History of Ozark
Ozark is a member of the "Wiregrass Region." This name was given to an area including southeast Alabama, western Florida and southwest Georgia because of the native wiry-stem grass found here. The Creek Indians inhabited the land nearby on Lake Eufaula, which is only an hour's drive from our city. Many Creek Indians settled along the Chattahoochee River near Dothan. Other regional names have been given to the area such as Southeast Region and Lower Alabama ("LA") Region.
It is said the name of Ozark originated from the comments made by an early traveler, who said the town was located in a hilly area that reminded him of the foothill mountain area of Arkansas.
The early history of Ozark is related in a book Forgotten Trails by Fred S. Watson.
Allen Cooley and his son William came from South Carolina about 1820 and settled in the Ozark vicinity. When the courthouse was at Daleville (1830-1846), the county commissioners built a road which followed the Cooley trail from Daleville to Louisville.
1822 John Merrick Sr., a veteran of the Revolutionary War, moved from Louisville and built a cabin on the east side of the Cooley trail where the present First United Methodist Church stands. In honor of its first settler the town was first called Merricks.
In 1826 Rev. Dempsey Dowling came to the area south of Ozark from his home in South Carolina. He and his descendants were connected with building the first Claybank Church. The Claybank Church structure built in 1852 still stands, and is the oldest log church of its type in Southeast Alabama.
The first name change was from Merricks to Woodshop, in recognition of a local blacksmith's operation to process wood. On June 7, 1843, the Woodshop post office was established on the end of North Union Avenue. The little settlement of Woodshop began to expand. The first municipal water plant was built in 1840 and the first school in 1841.
The first appearance of the name Ozark came in 1855, when a petition requested the name change.
The country courthouse in Newton burned in 1869. An election held on January 30, 1870 determined that Ozark would be the county seat. The town was then incorporated on October 27, 1870.
In the last quarter of the 19th century and for most of the first half of the 20th century, Ozark was primarily a trading center drawing most of its trade from agriculture related activities. In 1870 the Southern Star, a weekly newspaper, began publication. The Southern Star continues in business today.
New growth began in 1941, with the establishment of Camp Rucker. Today Fort Rucker is the well-established home of Army Aviation and the newly formed U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career Center.
Numerous other companies have made Ozark their home over the years. The 1990s brought dramatic changes in Ozark - expanding the city's boundaries to encourage economic development, and increasing the population to over 15,000. 1996 marked the opening of a new Dale County Agricultural Complex and the establishment of a High Technology Center, a small business incubator serving all of Southeast Alabama.