Rock Bridge Memorial State Park celebrates 50 years

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COLUMBIA - 2017 marks the 50th anniversary for Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.

The park once stood as a town in the 1800s when Missouri was first founded.

According to Park Naturalist Roxie Campbell, Nathan Glasgow purchased the land in 1825 for a whopping $1.25 per acre. He used the land for farming and ran a mill.

The area later transformed into the town known as Rock Bridge Mills.

In 1844, a whiskey distillery started consistently brewing so that by 1850, it was producing 17 percent of the state's whiskey. 

The mill started to decline in 1866, and people slowly began to disapprove of alcohol distribution.

"Even years before prohibition, which didn't occur until 1920, there were things like the local option law, which was passed in 1907, and that essentially shut down the whiskey distillery," Campbell said.

The town relocated to Pierpont while the land was purchased by Jess Calkins in 1922 in an attempt to create an amusement park.

"He was sort of ahead of his time there. He had a little carousel and rides and cotton candy" Campbell said.

Calkins' daughter inherited the land after his passing. She and her husband owned the land for 45 years, and her husband wanted the land to become a park.

"[He] allowed people to just drop in and visit any day of the week. It was essentially a public park, even though it was his private land," Campbell said.

The park became a memorial after a local nine-year-old girl died. 

The state purchased the land as an official state park in 1967.

"The original 13 acres contained this land that has the rock bridge and Devil's Icebox and much of the Gans Creek Wild Area," Campbell said.

Today, the park has 2,273 acres of land. 

In honor of the 50th anniversary, the park is hosting events throughout the year.

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