Early History of Aurora

early-aurora-downtown Because of the many elk horns found there, the table land upon which Aurora is situated was originally called the Elk Horn Prairie.

The Delaware Indians left the area for Oklahoma around 1830.  Although people of European descent were coming up and settling by the larger rivers in the 1820s, they didn’t reach the Aurora area until 1834 when James D. Hillhouse, E. B. Hillhouse, A. A. Young, James Barrow and James Gibson settled on land along Honey Creek.  Other early families were McNatt, Liles and Rinker.

The first house in what has become the town of Aurora was built by Joseph Rinker about 1840 and sat in the area enclosed by Church, Porter, Highland and Hudson streets, currently occupied by the St. John’s/Aurora Community Hospital .  Rinker was the son of a captain on General George Washington’s staff who participated in the surrender ceremonies at Yorktown.  Joseph’s son George was the Lawrence County clerk when the Civil war began.

John C. McNatt closed his store on Elm Branch when it was looted during the Civil War.  After the conflict he moved it south to the junction of the Bolivar road with the Springfield and Cassville road.  This is now the intersection of Tindall and Elliott streets in Aurora.stephen-g-elliott

On May 9, 1870, Stephen G. Elliott and his wife Anna acknowledged before J. W. Rinker, the plat of a new town to be called Aurora on 40 acres of a farm he had bought from John C. McNatt.  Half of the lots in the new town were the price to Frisco railroad for having a depot in Aurora when the railroad came through in 1872.      Although small deposits of lead had been found as early as 1858, the well being dug at Thomas D. Liles farm in November 1885 was the event that changed Aurora for the next 100 years.  The powder charge brought up large chunks of pure galena ore and a mining town was born.

Aurora was incorporated the following year and grew steadily until peaking in 1908 when it is believed to have reached 10,000 people.

The most comprehensive Aurora history written is the Aurora Centennial book (1870-1970.)

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