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Blogger Preserving Ozarks’ Unique History

Kaitlyn McConnell, the blogger behind Ozarks Alive, is no novice when it comes to writing about the history of the area. She’s originally from outside Marshfield in Webster County, and at age 17 she began writing a column called “Landmarks,” where she wrote about local historical sites for The Marshfield Mail.

McConnell’s interest in history was sparked in high school after reading the book Walkin’ Preacher of the Ozarks by Guy Howard.

“Reading his work made that part of our history very real,” McConnell says. “He referenced places that I’d heard of before, that I’d been. It really just made me stop and think when I’m driving down a country road, this is probably the same view, to an extent, people generations ago had. What were they thinking? What were they like? What were the traditions in their lives?”

McConnell, who is also the media coordinator for CoxHealth, started Ozarks Alive in July and has been publishing a new story every Monday depicting a piece of local history.

“It’s really just a way to celebrate the different things that are going on around here, and really show people parts of the Ozarks they might not know about already,” McConnell says.

McConnell, who is able to trace back seven generations of her family to Webster County, found that during a stretch when she wasn’t living here she missed the area and missed writing about it. This prompted her to start Ozarks Alive.

Among McConnell’s works, the lunch institution Taylor’s Restaurant, which has been serving burgers since 1947.  To find other stories for the weekly blog post, McConnell has a few methods.

“Honestly, a lot of it is word of mouth,” McConnell says. “When I go and talk to subjects for stories I normally ask them or maybe it comes up in conversation about other unique people they know that I’ve never heard of. So that’s part of it. A lot of it is research too though. I spend a great deal of time at the library. The librarians are my friends, I would say, because I’m always over there, especially looking through old newspapers and magazines to dig up things that aren’t maybe talked about all the time today.”

In addition to the blog site, there is also a Facebook page that McConnell says is forming a community around Ozarks history.

“I’ve been very surprised and been really pleased by how the response has been so far,” McConnell says. “It’s really varied, I’ve learned. I’m still figuring out what people want to read about, what grabs their attention. Some of the things I’m so glad I wrote about because that story is preserved, but maybe it didn’t get as much of a public response as some of the others do.”

One of her most popular pieces so far, McConnell says, was about the ‘Maid of Roaring River.’ This story began with a trip to the Barry County Museum in Cassville, Missouri. She was in search of new ideas, and came across the story of the clairvoyant Jean Wallace.

“She was a woman who lived in a cabin in the woods by herself in a day and age when that was not common at all,” McConnell says. “So she was just a unique person and a unique story. It was all those things that came together. Some of the people that shared it knew it was her and that’s why they shared it. Others just thought her story was amazing and that’s why they wanted to latch onto it.”

That particular post of McConnell’s received more than 9,000 shares on Facebook and 41 comments on the actual blog. On Facebook, McConnell will post additional photos from her research.

“It’s a lot of fun for me to be able to find something maybe is not as well known and maybe get the chance to share that with people”

Coming up, McConnell’s followers can look forward to stories about Route 66; with this year being the 90th anniversary of the Mother Road. The best ways to connect to McConnell are through the Ozarks Alive website or on the Facebook page.