combination of geography and opportunity drew the earliest settlers
to the Neosho area. Prior to the Civil War, the economy revolved around
agriculture, retail trade and eventually mining. After the war, economic
growth and settlement revolved around agriculture. One of the areas
most famous citizens emerged from this agricultural boom. George Washington
Carver, born a slave near Diamond and first educated in Neosho, became
a nationally eminent agronomist, botanist, educator and artist.
In 1941, Neosho changed forever when the United States government
established Camp Crowder on the southern edge of town. The camp, a
U.S. Army Signal Corps Training Center, flooded Neosho with an average
population of 40,000 uniformed men and women. The impact of Camp Crowders
establishment can only be matched by the impact of its closure. The
millions of dollars spent locally by the government and soldiers almost
disappeared entirely when World War II ended.
Farsighted men and women, however, turned the city in a new direction
manufacturing. Utilizing the many facilities left at the old
camp site, business and industry rose where barracks and mess halls
one stood. Later, Crowder College was formed and moved in where the
army had moved out.
on the work ethic passed down from the early settlers, manufacturers
created a skilled and dedicated work force. These people were featured
often in the artistic works of another Neosho citizen who gained national
fame. The son of a local congressman, artist Thomas Hart Benton was
influenced strongly by the men and women he grew up among. His unique
drawings of everyday people emphasized the working men and women so
familiar to his childhood.
History has been kind to Neosho. Those same resources that brought
the first settlers were also utilized by the economic pioneers. Local
business and industrial entrepreneurs based their enterprises on a
hardy work force and abundant natural resources. Taking advantage
of favorable geographic locations, they established cross-country
transportation routes that still direct the community today.