Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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A HISTORY OF THE OZARKS, VOLUME THREE – THE OZARKERS. By Brooks Blevins. Published 2021 by the University of Illinois Press, Champaign IL. 315 pages.

–by Michael Pierce

Brooks Blevins has completed his masterful trilogy of Ozarks history.

In The Ozarkers, Blevins tells the story of the people of the region, primarily from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the present day. In doing so, he gives us a very good picture of the people who have made the region what it is today.

Blevins paints a narrative picture of a region undergoing massive change, and everything affected the people of the region. To this was added an argument regarding how the Ozarks should be presented to the rest of the world. One group of people wanted preserve the area’s ‘hillbilly’ reputation, while another wanted to make the region more progressive and accessible to the rest of the world.

On the ‘hillbilly’ side of the equation were people like folklorist Vance Randolph, who sought to maintain the peaceful isolation of the Ozarks. On the other side were developers and the Army Corps of Engineers. In the end, it seems both sides won. Most of the region still consists of small hamlets composed, primarily, of the descendants of original settlers. At the same time places like Silver Dollar City, the Branson Strip, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Lake of the Ozarks draw millions of tourists, and new residents to the area. The Ozark Folk Center State Park in Bentonville, AR, offers demonstrations, by highly skilled artisans, of crafts that were once common to every household in the Ozarks.

Readers can read this volume and get a sense of the adage that the more things change, the more they stay same. Multi-million dollar corporations now call the Ozarks home, and there’s a thriving arts colony in Eureka Springs. Brooks Blevins’ three volume history can encourage a person to travel there, visiting the holes in the wall in small towns, while at the same time getting a heavy dose of culture in other parts of those mountains. Take some time and go there, and soak it all in.


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