William Buford, namesake of Buford Mountain, was buried in 1842 at its base, forever to be with the mountain he loved. Its southernmost of five knobs reaches to 1,740 feet above sea level.
"Just bury me by Buford Mountain
In Belleview Valley here below.
And when my horse and hounds can join me,
Bed them where they'll hear the streams.
Together we'll roam Buford Mountain
In the Belleview Valley of our dreams."
— The Buford Mountain Song,
James W. Symington, 1964
Early French travelers passed through a valley of fragrant wildflowers and tall grasses. They called this place "Bellevue" (or Belleview), which means "beautiful view." It was a valley "covered with grass ... bending in the breeze like an immense meadow booming into harvest ... surrounded by towering hills which seemed to look down smilinglyupon the [valley] ..."
— William Woods, Patterson, Mo., 1848
The Belleview Valley was previously called "Big Lick," for its many natural salt licks. These licks attracted deer and elk, as well as those who hunted them.
By 1890, visitors to Belleview Valley's Graniteville saw a
booming town of more than 700 people, with a post office, mercantile (store), railroad depot and many homes. A company hotel provided enough "lofty rooms" to accommodate 100 guests.
World-famous Missouri red granite, once used for building, paving and monument stone, has been mined commercially from quarries near Graniteville from 1869 to the present. Today, visitors can see two of these now-abandoned and partially flooded quarries at nearby Elephant Rocks State Park. The popular state park features groups of giant, naturally rounded granite boulders that look like ancient elephant herds, frozen in time.
The Ste. Genevieve, Iron Mountain and Pilot Knob Plank Road
For about five years starting in 1853, iron ores were shipped by horse and wagon along Missouri's longest wooden plank road (now State Road W and Missouri Highway 32) to Ste. Genevieve and the Mississippi River. Turnouts were provided to allow for two-way traffic on the narrow, 8-foot wide road. Travelers were charged seven tolls, which paid for maintenance provided by sawmills along the way.
Iron Mountain, said to be almost pure iron ore, was the scene of important mining operations for 123 years, from 1843 to 1966. After the top of the mountain was removed, the ore was excavated, and later mined from underground. Standing on
what looked like the edge of a crater, visitors saw miners so far away they looked like small boys.
Iron Mountain has been calle "... one of the natural wonders of the world. For two generations, scientific men came to see, marvel and speculate on the origin ... The hotel register read like ... the roll of an academy of science."
— History of Iron Mountain
Named after the Greek region known for its pastoral beauty, the Arcadia Valley has historically been a symbol of rustic simplicity and happiness. While briefly stationed in Ironton in 1861, Ulysses S. Grant wrote a letter to his wife Julia, describing the valley as "one of the most delightful places I have ever been, with beautiful scenery all about, plenty of cool water available, making ice cease to be a luxury, and enough altitude to ensure cool weather."
St. Louis residents often took a break from the bustle of city life by escaping to the quiet Arcadia Valley. By 1880, the railroad even offered the "Arcadia Accommodation," with special rates to the valley.
Although hidden behind Shepherd Mountain from this point, Pilot Knob served as a landmark to guide both American Indians and early European travelers. A modern, 1,360-foot-deep iron mine at the base of the knob was
a major ore producer from 1968 to 1980. In the earlier era, the rich iron ore deposits near its peak made it a location worth guarding during the American Civil War (1861-1865). The Battle of Pilot Knob, fought at Fort Davidson at the foot of the mountain, saw 1,000 soldiers die.
"If one listens close on a quiet night, with a little stretch of the imagination, you may hear the roll of drums, the blare of bugles, and the rattle of musket fire, as the history of the Civil War in Iron County goes marching farther into the past."
— Jack Mayes, Ironton, Mo., 1993
The first iron produced west of the Mississippi River was made from ore mined on Shepherd Mountain in 1815 and smelted at Ashebran's Furnace on Stout's Creek, east of Arcadia. When the Boy Scouts of America established the Taum Sauk Trail in 1958, the mountain served as the start of the trail.
"Shepherd Mountain stretches its huge proportions along the edge of the [Arcadia] Valley, looking like some great saurian [lizard] that [ancient] subsiding waters ... had stranded there - its head reaching far to the west, its body protecting the village of Ironton from the bleak north wind, its tail stretching across the foot of Pilot Knob."
— A Summer in the Arcadia Valley, Supplement to Iron County Register, June