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Kansas was the first state to completely have Route 66 paved. The entire stretch of 12.8 miles was paved by the end of 1929.

Kansas also was the first and only state on Route 66 to be completely bypassed by the new interstate highway system.

Along with their Route 66 past, the three towns of Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs are rich in history as they all played rolls in Texas cattle drives, Quantrill's Civil War Raids, and the mining era.

Mining Along Route 66

source: Legends of America

The rerouting of traffic to Route 66 in 1926 was a blessing for many of the small towns throughout the midwest including Galena, Kansas.

Travelers passing through the town added a lot to the local economy. This economical boon when added to the thriving mining industry turned Galena into a community full of future.

Galena's mining era was full of competition, violence, and bloodshed. After lead was discovered in 1877, not one but two towns popped up near by. Galena and Empire City became dueling towns started by rival mining companies. This competition grew to such a length that Empire City actually built a huge wood wall to keep people from moving over to Galena. Joplin This full page article on this great mining region from 1926 speaks of the fence and how it accidentally burned down, an Empire City law suit about a Galena mail carrier transporting visitors by bus out of Empire City, and Red Hot street that connected Empire City to Galena. This street also served as the Red Light District as well.

After much feuding, Empire City finally became a suburb of Galena on July 9, 1907.

This prosperity was short lived. Massive labor strikes between miners and mining companies left many unemployed. In 1935, the members of the Mine, Mills and Smelter Workers' International Union went on strike in the Tri-State Mining district. The mining companies quickly replaced the strikers with non-union workers who were then organized into a company union, commonly called the Blue Card Union. As a result, violence erupted along Route 66.

Martial Law In Galena (Click to Enlarge)Joplin Globe (June 29, 1935)

A mob of angry unemployed miners blocked Route 66 and sprayed bullets and rocks onto any passing vehicles who failed to follow their commands. They were particularly interested in any vehicles that were transporting the scabs belonging to the Blue Card Union. Police officers were forced to detour the Route 66 traffic and then Governor Alf Landon, declared martial law in Galena, and dispatched National Guard troops to quell the violence.

This Library of Congress 1935 photo shows some of those unemployed Galena miners.

Though mining continued in the area until the 1970s, it was never the same. The mines were eventually exhausted and the population dwindled to less than a tenth of its former glory. Nearly 2.9 million tons of zinc and 700,000 tons of lead had been produced.


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Population: 3,054

welcome to kansas

Many of the buildings in Galena helped movie developers create the town of Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.

Southeast Kansas also gave these same developers the idea of the Ghost Lights that were mentioned in the movie.

The legend of the ghost lights goes back to the 1880's.

Locals say the spirits of two lovers who committed suicide on the road continue to look for each other today.

Others say it's a headless miner searching for his head.

The light is usually seen at night, especially from 10pm into the early hours of the morning. People who have had close encounters with the light describe it as being anywhere between the size of a baseball and a basketball or larger.

source: Spooklight Booklet

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Route 66

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Day 10: Joplin to Galena, Kansas

With a short little jaunt of a little more than 7 miles, the trip down Route 66 heads into Kansas. Route 66 cuts across the southeast tip of Kansas for about 13 miles.

While small in size compared to Joplin, Galena has a very rich history. It is also the home of the 1951 International boom truck used as the prototype for "Tow Mater" in the movie Cars. The vehicle still sits on the corner of the  4 Women on the Route gas station where producer John Lasseter first saw it.

The story has it that Lasseter got the idea for Cars after he took a cross-country road trip with his family. When he returned home, he called Michael Wallis, a Route 66 historian. Wallis then led 11 Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on two different road trips across the route to research the film.

Since that time the gas station has been refurbished and restored to return to how it looked back in the days of Route 66. While it doesn't serve gas anymore, the station serves a variety of sandwiches and other menu items.

Even the bathroom of the garage has been restored. This restoration process also includes original bathroom fixtures as well as other amenities.

oct_11_31_Miami_NewsGalena is lead country. Galena was formed in 1877 by a rough group of characters after settlers discovered vast quantities near the surface. Indians long aware of this ore had used the high quality led by melting it at campfires into bullets. Those bullets eventually found their way into many attacks as Kansas was settled. This abundance of led provided as a huge attraction for miners from throughout the country.

Just across the road from the gas station (now a restaurant) where Maynard sits the Staffleback home used to entertain miners. Mining isDaily Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah a tough industry and so miners found the home a great place to clean up and have a rest. Legend has it that the owner of this home would often have her boys hide in the closets of rooms. The two boys would then mug their sleeping victims stealing their gold before throwing the unconscious miners out of the house. That gold has never been found.

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Old Nancy's Brood, Middleton Daily, NY 9/23/1897

The family was tried and convicted of the murder. Two of the boys were given life sentences.The mother was given 31 years as an accomplish. Brother Ed went insane before the trial was over from the fear of the constant threat of a public lynching. Murderers Reproached Salt Lake City Tribune October 1897

The road that passes by the Staffleback home and the 4 Women on the Route gas station is known as " Red Hot Street." It connects Empire City to Galena and was the seen of a lot of bloodshed as the competition between these two mining communities turned violent.


If that isn't enough history for this small corner, there's a third story. This one revolves around the old garage that sits directly across from Maynard. Valentines Day, 1934, Joplin GlobeThat garage had been used, as locals tell it, by Bonnie and Clyde to hide out during their crime spree from throughout the Midwest.

This wall of that garage also appears in the movie "Cars."

This corner of Galena sits on the north edge of town. As you pass through downtown Galena you will see a lot of other historical buildings--most appearing abandoned. Part of this reason is that the new interstate bypassed Galena to the south.. Galena's population has shrunk since that time from a town the size of 30,000 down to just over 3,000 people today.

Mining activity can still be seen along Route 66 just outside of Galena.


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