tower was named after the  Forester, Paul Kelleter. Coot Mountain was named after Thomas “Coot” Chilton, an early pioneer and ancestor of Steve Orchard of the M.D.C.

Hartshorn, as in the community and tower, was the name of a son of an early settler – or so I was told. The Knob Lick Tower is now known as the Glen Skinner Memorial Tower to honor his service.

Braswell Tower was named after the post office which was named after John Lemuel Braswell, who settled in the area in the mid-1800s.

If you have an answer for me or I didn’t mention your favorite, let me know. A “feedback article” might be down the road. I must give thanks to all my “tower friends” for their help, and especially Chris Polka and his Google Project, Ron Kemnow and his research, and especially Conservationist Jim Lyon for his many answers to my questions and the box of papers he let me have.

This concludes the original seven-part series. I want to thank the River Hills Traveler for the chance to “tower talk.” It has been a great hobby for 50 years.

The towers have been fun, driving all over Missouri has been fun, BUT meeting the great people of the great state of Missouri has been the best.

(Questions or comments? Bob Frakes can be reached by email at or by phone at 618-244-1642.)

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