History - Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce

    Click on the following links to learn about some of the Historic Ozark Landmarks that you can visit.     

Whitman Building
 
1st United Methodist

Old Railroad Depot

Old Jailhouse

Franklin Co. Courthouse

Bristow Hotel


    The origin of the word Ozark is French and comes to us from the early French explorers who first navigated and mapped the Arkansas River in the late 1600's and early 1700's. After France gained control of the vast land which later became known as the 'Louisiana Purchase' the French sent surveyors and cartographers to explore their new lands in the New World. 

     These Frenchmen first entered the huge Arkansas River at its mouth and confluence with the Mississippi River where they and other early explorers along with Native Americans had established the settlement at Arkansas Post. The French cartographers did their job well and mapped the river bends as they traveled upriver several hundred miles. They named the northern most bend in the Arkansas River as the Aux Arcs which easily translates as the 'to the top arc' - the northern-most bend in the great river. This geographic feature is plain to see on a topographic map and moreover, it was a very distinct and significant landmark for early travelers.

     The phrase Aux Arcs was spoken by non-French peoples in a manner that eventually sounded as 'Ozark'. (In the French pronunciation, the 's' in 'arcs' is silent.) This most northerly point was used by many early pioneers as a jumping off point from the Arkansas River to explore the vast set of ridges, rivers and mountains to the north of that 'top' bend ... these mountainous lands were eventually referred to as "The Ozarks".


  

         The city of Ozark was established at the top of this huge, northern-most bend of the lower Arkansas River. Ozark was founded in 1836. The first post office opened on July 3, 1837. State officials also named Ozark as the Franklin County seat of government in 1837. The city was incorporated in 1850. The city lost its incorporated status during the Civil War when Union troops burned every business, the church and all but three homes. It was reincorporated in 1869.
        The railroad reached the area in 1873 and by 1888 four passenger trains ran daily to the city. In 1888 a vegetable canning factory became Ozark's first industry. Whitman Field, Ozark's first airport, was dedicated in 1937. It was located at the present site of the Ozark Franklin County Regional Airport. 

        

     Today Ozark's rich riparian history is still alive and well in our modern time of travel with Interstate 40 bordering the city to the north and the great Arkansas River on the south. Two well maintained state highways route the traveler though the city connecting the river and Interstate.