Historic Little Osage Village (later commonly) Balltown, Vernon County, Missouri




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Little Osage -- "Balltown"

     The village of Little Osage -- or "Balltown," as the place was for many years better known--is located on the south bank of the Osage, in the western part of the township (se. sw. sec. 18 and ne. nw. sec. 19, tp. 37), about midway from north to south.  Although at one time a place of much importance and well known throughout the country, Balltown has dwindled to insignificance -- almost to obliteration.  Time and the progress of events have well nigh accomplished its complete destruction.  There is at present one country store and half a dozen other buildings.

     The first settlement on the site of Balltown was made by Daniel H. Austin, a member of the Harmony Mission Company, who in the year 1836 came over from the Mission and began the erection of a water mill on the Osage.  It was both a grist and saw mill, but at first the grinding apparatus was adapted only to grinding corn, which was practically the only kind of grain then in the country.  The saw mill was of great value to the country.  Prior to its establishment the only home-sawed lumber in the neighborhood was whip-sawed.  The first frame house in the county was built by Edward Dodge, out of lumber sawed at this mill, and is still standing on a tract of land adjoining Balltown on the east.  Austin's mill was a well known institution to the first settlers of Vernon and Bates counties.  Mr. Austin died at Balltown in 1852.

     But the real founder of Balltown was Cecil D. Ball, a nephew of Rev. Nathaniel Dodge, who in the year 1837 came to the county first on a visit to his relatives.  After a stay of a few months he went to St. Louis and was employed by a number of wholesale merchants as a traveling collector.  He returned to Austin's Mill in 1839 and decided to engage in business and permanently locate at that point.  He first purchased and then repaired and reconstructed Mr. Austin's mill and set it to sawing lumber with which to build a new mill.  This was soon accomplished and without delay the old mill was supplemented by a new establishment, in complete repair, well built, and with a capacity apparently quite beyond the necessities of the country at that day.  But the judgment and foresight of the enterprising owner were soon made manifest.  The mill was crowded with customers and some years later steam was introduced.  The days of corn bread alone were past.  The farmers could now raise wheat the have it ground and bolted into good flour, which they had hitherto been unable to do, without a long and toilsome journey to a mill in a distant locality.

     Mr. Daniel H. Austin had previously been the carpenter and millwright at the Harmony Mission and had there built a water-mill on the Marais des Cygnes; but the volume of water proved to be too large and the current too powerful for the machinery, and in time he abandoned it and built a horse mill.

     While Mr. Austin was operating his little mill on the Osage, two men named Barnhardt and Raper opened a little store here.  But business was bad and after an experience of some months they left the country.  Soon afterward, Mr. Ball established a first-class country store, erected a good two-story dwelling, a barn, and other buildings, and opened a large farm.  At first Mr. Ball kept his goods in his dwelling house and in the room which Barnhart & Raper had occupied, but his business increased so rapidly and so extensively that it was not long before he was compelled to build a large and commodious building expressly for a store-house.

     The locality was at first called Austin's Mills; then Ball's Mills; then Balltown.  But in 1851 Mr. Ball entered the land and laid out a town which he called Little Osage.  In about 1842, the post-office was established here and called Little Osage, having previously, about 1840, been located at the residence of Dr. Leonard Dodge, who was the first postmaster.  This was the first post-office in Vernon county.

The 1887 History of Vernon County, pages 386-388




Little Osage Cemetery


Little Osage Maps and Little Osage Bridge


Little Osage Mill


Little Osage Post Office


Little Osage School




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Vernon Co, MO County Coordinator

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