About Baxter Springs, Kansas
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 843 ft. (257 m). Population: 4,238 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Baxter Springs is located in southeastern Cherokee county, Kansas, next to Springs River and the Oklahoma State Line.
Neon Sign: Soda Fountain. White Pelican
The Historic Route 66 crosses the town from North to South.
Baxter Spring's History
This area has been inhabited for more than ten thousand years. The Osage Indians from Kentucky moved to this region in the mid 1600s and it is said that Chief Black Dog, stopped over at Baxter Springs during their migration to their summer hunting territories in Oklahoma. They visited the springs that gave their name to the town, as they believed that the water was good for their health. Their route, the "Black Dog Trail" was actually the first improved road in the region, a remote ancestor of Route-66.
The land was later set apart as the "Cherokee Neutral Lands", and eastern settlers were banned from entering it, but they soon entered the Region.
John J. Baxter settled with his family on a 160 acre homestead by Spring River in 1849. He opened an inn and general store (Baxter's Place); it was the first building in what would later become the town of Baxter Springs.
Baxter Springs, the name
The "Baxter" part of the name remembers the first settler, John J. Baxter, while the "Springs" part of the name comes from the mineral springs that at one time flowed from a hill just south of East 11th St.
A military road passed through his land, all the way from Fort Smith in Arkansas. It served to protect the region from the hostile Indians further west.
During the civil war, the US government built some defenses: Camp Hunt, Camp Ben Butler and Fort Baxter, or Fort Blair, the site of a battle.
Baxter Springs Massacre
On October 6, 1863, a guerilla band of Confederate men (Quantrill's Raiders) attacked the fort but were repelled. They then ambushed a wagon train that was approaching the fort. Quantrill demanded the surrender of Blair's men, but then executed the captives, murdering 103 men. The fort was later abandoned and destroyed by the Union forces.
The town was incorporated in 1868 and soon after a cable ferry was built across Spring River. After 1868, the growing demand for beef in the northern states led Texas ranchers to use the town as a stopover for their cattle herds as they drove them to the markets. Baxter Springs thus became the first "Cow Town" in Kansas, corrals were built, trade and the population grew. But after the mid 1870s, once the railways reached Texas, ranchers shipped the cattle directly by train and business in Baxter Springs declined.
Lead mining and smelting revived the economy but legislation passed by the City Council preserved the town from the nasty environmental impact suffered by neighboring towns.
The town surged with the mining business, and many buildings were built in the early 1900s. In 1926, Route 66 was created and ran along the town's Main Street. It brought prosperity and later compensated the decline in the mining industry. This wealth attracted the bandits of the early 1930s:
Most Wanted, Bonnie and Clyde, by FBI
Bonnie and Clyde
During its heyday bank robberies were quite frequent. It is said that the famous criminal couple "Bonnie and Clyde" robbed stores in Baxter Springs and murdered police officers in neighboring Miami Oklahoma and Joplin, Missouri.
Clyde Champion Barrow and his companion, Bonnie Parker, met in Texas in January 1930 and were shot to death in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. They were suspected of kidnapping, robbery and 13 murders.
They did drive along Route 66 and they were ambushed by the police after a spectacular manhunt.
The Freeway bypasses Route 66 in Kansas
But in 1961, the new Interstate I-44 bypassed Kansas and US-66, running directly from Missouri to Oklahoma. This reduced the inflow of travelers and slowed the local economy.
Where to Stay
There are several hotels in Baxter Springs. Alternatively you can also lodge in the neighboring towns in Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma:
>> Book your Hotel in Baxter Springs Kansas
>> There is an RV campground in Baxter Springs.
Weather in Baxter Springs
The average temperature in Baxter Springs is about 60°F (15.6°C). Summers are quite hot with average highs of 91°F and lows of 70° (32.8 and 21.1°C). During winter the highs are 44°F on average while the lows are about 24°F (7.2 and -3.8 °C).
Rainfall ranges from 2.1 in. (55 mm) to 6.3 in. (160 mm). April, May, June, July and September are the rainiest months 4.6 to 6.3 in. (118 - 160 mm). On average there are 9 days of rain or drizzle per month. About 18 inches of snow fall between November and March (46 cm).
Tornado Risk. Baxter Springs is in the Kansas "Tornado Alley. During the April 27 - 30 tornado outbreak, a tornado struck Baxter Springs.
Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.
Getting to Baxter Springs
Riverton is the third and last town in Kansas to the west of the Missouri state Line (and the first, coming from Oklahoma), it is 16 miles west of Joplin, Missouri and 12 miles south of Galena, on the Kansas - Oklahoma state line. The small town of Riverton is 3 miles to the northeast.
Map of Route 66 in Baxter Springs, KS
Check out Baxter Springs on our Route 66 Map of Kansas, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.
Baxter Springs Map
Map with the alignment of Route 66 through Baxter Springs
Click on this link > > US 66 alignment in Baxter Springs
Route 66's alignment in Kansas: the Historic Route 66 through Baxter Springs
Route 66 across Kansas
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Kansas.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Kansas.
Sights and Attractions in Baxter Springs
What to Do, Places to See
In 1946, following the end of World War II, Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 gathering data for book "A Guide Book to Highway 66". He mentioned Baxter Springs as follows : "... Merry Bales hotel; garages: Pruitt Motor Co. and Tally's; cabin camps include: Baxter, Sunbeam and 66 Camp; small business district with cafes, stores, etc.) A green and quiet town with an ancient and bloody history...".
The town's Main Street is, Route 66, and it displays the typical architecture of an American "small town". Its brick faced buildings are remnants of a bustling past, when the street was packed with cars and travelers, during the hey-day of Route-66 when it was "America's Main Street". The "must-see-sight" include its old gas stations, the classic buildings and the historic Independent Gas & Oil Service Station on Route 66:
Drive through town from north to south.
Old Gas Station
Old Gas Station on Route 66, Google. Click for street view
On the NW corner of W 6th St. and Military Ave.
To your left, you will see a two bay garage service station with a single pump island and no canopy (at least nowadays) stood here, now it has been restored and is "Fast Lube" an oil change service.
Continue south and on the next street, to our right is a historic site:
Site of Fort Blair - Fort Baxter
Route 66th and 6th St. in the Park
There were some forts in Kansas to protect the settlers further east from raids of hostile Indians, but during the Civil War, they were built to escort military wagon trains through native territories.
Fort Blair was established in July 1863 and consisted of a block house, log cabins and a wall made of logs covered with rocks and soil. It was the site of the infamous Baxter Springs Massacre. There is a replica of John Baxter's log cabin and Trading Post too.
Keep southbound for 5 blocks, and to your right is The Main Attraction in Baxter Springs:
Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003
940 Military Avenue - Highway 66, Baxter Springs, KS.
Cottage-Style: This service station is an example of the 1930s marketing strategies of the major oil companies during the Great Depression.
It is located on Route 66, the NE corner of Military Ave and E. 10th St. at the northern part of the town's commercial district.
Historic Vintage Service Station at Baxter Springs, KS
Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
They designed their stations to blend into the town's scenery with a pleasant cottage design to sooth the locals and to provide a sense of security to the travelers.
Tudor Revival Style
This style imitated medieval English cottages; it had simple lines, steep pitched roofs, tall windows, brickwork walls and high chimneys.
It turned service stations into "automotive cottages", conveying travelers a warm homey feeling.
The building was enlarged in 1940, but its style was preserved. Originally part of the Independent Oil and Gas Co., but it was acquired in 1930 by Phillips Petroleum.
The main features of the cottage style were a pitched and gabled roof, brick and stucco walls, neat windows and a chimney. Notice the bay window by the entrance. It's "Tudor Revival" style is very similar to that of the McLean Texas Phillips service station or the Tulsa Oklahoma Vickery Phillips 66 Station and the Old Conoco Service Station in Cuba Missouri.
The Pixar ⁄ Disney film Cars and Baxter Springs
The film's credits gives "A Special Thanks To Those Who Inspire Us On Route 66, "The Mother Road" ... ", and mention: "Dean & Paula Walker, Baxter Springs, KS"
The bypassing of Baxter Springs by I-40 in 1961 reduced the flow of customers and the premises stopped selling gasoline. It would later house some shops until it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and acquired by the local heritage society in 2003.
It was restored and now serves as the Kansas Route 66 Visitor Center.
Across the road, on the NW corner is another vintage gas station:
Vintage 1940s Gas Station on Route 66, Google. Click for street view
Vintage Service Station
Route 66 and W 10 th St.
No longer open as a filling station, you can still see its concrete gas pump island and its double bay garage. The curved glass window panes of the office give it an Art Moderne style from the 1930s-40s.
You are now entering the downtown commercial district with its red-brick buildings from the late 1800s. On the next street, is a Classic Building:
Café on the Route
Jesse Woodson James (1847 - 1882); an American outlaw, murderer, bank and train robber, train robber
The building is a Route 66 Roadside Attraction.
SW corner of W11th St. and Route 66
The Cafe, B&B and restaurant closed in 2013 but reopened again in 2018 after it was bought by "Decades of Wheels" which now owns most of that city block and are currently rebuilding it.
The Café is housed in what used to be the Crowell Bank, built in the early 1870s, when the town was going through a boom period based on cattle ranching.
Local lore says that the Bank was robbed in 1876 by Jesse James.
So you can stop at Café on the Route and the old Angels on the Route building, now Rita's Roost.
Other attractions on the block are an automotive museum, Little Brick Inn (the old B&B), and the Spin Out Arcade. More info at decadesofwheels.com
The B and B Cafe in the old Crowell Bank building:
At the other tip of the same block are more "oldies":
1145 Military Ave (NW corner of W12th St and Military Ave.)
The Ritz Theater opened April 30, 1926, the same year that Rout 66 was created. It closed 30 years later, becoming a restaurant. Recently it has undergone renovations and will reopen shortly. Next to it is the Angels of the Route Cafe.
Ritz Theater and the Angels of the Route Cafe:
SW corner of Military Ave. and 12th St
The Mural Bas Relief on Route 66, inside red box. Google. Click for street view
See the mural bas relief that portrays the history of Baxter Springs, it even includes Route 66's shield. On the South wall of American Bank.
Baxter Springs Heritage Center
740 East Ave.
Exhibits collections of the Civil War, World War I and II, the early days of Baxter Springs, the mining district and of course: Route 66 memorabilia.
10th St. and Park St. Johnston Public Library.
Erected in 1931, it is dedicated to Maj. Gen. James Blunt and his 135 men who were massacred during the Civil War.
Tours & Itineraries
Marsh Arch "Rainbow" Bridge
Only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on U.S. 66, Riverton, Kansas. Marcin Wichary
The Historic Rainbow Bridge is just 2.5 miles north of Baxter Springs, along Route 66.
The bridge has two concrete arches and is 130 feet (40 m) long it was repaired in 2005 and is no longer open for traffic, but you can still walk across it.
It was named in 1838, and is fed by the crystal clear springs of the area. A cable-ferry boat was built in 1867 and replaced by a bridge in the 1880s. The river turned the turbine water wheels of the Baxter Springs flour mill in the late 1800s, the town's only industry.
Now it is used by campers and fishermen: Kiwanis Park is located to the east of the town, on the north side of E 12 St., next to the River.
Riverside Park on Spring River. On the south side of Highway 166. It has a boat ramp, tables, grills, rest rooms. Camping and RV facilities. Map with Directions.
It is set at the point where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma meet. It was built in 1938.
A 15.2 mile round trip. See map with directions. Leave town from Military Ave/Rte.66 and head east along E 12th St.
US 166 & 5th St. 2 miles west of Route 66. Map with Directions.
The US government established it, with a soldier's plot where the victims of the Fort Blair Massacre were buried in a common grave in 1870. The names of the 88 men buried there are engraved in the monument.
Route 66 itinerary through Kansas
Route 66 in Kansas
With only 13 miles, this is the shortest segment of US 66 in any state.
Current mileage: 13 mi.
Alignment of US 66 in Kansas, from Missouri to Oklahoma
Route 66 crosses the southeastern corner of Kansas, the shortest segment of the whole Route66: 13 miles.
Follow it to Main St., Galena (1.3 mi) and take a left. At 7th St, (KS 66) take a right. Stop at the Kansas Route 66 Historic District-East Galena, a Historic Place.
The road runs to the west, crosses Spring River and entering Riverton (5 mi).
Visit the Williams' Store, a Historical Place.
At the west of the town, the alignments split at U.S. 400 - Alt US 69: the later one follows U.S. 400 - Alt US 69), but the 1926 road keeps on west. Follow it to the Historic Bridge, over Brush Creek (7.5 mi): the Rainbow Curve Bridge is the last Marsh Arch Bridge of all Route 66, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the bridge, the road curves south towards Baxter Springs.
It enters the town (10 mi) and curves left to meet again with Alt US 69. Take a right. The road passes through the central part of the town. The road leaves town, curving around a Walmart (the 1926 alignment went behind it, along Roberts Rd. on the east and W 30th St. on the south). Keep straight until you reach the Oklahoma state line (13 mi). US 66 keeps on southbound, along Alternate US 69 towards Commerce in Oklahoma.
Fate of old US 66
After I-44 bypassed Kansas, US-66 was decommissioned and in 1985 US-69 Alternate took over part of its alignment, the rest became K-66.
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