Historic Town Square in Centerville, Missouri

Visit Missouri Historic Towns and Villages ~ Centerville, Ellington, Barnesville, Logan Creek, MO

Footprints of the past come alive ~ Visit these historic towns and villages during your Missouri Vacation
to the Arcadia Valley Region & Black River Recreation Area.  If you are researching your family history, please see
our genealogy pages for helpful resources.  Better yet, travel to our region and see for yourself!

For a directory of Lodging, Bed and Breakfast Inns, Hotels, Cabins, Cottages and Campgrounds near Centerville and Ellington, MO, please click here.  All of our fine hosts are ready to help plan your Missouri history tour in our region.

1895 Map of The Black River Recreation Area and Arcadia Valley Region

Centerville, Missouri ~ History and Landmarks, Reynolds County, MO
Historic Mill at Reed Springs

Reynolds County Courthouse.  One of few in Missouri over 100 years old.

Centerville, located on the West Fork of the Black River, was born as a brand new town at the same time Reynolds County was designated in 1845.  Between 1812, (when Missouri became a territory following the Louisiana purchase) and 1845, Reynolds County was at various times a part of the following counties:  Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Washington, Wayne, Madison, Ripley and Shannon.  If you are searching for family history in this region it can be very confusing!  (We have attempted to help with these issues on our genealogy page).  Between 1812 and 1862, Missouri was divided and sub-divided until 114 counties had emerged. 

The location for the new Reynolds county seat was chosen after a decision by those that had been appointed by Governor Edwards to represent the new county government.  After evaluating the area population and geography, 80 acres of property was purchased from John Buford for $100.  Even though the geographic center was not known at the time, they named the new county seat Centreville (Centerville).  At the time, no one lived on the entire 80 acres.  "Hazel and underbrush covered the ground and the deer and bear could be seen at every turn in the trail that had been cut through the forest to the new county seat."  As the new town square and public buildings were being constructed, nearby Lesterville served as temporary county seat.  The original courthouse was completed in 1850, but was not to stand long. The courthouse burned to the ground.  The present courthouse was completed in 1871 and is one of the few courthouses in Missouri over 100 years old. 

From 1850 to 1860, the population of Reynolds county almost doubled.  Even though almost all of its inhabitants were from southern states, slavery was never an important issue in hilly Reynolds county.  "In view of that fact, it was a sad trick of fate that the citizenry had no say, no choice, as this nation gradually edged closer and closer to an internal war that would devastate the country."  To read about the Civil War in our region, click here.  During the war, troops and guerilla bands foraged the area and union troops occupied the courthouse for a time, bringing progress to a standstill in Centerville. In 1863 over 100 Union soldiers who were camped near the courthouse were captured by the rebel Captain Reverend Jesse Pratt. In the 1920s, the lumber boom had come to an end and the population dwindled as residents left the town.  Today, Centerville has a population of around 200, but these old landmarks are still available to remind the traveler of days gone by.

Reed Springs ~ This 56 degree spring is channeled into small lakes, with waterfalls, which eventually empty into the Black River. It is not known how far into the hills this beautiful spring starts but it has served the area surrounding Centerville in the most useful ways in every era of its time. In 1881, Nathaniel Scott built the dam and grist mill to grind the corn into meal and wheat into flour. Shortly thereafter a saw mill was erected supplying much needed lumber to early settlers to build their homes. Sometime before 1915, Dr. Shy had the idea of generating electricity from its water power, so they took off the overshot wheel, installed a turbine and ran electric lines into town. Though the lights were bright at the mill, but dim in town, this supplied the towns’ electric until 1929. The original building and wheel were taken apart, board by board, and sent to San Francisco for exhibition at the 1939 Worlds Fair. This display is now in storage at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Although privately owned, this incredibly picturesque mill is fully visible from the road.  From Hwy 21 in Centerville, go west on Pine Street for 1/2 mile.

Interesting architecture and buildings of old in Centerville, MO
The whole community comes together to decorate Centerville in the Fall
Harrison-Botkin Store circa 1925

For lodging and accommodations near Centerville, Missouri click here.

Soldiers Memorial, Courthouse grounds honoring WW1, WW2, Korean War & Viet Nam  soldiers from Reynolds County who lost their lives.
Historic Reed Springs
Historic Reed Springs Mill

Ellington, Missouri ~ History and Landmarks, Reynolds County, MO
Formerly Barnesville and Logans Creek

Grand and historic Buford House, now privately owned and lovingly restored.

Thomas Barnes and his young family left North Carolina in 1835, first settling in Pilot Knob. After two years, this resourceful man decided to move his family once again. Their new destination: Along Logan Creek outside of what is now known as Ellington. Soon Barnes built a water wheel for corn and grain, and a distillery that produced whiskey. Within a short time, a small settlement arose with a church, school, stores and homes and the settlers named it in his honor ~ Barnesville. Pioneers were pleased and village stores were prospering. Merchants made two-week trips to St. Louis by ox-cart to purchase their stock and to trade their hides and furs.

When the Civil War began, Confederate soldiers moved into southeast Missouri from Arkansas, through the wilderness on the Bellevue Trail, and formed permanent camps at Van Buren, Barnesville, and Lesterville. With the trail and the area villages in its possession, their next move would be Fort Davidson. The Union wanted to protect Pilot Knob as well as St. Louis and sent the Union Calvary on missions throughout the area settlements. They made many raids, wounding, killing and taking Confederate soldiers captive. Determined to completely rid this area of the Confederates and their sympathizers, they continued raiding and burning villages to the ground. During this time, the Union constructed Fort Barnesville nearby. No doubt this was to ensure the Confederates did not again regain control of the important trail through the wilderness.

In 1868 (after the war) William Copeland, started rebuilding this town on 80 acres that were owned by Sina Ellington. He opened a crude store and encouraged settlers to come back to the area. Soon Barnesville was renamed Ellington, and in 1893, Copeland’s sons decided to make a new town site where the town sits today. This village grew slowly until the timber industry brought many new families and businesses. The Missouri Southern Railroad arrived in 1896.

Soon, several one and two-room schoolhouses were scattered throughout the small communities in the area, each employing a teacher that taught the basics to children grades one through eight. High schools came to the Ozarks slowly. Higher education required a handsome price and many miles of travel. The region’s first high schools were “academies” with tuitions. It would be 1913, before free rural high schools began to open, due in large part to the efforts of Senator Carter M. Buford, an Ellington citizen. The Missouri Legislature passed a school bill introduced by Senator Buford. Ellington area schools were the first to be consolidated in Missouri. With consolidation, “bussing” was needed to transport area students to school. A wagon with a cab overhead, pulled by a couple of horses, was the areas first “bus”. In 1939, the Bull Moose (a single motorized train car) was used throughout the area to provide student transportation. (The tracks have since been removed).

Today, several businesses that came to the area during the early 1900s are still in operation. Be sure to stop and visit the Reynolds County Museum located on Main Street when visiting historic Ellington. Tour Fort Barnesville nearby.  Click here for more information.  The NEW Reynolds County Museum and Historical Society has a new building and a new website.  Visit them and tour the new museum HERE.

Ellington Methodist Church est. 1887, present building constructed 1913
Ellington Masonic Hall built in 1893
Charming homes and early 20th century architecture.

For lodging and accommodations near Ellington, Missouri area click here.

Charming roadside park outside of Ellington Reynolds County Museum on Main Street housed in schoolhouse built in 1890. Ellingto School built 1913 as a Federal Public Works Project

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Missouri Civil War   Click here to learn about the important roll the Arcadia Valley and Black River Region played in shaping the outcome of the war.  Take a Missouri Civil War tour of our region and learn about the Battle of Pilot Knob at Fort Davidson and Fort Barnesville.


Native American History in Missouri & De Soto in 1541  
Missouri Native American history in the Arcadia Valley Region, Black River Recreation Area goes back to the Paleo-Indians, the ancient peoples of the Americas who were present at the end of the last ice age. They camped and hunted along Ozark rivers, perhaps as long as 12,000 to 14,000 years ago. Read more here.

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