Volume 2, Number 8, Summer 1966
Most every little village in the Ozarks has at least one person who is well versed in the history and folklore of the area. Some may use colorful language.., some may be quaint characters in their own right. Such a person was my cousin, the late Fred Steele. For years he was my authority, and now that he is gone I find myself with that lost feeling. It wasnt that he was so aged himself as to recollect the various incidents he told about, rather it was because he seemed never to have forgotten anything, fact or fancy, that was ever told him.
He remembered who married whom and when, likewise when kinpeople were involved on both sides of the marriage. Facts which most of us consider for the moment in passing, then let go of them.
But most of alland its a fine thing that he didFred remembered stories of the Civil War, the ones Uncle George Short and Aunt Nan OBryant used to tell. And this one, which I shall attempt to retell because it is an important link in our Countys history, is one, to quote Fred, "Old Uncle Jim Fugitt told me." In order to link the past with the present, Mr. Jim Fugitt was Mrs. Wade Kemps and Keith Fugitts grandfather, both well known in our area.
In the early 1900s when medicine shows made the rounds, one of the songs all of the performers rendered" was about Old Jawbone. Sadly and with heads moving from side to side, theyd whang away on a Jews harp or two, with one keeping time by tapping the rhythm on a jawbone of some large animala cow or a horsechanting over and over, "Old Jawbone." Theres a story in the 15th chapter of Judges in the Bible about a jawbone, which you might like to read, just in case you wonder how so much history could possibly be tangled up with a jawbone.
This jawbone in our story was that of a man.
By the time the Missouri Pacific railroad from Crane to Springfield was all finished, among the first products shipped from our area via the new railroad was cordwood. Any kind of rough timber not suited for anything else could be made into four-foot chunks. And there was a great demand for it not too far from home, for in the Wilson Creek area not far from the old battleground as we now think of distance, a lime kiln had been operating. This industry used all the wood it could get. The four-foot chunks were swallowed up almost as if they were pieces of kindling as lime was processed in the terrific heat.
As early as 1908, Fred thought, William Gideon who was known as "Bill" to most everybody in the areabecame a dealer in cordwood. Maps of Missouri once showed a railroad stop on the Crane to Springfield line just north of Hurley at what is now called Lane Town Crossing. A mere dot on the map, the official name was Conda, why no one knows.
Conda was Mr. Gideons spur for loading cordwood that he bought in that section. When the wood was hauled by wagon and team, a few miles distance saved meant a lot. Most of the chunks, however, were bought, loaded and shipped from Hurley. And in time, the dot that was Conda was removed from the map and from the railroad as well.
It was in the fall of 19C8 or 1909 that someone living in the Terrapin Spring neighborhood southwest of Hurley brought in a load of cordwood. "Joe Long, Squint-eyed Joe who was Norm Jones father-in-law, owned the place at the time," our historian related. "But I dont think he brought in the wood."
As the chunks were thrown into the railroad car that would take them to Wilson Creek station, then theyd be unloaded from the spur, someone got hold of a length of tough old hickory with a jawbone embedded in the wood. It was as if someone had planted a tooth and both jawbone and the fork of the hickory tree grew and grew until each became a part of the other.
Its too bad some of the exclamations werent recorded for posterity, for some of them must have been colorful, to say the least! In a day when telephones werent real because so few people had them, and even mail service in rural areas wasnt all what it might have been, the word, nevertheless, got round that a human jawbone had been found in a chunk of wood. And pieces of an old Civil War story began falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle.
We who are interested in local history have, through the years, believed that encounters between troops of North and South within the borders of Stone County were: the one skirmish at old McCullah Chapel the same afternoon as the "battle" of Dug Spring near the present day town of Clever in Christian County. That was August 2, 1861. And some encounters that took place on
Crane Creek, west of the Oak Grove cemetary. Now we know there was this one Uncle Jim Fugitt told about, which must have taken place in the summer of 1863.
Anyway, Union troops were stationed in Springfield, waiting for trouble. And it came! News that bushwhackers out of North Arkansas ware camped at Delaware on James River meant something had to be done, and in a hurry. The US Cavalry troop, of which Mr. Fugitt was a member, took out after the trouble makers. All along the way there was evidence theyd been there, for the smoking ruins of barns and houses told of the destruction the bushwhackers had wrought.
The road came south through what is now Hurley, only .then it was just railroad land in Spring Creek valley with a few homes scattered about. On they went past the ruins of Byrds Mill on Crane Creek, once a thriving industry destroyed by bushwhackers early in the war. And not too far from the mills ruins was where Longs Mill was built in later years, the site of present-day Quail Spur. There the US Cavalry overtook the bushwhackers and fired into them. In the encounter which lasted some little time, 13 bushwhackers were killed.
Then the gang scattered into the general direction of Terrapin Spring, for there, in the home of the Cheathems, who were Southern sympathizers, bushwhackers and deserters took refuge. Two more of the gang were shot not far from the spring. For one grave was dug on the hillside.
But the second one managed to hide himself in the brush and leaves and escaped, to die alone like a hunted animal. His bones were not found until months later. It was then the jawbone was picked up and placed in the fork of the hickory tree.
Just across Crane Creek from the scene of battle is a little strip of ground where the bodies of the dead men were piled up and left as troops pursued the fleeing bushwhackers. Crane Creek at the time was up, flood waters were muddy and rushing. As the dead men were being hastily piled up, one body came floating downstream, that of a bushwhacker pretending to be dead. He didnt float long for the pretense ended.
Later that evening or possibly the next day, neighbors gathered and dug graves for the dead men. Nameless they were, no identification of any kind. But they buried them across the Creek on higher ground. That, Fred surmised, was the beginning of the cemetery at Quail Spur which still goes by the old name of Longs Mill, or Long Cemetery.
Once in a while, as I read an obituary in the paper that states the person will be buried at the Long Cemetery, at Quail Spur, I always recall the story Fred told of that cemeterys beginning. It is now well kept. There are some stones with names no one remembers for they can no longer be read.
The bushwhackers graves were never marked.
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