Elk River Basin - History
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Native Americans | Early Settlers | Civil War | Famous People
The History of Rivers' NamesMills

County Histories

Native Americans -- Although Native Americans traversed the Missouri portion of the Elk River Basin to hunt, no permanent residences were established. However, many Native American tribes traveled through and established homes in parts of the basin within Oklahoma. In 1907, Ottawa County was created from land within the Cherokee Nation. It was named after the Ottawa Indians, a name that comes from the Algonquian term meaning to “buy and sell” or “trade and traffic.” More Native American tribes have historically inhabited Ottawa County than any other county in the United States.

After the American Revolutionary War, Delaware Indians from the east settled in the Spavinaw hills of what would later become the Delaware style=" district of the Cherokee Nation. This area later became Delaware County , OK.

Early Settlers -- Early settlers of the area established farms. They drove their hogs and pigs all the way to St. Louis to market, where they often brought several hundred dollars.   Horses could be sold in southern markets for $75 to $100 prior to the 1900s.

The first people of European descent that settled in Newton County came from Arkansas around 1830. From 1941 to 1946, Camp Crowder military base was established south of Neosho MO and was used as a training area during World War II. This base greatly increased the population of the Elk River Basin.

Civil War

The Battle of Pea Ridge
Fought on March 7th and 8th of 1862, the battle of Pea Ridge was a crucial battle for the Union, as control of Missouri was at stake. Led by Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, 10,250 Union soldiers faced 16,000 Confederates, who were led by Major General Earl Van Dorn, Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch, and Major General Sterling Price.   In addition to rebels from the south, 800 Cherokees fought for the Confederacy. Soldiers from Iowa , Indiana , Illinois , Missouri , and Ohio , fought among the ranks of the Union Army, many of which were of German descent.   Union forces won this battle and continued their march Southward.

For more information and photos, visit the links at http://www.nps.gov/peri/, http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc/pearidge.htm, and http://www.civilwarhome.com/pearidge.htm.

Famous People

George Washington Carver
A famous native of Newton County was George Washington Carver. Born into slavery and orphaned very young, George Washington Carver was never certain of his birthday, although he believed his birthday was in January of 1864.   George had an enthusiasm to learn everything he could and worked his way through elementary school in Neosho , MO , while living with a African American couple. He moved to Kansas after finishing school in Neosho and graduated from a high school in Kansas .   George Washington Carver later received his Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s degree from Iowa State University .   He continued as a professor at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama .   While there, his work focused on helping southern farmers learn how to better manage their crops by planting peanuts.   He is famous for developing uses for peanuts, including peanut butter. He lived frugally and refused to accept salary increases. He established a fund to support young African Americans pursuing science. The fund would provide sixty thousand dollars to the university after his death. His contributions to agriculture has impacted the future and will for years to come.   Today there is a national monument at his boyhood home in Diamond, MO. For more information about George Washington Carver, visit http://www.nps.gov/gwca/expanded/index.htm

Sam Walton
Sam Walton is the founder of Wal-Mart discount stores. Born on March 29, 1918 , near Kingfisher, Oklahoma , he attended Hickman High School in Columbia , MO, and went on to graduate from the font-family: "Microsoft Sans Serif";mso-bidi-font-weight: bold">University of Missouri .   During World War II, Sam Walton served in the military within the United States .   In 1945, he bought his first franchise retail store. In March 1951, he opened the first store of his own, Walton’s 5 &10. By 1962, Walton owned 16 stores and created the Wal-Mart franchise.   Today, Wal-Mart employs over 600,000 people and is expanding worldwide.

To read more about Sam Walton, visit the links at http://www.time.com/time/time100/builder/profile/walton2.html and http://www.stfrancis.edu/ba/ghkickul/stuwebs/bbios/biograph/walton1.htm

The History of Rivers' Names

For histories of rivers in the Elk River region, visit http://www.heartofhome.net/waterways/.

Buffalo Creek
Buffalo Creek is believed to be named by the first Catholic missionary to traverse this area in search of American Indians. Legend has it that when a rainstorm came upon his group one day, the river rose and the party was unable to cross. One member of the missionary party killed a buffalo and preserved its skin as a robe.

Patterson Creek
Patterson Creek is believed to be named after John Patterson who settled near its waters in 1833.

South Indian Creek
South Indian Creek is named after an Indian camp that was located along this river’s banks long before the arrival of European settlers.

North and South Elkhorn
The names of these streams originated because early settlers found remains of elk horns near the banks, evidence of past grazing by these animals.   An early settler, John Roseberry, supposedly found a set of elk antlers that were as tall as a man.

King Creek
King Creek was named after John B. King, an early settler that was a lawyer and involved in saw mills.

Mike Creek
Mike Creek was named after Phillip Michael, the first settler on the stream, who farmed there in 1857.

Big and Little Sugar Creeks
These two rivers were named after the abundance of sugar maples that used to grow along their banks. In times of early settlement, sugar tree orchards were located along the stream, providing early pioneers with maple syrup and sugar.

Mill Creek
Mill Creek derives its name from a saw mill located on its bank which was run by Moses Martin in about 1835.


Before coal-burning power plants were used to produce electricity, running water in a river was used to turn a watermill. The energy produced by the watermill was used to grind corn and wheat into flour.

Havenhurst Mill

Havenhurst Mill, located on Little Sugar Creek, one mile from Pineville, MO, was built in 1868 and remained in operation until it burned in 1962.   For more information on the mill and the history of Little Sugar Creek, visit http://www.heartofhome.net/waterways/elk-river.htm and http://heartofhome.net/waterways/little-sugar-creek.htm

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Missouri Department
of Natural Resources

Missouri Watershed Information Network (MoWIN)
Send comments to: mowin1@missouri.edu
205 Agricultural Engineering
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: (573) 882-0085
Toll Free: (MO only): 1-877-H20-shed (426-7433)
Fax: (573) 884-5650

Page last updated August 26, 2008