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
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.
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.
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.
to the list of Greene County's townships.