|Vol. V, No. 3, Winter 1992|
William Aden French came from Tennessee to Shannon County, Missouri, in 1905, to "pioneer." He was 14. His logs and diaries reveal a life-long enthusiasm for hunting, farming, and writing. In addition to these occupations, he taught school and learned the printer's trade at the old Eminence Current Wave office, where he worked from youth to old age. In 1937, he acquired the paper and was its editor-publisher for the next quarter century.
He remained a ruralist, but one whose life became woven into the culture of the modernizing Ozarks village. Evidences of both worlds are apparent in his voluminous diary --farming, hunting, fishing, camping out, rural school teaching, and writing rustic romances on the one hand; and, on the other, a cash-paying regular town job, formal education, music, participation with Sunday school organizations, facility with standard English, and regular attendance at the movies.
The selections which follow, edited for brevity, are but a small sample. A copy of the original journal is in the Center for Ozarks Studies, courtesy of Edibeth French Chilton.
Enrollment. First Day, July 10, 1911
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Wednesday, August 7, 1912. Enrolled 3 new pupils in 3rd and 4th grades. Makes 10 in all; but one of the others was absent on account of chills, so my attendance was only 9.
Saturday, August 10. I finished reading my "State Course of Study" through. Read in Tales from Shakespeare. Went up to School house in forenoon and wrote chapter 26 of my story Oscar of the Ozarks in about 3/4 hour. Sent my preliminary report to be mailed at Shawnee by Stone Ramsey. I went over to see the Fancher Spring, also called Blue Spring, on the other side of Current River ½ mile from my Boardng House. Some fishermen set me across the river in their boat. Found a regular hunter's paradise at the Spring -- to my surprise and delight. Saw two muskrats playing in the Spring and saw a big mink along the shore of the Spring branch. It was a scene to rest and recreate tired human nature -- one of those corners of Nature which have not yet been ground beneath the heels of Ruthless Man. I staid an hour at the Spring, enjoying its wild beauties, then came away, refreshed in spirit, and fully determined to make many future visits to the spot.
Sunday, August 11. Finished reading Tales from Shakespeare and began reading Shakespeare' s Macbeth. Helped a gang of fishermen from Eminence seine the Booming Shoal in the River in the forenoon. Caught 105 fish --some good ones weighing as much as 4 lb. apiece.
Friday, August 16. Took up School at 8:45, gave 40 minutes at noon, and using our extra 35 minutes, I turned out at 3 o'clock, and still put in 10 minutes extra. Lost a lot of time trying to borrow a horse to ride home. Finally got one from James Harrison, and started on my 13-mile ride at 4:13. Got home a few minutes past 8 o'clock, a good while after dark, pretty tired. They had got the Current Wave for Aug. 8, in which was printed my news items, Shawnee Siftings --- no. 12.
Saturday, August 17. Brought my girl--Miss Maude Stevenson --to the singing on Big Shawnee and took her back home. Got back about midnight.
Wednesday, August 21. Only had 4 pupils in forenoon and 8 in afternoon, on account of rain. Began raining some time in the night and rained steadily until 10 o'clock, a.m. More trouble! Kept 3 boys after school and brought in some switches. Getting ready for the battle! It's bound to come! Read some in the School Law and in Kenilworth.
Three years later, French is back on the home farm, a few miles from Eminence.
Thursday, September 9, 1915. Walter and I went back to Winona after my Jersey bull calf that
cousin Fred had given me, if I would pay express charges -- ($2.16).
Sunday, 19. Went to Sunday School at Munsell Chapel in forenoon and to baptizing in p.m. To church at night.
Wed., 22. Went to singing at Deweese's at night.
Friday, 24. Cut corn.
Tuesday, 28. Rained. Walter and I went hunting. I killed 2 squirrels. Walter, 1 snake.
Monday, October 4. I went hunting my stray heifer. Got 2 squirrels and 3 rabbits. Shot squirrels with 25-20. Dogs got 2 rabbits. Caught other one in hollow tree. Sister Ida came on a visit from Arkansas. Boys got wagon-load of apples up the creek.
Wednesday, 6. Finished digging potatoes. Went to singing at Deweese's at night.
Thursday, 7. Baled 21 bales of hay. Saturday, 16. Went to sale of horses at W. Eminence. Bid on 2 fillies. Thought I had bought one, but they wouldn't let me have it. Bought a 6-month old horse colt from Walter Webb for $40.00 -- ($20.00 in hay and $20.00 on 3 month's time). Had musical at our house at night.
Eight years later, at age 32, French is chief printer for the Current Wave, has bought a farm of his own near town to which he intends moving, and is courting his future wife.
Monday, September 10, 1923. I laid off from my work at the Wave office in Eminence. Intend
to take about a 3-weeks vacation. Went down to the river in morning on a squirrel hunt.
Monday, 17. Went out home early and got the team to haul lumber for a cross fence on my farm. Rained nearly all day. Hauled three loads of lumber and one load posts (160 planks and 54 posts). Drove a few posts, P.M., and tied up 25 shocks of corn. Rained me out at 4 o'clock. Music at night.
Wednesday, 26. Started up to Springfield, Mo. to have my teeth fixed. Rode to Birch Tree in truck with Ben Hensley. Took 1:55 train there for Willow Springs. Arrived there at 3:30 P.M. Got out on main line train at 5:05 and got to Springfield at 8:30 P.M. Got a room at the Baltimore Hotel for $1.00, took bath and went to bed.
Thursday, 27. Went up to town to the Square and saw Dr. Magruder, dentist. He told me crowns for my teeth would cost $5.00 each. He ground down some teeth today for crowns and bridge work. Filled two teeth also. Went to movie show at the Grand Theatre in P.M., and to one at the Electric at night -- movies and vaudeville. Stayed at Baltimore again.
Friday, 28. Dentist pulled one tooth, put on two crowns and two bridges of 5 teeth each -- total 12 teeth -- price $60.00. Paid him. Running short of money. Went to Farmers and Merchants Bank and got Wm. Chilton to cash $5.00 check for me. Took street car ride over city. Went to shows at Grand and Jefferson.
Monday, October 8. Fine autumn weather. I began working again at the Wave office after a 4 week vacation.
Thurs 11. Printed and mailed this week's Wave.
Friday, July 18, 1924. About 8:30 P.M. Grace and I were talking on the porch at her home when a large crowd of our friends gave us a charivari. They had found out our secret, by accident. I slipped out....'went to town and bought cigars and candy for the crowd. A jolly occasion.
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