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History The Ozark Hotel

The Ozark Hotel

When the Frisco Railroad built a line between Mansfield and Ava, new businesses sprang up to serve the people that the railroad brought. This is the local economic environment a Mrs. Edith Bralley Martin returned to in 1910 after she had finished millinery, or ladies hat-making, school in Kansas City. She came back to Ava at that time because her father had died and she was ready to build a hometown life for herself and her children. A single mother with two children, Mrs. Martin saw a chance in Ava's expanding economy to provide for her family by starting a business. She founded, built and operated the three-story, 24-room Ozark Hotel. The hotel has changed hands since she and her children owned it between 1914 and 1924. But it still stands just off the square (on Business 5 across from O'Reilly Automotive) as a landmark of that busy railroad time.

At first, she went to work in the ladies hat section of a large department store on the square. But by 1914 she decided to start the Ozark Hotel so she could be home with her children in addition to making a living. Two hotels were already in business in Ava. But there was plenty of business for one more, Mrs. Martin was sure.

 
Edith Bralley Martin with children  Daisy, 6, and Virgil, 7, circa 1907.
Opening night at the Ozark Hotel in November of 1914 was a big event that attracted local newspaper attention. Mrs. Martin provided music and food and invited the entire town. Her daughter Daisy, a retired schoolteacher who still lives in Ava, even sang for the guests, the newspaper reported. As proprietress of the Ozark Hotel, Mrs. Martin continued to make meals every day for her paying guests, as was customary in those days.

She didn't confine herself to the kitchen. She was an important business person in Ava then. And when her daughter Daisy went to Springfield for college in 1920, her mother was free enough to just go with her. Mrs. Martin leased the Ozark Hotel to the Pettit family, which owned a resort and hotel outside of Ava in Larissa. In Springfield, she went to work in the ladies hat section at the Heer's department store. She also decided at that time to take the civil service exam (required of anyone who wanted to work for the federal government). Mrs. Martin passed the exam and took off for a job in Washington D.C.

Illness put an end to Mrs. Martin's business and adventures. She died in 1923, but her legacy lives on in the Ozark Hotel and in those days of opera houses, moving picture shows and busy railroad yards in Ava.


Source: Marilyn Alms, Douglas County Historical Society. Written by Patty Cantrell.

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