The Woman Keeping the “Ozarks Alive”

Kaitlyn McConnell’s profile photo from her website, Ozarks Alive

She’s passionate about the history of the Ozarks.

She’s just as passionate about sharing it with the world.

Kaitlyn McConnell is a native of the Ozarks who by day works as the mild-mannered media relations coordinator for CoxHealth, recently honored as one of the Springfield Business Journal’s 2019 “40 Under 40“.

At night, and on weekends, she’s a super historian with a focus on the things about the Ozarks many people don’t realize are there.

Her blog, Ozarks Alive, tells the stories of the Ozarks “you can’t find in a Google search.”

She started her website in 2015 but says her love of Ozarks history started long before the blog’s debut.

“It goes back much further than that,” McConnell told OI. “I’ve been interested in local history since I was in high school.”

It was that passion that lead her to chronicle the history of her community.

“I started writing a column in my hometown newspaper, The Marshfield Mail, called ‘Landmarks’,” McConnell said. “I wrote about a different site in Webster County every week. I ended up going to school for journalism. Fast forward a few years to 2015, I decided this was something I really wanted to do, to write about the Ozarks, so that’s…what lead to the blog’s start back then.”

She told OI that part of the connection she feels to the Ozarks comes from her family’s long history in the area.

“I have a very deep connection with Webster County [because] seven generations of my family is from there,” she said. “Back when I was in high school I read this book called ‘Walkin’ Preacher of the Ozarks” by an itinerant preacher named Guy Howard. He was writing about times in the Ozarks in the 1940s in Laclede County. Because that was so close to where I was from, it made me see what my family had probably experienced a different way.”

“That made it real relevant for me,” she added. “After that, the interest started growing from there.”

While many describe Ozarks Alive as a history site because of the nature of many of the stories, McConnell says her site really has a strong connection to today.

“I understand why [people call it a history site] but everything for the most part is something that is going on now,” McConnell says. “Ultimately, that’s my goal is to capture the Ozarks as it is today so we have a record of that.”

McConnell says she takes a three-prong approach to the subjects on her website.

“When I’m doing an interview, I always ask if there are other things around [that area] which would make a good story,” she said. “I always like it when I can do a story that you can’t find in a Google search. The point of me doing this and sharing this is to show things you otherwise wouldn’t know about unless you were from that particular area. Word of mouth is really crucial.”

“I also just drive around on Saturdays,” she told OI as she chuckled. “Saturdays when I’m out and about I look around to try and find things that are interesting. The third thing I do is that I look at old newspapers for ideas.”

McConnell told OI she went into doing the blog with no expectations and she’s been blessed by the response.

“I did it because I enjoy it,” she said. “And so it’s been nice to see other people are enthused about the same things I am.”

If you would like to find out more about Kaitlyn and join her to discover parts of the Ozarks around you that you might not have realized were there, visit Ozarks Alive.

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