Take a History Vacation in the Missouri Ozarks!
Iron County and Reynolds County Missouri History
in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area of the MO Ozarks

Revisit the past! Come explore our historic towns and learn about the Missouri Civil War in our region.  See everything from the homesteads of the first settlers in our region, to fine antebellum homes, historic churches and turn of the century mercantile buildings. Our historic Missouri Ozarks landmarks are the footprints of the past.  Retrace the path of the Missouri Civil War, from Fort Barnesville to Fort Davidson State Historic Site.  History will come alive on your Missouri Ozarks Vacation to our region.
Iron County Missouri - Europeans had been drawn to the early "Upper Louisiana" territory in the 1730s due to the prospect of mining lead.  Close by, the area which later became Iron County, was inhabited by Native Americans who used it as their hunting ground.  Known as "Lost Cove" by the Delaware Indians, William and Joseph Reed were the first settlers to arrive in 1798.  Ephraim Stout built a log house in the valley (as early as 1805-1807) along the creek which still bears his name. It was not until 1836 that the vast iron ore resources of Iron County were discovered.  Mining jobs brought many settlers to the region and in 1857 Iron County became a county in Missouri with its county seat in Ironton. It was also in 1857 that the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad was completed all the way to Pilot Knob, foreshadowing a series of events that led to one of the most important battles of the Civil War in Missouri - The Battle of Pilot Knob at Fort Davidson. Today, the hallowed ground of Fort Davidson State Historic Site honors the brave Union and Confederate soldiers who fought and died in battle. The Iron County Courthouse, built in 1861, still bears the mark of a cannon ball fired on its roof during the battle. Both the courthouse and a gazebo on the lawn are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1861 Ulysses S. Grant received his commission as a Brigadier General at Ironton and a monument at the nearby Catholic church marks that location. These Arcadia Valley Region communities became a popular nineteenth century summer resort for wealthy families from St. Louis. Visit the historic towns and villages of Iron County Missouri where history is preserved as reminders of days gone by. Visit Whistle Junction Visitors Center and Iron County Historical Society Museum while on your Missouri Ozarks Vacation to our region. They are located on Highway 21 in Arcadia.  Read about the fascinating history of Ironton, Arcadia and Pilot Knob and tour these historic towns in Iron County and view images of the historic churches, mercantile buildings and graceful antebellum homes at this link.  If you are researching your family history in Iron County, Missouri, you will find this Iron County Genealogy webpage helpful.

Reynolds County Missouri - Reynolds County was organized in 1845, however long before this designation, many early pioneers braved the risk, hardship and sacrifice in search of their dream. . .a more productive and rewarding life in our Ozark Region.  In 1812 Henry Fry, who is said to have come from Kentucky as the first pioneer, settled on the Middle Fork of the Black River area in what is now Reynolds County.  After the Louisiana Purchase, there were ongoing discussions in established states east of the Mississippi, about when the new "Missouri Territory" would become a state of the Union. At the same time, land in our region was being offered to veterans of the War of 1812. Pioneer families from the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee began to slowly and steadily move to our region.  The civil war era presented tumultuous times for these early settlers, in some cases pitting brother against brother and fathers against sons.  Many notable historic landmarks are present in Reynolds County including Fort Barnesville, on the National Register of Historic Places. Read more about Fort Barnesville here.

Notably, after the famous Gads Hill Train Holdup in 1874, Jesse James and his gang made their escape up the Black River along the Lesterville Road, seeking food and lodging from farm owners along the West Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County. According to news accounts, "in all instances they behaved very genteelly" and paid all their bills "lavishly."
By 1890, there were 6,803 people living in Reynolds County.   Please click here to tour and learn more about the historic towns and landmarks of these early settlers in Reynolds County, MO and read about Lesterville, Centerville, Black, Ellington and more.  Be certain to visit the Reynolds County History Museum in Ellington while you're here.  They are located at 233 South 2nd Street in Ellington and can be reached by calling 573-663-3233. If you are researching genealogy in Reynolds County, Missouri, you will find helpful information at this Reynolds County Missouri Genealogy webpage.

Native American history in the Missouri Ozarks and the Arcadia Valley Region, Black River Recreation Area goes back to the Paleo-Indians, the ancient peoples of the Americas who were present at the end of the last ice age. They camped and hunted along Ozark rivers, perhaps as long as 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. It is believed by many historians that De Soto explored our region while pursuing his dream to find a northern passageway to China back in 1541. After "discovering the Mississippi River", he crossed from Kaskaskia (Illinois) into our region, meeting five different tribes of Native Americans along his trek through what is now Southern Missouri, continuing on into Arkansas.

It was not until 1673, when Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet (who are most often credited with the discovery of Missouri) sailed down the Mississippi River in canoes along the area that would later become Missouri. The two established that the Mississippi River ran all the way to the sea. In 1682, Robert de LaSalle claimed the Louisiana Territory for France.  Read much more on the early history of the Missouri Ozarks, DeSoto's explorations of this region in 1541 and the Native Americans he found upon his arrival to the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Recreation Area.

Visit the Iron County Historical Society and Museum in Arcadia and The Reynolds County Museum in Ellington to see their collections of Native American artifacts found in our region of the Ozarks.

Missouri Civil War History, Fort Davidson State Historic Site and The Battle of Pilot Knob
~ The counties of Reynolds and Iron are rich in Missouri Civil War lore. Because of its strategic importance as the southern terminus of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad, Union soldiers occupied Pilot Knob in Iron County.  Fort Davidson, the target of the Battle of Pilot Knob in 1864, is a hexagonal earthwork constructed by the Union Army and stands 300 yards from the base of Pilot Knob Mountain. The assault on Fort Davidson by Confederate troops left 1,300 soldiers dead, missing or wounded. The fort and site are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Fort Davidson State Historic Site serves as a memorial to those who gave their lives on the battlefield, and the Visitor's Center provides detailed information about the battle through the use of artifacts, a diorama, and film. Additionally, a self-guided driving tour around the Arcadia Valley Region directs visitors to some of the most significant points on the battlefields. Each stop is marked by a red granite monument. Maps for this tour are available at Fort Davidson State Historic Site.

Full-scale re-enactments of the Battle of Pilot Knob are staged, attracting tens of thousands of spectators to the Valley. Be sure to make your plans now to attend the next re-enactment.

If you are interested in reading much more about the Civil War in Missouri, please click here to learn how Missouri became embroiled in the conflict, then take our online tour of Fort Davidson State Historic Site and read all about the Battle of Pilot Knob Reenactment held here every three years.

We look forward to your visit to Historic Iron and Reynolds Counties in the Southeast Missouri Ozarks!

Places to Stay Campgrounds Float Trips Recreation Shopping Dining & Restaurants History of our Region Events Entertainment How to get here! Contact Us
Read our Blog!

River Valley Region Association, 11178 Highway 72, Ironton, MO  63650 ~ Explore the Peaceful Side of Missouri!