About Spencer Station
West of Paris Springs Junction, old Route 66 takes a jog south across State Road 96 onto County Road N to Spencer, Missouri. This very old concrete pavement first crosses a 1923 triple pony-truss bridge over Turnback Creek before meandering on to traverse a 1923 one-lane steel truss bridge over Johnson Creek.
This tiny little settlement started in the 1860s on the old Carthage-Springfield Road after Oliver Johnson built a mill along the creek that was soon named after him. The site became a popular stopping place for travelers who stopped along Johnson Creek near the flour mill. The place was initially referred to as Johnson’s Mill until a Mr. Spencer opened a store at the site where a post office was established in 1868, which was called Spencer.
An 1870s map of Lawrence County shows Spencer located to the southeast of "Heaton" (now Heatonville) south of the western Turnback Creek, that was a different location to that of current Spencer.
By the 1880s, the village had another general store, a schoolhouse, and a Methodist and Christian Church. Before long, others moved into the settlement and the town gained a grocery store and blacksmith shop.
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".
But the town would be short-lived for the agricultural community. The post office closed in 1907 and the road to Spencer became impassable by 1912. Once traffic stopped, businesses closed, people moved on, and Spencer became a ghost town.
Almost 20 years later in 1925, a man named Sidney Casey learned of the plans for a new highway which would be aligned along the old stagecoach route. He left his home in Shell Knob Missouri and walked about 55 miles to get to the town of Spencer. When he arrived, he put a $50 deposit down and paid $450 via installments for the old town which included a vacant feed & seed store and two acres of land. His plan was to reopen the old store built around 1910 to sell goods to not only the road building crew, but to travelers to the new US highway built right outside of his front door.
Legend has it Sidney was spending more time working on the old Feed & Seed building than he was selling merchandise out of it.
In 1926, he decided to construct a new building next to the old store. In 1927, he built the garage and service station and he sold Tydol gasoline. By 1928, he had expanded it into a row of buildings, with the store on the west end, a structure in the middle which served at various times as a cafe and barbershop, and at the east end, a service station and garage. Casey’s service station became a distributor for the Phillips 66 brand as early as Aug 1938.
We jokingly say it was Route 66’s first ‘strip mall’.
You can say Spencer Station was built because of and for Route 66.
(Sidney and Mary Casey are pictured to the left - photo circa 1940's)
The Casey family ran both the store and the service station / garage, while various people operated the cafe and barber shop in the middle building over the years. Spencer soon became a community center, as well as a traveler’s stopover. It was also a post office and a Greyhound Bus stop.
Dances were held on a platform right across the road, neighborhood news was exchanged from the bench in front of the store, and an old stove in the garage provided a comfortable gathering spot for card games.
(The original general store to the left and unknown children in this photo from the 1940's)
This lasted until 1961 when the old US 66 was realigned away from Spencer with Highway 96 being built, bypassing it and nearby Paris Springs Junction. Sidney started selling off all the merchandise and second hand items but the store and gas station eventually went out of business. This was just a precursor for the rest of the area when both alignments of Route 66 in southwest Missouri were bypassed by I-44 a few years after that.
Carl and Ruby Casey purchased the property from his mother Mary and brothers in 1985 and took residence in the family home behind the store buildings. (Carl is in the photo to the left. This was taken around 1946).
Kent Casey then purchased the property from his father Carl, making Kent the 3rd generation of the Casey family to own it.
The row of vacant buildings sat empty and silent until they were purchased in May 2008 by Francis and Mary Lynn Ryan of Salina, Kansas. The Ryan’s added a new roof to 3 of the 4 existing front buildings, a new roof to the old 2-story 1926 farmhouse, and shored up the east wall of the garage to prevent it from collapsing. They recreated the canopy and pump island at the gas station and put back up the overhang at the front of the General Store. They also decorated the building with their own personal items as well add the gas pumps which are photographed by visitors from all over the world.. Their purpose was to 'save the buildings, not open a business'.
In June 2022, Ed Klein of Route 66 World purchased the property and buildings from the Ryans to further continue the restoration and preservation. Going in to his 16th year of doing preservation / restoration work as well as a plethora of other things for Route 66, he wanted to open Spencer up to the public again on a limited basis as his schedule allowed. He and his 'much, much better half' Stephanie spend as much of their free time as they can restoring, repairing, rebuilding and working on the property to continue to save it and bring it back to how it looked in the 1930's and 1940's with period correct items.
If they are there, the buildings are being worked on!
Spencer General Store
On the western side of the property, this part of the buildings was built in 1926 with two different types of red bricks, a rectangular plan, and a flat roof. It served as a grocery store ran by Sidney Casey. He built it to replace the old general store built in 1910, which sat on the property to the immediate west (left) of the current general store which was demolished sometime in the late 1940's. This general store served its last customer sometime in 1961, until now!
The plans are to bring this back to a 1930's General Store museum with shelving and display cases while having a section serviing as Spencer Station's gift shop.
Spencer Garage & Service Station
This was the largest building of the complex built in 1927. Located on the eastern part of the buildings. It was built with local sandstone rubble.
Notice its rounded parapet and the two color stones? The original roof line was not steep enough to let rain and melting snow run off so it was decided to 'raise the roof' at a steeper pitch. To do this, Sidney gathered river stone from the nearby Johnson Creek to build the front and rear walls of the service station higher to conceal the new roof line.
. The gas station was originally a Tydol station, then around 1938 sold Phillips 66.
Nowadays it has some nicely restored vintage Phillips 66 gas pumps and a classic orange Phillips 66 sign. If you follow our Facebook page, you wil notice we take almost all of our visitor photos right there on the pump island.
Spencer Barber Shop
During the building of the garage & service station, Casey decided to ‘connect the two main buildings’. He completed the new addition in mid-1928.
This new addition contained a barber shop and a diner.
The barber shop has stucco walls on top of red brick.
At one time Arthur Martin was the barber, as the shop was never ran by the Casey family.
This section will be a dedicated barber shop museum from items ranging from the mid 1880's until the late 1940's
Spencer Cafe / Diner
This was a diner back when this section first opened in 1928 serving food to travelers and locals. The meals were made up in the old 1940s house which was located directly behind these building. The food was carried down the to diner as there was never any running water in the original front buildings (a mobile home sits where the old house was).
Then in the 1950s and 1960s, Sidney started to use this space as overflow from the general store for additional merchandise.
This section will be brought back to a 1930's / 1940's café / diner.