Bootlegging at Bird’s Nest Resort
Besides its reputation as a popular Missouri fishing lodge, one lesser-known fact about Meramec River Resort, formerly known as the Bird’s Nest Lodge, is that it was once a favorite bootleggers’ hub during Prohibition. According to local legend, a secret tunnel was built beneath the lodge to transport illegal alcohol from the river to the lodge’s hidden storage room. While the tunnel may have long since been sealed (or has it?), Bird’s Nest Lodge’s connection to this exciting chapter of Missouri history lives on.
Prohibition in Missouri isn’t the only infamous event tied to Bird’s Nest Lodge, known today as Meramec River Resort. In September 1886, a Frisco railroad crew spotted a body lying across the tracks ahead, as the train sped through Crawford County. The locomotive could not stop before striking the corpse.
The Logan Family Slaughter
Shortly after, a Logan family neighbor looked out their window where a glow on the horizon caught their eye. Upon further investigation, they discovered the Logan family home overtaken by massive flames. Anna Logan’s collapsed body crossed the front door threshold, but unfortunately, the intense heat prevented anyone from approaching to remove her charred remains. Only when the home was reduced to smoldering embers could area residents edge closer. “The only traces of the family were a few piles of white ashes and small fragments of charred human bones,” stated the Crawford County Mirror. Within hours, it would be determined that the corpse on the train tracks and the Logan family cinders were connected.
Once the mangled body on the train tracks was identified as that of Malcolm Logan, law enforcement knew the entire Logan family died from a homicidal slaying. The young man was purportedly killed by a fatal blow to the back of the head from a hatchet strike.
After numerous interviews pointed to a most likely suspect, the Crawford County Sheriff’s department began their manhunt for 26-year-old Patrick Wallace. Wallace’s parents lived near the Logan’s and he was considered an intimate friend of their family. The day after the heinous murders, a sharp-eyed St. Louis police officer patrolling the Veiled Prophet parade, sighted Wallace in the metropolis. Upon notification, Sheriff J.D. Taylor hopped a train and headed to the big city.
Back home, word quickly spread that Patrick’s alibi did not match facts and eyewitness accounts. So, when Sheriff Taylor arrived at the Cuba, Missouri train station with the accused, hundreds of Crawford County residents were waiting. The livid mob was ready to mete out immediate punishment in the form of a quick hanging. Sheriff Taylor proved wily, however, and safely snuck his prisoner to the local jail in Steelville, unscathed.
The Logan family massacre made headlines across the United States, and throngs of people turned up in the area, fueling local storytellers to share their opinions. Some alleged that Mr. Logan had sold his land for $1,200, which was now missing, and that the out-of-work, money-hungry Patrick Wallace had killed the family for the sale sum. Some reports differed a bit, saying the Logan family didn’t own the land they lived on, but instead leased it. However, these folks believed Wallace asked the Logan’s to borrow money, and when they refused, the “hot-tempered” young man who had left his own home earlier in the day “in a fit of rage,” snapped.
Once incarcerated, the accused perpetrator did not help himself. He changed his account, this time pointing the finger at a local African-American named, Sam Vaughn. But after arresting Vaughn and searching his home, no evidence was found. So, Sheriff Taylor dropped all charges and released Vaughn. Patrick Wallace’s shifting stories further raised suspicion.
Nine days after the Logan family slaughter, an angry, local mob once again formed. This time, they successfully breached the jail and carried the terrified Patrick Wallace to a locust tree in front of the courthouse. Wallace’s voice trembled as he begged for mercy–to no avail. But though he was strung up and let back down in an attempt to coerce a confession, gasping for breath, Wallace still did not admit guilt. After repeated pleas from both the sheriff and Judge A.J. Seay, the crowd finally relented and agreed to allow a fair trial. The accused murderer’s reprieve didn’t last long.
On October 5, 1886, Patrick Wallace was formally indicted. That same night, a group of men again congregated outside the Crawford County jail with vigilante justice on their minds. They vandalized the jail with sledgehammers and overwhelmed the sheriff and his deputies. Wallace’s arms and legs were pinned in place and he was taken to the Bird’s Nest Bridge across the Meramec River. The lynching leader was reported as saying, “The party of men who made an attempt like this before and failed are not the ones who are here tonight. We are not numerous but determined, and want to say such crimes as these are not to be defended. We consider a lawyer who will attempt to cheat justice by defending such a black-hearted fiend as this man was, only less guilty than the criminal himself. He might as well commit the crime as share booty for defending it. It must be stopped.”
After the speech, Patrick Wallace’s neck was placed in a pre-crafted noose, and he was immediately hoisted over the side of the bridge where he dangled to his death. Afterwards, Wallace was buried somewhere around Steelville in a cemetery reserved for criminals.
Almost 150 years later, on full moonlit nights, especially in October, wispy shadows float between the towering Oaks, the Meramec River, and the Bird’s Nest Bridge. Some Meramec River Resort visitors may see the ghost of Patrick Wallace in those silhouettes, swaying from the bridge’s metal beams. Ghosthunters and adventurous tourists may rate this high among unique things to do in Missouri.
Missouri Artist, Thomas Hart Benton
Another interesting detail about Bird’s Nest Lodge is its connection to the famous Missouri artist, Thomas Hart Benton (April 15, 1889-January 19, 1975). Born in Neosho, MO, only a 3 ½ hour drive from Meramec River Resort, legend says Benton was a frequent guest at the Bird’s Nest Lodge. Some say many of his paintings and sketches were inspired by the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding Meramec River valley. Thomas Hart Benton, the politician turned artist, loved adventure and was equally comfortable with high-society, as well as midwestern rural community folk. Bird’s Nest Lodge would have made a logical destination, where Benton could mingle with St. Louis or Kansas City aristocracy, in addition to Crawford County locals.
But the history of Bird’s Nest Lodge and Meramec River Resort isn’t just about famous guests and secret tunnels—it’s about the enduring spirit of the people who have called it home over the years. The lodge has survived floods, fires, storms, and changing times, always adapting to meet the needs of its guests while preserving its unique character and charm. Various owners and employees have worked hard so Bird’s Nest Lodge and Meramec River Resort customers could escape the city life to frolic on nature’s playground.
Today, Meramec River Resort continues to offer visitors a chance to escape the stresses of modern life and immerse themselves in the natural beauty and rich history of Missouri. From riverview camping and cabin rentals, to float trips and family reunions, to fishing and birdwatching, to biking and hiking, there’s something special for everyone to enjoy.
So why not come experience the magic of the Meramec River Resort for yourself? Book your stay today and become a part of this storied Missouri tradition.