Developed from a wilderness area once inhabited by the Shawnee Indians, Douglas County, Missouri was organized in 1857 with the first county seat being located at Red Bud (renamed Vera Cruz in 1859). This settlement was headquarters for the Douglas County Home Guard during the Civil War and seven known battles and skirmishes were fought here under General Curtis. In 1869, after much controversy, the county seat was moved to Arno. However, dissatisfaction was still expressed over this location and the matter was taken to court. In 1871, the court commissioners made the selection of the new location and James Hailey chose the name Ava from the scriptures, II Kings Chapter 17.
In 1876, the Gazetteer of Missouri reported, “Ava…thirty-five miles from Marshfield on the A & P Railroad, the nearest shipping point and 252 miles from St. Louis it contains a steam saw, grist mill, 3 churches – Methodist, Baptist, Christian. The principal exports wheat, cotton, hides, wool and furs. Semi-weekly mail. Population 100. Signed Moses C. Reynolds”
A railroad spur from the Frisco line served the town from 1910 to 1935 encouraging trade and development, mainly the exportation of tomatoes, timber and other commodities as well as bringing the first automobiles into the area.
In 1935, Ava was selected as the headquarters for the Mark Twain National Forest District. Those facilities are still being served by handsome limestone structures built by WPA workers.
Douglas County government is housed in the red brick court house, circa 1937, located on the southeast corner of the public square and the city of Ava as we now know it, was incorporated into a 4th class city in 1908 and continues to be served by a Mayor/Board of Aldermen form of government.
As a community, we are lucky to have the Douglas County Historical Society who has lovingly preserved and archived pieces of our past into the Douglas County Museum for all to enjoy.