White River Valley Historical Quarterly

Volume 3, Number 8
Summer 1969


Ozark County and Gainesville Share Rich History
by Ruby M. Robins

Ozark county, organized in 1841, was second largest in Missouri with 1,580 sq. mi. Reduced in size by formation of Douglas and Howell counties, 1857, it now has 743 sq. mi.

Gainesville, more centrally located after reduction of county size, replaced first county seat Rockbridge in 1860. Old Rockbridge was near the present Rockbridge P. O.

Ozark is Missouri's only county named three times. Its name was changed to Decatur, 1843, but a petition to the legislature brought the original name back.

Ozark is the only county in the U.S. to bear this name. There are many explanations of the source of the name, but according to the State Historical Society, it is derived from the French abbreviation Aux Arc used by early French to indicate on, at or in (Aux), the country of the Arkansas (Arc) Indians. But whatever definition you choose, Ozark County rejoices in this glamorous name, first used in print by English naturalist John Bradbury, 1809, and first used on a map of the area by explorer H.R. Long, 1815.

Gainesville, probably named for Gainesville, Ga., was laid out by James M. Howell and Sheriff C.D. Cain is said to have bought the first lot for $5. There was a post office by 1860, the Rockbridge post office had opened, 1842. Isaac Workman was the first permanent settler.

There was a temporary courthouse by 1867, a permanent one, 1874. Destroyed by fire, it was replaced by the present structure 1939. First circuit judge, Charles H. "Horse" Allen, native of Georgia, later ran for governor of Missouri. The town was incorporated in 1896.

There are some 246 counted Indian mounds in the county. Arrow quarries and campsites are found along valley streambeds. Utilized by Ozark Bluff Dwellers in Ancient times, the area was known to Arkansas, Delaware, Shawnee, Osage and other tribes.

First settlers came in the 1830's attracted by freedom, plentiful game, fine streams. They came largely from eastern Mississippi River border states and the south. In the Civil War, their sympathies were largely with the Union.

During the Civil War, troops moving through the county lived on the land and roving guerrilla bands burned some homes and mills and killed some heads of households. There were no pitched battles or skirmishes of note. After the war settlers from the same areas came back, many to homestead government land. Many were Union veterans.

The county grew as an area of small cotton, grain and livestock farms and Gainesville as a trading, banking and judicial center. The rugged countryside, lack of roads and bridges resulted in many isolated pockets of settlement so that by 1960, the county had more post offices than any other county in Missouri.

Among these post offices are two other incorporated towns, besides Gainesville, Bakersfield and Theodosia, in a resort area. Other resort communities include Isabella, Pontiac, Ocie, Dugginsville, Tecumseh and Udall. Other post offices are Dora, Thornfield, Sycamore, Hardenville, Noble, Nottinghill, Hammond, Longrun, Almartha, Souder, Howards Ridge, Elijah, Foil, Wasola, Zanoni and Brixey.

Ozark County, notable for its rugged beauty, has more isolated ridges and knobs than any other county in the Ozarks. In the White River Valley, the county is watered by North Fork River, the Bryant and Little North Fork, and many fine springs and creeks.

Lake Norfork, impounded at Norfork, Ark., 1943, reaches into the county at Tecumseh. The bridge there was built in 1925.

Bull Shoals Lake which extends well into western Ozark county, was impounded in Arkansas, 1952, and named for Bull Mtn. and river shoals.

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Mark Twain Forest, with sections in east and west Ozark county, equalling 5 townships, was established in the early 1930's. Caney Mtn. Refuge, established in 1940, comprises 5,498 acres. Here during the deer season there is a bow and primitive weapons hunting period.

The county's lakes afford fine fishing the year around and the county holds the state record for the largest largemouth, l3lbs. 14ozs., caught by Marvin Bushong, 1961. Boating, skiing, and swimming add to vacation pleasure.

The lakes brought a resort industry with some 40 resorts in the county. livestock farming, lumbering and industries such as cedar closet lining manufacturing, a stave mill, charcoal plant, livestock auction sales form the economy of the area.

Ozark County Springs

Ozark County has 6 notable springs, some private: (The maximum daily flow in gallons is given).

Double or Rainbow spring, 6 mi. S. Dora, private, 4th largest in State, 137,000,000.

Hodgson Mill spring (See tour) 15th largest in state, 28,900,000.

Blue Springs, 3 mi. SE Dora, (see tour), 19,400,000.

Althea or Patrick spring, private, 5 mi. NE Tecumseh, 17,500,000.

Wilder or Breakup, private, 5 mi. N. Elijah, 12,900,000.

Zanoni Spring (see tour), 226,000

Rockbridge Spring (see tour) series of springs in bed of lake formed by milldam, 15,500,000.

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