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Thanks to the Historic Madison County Society a roadside park just north of Mine La Motte on Hwy OO has been revamped and ready for the community to enjoy.

A large stone, which can be seen from the road, reads, "This tablet marks the site of the first lead mine opened in the Mississippi Valley about the year 1700. It is named for Antoine De La Motte Cadillac, Governor of Louisiana 1710-1717."

According to historian Tony Starr, the Three Notch Road Park will reconnect the ancient lead-mining area and historic Fredericktown to St. Mary and Ste. Genevieve and the French Creole corridor of the Mississippi River valley. 

"The state of Missouri has long recognized the Three Notch as the oldest road in the state," Starr said. "The area's mineral resources were used by Native Americans and attracted Europeans to the wilderness west of the great river."

Starr said French colonists in the 1720s were the first to mine the rich galena deposits and smelt the ore into lead, taking it by pack horse and later by ox-cart along this road to the Creole villages on the Mississippi.

"Tamaroa Indians guided Marc-Antoine de la Loere des Ursins in 1719 along an ancient footpath from the salt springs near St. Mary on the Mississippi River, up the Saline Creek valley, across ridges, down Rock Creek valley, and ending at Mine La Motte," Starr said. "They traveled the thirty-three miles over three days."

Starr said, over the years, the road became known as the Three Notch Road because of the three notches cut into trees to mark its route.

"These mines were important strategic assets, literally putting Mine La Motte 'on the map,' the name appearing in early 18th-century maps commissioned by royal courts across Europe," Starr said. "From these hand-worked diggings on the wild frontier, arose the lead industry that Missouri would come to dominate globally."

Historic Madison County Society plans to make the roadside park a trailhead for motorists planning to follow the old lead road and visit historic sites along the route.

Right now the park is perfect for afternoon picnics under the shady tree and provides plenty of parking for visitors.

"Historic Madison County Society owns the park and is working on its development," Starr said. "The group is considering ideas for the park beyond its service as a trailhead and suggestions are welcome."

The improvements are already vast and the once lonely stone along the road is now a welcoming sign at the entrance of the park. 

The stone itself was dedicated in 1933 by the Daughters of the American Colonists. The .36 acres of land was donated by the St. Joseph Lead Company.

Starr said the .36 acres was part of the 24,010 acre Mine La Motte Domain which was granted by the French in 1723. He said the Domain is the oldest continuously-European-titled land in what is now Missouri.

Improvements to the park will continue as the Historic Madison County Society members say they have big plans for the sight and hope one day to have informational signs and possibly a pavilion. 

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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