Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Our visit to Red Oak, a step back in time

Earlier this month we visited family in southern Missouri. One day we were wondering what to do, when we saw a small article about Red Oak II. It sounded really interesting as a place we might like to visit. Seeing that it was not that far away, and open until 9 p.m., we decided to go check it out. 

We pull up to this tiny community in the middle of the country near Carthage, Missouri. It was very warm the week we were visiting, so there were not many people there.  We parked our car, and it immediately felt like we went back in time.  

After our visit, I did some more research about Red Oaks and what we saw. Now that I know the full story, I definitely want to go back, and see some more.   There was just so much to see. 

The artist Lowell Davis was born nearby in the original Red Oak, Missouri, near Rte 66 in 1937.  He was famous for his paintings, sculptures and metal work.   After high school he joined the military and left Missouri for awhile, but never forgot his fond memories of his childhood and tiny home town.  After being medically discharged after a plane accident, he decided to go home to Missouri.  Since there was not much left of the original Red Oak, he had an idea to start a new community called Red Oak II with rescued abandoned buildings that he relocated to Carthage, Missouri. One of the first buildings in the new location was the General Store.  He grew up living in the back of the store.  

This was the sign to the Red Oak Cafe. It was no longer open. I found doing my research that it was once a very popular eatery. I can understand why, it was such a cute, quaint building. 

This sculpture was one of the first things we saw when we got out of the car.  It is just one of the many pieces of artwork Lowell has in the community. 

There are about a dozen families living in Red Oak II in historically homes, and surrounded by artwork. We were allowed to wander freely around the grounds, and most of the buildings.  The homes where people lived there are signs posted that it is a private residence. 

Yes, that really is a old time plane just sitting in the driveway.  My boyfriend worked on planes in the Air Force, so he was quite interested in this. We were allowed to go up to it to get a closer look.  

Do you see the chicken in the road? It is actually a funny story.  This hen and her sister escaped their enclosure from across the street, and decided to go visit the Marshall's Office.  The woman who owned them drove up just as they came up to greet us. She is one of the permanent residents in the community. She shared a lot of fun facts about the history of the area, and told us she found her home on sale on the internet a few years ago. We were very glad we ran into her.  She told us that her hens were probably excited to see us, because they love people and were probably hoping for a treat. 

There is fascinating thing I found out after we visited.  One of the homes in the community is called the Belle Star House, because she once lived in the home.  You might not have heard of Belle Star, but her story is very interesting. She was born Myra Belle Shirley.  She had a well to do upbringing, and spent some of her years as a teacher.  When the Kansas - Missouri border war broke out everything changed.  Her brother was killed in that war. She became involved with an outlaw, was friendly with Jessie and Frank James (yes, that Jesse James) and started a life of crime. She went on to become known as one of the most famous woman outlaws of that time, with a string of husbands, lovers and crimes.  Her story would make for a great movie, if there isn't one already.  

This building was called the Iron Pony.  I'm not sure what this building was for, but we liked the sculptures around it. 

I believe this house was called the Mother In Law's house. We were allowed to go in it, but it was so hot that evening, that it was just too warm inside to look around. It reminded me of the Old Lady in a Shoe house from poem. 

There is a small church in the community.  Lowell brought it there, so he would have a place close by to attend church.  Lowell Davis died in November of 2020. There was a little graveyard close the house of the women we met. She told me that the grave stones in the cematary did not actually have graves. There was only person buried there, and it was Lowell Davis himself. This cat had been following us for a bit, and decided to rest on his gravesite. 

This barn and my favorite type of farm truck was across the street.  It looked so beautiful and peaceful, I just had to take a pic.  

If you ae ever in southern Missouri near Joplin, you will definitely want to stop by and check out Red Oaks II. 


  1. What an interesting place to visit! I have read about Belle Starr before, too.


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