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History Gainesville

Early Gainesville, 1898-1911

From "Horse and Buggy Days" by Madge Harlin Brown

If one had been looking for a small town to live in during the years 1898-1911, I can't think of a more interesting place than Gainesville. A lot of "livin'," happenings, and yes, a few killin's occurred, but let me start with the square.

In the center of the square stood a wooden two-story building, the court house, painted white, with an outside stairway which led to the second floor and the entrance to the courtroom. The courtyard was surrounded by a chain fence. It was necessary to have the fence as cows roamed wild. Horses and mules were hitched to it when people came to town. Where the little log house is now, there was a city well with a pump, and anyone who needed water could fill his bucket. Near the well stood a bandstand which also served as a place for the kids to play. 

On the corner of the west side of the square stood a hotel. When I was born in 1898, my great-grandmother Conklin owned the hotel. Next door on the south stood our bank, a small wooden building. My two uncles, Jim and Tan Harlin, and John Reed started the bank in 1894. My mother, Clara (Layton) Harlin, was the first depositor. Next to the bank was a small wooden building which was the store that belonged to my grandfather Layton and his two sons. The Laytons came to our town about the year 1893. 

To the south was a two-story building called the old red building, which housed a store on the first floor and the Masonic Lodge and the Eastern Star on the second. This building was destroyed by fire and all the records were burned. A drug store was on the opposite corner on the south. Where the Western Auto is now located was the Wood and Reed Mercantile store. This was owned by John Reed and brothers, Frank and Guy Wood. The post office was in the rear of that store. There were two homes adjoining that building to the east. The Ozark County Times is where it has always been. 

The street where the post office is now located was the only street in town that had a name. It was called High Street and will always be High Street to us old-timers. The Johnson Store is located at the site of the old post office. My mother was postmaster for a short time. The mail left Gainesville for West Plains every morning at 6. It was carried in what we called the mail hack, a two-seated vehicle drawn by a team of two horses. There were post offices at different places on the way to West Plains. At 10 (a.m.) the hack would reach the Sharp post office, then Tecumseh, and on to Elijah by 12 noon. At Elijah by a large, cold spring, everyone would have the lunch that they had prepared before leaving home. After about an hour of rest, the mail would be transferred to that hack that had arrived from West Plains. The Gainesville driver would then return to Gainesville and the West Plains driver and his hack with mail and passengers would return to West Plains. 

Source: Text and photo from A History of Ozark County 1841-1991. Reprinted by permission of the Ozark County Genealogical and Historical Society.