PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY SETTLERS
TOLD AT THE DINNER OF MARCH 31, 1911
I think it well at this meeting that we should talk some about the old timers that we knew who lived in the county in its bygone days. The very finest citizens that ever settled in any country in the world were these, and though they have all gone out of this life they left their impression on us and our compeers.
John Woods, with his two sons, James and John, and his two daughters, Mrs. Williams and Miss Martha, came to this country in 1862 or 1853 from Lawrence County, Tennessee, and settled northwest of town about five miles. John Woods, Sr., was one of the finest mechanics that ever lived in this country. He had formerly owned a large cotton mill in his old home in Tennessee, and when he came here he bought a fine piece of land which made a fine farm. There were no better citizens than he and his sons and daughters.
Allen Biggs lived in the same neighborhood, coming here from Tennessee, a quiet, industrious, good citizen.
William Boxley was from Kentucky and lived in the same neighborhood. He was a jolly, good-natured old gentleman, kind hearted and generous, and one of the best of neighbors.
Uncle Jaky Bodenhammer lived about six miles east of town, and he used to say that a chimney fell down on his children and killed them all but nineteen. He was of German descent and I think came here from North Carolina. He and his children were all fine citizens.
I didn't know Mr. Kerschner, the father of Capt. William and Lieut. Thomas Kerschner, but I knew both of them, and I always heard that the senior Kerschner was one of our best citizens. They lived six miles southeast of town.
Maj. Roswell K. Hart came here, I think, in 1852; was an enterprising, clear-headed business man; owned a fine farm, and was major in the Federal army during the Civil War, and under orders from Gen. Holland burned a good many houses in the south part of the city the 8th day of January, 1863, at the time Marmaduke attacked the city.
William B. Farmer lived a little west and south of where the pencil factory now is. He was a merchant and a farmer and a fine business man, and although a slaveholder voted for Mr. Lincoln and was made Receiver of the Land Office. He was also Judge of the County Court for years, and made a splendid record.
Dr. Gabriel P. Shackleford owned a farm, the west line of which is the Boulevard, and St. Louis street runs now near his residence. He was a Kentuckian, kind hearted and generous, and a merchant as well as a farmer.
Uncle Presley Beal was our cabinet maker. He made our bureaus, chairs, tables and other household furniture. His shop was at the northwest Corner of College Street and Patton alley. He was a Tennesseean and one of the kindliest old gentlemen I ever knew.
There were four Danforth brothers, who settled six miles east of town, at what is still known as the Danforth Spring. They were Finley James R., John W. and Erskine. Finley was the most enterprising and energetic of the family, and he gave Col. Campbell and Maj. Berry a "run for their money" in the location of Springfield. He wanted it at the Danforth Spring. He died before I came here, but I knew James R., who was for years cashier of the branch of the State Bank located at Springfield, and a devoted member of the Methodist Church, a jolly, fine looking old gentleman, whose kindly manner and open countenance won the friendship of everybody at the first meeting. John W. Danforth, in early days, was considered the best dressed man in Greene County. When I knew him he had retired from business and owned a fine farm northeast of the city, and he rode into town in his broadcloth clothes and silver spurs and tall hat, clean shaven, and was elegance personified. He was in the wholesale business at Forsyth during the days of the Ben Lee steamboat, and made a handsome fortune there, upon which he retired. Erskine Danforth was a farmer; lived east of town, and I think one of the best men I ever knew; quiet, kind hearted and loved by everyone who knew him.
John Lair owned a farm, the northwest corner of which was the southeast corner of Jefferson and Walnut streets. I think the 160 acres that he owned was entered by Judge James Dollison. Lair had a blacksmith shop at the northwest corner of Jefferson and Walnut streets, where be had, as I recollect it, six forges. He rigged up stocks and belts so that he could shoe the forefeet of 100 mules in one day. He was uneducated but not ignorant by a long shot, and a kind hearted, pushing, money-making man. There was never any enterprise for the benefit of Springfield that John Lair did not do his share.
Littleberry Hendricks I have always regarded as the greatest lawyer I have known intimately, unless it was Willard P. Hall. He was a bricklayer and didn't study law until he was about forty years old. He had three sons, one of them a doctor and one was Judge of the Circuit Court of the Lawrence County district for many years. The other one never had good health. He told me that he had never been reversed by the Supreme Court in but on case. He was the foremost lawyer in this circuit, a quiet, kindly old man, with morals unassailable. He was Judge of our Circuit Court.
William McAdams was an Irishman, born in Cork, but came to the United States when a child, and came here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and opened a saddlery and harness shop. He was a fine business man, kind hearted and always ready to help the town.
Bryant Nowlin lived southeast of town and was a fine citizen, and the first time I ever saw him he told me I could pinch him if I wanted to, and I didn't know at the time, but I learned afterwards that his flesh was so hard it could not be pinched, and as I was a stranger he thought he would have some fun out of me. He was a fine citizen and lived to a ripe old age.
Capt. John S. Bigbee came here from Tennessee and settled two and a half miles northeast of town. He was a fine citizen; kept a hotel when I came here, and was our public auctioneer for many years.
Gen. Colly B. Holland came here from Tennessee in 1841; was always a prominent citizen, and always foremost in all things for the good of the town. He rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Federal army, and when Gen. Brown was wounded on the 8th day of January, 1863, when Marmaduke attacked Springfield, Gen. Holland took command and drove Marmaduke away. Capt. John L. Holland, his brother, came here with him, and is now living at the age of ninety-two or three on Walnut street, and is the only one of the first generation of the men who made Springfield now living.
Robert J. McElhany came here from Tennessee; was successful as a merchant and banker, foremost in everything to build up the town, and had many friends and no enemies that I know of.
Hon. John W. Hancock lived five miles east of town. He was prominent in politics; was a large farmer, and with his brother-in-law, J. T. Morton, came here in an early day from Kentucky. I knew them both well and they were splendid citizens.
James Ellison lived in the same neighborhood with Hancock and Morton, and was a good farmer and a good citizen.
Heretofore we have spoken of Solomon H.Owen. Capt. Charles Baker Owen, one of his sons, lived on the James southwest of the city. He was a stalwart Democrat and was a captain in the Twenty-fourth Missouri Volunteers during the Civil War. He made many races for the Democratic party, and there was never any doubt about his Democracy seven days in the week, and he thoroughly believed with Jackson that "to the victor belonged the spoils.'' He left a large family and they are all doing well.
Col. Lane lived west of town, was an early settler, but died before I came here.
The father of W. J. McDaniel lived south of town; was a good farmer, and the very best kind of a citizen.
Thomas B. Neaves, once sheriff of this county and member of the Legislature, lived southeast of the city-and that makes me think of a good story of how Christian County was named. It was told me years ago by one who knew. If you will notice the map of Christian County you will observe it has a queer shape, and its northern boundary is within sx miles of Springfield, and its northeast township was absolutely necessary in order to get the territory to form the county. Mr. Neaves lived in that township, and it was impossible to get the people of that township to agree to being cut off from Greene County without they could get the influence of Mr. Neaves. James Gideon, an uncle of Judge James Gideon of today, and a Dr. Davis were the men who were engineering the formation of the county, and finally in desperation they went to Mrs. Neaves, knowing that whatever Mrs. Neaves wanted her husband to do he was pretty apt to do, and used every argument they could think of to get her to use her influence with Col. Neaves to get him to favor the formation of the new county, but she said she never interfered with the colonel's political affairs and she didn't want to do it. But they stuck to it and she finally said that there was but one thing that would induce her to speak to her husband about the matter, and that was if they would name the new county "Christian", after the county that they were born, raised and married in Kentucky, she might say something to him about it. They told her that they were just bound to call it Christian; that they were just "honing" to call it Christian, and that if Col. Neaves would agree to it and help them to get the necessary territory that they would call it Christian. Mrs. Neaves spoke to the colonel and he agreed to it and the county was formed and named Christian. I publish it so that the people in Christian County may know how their county got its name, for there is no doubt but this is the fact.
Hon. Willam H. McFarland lived east of town on a farm; was a very energetic man, and took a prominent part in politics. He represented this county in the Legislature and died regretted by all who knew him.
Hon. Frank T. Frazier was Representative and Senator from this county and lived near Ash Grove. He was an energetic, busy citizen and loved to dabble in politics about as well as any man I ever knew; was a good neighbor, and there never was any back taxes against him.
The youngest son of Daniel Boone, Nathan, once lived near Ash Grove, in this county. It is needless to speak of his character. He had belonged to the regular army and left many descendants who are good citizens to this day.
Dr. Monroe M. Parrish came here in an early day from Kentucky. He was one of the finest surveyors we ever had in this country, as well as a fine physician. His widow still lives in the city.
David Ross lived near Ebenezer; came here at an early day; was a minister, and had a good farm.
There were three of the Sims, all good citizens--Leonard H., Zachariah and Briggs. Leonard H. and John S. Phelps were both members of Congress at the same time from this County. I don't explain why we had two members from Greene County in order to make the curious hunt up the reason.
We had two prominent citizens by the name of Hackney. One of them named Wilson Hackney lived at the northwest corner of Walnut and South streets. He was a Kentuckian and a hatter by trade, and when I came here more than half the people were wearing his hats. A few days after I got here I witnessed a curious scene in Sheppard & Kimbrough's store. Old Uncle Billy Gray was a great big six-footer, living southwest of the city, and came into Sheppard & Kimbrough's store, took a seat and was talking to Mr. Sheppard when Mr. Hackney came in. Uncle Billy said to Mr. Hackney, "I want you to make me a new hat," and he took off the one he had on his head and says, "I am tired of this one." Mr. Hackney said, "Uncle Billy, I can't make you any better hat than that," and Uncle Billy replied, "I don't suppose you can, but I have had this hat twelve years and I am tired of it and I want a new one," and I have no doubt in the world but that it was true. Old Uncle Hugh Hackney lived out on the Sac and had a mill, and the meal and flour that came from Hackney's mill sold like dollars, for there wasn't any doubt about its purity. During the war he was accused of being a rebel, but he always declared stoutly that he was not, but there was a man by the name of Jim Ryan that always testified against him and he was disfranchised every election until, I think, in 1866. At that time Capt. Charles B. Owen and I were candidates on the Democratic ticket and we went with the registering officers. In going from Cave Spring to Ebenezer we had to ride after night, and we got down on Sac and Capt. Owen told me to ride slowly and he would overtake me. When he came up he didn't volunteer to tell me why he had turned off the road and I didn't ask him, but Mr. Ryan never appeared against Mr. Hackney, and Uncle Hugh came and registered and was left on the roll as a voter, and I kept studying about it, and the first time I saw Ryan in town I asked him why he didn't appear against Uncle Hugh, and he said "Because Bake Owen came to my house the night before the registration and told me that if I appeared against Uncle Hugh at the registration that he would beat me until I would have to be hauled home in a wagon every time he found me in town, and don't you know he would a done it?"
Joseph Evens lived north of town on the Boonville road, owned a fine farm and was one of the best citizens we ever had. He had three sons--John, Alexander and Mac Alexander and Mac are living. Mrs. E. E. McDaniel, the widow of W. J. McDaniel, was one of his daughters, and Dr. Cox married one of his daughters. The McDaniels are grandsons of Uncle Evans.
Capt. Thomas B. Reed lived near Ebenezer. He owned a fine farm and had a peculiarity I have never seen in anyone else. When excited perspiration would break out on one side of his face and not on the other. He was a captain in the Twenty-fourth Missouri Volunteers, Federal army, sheriff of the county two terms, and the father of Judge Reed of the present County Court, and also of George Reed, one of our very best citizens of he present day.
And now, in closing this series of talks by you gentlemen, and my own reminiscences, I have tried to keep out of the limelight as much as it was possible and do the subject justice. I will close by telling how near Springfield came to having a candidate for Vice-President. The coming campaign makes it appropriate for me to tell the story.
In 1864 the delegates from this Congressional district to the Chicago Democratic convention were Hon. John s. Phelps and Judge Sample Orr, and I one of the alternates. When we arrived in Chicago we found the Southern States in that convention were at loggerheads, and Missouri having a solid delegation, the managers of the convention called the Missouri delegation together, and said as we had a harmonious delegation from Missouri, and as it was the custom of the Democratic party to take the candidate for President from the North and the candidate for Vice-President from the South, or vice versa, that if we would agree upon a candidate for Vice-President that the convention would nominate him, as it was well known that Gen. McClellan would be the nominee for President. Governor Phelps came to me and told me he would be a candidate before the Missouri delegation for Vice-President, and of course could not act as one of the delegates, and for me as his alternate to take his place, which I did. After the delegation got together there were eulogistic speeches made in favor of Governor Phelps as the nominee, as he had been a member of Congress from Missouri for eighteen years, and I took it for granted he would be nominated without question, as no one said anything against his nomination. But to my surprise when we voted there were only four votes for him with four against him, and Missouri then had only nine delegates in the convention and Col. David H. Armstrong hadn't voted, so I felt sure that Phelps would be nominated because he had made Armstrong postmaster in St. Louis, but to my utter surprise Col. Armstrong stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his vest and swore that "no man who ever wore the shoulder straps of a Federal colonel should ever be nominated for Vice-President by his vote," and he voted for Pendleton and the delegation reported Pendleton as its choice, and he was accordingly nominated for Vice-President.
Some of the offices that citizens of Springfield have held, not only in the State, but in the Nation, are Greene County once had two members of Congress at the same time; it furnished two Secretaries of State; one Register of Land, and two men who have been Governors of the State and formerly lived in Springfield; also one minister to a foreign land.
I want to return to you, gentleman, my sincere thanks for the pleasure your company has given me at our annual dinners, and the aid you have given me in writing this short history of our good old town. Some time or other it will be valuable to our descendants because they will turn to its pages and find that their ancestors "made good'' in the building up of the city and county.
Springfield-Greene County Library