Rock of Arrows
From the earliest days, the Arrow Rock bluffs were a well-known landmark on the Missouri River. Visible for many miles, they first appeared on a French map in 1732, noted as "pierre á fleche" -- the "rock of arrows."
During the War of 1812, when hostile Indians forced a withdrawal to the east, the Fort Osage trading post, which had been located just east of present-day Kansas City, was moved to Arrow Rock, and the Osage Tribe was settled temporarily nearby.
As the "Boone's Lick Country" began to be more settled and more people moved into what is now Saline County, a ferry was established by 1815. The ferry linked the Arrow Rock community with the town of Franklin and Howard County on the north bank of the river.
In the 1820s, the earliest travelers on what would become the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river on the Arrow Rock ferry and filled their water barrels at the Big Spring before heading west. The spring still flows today at the base of the hill behind the Old Tavern.
In 1829, a town was formally platted on this site under the name of New Philadelphia, but this grandiose designation did not last long, and it is under the old name of Arrow Rock that we know it today.
Three governors of Missouri were closely associated with the Arrow Rock community: Claiborne F. Jackson (1860-1862), Meredith M. Marmaduke (1844), and his son John Sappington Marmaduke (1884-1887). Jackson and J. S. Marmaduke also were both important Civil War figures. Dr. John Sappington, a pioneer in the use of quinine to combat malaria, and George Caleb Bingham, Missouri's preeminent artist of the 1800s, also called Arrow Rock home.
By the middle of the 19th century, Arrow Rock had grown to a small city of more than 1,000 residents. But, as river traffic ebbed, and railroads and highways followed other corridors through central Missouri, decline became inevitable. Today, only some 80 people are full-time residents, but the streets fill with visitors who come to enjoy the hospitality of this charming bit of old Missouri.
The entire town of Arrow Rock was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. A portion of the town is also preserved as Arrow Rock State Historic Site. The creation of the state historic site resulted from the National Old Trails Road Association's, and later, the Daughters of the American Revolution's efforts to preserve the Old Tavern. In it, in 1912, a room was set aside for exhibits "as a means of teaching Missouri history to the passerby." Now, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources operates the historic site, which features several historic buildings and a modern visitor center. The visitor center contains artifacts and exhibits that portray the history of the town and the Boone's Lick Country.
A landmark of hospitality for over a century, the Old Tavern was begun by Joseph Huston in 1834. A tour of the handsome brick building reveals its evolution from a simple four-room structure into the more elaborate tavern we see today. The Old Tavern continues to offer an interesting dining experience in a period setting.
Next door, a replicated Huston Store in the 1840 addition to the Old Tavern, displays the wares available in a "general store" of the last century. Other buildings operated by the historic site include the old courthouse, the town doctor's home and a stone jail.
The Friends of Arrow Rock, founded in 1959, own a number of historic structures in town and cooperate with the Department of Natural Resources to present walking tours of the village. Several special events held throughout the year showcase the history of the town.
The town also offers many antique shops, bed and breakfasts and the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater, which presents repertory productions in the summer and fall. The historic site features a modern campground for a good night's sleep after a day of touring the historic site and town.