One of the southern tier of counties, a little west of the center from east to west, and bounded on the north by Douglas, east by Howell, south by the State of Arkansas and west by Taney County; area, 481,000 acres. The surface is uneven. It is mountainous in the central part and broken and hilly in the eastern and western sections. Along the streams the bottom lands are rich, and productive of large crops. The valleys average from a quarter of a mile to a mile in width, and constitute the choicest agricultural lands. Nearly 80 per cent of the whole country is densely wooded with the different kinds of oak and hickory, walnut, cedar, sugar maple, ash and yellow pine. Much of the forest land is well adapted to farming purposes, as the soil is excellent for wheat growing and fruits. The country is well watered.
The chief streams are Big North Fork and Bryan's Fork of White River, Pine, Cane and Lick Creeks, in the eastern part, and Little Fork of White River and its numerous tributaries in the western part. The principal branches of this stream are Spring, North Fork of Spring, North Fork of White, Turkey, Little, Otter and Pond Creeks. These streams are clear as crystal, well stocked with gamey fish, and afford excellent water power. Numerous large springs abound throughout the county. Lead, zinc and iron ores are found in the central part, but not until recently has any attempt been made to develop the mineral resources, which bear evidence of being considerable. One of the chief causes of this is the lack of cheap means of transportation, the county having no railroads. For the same reason the manufacture of lumber has been retarded, as well as the development of other industries. Stock-raising and fruit-growing are the most profitable pursuits. Cotton, tobacco and the principal cereals and vegetables are grown successfully. Besides these products, which form a considerable portion of the exports, the county ships honey, beeswax, wool, poultry, eggs, game, tallow, hides, furs, lumber, piling and railroad ties. Less than 20 per cent of the land is under cultivation, and in 1898 there were still 110,000 acres of government land open to settlement under the homestead laws.
Ozark County was created by legislative act approved January 29, 1841. Its boundaries were defined: "Beginning at the southeast corner of Taney County, thence east with the State line to a point where the same crosses the ridge dividing the waters of Bennett's Bayou, Spring, Eleven Point and Current River; thence in a northwardly direction along said ridge to the range line dividing Ranges 9 and 10; thence with said range line north to the township line dividing Townships 27 and 28; thence west with said township line to the range line dividing Ranges 16 and 17; thence south with said range line to the place of beginning." As defined the county, when organized, included the greater part of Howell and much of Douglas County. It was reduced to its present limits when these two counties were organized, in 1857. February 22, 1843,tne name of the county was changed to Decatur, and March 24, 1845, the name Ozark was regiven to it. The commissioners appointed to locate a permanent seat of justice were James Arnold, of Greene County; John Wray, Jr., and William Phebus, of Taney, and by the creative act they were directed to locate the county buildings within five miles of the center of the county, and it was provided that until a permanent seat of justice be fixed the county court and circuit courts meet at the dwelling house of William Holt.
The first courthouse was built a few years later at the present site of Gainesville. During the Civil War guerrillas and bands of roving outlaws infested the county, and more than three-fourths of the population left it and sought refuge in more thickly populated sections. The growth of the county was slow. In 1850 it had a population of 2,294; in 1860, 2,447; 1870, 3,363; 1880, 5,618, and in 1890, 9,795. At the close of the war only a few hundred people resided in the county, but when quiet was restored a healthy immigration set in, which has continued since then. In 1874 a new courthouse was built at Gainesville, which did not assume the form of a town until 1872, when it was incorporated as a village. Ozark is one of the counties of Missouri that promise to advance rapidly as soon as railroads open a way for the development of their resources.
The county is divided into six townships, named, respectively, Bayou, Bridges, Jackson, Jasper, Marion and Richland. Gainesville is the only incorporated village in the county.
The assessed value of all taxable property in the county in 1898 was $1,080,021; estimated full value, $1,543,398. The number of public schools in the county in 1898, 72; number of teachers, 80; school population, 4,971; amount of general school fund, $5,406.25. The population in 1900 was 12,145.
[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, by Howard L. Conard, Vol. 1, Publ. 1901]
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