|Vol. V, No. 4, Spring 1992|
|Margaret Gilmore Kelso (1855-1949) was the
daughter of Ozarks pioneers who, in her later
years, was urged to write down some of her
recollections. The result is an historically
significant memoir which OzarksWatch began
publishing in the Fall issue, 1990.
I have heard my father say that my grandfather, James Gilmore, who was the father of James Kannon Gilmore, made five trips from Tennessee to this country on horseback, all alone through the wilderness, to spy out the land. On the fifth trip he split rails and built a pen around the spring to hold down his claim, then went back to Tennessee and brought his family. Several families came here with him at that time, all in oxdrawn wagons. They were six weeks on the way.
My father was six years old when grandfather built a cabin--the cabin near the spring where he had built the rail pen. He homesteaded his land, cleared his farm, raised his family, and he and my grandmother, some of my uncles and aunts are buried not far from the old spring.
Grandmother Gilmore was a tiny little woman, pretty in the face, with long black hair and blue eyes. She just had a gray hair here and there when she died. Her maiden name was Ferguson. There is a tradition in the family that her father was Cherokee Indian. My father always thought that we had Indian blood. He said he never saw his Grandfather Ferguson but once that he could remember, and that he was very tall and straight, and very dark and quiet. My father had five brothers. They were John, Marion, Stephen, Sterling and Hugh. He had only one sister, Aunt Nancy Robertson. I have seen a few people in my life that I thought were just too good, and Aunt Nancy was one of them. She was imposed on all her life.
My grandmother, Polly Edmonson, was a Julian, and was so pretty. It was such a treat just to sit and look at her. She had four brothers. They were Rene, Stephen, Ike, and Sam; and five sisters, who were Susan McClure, Sallie (Sarah) Smith, Barbara Wheeler, Jane who married John Wilson and later Clinton Ingram, and Kesiah Crawford.
My mother, Sophronia Edmonson Gilmore, had four brothers. They were Isaac Julian, Philander S. (Pide), Alfred Stephen, and Alonzo P. (Shoat), and four sisters--Martha J. Saye (Aunt Durt), Adeline Lawrence (Aunt Addid), Lavinda Bradshaw (Aunt Lou) & Aunt Barbara.
The first piece of money I ever owned was a $5.00 old piece. I found it while we lived at Ebenezer. Grandfather and Grandmother Edmonson came from Walnut Grove to visit us in a borrowed buggy. A buggy was a very rare thing then, and we children were sitting in it looking it over and making the seat spring up and down. We picked up a piece of covering from the floor. I saw something bright and picked it up and ran into the house to show it. Grandfather looked at it and told me it was a $5.00 gold piece, and asked me where I found it. I told him and he said it was not his, but he would take it and show it to the man who owned the buggy. If it was not his then it would be mine. Nobody claimed it, and he said he would give me a $5.00 greenback for it. I looked at both pieces of money for quite a awhile, and finally decided that the paper money was so much larger, ! would be making a good trade. So I gave grandfather the gold piece, and he gave me the greenback. I felt richer than I have ever felt since, or ever will. I dreamed of great riches while I was growing up, for my father said he would put it in the bank for me and it would draw interest and then I would have a lot of money by the time I was grown up.
Soon after that, the [Civil] war broke out and we moved back to the farm. There was so much trouble and distress during the war, I expect my father forgot all about it. Anyway, he never mentioned it again.
I don't suppose I was more than nine years old when Howard, who was two years younger, and I plowed with Old Lamb and Brandy, our faithful old oxen. The plow was heavy and hard for me to handle at the corners, and brother walked along beside with a long switch in his hand, to keep the oxen going. They moved so slow, but one hot day our old ox team ran away with us. We begged and pleaded with them to stop, but they paid no attention to us. We drove them by the "gee, whoa, and haw" method. That day they paid no attention or our"whoa" and ran right on, bolted right through the bars at the gate, plow and all, right on into the creek, and stood in the deep water clear up their sides. We stood on the bank and begged and pleaded with them to come out of the water, but they stood there until they were all cooled off, and they were good and ready to come out. After they got cool, and drank their fill, they finally decided it was time to go back to work, so out they came, dragging the plow with them. There was nothing damaged, except where they had broken a few of the bars of the gap.
We let down what was left of the bars that were unbroken, and the old oxen went quietly back to the field, dragging the plow at the end of the log chain, and plowed until night. That sort of work was cruelly hard on little children of our age, but it was war time, and there was no other way to get the work done.
As children, we loved to go to Uncle John Gilmore's and get apples. They had one tree that had apples as big as a half-gallon cup, all yellow and juicy. Aunt Lucinda told us never to shake or climb the tree, but to pick up any that were on the ground. We would run to see who could get there first to get the biggest apples. They were called the "Found Pippins."
One Saturday, we went to Uncle Sterling's to stay over Sunday. He sent us to Aunt Lucinda's to get some apples, Jim B., Brother Jimmie and I. It seems to me we all had a little sack. We got our apples and on the way back, there was a sandy place in the road. We stopped to play in the sand. We dug holes in the sand and put our apples in and heaped the sand in piles over them. When we got back with our sacks empty Uncle Sterling made us go back after the apples, and when we got there, an old sow was rooting them out, and we had very few apples to bring back home.
When I first knew Uncle Jimmy Murray, he owned a carding machine and grain mill on Clear Creek. Certain days in the week he carded wool, and certain days he would grind wheat and corn.
When I was small, I went one day with my father when he took our wool to be made into rolls, and watched Uncle Jimmy feed the wool into the cards, and saw the finished rolls fall out at the back. It was wonderful to me, to see the big waterwheel turn underneath the mill,
Uncle Jimmy Murray, Uncle Billy Robertson, Uncle Jimmy Folden and Uncle Abner Williams all came here in ox-wagons, and were six weeks on the way. Uncle Jimmy Murray homesteaded land around where Mt. Pleasant church now stands, and at that time he had quite an estate. He had three sons and three daughters. The daughters were Sarah, Darthoola and Almeda, and the sons were Douglas, Devalout, and one son who went away in time of war, and as I remember it, he never came back. I don't remember his given name, but he left a little boy whose name was Tilroe.
Uncle Jimmy gave all his children land, and I was in church the day he told the church he wanted to make a deed to them to be used as cemetery ground. He was devoted to the church and was always in his place in the comer, next to the pulpit, as long as he lived, when he could get there at all. He studied the Bible, and could quote scriptures all day. It was most interesting to hear him talk on the Prophesies, and Revelations. He believed he would live long enough to see the second coming of Christ. A short time before he died he visited me all one day. While he was there, I said to him, "Uncle Jimmy, how old are you?" It seemed to offend him. He said, "I must look awful old. Why shouldn't I live to hear Gabriel's Trumpet blow?" He never told me his age. It was not an idle question, as he was old when I first remember him, and I had known him a long, a very long time, and I really wanted to know his age. He was very industrious, and kept a few fowls, and had honey and eggs to sell.
Uncle Ike Murray, I believe, was Uncle Jimmy's brother. He lived on the creek, by what we called "Boiling Spring." Aunt Betsey Davis was his sister. Uncle Jimmy gave Sammy Davis and Aunt Betsey a home on his land as long as Uncle Sammy lived. After Uncle Sammy died, he gave her a home with him while she lived.
While he lived with his daughter, Sarah Thompson, the neighbors made dinner for him. One church day, all the people who went to church went and took all their baskets of food. We arranged that I should go by and take Uncle Jimmy to church, and to get the preacher to detain him after the services until the crowd had gone on and set the table. Brother Solomon Forrester, the first minister in Greene County, detained Uncle Jimmy, getting him to explain the passages of the scripture. I waited around until the preacher thought they were all there and about ready for dinner, then Uncle Jimmy invited him home with him so they could finish their discussion.
When we came in sight of his home and he saw all the buggies and the large crowd, he said, "Something is up, something is up. It's my children, my neighbors, and my neighbor's children." By the time we got down to the table, he was almost shouting, he was so happy.
One day I took him for an all day visit with Uncle Tommy Murray. Uncle Tommy's second wife was my father's cousin. Her mother was Grandfather Gilmore's sister, who was Uncle Neddie West's wife. They had a wonderful visit that day. I had a good visit with Sarah, too.
I guess Uncle Jimmy hastened his own death. They had moved to a place about five miles away, and had failed to get all his fowls moved. He was so determined to get them home, he walked one day and went after them and carried them home on his shoulders. Sarah and Dollie followed him and begged him to wait until the men had time to take the wagon, and they would go with him to get his chickens. He scolded them and drove them back and told them they acted like he didn't have a bit of sense. I saw him pass my place with the chickens on his shoulders, resting now and then by the side of the road. That night he took a pain in his side, and the next day he was dead. The shock of hi s passing that way almost killed his daughters, Sarah and Dollie. He was a splendid citizen, and was loved and honored by all who knew him. He left to his family the rich heritage of a good and honored name. He was one of our sturdy pioneers who helped to open up the wilderness and make homes for those who followed. I am happy and proud to have known him.
I am now eighty-five years of age. When I decided to write my story, I was eighty-three. Then I hardly knew where to begin. Now I can hardly find a place to stop. So many dear pioneer faces keep asking to be remembered. So many things keep crowding in, clamoring for expression, filling my mind with early day history, bringing loads and loads of "food for thought" to fill the later years of my life.
Aunt Sallie Muers demands a line. A dear old lady who was buried last Sunday, whom I had known all my life. She lived to be one hundred and two years of age.., a full and fruitful life. She was buried at Kelley Chapel, near where she lived for the greater portion of a long and useful life.
Another person still living near Ash Grove is Aunt Bettie Duncan, now ninety-eight years of age. She told me that during the Civil War, she spun and wove, with her own hands, over one hundred yards of "jeans" for the soldiers.
Another wonderfully interesting person was Uncle Tommy Barham, a Revolutionary War soldier, who lived to be past one hundred and twelve years. He used to come visiting to my father's home when I was a child. He rode a little white pony that was as gentle as a sheep. When we saw him coming, we would run and open wide the gate, so he could ride right in up to the door, and mother would place a chair beside the pony and help him down onto it, and into the house. I thought it was wonderful to take off his shoes, and give him a cup of cold water. When his visit was over, we would help him onto his pony, and he would ride away, visiting all over the neighborhood. He knew everybody and loved everybody. Everyone knew him and loved him.
I have lived a long time, and I consider this a wonderful period of progress. It is a far cry from the ox team to the automobile and the flying machine; from the Indian trails to the paved highway; from the log schoolhouse to the well-equipped consolidated school; from the weekly mail delivered to the post office on horseback, to the daily mail delivered to our door; from the grease lamp used by our pioneer ancestors, hung from a crack in the chimney wall, to the incandescent light.
The improvement over the old ways is so great, I certainly am not among those who are crying for "the good old days." I have had more comfort in my latter days that I ever had betore. I do not yearn for the inconveniences of past years.
My greatest disappointment has been that I could not do more formy children. My greatest sorrow was to see some of them die. I do not think of death now, as I did. I have come to feel it is a good thing we can die. I have seen so terribly much suffering, and only death can set us free.
We bought this place here, and received the deed the day of the Armistice, November 11, 1918. l named it "PEACE VALLEY." I have always loved it here. It has been nearer what I wanted from life than anything we ever had before--more room, and more comfort. I hope the time will come when my children can have a modern home. We need that. Everyone needs it. I wish every home could have these comforts. (This wish has now been fulfilled.)
My father, James Kannon Gilmore, was ninety-six years of age when he died. My mother, Sophronia Edmonson Gilmore, was eighty-nine. Those dear old pioneer fathers and mothers.., how wonderful they were! What a splendid heritage they have left us. How I wish my pen could do justice to their memory.
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