My sympathies go out to all those affected by the Goodman tornado last week. Some things just can’t be replaced, such as family photos, heirlooms and keepsakes. I’m glad no one was killed, at least.

The town being in the news so much lately got me thinking about its genesis. Goodman is named for Lowell Alonzo Goodman (1845-1917), who was vice-president and general manager of the Ozark Orchard Company.

Lowell Goodman

The company’s fruit trees and berry bushes once covered 2,500 acres in and around present-day Goodman in the latter 1800s and early 1900s. Old photographs show long rows of blackberry bushes and apple trees spreading far into the distance. There were also peach orchards, strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries.

Mr. Goodman himself resided in Kansas City most of the time. He came to Missouri from Michigan in 1867 and settled on a farm outside of Westport, where he began planting fruit trees on his property. In time he became financially invested in various fruit and berry growing ventures (eventually forming the Ozark Orchard Company in 1895), and was longtime secretary of the Missouri State Horticultural Society.

A contemporary account from 1901 praised Mr. Goodman, saying: “He is considered high authority upon all matter pertaining to horticulture and has established a reputation that is by no means bounded by the state in which he lives.”

What is now the town of Goodman sprouted up in 1889 with the coming of what is today the Kansas City Southern Railway, and was first called Wade – named after then-Congressman William H. Wade.

A few years later the town center moved slightly with the construction of a new depot and post office and was renamed Donohue, said to be an early settler there. It was while the community was called Donohue that the Ozark Orchard Company purchased the surrounding acreage and began planting its fruit trees. The company also bought up half the town site.

Donohue lasted a few years before a new post office was established on October 23, 1897, and named Goodman, in honor of Lowell Goodman, the vice-president and general manager of the Ozark Orchard Company whose orchards so conspicuously covered the local countryside and who owned much of the town itself.

Wes Franklin

Mr. Goodman passed away in the town that still bears his name on June 25, 1917, while on a 10-day business trip to check up on his company’s orchard operations. He died in a chair in his hotel room and was found the next morning.

At the time it was speculated he died of either a heat stroke (no doubt after a long, hot day of inspecting the orchards) or heart trouble, but his death certificate is missing from the Missouri Secretary of State’s online database, so I can’t confirm. He was 72 years old. Lowell Goodman is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City.

The Pineville Democrat newspaper had this to say about him: “His dealings with men have always been fair and just. His career has been such that many will mourn his death… the town [of Goodman] now stands permanently established, a memorial of Mr. Goodman’s efforts and deeds.”

Indeed, though the orchards and berry fields have vanished, following the local industry’s steep decline by the mid-20th century, the town of Goodman remains.

Last October, Goodman held its first Ozark Orchard Festival to celebrate the history and heritage of the community. I hope they continue.

(Wes Franklin can be reached at (417) 658-8443.)


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