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History of Marshfield

Marshfield is the county seat of Webster County, Missouri.  Both surnames were deemed in honor of the prominent 19th century politician Daniel Webster and his adult home of Marshfield, Massachusetts.

The area was settled during the early 1830's as result of the 1808 Osage Indian cessation. Webster County was organized in 1855, and Marshfield was laid out in 1856 on the highest upland area of the Ozarks. Marshfield sits at 1490 feet above sea level, deeming it the highest county seat in Missouri.  Uniquely, it also separates a geological divide between the Missouri and Arkansas Rivers.  Many springs originate from the hillsides around town and depart into the headwaters of four separate watersheds: The Niangua River, Pomme De Terre River,Osage Fork of the Gasconade River to the north and east, and the James River to the South.

The Atlantic and Pacific (Frisco) Railroad was built through town in 1872 and helped to stimulate early economic growth as a primary producer of livestock, poultry, and dairy products. Shortly after this early expansion, Marshfield was struck with the destructive forces of two tornadoes. The first occurred in May, 1878, with only minor damage to a select few businesses and a church. The second was far more destructive, completely leveling the town on the evening of April 18th, 1880, killing 99 people and causing a million dollars in damage. This event is still listed in the top ten natural disasters in the nation and was notarized by musician John Boone in his composition titled "Marshfield Cyclone." In spite of this, the town quickly rebuilt with support from neighboring towns, friends, and complete strangers. Marshfield also suffered losses from significant fires in 1920 and 1921. But, despite these tragedies, the town persevered and continued to grow.

One of the most famous residents from Marshfield was Astronomer Edwin P. Hubble who attended the public school system through the 3rd Grade. A replica of the famous Hubble Telescope - which continues to unlock the mysteries of the universe - sits on the courthouse lawn in his honor. Many other notable figures, including two Presidents, have visited Marshfield. Harry S. Truman visited in 1948 and George H.W. and first lady Barbara Bush visited on July 4th, 1991 to participate in the Independence Day Parade and celebrate while campaigning for the presidency.

This Independence Day celebration began in 1879 and remains the oldest, continuous west of the Mississippi River. The earliest celebrations were composed largely of local families traveling by foot, horseback, and wagons to a large grove just north of town to enjoy the day with friends and neighbors. People would gather together early to clear the underbrush, preparing and smoothing the grounds for lemonade, soda pop, popcorn, crackerjacks, and candy stands. Wood was also cut and hauled to a huge pit where beef, pork, and chicken were roasted for the celebration. Although many years have passed, family, friends, and neighbors still travel to Marshfield to enjoy this Independence Day celebration, eat a corn dog or a sandwich from one of the many food vendors, and have an ice cold lemonade or soda pop similar to those early celebrations.

Marshfield also sponsors the longest continuous county fair in Missouri as well as many other family events during the year thanks to the dedication and hard work of the many civic organizations, churches, and businesses. A few include: the annual Easter Egg Hunt, Cherry Blossom Festival, Farmer's Market, Fiber Fair, Pow Wow, Truck and Tractor Pull, Independence Day Rodeo, ATV Rodeo, Demolition Derby, Annual Holstein Association Show, Business Expo, Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, Harvest Days, Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Parade, and Tree Lighting Ceremony.

In addition to these events, Marshfield is conveniently close to large cities such as Tulsa, Kansas City, and St. Louis as well as smaller City of Springfield. However, it's rural attributes serve to also attract outdoorsmen and nature enthusiasts.  Eight large lakes are within an hour's drive: Pomme De Terre; Stockton; Truman; and Lake of the Ozarks to the north and west; and Bull Shoals, Northfork, Table Rock, and Taneycomo to the south. Two smaller lakes - McDaniel and Fellows - and Springfield lakes are within 30 minutes. All offer an array of outdoor opportunities including fishing, boating, skiing, and sailing. Hiking, biking, wildlife areas, streams, and other river opportunities are within a short drive including the Niangua and Compton Hollow Conservation Areas just outside of Marshfield's city limits.

 

 


 
Content compliments of Marshfield Chamber of Commerce; Photos compliments of Webster County Historical Museum