The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 22, 2013

Frankie Meyer: Dam, lake drastically changed Camden County

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When studying family history in Camden County, one often discovers that ancestors and dozens of their relatives left that area in the 1930s. The mass exodus was caused by the completion of Bagnell Dam along the Osage River in 1931 to form Lake of the Ozarks.

The dam was built by Union Electric Company to produce hydroelectric energy. As a result of the dam, hundreds of farms, homes and businesses were destroyed. Graves in dozens of cemeteries were moved, more than 55,000 acres were flooded and more than 1,150 miles of shoreline was created.

Entire towns and communities were flooded, while others were left isolated because the nearby roads and low-water bridges were flooded.

Some of the towns that no longer exist as a result of the lake are Bannister to the north of Macks Creek, ArnholdtÕs Mill on the Niangua River, Proctor on Proctor Creek, Hendon on Rainey Creek, Cape Galena near Linn Creek, Zora on Big Buffalo Creek, Purvis and Thornsberry.

Another town that was flooded was Erie, sometimes known as Oregon, that once served as the county seat. The town of Osage Ironworks, also called Ironton, was also flooded.

Old Linn Creek was one of the largest towns affected. Many of those residents moved their homes and businesses up the valley to a higher location to form the new town of Linn Creek. As a result of the lake, the town of Camdenton was platted in 1931 to become the new county seat.

A museum at the new town of Linn Creek has information on the graves that were moved, as well as the changes that have occurred in the county over the years.

A book titled "The State of Missouri: An Autobiography" is a helpful resource that describes the county before the development of the dam. The book was compiled in 1904 by the state government. To read a free, digitized copy of the book, go to the website

When the site opens, enter the name of the book in the search box and click on "Search Books." When the book opens, go to page 343 to read the section on Camden County. A map is on page 345. Miller County was also affected by Bagnell Dam. It is discussed on pages 446 and 447. A map of that county is found on page 447.

Suggestions or queries? Contact Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email