Site of the Spencer Store and Station
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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.
History of Spencer
Learn more about the history of this region 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. Further 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" which would become "Paris Springs".
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 located 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. In 1925 Sydney Casey purchased property in Spencer as he knew that Route 66 would be aligned along the old stagecoach route. Casey built the buildings that are still standing there (barber shop, store, cafe and gas station) and 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.
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.
Hotels close to Spencer, Missouri
There is no accommodation in Spencer, but there are hotels nearby in Springfield and Carthage
> > Book your hotel in neighboring Springfield
Find your room nearby
More motels and Hotels close to Spencer so that you can book a room.
More hotels, Heading East
>> Check out the RV campgrounds in nearby Springfield
The Weather in Spencer
Location of Spencer on Route 66
Spencer's weather is subtropical and wet. It has cold and dry winters and wet and rainy summers: rainy season April to July, with thunderstorms.
Summer (Jul) average highs are 90.7°F (32.6°C) with an average low of 69.1° (21.1°). In winter (Jan) the average highs are around 44.8°F (7.2°C), and the average lows are 25.1°F (-3.9deg;C).
Average yearly rainfall is 46.4 in. (1.180 mm). Around 12 in. of snow (30 cm) fall each winter.
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 Route 66.
Map of Route 66 in Spencer
Paris Springs and Spencer
Click on the thumbnail map to enlarge it. It shows the different alignments west of Halltown in Spencer and Paris Springs.
- 1926-1960 Alignment. Shown in Green in the image map. See map
- 1960-1977 Alignment. Blue line in the image map. Map
The other thumbnail map (click to enlarge) shows the two alignments west of Spencer. In red, the original 1926-61 Route 66 roadbed. The blue line is the alignment after 1961 that bypassed Spencer. Notice how the later alignment runs towards Heatonville south of the original roadbed. The dashed line is the segment cut by the 1961 realignment. The image below looks east from the north side of the 1961 US66, the gray shaded area shows the missing section cut by the later U.S. 66 alignment. (1) shows the 1926-61 alignment and (2) the alignment after 1961.
See this Map of U.S. 66 on the western side of Spencer.
Route 66 Sights in Spencer
Landmarks and Places to See
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" but does not name the town, instead he describes it.
He mentions Heatonville and Paris Springs Junction by name, but not Spencer and mentions that one mile west of Spencer was another gas station and grocery, long gone!
Tour the route 66 landmarks in Spencer
We will visit the village driving east to west across it, coming from Paris Springs. This is the original 1926 roadway, with concrete laid down in 1929.
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. It was paved in 1929. A narrow highway by modern standards, it carried traffic until it was bypassed by a newer alignment in 1960.
Johnson Creek Bridge
The highway turns with a sharp curve to the west to cross Johnson Creek. This is an original Route 66 bridge, built in 1923, three years before the highway was created.
It is a riveted steel bridge, "5-panel Pratt Through Truss", see picture.
After crossing the creek, just ahead, to your right is the "village" created by Sydney Casey back in 1925: the Store, barbershop and old filling station & garage.
Spencer Garage and Service Station
This was the largest building of the complex. Located on the eastern tip of the property. It has three rooms and was built with local sandstone rubble.
Notice its rounded parapet (that conceals the rounded garage roof) and the double garage doors. The gas station was originally a Tydol station. Later it sold Phillips 66. Nowadays it has some nicely restored vintage Phillips 66 and a classic orange Phillips 66 sign.
Adjacent to the station, to the left and part of the same building is what is now the cafe. However, originally it was the filling station's office. The pictures below show Carl Casey (left image) next to Tydol pumps, and the Phillips sign (right). Both views of the station in the 1940s.
Spencer Cafe & Barbershop
Contiguous to the old stone faced gas station is the second (middle) building of the complex. It was also built ca. 1930.
It has a main entrance door flanked by two windows and stuccoed walls.
It served as a café and barber shop, which was not ran by the Caseys, they leased it to others. At one time Arthur Martin was the barber.
On the western side of the property. It was built around 1930 in red bricks, 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.
Behind the store, at the back of the property is the gable roof house that was Casey's home.
Drive west and visit the site of "Camp Lookout".
Camp Lookout & Texaco
As you can see in the postcard below, it consisted of nine individual cabins. It was built on a low hill (hence its name "Lookout") in a wooded area on the south side of Route 66.
Since little remains of the place it wasn't easy to find, but with the help of some old photographs we managed to do so.
The postcard is a painting so it does not provide much information, but the following photograph taken in the 1940s shows an accident on Route 66. The signs on the left side of the picture read "1⁄4 mile TEXACO ahead" and "Camp Lookout Court Modern" the red arrow marks the spot of the gas station and Camp Lookout. The picture was taken looking eastwards from the point where nowadays the 1926 and the 1961 alignments meet. See this stret view showing the same view nowadays.
The following image shows the actual site of the old Court, the gas station's foundations can be seen in the image (concrete slab marked with red arrow).
The gas station and cabins can be seen in this aerial photograph taken in 1959.
And this is the end of your sightseeing tour in Spencer. Continue west to visit the next town on your Route 66 road trip, Heatonville.
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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66
1879 map of Spencer, Lawrence County history
Architectural - Historic Survey of Route 66 in Missouri and Detailed Survey, Maura Johnson. 1993