Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Turnback Creek

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.

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Blogger Suzanne Arruda said...

I've driven past that creek many times and wondered if someone got fed up and went home. Thanks for clearing that up, Larry. Suzanne Arruda

October 15, 2008 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Reading through your old posts; this one caught my eye because I have crossed this creek many times on Highway 96. Thanks for the information.

Do you have sources you can share?

December 31, 2012 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

One of the main sources for the Turnback story is the History of Lawrence County, published in the late 1800s. Offhand, I don't recall my other sources, but that would be a good place to start if you wanted to read more about Turnback. I also had an article in the December 2001 issue of The Ozarks Mountaineer about this.

January 1, 2013 at 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this information. My grandfather and gr. GF were from Turnback. Carol Bridge

June 8, 2014 at 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Tom O'Neal said...

The story I heard from my grandmother, Vergie Robertson O'Neal, was that some of our ancestors ( the Jackson branch) were part of a wagon train going from Tennessee to Kansas. The train reached what was later named Turnback Creek in the late fall. The creek eas very high due to heavy rains and a crossing could not be found. The party "turned back" and settled in the Republic area. I understood this occurred around 1840. It could have been 1831, or there could have been more than one group that "turned back".

June 11, 2015 at 7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom O'Neal, yessir, thats the story I was told. My Grandfather had a farm that bordered the creek. Sawm in it many times, hunted its bottoms in the 60s and 70s...Hoss Dugger

September 9, 2015 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Shelly Grissom said...

i was told that the mosie vandergrift was on the wagons that came throw there and it was named turnback creek becouse people turned back couse of floods and some stayed a road ot the flooding then settled and there are still mane vandergrifts living in that area.

April 4, 2016 at 3:46 PM  

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