Camdenton Missouri History

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Had fate not intervened, in the form of Bagnell Dam and the Lake of the Ozarks, Camdenton may have never come to be. It is a crossroads location, leading travelers west to Ha Ha Tonka and south to Lebanon and is called “The Hub City of the Ozarks”. As the County Court-approved Board of Trustees met in 1931, to organize the little village that was built on the dreams of some and the heartaches of others, they could not have envisioned it as it is today.

The whole country was suffering from the Great Depression when Clint Webb contracted (for the city) to buy the Chapman farm which contained the crossing. Webb, together with friend and partner Jim Banner, held an auction for the sale of lots and a free barbeque to promote the sale. The city well pumped water over the hillside to show the people the sweet, soft water was to be theirs. Old Linn Creek was platted in 1845, near the confluence of the Niangua and Osage Rivers and the creek for which it is named. Joseph McClurg, U.S. congressman and Missouri governor in1868, was prominent in its development.

The citizens of Old Linn Creek were bitterly divided over the construction of Bagnell Dam and the Lake of the Ozarks, which would flood and bury their homes and town. Some moved up the valley to present day Linn Creek, some moved out into the hills and the rest begot present day Camdenton, which became the county seat of Camden County. Camden County Historical Society and Lake of the Ozarks: The Early Years, by H.Dwight Weaver excerpts from a submission from J.L. Bohannon, The 50th Anniversary of Bagnell Dam, Lake of the Ozarks, by Lorraine Burks; On the construction of the City of Camdenton: We furnished the explosives used in blasting the stones, widening and making the roadway. We delivered flour and feed to Seaton’s in Old Linn Creek. Always brought back a mess of catfish purchased from old fisherman John down on the riverbank at the Swinging Bridges location (Bridge spanning the Osage at Linn Creek, before the Lake).

Lover’s Leap, on the southern 31.5mm of the Niangua: Some say it is so named because of the Indian maiden who hurled herself from the bluff rather than forsake her lover, who later fell to the same fate, along with the couple’s interloper in the struggle that ensued. Bridal Cave, at Thunder Mountain, just north of Camdenton on Hwy 5, also gets its name based on a legend of Indian weddings. More than 1,500 have been performed there since. 

Ha Ha Tonka MansionHa Ha Tonka: It was a hunting trip that introduced Robert M. Snyder, a wealthy businessman from Kansas City, to the site in 1903. Captivated, he purchased 60 tracts of land and proceeded to build a private retreat with the crown jewel being a huge, European style, castle-like mansion atop the bluff overlooking the spring chasm. When Bagnell Dam was built, the waters of the Lake backed up the spring branch and destroyed Ha Ha Tonka Lake. The Snyder sons sued Union Electric for damages and settled out of court. 


In April of 1950, the first Dogwood Festival was held in Camdenton. The organizers planned to rival the tulip, cherry, gardenia, onion, gladiola and magnolia festivals that were being held in other parts of the country. The festival has been held every year since then (except in 1965, when highway construction prevented it) and the agenda remains much the same, except for the absence of the coon dog races and the fox hound bench show. The festival is traditionally scheduled around the third week of April when the Dogwood, which flourishes in the Ozarks woods, is at its peak.