Trail of Tears

Missouri Humanities Council executive director Steve Belko (under seal of the city) discusses plans to develop the Hidden Waters Nature Park as an interpretive stop that tourists tracking the Trail of Tears through Missouri will be able to visit.

State officials from the Missouri Humanities Council visited representatives of Hidden Waters Nature Park and the City of Marshfield Thursday for an update on plans to make Hidden Waters an official interpretive site for the Trail of Tears in Missouri.

In a 10 a.m. meeting at the Marshfield city building, 15 people met for an update on these plans. Steve Belko, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council, led the meeting and confirmed that the Hidden Waters site is a significant part of the plans to interpret the Trail of Tears through Missouri.

Belko said that there will be three types of sites in the interpretive plan for the trail. These include primary sites, like Hidden Waters. "This are places you can go and see and feel and smell, and there are living people there,” he said. “It's a full-fledged interpretive center. Hidden Waters is one of these sites."

There will also be secondary sites, such as river crossings or encampment sites, which will be marked with interpretive information, and tertiary sites — generally speaking, the defined route of the trail in those places not marked with interpretive material.

Belko said that Hidden Waters is one of the more western sites on the route.

Belko reported that he met with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt for about 45 minutes on the topic of the Trail of Tears, and the senator took notes and collected all of the materials Belko provided.

"His family's from here, and he loves history and all of that," Belko said. In fact, Sen. Blunt was a history teacher at Marshfield High School before he got into politics, a participant noted.

Additionally, Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe owns a farm that the Trail of Tears traversed, and Governor Mike Parson, who hails from Bolivar, is also very interested in the project, according to Belko.

Chris Davis, president of Hidden Waters, displayed a draft of signage that she ran past a person who could provide a Native American perspective, and this resulted in some planned changes.

"We're going to put an interpretive sign right at the spring,” she said. “We want to do something now."

Belko approved of the energy, which is good for building momentum.

"That's great," he said. "It sounds like we're working in tandem."

After the meeting, Belko was asked whether Marshfield was a significant part of the Trail of Tears, as has been speculated, and he said that it definitely was. "Maybe Marshfield would never have been here if it wasn't," he said.

Belko said that the Hidden waters site is especially appealing because of its natural features — specifically the springs, still extant, where travelers on the trail got water for themselves and their horses.

"The more diversified the scope, the better for these premier sites," he said. "The natural features are great. The springs, the natural setting, the scenic view give it a multiple dimension."

Added Belko, "It's important to capitalize on what we do have."

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