Bob Mitchell: Some ‘adopted’ business leaders remembered

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Cassville has always been fortunate to have business people who knew their products, were knowledgeable about taking care of customers and for the most part had an understanding of what it took to make a viable community.

By reviewing those that were mainly around the square, it was surprising to discover that the biggest part of them were not natives but came to town to distribute their wares or profession. They were “adopted” into the community, which was difficult for some of the natives to accept.

One of those once voiced his sentiments about the newcomers in this manner, “a new broom sweeps clean.” What he really meant was, “anyone who comes to Cassville from out-of-town will soon be mayor or on the city council,” which in some cases actually didn’t work out all that bad.

A few I remember

Starting at the southeast corner of the square: Lavern Thompson, from St. Louis, furniture and appliance; J. J. Miller, from Carthage, drug store; and Carl Fanning, from Berryville, Ark., took over Walker’s Fashions. Jumping to the north side, Arthur Smith, from Pineville, bought First National Bank, and Marion Wooten, from Aurora, was a druggist. Then, to the west side, Glen Hall, from Pittsburg, Kan., theater, then Shorty Webster, from Neosho, Barry Hotel.

Beginning on the south side, J. A. Hull, from Berryville, Ark., Oklahoma Tire and Supply; Bill Wiley, originally from Crane, Western Auto; and finishing off, Wayne Tomblin, from Oklahoma; Charley Willis, from St. Louis, insurance; and then there were Missie Pearl and Bland White, Music Store.

Those not on the square

Located elsewhere in the business area were: Jack Nickols, from Purdy, Sears; J. C. Kenney, from Wheaton, auto agency; and Charles McGruder and Fred Drummond, from Exeter, Ozark Sporting Goods. Then there is possibly the premier import, at least in my way of thinking, from Monett, Herschel Stehlik, Barry County Lumber; and then there was an aggressive mayor, Justin Goostree, from Joplin, Manley Courts, and John Anglum, origination not remembered.

Although they were few in number, women played an important part in the business and professional life of the community. These could include Gladys Vaughn, women’s fashions; Carolyn Hunter, from Eagle Rock, dentist; and Dr. Mary Newman, from Seligman, medical practice.

There will be those who would like to add to this list, which includes only those coming to my mind at the time this column was composed. Actually, the list consists mainly of the people who contributed a great deal to progress or industrial development in Cassville during my involvement.

I must say, there were natives right in the middle of these efforts, but that’s not the subject of this column.

Here are a few from Shell Knob

Having done business with most of the early developers of Table Rock Lake, in this instance along the shores of Table Rock Lake, resort operators, which most of whom came from out of the area, played a major roll. Again I’m taking a risk of overlooking someone, hear are a few.

At the top of the list has to appear Cecil Davis of Rod ‘n’ Reel Resort, the Kansas City contractor, was among the first and played an important part of development and support. Then there was Howard McIlrath, of Hidden Cove, who was among the founders of first bank in the community. Howard also got caught-up in the political swing of the area in losing an effort to establish a village in Shell Knob.

Gene Cooper, builder of Hillcrest Cottage and involved in the new bank; Burt Cook of Bass Haven, with the railroad down the bluff; Charley Myers, founder of Hardman Hollow, followed by the Stewarts. A duo, Ralph and Mary Lambert and their King’s Harbor Resort, once featured Crowe’s Dinner House in their development.

More contributors to the lake community came later, but not to be overlooked via community relations was Art Hegi, who with his charcoal cookers was always around to help a gathering or cause. These were the early ones, but others will undoubtedly come to mind later.

Noted in passing

The community lost a couple of natives just recently, the first was Charles Wooten, who graduated from CHS in 1956 and was a standout basketball performer for the Wildcats, leading the former Big Nine in scoring his senior year and going on to play at MU a couple of years. His career was in a fashionable drug store-Hallmark operation in the Kansas City area. His retirement years were in Arizona.

Then there was Jim LeCompte, attorney, who practiced here for his entire career. Jim was the Democrat county chairman the last time the party had multiple successes in Barry County. Jim was the initial attorney for the Little Joe Transplant Fund, guiding the effort through tax-free status and working with trustees in awarding medical assistance to many and later college scholarships to hundreds of seniors in all Barry County high schools. Jim and I were among the original founders of the effort.

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.