Steamboats ran up the Osage as far as Osceola when the river was high. Tuscumbia, county seat of Miller County, was a regular stop – a fact commemorated today in this plaque on the new county courthouse.
Real photo postcard, Osceola Missouri, 1913
The bluffs along the Osage may not have been as spectacular as the larger bluffs along New York’s Hudson, but they excited a similar esthetic appreciation in the writer of an 1888-something booklet extolling the unappreciated beauties of southwest Missouri:
How grand are thy works, O Master Divine! The Osage and the Sac Rivers vie with each other in their natural beauty. Here their river banks o’er hung with drooping elm or giant sycamore, there long reaches of pebbled, gravelly beach, on and further on great walls of rock and bluff stand boldly forth with the hoar of a thousand ages on their face, and check the waters of the ever flowing streams which bathe their rocky feet as if in conciliation and with peaceful curvette pass onward on the journey to the sea. . . . A coming generation of scenic artists will find, that after the beautiful scenery of Colorado, Utah and the Sierras have been made familiar to the public, they can turn to the hitherto neglected scenery of the Osage and Sac rivers and find gems of surpassing beauty.
We noted that it sort of took, but the painters didn’t come. There was no Osage River Valley School of painting.
Real photo postcard
Atop a small hill is a large frame house with an encircling porch (“veranda” they might have called it). In Kansas City or St. Louis, this would probably not have been considered a mansion, but in the more modest circumstances of Linn Creek, it was noteworthy and probably belonged to a doctor or banker or merchant. Linn Creek was the county seat of Camden County, a fairly stable community that was completely submerged by Lake of the Ozarks. The county seat was relocated to a newly created town called Camdenton. New Linn Creek is located farther up the creek and is today a smaller community.
Real photo postcard by Suttle
This is an earlier version of the spring and basin (such as it is). Even in the early days, it didn’t pour forth a volume of water. Originally there was a sandstone or limestone rock wall, later surfaced by concrete, and a wooden bandstand between the spring and Main Street. Today the wooden bandstand is gone. A stone bandstand, circa 1930, is now located on the other side of the spring.
Written on the back – “Dear grand son: Albert will send you a card of Jerico park.”
(Below) A recent photo of the spring site and park at Jerico Springs.
Cabinet card of Foster, Missouri, circa 1910
The watershed of the upper Osage/Marais des Cygnes, Little Osage and Marmaton rivers is more crisscrossed by railroads than that of the main Osage and contains a number of much-diminished towns like Foster. Today, there is still a bandstand (but the band didn’t play on) and a post office (and with pending budget cuts this may soon vanish).
We spent a brief Sunday morning in Foster (Bates County) not long ago – capturing the photogenic, gradual decay and making friends with a black dog. (dog chasing shadow video) Even smart dogs never quite figure out shadows and reflections.
Water dip decals are colorful cartoonish icons of vintage vacations. They decorated luggage and car windows, commemorating many a family vacation at Niagara Falls, a visit to a buffalo ranch, or Disneyland. Hobbyists have for generations used decals on car and airplane models.
Flanked by a couple of pink fish, this colorful unused decal is likely a souvenir of a weekend at The Lake. Popular imagery of Bagnell Dam rivaled pictorial representations of Boulder/Hoover Dam in both variety and abundance.
Real photo postcard, 1935-1945
Inscription on back reads – “We enjoyed a fine meal here today with Toots and Jack.”
Toots and Jack Stotler operated this thriving business from 1933 until selling to Buford and Anna May Foster in 1945. The Fosters changed the name to Night Hawk Café. A stunning large neon sign with a flying night hawk whose neon wings flapped hung over the sidewalk. The parents of Leland Payton, senior author of Damming the Osage, went on dates to the Night Hawk, driving in from Versailles. Highway engineer Louis Payton rented a room in Versailles and met Ann Lewis Daniels at the Baptist Church.
8 x 10 press photo from Chicago. 4/21/41
The cutline reads: “BAGNELL, MO. – This bantam rooster, caught in the flood that has inundated several Ozark towns, found himself floating on a log down the Main Street of Bagnell, Mo., a new experience worth crowing about.”
Note that this flood happened ten years after Bagnell Dam closed off the Osage River creating Lake of the Ozarks. Note as well that the town of Bagnell is below the dam in what should have been a protected area. If the promised storage reserves are adequate, dams can help prevent downstream flooding. However, if the reservoirs are full and major rainfall or snowmelt occurs upstream (as happened on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in 2011), dams can create higher and longer flood crests
Real photo postcard. Penciled on back: “Fairfield Mill in July 1910”
There was a mill and a small manufacturing complex at the hamlet of Fairfield, Missouri on the Pomme de Terre River built, it is said, by Judge George Alexander. He – or rather, his numerous slaves – built a long covered bridge at this spot. Before the Kaysinger Bluff Dam and Reservoir project got underway, the bridge had fallen in, but the stone piers remained. They’re now under the murky waters of Truman Reservoir.
When crossing Truman Reservoir on the Highway 83 bridge, south of Warsaw, look northwest. The town of Fairfield was just up the river from today’s bridge. .
The history of bridging the Osage River and its tributaries is covered in the new book, DAMMING THE OSAGE by Leland and Crystal Payton, available December 1.
Movie Lobby Card, 1952
Fort Osage, a 72 minute B movie from Monogram Studio,has Red Cameron guiding a wagon train through Indian Territory. The Osages are unhappy with the Anglo-Saxon immigrants because of the treating-violating proclivities of the white men.
Not that Hollywood was known for authenticity in their portrayal of Indian life, but their scripts of Osages are both particularly inauthentic and rare. The Osage tribe had two headline grabbing periods. The first came before they moved out of their homeland on the Osage River. Their military power was a great concern to President Thomas Jefferson. The second came when they became oil-rich in the 1920s. They were frequently covered by the media. Unlike western Plains tribes, they never fought the cavalry and have thus escaped cinematic treatment.