History of Republic

A Brief History of the Place We Call Home

For a few moments, several times a day, you’ll hear freight trains rolling through town.  A lot of residents say the sound is quaint and nostalgic. Others say they’d prefer more peace and quiet, and a commute that’s not interrupted at the crossing.   No matter how you look at it, the railroad is a part of life in our community.  In fact, our ties to the railroad go back almost 150 years and are the sole reason Republic came into being.  

Prior to the Civil War, some settlers constructed homes and built up a small village that came to be known as Little York, located close to what is now the site of the McLane distribution center.  In 1870, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later Frisco Railway) began building southwest from Springfield.  Little York residents were disappointed when they found out the planned route would not pass through their town.  Realizing the importance of this new “iron horse” as a link to the outside world, residents packed up their belonging and moved two miles east to the site of the railroad. This new settlement became known as Brookline- named for Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

After the railroad was finished, a different group of settlers moved to an area southwest of Brookline and began settling close to the track.  They hoped the railroad would build a station.  However, the Atlantic & Pacific said it would only build a stop if citizens could raise $1,000.  That’s when a business owner stepped in to help.  W.H Noe, who constructed the first building in Republic- a storehouse- was a firm believer in the future of his community, and help raise the cash.  

Once the station was constructed, the stop became an important point for people traveling, and for farmers and local industries needing to ship and receive goods.  In 1879, a new town called Republic was platted on the spot which is now the downtown area.  Where did the name of the community come from?  Robert Lee Meyers, in his 1930 research report, “Place Names In The Southwest Counties Of Missouri, stated, “On January 1, 1879, William O’Neal platted the town which he named Republic on account of his patriotic zeal.”

The grew quickly, increasing from 81 people in 1880 to more than 850 in 1900.  Several farming-related industries opened. Dairies, meat processing, grain elevators, and fruit processing plants became important employers for the residents.  

In the late 1920s, the community again found itself on a new, important transportation route with the construction of the cross-country U.S. Highway 60.   

Between 1950 and the year 2000, Republic grew steadily from 1,000 people to nearly 9,000.  In 2005, our town’s population and geographic are more than doubled when residents of both Brookline and Republic voted to combine their towns into an expanded City of Republic.  

Heading into the year 2020, we find ourselves in the middle of greater growth than ever before.  With an estimated 2019 population of nearly 18,000, we’ve become the second largest community in Greene County.  Families and individuals are attracted by the quality of life, low cost of living, great schools, expansive parks system, and proximity to Springfield.  In return, our size and workforce are attracting new industries and businesses.

Today, freight trains still zip through Republic by the hour. The BNSF Railway tracks are important route linking the ports of California with the southeastern U.S.  These busy rails are a sign our economy and nation are humming along and commerce is flowing.  They’re also a reminder of how we- as a community- came to be,  and that we’re rolling into the future with excitement.