There is a bologna and cheese sandwich on the menu for a dollar, a throwback item that is popular with visitors.
Williamsburg is a small spot with some significantly big history. Located close to I-70 it is 15 miles east of Kingdom City. Not requiring a whole day to explore, it’s a perfect quick stop when trekking to Hermann, just another 30 miles down the interstate. The highlight of Williamsburg is Crane’s Country Store, Cafe, and Museum. Crane’s has been in business since 1926 in its present location on old U.S. Highway 40, also known as the Boone’s Lick Trail. Entering the Cafe/Museum, guests are greeted by red and white checked tablecloths and a vintage food counter. There is a bologna and cheese sandwich on the menu for a dollar, a throwback item that is popular with visitors. Walking through the cafe will take you into the museum, which is an unending collection of memorabilia and relics of every kind imaginable. Items dating back to the business’s original date of 1889, on to vintage eras of the fifties and sixties featured. Several room displays are arranged according to theme, lending to the museum feel, such as the 1920s kitchen, complete with a Hoosier Cabinet. The Victorian bedroom shows an antique linen clad bed, with a white lace nightgown modeled next to it on a mannequin. There is also a complete barber shop room, as well as a post office. Original documents relating to the area’s historical importance are framed behind glass.
Crane’s Store and Museum sits on an important piece of history for Callaway County. Old U.S. Highway 40 is part of the Boone’s Lick Trail. Known as the Gateway to the Boone’s Lick region, the trail was pioneered by Daniel Boone’s sons.
Callaway is a big county, stretching from rolling mixed prairie in the north into wooded hills and the top of the Ozark plateau in the south, abruptly cut by the Missouri River and its valley. The Boone's Lick Road or Boonslick Trail was an early 1800s transportation route from eastern to central Missouri. Running east-west on the North side and roughly parallel to the Missouri River the trail began in the river port of St. Charles. The trail played a major role in the westward expansion of the United States and the development of Missouri's statehood. A large area in central Missouri became known as the Boonslick, or "Boonslick country." It was the core of a larger area eventually known as Little Dixie, because it was settled primarily by migrants from the Upper South, who developed hemp and tobacco plantations dependent on enslaved African-American workers.
Parts of the trail eventually were improved or developed as paved roads. Its route is the forerunner to today's U.S. Highway 40 and Interstate 70. Towns founded along the trail include Franklin, Columbia, Fulton, Williamsburg, and Warrenton among others.
Intersecting the Boone’s Lick Trail at the four way stop in Williamsburg is the Gray Ghost Trail. Although local legend says the trail was named as such due to locals spotting civil war soldier ghosts along the road, the name has a correct past that lends to the name. Gray Ghosts trail is so named due to connections with Confederate Guerrilla warfare.
One of the most famous fighters was William T. Anderson (1840 – October 26, 1864), known by the nickname "Bloody Bill" Anderson. He was one of the deadliest and most notorious pro-Confederate guerrilla leaders in the American Civil War. Anderson led a band of volunteer partisan rangers that targeted Union loyalists and federal soldiers in the states of Missouri and Kansas.
Bloody Bill once led a raid on nearby Centralia.
It was known as the Centralia Massacre, Anderson's bushwhackers executed 24 unarmed Union soldiers on the train and set an ambush later that day that killed more than 100 Union militiamen.
Joe Crane, and his wife Marlene own Crane’s Country Store, Cafe, and Museum. Favoring billed hats and red suspenders, Joe is the unelected mayor of Williamsburg.
You can sometimes find his at the store or museum. If you’re lucky he will tell you, as he has been known to share with visitors, of how Captain “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s heavily armed Rebel guerrillas, “mounted on thoroughbreds,” used Williamsburg to stage the 1864 nighttime raid on the Union town of Danville just east, reducing it to cinders.
Bushwhackers abounded, loyalties divided, as in many other small towns throughout Missouri and Kansas during this era. Standing on the Gray Ghost Trail, one tries to still see or hear legends and spirits of a bygone time.