Volume 8, Number 10, Winter 1985
The White River area plays host to several million visitors each year. The majority of them coming from April first to November first-the tourist season in the White River area.
We will find fishermen, boaters, music show goers, and just plain vacationers, all of them having one common goal--seeing and enjoying, what the White River has provided our home.
Within the last twenty-five years, we have seen Silver Dollar City become one of the best known tourist attractions of the Midwest, along with the nationally known Shepherd of the Hills Play-the river and her surrounding shores had something for everyone. Today a visitor to our White River area, would find a series of dams; Table Rock, Bull Shoals, and Powersite (Taneycomo). Powersite Dam being the first built in 1911, after it was approved by President Theodore Roosevelt. Bull Shoals Dam was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in 1949. Table Rock went under construction in 1951, with the longest continuous conveyor belt in the world.
With all of these dams, they give us one of the first fishing and aqua sport areas in the United States.
During the times before the white men came to the Ozarks, the White River ambled uninterrupted through 720 miles of the virgin Ozark wilderness-from Madison County in Arkansas to the Mississippi River.
The Indians were the first human in habitants who settled at various points along the entire White River. It (the river) provided an abundant amount of wild game along its shores-great herds of buffalo, bear, deer, elk, turkey and large numbers of fish.
The Spanish, though little is known, are said to have passed through while on their never-ending search for gold and silver. Then the French came applying their knowledge of fur trading to the White River area.
By 1820, the first permanent settlers began to appear along the White River area. By constructing small towns and settlements, with families coming from Kentucky and Tennessee, they built their homes out of this great wilderness. People like the James Yoccum family settled along the mouth of the James River and John W. Hancock established a Post Office at the mouth of Swan Creek.
While these men, along with others like them were putting down their roots in places like Dubuque, Forsyth and Oasis; the decade of the 1850s came and slowly passed into history, storm clouds gathered over the nation and darkness crept into the White River area.
The Civil War, the war nobody wanted, was not long in coming. The first Battle of Bull Run, the first major conflict of the Rebellion was fought on July 21, 1861.
That same night, the Union Army under the command of Colonel Grower, set up camp at Swan Creek across from Forsyth. Here the army numbering 20,000 men crossed the river the next day by ferryboats only to find the Confederates ready and waiting to attack them.
The very next day, the Union and Confederates faced each other in the little known Battle of Forsyth. The Confederates claimed the victory that day and the war continued leaving Forsyth unharmed.
After the Battle of Prairie Grove, the Union Army moved back to Forsyth, where they stayed both the winter and early spring waiting for an attack. However, no one came and the army shot the town to pieces on April 23, 1863, so the enemy wouldnt have it to fall into their hands.
When the Civil War came to a close, people of the White River area had little left, except the determination to survive. They (the people) had a fear of what their neighborhoods would turn out to be like, whether or not they could forget and forgive, or if they could rebuild their homes and farmsteads with little or nothing to assist them.
For two decades following the Civil War, the industries along the White River began to pick up.
In 1897, Dr. I. H. Myers is credited for starting a boom which came to the area in the form of fresh water pearls. People came in droves, for pearls had much the same effect as gold for people who sought wealth that could be picked from the shallow waters of a stream.
The Mussel Shells found along the upper and lower White River area were used for making buttons, while the pearls were used for jewelry.
Though the boom was short-lived, the button making industry-a natural offshoot of pearling-survived until 1905.
Then, the coming of the railroad and other industries, including oak and hickory logs for railroad ties and cedar logs for pencils, began to flare up.
Branson acted as the terminal for some of the cedar trees, and they were processed into pencils by the American Pencil Company of New York, which was located north of town.
With the vanishing of the cedar and oak wilderness along the White River area, the grist and
flour mills began to spring up, due to the vigorous current and the steady flow of water.
Though the floods of 1929 caused great damage to many of these water-powered mills, Steve Miller along with the help of Alice and Hubert Edwards built the Edwards Mill, at The School of the Ozarks, to preserve the historical ways.
Since 1950 our White River Valley has seen fantastic growth. Native crafts and skills are today practiced and displayed up and down the White River. Theme parks, music shows and other tourist related industries are becoming commonplace. Presently, visitors from all over the United States and Foreign countries come to see, and for a brief moment, become part of our Ozark life. No other region can claim the splendor and majesty of the White River Valley and Ozark Mountains.
Editors Note: Serenna is a senior at Hollister High School and was an entrant in the 1984 Historical Essay Contest.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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