Plank Road Replica
Article originally published In The Columbia Evening Missourian, September 2, 1920
River Freight Hauled Over Old Plank Road
The plank road which was built from Columbia to Providence about 1853 was the first of its kind in the state with the possible exception of one at St. Charles. People arriving in Columbia from the east and west came on steamboats on the Missouri River to Providence, disembarked there and proceeded on to Columbia by horseback, in a back, wagon, or whatever conveyance they were fortunate enough to get. The road was somewhat boggy and at times almost impassable, so it was covered with planks. The roadbed was first graded up, the the planks were laid on it and their ends covered with dirt and gravel.
Providence was Columbia's point on the river for both passenger and freight traffic. John Parker and Son were the biggest business men in Providence. They built there what was considered a very excellent hotel for those days throughout this part of the state. Parker and Son had a store on property at Providence now owned by Judge James Gillespy.
It was often necessary for the traveler from Columbia to spend as much as three days at Providence waiting for a boat. The boats had no set schedule for traveling. They were supposed to come about every three days, but it often happened that one would get stuck on a sandbar and be there for a couple of days. Sometimes the boat following would pass it up and arrive at providence first. If all connections were good however, one could make the trip to St. Louis in about thirty six hour. A hack for passengers and light freight always went from Columbia to Providence over the plank road in the morning and back in the afternoon. The heavier freight was hauled in wagons.
The first metal bank vault ever brought to Boone County was shipped from St. Louis to Providence by Col. R. B. Price of Columbia in 1857. It was hauled to Columbia over the plank road. Six horses were required to pull it.
The road was used the year around except for the time in the winter when the river was frozen over. During this time the traffic from St. Louis was carried on over land.
Traffic over the plank road was always rather unpleasant and rough because the boards soon decayed and warped out of shape in spite of the fact that they were white oak. It was abandoned after a few years and replaced with gravel. It was on a practically the same ground that you ride over today when you travel on the Providence Road.