Feb 272013

HaHaTonka Lake

2 Real Photo postcards by Strathman Photo

Both postcards have been sent, postmarked Linn Creek, but the dates are obscure – probably 1930s.

The exact origin of the low dam that created Ha Ha Tonka Lake is not clear. It’s possible that Colonel R. G. Scott, railroad promoter and real estate hustler, built it.  He came from Iowa about 1890 and  with a friend bought or optioned what was then known as Gunter Spring with a large parcel of land. In 1904, Scott sold the land and spring – now fancifully renamed Ha Ha Tonka with a suitable Indian legend to fit the name – to businessman Robert McClure Snyder of Kansas City.

HaHaTonka Lake Dam

The destruction of this little lake by the construction of Bagnell Dam caused a five year series of lawsuits and appeals. We devoted a significant part of the book (pages 92-97) to the lawsuit and subsequent appeals.

The lawsuit pitted well-to-do people with big egos against a well-to-do corporation with an equally big ego.  The first round began in 1930 when UE filed an exception to the award of $902/acre to the Snyder family for the acreage included with the trout lake. The Snyders sued and the lines were drawn.  The plaintiffs claimed the new lake had degraded their estate more than a million dollars.  High dollar lawyers and a high profile tale brought journalists to cover the lawsuit over ‘scenic beauty versus progress’. Witnesses during the ten-week trial included Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore, and W. H. Wurepel, who painted the mural of Ha Ha Tonka in the Missouri State Capitol. In 1932, the jury awarded the Snyder family $350,000.

Naturally UE appealed. Round Two began in 1935. A new verdict awarding $200,000 to the Snyders caused them to appeal, but Judge Otis denied the motion for a third trial in 1936 allowing the $200,000 judgment to stand.

Today the lake laps up against the old mill dam, but the trout dam is under water.

Every week we post an unpublished image that relates to the Osage River, its ecology, history and development. None of these have been used in Damming the Osage, but they relate to the themes of the book. A brief caption identifies the location and our thoughts on its significance and meaning. Feel free to use these images for personal use if you credit “Collection of Leland and Crystal Payton.”  For commercial use, email us for details and a modest fee for a higher resolution image. We have thousands of historic photographs and brochures as well as our own contemporary photos.

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  7 Responses to “HA HA TONKA LAKE AND DAM”

  1. I found this information very interesting as it helps fill in my family history as my Dad’s side lived in Old Linn Creek,Missouri. I would love to receive updates ..

    • Miller County’s first official church and court proceedings were held in my Great Great Grandfather Hermann Tellman’s two story log home near the Saline Valley. It ( the farm) was called the Miller Tellman House. Very interesting , Sherry Miller! I hope this thread might allow us to create a thread where we can interact more effectively,… such as one or more of us creating a possible Facebook group on this subject. Does that sound like a possibility?

      • Miller County Historical Society is on my list to visit my next trip down. I have donated copies of my Ford/Parrish/ Calton pictures from Old Linn Creek to the Camden County Historical Society in the old schoolhouse in Linn Creek. Courting pictures of my grandparents ( early 1920’s) at HaHa Tonka and Gunters Glen and Millstream ( includes pictures of three greenhouses erected at HaHa Tonka that never had glass installed) and a few about town in Old Linn Creek showing my Grandma’s growing up years. So much was lost my Grandma always said in Old Linn Creek.

  2. Great article

  3. Chapter in my book, James A. Reed: Legendary Lawyer; Marplot in the United States Senate about the Snyder land condemnation litigation in which Reed represented the Snyder heirs (Chapter 20).

    • Greetings from Osage Beach! I just read your comment about James Reed being the attorney for the Snyder family of Ha Ha Tonka. Can you please tell me the name of your book? I have been researching James Reed also. Can you please tell us (those following this thread),…how we can buy your book, and also the name of your book? Many thanks! Sincerely,
      Rich Tellman

      • Hi Michael – You can buy our books from this website. Currently all our titles are half price. Damming the Osage (retail $35) is now $17.50. And we pay the postage!

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