Volume 1, Number 6
What Energy Will Do in Taney County
-The Story of D. H. Pickett, Preacher and Pioneer
AND WHAT HE DID WITH IT
|Sometime after 1887, the Frisco Railroad published the
following account in the form of a leaflet to encourage emigrants to come
to the White River country. A copy of the Leaflet was sent to the Society's
Secretary by descendants of D. H. Pickett.
IT IS ALWAYS interesting to those who contemplate emigrating to a new country to read the experience of those who have gone before them. D. H. Pickett, preacher and pioneer, relates the following experience of what he did in Taney county on $16.
"I came," said Mr. Pickett, "to Taney county 28 years ago,
in the late fall. I had traveled all the way from Alamance county, North Carolina,
in a wagon drawn by two little pony mules. I had traveled as far as I could
go. My money was nearly gone and I knew that I must stop my westward journey
and find a home while I yet had the means to homestead.
"I was determined to have a home. I knew it was then or never; a few days more would find my scanty funds exhausted.
"After I had paid the $14 government fee, I had but two dollars left. With this I paid 50 cents for flour, 35 cents for pork, 50 cents for molasses and 50 cents for potatoes; 15 cents remained. With this I bought paper, envelope and stamp, and wrote to my parents, telling them where myself and family were.
"With my few purchases I returned to my family, waiting for me by the fire near the old cloth tent, then in the woods a mile from the nearest neighbor.
"The first thing was to build a cabin. Winter was coming on and the family could not live in a tent much longer. My boy and wife helped me. We felled the trees and made a small cabin. I hauled logs to the sawmill and obtained lumber for flooring. The doors were of split cedar clap boards. The roof was of oak clap boards. I had no windows, only an opening with shutters. The doors were hung with wooden hinges-a peg and auger-hole affair. The only hardware I had were nails, which I had obtained by working for a neighbor.
"But I could not work at the house continuously. I had no means and no resources but my own labor. I worked for the neighbors to obtain the necessities of life one day and on my cabin the next. I built my cabin, stone chimney-the first I ever made- in three weeks. The nails were the only material I did not obtain on my claim and fashion with my own labor. I did not spend a dollar on it.
"The cabin complete, it must be furnished. I had brought with me all my bedding, clothing and cooking utensils. I had an axe, but no other tools; borrowed a saw, augur and chisel, and out of the lumber sawed from my own logs, fashioned a bedstead for my self, a trundle bed for the children, a table and benches. This was all the furniture I started with. For several years I made all my own furniture, cupboards and chests, in fact all we needed.
"I was very, very poor. I had no farm tools, but by working and trading soon obtained all I needed. I traded my overcoat for a turning plow. I worked for a neighbor and obtained a bull tongue plow and an axe; both were old, but useful.
"I picked up all the stray mules shoes I could find and used them in shoeing my own team. Out of boot tops my neighbors had cast away were made by me shoes for the little children.
"We came with abundant bedding and clothes, some of which we traded for necessities.
"Soon after building the cabin I obtained work from John May, a well-to-do neighbor. He paid me 50 cents a day, which I often took in trade. Thus I obtained for my labor two sows and seven shoats. They were very wild, and I had to coax them gradually into tameness. The first year these two sows brought me eighteen pigs. I never fed them or the pigs anything but the few table scraps I had. They grew and thrived on the mast. With this start of hogs I never knew what it was to be without abundant pork. I have had pigs to grow to 500 pounds on the wild mast alone.
"My first cow was not obtained until the summer following my locating in Taney county. Being skillful with the mowing blade, I worked for John May, obtaining my pay in wheat, which I traded for a cow valued at $12.50. From that day to this I have never lacked cows and plenty of them.
"My boy and I cleared land for Jordan Hayworth at 50 cents a day and took our pay in grown chickens at 10 cents each.
"My start of sheep was by swapping two of the shoats I obtained the first year to a neighbor for two ewe lambs. It seemed slow work until the two ewes in creased to nine head. I always traded my weathers for ewes, but after I had nine head of ewes the increase was rapid. The ewes frequently brought twin lambs and one brought me five lambs in two years. It was only a few years until I had 140 head of sheep. I never lost a lamb or sheep from disease.
"I never had time to hunt or fish. I was always too busy, al though game of all kinds and fish were abundant.
"The first clearing I did was a garden patch. I rented land for a crop the first year, as I did not have time to clear any of my own. My crop that year was abundant. I had corn, cabbage, beans, potatoes and had vegetables- all I needed the following winter.
"All this time I had not forgotten my duty to God. I preached wherever I could find a congregation and many places where there was none. I preached the first sermon in Forsyth when there was not a professing Christian in the town. It was on one of these pilgrimages the first summer of my residence here that one of my mules was drowned in White River. The citizens made up a purse of $40 and bought me another.
"After sixteen years of industry, perseverance and patience we were not poor. I owned in 1887, 460 acres of good land-some was river bottom-and paid $72 a year taxes. I had sheep, hogs, cattle and horses. But in that year my children were grown old enough to marry and were leaving me. I divided my land and my stock with them. I have eight children living. They all live close enough "to borrow meal." They have each a farm, a home and are doing well. When my birthday comes they all gather in, numbering 47, big and little.
"What I did, any man can do today in Taney county, who will put his shoulder to the wheel and work. I know a man is better off here making a home of his own with no greater capital than his two hands, than struggling for a living on rented land in the older states.
"There is abundant land yet that will make homes open to homestead in Taney county, and while I would wish to see no one come so poor as I came, for his own good, yet what has been done can be done again right here in Taney county."
Mr. Pickett's experience has been the common lot of hundreds of our best citizens. This is surely a poor man's country.
Write to General Passenger Agent, Frisco Line, St. Louis, for information concerning prices of land, railroad fare, etc.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly