Volume 2, Number 11 - Spring 1967
It was no wonder that the county offices were so sought after. They were the only worth while jobs in the community, and the opportunity of getting one was open to all corners. All he need do was corral enough votes in the Republican primary to get on that ticket. He need do nothing further. But to accomplish that required a man of assorted attainments, among which was persistency. If a man ran for an office often enough generally he eventually got it. And sometimes he could persuade himself that he ought to be re-elected.
Before the civil war a school building was located not far from the east side of the square in Old Town, but in 1872 it was not in existence, and school was being held in the court house. Upon completion of the Old Church in that year it was used for school purposes until in 1876 a two-story school house was erected near the north line of the present school property. A few years later this building was extended to include four rooms and served the needs of the district until 1894 when it was replaced by a brick structure of two stories and four rooms. This building, at that time by far the most pretentious in the county, was built and equipped for $8,000, which in those days was thought a lot of money to spend for such a purpose. This structure was later remodeled to provide more room and modern conveniences, but eventually was demolished when a large building program ended the old buildings usefulness. In 1872-3 the school was taught by F. M. Gideon. In 1880 the principal of the school was G. T. B. Perry. Miss Lena Smith was a music teacher in that year.
In the year 1881 the primary grades were taken over by a teacher of more than ordinary ability; a young lady lately come to Ozark, and whose coming was one of those rare streaks of good fortune that sometimes honor an unworthy community. Miss Ivie N. Southwick brought to her pupils the singular combination of an earnest Christian and a good school teacher. Her patience, tact, understanding and unfailing sympathy and friendliness for the youngsters in her charge have been but partly repaid by the love and respect that those former pupils held for her. In 1882 Miss Southwick became Mrs. John C. Rogers, and besides raising a family of five sons has had time throughout more than a half century to give generously and wisely of her time and energy in support of any cause that promised to make the town a better place in which to live. Each year to this day some of Mrs. Rogers former pupils gather at her home in Ozark to pay their respects to one whom they owe so much.
At this time (1880) the school was divided into two sections, the "downstairs" comprising all pupils of about 12 years and younger, and the "upstairs" all above that age. To be going "upstairs" was for the pupil quite a distinction and he was considered to be well on the road to a rounded education. The downstairs would be in charge of a young woman teacher whose job was anything but a sinecure. Each room was "heated" in winter by a large wood-burning stove placed in the center of the room, and downstairs on cold days the young people would huddle around the stove and do their studying as best they could. There were no modern conveniences, and drinking water was carried in pails by the pupils from some near-by spring, even from the Bluff Spring at the Finley ford in dry times.
Two boys would be detailed to fetch a pail (always called "bucket") of water, a detail highly prized. For it was a simple matter to miss a recitation or two, and never were they in any hurry to get back. If the trip was to the Bluff Spring it meant an hour or so playing in the creek. The pail usually arrived at school about two-thirds full of warm water, and the bottom soon was scraped by the tin dipper, usually no one getting enough. There was no ban on diseases; a pupil was welcome at school if able to walk. There was no dearth of house flies, and no fear of them, either. Nor of the consequences of using a very common drinking dipper, lack of ventilation, or sanitation. Germs were unheard of, and if existing were weak and innocuous foes when pitted against the hardy pupil of those days. In fact, the average long life attained by members of the classes of those days may perhaps be due to an immunity from diseases achieved around the old wooden drinking water pails in early school years.
Until about the year 1890 the school was ungraded. There was no prescribed course of study other than that favored by the teacher at the time. And as, generally, each term brought a new teacher; one who knew nothing of what the previous one had tried to do, there was no continuity in the workno systematic advancement for the student. For the smaller pupils (the writer judges them by himself) school was merely something to be en-
dured - a harsh and vexatious regime to which they were made to conform for no perceptible purpose.
After having learned to read in the Fifth Reader there would be for the pupil arithmetic, history, geography and grammar. Mathematics was an important subject and its study was considered to be a sort of intelligence test. Why grammar was included in the course is not known; no one learned anything about it, and its precepts were never associated with the manner of talking.
Most of the credit for bringing the changes necessary to establish a graded school should be given to Mrs. M. J. Perrin, a teacher and organizer of ability who gave several years to the somewhat thankless work of trying to place the school on a higher plane. At that time the principal was Professor W. C. West, father of Mrs. R. Neil Gray, a man with the knack of making interesting the subjects he taught. The first graduation exercises were held in the Old Church in 1892, the graduate being W. F. Aven and W. N. Collier.
The decade beginning with the year 1880 held three events of more than ordinary importance and interest for the citizens of Ozark. These were, in the order of their occurrence, the Marshfield cyclone, coming of the railroad, and the Bald Knob troubles. Of these events the most important, of course, was the railroad. This furnished cheap and quick transportation which greatly aided in the upbuilding of the community and improvement in the standard of living. But the other two events were so frought with human suffering and tragedy that they laid a far deeper and lasting hold on the peoples imagination.
The Marshfield Cyclone, so called because it practically destroyed a goodly portion of that town, passed near Ozark on its way to the north and east-passed so near, in fact, that for a time the citizens felt sure the town would be struck. The writer was a small boy at the time but can vividly recall the fearsome appearance of the turbulent clouds and the near panic of the people. The editor of the Monitor & Leader wrote as follows concerning the storm.
"Shortly before six oclock Sunday evening (April 18, 1880) the citizens of Ozark noticed a dense black cloud approaching the town from the west. As it neared the town it grew in magnitude, having a conical shape and whirling with great velocity in the air. It was densely black in the center and lighter at the edges. At first it was thought to be coming directly over Ozark but as it approached it was seen to be bearing a little to north of the town. A dull roaring sound could be heard as it approached and it was evident that it was taking everything before it."
It seems that the editor was in Springfield when the storm occurred, so that the foregoing description must have been obtained from others.
He went to Marshfield the following day and in describing the scenes there mentioned "human forms lying around, bruised and mangled in every shape," and "The manner in which some were killed, and the horrible mutilation of the bodies was sad indeed." Then follows a list (incomplete because part of the paper is missing) of about fifty-five persons killed, segregated as to "white" and colored"; there being forty of the former and fifteen of the latter.
In Chirstian county the storm was no less severe than at Marshfield. In fact it probably was more violent, but on account of the comparatively sparsely inhabited section through which it passed the property damage and loss of life was much less than was the case at Marshfield. At that, however, the loss was heavy. Among the citizens whose houses were destroyed were George Stockstill, Mrs. McLain, Tom McCauley, Peter McCauley, Sam Morrow (occupied by L. J. Christman), Mrs. Morrows new residence west of Ozark, (in which her two daughters, Laura and Lulu were injured). Also the houses of John F. Kindrick, one owned by Mrs. Woods, J. C. Woody, a Mrs. Cowan, George Cowan, Galen Rogers, William Beatty, Mrs. Dunlap, Mathew Kelley, Samuel Kelley, T. W. Kelley, Monroe Kelley, John Redfearn, a Mrs. Guinn, John Smith, Monroe Moore, John T. Bowels (Boles?), Susan Eddings, John Dowel, William Fulton, Jesse Eddings, William Holt, William Breedlove, John H. Robb, Wilson Grave, Andrew Dalzel, William Sawyer, Mr. Bedton (name not clear), Charles Wills, and two houses belonging to persons unknown.
Considering the great amount of property damage fatalities were few, Samuel Kelley was killed, as was a son of Susan Eddings. Also a son of Mr. Bedton (spelling of this name is not clear), together with John Rose and his son and daughter. The list obviously is not quite complete as a small section of the paper from which it was copied is missing in the part listing the fatalities. The paper also gives a list of damages and injuries suffered by the citizens of Greene county. The storm passed near Billings and the local Leader & Monitors local correspondent, signing as "Oliver Twist" furnished a list of property destroyed and personal injuries suffered by persons in that vicinity. The people of Ozark escaped with a bad scare, and quickly as possible thereafter each householder provided himself with a storm cellar. And for a long time thereafter it took only a black cloud and a clap of thunder to send a good part of the populace scurring to these shelters.
For some years prior to 1870 a railroad had been in operation from Saint Louis to Rolla, and all frieght for southwestern Missouri was hauled from Rolla in wagons. But in that year the road was extended to Springfield, and a little later on westward, passing through the western part of the
county. The town of Billings was established on the new road and began so to thrive as to threaten to become the leading town of the county. That fact, perhaps as much as any other, spurred the citizens of Ozark into making a hard campaign for a railroad through their town. Agitation was accordingly worked up for a road to be built southward from Springfield, a movement mightily augmented by the commercial interests of that town. This was a time of much railroad building in the Mississippi River Valley States, and it was becoming a vital matter to a towns civic pride that it be located on a railroad. Otherwise it would be considered a sort of backwoodsy place, unattractive to immigrants and industries.
The upshot of the propaganda was that the Saint Louis & San Francisco Railway Company agreed to build a line through Ozark provided proper inducements were offered, one being a donation of a right-of-way. It is highly probable that the road would have been built even though the citizens did not turn a hand to aid, for it tapped the heart of what perhaps was the finest stand of white-oak timber then existing west of the Mississippi River. And, as it turned out many years afterward, when this timber was exhausted train service on the road was abandoned. Be that as it may, the people of Ozark and of other commuities along the proposed route, roused themselves with pep meetings, committees were appointed, and eventually the railroad companys proposal was complied with. Work was begun at Springfield and progressed rapidly, considering that the machinery for grading comprised only plows and scrapers, augmented by hand operated wheelbarrows. Soon the eighteen miles between Springfield and Ozark was covered with contractors equipment, and the line was completed to Ozark in the summer of 1881.
As the roads construction neared Ozark the project became one of intense interest to the citizens, some of whom probably had never seen a railroad, and certainly few had seen one under construction. On Sunday afternoons throngs of people would trudge over the rough right-of-way, tramping through the stiff clayey soil turned up by the graders, and stare with open mouthed wonder at the great gashes in the hills and the prodigious earth fills in the ravines, all a gigantic undertaking from their point of view and scarcely to be comprehended in any detail.
The laborers on the road were generally the raw Irish and Norwegian immigrants, a small part of the hordes of such people then pouring through the welcoming Atlantic ports; men who had spent the little time they had been in this country in just such work, interspersed by weeks of idleness in winter in such cities as Chicago and Saint Louis. Their demeanor, and their talk with its rich Irish or Swedish brogue, mixed with idioms picked up in the cities slums, was something new in the Ozark hills; new and strange, and the home people did not know whether they liked it or not. But the workmen had money to spend. The stores did a brisk business and times were good. Two or three saloons catered to the m~ghty thirst of the grading camp outfits, and the streets on Saturday nights took on as much of an air of gaiety as the absence of lights, stock laws, sidewalks and sanitary facilities permitted.
But not all the workmen were of the class described. In the building of bridges and other necessary structures skilled mechanics were required, and as a rule these were men of steady habits and good character. Some of these men remained after the work was completed, married and became foremost citizens of the town. An amusing (now) side of the matter of housing these workmen was that the contractors, who never want to run a camp, spread the word that the citizens were expected to lend a hand by boarding as many of the workmen as possible, in fact, that unless they could help out in this way the work would be so hampered that probably the road could not be built. This propaganda no doubt had its effect, but the principal spur to action was the glittering prospect of being paid in real money the sum of $5.00 per week per man for only seven nights lodging and twenty-one meals. Families took in boarders up to the limit of their room. And those limits may be guaged somewhat by the accomplishments of the writers family. With a two-room house and a family of five people board and room was given four men over a period of several weeks. Although an eye - witness of the performance, the writer does not know how it was done.
One of the conditions concerning location of the road was that the station at Ozark be placed within a half-mile of the square. It was assumed by the citizens that this would insure its being placed on the same side of the creek as the town that the measurement would be along a road. A small-sized gripe seized them when it was discovered that the railroad company intended measuring the half-mile on a straight-way from the northwest corner of the square, and that the station would be located in a field on the other side of the creek. This was an inconvenient location but nothing could be done about it. The town would have been much more benefitted by the railroad if the station had been nearer, or not so inconvenient to reach.
With the coming of the railroad the town took on a sort of boom. New business houses were erected, some of them merely board shacks, but one was of outstanding importance. This was the
new store building to accommodate the firm of J. W. Robertson & Sons, a two story brick structure on the north side of the Square, built in 1882. The long, lettered sign on its side announcing the name of the firm and concluding with the words, "wholesale and retail" was a source of pride to the citizens and a definite assurance to them that the town had "arrived."
About this time it became apparent to the citizens that some sort of local government was necessary to cope with the problems of the growing town, and it was their sense, as expressed in a mass meeting call for the purpose, that the community should be organized as a village under the state laws applying to such cases. According on August 8, 1882, a petition signed by T. L. Robertson, W. H. Pollard, N. Abbott and others was presented to the county court asking that the town be incorporated. The petitioners request was granted and the court appointed T. L. Robertson, James M. Forrester, G. T. B. Perry, Thomas J. Williams and A. Harrington as Trustees. For several years the towns affairs were managed under this form of government, but eventually it became unsuitable in the matter of raising sufficient revenue and of carrying out other activities that were desirable but not legally possible under that set-up.
The agitation for a change in the form of government took shape on August 3, 1888, when certain citizens, among others being J. J. Brown, J. A. Hammond, and G. W. Logan filed a petition with the county court asking that the town be disincorporated. This in order that a different kind of organization could be instituted. The petition was granted, and on the same day a new petition was filed by J. J. Brown, J. A. Hammond, D. M. Payne and others requesting the court to incorporate the town as a city of the fourth class. This was done, and the court appointed D. M. Payne as mayor, David Wolff as marshal. J. C. Rogers, G. W. Logan, E. W. Pearce, J. A. Hammond, T. B. Horn and W. W. Kinloch were appointed aldermen.
On the morning of Friday, May 17, 1889, three men were hung in the jail yard at Ozark, the first execution in the county. These men, David Walker, his son William Walker, and John Mathews, together with Wiley Mathews, had been convicted in the Christian County Circuit Court of the murder, on the night of March 11, 1887, of William Edens and Charles Green at the home of James Edens, father of William, not far from Sparta.
This murder was the culmination of the activities of the Bald Knobbers, a night-riding klan that had a sort of terroristic sway for some years previously in the more sparsely settled parts of Christian and Taney counties. The mystery connected with this organizations operations, the number of people involved in the crime, and the
spectacular nature of the trials combined to give the matter more than ordinary interest, an interest that spread over the state when the metropolitan papers sent representatives to Ozark to report proceedings and played up the news prominently on their front pages.
Much has been written about the Bald Knob movement, some writers even seeing it as a sinister sign of a time to come when anarchy was to take the place of law and order in the state. The truth probably was that it was merely a lot of men having a good time. This in its later stages. The organization originated in Taney county and was fostered by some of the better class of citizen, law-abiding men who believed, and rightly, that there were many criminals escaping trial because of the difficulty of apprehending them and of getting sufficient evidence to justify trials. This was particularly true of what may be called minor misdemeanors - nonsupport of a mans family; cruelty to animals; running "blind tigers", drunkeness, and general hell-raising. In the thinly populated rugged hill country, without communications and practically without highways, it was well-nigh impossible for officers of the law to take cognizance of such infractions of the law even when they wanted to, and seemingly they did not always want to exert themselves. But a local organization of men bent on correction of that state of affairs could control matters, and this is what the Bald Knobbers proposed to do when the Klan was organized. And its work could be better done as a secret society.
To the men who lived in the rough and rocky sections of the county, scratching out a wretched living on their hillside farms, or laboring long hours at starvation wages "hacking railroad ties in the hardwood forests, membership in the klan provided in a way innate longing - one may say need - of these men for something to off-set the monotony of their drab lives. It has been that man must have his clubs, churches and such organizations in which he can work with other men to a common purpose, it matters not what the purpose be. And the Bald Knob organization provided precisely that need for these men; a form of entertainment, spiced with some danger and adventure, carried on for some supposedly worthy cause. Throughout all history a leader who could promise this never lacked followers. The Great Crusades had nothing other to offer.
So long as apprehension of law-breakers and turning them over to the officers was made the business of the Bald Knobbers there was little objection, although it was entirely outside the law. But all human organizations seemingly tend to deteriorate. In this case from apprehension it was only a step to administering the punishment
quicker and more certain than to trust to the law to do it. This naturally lead to the settlement of personal feuds in the name of the klan. Its members were men who had lived in the county through the turbulent and lawless years of the Civil War, and thus were perhaps not so fully aware of the implication of their acts as would otherwise have been the case. But it was certain that such a state of affairs could not be permitted to continue, and although the end was tragic, it was a more effective way of ending the organizations activities than would have been any other.
Notwithstanding its inlawful aspect the Bold Knobbers did a lot of good. Many a man who had become too attentive to a neighbors wife, for instance, or who had killed a hog having the wrong earmarkings, would suddenly be transformed into a model of good behavior upon finding some morning a neat bundle of stout hickory switches at his front door. That was the sign of the klan. It wasnt much, but was plenty. In the occasional instances where the man failed to heed the warning the switches were brought again. And this time they were not left at the mans door. All of this was unlawful, of course, but the mute bundle of sticks preached a more powerful sermon than could a meeting-house full of exhorters, and was more effective than a book full of laws.
One of the men sentenced to hang for the murder, Wiley Mathews, escaped from jail and that was the last ever heard of him. It is quite probable that little effort was made to find the man. The predominant sentiment of the people was that none of the men should have been hung: that they should have been given prison sentences, as were a large number of men that were convicted of being accessaries. Why all of the prisioners did not escape when Wiley Mathews did, is not clear. They probably could have vanished the same as he did.
When the convicted men became convinced that for a certainty they were to die; when the last appeal to the governor for clemency had failed; when carpenters began to saw and hammer energetically on a new structure just outside the jail windows; all other preparations for carrying out the sentence had begun, the men became interested in what the future might hold in store for them. As most people in like circumstances do, they turned to religion for solace and a hedge, made an eleventh-day confession of their sins and were baptized.
The baptismal rite posed a problem for both the law and the ecclesiastical forces concerned, in that the faith to which the convicted men had professed required complete immersion as the mode of baptism. Rites of this nature ordinarily were carried out in a large pond, or in a creek -creek water being thought more potent. The jail was innocent of bathing facilities, and after the mens year or more confinement, a clean running stream would seem to have been indicated for the rite. But in this case such procedure was not considered feasible, although it would now seem to have been a practical scheme to march the trio down to the creek and while armed guards held their guns on the participants the sins of the penitents, together with other less psychic and more soluable matter, could have been washed away in an orthodox manner.
But it was thought best to perform the ceremony in the jail. This required a receptacle that would hold enough water to insure that every part of the anatomy could be submerged at the same time, and it was in search of such a contrivance that the officials discovered that there was a bathtub in town; a tub belonging to the family of the writer, by the way. This was a large and cumbersome appratus of wood and sheet-metal that required it be filled and emptied by hand, being far more inconvenient in this respect than a tin washtub, and no more effective in any way. This tub was borrowed and used for the baptismal ceremonies. It had capacity sufficient to permit the penitents being completely immersed, thus assuring him that after his exit from this world, where his sins could not be forgiven, he would have a new deal in the next.
The bath-tub was returned but was never used again. It sat under the eaves to catch rain-water for some years and then again became a sort of agent of the hereafter; borrowed to take down in the hills on a hot summers day to bring back, packed in ice, the body of an infant. The tub then was dismantled, the wooden parts burned and the sheet metal used to make a trough in which to feed a hog. So ended an attempt at modernism.
The Ozark Weekly News of May 16, 1889, gives an account of the execution in all of its horrible details; the last meal of the condemned; march to the gallows, last statements, tying of the ropes around their necks; the bungling job of the hanging wherein the ropes were too long, allowing the men to partly rest on the ground after falling through the drops; carrying them back on the scaffold to be re-hung and many other details of what was scarcely less of a tragedy than was the crime for which the men were executed. The "patent" side of the paper also had a less lurid account of the hanging.
Although the hanging of the Bald Knobbers was the first legal execution in Christian county, there was one before that while what was afterwards the county was a part of Greene county. This was the hanging of Willis Washam at Springfield on August 25, 1854, for the murder of his son in Taney county the year before. This case attract-
ed much attention throughout southwest Missouri, and on the day of the hanging the town was thronged with people, many of whom had come long journeys, to see the hanging. A scaffold had been set up in a forest of Oak trees on Jordan Creek not far east of what is now Jefferson Avenue, and long before the hour of the hanging the trees were full of men and boys intent on getting as good view of the spectacle as possible, it being considered by the authorities in those days that a public hanging, such as this, would set as a deterrent to any person having in mind committing a crime. Mark Bray was one of the jurors that tried Washam. Judge Charles S. Yancy was on the bench, the trial having come to Springfield on a change of venue from Taney County.
The creek was a never-failing source of interest to boys; in fact about the only one for most young fellows. In summer it was fishing, or swimming in the "ten-foot hole for the most proficient swimmers, and in one of the less respectable name just below it for others. Boating on the mill-pond, generally in home-made unseaworthy scows, was another form of diversion in summer. Skating on the mill-pond usually was possible for awhile each winter, although in some winters suitable ice did not form. But no one had a really good pair of skates, and few had shoes adapted to hold them on. An exception was Bud Lawing, owner of the water-mill, who always had a fine pair of skates and partly because of that fact was the best skater on the creek.
In late fall and winter hunting was a sport that attracted many men. In the years of the writers early memory wild turkey could be found within two or three miles of town, and deer were fairly numerous on the headwaters of Bull Creek and Woods Fork. A man is still living who killed two with two shots from a double-barrel pistol within ten miles of Ozark. Rabbits could be seen most anywhere around the edges of town, and the small boy and his wooden traps helped solve the meat question for his family. Other small game was plentiful, and there was no "red tape" about hunting or fishing; anyone was privileged to take all the game he was able to get, in any manner and at any time. It is not any wonder that game laws became necessary in after years.
A phenomenon of the late 1870s was the Eau De Vie craze. In some manner never to be known the water of an ordinary spring in the hills a few miles south of Ozark became renowned as having great curative properties, and soon there was a veritable stampeed of people towards the place. Hundreds of people flocked to the spring and the vicinity was covered with tents and camping outfits. Eighty acres were laid off in town lots, buildings erected, and all of the characteristics of a boom town were in evidence. Some one gave it the name of Eau De Vie (water of life) which it might well have appropriately borne if the waters had lived up to their reputation. The writer remembers visiting the place with his parents when he was a small boy, and a lasting recollection was obtained of the hub-bub and confusion incident to a fast-growing town.
Everyone drank huge quanities of the water. It was for one thing, and that was what they had come to do. No doubt many people were benefitted. Benefits that probably would have accrued if they had drunk the same amount of water at home. But the boom couldnt last, there was nothing more to the water than there was in any other spring. The interesting thing about the matter is how it could have gotten such a reputation. Rivals sprung up, too, such as the springs at Ponce de Leon (the names ran largely to French, it seems), and Reno. These rivals had their adherents and their small days as health resorts. More than fifty years after the boom at Eau De Vie the writer visited the site. It had long before reverted to its original state, and the farmer who owned the land did not know that his spring once had a name.
In 1869 a rich strike of lead was made two miles south of Ozark and soon the Alma mines were in full operation. They have been said to be, while the ore lasted, the richest lead mines in the world. Chunks of pure galena ranging in size up to a washtub were taken out of holes only a few feet in depth at neglibible cost. Two men, unaided, took out three hundred dollars worth of mineral in one day. Much of the ore was washed in the Garrison spring branch near Ozark. It seems that the ore was merely an isolated pocket. When that which was easily obtained from shallow holes was exhausted no more bonanzas of this kind could be found, although a good deal of time and money subsequently were spent on deeper explorations.
The town grew slowly after the mild boom caused by the railroads building had subsided. The train made possible trips to Springfield regardless of the weather, and in a trifle more comfort and a little less time than by horse drawn vehicles. Not that the train schedule called for much speed. With good luck it made the 18-mile run in one hour and forty minutes from Springfield to Ozark. Going back, a good deal being up hill, if there were several cars of freight and more to pick up enroute, the time might be extended to three hours. One disadvantage of the schedule was that the visitor to Springfield was required to stay two nights, unless his business was of a social nature. In fact, the livery stables at Ozark, so long as they existed, gave the railroad stiff competition so far as visits to Springfield were concerned, as with a livery rig the trip there and back
could be made in one day. And for several years after the road was in operation, considerable freight was hauled from Springfield in wagons.
The Christian County Bank, the first of such institutions in the county, was organized by a few citizens and opened for business in 1886. The first cashier was Oscar M. Nilson. He was succeeded in a short time by John C. Rogers, with whom was associated John S. Taylor, who served the bank until its liquidation, about 50 years later. The banks first quarters was in Robertsons store pending acquisition of more suitable place. Some time later the bank built its own building at the southwest corner of the square which it occupied so long as the bank was in existence.
There had been a hotel in Ozark from the earliest time. The Finley House, built before 1872, was, at that date and for some time afterward, in charge of Mrs. Christman. Then J. M. Forrester took the place in charge and was host for several years. The rate was one dollar per day-less by the week-for twenty-one meals and lodging. A big bell on a pole in the back yard called the boarders to meals. And the Forresters dog, Bruno, howled loud and dismally at every ringing of the bell. The Finley House was of limited capacity, and in the Eighties a new structure, The Taylor House, was built by Capt. G. W. Taylor at the northwest corner of the square. This was a decided addition to the towns appearance, being a three-story structure, the first such in the county. For many years this hotel was under the management of Mrs. Barbara Wrightsman, widow of Hilliam Wrightsman, an old-time merchant of Ozark. During Mrs. Wrightsmans regime as hostess the hotel gained an enviable reputation among the traveling men of this section for comfort and generally all-around satisfactory service. The hotel also took its place as a sort of social center of the town, having a parlor where young people could gather, and a dining room large enough for dances. The Wrightsman Hotel, built by Mrs. Wrightsman in 1898, is still in existence.
In 1897 "The Racket", a store in Ozark, advertised as follows: 8-quart covered bucket, l0c; solid steel skillet, 23c; mens all-wool suits, $4.00; boys 3-piece suits, $2.50; gents fancy bosom fine laundried shirts, 55c; womens shirt waists, 45c; umbrella drawers, 25c. The Ozark Mercantile Company had this inducement for farmers to bring in their produce: "Will pay for eggs 5c per dozen, for hens 4c per pound, butter not wanted." The W. W. Gideon Mercantile Company had for sale bacon 6c; flour $2.60, and sheeting 5c. Shepard Brothers operated tonsorial parlors, while N. Osborne ran a barber shop. "Shorty" Reid ran a soft drink place.
On the night of April 29, 1897, Charles Sheets hung himself to a rafter in the covered bridge. Unrequited love was said to have been the motive.
In 1897 among Ozark attorneys were: J. A. Hammond, J. J. Bruton, J. B. Southern. Ministers for the different churches were: Rev. Cunningham, Presbyterian; John R. Roberts, Christian; W. A. Bruce, Methodist; W. K. Johnson, Baptist. In the Odd Fellows Lodge Harry Haskins was N. G.; For the Masons R. N. Gray was W. M. I. Biers was Commander of the G. A. R. Professor John R. Roberts was principal of the school and professor F. R. Anguin his assistant.
A newspaper editorial of that time: "The pleasant old Gentleman, who sits in the editorial chair down the street, comes at us again this week. We havent time to say anything now. Just wait, Auntie."
Notes from the local papers, in the "Gay Nineties":
"Sheriff Walker has been doing some much needed work on the Court House. The floor has been scrubbed and the accumulated filth of years removed."
"Marshal Tom Allen and Constable St. John of Sparta brought in a wagon load of prisoners Wednesday and turned them over to the Sheriff Walker."
"Rev. Thos. W. Davis, who went away from Rogersville to try the realities of farm life in the Blue Springs vicinity, has moved back and says if the good Lord ever forgives him for leaving Rogersville this time he will never do it again."
"Ozark was invaded by a band of horse traders last week who had the worst conglomeration of wornout plugs we have ever seen."
"The sensation promised our readers last week has not ripened sufficiently to give out yet. Within a few more days, however, our private detective will have sufficient evidence for a general expose, which will appear exclusively in the Hearld."
The national gamebaseballhad been played in Ozark from the writers earliest recollection, and the town maintained at all times a club capable of putting up a good stiff game. So much was this the case that the club recognized no superior in the surrounding counties. Transportation often was poor and difficult, but in one way or another the teams traveled about and managed to play enough games to keep up a good interest in the sport. One of the handicaps for the Ozark club was absence of a good playing ground. Not until the Nineties was a satisfactory playing field obtained the ground in the creek bottom near what now is the Logan Spring Park.
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