CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Mo. – From the Baldknobbers to area railroads, Christian County has 163 years of history. Historian Wayne Glenn tells OzarksFirst it was the second-to-last county created in Missouri. OzarksFirst has been learning more about how the region came to be.
Glenn, who refers to himself as ‘The Old Record Collector,’ has lived in Christian County for more than 70 years. Motivated by his father’s career as a historian, Glenn has studied the area his entire life.
The region was founded in 1859. Around that time, residents convinced the state government through legislation that there needed to be a splitting of nearby counties to create Christian County. So, the area was taken from portions of three other counties: Greene, Webster and Taney. Glenn tells OzarksFirst Stone County wouldn’t give any land, which is why Christian County is shaped like the state of Oklahoma.
“Christian County was the result of what would’ve been early-day, pioneer progress,” Glenn said. “The people that lived in what is now boundary-wise Christian County in those days had so far to go to their county seats to pay their taxes, or to take care of solving crimes. Obviously, there weren’t any telephones or telegraphs in little towns.”
The area was named after Christian County, Kentucky. The name honors Margaret Neaves, who was from there and helped form Christian County in Missouri.
In the 1880s, lots of people who took the Frisco Railroad came to Ozark, Sparta and Chadwick through Oldfield. A good chunk of those people just got out of jail.
“That may have had something to do with the fact that the law enforcers were not able to keep up with all the crimes. They were letting people go. A lot of folks couldn’t understand why someone who might’ve killed someone would be not in jail.”
Those folks formed a group: the Baldknobbers.
“Christian County was probably put on the roadmap in the 1800s nationally because the Baldknobbers did what they did, which was kill some people. They were vigilantes. They thought they were doing something to help the county, and in reality, they turned out to do something that was very negative because they were trying to go above the law.”
In 1887 the Baldknobbers were captured. Two years later, three of them were hung on the courthouse square.
“The hanging pretty well ended the negative publicity in national newspapers. I think everybody was glad it was over.”
Following the Baldknobbers movement, Glenn tells OzarksFirst that improvements were made to highways, roads and thoroughfares.
“This was important to Christian County’s development. The development of consolidation of schools in the 1920s and 1930s was monumental in putting school kids from rural communities into a more centralized setting where they would begin to see what was going on in the rest of the world and not just at their rural school.”
Then, lakes like Bull Shoals and Table Rock Lake were created.
“Those had a big impact on creating an interest in people wanting to live here. [Christian County] was close to the lakes, but it was also close to Springfield.”
Glenn says if he had to choose a landmark for the region, it would be the Ozark Mill.
“The history of the Ozark Mill goes back to the founding of Ozark as Hoovers Mill back in the 1830s. That Mill site that’s still there on Finley Creek, that represents Christian County from the beginning, from the earliest settlement. 1830s, 25 years before the county was founded, the Mill was already there.”