Volume 1, Number 3
A few years ago the term "displaced person" came into our language to describe the unfortunates in Europe who had been uprooted from their homes and forced to seek a new life in alien surroundings because of war or adverse political conditions, Americans who have seen the misery of a DP camp can never forget it. Usually we take pride in the help that the United States has given in supplying food, clothing, medicine, and a chance for a new life to these people, Our government's generosity in this area is an accepted practice now, whether done for humanitarian reasons or used as an instrument of foreign policy, Our government was not always so concerned with the welfare of the DP. During part of the last century, the official policy was directed toward the deliberate displacement of thousands of people rather than toward giving them protection and material assistance, This is the story of one of those displaced persons, an involuntary pioneer, who came to Missouri in the 1830s.
On a hot summer day of 1915 Dr. Silas Shruggs Stacey was helping carry shingles up a ladder to the men who were re-roofing his house. He became ill and before the new roof was tested by the fall rains, he was dead, His death came as a shock to his family and friends, for although he had convinced many of them that he had recently celebrated his 103rd birthday, he was in such good health and so active that they would have bet on his living many years longer.
Having been born in Jackson County in the eastern part of Kentucky in 1829, Silas Stacey was a few years short of his 103rd birthday. But by adding 17 years to his already advanced age did no one any harm, and a little exaggeration usually made any story better.
In 1829, Silas's parents, William and Rebecca Stacey, were to be allowed only a few more years in Kentucky. Before their son had reached his teens, they along with thousands of other families, were driven from their homes to be resettled in Oklahoma. The Cherokees had become peaceful farmers, members of the Five Civilized Tribes. White Americans envied the prosperous farms, and when gold was discovered in the tribal territories, the fate of the Indians was settled. Discriminatory laws were enacted against them, no white man could hire an Indian, Cherokees could not serve as witnesses in any court, they could not assemble, and they could not make contracts. President Jackson, no lover of Indians, and later Van Baron, permitted and at times encouraged the confiscation of property and remova1 of the Indians. Between 1832 and 1839, by fraud, bribery, persuasion and especially by brutal force, the Indians were driven out. Many who tried to defend their homes were shot or bayoneted, Others were killed as an example to those who were slow to move out, Army troops under General Winfield Scott moved into Cherokee capital in 1837, routed the Cherokees from their peaceful pursuits and herded 18,000 of them, at gunpoint, across 1,000 miles of near wilderness. William Stacey, with his Cherokee wife, and Silas joined the caravan at Hopkinsville in southwestern Kentucky. On the trek through southern Illinois to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, over 3,500 died of disease and the cold on the "Trail of Tears." Silas may have been too young to remember vividly the forced march, but by the time he reached voting age, he had decided the party of Jackson and Van Buren was not one that merited his vote.
By the time the caravan arrived at the village of Springfield,
Missouri, the Staceys decided to settle there rather than continue the journey
to Oklahoma. William built a log cabin near the area where the Springfield Wagon
Rotary once stood and later they moved to the Smallen Cavern on Finley Creek,
near Ozark. Mr. Walter F. Lackey, Editor of the publication for the Newton County
(Arkansas) Historical Society in a letter to Mr. Elmo Ingenthron, says, "... I visited the Smallen Cavern and it is a wonder to see. The cavern front is about 60 feet wide and about 40 feet high and the ceiling rock tapers several hundred feet back. The floor is solid rock and nearly level with a nice stream of water running down the center. An ideal place for a home. From the little ravine that runs down to a branch of Finley Creek, sign of early wagon travel in the rock is still visible. The article (in the Springfield Art Museum Collection) said that Indians in their travels stopped and stayed with the Staceys in the cavern. Several wagons could be parked under the cavern at one time." This summer, the wagons are more apt to be station wagons. The cavern is being developed as a "tourist attraction" with the top of the hill levelled off for a parking lot, and the string of lights stretching back into the cavern gives it the appearance of a Holland Tunnel of the Ozarks.
Dr. S. S. Stacey Taken About 1900
The Staceys stayed at the cavern a short time, then moved to the head of Swan Creek.
Silas moved with his parents to Little Beaver Creek, Douglas County, Missouri, where he grew up. He married Miss Matilda Abbott, daughter of William Abbott, of Sparta. Eleven children were born to them:
William, John, Sarah, George, Rebecca, Jasper, Newton, Henry, Silas Monroe, Matilda, and James.
During the Civil War, Silas was a Union soldier. He served in Company H, Phelps Regiment, Missouri Volunteers Infrantry; also in Captain Chandler's Company of Missouri Home Guards, and about six months in the 73rd Enrolled Missouri Militia. Either before or during this period of service, he received some training as a surgeon. Later, using formulas for compounding herbs and roots given to him by his Cherokee mother, he began practicing medicine with out benefit of a diploma.
For three years, from 1868 through 1870, he and his family lived at Isabella in Ozark County, Missouri. Four years later, Silas, a widower for two years, moved to the Sulphur Mountain Springs near Mt. Judea, Newton County, Arkansas. He had had a digestive ailment since his service in the Army, and the mineral waters from the springs restored his health. He established a resort there which flourished quickly, but soon failed. Shortly afterward, he moved to Jasper, Arkansas. His household now consisted of several of his younger children and his aged parents. In addition, there was his son George's 9-month old son, Newton, whose mother had died.
In 1881, the family moved to Marbel City (then Wilcockson, now
Marble Falls). Steep, wooded hills rose on both sides of a towering stone bluff.
A spring of ice-cold water gushed out of the bluff, cut through the narrow
valley, turned the wheel of
the grist mill and cotton gin, then plunged over the falls. Silas, in addition to his medical practice, opened a general store, and built a hotel and two or three rental houses. His second wife, Betty Morgan Stacey, was the postmistress from 1885 to 1887.
Marble City. 1885. Dr. S. S. Stacey at right. Methodist Episcopal
Church. lower left.
Photo Courtesy of Walter F. Lackey. Low Gap. Arkansas.
Even with the fairly complete information about where Silas lived, the list of his children, his military service, and the business he engaged in, one question remained unanswered: what kind of man did the boy become who was forced to walk hundreds of miles to Missouri? The two known photographs of him fail to answer the question. One taken in front of his store at Marble City shows a tall, long- legged man lounging in a chair on the porch of the store. The other photograph, taken about 1900 as he was leaving his office to make a sick call, is not able for the stern, forbidding expression on his face.
There are two people now-- Mrs. Emma Stacey, his daughter-in-law, of Branson, and his 89 year-old grandson, Mr. Newton Stacey, of Harrison who remember Silas very well when he was living at Marble Falls. They describe him as a very tall man, "straight as a pine," with dark red hair and dark eyes. He liked good clothes, good horses, good whiskey and good books. His grandson says that he wasn't very clever with money. "At one time he owned a lot of property in and around Marble City. He'd build something and run it awhile and then sell out. He never made any money at it, usually he'd lose on a deal. He couldn't save any money- he had too many relatives to support."
Answering more questions about Silas personal life, he continued, "People would call him a quack now, I guess, but he was a good doctor. A kind man, too. He was lively and had a good sense of humor and liked to be around people. He didn't go to church much although he contributed regularly to the Methodist church at Marble City. And he was a Republican."
During the years 1880-1890, Marble City became widely known as a health resort due to the ads of Silas and other businessmen, and continued to be a prosperous village until about 1900. Now most of the old buildings are gone, bulldozed away to make room for the new highway. There is a trout farm at the huge spring by the bluff; the beautiful falls can be seen from a roadside parking area, and across the highway is a marker commemorating the stone taken from the hill and sent to the nation's capital to become part of the Washington Monument.
As a footnote, the 6 May, 1962 edition of the Sunday News and Leader, Springfield, Missouri, printed an article by Glenn Robertson about a celebration to be held May 12 in New Echota, Georgia, to honor the descendants of the Cherokees who were "stamped out of the state 125 years ago." A part of the celebration will be the dedication of a partially restored New Ecohta as a 200-acre historical park.
Acknowledgements: Mr. Walter F. Lackey, author of History of Newton County. Arkansas.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly