I have a picture of my dad, William C. Weber, and his family when they lived just west and across what is now Interstate 44, near the top of Antire Hill in the late 1800s.
He was married to my mother in 1904, and became the manager of the Rankin Lands, which included running cattle in the hills of what is now "the" park.
Sometime after the Rankins split the farm among those who worked there, part of the land had an elk herd develop. But when the place became an ammunition storage site during WWII, the commanding officer decided the elk were a nuisance, and they were hunted and killed.
Evidently one bull elk calf was overlooked because about 15 years passed and the land went to the St. Louis County Parks. Because of the footprints found, it was named the Lone Elk Park, without anyone having seen him.
So, in 1965, as a state representative, I headed the idea to provide him some company with a new group of elk from Yellowstone. It became a program for the Eureka Lions, a local newspaper, and St. Louis County, in which we provided share certificates for anyone who made a small donation, really involving the school children of the district.
Arrangements were complete, and in December, I, my son, Tom Weber, and Park Superintendent Gene McGillis set off in my farm truck to bring them back. During the promotion period, I made many appearances and one was before the Big Game Hunters held at the Musial and Biggies Restaurant where I was able to present certificates to Stan Musial and Joel Loveridge, president of the Big Game Hunters.
I had made arrangements for us to visit with many Lions Clubs enroute to Yellowstone and the most was in Billings, MT, where we met with then Sheriff Roy Stewart and three Lions Clubs. He was a colorful person, with attractive uniform and two pearl-handled pistols. They sent me a write up of the visit in the Billings Gazette, which I still have.
We made it back and were greeted at the Ellisville school by students and Lions Club members, who were holders of elk certificates, then escorted to the Lone Elk Park for the unloading of the new herd.
When the cows bleated, lo and behold, the lone bull was not lonely anymore and made an appearance! After 45 years, the park has added buffaloes and given visitors a great place to drive to and relax among the offspring of the new herd.
We now have elk in a few counties in South Missouri. After a fuel stop in Kansas City during our way back with the elk, late at night, I saw a bright glow around the truck. When I stopped, I saw I had not released the hand brake and the drum was red hot and right near the gas tank. It was a cold December night, so I decided it would cool more quickly if we were moving and things worked out alright. But at the time I had decided that if it caught fire, I was prepared to release the elk rather that have them burn, so I gave thanks for not being blamed for having an unofficial elk herd in Missouri.
We made the trip in two days each way, with a day for rest. Yellowstone is different in the 40 degrees-below weather and with the hot springs really attractive. We drove to a corral on the Lamar River for the pickup, and saw moose, and many elk on the way in the park.
The truck ran well, but on the first load of the next year, my motor went out, so I guess we were fortunate, the trip was a success.
Even today, people still show me their certificate for elks from 45 years ago.
Enjoy "our" Lone Elk Park.
Editor's Note: For drive-through hours and details of the 546-acre park, view the St. Louis County Parks website. A "Fred Weber" is mentioned in the official Lone Elk Park history; George says they know each other but are not related.