Neosho, nationally known as the Flower Box City, received a grant in 1955 to launch an experiment in city beautification, and has since concentrated on easy-care planters in every conceivable location. Flower boxes in front of business establishments, churches, schools and residential homes have spread Neosho’s fame.
A combination of geography and opportunity drew the earliest settlers to the Neosho area. Prior to the Civil War, the economy revolved around agriculture, retail trade and eventually mining. After the war, economic growth and settlement revolved around agriculture. One of the area’s most famous citizens emerged from this agricultural boom. George Washington Carver, born a slave near Diamond and first educated in Neosho, became a nationally eminent agronomist, botanist, educator and artist.
In 1941, Neosho changed forever when the United States government established Camp Crowder on the southern edge of town. The camp, a U.S. Army Signal Corps Training Center, flooded Neosho with an average population of 40,000 uniformed men and women. The impact of Camp Crowder’s establishment can only be matched by the impact of its closure. The millions of dollars spent locally by the government and soldiers disappeared almost entirely when World War II ended.
Farsighted men and women, however, turned the city in a new direction – manufacturing. Utilizing the many facilities left at the old camp site, business and industry rose where barracks and mess halls one stood. Later, Crowder College was formed and moved in where the army had moved out.
Drawing on the work ethic passed down from the early settlers, manufacturers created a skilled and dedicated work force. These people were featured often in the artistic works of another Neosho citizen who gained national fame. The son of a local congressman, artist Thomas Hart Benton was influenced strongly by the men and women he grew up among. His unique drawings of everyday people emphasized the working men and women so familiar to his childhood.
History has been kind to Neosho. Those same resources that brought the first settlers were also utilized by the economic pioneers. Local business and industrial entrepreneurs based their enterprises on a hardy work force and abundant natural resources. Taking advantage of favorable geographic locations, they established cross-country transportation routes that still direct the community today.