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History Towns & Villages: Rockbridge

A History of Rockbridge

Rockbridge location mapLate in the summer of 1841 a group of families left Marion County, Kentucky, in three ox and horse drawn wagons led by Captain Kim C. Amyx. Their destination would require some 500 miles and six months of challenging travel searching unknown territory for a new life in the virgin wilderness of the Ozarks. Their journey would end near present day Hodgson Mill.

It is reported that members of this wagon train, along with other previous settlers, set about to establish a new community known as Rockbridge. The original town and mill site was located near the confluence of Spring Creek and Bryant Creek. Until 1860 it was the original county seat of Ozark County. Until 1857 Ozark County included all of Ozark, part of Howell, and most of Douglas counties.

After a few short years, the town and mill was destroyed by fire. It is speculation as to whether the fire was started by Civil War guerillas or by the townspeople to keep the guerillas from setting up a base camp using the mill for survival. Rockbridge Mill was rebuilt in 1868, a few miles upstream on its present day site.

Rockbridge General Store The milling business was good, and B.V. Morris, who bought the mill, enlarged it in 1888. In 1894 he built a two-story general store, one of the largest and finest buildings in the area. This was followed in 1903 by a bank. In the early days of the twentieth century there was also a general store, Masonic Lodge, bank, church, school, and blacksmith shop.

The village of Rockbridge was a gathering place of people from the countryside. The trip to the mill was a great occasion, enabling people to visit old friends and neighbors, to get their meal and flour, to vote on election day, and to get news of the outside world.

Rockbridge HouseActivity flourished the latter years of the 19th century and continued on until the 1920-30s, but as gasoline power and better roads came along, the need for the mill and the blacksmith shop gradually declined. The bank went under in 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression, followed some time later by the general store. The mill ceased operations in the late 1940s. The world had changed, and Rockbridge was abandoned.

Rainbow Trout Ranch

In 1954, Lile, Edith, and Ray Amyx purchased the property (today 1500 acres). It included the mill, the store, the bank, in fact, the entire village. They began to develop a new business: Rainbow Trout Ranch. The days were long and nights short and they worked diligently to bring life back to the Rockbridge village. And once again people from the town and countryside came from miles around to visit friends and neighbors, enjoy a good meal, vote on election day, but this time to bring news from the outside world, and enjoy world class trout fishing.

On Friday, January 24, 1986, fire consumed the old Rockbridge General Store, which had been remodeled into the resort restaurant and reception area. The Amyx family persevered. They rebuilt the restaurant and reception, and, in 2001, expanded the restaurant.

Years later Rockbridge still exists with all of the stamina, character, and a way of life we so greatly admired about our forefathers. And with a little luck, a lot of hard work, good friends and neighbors, the little village in a valley of the Ozark hills will continue to create history and provide memories for all who visit.

Sources: Information supplied by the Amyx family, from a fact sheet available at the Trout Ranch; article in the Ozark County Times, 7/30/2003. Photos contributed by area resident John Lillyquist. 1915 photo postcard of the Rockbridge store; on the bottom front is "STORE ROCK BRIDGE MO." The sign on the store is for "STAR BRAND SHOES". Photo of a farmhouse near Rockbridge, circa 1915.