It was the ending of a way of life and the beginning of another. The construction of Bagnell Dam from 1929-1931 which created the Lake of the Ozarks reservoir forever changed the area and the lives of those who lived here.

But while the clearing of the Osage River valley swept away the sites of many fond memories, some residents embraced the change and the opportunities it ushered in, such as Ivy and Ora Purvis.

A third generation farm family in Camden County, Ivy and Ora used the lake to begin a new venture in the face of severe economic depression, opening Purvis Beach Resort in what is now the Sunrise Beach area.


It was the ending of a way of life and the beginning of another. The construction of Bagnell Dam from 1929-1931 which created the Lake of the Ozarks reservoir forever changed the area and the lives of those who lived here.
But while the clearing of the Osage River valley swept away the sites of many fond memories, some residents embraced the change and the opportunities it ushered in, such as Ivy and Ora Purvis.
A third generation farm family in Camden County, Ivy and Ora used the lake to begin a new venture in the face of severe economic depression, opening Purvis Beach Resort in what is now the Sunrise Beach area.
While they are both long since passed away, their daughter Rosemary Purvis Butts, 87, still lives in the lake area today.
"I remember well the day that I got out of school and saw men tearing down our home," Rosemary says.
Her home, which included also housed the Purvis' country store and post office, was just across from the little one room school house.
Life was much different then.
"All through my grade school years, the teacher always boarded with us. I remember the 'hitching' rack for those who came on horseback," she says.
Hunting and trapping were part of their everyday existence.
Rosemary recalls animal skins curing on flax boards outside her home, to be taken later to sell in the nearest town - Versailles.
Back then Porter Mill Springs was the main gathering spot for the community of folks living in the Purvis area, so-called because Ora was the postmistress for the community. Lake Rd. 5-32 is now named for the large spring.
"In my memory, the springs originated from a cave-like bluff. Lots of community picnics were held there. It was probably a mile from our home," recalls Rosemary. "My mother always told me when she was pregnant with me that she craved that wonderful water. In the evening she would walk there for a drink."
But the waves of change were slowing making their way to this corner of the Ozarks.
According to a 1968 article about the Purvises by Don Mahnken in the Springfield, Mo. Daily News, Ora said that construction of a dam on the Osage River had been talked of as far back as the early 1900s. It says that a man called Mr. Cole came to Camden County, staying with Ora's family, in consideration of a project to "tunnel through where the tie slide is."
The tie slide referred to was a spot called Hurricane Deck where railroad ties were cut and slid down into the river. From there, the ties were bound into rafts and floated to the town of Bagnell, recalls Rosemary whose late brother-in-law Leslie Moore worked there.
That never came about, but later in the mid-1920s, the people of the Osage River began to realize that a dam was inevitable as a big land company had started buying up property, according to the article.
"And so it was; families who had lived in the Osage River valley for generations were forced to sell - and they were forced," says Rosemary. "The lake came, and life was never the same."
Things changed as the plans for a dam came together, but eventually, Union Electric Company of St. Louis began site work for the dam near Bagnell on Aug. 6, 1929. Four months later the stock market crashed.
As the first contracts were let to clear trees from the land to make way for the lake, the Purvises received the first of their earnings as a result of the lake by clearing a 40-acre tract owned by Tom Staley, according to the article. They earned $1,000 in less than 10 days. From there, they went on to clear a huge swath of land from their own property up the river to Proctor. Completed in 1931, the job took about two years.
In their contract alone, as many as 80 and usually about 40-60 people were employed, according to the article. With no chainsaws - most workers used hedge axes and cross cuts - it was tough work especially on a four-mile stretch of nearly sheer bluffs, just upstream from the Purvis property.
When the waters finally came, the Purvises moved their home to the top of the hill. The post office had already been moved in 1930. Some postal officials wanted to close the office there believing that there would no longer be enough patrons to warrant a location there.
Their old community was scattering - though many may have stayed in the region moving to other farms or least staying while construction jobs were available.
The article says Ora made her last visit to their home site on the river in 1931: "I sat down there until 10 o'clock that night. I knew it would be the last time I'd ever see it."
Of the move, Ora said simply in the article that "It was hard."
The lake also cut off some connections.
"We almost never went to Camdenton, our county seat, after the lake came. To do so, we had to catch a ferry. When Hurricane Deck Bridge was built (in 1936), it was a toll bridge," recalls Rosemary. "We only went there (Camdenton) to pay our taxes once a year."
In the spring, far away rains brought high water to the lake, making the water very muddy, according to Rosemary.
"I remember the acres of driftwood we had to contend with. It would be so solid we felt like we could walk across the lake on it," she says.
That hurt fishing which was the mainstay of the lake's new economic base - a burgeoning tourism industry - but all that improved after Truman Dam was built, says Rosemary.
With a bigger vision for the rough wooded hills than what many were then viewing as wasteland, the Purvises had immediately jumped into the resort business, putting up two log cabins equipped with beds and kerosene stoves in 1931. It was a success from the get-go with most of their customers coming from Kansas City, according to the article, and so they added another seven cabins in the fall of 1932.
A few other "original" lake resorts in this part of the lake that sprang up around the same time were Lakeview Beach owned by Ernest Hart, Washburn's Pointed by Bill Washburn and Twin Bays by Lige Williams.
Vacationers usually stayed about a week at a time, according to the article, and were charged about $2 a night for two people. Despite the Great Depression being in full terrible swing, the resort boomed and often overflowed with customers who were mainly interested in fishing.
In the article, Ora said, "We had people sleep on our porch, we made beds on our trucks, and we'd get up and give them our bed. We even took the bed springs off the upstairs bed and fixed a bed in the yard for a couple. They both had their legs off and couldn't climb the stairs."
Over the years, the resort grew to 18 cabins.
But the tourism business was seasonal.
To make ends meet, Ivy had several hundred acres across the cove from their home where he kept cattle. He would usually sell a bunch around January to see the family through the winter, according to Rosemary.