Knob Lick Missouri History
By: Jennie Moore
Information gathered by online history research and talking with past and present families.
Knob Lick isn’t a very well known town. It is eight to ten miles south of Farmington Mo (the largest town in St. Francois county) Many people Believe that Knob Lick was founded in 1876, but that is untrue. Indeed Knob Lick was named in 1876, but was actually founded in 1865. No one is 100% sure why it was named so much later then it was founded.
But we’ll just assume it went by its settlement name until 1876. Now, we all know that “Knob Lick” is an odd name, but it is practical. “Knob” is a term usually used for a large mountain or summit. “Lick” was used for the near by salt licks used by wild deer or buffalo in the area.
Around this time, people began to mine all around this area. They mined mostly granite. That’s when Knob Lick began to grow. In 1869, the railroad moved into Knob Lick. There was a single branch line that went through the middle of town. They called this the “Belmont Branch.” At the time, the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad owned this railroad. But later was bought out by Missouri Pacific.
There was an electric railway running through the county and had a depot in almost every town. But, there was no known stop in Knob Lick. The only known railways were the Belmont Branch. The Belmont Branch was said to have came to a junction in Doe Run, but it’s unclear with which branch or railway. It is also said that the Belmont Branch somehow met in Bismarck Mo. There was a train depot in the middle of town for passengers. There was also a cattle barn across from it. The train would pull up next to the cattle barn, then they would load the cattle from the barn onto the train. The foundation of the barn is still there, but the depot is unfortunately not.
Actually, now, (2014) the train tracks are gone also. They were pulled out around 1970. They weren’t needed anymore because the granite boom had been over for a while. But, it’s almost sure the rails were never abandon. They were used up until they were taken out. But it’s unsure if the trains were very frequent or not. The rise in the landscape where the railroad tracks once ran can still be seen. Sadly, after the granite boom was over Knob Lick downgraded greatly. It decreased in size majorly. It lost all of its businesses except for Bailey’s General Store, (Which went by a different name at the time) A few churches, and an auction house is still there. But it’s not believed that the auction building was there at the time. It’s said it was put in later. There are a few old houses left. And there is even an old store, which is now used as a home.
As for churches, there are 3 left in the former downtown area. One is not having services. It is privately owned, and is unsure what it’s used for. The other two are still having services, and happen to be next door to each other. It was said that there was a church that went by “Texas Baptist Church.” It’s not sure what happened to it, but it’s also said that it’s 1 ½ miles north of its current site. As for schools, there are no current schools. All children living in Knob Lick go to Farmington Mo R-7 School District. But there used to be multiple schoolhouses. All the schoolhouses are gone, except for one. It was built in 1914. It sits on Knob Lick Road. It’s in great condition and is being used as a home.
As for the others, they have either fell, or been torn down long ago. There was said to be a schoolhouse on what is now DD hwy. There is evidence that there was a school along that road, thanks to a survey done in 1889 when some lots were divided up. But there is no proof of where it was. There was a school on Possum Hollow Road. The school itself is gone, but the foundation can be clearly seen. Knob Lick is a great place to be if you like nature. Knob Lick is and always has been a big variety of plants and animals. There are many plants near the mountain such as Blue Stem & Indian Grass, Tick-seed, Pine-weed and Indigo Buntings. As far as animals go, it has a fair amount of deer and squirrel, and has many people out hunting in every hunting season.
It is said, that many years ago there were wild buffalo. And they always ate at the salt licks. Now, it’s said that there are things such as mountain lions and bobcats near the mountain. There is also an increasing amount of black bears roaming near the mountain, and close to the town area. And a little fact, one of the earliest dinosaur fossil finds was found in Denver, Colorado. And the man who found it was born in Knob Lick, Mo in 1883. He taught in some of our country schools before he left for his new profession in 1907. He was 24 years old. His name was Frederick Carl Kessler.
Knob Lick Mountain is one of the most well known places in the area. It’s home to a lookout tower. The tower was built for watching for forest fires. It’s not sure when the tower was built, but it’s very old. The tower was retired from its job as a forest fire look out tower many years ago, but the exact year is unsure. It served as a small park, with a picnic area. And people could also climb up to the top of the tower for fun, and to take in the great view. But not many people had the nerve to go to the top. But it seems like most of those who did, didn’t appreciate the view much. They vandalized the inside of the tower, and ruined the fun for others. Because of the vandalism, the state had to block off the tower. Now you can only climb about half way up, and then you’ll fine yourself in a steel cage. Although it’s not the top of the tower, it still is well over the tree line, and provides a view like no other.
Knob Lick sits at the foot of the Ozarks. And from the Knob Lick Lookout Tower, you can see all the mountains of the Ozarks for miles. The bigger hills and mountains start around Knob Lick and continue south. It’s said that there was a bottling company in Knob lick. It’s known by the name of White’s or Whitener’s. It’s unsure by most which name it was for sure, because it disappeared long ago. No one in this day in time can figure out where in Knob Lick it was. Some people have bottles from the company, but there was no location on the bottles. It’s like a mystery.
Knob Lick is one of the biggest places in the area as in agriculture. Knob Lick is known for big farms. There are many farmers growing crops in the area. But the biggest thing is the extreme amount of cattle farming. So, at one time Knob Lick was the largest town for miles. It was a boom-town that every one came to live the life. There were schools, restaurants, and hotels. Now it’s all gone except for a few churches, an auction, a post office, and a store. But Knob Lick has left a big footprint on St. Francois County that will never be completely forgotten. And no matter how much has been lost, Knob Lick still lives up to its reputation of a wonderful place. And this happy little town is home to many people, and always will be.