Question: What was the Ozarks like in the 1870's?
Answer: Rocks & Trees
When I was a kid growing up in Ozark County, we always had a fresh cop of rocks every year to harvest out of our garden. Oh the dread of hearing dad grabbing buckets, with a readiness in his voice, in offering me the opportunity to pick up rocks. But, my respite would be at the end of the day...climbing one of my favorite trees in the back field in the evening hours and watching the setting sun.
Rocks...I did not love. Give me a tree any day.
Nevertheless, our rocks have brought attention to this area. Not only have our rocks brought us to the international spectrum, our forests have also garnered value and beckoned as a ready resource for the Ozark Pioneer. I found this article about the Ozarks from a newspaper called The Anglo American Times, in London, Middlesex, with the date from 1874. This may show a little light and as small survey of our Ozark's History. Though the article may seem a bit dry or dull, The Ozarks had an optimistic view for the people across the pond in England.
CHARACTER AND RESOURCES OF CENTRAL SOUTH MISSOURI.
We have had so many inquiries about the character of the lands in Southern Missouri, that we publish the following from Dr. L. D. Morris, of Kirkwood, Mo., written to the Western Mural:—
“ Phelps county is remarkable for numerous and valuable deposits of iron ore, and new developments
of great value are continually being made. Simmon's Iron Mountain, in Dent county, is an immense deposit of specular ore, and considerable ore has been mined at Salem and other points between there and Steelville, to be ready for shipment as soon as reached by the railroad.
Texas County, adjoining Phelps on the South, is a large county; the surface varying from rolling to hilly and broken. In small prairie-valleys, in the valley of the streams, and on a considerable portion of the ridges, is excellent farming land. There is a large quantity of public land, chiefly in the south part of the county, some of it fair for farming purposes, but most of it stony ridges, only valuable for grazing purposes, for timber, or for minerals. There is some pine-land in the interior of the county, of fair quality, still vacant. There is a good deal of iron ore in various parts of the county, some of it promising to yield well, of good quality, chiefly hematite. The St. Lawrence, Salem, and Little Bock Bead, when continued beyond Salem, will enter this county near the north-east corner, and, following a dividing ridge southward, will pass out of it near the middle of the south end. For half the distance or more, it will run through a very good farming region, of clay soil timbered with varieties of oak and hickory. Toward the south end of the county the soil is not so good for cultivation. Doubtless considerable iron ore will be developed along the line. Lead and zinc have been found in the southwest part of the county.
Howell county has the reputation of being the best in this portion of the State. There is in it a large amount of superior farming lands in the valleys, and a large amount of poor stony ridges. There is a large amount of public land in the county from which may be selected good tracts for farming purposes. It is an excellent grazing region, the whole face of the country, both in prairie and forest, being covered with a luxuriant growth of wild grasses. It is very well watered except in portions of the interior. In the northern part of the county is the best pinery in the State, about 40,000 acres within the county, extending also into Douglas, well watered by springs and clear running streams of water. Hutton Valley, where there are large improved farms, heads at this pinery. There is an urgent demand at that point now for a steam flouring-mill and sawmill. Any one starting a good mill there now would be sure of a good business and might expect an outlet by railroad in a reasonable time. Iron ore is found in many parts of the country, including the pineries, in considerable quantities. In the northwest part some lead has been found, and also a good surface show of a good quality of manganese iron ore.
Douglas County, joining Howell on the west, contains 70,000 acres of good pinery and a large quantity
of public land, much of it of good quality. Large colonies might be located there, even on public land. Iron and lead are found in several localities.
Ozark county, on the south of Douglas, contains a large amount of public land, about 15,000 acres of good pinery, and a good deal of iron and lead ores. The most important sources of wealth in this portion of the State are its fitness for stock raising, the pineries and minerals. With the rapidity with which railroads are being pushed forward, the time for their development is certainly close at hand. A large part, at least 70,000 acres, of the pineries is owned by the State, for the benefit of the Agricultural College and the School of Mines and Metallurgy, the latter located at Rolla, in Phelps County. The soil is much better than one would expect to find in a pine region. The timber is large, and is a mixture of pine, white oak, black oak, Spanish oak, hickory, and along the streams walnut, hackberry, elm, and sycamore. The proportion of pine varies from one-third to two-thirds. The trees will probably average two and a half feet in diameter; many of them will measure ten feet in circumference and 130 feet in height. An upturned pine tree occasionally shows a depth of the tap root of five feet, and a large ball of gravely clay loam, in colour varying from drab to reddish brown. Farmers say that the pine land will produce better wheat than the best bottom land, and stand drought hotter, which is easy to believe, when the depth of the soil is considered. A considerable portion of the pine lands, however, is too rocky for cultivation, but it is all good fur grass. The college lands are valued at about $1.50 per acre, and may be had, except mineral land, for cash, or on eight years' time. If taken on time by lease, they are exempt from State and county taxes, thus affording a good opportunity for a man who wishes to use his means for improvement, or for one who wishes to lay by something for his children. It is a better investment than life insurance. The timber on these lands can scarcely be worth less than $20 an acre when an outlet is afforded for lumber by railroads. When the late Prof. Shumard was connected) with the State Geological Survey, he made an examination of what was then Ozark county, comprising now Ozark, Douglas, and a portion of Howell. He noted iron ore in eight or ten localities, and lead in three or four. I found iron ore in considerable quantities in a dozen or more localities in the same limits; also manganese of the quality called pyrolusite. Flint, conglomerate and quartz rocks, also crystallized quartz prevail extensively. Buhr-stone, quite like and equal to that imported from France for millstones, is found abundant in the pine regions of Douglas and Howell, and will doubtless be worked with profit at some time in the future. Among the variety of farm crops that are raised in these southern counties may be mentioned cotton as not unimportant. A small patch of half an acre or more has heretofore been raised by nearly every farmer and worked into clothing by hand. About a year and a half ago a cotton gin was put up in connection with a water mill in the south-east part of Douglas County, and many farmers were intending to plant cotton quite extensively, believing that it would become one of their most remunerative crops. They stated that they could raise about 300 to 400 pounds of ginned cotton to the acre. Having been employed in selecting, classifying and appraising Agricultural College lands, I have carefully examined a large portion of the country herein treated of. As a region where desirable lands may now be obtained at extremely low prices and on easy terms, and where a very important rise in value must occur within a very few years, it is certainly well worthy of attention; and especially so on account of its valuable pine timber, iron ore and other minerals. The climate is mild and healthful, and the water pure."
“Character and Resources of South Central Missouri.” Anglo American Times, London, Middlesex. 16. 396 (24 May, 1873) 14, 15. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 2 Nov. 2010.