South of Nowhere

The first permanent settlers were William Friend, George Yoachum, James Kimberling, George Wells, and Thomas Patterson in present-day Ozark. Yoachum was locally well known for briefly printing his own currency, which he called the “Yocum Dollar.” The name “Ozark,” which quickly became the population center, is said to refer to the bends in the Finley River—French traders called it “aux arcs.” Ozark eventually became the county seat.

The county was still very young when the Civil War began in 1861. The Union Home Guard formed in 1862, and on August 1 of that year defended Ozark against a minor Confederate ambush. On August 2, 1862, there was a minor skirmish near the town of Clever. During the war, many fled their homes and did not return until after the war was over. Both sides’ army forced many residents out of their homes, destroying their livestock, crops, and property. These malicious actions made many residents destitute and on the verge of starvation.

Bushwhackers also posed a constant threat of theft and violence. Although the population increased by more than 1,000 people from 1860-1870, historical records indicate that during the Civil War the county was almost totally depopulated.

After the end of the war, Bushwhackers still posed a threat. A group of local men formed a vigilante band called the “Bald Knobbers,” who tracked down Bushwhackers or others taking part in illegal activities. In most cases, the “Bald Knobbers” either killed the criminal or brought them in for arrest. The “Bald Knobbers” continued to fight what they saw as injustice long after the Bushwhackers were no longer a problem. In the 1880s, their activity began to get out of hand, and the sheriff arrested the men who refused to stop their vigilante activity.

The railroad aided recovery, coming to the area in the 1870s-1880s. Several towns were named after railroad officials. These include: Chadwick, named after John F. Chadwick and Billings, named after John Billings. Several other towns sprung up after the war, including Sparta in 1885. Sparta was supposedly named after settler J.J. Burton’s home town of Sparta, Tennessee. Nixa was officially formed in 1878, supposedly after settlers Nicholas Alexander Inman. For postal service to come to the area, the town needed an official name, and got it from “Nick” A. Inman’s mailbox, becoming “Nixa.” The railroad continued to flourish in the area well into the 20th century.

A local barber named Finis Gold started Nixa Sucker Day in 1957, and it has since been a longstanding tradition with the people of Nixa, Missouri. Locals would often close up shop and skip school for the day to go grabbin’ for Suckers. The fish were then frozen until there was enough for a big fish fry. Nixa Sucker Day was the result of this annual tradition.


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