The History of Taney County, Missouri

What do you think of when think of Taney County, Missouri? Perhaps you think of the famous and fish filled lake by the name of Lake Taneycomo – which is short for Taney County Missouri. Maybe you think of College of the Ozarks, the only college in the county. Or perhaps you might think of the Taney County Fire Department, or the town of Forsyth, Missouri, which happens to be the county seat. Taney County is full to bursting with great people, beautiful places, and fun things to do. The county also boasts a rich history, one that any citizen of Taney County can be proud of.

Taney County was carved out of the rugged Ozarks wilderness – it took hard work, determination and a bit of luck on the part of the people who inhabited the area. But they did it – and their heritage is one that should not be forgotten. Taney County became an officially organized and federally recognized county on January 4, 1837. The county was named in the honor of Roger Brooke Taney. This famous man was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court – he is most often recognized for delivering the majority opinion on the Dred Scott v. Sanford case. (This historical event happened some years after the Southwest Missouri county was named after him.)

Once the county was in place, a courthouse was built in 1837 by pioneer settlers in the area. It remained standing until the dawn of the single bloodiest event in the history of the United States: the Civil War. The Taney County courthouse was destroyed on July 22, 1861, during a Civil War battle. Post war, a second courthouse was built, and stood tall as a symbol of the county until it was destroyed by fire in December of 1885. With the stubborn determination that still characterizes the Ozarks people today, loyal county citizens built yet another courthouse. In 1952, this courthouse was removed so that the construction of Bull Shoals Lake could be carried out to completion. The fourth, final and current courthouse was occupied on August 1, 1952.

Taney County was the county in which Harold Bell Wright settled to write his famous novel, The Shepherd of the Hills – county residents still take pride in this today. But the county saw its fair share of historical troubles as well; Taney County was the hotspot for the Baldknobber vigilantes. Deep in the heart of the county lies the old bald hill upon which the leaders would light signal fires to summon the rest of the gang. The Baldknobbers murdered, plundered and robbed many of Taney County’s residents, and are featured as the main villains in Wright’s book.

Today, Taney County is known for its lakes – Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Taneycomo – as well as being the county in which Branson, Missouri is located. It is also famous for its hiking trails, and for being the locale for the acclaimed movie ‘Winter’s Bone.’ It is a county full of history, rock formations and hill folk – if you haven’t been yet, come see it for yourself! If you want to find out more about the history of Taney County, visit the Branson library.

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