Bolivar Missouri Depot

Frisco Highline Trail

Railroads were the bloodline of commerce and industry in both cities and towns in the 1800s and 1900s. They were a fast and effective way to haul people, goods, and information from one side of the nation to the other. Depots and stations were needed to allow these engines and train cars to stop and refuel and unload their cargo. The City of Bolivar recognized this and built its depot in the late 1880s. This would lead to a major expansion of people and cargo coming into Bolivar. It would also allow Bolivar to come on the map as a stop for Missouri’s favorite president and now a needed stop for tourists, historians, hikers, and bikers alike. The former railroad line that went through the town of Bolivar was known as part of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. Also known as the Frisco, the rail company exchanged hands many times until it became the Kansas City & Southern (KC&S). Under the KC&S, the line was finished from Kansas City to Osceola by 1889 before it was reorganized as the Kansas City, Osceola, and Southern. Pushing rails to Bolivar by 1898, the rail interchanged there with the Springfield & Northern. Soon after, Frisco acquired the KCO&S on June 1, 1900, and the route became known as its “High Line” since it ran through the upper foothills of the Ozark Mountains. By 1925, the Bolivar stop on the Frisco Line had a Freight House, a Passenger Depot, a flour and feed mill, and an oil company along the railroad’s tracks.

Perhaps the most famous of all events to happen at the depot was the presence of President Harry S. Truman in 1948. The only president to hail from Missouri (so far), he was on a “whistle-stop” tour of the nation as he campaigned for the presidency in a tough election against Governor Thomas Dewey. Nearly all pundits were convinced Truman would lose the election, but Truman took no notice and went on a tour of the country and spoke to thousands of citizens from the back of his presidential train. One such stop was on July 5, 1948, at the Bolivar Depot. According to a passage from John K Hulston’s 1976 book An Ozarks Lawyer's Story, 1946-1976, despite the heat and practically no publicity, because the town had not been certain the President would speak until his agreement early that morning, a crowd began to assemble long before 5:00 P.M., the hour set for the Truman train to arrive from Bolivar for a three hour stop. Per Hulston, “Truman, standing on the rear end of the plush Frisco car, spoke off-the-cuff. He said, ‘I thought everybody in Greene County was [in Bolivar] this morning, but I guess I was mistaken. It's a great pleasure to see all of you and to get to speak to you, which I hadn't expected to do.’ He then talked in a folksy way about what he did at Bolivar and emphasized that Simon Bolivar was regarded as a George Washington in South America. He didn't 'give the 80th Congress hell,’ but he didn't miss any bets either.” President Truman spoke to the crowd for a few minutes and spoke of being awarded the key to the City of Bolivar from then-Mayor Doyle C. McCraw.

After this exciting day occurred, the railroads fell on hard times. It was the largest railroad to end all money-losing passenger operations when it was successful in eliminating the “Southland” in December 1967. The company then went to an all-freight business through the 1970s, changing hands again in 1981 to Burlington Northern. Before this, the Bolivar section of the railroad was abandoned, as the construction of the Truman Dam near Clinton, MO, caused sections of the tracks to flood around Osceola. While the line to Bolivar remained intact, it was abandoned and left to nature for years, with the depot closing in the late 1980s. In the 2000s, the railroad tracks were ripped up, and the line became a 37-mile bicycle and hiking trail. The commitment to not only preserving the history of the rail line as well as the development of something useful for the community makes this location a wonderful stop for some living history in Bolivar!



800 W Jackson St, Bolivar, MO 65613 ~ The Frisco Highline Trail is located on W. Jackson St. and near S. Claud St., Between Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and Bolivar Middle School on W. Jackson St. The Trailhead is part of the Ozark Greenway Trails system connecting Springfield to Bolivar, MO.