This week, the crew traveled to Old McDonald County Courthouse to talk with Eastern Commissioner John Bunch, current Representative and soon-to-be Presiding Commissioner Bill Lent and his wife Jane Lynch about the history and culture of the county.
McDonald County is located in the southwest corner of the state. It is the only McDonald County in the United States. According to the 2010 census, the population of the county was 23,083. McDonald County is part of the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers AR-MO Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The county was organized on Mar. 3, 1849 and is named for Sergeant Alexander McDonald, a soldier who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Its seat resides in Pineville and its largest city is Anderson.
There is a debate on whether Pineville was named after Pineville, Ky. where many of the people were from or if it was named after the pine forest. The debate has still not been disputed.
Tune in to the podcast to hear about the story of an Osage Indian looking for a wife and how the river came to be called Elk River.
Europeans were the main settlers to the area. In 1827, Katie and Levi Miller came to the area, but when their son died they moved to California. John B. King also settled to McDonald County.
Commissioner Lent’s family is originally from southern Illinois and Indiana. He chose to move to McDonald County because of the redistricting. He says it’s the best thing that could have happened to him.
Jane’s family is originally from Joplin, Mo. but was always familiar with McDonald County because of the camping, water, fishing and fun times. She referred to McDonald County as being a close-knit, caring community.
During the Civil War, McDonald County was actively Confederate. Slavery wasn’t a big issue for the area because of their farming lifestyle. However, the people didn’t want to get pushed around. There were also many battles that occurred in the county. Listen to the podcast to hear about the many battles and different views of the war.
The railroad was built up from Kansas City by an Indian by the name of Splitlog. He helped to bring in a lot of people and businesses to the area and is recognized in the McDonald County Museum.
When the county was first founded, there were prairies located in the northern area. The electricity brought more jobs further into the county and helped farmers to keep up with their dairy.
New-Mac Electric Cooperative serves the McDonald County area.
McDonald County does a lot to recognize the people and events that have ties to the area. The first woman Delegate, Ms. Jane Tatum is from McDonald County and her son, Jim Tatum still lives there. Artist, Albert Brumley who wrote the song I’ll Fly Away is from McDonald County and his son Bob Brumley still lives there today as well.
The Jesse James film starring Henry Fonda was filmed in McDonald County, right in the Old County Courthouse. Each year, the county puts on Jesse James Days every year in August, promoting what the film brought to the area. There is also a street named after Jesse James in the county.
Politically speaking, McDonald County is controlled by the Republican Party at the local level. Members from the Republican Party hold all but one elected position.
McDonald County succeeded from the state In 1961 when the Transportation Department left the county off of the Tourist Map, which was very crucial to the area.
The newspaper, McDonald County Press, is a weekly, “very complex” publication.
McDonald County has one public school district, the McDonald County R-I School District. There are primary and elementary schools, for grades PreK-8, located in Anderson, Pineville, Noel, Rocky Comfort, Southwest City and Jane with the McDonald County R-I High School in Anderson.
The county also has one public library, the McDonald County Library.
Jane recommends to find funding and help within the community rather than relying on state funds when it comes to working on historical projects. Be sure to tune in to the podcast to hear how to do it.
Our guests recommend spending some time in the Old County Courthouse at the McDonald County Museum and going to Haven 55 Restaurant and Tavern for lunch or dinner if you are ever in the county.