Founded in 1839, Neosho, a thriving county seat (Newton County) of 10,505, located in the heart of the four-state region. The name, NE-O-ZHO or NE-U-ZHU, is of Indian derivation, meaning clear or abundant water. Clear springs still flow freely through Neosho, especially at Big Spring Park, just 3 blocks west of the square, where 890,000 gallons of water gush from the hillside each day. Once the site of Indian trading grounds and later a campground for Civil War troops, Big Spring Park remains a favorite rendezvous today. The most photographic scenes and a popular wedding spot in Neosho is Big Spring Park. The park features beautiful gardens, picnic tables, a floral clock and a children’s wading pool.
Downtown centers around a 1936 courthouse with a shady, landscaped lawn accented with flower boxes. In fact, flower boxes and planters adorn many of the storefronts and sidewalks around the square, and most neighborhoods throughout town. It all started in 1955 when Neosho received a beautification grant and launched its flower box program. It blossomed into the nationally recognized “Flower Box City” it’s known as today. Neosho is home to the “World’s Largest Flower Box”. It is a railroad gondola car 66 feet long, 8 feet wide and 44 inches deep. The flower box is filled with flowers, shrubs, and trees and is a beautiful addition to Morse Park.
Neosho has other claims to fame – most notably its famous sons George Washington Carver, the renowned botanist, and acclaimed artist Thomas Hart Benton. Carver was born at nearby Diamond and attended elementary school in Neosho. Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho to a local congressman. Several of Benton’s original lithographs are displayed in Neosho’s City Hall. His days as a youth in Neosho are captured in his famous mural in the Missouri State Capitol.
Another historic highlight: Neosho’s National Fish Hatchery, which dates to 1888, is the oldest federal hatchery still in operation.
Other historical sites include a five-panel mural on the main floor of the Newton County Courthouse. The mural is a chronological history of the county. Other historical murals include the Centennial Mural in the Municipal Auditorium and the Skaggs Tile Mural on the Mills Building in Big Spring Park.
The Longwell Museum at Crowder College houses many artifacts and images of Thomas Hart Benton and contains over 5,000 photographs, manuscripts and records that chronicle the history of Camp Crowder, a World War II Signal Corps Training Camp at Neosho.