Rolla in Phelps County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
This Ozark plateau town, 1120 feet above sea level, was a "Child of the railroad." On a natural passageway to southwest Missouri, midway between St. Louis and Springfield, this site was chosen by the Southwestern Branch of the pacific Railway for an office and warehouses, 1855.
Rolla became county seat of Phelps County when E.W. Bishop, one-time associated with the railroad, donated 50 acres of land for this purpose, 1858. Court was held in the railroad office for a time. The county name honors John S. Phelps, Mo. Governor. The town name is probably a phonetic adaptation of Raleigh, N.C., but conjecture also credits other theories. Early settlers found a source of saltpeter for gunpowder in nearby caves.
During the Civil War, Rolla, strategically located at the terminus of a railway, was a great Federal military encampment. After Lyon's defeat and death at Wilson's Creek, 1861, his troops retreated here. Curtis with 12,000 men left here for the decisive Union victory at Pea Ridge, Ark. 1862. The sites of Fort Wyman and Dette, within town limits, recall elaborate Civil War fortifications.
The University of Missouri School of Mines & Metallurgy, early school of mines in U.S., was opened in 1871. The school has a notable mineral museum. Also in Rolla are the State Trachoma Hospital, first such institution in U.S., completed, 1939; Missouri Geological Survey Offices; and Federal Bureau of Mines and U.S. Geological Survey branch offices.
At St. James, 10 miles northeast, are the State Federal Soldiers Home, founded, 1897; and Missouri's Boys Town, youth conservation project, opened, 1949. Near St. James is Rosati (formerly Knobview), an Italian settlement famed for its grape production.
Maramec Iron Works, 7 miles southeast of St. James, is site of first major commercial iron furnaces in Missouri, 1826. Near the iron works is lovely Maramec Spring, which has an average flow of 96 million gallons daily.
Part of Mark Twain National Forest falls in the area which abounds in caves, streams, springs, highland views, and Indian mounds.
In nearby Pulaski Co., 26 miles southwest, if Fort Leonard Wood, U.S. Army training post.
Erected 1953 by State Historical Society of Missouri and State Highway Commission.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Military • Native Americans Settlements & Settlers • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Missouri, The State Historical Society of series list.
Location. 37° 56.633′ N, 91° 47.259′ W. Marker is in Rolla, Missouri, in Phelps County. Marker is at the intersection of Kingshighway and Fairgrounds Road, on the right when traveling west on Kingshighway. Marker is in the southeast corner of Buehler Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rolla MO 65401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Webber Homestead (approx. half a mile away); Missouri Trachoma Hospital (approx. half a mile away); Phelps County Veterans Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away); Veterans Circle (approx. 0.8 miles away); Fort Wyman (approx. 0.8 miles away); Edgar D. Lanning (approx. 0.8 miles away); Phelps County Courthouse (approx. 0.8 miles away); In Honor of Our Sons and Daughters (approx. 0.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rolla.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on May 24, 2012, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. This page has been viewed 703 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on May 24, 2012, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.