Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of 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 fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where Are the Ozarks?

I write principally about the history of the Ozarks, but I know that I often stretch the boundaries of the Ozarks when I write about things like the Dalton gang's fiasco at Coffeyville, Kansas, which is a good fifty or sixty miles beyond the Missouri border. Most attempts to define the boundaries of the Ozarks region have traditionally included a small piece of southeast Kansas but not sixty miles' worth of it. What I probably should say is that I write principally about the history of the Ozarks region and its surroundings.
So, what exactly are the boundaries of the Ozarks? The area's western edge is fairly clear to me, partly I think, because the state borders of Kansas and Oklahoma help define it. Most maps of the Ozarks that I've ever seen show the boundaries extending only a few miles into Kansas and not many more into Oklahoma. But maybe the reason the western edge of the Ozarks is fairly clear to me is merely because I happen to live in the western part of the region.
What about the northern edge of the Ozarks? The Missouri River would seem to form a natural boundary, but I'm not sure the region actually extends that far north, at least not in central and western Missouri. Sedalia, for instance, just doesn't seem much like the Ozarks to me.
I also have trouble defining our region's southern boundary. Where do the Ozarks leave off and the Boston Mountains begin? They seem pretty much the same to me, and maybe they are the same. Are the Boston Mountains simply the southern part of the Ozarks?
As for our region's eastern limit, I've seen some maps that show the Ozarks extending almost to the Mississippi River. Again, that seems a little far afield to me. I think a case can clearly be made that, when you're driving east on I-44, you're still at the edge of the Ozarks when you pass through the hills around Pacific, for instance, but to me, when you get twenty miles farther on and into the suburbs of St. Louis, you're no longer in the Ozarks.
I know that Springfield used to be fond of calling itself the Queen City of the Ozarks, and I've always thought of it more or less as the region's center. But maybe that's just my own bias coming through, since I grew up in the Springfield area. If one were to draw a circle with a hundred mile radius around the city of Springfield, would the outer limits of the circle roughly approximate the boundaries of the Ozarks? I think so, although the real geographical center of the region probably lies a few miles east of Springfield and the radius probably extends a little more than a hundred miles in many places, meaning, of course, that the circle is an uneven one.

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