One workday morning about 7:15, I drove to the east edge of
Columbia to pick up my grandson Cole so he could visit Chub and
me for the day. I met a stream of cars; people were hurrying
toward Ful-ton on curvy, hilly Route WW.
Cole was just learning to count so we counted the cars as we
drove in the opposite direction. In six miles we met 72 vehicles
hurrying to Columbia! I’m tempted, at times like that, to
yell, "Hey, slow down and savor Route WW’s interesting
past." I vowed that day to tell our four
"grandboys" about events and places along that
interesting road that we still sometimes call "Fulton
The boys would have enjoyed visiting the big coal mine where
huge machines moved surface rocks and earth to expose a deep vein
of soft coal that burned well and left ash instead of clinkers.
Huge machines loaded trucks that delivered the coal throughout
Mid-Missouri. The scars of that mining operation are visible by
turning left onto Eutsy Lane and driving north less than half a
mile. I call those abandoned strip pits "Grand Canyon"
because of the deep ravines and sparse growth.
Where Route WW joins Rolling Hills Road, there was a narrow
level spot long enough for two or three Gypsy camping wagons.
They passed the word among friends and relatives that the small
spot was near Carlisle School, which had outdoor toilets and a
well with a pump.
Gypsy wagons wouldn’t have enough space now because the
road is lots wider. Many of these nomads were horse traders who
could skillfully minimize an animal’s faults. Horses for
trading walked along, tied to the back of the covered wagons,
which usually had things hanging outside kettles, buckets
Many Gypsies were thieves. Neighbors locked their smokehouses
and chicken sheds. Storekeepers in town were wise to their tricks
but they suffered losses when several Gypsy women entered at the
same time and "worked" the store. They wore full skirts
and oversized jackets and had cunning ways of making merchandise
disappear. Gypsy women could conceal lots of merchandise in
I remember smelling their food cooking on wood fires and
seeing oil lanterns hanging on the wagons at night. Occasionally,
a fiddler played in the evenings as women moved back and forth
Suddenly, their camping sites were bare. The Gypsy travel and
camping lifestyle appealed to me as a child; I think it may have
even left its mark!
Only those of us older than 80 would recall seeing two toll
houses on what is now Route WW. Chains stretched across the road
requiring a payment of 3 cents, 6 cents or 10 cents to proceed.
One "tollhouse" was on East Broadway at Happy Hollow,
where unkempt kids sometimes hurled dirty talk and rotten
potatoes at strangers. Today, people in a hurry to drive east on
Broadway line up at Happy Hollow and wait their turns through
several changes of the traffic lights.
The second tollhouse was at "Harg" where Olivet
Church Road meets Route WW. The 1874 building, now Redeemer
Presbyterian Church, and cemetery are the only remnants of the
busy village. The tollhouse was at the southwest corner of Olivet
Cemetery, and William McHarg’s store was on the northeast
corner of the intersecting roads.