CHAPTER 1
Historical Overview

The Ozarks are perhaps unique among major mountain regions in that many of the important questions about this formation cannot be answered precisely, or, in some cases, at all. For example, it would seem easy enough to define the specific area covered by the mountains, but instead the extent of the range changes according to who is doing the describing. Ask any two experts to tell you where the geographical boundaries of the Ozarks are, and you are likely to receive two different answers. In the most liberal definition, the Ozarks include most of northern Arkansas, southern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, a small section of eastern Kansas, and a small portion of southern Illinois; the most exclusive definition allows only most of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri. If the most inclusive drawing of lines is chosen, then it can be said that the Ozarks are bounded in a rough way by major rivers: the Missouri on the north, the Mississippi on the east, the Arkansas on the south, and the Neosho on the west. By any measure the region is a vast one, consisting of more than sixty thousand square miles.

There is also disagreement about the name "Ozark," which first appeared in English in reference to the mountain range. According to most explanations, it is an Anglicization of a French phrase, but there is disagreement about which one. According to one hypothesis, the term is derived from the French phrase bois aux arcs, which refers to a wood used for bows. When the first Europeans--Frenchmen--came into the Ozarks, they noted that the Indians used bows and arrows that were unusually strong. These were made from the wood of the bois d'arc tree (also known as the Osage orange or the hedge apple); upon learning this fact, the French trappers called the entire region "Bois aux Arcs." After some time the term was shortened to "Aux Arcs" and eventually Anglicized to the present "Ozarks."

A second theory connects the name to a geological thesis popular around the time of the American Revolution. Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German scientist, suggested that there were two kinds of rock formations found in the earth: aqueous rock formed by the action of water and containing fossils, and azoic rock formed by fire that contained no living organisms. Several of the Europeans who first came into the region were

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Ozark Country
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • FOLKLIFE IN THE SOUTH SERIES ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 Historical Overview 1
  • Chapter Family Ties 17
  • Chapter 3 at Work 51
  • Chapter 4 Folk Customs 75
  • Chapter 5 Ozark and Appalachian Folk Music 97
  • Chapter 6 Games and Entertainment 131
  • Chapter 7 Folk Narratives 151
  • Appendix 167
  • Notes 173
  • Bibliographical Essay 181
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 189
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