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History of Republic

April 8, 2010
History of Republic


Republic, Missouri began its existence as a typical crossroads station during the period from 1850 to 1860. Early settlers came from various Eastern states as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, bringing with traditions and customs peculiar to those states. Others came from New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. From the North and East they came, bringing their habits, beliefs, and customs. Among the first families to settle here were the names of Ritter, Noe, White, Claiborn, Hayes, Britain, Anderson, Blades, Beal, Brooks, Criswell, Davis, House, Howard, Hagewood, Howell, Land, London, McDaniel, Owen, O’Bryant, O’Neal, Pickering, Robertson, Rainey, Richardson, Short, Sparkman, Thurman, Williams, and Youngblood. Many citizens of Republic today are direct descendants of these early families.Little is known about how Republic got it’s name. Some of the older residents say that Mark Ritter and his sister, Mrs. Worsefield, (the first postmaster and his assistant), named it. Still others say that Uncle Billy Cliborn gave it the name it now bears.

Republic was located in the center of the township and in the midst, at that time, of a rich, thickly populated prairie and an excellent local trade. Republic, being situated on the Frisco Railroad, became a well-known shipping and traveling point.

Before the railroad was built, a small town called Little York, located a short distance from the present site of Brookline, had been the market center since the Civil War. Even before the war, Little York had been the center of trade for most of the countryside southwest of Springfield. After the war, the Frisco Railroad was built through this section (about 1869 and 1870.) The citizens of the then small community of Republic asked the Frisco Company to build a depot or a switch station at this site. The company refused. Mr. Noe, a citizen who had much faith in the future of Republic, raised subscriptions of $1,000 for the purpose of the depot. Republic is deeply indebted to Mr. Noe, not only for the railroad, but perhaps for its very existence. After the building of the railroad, Republic began to grow very rapidly. Little York was replaced by Brookline.

Brookline and Republic absorbed the country trade because of their now ready trade and marketing facilities. Trade was carried on mostly by exchange, there being little money and little need for it. The work of the surrounding community gradually made enough business to cause Republic to make a start.

Aside from farming, few industries were found in and around the little crossroads settlement at its earliest time. The first building, a storehouse, was built by W.H. Noe. This building was located on the site or the present site of Bacon Tire Company. This building became know as the old “red building.” Mr. Noe operated a general store stocked with such useful necessities as feed, flour, soap, harnesses, thread, kerosene, or almost anything needed in those days. This building stood longest of any of the old timers. H.A. White soon built the second store and a hall. The first dwelling house was built by the Reverend Loping, the second by Dr. Bartlett and others were soon erected. Eli H. Britain owned and operated a brick yard near his home just west of town (the present-day site of where West Elm Street joins Highway 166.) Two grain elevators were built. One of which the building is still standing, was located across the street from the lumber yard. The other was located about where the depot now stands. The site of Johnston Feed Mill was once the home of a thriving tomato factory. Republic also boasted of a cheese factory, which old timers declare bore all the earmarks of the genuine article.

The first post office was located one-half mile south of the depot. Just why the post office was so far out of town has not definitely been determined; however, one old timer jokingly said that it was because the Republicans were afraid the Democrats might take over, or possibly it was the other way around. Of course the location of the railroad was the other way around. Of course the location of the railroad was the obvious reason for bringing it back into town. Mark Ritter was the first postmaster, and his sister, Mrs. Worsefield, was his assistant.

A blacksmith shop, operated by Henry Hayes, was also Owen and Short Hardware for many years. The building formerly occupied by the Ford Motor Company on the east side of Main Street, was a livery stable. Traditionally speaking, it was the peak of fashion and the height of extravagance to be seen driving and impressive team of high-stepping horses from the livery stable.

For years a lime kiln was operated just south of town and employed quite a number of men. During the years 1904 and 1905, iron ore was mined and shipped from Republic.

The O’Neal Lumber Company was established in Republic more than 75 years ago. Mr. O’Neal was also prominent in the promotion of civic and church affairs.

The first flour mill was built in 1890 by R.C. Stone. Later it was remodeled and had a running capacity of 2,000 barrels every 24 hours. During the years between 1900 and 1907, the mill was operated night and day. At that time it was the largest flour mill in the Middle West, and carried the slogan “The World is Our Field.” Flour was shipped out to all sections of the United States. The mill was in the large, brick building on the corner of Elm and Main Streets.

Early life in the small community of Republic was very much like that of any other pioneer settlements. Homes were simple with few furnishings, but hones hearts and patient toil were at the back of every task begun. Hospitality, thrift, and a spirit of progress were worthy traits of character shown in the lives of the pioneers. The men worked in the field, woods, or shop, while their wives kept the house, spanked the children, made the garden and many other things to keep the home going. The greatest event of the spring was the observance of “groundhog day,” such a date being followed by “corn planting,” and “soap making,” both with proper regard for the light and dark of the moon. In the fall, crops were harvested and hogs were butchered. These events were of great importance as, of course, were Thanksgiving and Christmas. Activities of social life were few, the chief amusements being singing, spelling bees, and family gatherings. Food was plain and simple; corn bread, cured meat, vegetables, and dried fruits being the most common fare. Meat was cured and kept in a smoke house built for that purpose. Here originated some of the most famous hickory smoked ham and bacon, once tasted, was never forgotten. Often vegetables were buried for winter in a deep hole dug in the corner of the garden, lined with straw, and heaped in with thick layers of dirt. Nearly every family kept a barrel of molasses made from cane raised in their own field. These people made vinegar and raised chickens. Flour, brown sugar, and coffee could be bought at the general store.

Clothing was usually of the homespun variety with some muslin, gingham, shirting, and calico bought from the general store. Sometimes a seamstress, who was also a tailoress, was employed to go from house to house to make men’s suits and some of the more “well-to-do” women’s clothes.

Trade was carried on mostly by barter, or exchange, there being little money and little need for it. However, work in and around Republic increased and business began to grow. Gradually these early industries and places of business changed ownership or were replaced by new industries. Dairying, poultry, stock raising, and fruit growing replaced the one time general farming, and in 1971 new modern factories and businesses replaced most of the farming industries.

Republic began its educational and religious training almost from the beginning. The first school was a one room structure located on West Elm Street one block west of the present Chevrolet Company. This building was replaced by a two story brick one, which remained in use until the present elementary school was built in 1954. The bonds were voted on for the first time in 1892, and since that time many new and modern buildings have been erected to help Republic train it’s youth. In 1920, the first high school was built. In 1937, a gymnasium was added to the high school.

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Since then, Republic has become a thriving community and is constantly growing and will continue to grow into a prosperous city.

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History of Republic Article, Republic Monitor, May 13, 1920 as noted by W. B. Moore

July 22, 2007

w-b-moore-1920-1.jpgw-b-moore-1920-1.jpgw-b-moore-1920-1.jpg               W. B. Moore

To Mr. Moore we are indebted for the history of Republic which appears in this issue.  He is, himself, one of the oldest residents.  As he says, he “was here before the town was.” and what he has written was taken from, his personal observation of the town.

The above picture along with the following article was printed in The Republic Monitor May  13 1920.


Republic is a thriving town on the Frisco Railroad, fourteen miles southwest of Springfield, in Greene County, Missouri

In the year 1870, where the town of Republic now stands, was a great farming country and large fields of wheat, oats, and corn, together with orchards and gardens, made a delightful place for a home, and dotted here and there were homes, were fathers and mothers were rearing up families of children.

With the coming of the railroad came the need of a station.  The location was selected, the station built and it was called Republic, and it began to grow.  Through the energetic efforts of the  people of the country, and others who moved into our midst, it has pushed steadily forward until today its population is about 1400; and Republic township, which is four miles east and west, and seven miles north and south,except the extreme northeast section which includes the town, adds about six hundred more, making about 2000 inhaitants.

Republic now has three general dry goods stores, five grocery stores, two general hardware stores, three seed and feed stores, three blacksmith’s shops, three resturants, one bakery, one furniture store, with various notions stores to meet the wants of the people.  It has two flouring mills, one of which has a capacity of 800 barrels per day, employing from 15 to 30 hands.  They also have connected with them a corn mill, which turns out a great deal of meal and feed for both man and beast.

There are three churches, the Methodist, Baptist, and Christian, with a membership which runs into the hundreds.  Each has an evergreen Sunday School, with a total enrollment of almost a thousand.

Republic has been noted for the interest she has taken in public school work.  She now has a pubic school building where they employ eight teachers, including four years of High School work.  The enrollment is between 400 and 500 pupils.  It stands approved by the State Superintendent and is classed as a Number 1 school; but we have outgrown the present building, and expect during the coming year to erect a $25,000.00 High School building.  Almost the entire community stands behind this enterprise as was shown by the vote to issue $17,000 in bonds with but few dissenting votes.  We expect to make up the remainder by donations of which perhaps more than one-half has already been subscribed.  The school board has purchased five acres of land just east of Anderson Park, upon which to build.

We grow some of the best fruit and berries here that can be grown anywhere.  Our tomatoes are hard to beat and factories here are able to take care of them, and the value of the output each year is a snug little sum.  Our stawberries are simply fine.  We have an association here and through the management of Dr. E. L. Beal and the Ozark Fruit Association they return to the growers a sum reaching away up into the thousands.

Our apple crop last year was immense and brought the growers an amount reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  One item of interest we will mention.  Dr Beal sold the fruit of 16 acres of apple orchard last year for thirty-two thousands dollars, perhaps the largest sum ever received for one corp of apples on that amount of land.  The variety was the York Imperial.  We also have peaches, plums, cherries, besides a number of kinds of berries.

Republic has been called “The Daddy of Good Roads.”  Early in the history of good roads building, when a general meeting of good roads enthusiasts was called in Springfield, the Republic delegation appeared in overalls, carring picks and shovels, and headed by a brass band.  We have a rock road running south to the county line of Christian County, one west to the county line of Lawrence County, two or three running north and east to Bois D’Arc and Springfield.

We have good train service, having a passenger train each way both morning and evening, and freight trains often enough both to send out our surplus and import such things as we need.  Our fruits, berries, poultry, hogs, sheep, cattle, flour, feed, etc., that are shipped out would amount to many trainlaods each year.

There are two central offices to send out and receive our messages by telephone, which brings us in close touch with a part of the world.  We have also good telegraph service.

H. B. Ingler is our worthy post master, who hands out to us that which comes to us by mail and through the papers we receive the news form hundreds of miles from us in a few hours after it happens.

Republic has four doctors and two dentists to assist us in our aches and ills to which the human frame is subject.

We have also the printing office which not only gives us the Monitor, a weekly paper that gives us the news up-to-date, but is ready for any work in the way of advertisement that we so much need.