A drive to Oklahoma in 1927, without a single tire puncture
The McClelland-Gentry Motor Co., Oklahoma City, Okla., offered this Chrysler touring car for sale via an advertisement in the Jan. 4, 1925 edition of The Oklahoman. The motor company was a partnership between John L. McClelland, and French J. Gentry, formerly of Ralls County, Mo. This style of car, known as a touring car, would likely be similar to the Dodge that Charles M. Gentry (brother of French Gentry) drove from Hannibal to Enid, Okla., on June 11 and 12, 1927. newspapers.com
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Early on Saturday morning, June 11, 1927, a car packed with Northeast Missouri natives and their travel gear, left Hannibal, Mo., en route to Enid, Okla. C.W. Barrett, 78, publisher of The Canton News, along with his wife, rode along on the overland trip, following an invitation by C.M. Gentry, who in 1919 had moved from his family’s farm in the Ocean Wave area of Ralls County, to Enid, OK. The wives of Barrett and Gentry (Minnie Lee Glascock Barrett and Lottie C. Glascock Gentry) were sisters.
Also along for the estimated 650-mile journey were Gentry’s daughter, Maurine, and his daughter-in-law, Louise Gentry.
Barrett, as any newspaper man would, chronicled the trip, his story published in The Canton Press on June 24, 1927. The story, combined with information available on the road conditions via digital newspaper stories from that era, paint a vivid portrait of the trip, which encompassed two full days of almost continuous travel.
Charles Malcolm Gentry, son of Joseph (1841-1901) and Sallie Glascock Gentry (1838-1924), moved to Oklahoma in 1919 at the encouragement of his older brother, French J. Gentry, who had business interests in Enid and nearby Pond Creek, including lumber, retail gasoline and auto sales.
Traveling in C.M. Gentry’s Dodge automobile, the group left Hannibal on U.S. 36/Route 24, heading to the intersection of Route 15, at Shelbina.
As of Jan. 1, 1928, most of this initial two-lane route had been paved with concrete.
The passenger-laden Dodge then turned south on Route 15, traveling on to Mexico, Mo., along a gravel road to the Audrain County line. There, the highway transitioned to an earth road, graded by the state but not considered to be all weather.
Route 54 picked up south of Mexico, where the roadway improved to all-weather status, then it was gravel or stone on into Jefferson City. There, the group was able to get a quick bite to eat and to view the Missouri State Capitol building (completed 10 years prior), before hitting the road again, this time proceeding mostly on gravel road into the Ozarks’ region.
“Through the Ozarks south of Jefferson City we went over winding and hilly roads. With so little cultivated land that we wondered how the inhabitants earned their daily bread,” Mr. Barrett wrote.
They crossed the Osage River by ferry in Miller County. At Linn Creek, the travelers picked up Route 5, which took them into Lebanon. There, they joined U.S. Route 66, which was paved with concrete from the Webster County line into Springfield, Mo.
At Springfield, it was time for respite. They checked into the steel-framed, six story Colonial hotel, located at the intersection of St. Louis and Jefferson streets, along U.S. Route 66.
Early the next morning, they were off again. Following Route 66, which was later dubbed the Mother Road by John Steinbeck in his novel “Grapes of Wrath,” they traveled through Carthage and Joplin, and crossed the state line of Kansas, into Galena and Baxter Springs.
Continuing along Route 66, they turned south into Oklahoma, motoring through Vinita, (the second oldest town in Oklahoma, established in 1871, when the railroad came through) and Claremore (the hometown of humorist Will Rogers.) All along this route, (as of 1925) the highway was earth, graded.
Finally, as the route neared Tulsa, the highway was paved. To the west of Tulsa, however, the road once again was dirt. Next on the route were Cushing, Stillwater and Perry. Finally, the party reached Enid shortly before 9 p.m.
Barrett made notations of sights he saw along the way.
“North of the Missouri (River) the best corn was only about six inches high,” Barrett wrote, (as of June 10, 1927) “and not until we reached Oklahoma was it observed to be waist high or up to the top of the fences.
“Large piles of slack in the lead regions showed that new mines are still being developed, and in the oil regions the hundreds of derricks show that the people of this country are able to raise profitable crops below as well as on top of the ground, and we are not surprised that thousands of Missourians have left the ‘Show me’ state to seek their fortunes in these two states where money and automobiles are more plentiful.
“In our travels we made the entire distance of nearly 650 miles at an average of about 35 miles an hour. Most of he way was gravel and paved roads and in going through the various cities, towns and villages we traveled so fast, we could only glance at the houses, such less study the surroundings.
“We think N.E. Missouri is well supplied with autos, but down this way they are so numerous that parking places are hard to find and the speed limit has just been raised from 35 to 45 miles per hour.
“When we get our visit out we will nearly have had our surfeit of auto riding. Fortunate for us, we made the entire trip in good weather without even a puncture and only two short detours. After resting awhile here we expect to go to Pond Creek, where O.C. Glascock, who married Mary Jump, is manager of the Gentry Lumber Co. C.W.B.”
C.W. Barrett died the following year, on June 6, 1928.
Road conditions were compiled from:
* Oklahoma State Highway System map, 1925, https://www.odot.org/maps/state/pdfs/map_state_1925.pdf
* Missouri State Road System, Jan. 1, 1928, Missouri State Highway Commission. Author’s collection.
Note: Route 66 would not be “continuously paved” from Chicago to Los Angeles until 1938: National Historic Route 66 Federation.
Note: President Truman stayed at Springfield’s Colonial Hotel in 1952; Elvis Presley spent the night there in the 1950s, and President John F. Kennedy lodged at the hotel during a campaign stop. Source: Historical Postcards of Springfield.
Note: Bagnell Dam, which forever changed the topography of the Ozarks, didn’t exist when the Gentry and Barrett families made this trip. Construction on Bagnall Dam started in 1929 and was completed in 1931. Wikipedia
This photo, published by the Springfield News-Leader on Nov. 28, 1997, shows the Colonial Hotel in 1925. On June 11, 1927, Ralls County, Mo., native, Charles Malcolm Gentry, and his brother in law, C.W. Barrett of Canton, Mo., stayed, with their respective families, at this hotel during a road trip from Hannibal to Enid, OK. The building was torn down beginning on Nov. 29, 1997. newspapers.com
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com