Ozarks History

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

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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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Oronogo Again

One of my posts a few years ago dealt with the town of Oronogo in Jasper County, Missouri, and quite a bit of that post dealt specifically with how the town got its name. The legend that I repeated is that during the early days it was common for people to barter with merchants for goods. For example, a trapper might offer hides in exchange for groceries. Supposedly when an early-day merchant at Minersville (Oronogo's original name) was offered something like hides, he refused, saying it was "ore or no go," meaning that the only thing he would accept other than cash was lead ore. This story is repeated in the history books of Jasper County, but I've recently learned that the legend is apparently nonsense. Shirley Kennedy, a Jasper County researcher and genealogist, recently ran across an article from February 1902 in the Joplin Daily News Herald that pretty well disproves the legend. The same newspaper had run an article in a Sunday edition about various communities in Jasper County and had included the bartering legend in discussing how Oronogo got its name. Later in the week, two different men wrote letters to the Herald positively denying the validity of the story. Both claimed to have been present at the meeting when the name "Oronogo" was selected, and their stories were not only convincing in their similarity but also were more logical than the legend. In fact, one of the men had been the postmaster at Minersville at the time its name was changed to Oronogo and was, therefore, very much a part of the process of selecting a new name. The change was made about 1871, when the railroad came to the town. At the time, the town was known as Minersville, but the post office was called Center Creek (the name of the stream on which Minersville was located). Although the post office was officially called Center Creek, mail was often addressed to Minersville. Complicating the mess was the fact that another Minersville already existed elsewhere in Missouri and mail meant for the Jasper County town would often get sent to the other place by mistake. There was a perceived need for the town and post office to go by the same name, but for some reason Center Creek was not considered a good option. So, a meeting was held to rename both the post office and the town. During the meeting several options were discussed, and somebody commented that the name needed to have a reference to the fact that the town was a mining town--that it was "ore or no go." Another person immediately suggested that they adopt that name--"Ore or no go"--but spell it Oronogo, and the name was quickly agreed on. Thanks to Shirley for uncovering this information and for allowing me to repeat it here.

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