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West Plains, Missouri is the county seat of Howell County, and the largest city within 100 miles of south-central Missouri. Nearby communities include Brandsville, Pomona, Pottersville, Rover, South Fork, and White Church. Portions of the Mark Twain National Forest are east and west of the city. The first settlement in the area was by Josiah Howell, for whom the county was named, who built a home in the Howell Valley in 1832. During the American Civil War, the area suffered near constant conflict due to its location near the border between the North and the South. Confederate General James McBride gave West Plains residents an ultimatum to either join the Confederate army or flee the area. By the end of the war, nearly 90% of the population of the entire county had left, while others chose to fight for the Confederacy. West Plains was mostly burned to the ground, and the entire county was devastated, largely from guerrilla warfare. Recovery was slow following the war, but gradually people began to move into the area and businesses were established. In 1928, 37 people were killed and another 22 injured in an explosion in downtown West Plains, which collapsed the second floor of a dance hall where about 60 people were gathered, and damaged the nearby courthouse so badly that it was left vacant until late 1933, when it was demolished. Some of the dead were never identified. Then, the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, closing banks and businesses. Again, the town recovered and its population exceeded 11,000 at the time of the 2010 census. Notable residents of West Plains have included Union General Egbert Brown, who was residing in West Plains at the time of his death in 1902. Preacher Roe, a former Major League pitcher, moved there upon retirement, and Bill Virdon, a Major League player and manager, graduated from West Plains High School. The actor, Dick Van Dyke, was born there.


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