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Spencer, Missouri

An original stretch of 1926 Route 66

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Spencer is a very small community, on the original 1926 roadbed of U.S. 66, its best known attraction is the complex comprising the 1930s Spencer Store, Spencer Cafe & Barbershop and Spencer Garage and Service Station (Phillips 66 gas). It also has the remains of Camp Lookout, a 1930s motor court.

Spencer MO

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About Spencer Missouri

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 1,118 ft (341 m). Population n⁄ (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Spencer is a small village on Old Route 66 in Lawrence County, in southwestern Missouri. (Map of Spencer).

Spencer store, barber shop and service station, Route 66, Spencer Missouri

Spencer store, barber shop and service station, Route 66, Spencer Missouri
Spencer store, barber shop and service station, Route 66, Spencer, Missouri, by Click on image for Street View

History of Spencer

Learn more about the history of Spencer in our Carthage Missouri page.

The county created in 1845 and was named after James Lawrence a naval officer from the English-American War of 1812.

An 1870s map of Lawrence County shows Spencer located to the south east of "Heaton" (now Heatonville) south of the western Turnback Creek, that was a different location to that of current Spencer.

What is now Spencer appears in that map at a place named "Mills" on the stream, further north. o the east at the junction of all three forks (West, Middle and East) of the Turnback Creek (now Johnson, Goose and Turnback respectively) was "Chalybeate Springs" and next to it, "Paris Spring".

The first flour mill in the area was operated by Oliver Johnson and John Cherry, the "Johnson-Cherry Mill". After they closed it, Johnson moved one mile downstream and set up his own mill on the creek (now named after him): Johnson's Mill. Others soon moved in as it was on the Carthage - Springfield road, and the post office opened in 1868 under the name of "Spencer", it closed in 1907.

The name: Spencer

It was named after Spencer, a local merchant whose store was known as "Spencer". Prior to that the place was known as Johnson's Mill.

The name Spencer comes from Middle English "spens(e) or spence" the larder, and the suffix "-er" maxes it a "butler" or "steward".

By the 1910s, the road was in bad shape and the population dwindled. But the Ozark Trails first, and Route 66 -created in 1926- brought life back to the settlement. Soon the locals catered to travellers. This lasted until 1961 when the old US 66 was realigned through Spencer bypassing it. Then, the whole of Route 66 was bypassed by I-44, which had opened in 1958 between Joplin and Oklahoma City, and then went east along what used to be US-166, south of Spencer towards Springfield.


Where to Lodge in Spencer, Missouri

Lodging close to Spencer: in neighboring Carthage...

> > Book your hotel in neighboring Carthage

More Lodging near Spencer along Route 66

Motels and Hotels close to Spencer

Hotels, Westwards in Missouri

Heading West... Hotels & Motels in Kansas...

Further West... Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma...

Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation

Book your hotel nearby, in Carthage

>> Check out the RV campgrounds in nearby Carthage

Weather in Spencer

Weather widget for Halltown, the town nearest Spencer, to the east

Latest Spencer, Missouri weather
Route 66: Spencer map with town location
Location of Spencer on Route 66

Tornado risk

Spencer is located within the "Tornado Alley"; Lawrence County has about of 8 tornado strikes per year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Getting to Spencer

You can reach Spencer along historic Route 66 and Interstate I-44 that links it with Tulsa and Oklahoma City in the west and with Springfield and St. Louis in the east. U.S. Route 71 (overlapping I-49) links it with Fort Smith, Arkansas and Kansas City.

Map of Route 66 through Spencer Missouri

See the alignment of US 66 in Spencer, on our Missouri Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.

Below is the color key for Route 66’s alignment in Spencer:

Pale Blue: The 1926 and later alignments of Route 66 in other parts east and west of Spencer
Green: The 1926 to 1961 alignment from Paris Springs through Spencer.
Blue, east of Spencer, is the 1961 alignment that bypassed Paris Springs.

Route 66's alignment in Missouri: the Historic Route 66 through Spencer

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Route 66 across Missouri

Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Missouri.

Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.

Below is more information on the different Route 66's alignments through Spencer (they are shown in the Map above)

Route 66 Sights in Spencer

Landmarks and Places to See

A few scattered houses

Spencer and its Route 66 attractions

Spencer is known for the classic 1930 Spencer Store, Spencer Garage and Service Station and Spencer Cafe & Barbershop. Across the road is what used to be a motel: Camp Lookout on the original Route 66 roadbed.

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Spencer

In his 1946 book "A Guide Book to Highway 66" Jack DeVere Rittenhouse gives us a clear picture of Route 66 was like during that time.

Rittenhouse mentions "Spencer" without using that name follows: "Gas station and grocery, on the bank of Johnson Creek. Onw mile farther ... is Camp Lookout: a few cabins and a gas station. [one mile ahead] is another gas station and grocery, with a small garage just west of here..." He mentions Heatonville and Paris Springs Junction by name, but not Spencer.

Tour the route 66 landmarks in Spencer

Original 1926 alignment

The concrete roadbed of US 66 which passes through Spencer is one of the few remaining segments of "original highway surface" on Route 66.

The Store, barbershop and old filling station & garage is the main attraction in Spencer. It is pictured above, and here Street View (from left to right: store, barbershop and service station).

Spencer Store

Farm Road 2062 (Old Route 66), Spencer

This is the westernmost building of the compound. It was built around 1930 in brick, with a rectangular plan and a flat roof. It served as a grocery store ran by S.L Casey. He built it to replace the old one, which had shut down in the mid 1910s.

Spencer Cafe & Barbershop

Contiguous to the old store is the middle building of the complex. Also built ca. 1930, it has a main entrance door flanked by two windows. It has stuccoed walls.

It served as a café and barber shp, and was not ran by the Caseys, instead at one time Arthur Martin was the barber.

Spencer Garage and Service Station

This was the largest building, located at the eastern tip of the complex. It has three rooms and was built with sandstone rubble. Notice its rounded parapet (which conceals the rounded garage roof) and the double doors.

The gas station was originally a Tydol station. Later is switched over to Phillips 66.

Camp Lookout

Across the street from the service station, to your left is the hill on which once stood a motor court, with individual cabins, in the wooded area next to Johnson Stream: Camp Lookout.

vintage postcard of Camp Lookout

Vintage postcard of Camp Lookout; click to enlarge

View of what once was Camp Lookout in Spencer MO

Former Camp Lookout nowadays. Click for Street view


Tours & Itineraries

Old Route 66 in Spencer, Missouri

From Halltown to Spencer (and on to Avilla)

In the early 1900s automobiles became more popular and the trails and dirt tracks were in very poor shape so W. H. "Coin" Harvey (1851-1936) created the Ozark Trails Association in 1913. The Ozark Trail eventually crossed Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and reached the Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico.

Route 66 was created in 1926 and aligned along the Ozark Trail from St. Louis MO to Romeroville NM, passing through Spencer.

Route 66 follows a straight course from Halltown to Avilla, and it has followed it since Route 66 was created back in 1926, which is shown in Pale Blue in the Map above except for one part, between Paris Springs and Spencer, where it followed another alignment from 1926 to 1961:

Original 1926 alignment through Spencer

Steel truss bridge at Spencer MO on the 1926 alignment of Route 66

Steel truss bridge at Spencer MO on the 1926 alignment of Route 66. Click image for Street View

The road through Paris Springs and Spencer, which is shown in Black in the map above is the original 1926 alignment and has the original concrete road surface.

After Paris Springs, it crosses the Turnback Creek on a triple pony-struss bridge built in 1923 (See its street view).

Stop at MO-96 and cross it, head south along Co. Rd. N which is the 1926 alignment. When you reach Farm Road 2062 head west (take a right. See thisStreet view with the Route 66 byway sign at the fork). The road heads towards the Johnson Creek narrow steel truss bridge -see picture.

1961 realignment

After the bridge, the original road goes through Spencer and just ahead meets the more recent 1961 alignment that bypassed both Spencer and Paris Springs (shown in Blue in the map above).

The 1926 map of the Missouri State Highway Commission shows what then was Route 60 (yes, 60 and not 66 because they had taken the original planned numbering and not the one that was later agreed upon and which prevailed: U.S. 66). The paved surface ended at Springfield and the road from there to Avilla it was already being paved with concrete, after Avilla it was again paved all the way to Kansas. By 1929 it was completely paved. The Missouri DOT roadmap of 1945-46 only shows the towns of Avilla, Phelps and Halltown between Springfield and Carthage.

Route 66 and Interstate I-44

Route 66 and Interstate 44 lived along together for many years (like many U.S. Higwhays do today), From Springfield west, to Halltown, they overlapped and at this point US 66 went northwards to Spencer and west to Carthage along its original alignment (now MO-96) while I-44 turned southwest and then west to Oklahoma. They coexisted until the federal government officially decommissioned Route 66 in 1985.

> > See the previous segment Springfield to Halltown (east)

> > See the next segment Plew to Avilla (west)

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Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

The Ramsay Place Names File

Maura Johnson and John F. Bradbury, Route 66 Association of Missouri. 1993, Architectural ⁄ Historical Inventory Survey. Route 66 in Missouri

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.