Volume 2, Number 4, Summer 1965
Vera Cruz, located on Bryant creek at the confluence of Hunter creek, about 18 miles southeast of Ava, was the first county seat of Douglas county.
Douglas county was organized by an act of the state legislature on October 29, 1857, from territory taken from Ozark county. It was named for Stephan A. Douglas, the United States Senator from Illinois whose debates with Abraham Lincoln constitute an epic in American history. Additional territory was taken from Taney and Webster counties in 1864, giving it a land area of 804 square miles and making it the eleventh largest county in the state.
The legislative act creating Douglas county named Arthur Rippee and John L. Tate, of Wright county, and James Ellison, of Webster county, as commissioners to locate the county seat. Meanwhile the new county was attached to the Fourteenth Judicial District, and the dwelling house of James A. Wilson was designated as the place for conducting both county and circuit court.
The three commissioners located the county seat at Old Vera Cruz, about a mile north of what is now know as Vera Cruz. Here the county established its first seat of government and transacted its business in a primitive log courthouse until 1869.
In that year, after three far east end townships were, by petition to the county court, cut loose from Douglas county and attached to Howell county, the county voted more than two to one to move the county seat to Arno. Vera Cruz was then considered to be about eight miles east of the center of the county, and Arno was considered a like number of miles west of the center. Considerable dissatisfaction developed over the Arno location. Vera Cruz was too far east, and likewise, Arno was too far west. Trouble followed and the matter was taken to court for settlement.
Finally, about a year later, the issue was settled by compromise. The court appointed commissioners, representing both the east and west ends of the county, to select more satisfactory site for the county seat (nearer the center of the county).
It was then that Ava was selected, being about a mile west of the center of the county. At that time the site of Ava was government land, and the county court selected H. M. Miller to go to the U. S. Land Office in Springfield and cash enter the forty acres of land where the business section of Ava now stands, for the county.
The "Reynolds Hardware" store building, a log structure located on what is now the east side of the public square, was taken over by the county and served as the first courthouse in Ava. In 1870 the building and all the county records were destroyed by fire.
The county then bought a store building located on what is now the northwest corner of the square, where the Citizens Bank now stands, and arranged it for use as a courthouse.
On April 26, 1886 the store building used for courthouse purposes was destroyed by fire, and again all records were destroyed. For the next two years the school house in Ava was used in which to transact the countys business.
In 1888, a frame courthouse was erected in the center of the public square, largely from donations and from the sale of lots. This building served the county until 1937, when the present courthouse on the southeast corner of the square was completed. In January 1937, the old building was sold to F. F. Buck and E. R. Fletcher for $350, "to be removed by them from the center of the square within 90 days."
All that remains of the original county seat at Vera Cruz is a recently established youth camp under the promotion and supervision of the Rev. Oscar Cunningham of Ava, and an ancient Baptist log church, still in use on occasions.
At its peak the Vera Cruz community was the scene of two general stores, a lumber mill and grist mill operated by water power.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues
Local History Home