Volume 1, Number 6
Not long ago I read a piece in which the author thought it would be most difficult to guess what kind of symbol historians of the future will link with our present generation; will it be some of our space vehicles, or one of our many labor saving devices? He also said he thought there were very few of the forty-niners, or others who traveled westward in a covered wagon who dreamed their vehicle, the lumbering old wagon that carried them safely on their journey would become a symbol of their days and times.
Regardless of symbols, the important thing, it seems to me, is that we, of this present "soft age", remember that our path was made smooth for us by ancestors whose courage never seemed to falter, who in time of need rose to the occasion, whether it meant helping out a sick neighbor or urging their men to vote in the township election.
During the 66th annual encampment and reunion of McCullah Wasson-Short kinsmen at the Camp on Finley River near Nixa, Missouri, the oldest member present, Mrs. Flora Wasson Walker, now deceased, made this statement: "It has been truly said that our combined families have been responsible for more actual history than any other families in Southwest Missouri."
Much of this history "Aunt Flora", as she was called, mentioned may be attributed to our women folks. Some of it is quite dramatic, some a matter of daily routine in pioneer days. But it is especially interesting since it is the kind of history we've begged many times for our elders to "tell us just one more time about Granny."
Time and space will not permit me to tell you all I would like to about our heroines. Therefore, I shall choose one woman to represent all of them, and give you a brief sketch of two more.
The time is 1805, a drought that year in the State of Virginia just about ruined folks who made their living by tilling the soil. Very little food was raised and things looked bad. Always before there had been enough corn raised to provide corn-cakes and mush, when other foods were not so abundant. Now even bread was meager.
Folks were wondering what to do when the first settlers fleeing the drought-stricken land told of a land of plenty over beyond the Cumberlands. In Tennessee, they said, there was enough and to spare.
Rebecca Wheat McCullah called her family together. Should they, too, go beyond the mountains? The decision was "yes". And so it was that the remaining peck of corn meal was made up into thick mush so no time would be wasted in the preparation of food. And other plans took shape. They packed one gentle old horse with all he could carry, and each person took a bundle of his or her own personal possessions. Rebecca and her children started out on foot, barefoot at that, for their promised land.
There were tearful, backward glances at the home they were leaving behind in Wythe County, Virginia. Mountain travel, bare footed, was not easy. But in due time they crossed at the Cumber land Gap and trudged their weary way into Hawkins County, Tennessee, where they found "a plenty and to spare."
Among the many things that happened while the family lived in Hawkins County, one stands out among them. Young Alexander McCullah, Who was 12 years old at the time of the journey, found employment with a man who owned a stillhouse, where excellent whiskey and peach brandy were "stilled." He was contracted to this man for three years, then worked two more years.
During that last year, he was "struck under conviction," as he later told it. He had walked 17 miles to a camp meeting on a Saturday night and on the following Sunday night was converted and joined the Methodist Church. Such a decision was enough to gladden the heart of any mother and Rebecca Wheat McCullah's heart overflowed with thanksgiving.
FLORA GRAHAM WASSON was born in Scotland December 21, 1781, and came to America at the age of 14. When a grandson asked her how she reached this country, she replied, "I came on a ship and I danced with the Captain." And so she did. Although Flora Graham Wasson and her husband, Sir David Wasson, lived out their years in Darke County, Ohio, they have many descendants in Southwest Missouri. She died December 21, 1865, and, with her husband, lies buried in Hoover Cemetery near Union City, Indiana.
The family eventually came to what is now Stone County, Missouri, and settled at a place named in their honor, McCullah Chapel, in the
northern part of the County. Alexander McCullah established and built the first
church in northern Stone County, and also the first school. The Chapel school
district still retains a part of the settlement's name. Nothing remains of the
once thriving stagecoach stop on the Butterfield Trail but the spring. And in
the summer time morning glories bloom in abundance, the
Boys and girls, especially, like to put a bit of romance in their family history, and for that let us turn our attention to Melcena Short McCullah, wife of John Wesley McCullah. Melcena was the daughter of Willis and Nancy Kendricks Short and was my Gran'Pap Short's oldest sister. A strong-willed young woman, she was tall and straight and described as more handsome than beautiful.
Her father objected to her keeping company with John Wesley McCullah, whose family home was across the river from Melcena's. When the courting got serious enough for marriage, the wedding day was set December 23, 1841.
Melcena dressed herself in her long riding skirt, mounted her horse from the mounting stump out in front of the house, seated herself in her side saddle and rode away without so much as a backward glance. She swam her horse across the Cumberland River, met her lover and away they went! She never again saw her old home in Roane County, Tennessee.
Melcena lived an exciting life, too, in the early days. While her family lived in what we know as the McCord valley near Crane, Missouri, her husband was made Military Postmaster at Curran and the office was moved from McCullah Chapel to his home on the Old Wire Road, as the Butterfield Trail became at the beginning of the War between the States.
John Wesley McCullah received his appointment in 1863 and on October 13, 1864, he was killed by a gang of Kansas bushwhackers.
That particular October day was wash day for Melcena. With her wash water and dirty clothes almost ready to begin the day-long chore, someone shouted, "The bushwhackers are coming!" One member of the household known as "Humpey Jim" hid in the cellar while Melcena put the cellar door down and calmly sorted the dirty clothes, piling them in piles on the cellar door. The cellar was the dug-out type with a slanting door.
Inside the house Wesley McCullah attempted to protect the papers and valuables of the post office entrusted to him, and was shot dead. William Anderson was said to have been the leader of the bushwhacking band among whom were such familiar outlaw names as Bolen, Canter, Freeman, Jackman and Peel.
John Wesley McCullah and Melcena Short McCullah are buried in Lindsay Cemetery, near Republic. Missouri.
Wasson relatives like this picture of one of their ancestors, Flora Graham Wasson. She was born in Scotland, and her husband, Sir David Wasson, came from Ireland. In the picture we see her wearing her best shawl and Sunday lace cap; reflectively smoking her little clay pipe. She was the mother of twelve children, the youngest of whom was Lucy Serena Wasson.
Back in their old home in Ohio, Serena Wasson was married to Isaac Ohler. After a few years, they decided to start to Missouri. By that time there were some small children in the family.
At Nevada, Missouri, Isaac Ohler became very ill and died. The heartbroken young mother buried him there and continued her journey to Crane, Missouri, where she established a home. Hers was a life filled with hard ships.
During the War between the States, Serena Ohler baked bread for the army in return for rice and other things she needed for her growing family. The Crane City Park and picnic grounds were once a part of her farm.
Serena Wasson Ohler was the grandmother of the Lockhart sisters, well known in and around Crane. They, too, help carry on not only the family traditions, but they help uphold the dignity of the weaker sex!
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