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Founding of Springfield

Search for runaway boy 100 years ago caused founding of Springfield, new historical sketch of C. of C. Reveals

Springfield News-Leader August 16, 1931, page A12

"A boy who ran away from home just a little more than 100 years ago was the direct cause of Springfield's earliest pioneers visiting the Ozarks on a trip which sold them this district as a desirable place in which to live, it is revealed in a historical sketch made public yesterday by W. C. Smith, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

"The sketch was prepared for publication in the front part of the new city directory to be distributed here this fall. Along with the historical information is presented an interesting collection of facts and figures concerning the Springfield of today and its prospects for a brilliant future.

"'For many centuries before any white man saw it,' the article on the city's history sets fore, 'the site which is now the City of Springfield was known by the Indians of all North America as a land of beautiful forests filled with wild animal life and streams abundant with fish.

"'In the early fall of 1829 John Polk Campbell and his brother, Madison, left their home in Tennessee in search of the runaway son of one of their neighbors and also to verify reports they had heard of the wonderful land in the Ozarks.

"'Little did they dream that this trip would develop into the present day Springfield. The boy was found near what now is Fayetteville, Ark. Lured by reports of the great beauty and fertility of the Kickapoo prairie and the land further north, they started for the heart of the Ozarks.

"'Led by a faithful Delaware Indian whose life he had saved, Campbell arrived at the famous Indian camping ground which so impressed him that he blazed some trees and decided to return to Tennessee and bring his family to settle here. On his return to Tennessee he stopped at the cabin of William Fulbright to whom he related a vivid description of the region that he had just left.

"'When Campbell returned with his family, he found that Fulbright and his son-in-law, A. J. Burnett, had preceded him and had settled there to live. Campbell's previous claims were respected, however, and Burnett at once relinquished his cabin and moved several miles to the east.

"These two families guided the destiny of a rapidly growing colony, it is explained, Campbell, with education and business acumen laying the foundations for culture and business development and Fulbright bringing the first religious services to the community. A member of the Rountree family, which came a year after the first settlers, started and taught the first school.

"The city's first newspaper, readers of the new directory will learn, was the 'Ozark Standard,' established in 1837, although it was not until February 19, 1838, that the town of Springfield was incorporated with a population of about 300 persons.

"'Springfield suffered severely during the Civil War,' the sketch relates, 'but rapidly recuperated after its close. Many soldiers of both armies, attracted by the beauty of the country and climate, returned to settle here when the war was ended.

"'Springfield had never been a 'boom' town,' the historical section of the review concludes. 'Its growth has been steady and substantial. It is a city of earnest home-loving people who were attracted by either the same beauty that first appealed to John Polk Campbell or by the agricultural, industrial and educational advantages that Springfield affords.'"
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Read more of the founding of Springfield, and Greene County, in Holcombes History of Greene County.  Springfield City Directories, including the one for 1931, are available on microfilm at the Library Center.


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