Back in the early 1950’s a small group of likeminded St. Louis couples were looking for an out-of-the-way place to get together and enjoy the feel of the warm sun and fresh air on their skin. They found a 40 acre piece of hilly farmland for sale in Franklin County and on weekends proceeded to carve out campsites and a common area on the flat hill top.
Along about Thursday, the phones would start ringing, friends asking friends the question, “Hey, are you going out to the forty acres this weekend?” On Fridays, long before there were asphalt roads, they loaded up their tents, picnic baskets, saws and shovels and headed out to that 40 acre plot they had purchased from the farmer.
When it came time to finally assign a name to their little camping niche in the woods, the most common reference to that place was… what else….Forty Acres.
It was pretty primitive for a while. Because of the hilly lay of the land, it was conducive for constructing a dam. The natural runoff from rains filled the man made pond for swimming. A concrete retaining wall was built on one side and a small frame with corrugated metal roofing sufficed for the pavilion, providing a bit of protection when gathering there for picnics.
Over the years, little trailers started to replace the tents as well as little cabins. A small building which served as the first clubhouse was built, with a potbelly wood stove, to make late autumn gatherings comfortable. A community kitchen was built as well.
Eventually a well was dug, electric poles were set, and a co-op effort of members dug and constructed a concrete block-sided swimming pool. An asphalt tennis court with lighting was also added.
In early 2000, a contractor was hired to replace the old pool with the one we enjoy now.
Because the size of the membership was increasing, out of necessity, a large pavilion was erected by the pool. In summertime it is the daytime gathering place for lunches and in the evenings an outdoor dance or Karaoke.
In the late 80’s the first part of the clubhouse, with a large stone fireplace, was built by the Members. It would be added onto two more times through the years.
Summer sports were highly competitive; horseshoe tossing and night volleyball on the tennis court always drew a crowd. Through the years, pool, darts, shuffleboard, water volleyball and putt-putt golf also entered the sporting arena.
Labor Day was usually the last big holiday of the season. It became a tradition on that weekend to celebrate with an awards ceremony, giving out trophies to the winning teams and individuals. Now that weekend is also the occasion of the annual fish fry.
In the late 1990’s an adjoining additional wooded 40 acres were purchased. Eventually golf carts started to appear so the foot trails through the woods were widened. In a clearing in the woods, near a small stream, the mud pit was dug. Now an annual poker run is one of the highlighted events.
Over the years concrete has been poured. We now have small patios for our rental cabins. Our large concrete, centrally located fire pit occasionally has become the venue for night time movies under the stars. Although we have come a long way from 1950, we still like to think of ourselves as a rustic getaway and “the best kept secret in Missouri”.