Long before the town existed, a spring flowed from a large bluff in the middle of the Ozark wilderness, visited by Native Americans who called it 'Neosho', a word meaning clear, abundant water.
Local artist Doug Hall has recreated that scene from the past in a commissioned painting for local resident, Judy Haas Smith.
And Smith decided to donate a copy of the original painting as a tiled mural to hang in the Neosho-Newton County Library.
Hall's work was unveiled in a ceremony held Thursday evening at the library. A more than capacity crowd filled the community room for the event.
Library Board of Trustees President Beth Styron welcomed them.
"We're overwhelmed with the turnout," she said. "We're delighted. This is a culmination of a lot of planning and excitement on behalf of the board and staff of the library."
She introduced Smith as a "lady who most of you probably know who is responsible for the painting and the tiled mural."
"People keep asking me why I am doing this," Smith said. "Part of it has to do with Dan and Mary Longwell, who retired here in 1954. They created LIFE magazine. I almost feel like they're almost channeling me. I think most of this (supporting art) comes from the Longwells.
“At the same time, Doug Hall is an fantastic artist. Neosho never recognized Thomas Hart Benton until Mr. Longwell had him down here and he (Benton) was in his eighties at that point. We don't have anything of Thomas Hart Benton's except for lithographs and so forth. I did not want that to happen with Doug Hall so we have something permanent of Doug Hall's."
Hall took center stage and said, "I think I may know everyone in here. It's like having a room full of friends. Thanks, everybody for coming.
"People ask me all the time how I got started in art,” Hall said before unveiling the painting Smith commissioned. “Well, when I was about 8 or 9, my mom ... enrolled my brother and myself in an art class down here by Morse Park. The first class, they had chocolate donuts. I had never seen or ate a chocolate donut until then. The next Saturday, I couldn't wait for art class."
Hall recounted how artwork he painted in class led to his first sale, at Big Spring Park.
"I set up my 3 or 4 paintings, leaning against a picnic table," Hall said. "A couple wanted to buy one painting and they asked if I would take $2.50 for it. At 8 years old, that seemed like a million dollars. Between the chocolate donuts and the sale of my first piece, there's my inspiration. I was set on my course for what I want to do.
"This is the park and it's of a time period before it's all modern, before Neosho was here, when the Native Americans were here. Judy gave me free rein to paint, rather than telling me what to paint. Having the connection with the park and growing up in Neosho, it was a shoe-in for me. Without further ado, as they say, let's unveil this one and then we'll unveil the tile mural out in the hallway. The title is 'Big Spring Bluff'".
The crowd applauded when Hall revealed the painting Smith commissioned. He then moved into the hallway to unveil the same painting as a tiled mural.
The tile art is 6 by 8 feet, It is - and will be - the only other copy of the original painting. The tile mural was created and installed by Paul Whitehill of Whitehill Enterprises.
Smith donated the funds to the library so that the painting could be reproduced in tile for permanent display.
"I think Doug Hall is an outstanding artist," Smith said. "I wanted something of his, something of Neosho and he's a Neosho boy and that's how it all came about."
Hall's tiled mural of 'Big Spring Bluff' is located in the hallway leading from the main library to the community room.
Hall, who is an award winning artist, is the owner of Doug Hall's Log Cabin Gallery, located at 19314 Missouri 59 south of Neosho.
The spring that gives Big Spring Park its' name is one of the most photographed spots in Neosho and will be remembered now as it was long before the town was founded in Hall's artwork.