The picture above is the second bridge that is now at the bottom of the Mark Twain Lake.

Joanna, Newport, New Port, Utter

On the north side of a natural fork of Salt River was a site with a history dating back to the early settlement of Ralls County. Over its history, it was known by many names and now lies under Mark Twain Lake. According to “Cannon Reservoir Human Ecology Project” by Michael O’Brien, a village named Newport was platted circa 1834 by John J. Lyle, the original owner of the site. 

Another source, the 1837 “Gazetteer of The State of Missouri” by” by Alphonso Wetmore, shows a Newport “five miles above Cincinnati, on the same side of Salt River, has one store and a post-office.”  No reference to a Newport post office has been found, but from 1844 to 1854 a New Portland post office with John J. Lyle as postmaster operated there. Because there was another earlier Newport in Franklin County maybe the name was changed. Only five lots were bought in the village of Newport: one by Allen

Rouse and four to Charles I. Taylor. Taylor’s 1837 mortgage papers included a stock of goods and groceries, so likely he had the first store that operated at the site. He may have been the only resident of Newport, other than John J. Lyle. Charles I. Taylor defaulted on his mortgage and his four lots were sold by the sheriff in July 1838 to Thomas I. Anderson of Marion County.


In “The End of A Way of Life” by Dee West and Okle Rouse, after the New Portland post office, the area name was shorted back to New Port by locals.   In 1886 an Utter post office was established, likely named for John B. Utterback who was a postmaster and store operator there. It operated until 1891 when the store used as a post office was destroyed by fire. In 1895 a Joanna post office was established, operating until 1912 when

it was also destroyed by fire. Salt River was an important part of the history and development of this site.  In the 1830s, plans were being made to make Salt River navigable for steamboat traffic to Florida in Monroe County, a few miles from Newport. Florida was founded in 1831, four years before Newport, and had two large milling operations.  Cincinnati was downriver, also a few miles from Newport. Florida was upriver from Newport and Cincinnati was downriver, both a few miles from Newport.

Over the years, the villages of Newport, New Portland, Utter, and Joanna provided stores, post offices, blacksmiths, cooper shops, bloom shops, doctors, sawmills, and a switchboard for this part of Ralls County. As weather allowed, rafts, keelboats, and grain barges operated on Salt River during the 1800s. 

More Joanna History

In 1896, Joanna was formed by store owners Theodore F. Burnett and Thomas P. Stevens.  The town was named after Burnett’s mother, Joanna Morton Burnett.  In 1937 the first proposed name of the dam forming Mark Twain Lake was Joanna Dam. Soon after Clarence Cannon’s death in 1964, however, it was announced that the dam would be named for Cannon instead.  Cannon was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and a longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

In 1901, Stupp Brothers of St. Louis completed a steel bridge across Salt River at Joanna for $4,825. The floor of the bridge was damaged in 1911 and during the repairs, the piers were raised three feet.  Erosion wore away the bank on one side, so in 1926 another span and approach were added.  The bridge was built about half a quarter upriver from the old ford site. About this time, Theodore F. Burnett bought out the interest of Thomas R. Stevens and moved the store to the north side of the bridge and away from the old village.

In 1911, the store and post office were sold to William H. Quinn, who operated it until it was destroyed by fire and the post office was discontinued.  


In 1954, a second bridge was built for $125,000. As a result of the controlled flooding that filled Mark Twain Lake, this bridge is now at the bottom of the lake. 


For many years an annual picnic known as the Joanna Picnic was held and drew large crowds at nearby Lucy Springs.