Cape Fair is an unincorporated community in Stone County, Missouri, United States. It is located at the southern terminus of Route 173 at Route 76 and located on an arm of Table Rock Lake. The Cape Fair area was originally inhabited by the Delaware Indians. The first pioneer to the area was Frenchman James Yoachum in 1790, who stayed with the Delaware Indians, the areas first inhabitants, for a short time. The first non-native american settlers were John B. Williams, Zachariah Henson and Elijah Todd families who came from Tennessee. They arrived on Christmas Day, 1835 and settled at the mouth of Flat Creek and James River. William T. Stone arrived about the same time, and it was his family that the county was later named after.
Of vital importance to the civil war, they built a powder mill across Flat Creek. It was the first gunpowder mill west of the Mississippi River. Bat Guano, a key ingredient of gunpowder, was mined from a nearby cave in what is now known as Bear Den Cove. Cape Fair soon became an industrial and social center for miles around, boasting a powder mill, a sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, distillery, cotton gin and general store.
The name Cape Fair was derived from an Indian interpretation of the point where Flat Creek and the James River join. " Perfect Cape" or " Fair Cape", hence "Cape Fair". Cape Fair was the first permanent settlement in the county, and served as county seat until 1851, when Stone County was formed, and Galena was officially named the county seat. The original settlement was located on the banks of Flat Creek just above where it meets the James River, now known as Point 15 on Table Rock Lake. The settlement was flooded out in 1884, and later moved to its current location on the bluffs above.
The new town of Cape Fair was platted on Sept. 15, 1892 and officially filed with the Stone county recorder on Nov. 21, 1892. Property owners, William F. Webster and S. A. Carr, deeded the streets to the county. The original plat divided the town into some 39 lots, many of which were occupied by residences and others by a post office, a couple of general stores, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a tomato canning factory, a barber shop, and a garage or two. Some of the more remembered names were: Pyle's General Store, Uncle Jim Essary's Blacksmith Shop, who also loaned money on the side and was rumored to have had a whiskey still inside his house, Ed Hanes' store where there was a sign, " Will trade anything for anything", and old Uel Bennett's hotel. Several of the original buildings including the old post office still stand today.
The old school house was built in 1886. It has been preserved, has a new coat of vinyl siding, and today houses the Senior Citizens Club, which is attached to the Cape Fair Community Building and local volunteer Fire Station. One of the more historic spots in town was "Big Spring" located just west of town. It was a popular spot to gather for picnics and a cool drink of fresh spring water. An old tomato-canning factory was located next to the spring. The tomato farming and canning industries were important to the area. Eddy Asher, one of the descendants of the original settlers of Cape Fair, wrote a song about living in the area, called, "Dry Hollar": I grew up in Missouri, the times they were hard, Lived down in Dry Hollar, raised pigs in our back yard, Pa worked at the Sawmill, Billy worked the teams, Plowed forty acres of ‘maters and wore old patched blue jeans". In 1932, the famous bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde with 2 other gunslingers passed through the area in an old 4-door chevrolet. They were being chased by the Stone County law enforcement. At a roadblock near Yocum Pond, a tremendous gun battle took place. They escaped, but in 1934, two years later, Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in Louisiana. One of the old timers, Willard Perkins, said he has some of the spent shell casings from that shoot-out.
One of the most beautiful and historic sites of Cape Fair is Virgin Bluff. According to legend, a beautiful Indian maiden leaped to her death from the bluff because her father would not allow her to marry a Spanish soldier that had passed through the area. Some people today, still claim that sometimes at night, you can hear the maiden crying for her lover. The James River became famous for Float Trips from Galena to Bear Den and Virgin Bluff in Cape Fair and on to Branson, offering over 100 miles of great fishing and beautiful scenery. You could start floating from Cape Fair at sunrise, and continue down river until 4:00 in the afternoon, landing at Jackson Hollow, a distance of 30 miles, and walk back to the place of departure in only one hour, a distance of less than four miles. There were several tourist camps on the James River at Cape Fair catering to the floaters. Many movie stars and other dignitaries came from long distances to float the famous James River.
Table Rock Dam was completed in 1959, changing Flat Creek and the James River into what is now Table Rock Lake. The area changed from excellent float fishing to excellent lake fishing. The town of Cape Fair soon became known as the "Bass Capital of the World", a destination for fishermen and tourists alike. Today Cape Fair is still recognized as one of the best bass fishing areas in the country. Cape Fair offers resort lodging, restaurants, public marina, campground, guides and all other services. The community is part of the Branson, Missouri Micropolitan Statistical Area.