Bob Mitchell: Men beneficial in Cassville’s history

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

(Continued from last week)

A number of politicians, in addition to Congressman Gene Taylor, were role players in Cassville’s benefit. Paramount among them was Nolan McNeill, a one-time Cassville businessman, who later became State Representative for Barry and McDonald counties. As anyone knowledgeable about government knows, spending money in Missouri begins in the House of Representatives. It was here that McNeill sponsored the first funding bill for improvement at Roaring River State Park that provided the convention center. He also supported subsequent funds for the project when the state’s architect went bankrupt, stalling the project. McNeill also sponsored establishing a state park on Sugar Creek in McDonald County at Big Rock. For his efforts at Roaring River, every politician at the time in Jefferson City and some that followed like to claim credit for that project, but the record speaks the loudest.

Bill Hemphill, of Purdy, one of the longest-term sheriffs in Barry County, was a local booster. He established the first Sheriff’s Posse that carried the Cassville banner throughout the region and to far reaches out west with their rodeo appearances. His connections began the several-year appearance at Cassville’s rodeo by the prestigious Saddle and Sirloin Club from Kansas City for weeklong stays at Roaring River’s Group Camp during the early Rotary Rodeos.

Early mayors

Cassville has had some good and some not-so-good mayors serving the people in the past. A few of those will be outside the memory of many these days, let’s try a few.

Justin Goostree was a businessman who came to Cassville and purchased the old Manley Courts, long since developed along South Main. He had a view of the future and was never hesitant to move in that direction. At his direction the first large water tower atop Seventh Street hill replaced two antiquated facilities. His administration also built Cassville’s first swimming pool and had the direction to put it at a mid-town location, making it more accessible, even against serious opposition.

Dr. George Newman never gave up, even though never successful, to obtain an airport for Cassville. His tenure put Cassville in touch regionally, which proved beneficial in the future.

Dr. G.A. Purvis saw the need for utility expansion projects to prepare for the future. His actions toward projects put Cassville close to being ready for a number of industrial projects that followed his tenure in office. Bill Edmonson’s administration put the final touches on the first Zoning and Planning project for Cassville. As a C of C president, he put the first paid manager in the office, beginning some progressive ventures.

John Baker was the first mayor to stop the piece-meal annexation practices, which were usual for Cassville. He demanded substantial annexations over the objections of some legal authorities.

Evan Shore, one of the longest serving city mayors, also had been Barry County sheriff in his early days. He was a concessionaire at Roaring River and served on the Missouri Park Board, making contacts for Cassville.

Chamber presidents

A couple of businessmen, not native to Cassville, played important roles during industrial development projects. Jack Nickols and John Anglum, held the post on successive years when Justin Boot and Alvey Inc. came to town. They threw the full support of the Chamber office behind these efforts.

In the C of C office at different times were two couples, first Bill and Virginia Ward and then Lige and Ella Frost, who were always available. Lige had been a concessionaire at Roaring River and also a county commissioner, giving him an insight into local connections.

Other notables

Several men in the past have done their part for the community. Here again, there were quite likely others, but this is the list I remember.

Ted Hutchens, a native of Cassville who did well in the manufacturing world in Springfield, sought to place a plant in Cassville but was turned down for ridiculous reasons by those in authority in the community. Their short sightedness awakened others in the community and started a movement that resulted in Cassville becoming the home of more manufacturing jobs than population. That fact has since declined somewhat.

Means Ray, at the time an editor of the Cassville Democrat, cooperated with a boyhood friend, Dr. Bill Talbert of the University of Kentucky, in providing the first Fescue seed in Barry County, with the contents of several sacks being distributed to area cattlemen for planting. The grass started many cattle pastures in Barry County.

George Robbins, first manager of Barry Electric Cooperative, was chairman of the first Zoning and Planning Commission here. Directed by a professional planner, the full design of the program was never followed by succeeding city administrations, resulting in the existence of some problems facing the town at this time.

Verdayne Riddle, a former educator and subsequent businessman, quietly supported progress from his north side of Cassville’s square location, his entire career.

(Still a few more to mention next week).

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.