THE MIRACLE CITY OF THE OZARKS – LINN CREEK©
By Dwight Weaver
Less than one mile northeast of Camdenton on U. S. Highway 54 is the town of Linn Creek, a community called “The Miracle City of the Ozarks” or “New Linn Creek” in the 1930s and 40s.
The Linn Creek of today is not the original Linn Creek but a re-birth of Old Linn Creek that once sat one mile upstream in Linn Creek valley from the creek’s confluence with the Osage River. The town is three miles from that confluence and the waters of Lake of the Ozarks fill most of the valley’s lower three miles. The original site of Old Linn Creek is now beneath 40 feet of water.
Old Linn Creek was first settled about 1841 by Benjamin R. Abbott, who operated the first store. Before that, Aaron Crain operated a ferry at the mouth of Linn Creek. A second confluence nearby was that of the Niangua River. Crain ferried passengers across both the Niangua and the Osage rivers. By the early 1850s, Joseph W. MClurg had settled at this location. After the Civil War, Joseph McClurg briefly became governor of Missouri. He was Linn Creek and Camden County’s most distinguished citizen of the late nineteenth century. By the time Bagnell Dam was built and Lake of the Ozarks formed in 1931, Old Linn Creek had a population of approximately 500.
The people of Old Linn Creek had the choice of selling their house and property to Union Electric, who built the dam and formed the Lake, or they could sell their land and have their house moved to a new location. Many of the people chose to sell out and build a new home elsewhere or in the new town of Camdenton. A few actually had their houses moved to Camdenton while others had their houses moved a couple of miles up Linn Creek valley to the location of New Linn Creek. There are today more than a dozen occupied houses in Linn Creek that were originally in Old Linn Creek.
“Mounting their residences on rollers and skids, wrecking and re-building other structures, moving stocks of merchandise and places of business, Linn Creek was transplanted . . . up the valley out of the reach of the rising waters,” said The Daily Capital News and Post Tribune newspaper in Jefferson City in 1931. “This was done virtually overnight. New values, new ideals, new visions were created, and thus the new Linn Creek gained the appellation of “The Miracle City of the Ozarks.” (See a partial view of downtown New Linn Creek in the early 1930s, photo by an unknown photographer.)
Linn Creek Cove, its shores not burdened by towering bluffs and precipitously sloping hillsides, was conducive to development and hosted several of the Lake’s earliest fishing camps and resorts such as Art Luck’s Fishing and Hunting Resort. Art’s place was located right up the hill above the former site of Old Linn Creek. His guests could boast of fishing in the waters over Old Linn Creek, thus it was that fanciful myths and legends were born, stories often believed by people unfamiliar with the history of the moving of Old Linn Creek. It was said you could see the buildings of Old Linn Creek beneath the water and that when the Lake was low a church steeple jutted above the surface and the steeple’s bell could be heard ringing on dark, windy nights. The stories were completely untrue but added a lot of spark around the campfires that fishermen built at night.
Among the first merchants in New Linn Creek was J. H. Bruin, J. W. Garrison, Lon King, O. H. Evers, Thomas Moulder, J. A. Bunch, J. R. Neal, R. F. Houser and E. C. Shifflett.
J. A. Bruin, who opened the Bear Den Grocery, is said to have carried on his back, piece-by-piece, all the lumber used in the building of the grocery store from a lumberyard in Old Linn Creek up to his New Linn Creek location.
J. W. Garrison opened the Green Lantern Café while Lon King, merchant, farmer and realtor, operated a jewelry store and served as the town’s undertaker.
O. H. Evers opened the Linn Creek Hotel, which was described as “a quaint little all-stone structure” with a mantle over the dining room fireplace that was 100 years old. It was made from walnut that was formerly in the Methodist parsonage in Old Linn Creek. Evers also built separate tourist cottages. The old hotel building still stands and is now a private residence. (See this stone building in photo taken by the author in 2002.)
The Moulder family operated a drug store and general dry goods firm; J. A. Bunch operated the Camden Motor Company, which sold Ford products; J. R. Neal operated a lumberyard; R. F. Houser had the Lakeside Barber Shop; and E. F. Shifflett had Fat’s Bar-B-Q.
The First National Bank of New Linn Creek had a capital surplus of $50,000 and deposits of $450,000. The bank was organized in Old Linn Creek in 1905 and John M. Farmer was cashier when New Linn Creek was established.
These merchants and their businesses are long gone but some of their buildings survive. Houses in Linn Creek’s older residential areas are showing their age, but southeast of U. S. Highway 54 along the banks of the North Fork of Linn Creek the commercial landscape has a newer look in the town’s industrial area.