I travel I-44 between Springfield and Joplin fairly often, and I always used to wonder, when I would see the "Turnback Creek" sign near Halltown, about the curiously named stream that meanders beneath the highway bridge there. I imagined that perhaps the creek got its name because of the many "turnbacks" of its circuitous route. Come to find out, the course that the stream follows has nothing to do with how it got its name. In the fall of 1831, so the story goes, a group of settlers from Tennessee, led by John Williams, went out from Springfield in search of new land and camped on the creek. While there, some in the group decided to turn back, presumably because of threatening weather or illness, and spend the winter in Springfield. Williams, though, ventured on and built a home about three miles southeast of present-day Mount Vernon, becoming the first permanent white settler in what became Lawrence County. A hundred years later, in 1931 the event and the location were commemorated with a large celebration, and a small monument was placed at the home site.
Labels: John Williams, Turnback Creek