I have a deep appreciation for roadside attractions — the more unique, the better! They pull me in like a magnet!
Imagine my joy when I noticed that Larry Baggett’s Trail of Tears is open to visitors once more!
This roadside gem can be found in Phelps County by taking I-44 to exit 172. Take Hwy. D towards Jerome and Mr. Baggett’s Trail of Tears Memorial is on the left, up a steep Ozark hillside.
The backstory to this property is quite unique. Over 60 years ago, Larry Baggett started his four-decade endeavor of creating a rock-filled monument to honor those who lost their lives on the Trail of Tears.
I have seen many memorials to the Trail of Tears, but Mr. Baggett’s is a true original.
Larry passed away in 2003, but his self-portrait sculpture is to the left of the entrance of the property. It offers a friendly wave to all who pass by.
On the day of my visit, I was greeted by Larry’s sculpture sporting his best deer hunter orange. By the time I left, he had changed into his Santa hat to wave goodbye to me as I departed.
Water plays an important role here. A peaceful stream and a wishing well are interconnected to the history of this area dating back to the glory days of Route 66.
The water connects to the spring that once fed the swimming pool at Stony Dell Resort.
According to several sources, Larry liked to share a unique story with anyone who would listen.
Shortly after building a retaining wall near his house, he kept hearing a knock at his door when he was trying to sleep. Night after night, he’d answer the door and nobody was there.
Finally, an old Cherokee popped by to visit Larry. When Larry mentioned the nightly knocking, the Cherokee told Larry that he built his retaining wall right across the Trail of Tears and the spirits couldn’t get over it.
To solve the problem, Larry decided to build some steps so the spirits could get over the retaining wall. It worked!
The spirits stopped congregating on his porch and knocking on his door every night. His peaceful slumber could commence once more.
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She befriended Larry and studied under him for several years. Larry’s property had sat abandoned and neglected after his passing, until Marie purchased the property with dreams of restoring it in his honor.
I had the pleasure of meeting Marie on the day I visited. When she wasn’t working on the property, she took the time to chat with me about several of the monuments.
She pointed out fun facts about the property, including the fact that many of the monuments have “O, GOD” hidden within them.
I quickly found myself looking for those hidden letters within the concrete and stone structures.