(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

The fate of historic Devil’s Elbow on Route 66

While on our honeymoon (nearly two years ago now), Sweetums and I were fascinated by a place called Devil’s Elbow, Missouri. We were drawn to the odd name, of course, so we went a little off the beaten path to see what it was all about.

Devil’s Elbow is a community situated on the 1926 alignment of Route 66 in Pulaski County. It was settled in 1870 as a camp for lumberjacks who worked in the area. The logs they cut were sent down the Big Piney River that flows through the town.

According to theroute-66.com, “the sharp-shaped bend jammed the logs leading them to call that point ‘A devil of an elbow,’ the name became ‘Devil’s Elbow.’”

selfie at devils elbow
Sweetums taking a selfie with Devil’s Elbow Post Office.

We drove along what is now called Teardrop Road to find the historic post office we’d read about. On the way, we passed the legendary Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ but didn’t have time to stop. It’s a dive bar built in 1926 that is popular with bikers and tourists alike. The Biergarten out back overlooks the Big Piney and we later saw photos of the interior with lots of bras hanging from the ceiling. Read more about it here.

We continued to the bridge that was built in 1923 and saw the post office. It had all the character we’d hoped for. It was actually just a corner in a store called Shelden’s Market, whose sign announced it sold “tobacco” and “souvenirs.” The interior was like any small rural market and we bought Devil’s Elbow T-shirts and a fridge magnet for our collection.

devils elbow
The bend in the Big Piney River for which the community is named. It was quite dry when we were there in October 2016 but flooded in May 2017, causing extensive damage. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

Next door was a large abandoned building. We had no idea its purpose at the time but when I looked it up, I learned it was once McCoy’s Store and Camp. It had a dance hall on the second floor.

According to the blog PulaskiCountyusa.com, it was built in 1941. Later, when the dance hall became “too rowdy,” the second floor was turned into apartments and the first floor became a store.

historic devils elbow
A historic photo of the original site of Elbow Inn at Devil’s Elbow, Mo. (Source: Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ Facebook page)

This week, while doing some research on the community, I discovered the quaint little spot-in-the-road had been flooded just seven months after we left.  The Big Piney River rose 28 feet!

The store and post office were severely damaged and closed, at least temporarily. The post office had been open for 80 years until then. I also discovered the area had just been placed on the National Register of Historic Places before the flood. We were saddened by the news.

I read a story saying residents are determined to rebuild but found no updates after November 2017. I hope the little community can be restored. It really is a Route 66 landmark.

devils elbow 2
The “elbow” in Big Piney River, Devil’s Elbow, Missouri. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow 3
The sign at Devil’s Elbow community. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow 4
The Devil’s Elbow Post Office was located inside Shelden’s Market in October 2016. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow 6
Devil’s Elbow, Missouri (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow bridge
Bridge at Devil’s Elbow (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow camp store 2
This old building was once McCoy’s Store and Camp, used by area lumberjacks. At one point, it had a dance hall on the second floor. We don’t know if it survived the May 2017 flood. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow camp store 3
The old McCoy’s Store and Camp. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow camp store
The old McCoy’s Store and Camp. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow community
Devil’s Elbow, Missouri (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
devils elbow view
Just west of Devil’s Elbow, an overlook gives a great view of this old railroad bridge. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
elbow inn 2
Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ in Devil’s Elbow, Mo. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
elbow inn
Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ in Devil’s Elbow, Mo. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)
Millers_Market_Pulaski_Cty_Emerg_Mgt-min
This photo taken by Pulaski County Emergency Management shows damage from flooding in May 2017. (Source: Pulaski County Emergency Management Facebook page)
route 66 at devils elbow
Here’s what the 1926 alignment of Route 66 looks like. Now called Teardrop Road, it is no longer a major route. (Photo by Wil Elrick/Permission Required)

 

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