Osage Iron Works

OSAGE IRON WORKS, or Iron Town as it sometimes was called, began as a few cabins clustered around a mine shaft. Two men, named Condee and Campbell, bought up land in the area in 1871 and began mining deposits of iron ore. In 1873 they built a smelter for processing the ore. During the brief flush times that followed, as many as 150 miners and laborors lived at the site, but the cost of constructing the furnace and associated equipment had depleted most of the company's capital. The operation shut down after only a year.

The settlement of Iron Town, however, continued to exist even after the smelter closed. In the 1890s D.P. Moore, of Linn Creek, owned a general store there. Moore was described as big, tall, jovial, and "a little bit drunk" most of the time. Moore left the daily operation of his store to John White and family. The Whites augmented their income by operating a ferry boat over the Osage River. Originally, the Whites propelled their heavy boat the hard way--by pushing it with long poles; later they ran a cable across the river and pulled the ferry from one side to the other.

Nestled in what must have been a picturesque valley of the Missouri Ozarks, Iron Town was occupied until Union Electric bought up the land in 1930-31 to make way for the Lake of the Ozarks. The last buildings were burned to make way for the coming lake.

Osage Iron Works was located at the present day mouth of Bollinger Creek Cove, mile marker 44. It was on a road that ran from Linn Creek along the south side of the Osage River. The road led to the ferry (sometimes called Bollinger's Ferry) located about a mile upriver from the Iron Works and proceeded northward toward Gravois Mills. (The road no longer exists on the south side of the river--all but two or three short segments of it were in the flood plain; north of the lake it follows the route of Lake Road 5-24 and Highway 5.)

(Photo, left: The original Osage Iron Works smelter, dating to 1873, can be seen on the east side of Bollinger Creek Cove, near its confluence with the main channel. It is the only documented structure in the lake bed that was not demolished prior to the lake filling in 1931--apparently because of its huge size and the fact that it was located on the shoreline and not in the middle of the cove. Approximately six feet of this huge structure extends below the water line on a steep slope. Photo courtesy of Mark McBride.)

Text © 2007 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.