US 66 crosses the Kansas - Missouri line 6 miles west of Joplin, Missouri and enter an area of Kansas known for lead and zinc mining. US 66 enters and exits before you realize you've been there. The "Mother Road" runs a mere 13 miles across the SE corner of Kansas and Baxter Springs was the only Kansas town along the route. So "Get Your Kicks on a Little Bit of Route 66 "
The Kansas portion of Historic Route 66 is only 13.2 miles, but it's packed with nostalgia, history, and good eats! The brown Historic Route 66 markers guide you from Missouri to Oklahoma through the Ozark Plateau region of Kansas.
You will see lot os chert, or "chat," as it is more commonly known, is used in this region as railroad ballast, for road surfacing, and in concrete aggregate.
The Galena Smelter, a great gray hulk surrounded by a maze of chat-covered roads and railroad tracks, is said to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. 200 tons of lead ore concentrates have been smelted daily into 150 tons of pig lead blocks to be shipped to the manufacturers, such as car battery makers.
Baxter Springs has grown into a nice community of homes beautified by interior decorators and more attractively landscaped lawns and gardens than most small Kansas towns. The town was named for A. Baxter, its first settler, who arrived in 1850 and built a shack and a sawmill beside the springs near the present town's northern limits. As stories of the water's curative properties spread, Baxter built a tavern to accomodate visitors and soon a few stores and a bank were added to the settlement.
In the 1860's Texas cattlemen drove thousands of longhorns to the fine pasture land around Baxter Springs. Especially large drives in 1867 and 1868 boomed the town. When the railroad was built in 1870 Baxter Springs became a wide-open cow town and shipping point so crowded with be-pistoled cowboys and cattlemen that it was called "the toughest town on earth."
By 1888 the railhead had advanced westward and Baxter Springs, having lost the cattle trade, concentrated on the expansion of her industrial, agricultural, and resort possibilities.