Webb City, (Webbville), was platted by John C. Webb in September, 1875, and incorporated in December, 1876, with a population of 700. The city was located on a portion of Webb's 200-acre farm, which he entered in February, 1857. There in 1873, Webb discovered lead while plowing. With the assistance of W.A. Daugherty, he sank the first pump-shaft in 1874. Then Webb leased his land to Daugherty and G.P. Ashcraft. In 1876 the Center Creek Mining Company leased the land and began operations. Some 20 years later 700 mines were located within the limits of Webb City and adjacent Carterville and the district ranked first in the production of zinc ore (black jack).
Webb aided the city in its material development. He gave land for a school, and the first Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He built the Webb City Bank and the first hotel.
The St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad was built to Webb City in 1879; the Missouri Pacific , in 1881. The population increased from 1,588 in 1880 to 9,201 in 1900. After the success of the first Webb City sheet ground mine ("Yellow Dog") in the 1890s, business boomed. The 100-room Newland Hotel was built and coeducational Webb City College was established. The Webb City Mining District was prominently represented at the Chicago Columbian Exposition,
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1893, and at the 1898 Omaha International Exhibit, Webb City received for its mineral display the only silver medal awarded. A.H. Rogers built a mule street car line from Webb City to Carterville, 1889, predecessor of the South West Missouri Electric Railway, established 1893, and expanded in the 1900s to a vast interurban system with power plant, car barns and an employee club house at Webb City.
During World War I zinc and lead concentrates produced in the Webb City-Carterville-Prosperity District were valued at more than $18 million. Webb City's population increased to some 15,000.
After the decline of mining in the postwar period, Webb City turned to diversified industrial and agricultural production. In the 1930s and during World War II, explosives were manufactured by powder plants located near Webb City.
From 1948 until his death in 1962, Ernest Jesse Palmer, nationally famous natural scientist, maintained a herbarium of more than 20,000 specimens at Webb City. The major portion of his collections was willed to the University of Missouri, and some of his letters were deposited in the manuscript collection of the State Historical Society of Missouri.