Jefferson Highway in the Ozark Playgrounds

The Ozark Playgrounds Association (OPA) was an early tourism organization formed in 1919 and headquartered in Joplin, Missouri.  It continued operation until 1979.  In its first decade of business, the OPA was a booster of both the Jefferson Highway (JH) and the Ozark Trails (OT) routes that criss-crossed the general OPA region of selected SW Missouri and NW Arkansas counties.

Illustration above is a map detail of Jasper County, Missouri, from an OPA large-format brochure/map that was published in 1925. (Note 1 - see end of section.) The mid-1920s Jefferson Highway alignment is the north-south road from Carthage numbered ONE (which a year later would become U. S. Highway 71). The JH route west out of Carthage going through Lakeside, Carterville, Webb City and entering Joplin through its NE corner is also numbered ONE. The JH alignment going west out of Joplin and into Kansas, is numbered TEN. (These sections would become U. S. Highway 66.)

Since Kansas also had their own JH* alignment, that road on this map (which comes from Pittsburg, Kansas) entered Jasper County at Opolis then continued to Waco and Carl Junction before entering Joplin from the north via Main Street Road. It is numbered FIFTY SEVEN on this map.

The complete map side of this promotional pieces (seen below) contains the additional counties in SW Missouri and NE Arkansas that made up the original target area of the Ozark Playgrounds Association. The original piece and/or archival duplicate will be featured on display at the Powers Museum and available for viewing at some of the JH convention venues during the convention.


Mailer side of the folded 1925 map/advertising piece. Although this example carries the generic "The Ozarks" version, the same piece also was printed with individual town names of member governments/organizations on the line where "The Ozarks" is located. Carthage, Missouri, had its own printing.

TEXT: In the last half dozen years a new resort and health region has arisen to take its place as one of the Nation's wonder spots in scenic beauty, climatic conditions, health giving waters and ideal opportunities for relaxation, sports and rejunvenation of the mind and body.  This region is the Ozarks,  "The Land of a Million Smiles," a mountainous area new in popularity but old in age, for geologists believe the Ozark Mountains to be the oldest range in North America.

Although residents of the region and the surrounding districts had realized and utilized, for recreation and helath, the many beautiful cool lakes and tumbling streams, the region as a whole was in accessible because of lack of good roads. But now, beautiful concrete and hard surface highways traverse this interesting district and bring the most rugged parts within quick and easy access.

Here we find also, one of the great and famous fruit-growing centers of the United States, with fertile valleys yearly producing diversified crops of enormous value; and hospitable and happy folks enjoying life in their well-developed picturesque and colorful region.

Through the efforts of the Ozark Playgrounds Association, a civic and non-profit sharing organization, with its office at Joplin, Missouri, thousands of tourists are annually visiting this wonderland of all-year beauty and attractiveness. And 'twas right here in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri that God used a caressing hand and created a veritable paradise, -- "The Land of A Million Smiles."

Articles of Ozarks region and early road building pre-dating OPA formation:

Current Events magazine, July 1915 (Much of this issue is devoted to the SW MO & NW AR Ozarks, so be sure to page up and down within this issue as there are several articles and images of interest.)

Missouri Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Report, 1913-14 volume (Again, be sure to move up and down within this volume focused on various reports on the Ozark Trails and other road building within district. Much of the OT also served as JH routes.)

One of Carthage's Tourist Park's stone entrances at River and Chestnut Streets as seen today. These stone gates have been moved recently from their original corner location further east to Chestnut opposite Prospect Street. (Another stone entrance to the Tourist Park is found on River Street at Sixth Street.) Today this area has reverted back to its original name of Carter Park. The former Dr. Carter home is viewable from Chestnut Street Road beyond the railroad tracks to the east of the park area just outside Carthage's eastern city limits.

One concern at the Ozark Playgrounds Association's initial formation was that while the Ozarks region had an abundance of natural beauty and recreational activities, there were not enough hotels or resorts to host the coming visitors. Tourist Parks in various cities along the JH and OT, as well as in other OPA towns, sprang up to provide camping sites and other tourist facilities for auto travelers. Carthage's park also include a few rock cabins (now gone but picnic shelters remain).

Carthage's Tourist Park, seen in this c. 1928-29 map detail, was located across town on the far eastside from where the JH entered from the north and Kendricktown.  It was better placed to serve those traveling from the Ozark Trails/MO #14/U S 66 (see as pink dots and green line) angling to top right corner. Infact in one AP-distributed newspaper article on tourist camps along U.S. Highway 66, Carthage's Tourist Park was given high praise.


Notes for section above:

(1)  Map details: Copyrighted 1925 by Stewart & Schnik Engineering Company. Engraved by Baird Engraving of Kansas City, Missouri. Distributed by Master Publishing Company of Joplin. Printed by Joplin Printing Company.

(*) Although the JH and OT organizations were still promoting their routes as JH and OT, in Missouri, after 1921 the state highway numbering system (as seen on OPA map) was used and JH and OT signage was forbidden by law. While the OPA map does not reference JH and OT, OPA print guides did continue to reference JH and OT after 1921. Area of chamber of commerces continued to use JH and OT designations/names in their print literature as well.

Jefferson Highway Counties featured in the OPA

Jasper County, Missouri, was the northwestern entry point for the OPA that originally contained 13 counties in SW Missouri and NW Arkansas. (Eventually the OPA added other counties including some in NE Oklahoma but this was post-Jefferson Highway.) This means the mid-1920s JH* route can be followed on this particular OPA promotional map through Newton and McDonald Counties in Missouri as well as through Benton and Washington Counties in Arkansas. (Carroll County to the east of Benton County with its alternate JH route to Eureka Springs, can be seen on the map, too.)

Towns south of Joplin, Missouri, that intersected with the JH included (from north to south) within Newton County, Missouri -- Saginaw, Tipton Ford, Neosho (although it was a new alignment by 1925 to west of town), and McElhany; within McDonald County, Missouri -- Goodman (also bypassed to west by 1925), Anderson, Lanagan, and Noel; Benton County, Arkansas -- Sulphur Springs, Gravette, Hiwasse, Centerton, Bentonville, Rogers, and Lowell; Washington County, Arkansas -- Springdale, Fayetteville, Greenland, and West Fork.

Sunday's Optional "Sociability Drive" will cover the OPA area from Saginaw to Noel, Missouri (conditions permitting; portions of area are subject to flooding - see updates on tour page).

The Jeffers Motor Company building is used today as the Neosho-Newton County Public Library today. It includes a WPA mural moved from the Municipal Auditorium and is placed in the library's local history/genealogy section. Images of the Jeffers Motor Company Building are found there, too. Library is located at 201 West Spring Street in Neosho just east of Big Springs Park (stop on Sunday's optional tour event). Image from Neosho City Directory, courtesy of Neosho-Newton County Public Library.

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