Arrow Rock Ferry Landing placed on the historic register

Friday, February 28, 2014
Rich Lawson owns the land where the Arrow Rock Ferry Landing used to be. He said he originally bought the land for retirement, but after conducting research he discovered his land had historical significance. Arrow Rock Ferry Landing was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 1, 2013. (Contributed)

The Arrow Rock Ferry Landing was put on the list of the National Register of Historic Places on May 1, 2013, and Rich Lawson, who owns the property with his wife, Debbie, is looking to add more richness to Arrow Rock's history.

Originally, Lawson bought the land for retirement about four or five years ago. However, through his own and others research, he conducted a process of elimination to dispel other potential areas the ferry might have been. He discovered that the land he owned had historical importance to the Santa Fe Trail.

According to the official Santa Fe Trail Association's website, "In 1821, the Santa Fe Trail became America's first great international commercial highway, and for nearly sixty years thereafter was one of the nation's great routes of adventure and western expansion."

In Lawson's research, he said the site has been mentioned by visitors as early as Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville's "Carte de la Louisiane" map in 1732 giving it the title "Pierre Fleche," which translates to "Rock of the Arrow." However, he said the most known crossing occurred in 1821 when William Becknell opened the Santa Fe Trail and wrote in his journal: "Our company crossed the Missouri River near the Arrow Rock on the first day of September 1821 and encamped six miles from the old ferry."

Lawson said he stresses the difference between Arrow Rock, once a village and now the historic town, from "The Arrow Rock" on the river.

"(It) jutted out into the river and stood very tall," Lawson said. "... I think Clark or one of the early explorers described it as being maybe 90 feet high or something like that. Up or down the river coming either way, you knew when you had arrived at 'The Arrow Rock.'"

A mock-up of the sign Rich Lawson wants to display to add historical significance to the eastern end of the Santa Fe Trail around the Arrow Rock area. (Contributed photo)

As a board member of the Missouri River Outfitters Chapter for the Santa Fe Trail Association, Lawson said he's been to Santa Fe and the very square where the trail ends.

"There's all the history in the world about that end of the Santa Fe Trail but there's little history about the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail," Lawson said.

Lawson said he continues researching the area to try to determine every little thing that happened at the ferry landing to enrich its legacy.

"It was a busy site,"Lawson said. "It was a site that when the folks in the area decided maybe they ought to have a town, they met at the ferry landing."

In 2012, Dawson and his wife bought the Country Store in the town of Arrow Rock with the intent to shed more light in connection of the Santa Fe Trail history to the town itself. Currently, the store is undergoing remodeling and restoration with hopes to open in 2014.

"It was a very important place in history because of that crossing and it had been a crossing for many years prior to that," Lawson said. "It was one of the narrowest places on the river for Indians or travelers of any sort to cross."

Contact Jesse Brown at jbrown@marshallnews.com