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Greene County
Historical Society
P.O. Box 3466 GS
Springfield, MO 65808

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This site was last
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August 10, 2009

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Walnut Grove Township....

Walnut Grove Township was formed in June 1872 out of the Boone Township. It is located in the extreme northwest portion of the county. It comprises 20 sections, beginning with Section 13 and ending with Section 36 of T31N R24W. It borders Polk County on the north, Dade County on the west, Cass Township on the east, and Boone Township on the south. Small portions of the Sac River and associated tributaries, such as Turkey Creek, along with Clear Creek are within its boundaries.

It was from the grove of black walnut timber that the Township was named. Noted Greene County historian, Return Holcombe, mentions the names of the early settlers in what would later become Walnut Grove Township as Gibson A. William, 1831; John and Andrew Bartleson, Joseph Welch and three sons, John, Michael and Charles, Allan Williams, Michael Walsh, 1832; William Mallory and Hugh Leeper, 1834.

About 1884 the Frisco Railroad Company was in the process of obtaining right of way and laying tracks for a new railroad between Springfield and Bolivar in a rather indirect route through Walnut Grove. In time the Bolivar branch was extended to Kansas City and was refered to as the "High Line."

It was this railroad that contributed to the two principle settlements that came to life in the Walnut Grove Township, Phenix and Walnut Grove. A third community, Harold, near Hwy. 123, which developed around a post office, began to decline when the Post Office closed in 1910.


Phenix

Located south of Walnut Grove on Farm Road 43 is the former settlement of Phenix, a company town built around the Phenix Stone and Lime Company. All that remain to mark its location are the former foreman's house, a quarry with scattered blocks of huge limestone, two lime kilns, and the power house. In its heyday there was a train depot, general store, post office, school, a Methodist church, and two hotels supporting a population in 1910 of 250 residents. Thirty two company houses provided living quarters for company workers and their families.

As construction of the Bolivar Branch of the Frisco Railroad progressed northward across Walnut Grove Township, it exposed a vein of limestone which resulted in Patrick Mugan establishing the 251 acre Phenix Stone and Lime Company. The original company was later sold and reopened by W. J. Grant as the Phenix Marble Company. Closer examination of the limestone revealed that it could be highly polished which resulted in a change of purpose for the quarry. Instead of simply crushing the stone and burning it to produce lime, the stone was quarried out in huge 6 x 5 x 3 foot blocks, cut into smaller section and polished, becoming known as Napoleon Gray Marble as it had the appearance of French marble from the Napoleonic era. This marble can be seen in the 34-story Russ Building in San Francisco, the Petroleum Securities Building in Los Angeles, the Southwestern Bell Telephone Building in Kansas City, and the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City. Closer to home, this stone was used in the Greene County Courthouse and Jail and First & Calvary Presbyterian Church in Springfield.

Business at the Phenix Marble Company began to wane during the Depression years of the 1930s. Two successive owners, the last one being the Carthage Marble Co., took over the quarry in the decade of the 1940s and 1950s until it was eventually abandoned.


Walnut Grove

Like Phenix, the town of Walnut Grove owes its existence to the coming of the railroad, but unlike Phenix, it has retained its existence through the years. Joseph Moss, a Kentuckian, was the first to settle on that portion of land that would eventually develop into the town of Walnut Grove. The first store was opened by Nelson Montgomery. Other early residents include S. A. Edmondson and William H. Cook, the first blacksmith.

Return to the list of Greene County's townships.

 

   
   

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