Larry Hightower

I was born and raised in Lebanon, Missouri. I received a B.A degree from Southwest Baptist College and a M.A. in Education from Southeast Missouri State University. I worked for the State of Missouri for over thirty years in the field of employment and training, retired and spent the last five years of my career administering training programs at the regional level.

My involvement with the Trail of Tears resulted from contact from Mark Spangler, the county historian for Laclede County, Missouri, and a member of the Missouri Chapter of the National Trail of Tears Association. Several years ago, my wife and I purchased the farm in the Ozarks that has been in my family since 1953. Mark advised me that nearly all the land routes of the Trail of Tears detachments went through or beside the farm.

The farm is now only twenty-seven acres, but it includes a large cave that was a U.S. Post Office and general store in a hamlet known as Cave Springs. There is a hill over the cave that slopes down into the valley to the north. Even as a teen I had wondered why the ditches at the bottom of the hill were at ninety degree angles with what would have been the natural path of erosion from runoff.  Mark clarified that the ditches are swales that were caused by the wagon ruts as the main road from Springfield to St. Louis ran through that bottom land.

Although records are scarce, at least one detachment documented buying provisions at Abial Parks general store in Cave Spring. Another detachment stored their treasure wagon in the cave as they passed through.

Through the guidance of Mark and other board members of the Missouri chapter of the National TOTA, I have become active and am currently honored to be the vice-president of the Missouri chapter. I applied to the National Trails Office for recognition of the land as a certified site in September 2022 and am awaiting pending approval.

In addition to my interests in the Trail of Tears (and history in general), I am a senior athlete, participating at state senior games at several National levels in softball and track and field events (shotput, discus, hammer and javelin). . I am also an unpublished author, having completed noir novels, a quirky novel about naïve teens going to Woodstock, and a historical novel set in 1837 and 1838 along Trail of Tears segments in southern Missouri.

June 27, 2024