Republic, Missouri began its existence as a typical crossroads station during the period from 1850 to 1860. Early settlers came from various Eastern states as Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, bringing with traditions and customs peculiar to those states. Others came from New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. From the North and East they came, bringing their habits, beliefs, and customs. Among the first families to settle here were the names of Ritter, Noe, White, Claiborn, Hayes, Britain, Anderson, Blades, Beal, Brooks, Criswell, Davis, House, Howard, Hagewood, Howell, Land, London, McDaniel, Owen, O’Bryant, O’Neal, Pickering, Robertson, Rainey, Richardson, Short, Sparkman, Thurman, Williams, and Youngblood. Many citizens of Republic today are direct descendants of these early families.
Little is known how Republic got its name. Some of the older residents say that Mark Ritter and his sister, Mrs. Worsefield (the first postmaster and his assistant), named it. Still others say that “Uncle” Billy Cliborn gave it the name it now bears.
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek (called Oak Hills by the Confederates) was fought 3 miles east of Republic on August 10, 1861, and marked the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri. Named for the stream that cross the area where the battle took Place, it was a bitter struggle between Union and Confederate forces for control of Missouri. For the next 3 ½ years, the state was the scene of savage and fierce fighting. By the time the conflict ended in the spring of 1865, Missouri had witnessed so many battles and skirmishes that it ranks as the third most fought-over state in the Nation.
Before, the railroad was built, a small town called Little York, located a short distance from the present site of Brookline, had been the market center since the Civil War. Even before the war, Little York had been the center of trade for most of the countryside southwest of Springfield. After the war the Frisco Railroad was built through this section (about 1869 and 1870). The citizens of the then small community of Republic asked the Frisco Company to build a depot or a switch station at this site. The company refused Mr. Noe, a citizen who had much faith in the future of Republic, raised subscriptions of $1,000 for the purpose of the depot. Republic is deeply indebted to Mr. Noe, not only for the railroad, but also perhaps for its very existence. After the building of the railroad, Republic began to grow very rapidly. Little York was replaced by Brookline. Republic, being situated on the Frisco Railroad, became a-well-known shipping and travel point.
Brookline and Republic absorbed the country trade because of their now ready trade and marketing facilities. Trade was carried on mostly by exchange, there being little money and little need for it. The work of the surrounding community gradually made enough business to cause Republic to make a start.
On October 10, 1871, The Republic Post Office was established and the community was officially chartered. Mark Ritter was the first postmaster, and his sister, Mrs. Worsefield was his assistant.
Early life in the small community of Republic was very much like that of any other pioneer settlements. Homes were simple with few furnishings, but hones hearts and patient toil were at the back of every task begun. Hospitality, thrift, and a spirit of progress were worthy traits of character shown in the lives of the pioneers. The men worked in the field, woods, or shop, while their wives kept the house, spanked the children, made the garden and many other things to keep the home going. The greatest event of the spring was the observance of “groundhog day”, such a date being followed by “corn planting”, and “soap making”, both with proper regard for the light and dark of the moon. In the fall, crops were harvested and hogs were butchered. These events were of great importance as, of course, were Thanksgiving and Christmas. Activities of social life were few, the chief amusements being singing, spelling bees, and family gatherings. Food was plain and simple, corn bread, cured meat, vegetables, and dried fruits being the most common fare. Meat was cured and kept in a smoke house built for that purpose. Here originated some of the most famous hickory smoked ham and bacon, once tasted, was never forgotten. Often vegetables were buried for winter in a deep hole dug in the corner of the garden, lined with straw, and heaped with thick layers of dirt. Nearly every family kept a barrel of molasses made from cane they raised in their own fields. These people made vinegar and raised chickens. Flour, brown sugar, and coffee could be bought at the general store.
Clothing was usually of the homespun variety with some muslin, gingham, shirting, and calico bought from the general store. Sometimes a seamstress, who was also a tailor, was employed to go from house to house to make men’s suits and some of the more “well-to-do” women’s clothes.
Trade was carried on mostly by barter, or exchange, there being little money and little need for it. However, work in and around Republic increased and business began to grow. Gradually these early industries and places of business changed ownership or were replaced by new industries. Dairying, poultry, stock-raising, and fruit growing replaced the one time general farming, and in 1971 new modern factories and businesses replaced most of the farming industries.
By the turn of the century, Republic boasted a population of more than 500 citizens and several businesses flourished. The first school was a small wooden structure built on a plot of land near the center of town on West Elm Street. By 1812 this structure was replaced with a large, gothic two-story brick structure, which served the community until 1954 when a new elementary school was erected. In 1920, a separate high school was built on Anderson Street and served the community until 1982 when a new one was constructed on Hampton Avenue.
Aside from farming, few industries were found in and around the little crossroads settlement at its earliest time. The first building, a storehouse, was built by W.H. Noe. This building was located on the site of the present site of Bacon Tire Company. This building became know as the old “red building”. Mr. Noe operated a general store stocked with such useful necessities as feed, flour, soap, harnesses, thread, kerosene, or almost anything needed in those days. This building stood longest of any of the old timers. H.A. White soon built a second store and a hall. The Reverend Loping built the first dwelling house; the second by Dr. Bartlett and others were soon erected. Eli H. Britain owned and operated a brickyard near his home of a thriving tomato factory. Republic also boasted of a cheese factory, which old timers declare bore all the earmarks of the genuine article.
A blacksmith shop, operated by Henry Hayes, was also Owen and Short Hardware for many years. The building formerly occupied by the Ford Motor Company and on the east side of Main Street was a livery stable. Traditionally speaking, it was the peak of fashion and the height of extravagance was to be seen driving an impressive team of high-stepping horses from the livery stable.
R.C. Stone built the first flourmill in 1890. Later it was remodeled and had a running capacity of 2000 barrels every 24 hours. During the years between 1900 and 1907, the mill was operated night and day. At that time it was the largest flourmill in the Middle West and carried the slogan “The World is Our Field”. Flour was shipped out to all sections of the United States. The mill was in the large, brick building on the corner of Elm and Main Streets. For years a limekiln was operated just south of town and employed quite a number of men. During the years 1904 and 1905, iron ore was mined and shipped from Republic. The O’Neal Lumber Company was established in Republic more than 75 years ago. Mr. O’Neal was also prominent in the promotion of civic and church affairs.
The future of Republic is bright. With a surging population, the growth of residential and business construction, the community will continue to grow, making Republic a better place to live, work, and play.