History Of Shell Knob, MO & Table Rock Dam

Barry County was organized from a part of Greene County in Missouri. This entailed that settlers were no longer required to travel to Springfield to pay taxes or transact business.

Shell Knob (then Schell Knob) was established on January 5, 1835. Henry and Elizabeth Schell built the Schell Trading Post in 1835 on the banks of the White River, located at the foot of a mountain near what is now the YY highway. Bushwhackers killed Henry Schell during the Civil War on July 11, 1863.

The first General Store was built in the 1860s by Jack and Cordelia Kearney in what is now referred to as Old Shell Knob. They were murdered in 1869 inside their store. The murderer was the last person to be hanged in Barry County.

The Shell Knob Post Office was established in 1872, at which time the “c” in Schell was somehow left off the name, making Schell Knob now Shell Knob. In the 1890s, the area’s primary industry was pearl buttons. Pearls were found in the clams of the White River and were used to manufacture pearl buttons.

In the 1920s, a new industry was formed when locals discovered that the rich fertile soil along the White River was suitable for growing tomatoes. The Ashly Mixon Tomato Cannery was subsequently built in 1922, and the tomatoes that were grown in the area were referred to as the Red Gold of the Ozarks.

A 20-mile stretch of Highway 86 between Cassville, and Shell Knob was completed in 1932. This reduced the three-day round-trip oxen cart ride from Cassville to Shell Knob to just a few minutes by auto.

In October 1954, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commenced construction on the Table Rock Dam to operate during flood periods in conjunction with other lakes in the basin to prevent damage along with the White and lower Mississippi Rivers and provide hydroelectric power. Table Rock Dam was completed in August 1958 and is 6,423 feet long. The dam rises 252 feet above the riverbed and contains 1,230,000 cubic yards of concrete. The first two 50,000 kilowatt-generating units in the powerhouse were ready to generate power in June 1959. The installation of the remaining two units was completed in August 1961.

In the 1970s, a new highway, Highway 39, was built through Shell Knob. This bypassed the town, leaving Old Shell Knob on the side.