Opportunity Awaits on the Tarkio Road

Tarkio College was once the economic and cultural engine driving this Missouri community. Alumni and residents now try to maintain and restore the campus, while searching for a new role for the town’s biggest asset.


[imgcontainer left] [img:bellvert.jpg] [source]Tarkio College Alumni Association

A volunteer repaints the campus bell. Leaders hope restoration and marketing efforts for the campus of the closed college ring in a new era for the facilities.
Free to a good home: one gently used, mostly vacant, 20-building college campus on 65 acres in northwest Missouri. Fixer upper.

That’s one way to sum up present conditions at Tarkio College in Tarkio, Missouri. The liberal arts college established in 1883 by the United Presbyterian Church closed in 1992. From 1995 to 2004, the campus housed a private educational/treatment facility for adjudicated, at-risk youth.

Another way to think about Tarkio is my way, as a child of the 1970s Midwest: with the music of Brewer & Shipley and their 1970 album Tarkio. That’s the album that spawned their number one hit single, “One Toke over the Line.” But it’s the title song, with its lyrics about “trouble” while bicycling the Tarkio Road, that country-rocks through my head whenever I hear the name of the town.

Yet for others, the connection to Tarkio is both personal and pragmatic, tied to the economics and future of one small town, one small county and the former college so many both grieve and celebrate.

Ed Salmond, a local businessman, is one such. He is on the board of the non-profit Heartland Educational Institute, Inc. He was there for the lawsuit against the adjudicated school, which arose to address damages to the facility during that period. Now he wants nothing more than for the school to be in someone else’s hands.

Although mostly long-vacant since its closure more than 20 years ago, Tarkio College is still a lovely and appealing place. A pleasant and snug array of buildings arranged in a neighborhood of stately homes, which, if you don’t look too closely, all seem ready to inhabit tomorrow. The property description details the school’s attributes: “Some of the building uses include a library, dormitories, administrative offices, lecture halls, classrooms and a chapel. There are 64 beds in several dormitories. Room sizes include singles, doubles, triples and apartment-style rooms. The property is served by municipal water and sewer as well as natural gas, electric, telephone and fiber optic lines. An extensive maintenance program has kept the facilities in good condition.”