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The Ozark square consists of a central courthouse and lawn, surrounded by four sides of buildings, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The south side is completely occupied by public buildings (a justice center and a community building).
Fifteen of the buildings in the historical square district were built between 1880 and 1930, when the town had great growth.
The town of Ozark was established by homesteader A.N. Farmer in two locations.
The first was located across from the Hoover Mill on the Finley River in 1840, while the second location was established in 1845 three blocks south of the first location.
That second location was called “New Torn” and is where the Ozark square is located today.
The town began to quickly develop when it became the Christian County seat in 1859, but a large amount of development happened with the arrival of the Springfield and Southern Railway Company in 1883.
In the 1880s, two members of the Christian County Bald Knobbers escaped from the Christian County jail (John and Wiley Matthews).
Only John was recaptured, and was hung along side two other men on the Ozark Courthouse Square in May of 1889.
Wiley supposedly escaped to the Oklahoma Ozarks in Indian Territory where he changed his name and avoided further prosecution.
The four-year saga of the Taney and Christian County Bald Knobbers was well-publicized in many state and regional newspapers, keeping Christian County in the limelight of the day.
On the day of the hanging execution on May 10, 1889, a multitude of spectators gathered on the square and clogged many of the roads leading to Ozark.
The arrival of the railroad in 1883 brought a variety of off-farm employment opportunities, such as clerical work, track building and repair, timber harvesting and increased the wagon freighting business, according the application for the Ozark Courthouse Square Historic District’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
The most plentiful businesses that came to occupy the Ozark square after the turn of the century were general merchandise, hardware stores, drug stores, doctors’ clinics, dentists’ offices, hotels, restaurants and banks.
With the railroad in place, Ozark became the scene of livestock, strawberries and dairy shipping.
By 1890, the population of the Finley Township, where Ozark was located, numbered 2,670, with 490 people living in the county seat.
The oldest building on the square is at 101 West Church Street (circa 1882) and served as the expansion of the Robertson Brothers store, also the oldest retail store in Ozark.
Currently, there is a good selection of businesses and restaurants on the square.
The sidewalks have been fully restored and shade trees provide for comfortable walking.
Businesses include clothing stores, antique shops and other shops, including a handful of restaurants and delis.
The buildings along the Ozark Court Square have been carefully restored and make for an enjoyable afternoon of admiring the architecture and browsing the shops.
Reflections is a weekly column exploring the history of Douglas County. Currently we are exploring local day trips, school history and Douglas County residents who have a special talent. If you have an idea for an article, please call 417-683-4181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org