Rolla, Missouri

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Rolla is a city in Phelps County, Missouri, United States, midway between the larger cities of St. Louis and Springfield along I-44. The population was estimated in 2008 as 18,438. It is the county seat of Phelps County[3]. The Rolla Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Phelps County.

Rolla is an important center for state and federal education and research in science and technology. It is the home of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, originating as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy in 1870 and existing as the University of Missouri–Rolla from 1964 through 2007. In addition, the US Geological Survey operates a large regional facility with various centers: the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center III, the Missouri Water Science Center, the Mid-Continent Geographic Science Center, National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Office Liaisons, and the Rolla Science Information and Library Services office. The headquarters of the Mark Twain National Forest, the only United States National Forest in Missouri, is also located in Rolla.

Although private businesses are more limited, Royal Canin, a major manufacturer of dog and cat food, operates in Rolla. Small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton operated a major plant in Rolla from 1996 to 2007.

In addition, this is part of the Ozark Highlands American Viticultural Area, with vineyards established first by Italian immigrants to the area.



The first European-American settlers in Phelps County arrived in the early 19th century, working as farmers and iron workers along the local rivers, such as the Meramec, the Gasconade, and the Little Piney. In 1844 John Webber built the first house in what became the City of Rolla. Nine years later, railroad contractor Edmund Ward Bishop, considered to be the founder of Rolla, settled in the area. The state officially established Rolla as a town in 1858.

Two stories account for how Rolla was named. One, widely regarded as a folk legend, and acknowledged as such by the Phelps County Historical Society, comes from competition with neighboring Dillon, Missouri to be designated the county seat. When Rolla was made the county seat in 1861, the residents of Dillon, having lost a round, were allowed to choose the name of the new city and named it Rolla, after a good-for-nothing hunting dog.

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