Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

My grandfather, James Henry, and his famil...

My grandfather, James Henry, and his family lived near Hinton after he returned from the Civil War. He and James Dysart operated a large mill that was located in the Hinton area north of Columbia. That was not far from an unusual rock formation known as the Pinnacles. Mom told me stories about the beautiful spot and the several families who owned the 77-acre area. The Henrys were occasional guests for picnics there.

A vertical rock bluff was left standing when two creeks crowded toward each other. Silver Fork Creek flows to the right as visitors first view the tall bluff. Then it doubles back on itself making a hairpin turn around the bluff. There it seeks and finds Rocky Fork Creek. They join and go off together on their journey toward the Missouri River.

At the point where Silver Fork doubles back, it meets a rock bluff that the water can’t conquer. The creek gnaws away at that Burlington limestone creating shelving rock which, from a distance, appears to be a cave. It is an overhanging roof that has sheltered many an American Indian, Boy Scout, 4-H-er and others who unrolled their sleeping bags onto the fine sand that accumulates there after big rains.

It took centuries for water and wind to form this unusual natural beauty spot. But the pointed spires that gave the area its name are now gone. They toppled over sometime since 1947 when my husband made color slides that show the pinnacle rocks still in place. They were gone when I first visited the area in the 1950s.

Erosion continues on this high, narrow ridge, which is 75 feet high and 1,000 feet long. The prediction is made in “Geologic Natural Wonders of Missouri,” that, “This senile ridge has very few thousand years of life remaining.”

Burlington, an exceptionally pure limestone, is named for outcrops at Burlington, La. It’s quarried at a number of places in Central Missouri and is famous for containing crinoid fossils, sometimes called “Indian beads.” It is the limestone that was used to make our two sets of columns that stand on MU’s Francis Quadrangle and on Walnut Street at Eighth Street, where the first Boone County Courthouse stood.

Indians hunted and lived in the Pinnacles area and took refuge under this shelving rock in foul weather. Spiny gooseberries, like tiny spherical cockleburs, grow on top of the overhanging ledge. On a windy autumn day, quiet hikers can hear rattlesnake grass -- also called pressed wheat -- as the dry heads make a faint sound as they blow against each other.

Grandpa Henry said families arrived with horses pulling buggies, surreys and wagons laden with tents, food, musical instruments, etc. Some stayed a week or two each summer. They’d dam the creek to back the water up enough for good fishing, swimming and canoeing. When high water washed out the dam, they’d dam it again while children romped over the hills or hunted American Indian artifacts. Seven families built vacation homes.

And, yes, vandals and trespassers were there. One of my college students, in the 1960s asked, “Mrs. G., how did you know about the Pinnacles? I didn’t even write in my diary that I’d been there!”

Security is being stepped up by an enthusiastic Boone County Pinnacles Youth Foundation now, which owns the area. They welcome people who seek “a greater love, knowledge and care of the countryside.”

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