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 eleven nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Springfield: The Seamy Side of the Queen City, Murder and Mayhem in Missouri, and The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: the Battle of the Hemp Bales.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monegaw Springs

A few months ago, I wrote a brief entry about Eldorado Springs in Cedar County, Missouri, and I noted that it was one of many towns throughout the Ozarks that sprang up during the mineral water craze of the later 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, nearly all towns in the region that have the words "springs" on the end of their name were founded as mineral-water spas or resorts.
One of the earliest such resort towns in the Ozarks was Monegaw Springs, located about nine or ten miles west of Osceola in St. Clair County, Missouri. It was established before the Civil War and, like its neighbor to the east, was burned by Jim Lane and his Kansas jayhawkers during the war. It was rebuilt and began to flourish as a resort after the Civil War. It was during this time that it became a hideout for the infamous Younger gang. The Youngers often frequented one of the town's hotels and an adjacent tavern, and they used a secluded cave on the nearby Osage River as a hideout. A bluff above the river near the cave became known locally as Younger Lookout.
Monegaw Springs, like many of the other spring-water towns, declined dramatically after the mineral-water craze passed, and its fate as a near ghost town was sealed when the building of the Baldwin Lakes cut off easy access to the town. Today, the once-thriving little resort town is located in an out-of-the-way spot that few people visit.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gadfly

I've mentioned in previous posts my fascination with small towns that no longer exist or that now exist under a different name. Another such place is the small community of Gadfly, located in Barry County about twelve miles northwest of Cassville or about five miles west of Purdy. Now called Corsicana, the town was founded prior to the Civil War, and it was mentioned several times in military reports filed during the war. The Union army had a detachment stationed there and operated a mill there during part of the war, and it was the site of at least one small skirmish.
In 1874, the town had several businesses and an estimated population of one hundred people. Two years later the name was changed, but the new town of Corsicana never flourished. Located off the beaten path, the village's population was never much more than the 100 people it boasted in 1874, and even that number declined over the years until Corsicana today is little more than a wide place in the road.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fantastic Caverns

A few years ago, I wrote an article about the history of Fantastic Caverns that was published in the Ozarks Mountaineer. Probably the thing that stands out most in my mind from the research I did for the article concerns the popular story about the twelve adventurous women from Springfield who comprised the first explorers of the cave. The reason I particularly remember this aspect of the story is because I learned from my research that it's not true. After John Knox discovered the cave on his land northwest of Springfield, he announced his discovery and opened it up for public exploration in early 1867. The first group to explore the cavern went out from Springfield on February 14 and contained no women. The group that included the twelve women from the Springfield Women's Athletic Club did not explore the cave until February 27, almost two weeks later. Contemporaneous newspaper reports in the Springfield Tri-Weekly Patriot make these facts clear, but the idea of twelve adventurous women composing the first exploratory party makes a good story. So, it has been handed down as part of the popular mythology of Fantastic Caverns and is still perpetuated today, I believe, in some of the tourist attraction's own brochures. Why quibble over two weeks? I suppose.

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