PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY SETTLERS
TOLD AT THE DINNER OF 1909
Gentlemen: I think that this is a good time to go back to "life's morning march," "when our bosoms were young,'' and pay a tribute to the men who made it possible for Springfield to be the beautiful and progressive city it is.
All successful builders, whether of city, state or nation, must lay the foundation of their Creation on solid as well as broad foundations.
That the men who laid out and founded Springfield did this, time has proven. Therefore this day we render them our meed of praise.
We have already recited at a former meeting who founded and named the city. Let us today put on record the man who built the first house within the present city limits, but which was then outside of the limits prescribed by the deed of gift by Col. John P. Campbell. His name was William Fulbright. He built a log cabin at a spring, known as the "Fulbright Spring," a little way west of the present Gulf shops, or near where Fulbright street crosses the railroad tracks. This is absolutely correct. Mr. Fulbright moved here from Gasconade River, and had been told of the beautiful country by Col. John P. Campbell as he returned to Tennessee after having seen this country and he got here before Col. Campbell could go to Tennessee and return.
John Lair, the "village blacksmith,'' who shod the mules and horses and made the plows and wagons used by our "fathers" was a kindly, far-sighted man. I have seen as many as six fires going at one time in his shop, northwest corner St. Louis and Jefferson Streets. This is a good time to tell the story he told me, of how Jefferson street came to bend to the east south of Walnut street. He said the surveyor was at the Corner of Walnut and Jefferson streets and the man with the flag went on out in the prairie on the high ground and yelled back to know where to stick his flag, and knowing he was outside of the land deeded to the city, the surveyors aid. "Stick it down anywhere. There will never be a street there anyhow." After the war Mr. Lair moved to Boone County, Arkansas. He was a first-class empire builder.
They had able coadjutors in Gen. C. B. Holland, Col. Henry Sheppard, Dr. G. P. Shackelford, Maj. Joseph Weaver, Dr. T. J. Bailey, Gen. N. R. Smith, Judge John S. Waddell, Mr. DeBruin, Judge Charles H. Yancey, William McAdams, Maj. R. J. McElhaney, John S. Kimbrough, Wilson Hackney, W.B. Logan, Judge Littleberry Hendricks, Capt. John s. Bigbee, William C. Price (once treasurer of the United States), James R. Danforth, the brothers John and Henry Chenowith, Capt. A.M. Julian, Charles Carleton and others whose names do not occur to me as "I call the roll.''
These men all believed that in time we would have a large city here, and planned accordingly. Our Mr. Wilson told at a former meeting how we got the "Overland Mail." It was as big a thing for a thousand people as the "New Shops" and "Pythian Home'' is today for forty thousand. To get it we had to bring a member of Congress from New Mexico and send him to Washington, D. C., but we did it.
When a stranger came here, if he looked honest, he was welcomed and everyone showed him every courtesy.
It looked to me when I first came here that everybody in the county came to town on Saturday and the two and three-foot boards, shingles, siding, dimensions lumber, leather, beeswax and cedar posts that were "bartered'' that day was to me as good as a circus. Everybody that wanted it got credit and all accounts were settled January 1st after purchase, and so far as I know only one man ran off without paying his debts prior to January, 1860. What a record! I bought the acre of ground on a part of which we sit for $125.00, but was not to have possession until the owner gathered his corn. There was no writing to bind either of us. I could not do that now, but David L. Fulbright is dead. If he were here I would do it again. We had some boisterous characters here, but they fought with their fists and the "best man" won. A story told me long ago always brings a smile when I think of it. I will not put the real names in print, but tell you if you don't know. A man we will call Jemima said publicly that no man could be sheriff of Greene County, Missouri unless he was a "better man'' than he (Jemima) was, so when he came to town one Friday for a two days' good time he was told that (we will call him colonel) was a candidate. Now the colonel was a quiet, orderly man, but mighty handy with his fists and everybody knew it, so the teasing Jemima got was rather annoying. But he got worked up by Saturday morning and started out to the colonel's home to lick him. He met the colonel on the way to town and told what he was going to do to him. The colonel tried to avoid a fight, but it was no use. Jemima grabbed his leg and was going to put him off of his horse, so the colonel told him to wait and he would get down. They hitched their horses, pulled off their coats and went at it, and the colonel gave Jemima an awful mauling before he would holler "`nuff." After the fight they walked to the branch, washed and put on their coats and came to town, the best of friends. Needless to say the colonel was elected as he was afterwards to the Legislature. Manly Sports, such as three jumps, jumping the pole and foot races occurred at almost all gatherings of the people.
Hon. and Capt, Lucius A. Rountree, familiarly known as "Old Red" (most all of the old settlers had nicknames), Judge Yancey was "Muck," Ben Cannefax "Old Dusty," Capt. Rountree "Old Red,'' etc., was mentioned at a former dinner, but I think this story of him will amuse you, especially after I have mentioned our sports. When the troops were assembled here under Gen. Joseph Powell for the Sac and Fox war, as it was known, the first day's march was to the "Little Sac," six miles north of town, where camp was made and athletics were in order. The Laclede County company challenged the Greene County company for a wrestle, "side holt." It was accepted and "Old Red" was chosen as the Greene County champion. The ground was selected, judges chosen and after a tough bout "Old Red'' threw his man. He at once jumped up, cracked his heels together three times and shouted "There's the only man I ever threw down in my life." My, but the Laclede County men were angry. Thomas Jessup was of Scotch ancestry. He was born in Tennessee and came to Springfield in the early 30s. He died here about 1852 (not certain of the date).
He started the first tanyard in the valley of the Jordan, west of the southwest corner of Boonville and Mill streets. He had one son and three daughters.
His son Eli found the buffalo horn which is the centerpiece on today's table and which was kindly loaned for the occasion by Thomas Jessup, the grandson of Thomas the first, who is now a farmer south of the city and keeps up the good name of the family.
You will see by the inscription that it was found in 1831 somewhere near the city. There is a story connected with the horn which we will relate in next year's stories and anecdotes of the early settlers.
Mr. Cason built the first mill.
Capt. Julian the first carding machine.
Thomas Jessup the first tanyard.
Pressley Beal the first cabinet shop.
Let their names be remembered because of their good deeds.
Springfield-Greene County Library