MISSOURI (KSNF) – A common plight regarding local legends, lore, and tales is the lack of solid evidence they existed and a lot of hearsay about the stories’ origins. Even more so when the beginning of such mysteries can be dated over a century ago.
In the Four State area, there are all kinds of local lore regarding the Spooklight, Hoffman’s Mansion, Devil’s Promenade Bridge, and Ozark’s Blue Man. One thing is for certain, no matter the legend, many have their own version of the tale to tell. Such is the case for the ghost towns of southwest Missouri, too.
Jollification “Jolly Mill,” Mo.
Jollification was established about 18 miles east of Neosho, around 40 acres of land purchased by the Isbell family, according to Roots Web and Digging History. The Isbell family, and possibly the enslaved people the family-owned, built a distillery.
Census and real estate records show a variety of people lived in and around Jollification. But the origin of the name is debated. One tale describes a rivaling editor of the Neosho Times newspaper stopped at Jollification, and local patrons retold their accounts of a Newton County lawyer indulging in the distilled spirits, bar fights, and calling his buddies to attend for a “jollification.”
Eventually, parts of Jollification were burned. The small village was mentioned in passing during the Civil War and was supposedly the site of a few slaughters related to the war. The Jolly Mill has survived all these years and is now registered with the National Registry of Historic Places.
The people of southwest Missouri know all too well how destructive tornados can be, and the remains of Melva are a testament to that. All that’s left today are the ruins of a post office, the foundations of devastated homes, and the inlay of old roads.
In March of 1920, a tornado devastated the town located south of Hollister on the east bank of Turkey creek. The tornado killed 11 people, nine of which were children. According to the White River Historical Society in a quarterly publication, dead children were pulled from the river, along with some injured, and were taken by train to Branson, Missouri.
The small village never recovered.
Phenix is located between Walnut Grove and Ashgrove in Green County. It was once a thriving marble and limestone-mining town, having contributed to the Missouri Capitol Building. Though now, it is barely more than a few stone buildings, dilapidated stone structures, and a part-time quarry used for crushing stone.
According to thelibrary.org, it was also a company town, meaning the mining company also owned the general store, school, city properties, and even the homes within Phenix were owned by the company.
An interesting note is a few different tales and sources from Underground Ozarks and Ozark Greenways claim that Bonnie Parker, of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, attended elementary school in Phenix. Another tale claims the duo eventually robbed a bank in Ashgrove, which is only a 10-minute drive from the old mining town. It’s safe to say the local lore of Phenix has deep roots in Missouri.
There’s not much testament as to why this town became abandoned after many prosperous years, but some speculation blames the Great Depression and the fact that it was a company town. Some folks claim the life of the town was directly connected to the life of the company.
Ghost Towns of Missouri
There are many historical towns registered and recorded through the Geographic Names Information System, a government database that contains information for the official names of places and areas within the U.S. and other territories. There are quite a few places in Missouri that no longer exist or are considered ghost towns recorded there.
Roots Web says the villages of Sunnyvale and Oakland Park were absorbed by the towns around them. Sunnyvale, Missouri, was in Newton County and absorbed into Joplin, while the Oakland Park village merged into Webb City.