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1895 Map of Pilot
Knob Missouri and surrounding areas
Pilot Knob, Missouri ~ History and Landmarks, Iron County,
The history of Pilot Knob is inextricably linked
with its sister communities, Ironton and Arcadia.
A traveler will barely perceive the difference from one
community to the next, along the three mile stretch which
is seemingly continuous. History, however, sets each
apart as important events occurred and historical landmarks
appear, in all three.
previously outlined in the history of Ironton
Stout built a log house in what is now known as the Arcadia
Valley (as early as 1805-1807). There were few settlers over
the next three decades, and those that did come were drawn
primarily by the abundant buffalo and deer population. In
1836 things changed. The vast iron ore resources of Iron County
were discovered and brought increased numbers of settlers
as the industry boomed. Ultimately, in 1857 the Iron
Mountain Railroad was completed all the way to Pilot Knob
providing the means to transport this important commodity
directly to St. Louis.
The mine at Pilot Knob was of vital importance to St. Louis
industry. The railroad served the southeast Missouri iron
mining district, running from Irondale through Iron Mountain.
When the Civil War began to encroach upon Missouri soil, the
Union established a post at Pilot Knob . . . not only to protect
the mines, but to also insure Union supplies could reach their
outposts at Farmington, Fredericktown, Centerville,
Fort Davidson (at the base of the lookout,
Pilot Knob Mountain) was a strong defensive position:
hexagonal walls nine feet high and ten feet thick, surrounded
by a dry moat nine feet deep. Two long rifle pits ran out
from the walls and a reinforced board fence topped the earthworks.
Access to the fort was through a drawbridge on the southeastern
corner of the structure. In September of 1864, Fort
Davidson became the scene of one of the bloodiest and most
important battles of the Civil War in Missouri . . . the Battle
of Pilot Knob, where 1200 Confederate soldiers killed,
wounded or missing and less than 100 defending Union
soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. Learn details
Davidson and the Battle of Pilot Knob here. Today,
Fort Davidson State Historic site at Pilot
Knob honors those who gave their lives in this important battle.
Every third year, thousands of people gather here to observe
the reenactment of this important event. In 2007, 30,000
visitors attended. The next scheduled reenactment of
the Battle of Pilot Knob will be in 2010. Until then,
tour Fort Davidson and the museum honoring these brave soldiers.
Also, when in Pilot Knob, be certain to see one of the oldest
surviving churches in the Arcadia Valley, historic Immanuel
Lutheran Church located at East Pine and North Ziegler. Founded
by German immigrant August Gockel in 1861, the church was
occupied and used as a hospital during the Battle of Pilot
Knob. After the war, a second story was finished in the back
of the church and used as a one room school house until 1936.
Sometimes a pastor would live in the back room of the church
temporarily and one lived in the small room with seven children
and his wife! As years went by the congregation helped found
churches in Iron Mountain (now Bismarck), Farmington, and
Ironton. Tours of this church, which is on the National Register
of Historic Places and still
contains much of its original furnishings, can be arranged.
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family history vacation and see for yourself!