Just a short distance from I-44 rests Sarcoxie, the “oldest town in Jasper County”. The historic town of Sarcoxie has a population 1,330.  As one exits I-44 and drives toward the Historic Business District, the drive is over what once was Hwy 166, the main means of travel to and from surrounding towns before I-44 was completed in 1965. The highway has been moved slightly but still carries travelers to the edge of Sarcoxie’s Nationally Designated Historic Business District.   In days past, “Old Timers” told of hearing horses hooves clanging on the old iron bridge that welcomed visitors as they traveled toward town. The bridge has long since been replaced but visitors are still warmly welcomed!

    Sarcoxie’s history began in 1803 when Edmund Jennings, from Tennessee, came to the “Country of the Six Boils”, the earliest name given to this region. He lived in the region, learning the language and ways of the Osage. After living in the region for 15 years, he returned home to speak of the land with enthusiasm.  By 1831, a convergence of resilient pioneers emerged in the area seeking to take advantage of the numerous streams and rich farmland.  Today, visitors cross Center Creek, where in 1831 Thacker Vivion from Kentucky became the first permanent settler in the area.  He settled along the creek considered to have been the campground of the Turtle Band of the Delaware tribe until 1829.  Thacker Vivion built a log house and in 1834 constructed the first crude grist mill and soon thereafter a saw mill.  At that time settlers traveled long distances and waited days to grind their seed at the mill, or “corncracker”, as it was called in those days.  Initially, Thacker’s mill was the only mill within a 30 mile radius so farmers camped along the creek while they waited their turn to grind their flour.  Often this took days which allowed the men time to enjoy a period of fellowship in an otherwise wilderness territory.

    Families were drawn to the area during the 1830s and 1840s. One by one, other adventurous trail blazers came.   John M. Fullerton, from Tennessee, was the first full-fledged farmer.  He and his wife, Ann, arrived shortly after Thacker Vivion.  In 1833, William Duncan bought property in the area and served the area as preacher/teacher/brick master and tanner.  In 1833, Dr. Abner Wilson, the first known doctor of medicine, arrived and opened his practice.  He opened Sarcoxie’s first mercantile/drugstore.  Later, he became the postmaster at the first post office west of Springfield.  Mail was delivered to Sarcoxie and returned by horseback.  It is believed that John Powers was the first Caucasian birth in 1834.  

     It wasn’t long before others adventured into the area and a real town began to take shape. The town was first named Centerville.  Old Settlers said the name was derived because, “It was halfway between Springfield and the end of the world”.  After the post office was established, Centerville was renamed because it was discovered that the name belonged to another settlement in Missouri.  Therefore, it was decided that the town should be named for Chief Sarcoxie, the friendly chief who had camped along Sarcoxie Spring.  Thus, the name Sarcoxie!

     In 1834, entrepreneurs, William Tingle and Benjamin Massey, partnered and erected a general store which they filled with a large stock of goods.  The business thrived and later they purchased Vivion’s Mill and increased its size.  The mill drew settlers to the area and Sarcoxie’s commercial district grew as entrepreneurs, Tingle and Massey and others, continued to envision lucrative financial opportunities.  

    Through the efforts of several founding fathers, who are too numerous to cite, Sarcoxie began to flourish and was officially platted in 1849.   Early entrepreneurs Tingle and Massey developed the first plat of the town in August 1840 but a controversy of the plat took an act of the Missouri General Assembly to authorize the legal recording of the plat in February 1849.  By 1869 the population of Sarcoxie was 300 and was the 3rd largest city in the county.  Only Joplin and Carthage were larger. 

Chapter 1 - Early History