Volume 1, Number 8
In the annals of events one hundred years ago and longer, one name, that of a post office, is prominent. Sometimes it occurs in happenings which involved the whole of Southwest Missouri, then again it seems to have been linked with, and to, events in northern Stone County, Missouri. That name is Curran, pronounced kurn, Post Office.
In the Fall 1962 Quarterly, the Spotlight featured a brief sketch of McCullah Chapel. It was a small settlement in northern Stone County named for its founder, Alexander McCullah who with his family had migrated there from Roane County, Tennessee, around 1849. By the time Stone County had been declared a county in February 1851, a settlement consisting of McCullah's double log house, a store and a few other buildings had been established. With the addition of a church, the settlement be came officially known as McCullah Chapel.
I do not know how Curran Post Office, which maintained its identity at the same time McCullah Chapel held on to its place on the map, received its name. But, like postum, there must have been a reason. Most post offices were named in honor of some government official. Records point to Curran's location at McCullah Chapel throughout the 1850's and until 1863.
At first Curran Post Office was little more than a courtesy, kind of in name only, to persons trading with Alexander McCullah at his store. The "office" itself took up little space, therefore became a part and parcel of the one big room that served a number of purposes.
After a few years, news began circulating that an overland mail route was about to be established with a man named John Butterfield in charge. These facts were discussed at McCullah's store same as in other parts of the country: the operator's contract called for a salary of $600,000 a year, a fabulous sum! However, it is doubtful, they reasoned, that he could come out ahead for the distance to be covered was 2,800 miles; it would take 7,650 employees, 500 mules and 1,000 horses, plus feed for all and upkeep on the coaches and celerity wagons.
These details were important. But more important when the route was finally mapped out was the fact it would come right by Curran Post Office at McCullah Chapel, put off and take on mail.
Another name, that of the McCullah family, is interspersed with early-day history in such a way that at times it becomes confusing. About six miles southwest of McCullah Chapel, or Curran Post Office if you choose to call it that, on this new mail route was McCullah Stop, named for and operated by Wesley McCullah, second son of Alexander. Here at McCullah Stop, a large double log house served as a noon eating place for passengers on the Butterfield Overland Stage. And although it was not on the timetable as a regular stop-~nor was Curran, for that matter-the stage did stop there, put off and take on both mail and passengers. A big spring in the valley and lots of good shade made this a favorite stop. There was camping ground for those who needed it, and water for the horses.
Another son, James Alexander McCullah, lived about three miles from McCullah Stop, southwest on Crane Creek. His home place, though not directly connected with Curran Post Office except that the office was where James McCullah got his mail for a number of years, played an important role in Civil War history.
And we shall meet still another son, Capt. Samuel McCullah.
The stage line entered Stone County in township 26 N, range 24 W and section one, which is pretty close to where the Missouri Pacific Railroad enters it. Then it hits sections 2, 11, 15, nips the corner of 21, 22, through 28, 29, nips the corner of 32, and out of Stone County in section 31.
Good days and happy times followed the establishment of the mail route. They were the golden years for small stops, like Curran Post Office, along the way. Most of the mail stops were stores which operated as taverns. And passengers then were pretty much like present-day tourists, when the stage stopped for any reason it gave the passengers a chance to get out and stretch their legs.
The stage was a little late that particular day in summer when Lucinda Caroline McCullah, Alexanders pretty daughter, went out on the porch, shaded her eyes to see if she could see the stage coming. A cloud of dust told her she wouldn't have long to wait. Not that she expected any mall, or any visitors for that matter.
When Caroline McCullah told the story to her grandchildren, she said, "It's a good thing I waited that day, for guess what I got?" And without giving them a chance to guess, she'd exclaim, "Your Grandpa!"
And that's the way it happened. John Wasson had boarded the stage in Fort Smith, Arkansas, bound for Springfield, to seek his fortune. In his money belt he had a thousand dollars cash which he intended investing in some kind of business.
It was love at first sight. John Wasson was so smitten with pretty Caroline's charms he married her in no time at all! And he used the money in his money belt to buy an interest in McCullah store. He was a promising young man and kept busy from early morning until late at night.
Then came rumblings of war, why, no one seemed to know. Certainly
not the good folks at McCullah Chapel. A Negro serving woman came with the fam-
When the Butterfield Overland mail route and passenger service had been in operation a little over two years, it happened. War! Everything was hurried up. Its service no longer in operation, the mail route itself was shortened wherever it could be and telegraph wire was strung along its winding length. A new name for the trail was on everybody's lips, the Wire Road.
Very soon troops began moving along the Wire Road until, at times, it seemed as if the face of the land and the character of its people had changed. It was a change most folks did not question, but they did find the hurried adjustment a most difficult one to make.
The old log springhouse at Dug Spring where on Friday, August 2, 1861, General Lyon's Regularsfought General Rains' Missourians. The Wire Road is in the foreground.
Due north over the Stone County line at a spring near the present-day site of Clever, Missouri, called Dug Spring, Regulars from General Lyon's troops fought General Rains' Missourians. It was a miser ably hot afternoon, was that August 2nd, 1861, that much everybody remembered! So far as battles were concerned, it wasn't much of a battle. But it did serve as a prelude to the bloody battle at Wilson's Creek fought farther north on August 10, 1861.
That same afternoon, August 2, there was a skirmish at McCullah Store. This account was given in Civil War On The Border by Britton (a Union man): "On the next day after the battle at Dug Spring, Gen. Lyon advanced to McCullah's store Where General Rains had his headquarters the previous day. This place is 24 miles southwest of Springfield, on the (then) Cassville road, in a rather narrow hollow in the midst of thick timber. Capt. Samuel McCullah, who was said to be one of the owners of the property, was an officer in the Union Home Guards with General Lyon and knew every byroad and path In that section. General Lyon was now six or seven miles of McCullough's division, encamped on Crane Creek." (This encampment was at James Alexander McCullah's home place now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Williams.)
Under Both Flags gives this account, told by one of General Lyon's men: "On the morning after the skirmish at Dug Springs, the Army advanced to Curran, which is 24 miles of Springfield. We were now within six miles of the enemy, who were en camped on Crane Creek.
"There was but one house in the town of Curran. This solitary building seemed to have done duty as a post office, general store and bar-room. The floor was well worn, and the surroundings bore evidence that cross-roads racing had been decided and celebrated here with enthusiasm. All the furniture had been removed except a bench and a few broken chairs. Nothing was to be seen upon the walls but a piece of writing which informed all who could read it that no more favors would be granted to customers until old scores had been settled.
"Headquarters were established here during the day and no appearance of the enemy being observed, Lyon summonsed- his chief officers for a consultation. When they were seated the General addressed them and said, "Gentlemen, before leaving Springfield I became aware that the enemy was moving upon us in great numbers, supposing that the most formidable of their columns had the advance, I at once started out to engage it. It may be that we came out a day too soon, but I can now see their generals are unwilling to risk a battle in this region except with their united commands, and I am well satisfied that their divisions are well in supporting distance of each other."
It is difficult to understand why the man writing this account did not see other buildings, scattered though they were, making up "the town of Curran." But his account of the meager furnishings can be accounted for by the fact that, just prior to the Dug Spring encounter most everything had been removed, Post Office fixings and all.
At the home of J. W. Pallet, great quantities of coffee and
other supplies from McCullah store were hidden. Also the silverware and some
of Mrs. McCullah's household treasures were hidden by the slaves. This story
was told, though not verified by McCullah-Wasson members, that some of the slaves
knew where the silverware was hidden and the leader "squealed" to an officer
who confiscated it,
remarking as he did so, "Give me those knives and forks and I'll eat my next meal with them." But, he didn't, for he was one of the casualties at Dug Spring.
The story told by General Lyon's soldier recounted at some length who was singled out to fight, and who was relieved.
Curran Post Office remained at McCullah Chapel until 1863. At that time Wesley McCullah was made Military Postmaster, and the office was removed to McCullah Stop on the Wire Road. After the post master was killed by outlaws on October 13, 1864, the office was removed to another location, just where we are not certain.
In January of 1865 the stage line was resumed. Our local historian, Fred Steele, believes one of the next moves after McCullah Stop was to Teague Spring just over the line in Christian County (now). Christo Church was a bit south of there. It remained there for some time.
The last move for Curran Post Office was to the King home located where the Wire Road crossed what is now Highway 13, north of Crane, Missouri, not far from where the King greenhouse and service station is located. The road bed may be traced on over the hill from the outline left there.
Without much ado the office, which was little more than a large box of an affair with "pigeon holes," was set up for business with Mrs. Sarah E. King as postmaster. Her commission bears the date December 22, 1886. For anyone who, of recent years, has ever worked in a post office at Christmastime, that date is more than significant. Apparently, though there was no Christmas rush then, so far as mail was concerned.
When I went out to visit Ruby King and her brother Champ and get information about their grandmother, Ruby told me Sarah E. King was 58 years old when she received her appointment as postmaster. Her family came up from Alabama. She was well educated, a college graduate, which was unusual for a woman at that time.
All through her years of service to the surrounding territory-a lot is expected of a postmaster and she was never known to shirk her duty-she served the community in other fields. She taught a Sunday School class of young people, about 40 in number.
A treasured keepsake in the King family is Mrs. Sarah E. King's commission as Postmaster of Curran Post Office. She took the oath of office on December 30, 1886, and served until her death on June 27, 1901 at which time the Post Office was dissolved. The commission was signed by William F. Viles, Postmaster General. Ruby King, a granddaughter of Sarah E. King, is holding her grandmother's commission.
On June 24, 1901, Mrs. King invited her class to her home for Sunday dinner which she had prepared herself. Thirty-four young people ate dinner with her and enjoyed a day of good, clean fun. It was a day to remember
The following Monday was another work day, but Mrs. King was ill. And two days later she was gone. On June 27, 1901, she entered into that rest where stamps and the daily dispatch of mail aren't very important.
It seems fitting and proper that Mrs. King's passing also marked the passing of Curran Post Office. Her years of service were personal and dedicated. There are still numbers of Stone Countians who re member going to Curran Post Office when Mrs. King was the postmaster.
W. C. "Uncle Carrol" Woods, I've been told, was one of the last persons to mail a card and have it postmarked Curran Post Office.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly