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A Historic Economics Lesson

What do the following businesses have in common: Strawberry farming and shipping, cheese factory, garment manufacturing factory, lead and zinc mines, tobacco factory, and coinage of silver dollars?

They are all past businesses of the Ozark area.

Ozark Junior High and High School students in Michelle Lindsey’s Introduction to Business class recently learned about this and so much more, thanks to OHS graduate and local historian Dr. Elise Crain. Over the course of two days, Crain talked to four different business classes about the history of Ozark and how it impacts economic development.

“It was great,” Crain said about visiting the classes. “It’s wonderful to have their interest and to have this mural for them to now appreciate in a different way. We hope they will now share it with their friends.”

The mural Crain is referring to is the OJH history wall, which spans an entire wall in the walk-through library center. Some of the landmarks on the wall include the Weaver House, the Courthouse, Riverside Inn and the first schoolhouse.

"We have to understand where we've been to know where we're going," Crain said.

Crain walked along the mural, which features key dates and events in the history of the Ozark community from the 1800s through the mid-1900s, sharing her vast knowledge and personal stories about how Ozark became an incorporated city, the historic Ozark Mill and the rise and fall of the Bald Knobbers, to name a few.

“The Bald Knobbers became active to tell you how to take care of your family. One message was a bundle of twigs. The number of twigs in that bundle was how many days you have to get your act together,” Crain said.

Lindsey said she is thankful Crain was willing to share her “rich foundation” with students, and show them how Ozark’s history affects its economy.

“I feel like the most important level a kid can affect in economics is here locally,” Lindsey said. “It was important to lay a foundation here with the history wall so the kids can understand they have the most impact here at home. They need to have an understanding of economics in our community before talking about the state and national level.”

Crain has an extensive résumé, having served on many local boards and working as project manager of numerous construction projects. She talked about events that changed Ozark’s economy through the years, such as the coming and going of the railroad, Walmart coming to town, and currently, the renovation of the Ozark Mill and the Finley Farms project.

“It’s going to be wonderful for our economy,” Crain said about Finley Farms. “It’s not going to enhance the number of residents, but it will certainly enhance the number of visitors. It’s going to be a big draw.”

Lindsey said in the coming weeks, students will learn about the stock market from a local banker, and in October, Andrea Sitzes, director of Show Me Christian County, will talk to students about today’s economic climate. Show Me Christian County is designed to help grow the county’s business community.

“I think the more we can use our community to bring this topic to life for our kids, the more it will impact them,” Lindsey said. “We’re promoting career and technical education by hooking them with all the people in the community who have real-world experience.”

Crain agreed, saying the community benefits when we work together.

“We’re all connected,” Crain said. “We need to understand that our connections are so much stronger than we are as individual people.”

Dr. Elise Crain talks to OJH students.