Volume 2, Number 10, Winter 1966-67
(Continued from Fall 1966 Quarterly)
In the year 1843 the town of Ozark was laid off and town lots sold by J. C. and A. N. Farmer. The first buildings erected were small log cabins. This was on the 40-acre tract entered by A. N. Farmer on May 25, 1840, and in after years was known as Old Town. The tract on which now stands the business district of Ozark was entered by A. N. Farmer on July 17, 1845, and afterwards was acquired by the county for a county seat. The name "Ozark" is from the French term "Aux Arcs", meaning "at the bends", and was given so because the rivers in the Ozark Mountains wind about in a crooked fashion. The region was probably named by the French hunters and trappers from the old French settlements in the Mississippi River in what is now eastern Missouri.
But prior to the laying off and selling of lots on the date mentioned there had been some comercial activity in the vicinity. In 1883 James Kimberling, Sr., built a mill which afterwards became known as "Hoovers Mill", and this was the designation of the voting, place when this part of the county was included in Greene County. It might seem reasonable therefore, toreckon the beginning of the town from the date of the mills erection. A man named Eutsler also ran a store in the vicinity about that date. But there was no town as such until after the sale of lots in 1843.
The first person to visit the area which afterwards was formed into Christian County, and to write about it, probably was Henry R. Schoolcraft. This man, a college graduate and a student of geology, visited Missouri in the year 1818 and wrote a lengthy description of the lead mining industry then being carried on in what now are Jefferson, Washington, St. Francois and Madison Counties. Mining in that area had been going on for about one hundred years at the time of Schoolcrafts visit, the discovery of lead at Mine La Motte, near the present town of Fredericktown, having been made in 1720.
It seems that Schoolcraft learned in some manner of there being lead mines far to the westward - on James Fork of White River, and he decided to have a look at the place. It would be interesting to know how he came in possession of that information, since the intervening country was a trackless wilderness and the "mining" on James consisted in noting more than scratching around in the earth by Indians to get a little ore and roasting it in a crude furnance to get the metal for bullets. Perhaps an occasional hunter had done the same, and news of the deposit would eventually sift back through to the eastern mines.
Be that as it may, on November 6, 1818, Schoolcraft, in company with Levi Pettibone, set out from Potosi, traveling on foot with a horse to carry supplies, on the trip to James Fork. A complete day -by- day journal was kept by Schoolcraft, but it is not possible to trace the route followed, as the country traveled was empty of human habitants and of named landmarks. The principal streams had names, it is true, but it was not easy for the travelers to identify them.
The progress made was slower than had been anticipated; moreover, the travelers lost their way more than once and apparently were considerably off the true course, as they came up to White River near the junction of Beaver Creek. This was much too far south, but there may have been a reason for it. Their provisions were running low and replenishment would depend on their finding some settlement. And along White River offered the bestin fact the onlychance of doing that. By a streak of good luck they ran across two hunters who only a few months before had come up the river and were camped with their families, just above the mouth of Beaver. Here they remained several days and finally arranged with the hunters to accompany them on the trip to James. These two men were James Fisher and William Holt.
The cabins of Fisher and Holt, which Schoolcraft and Pettibone helped in building were located a short distance above the mouth of Beaver Creek. From this paint the route of the party was north-westerly until Swan Creek was reached. Thence up the valley of that stream, probably along the old Osage Trace, and over the divide to Findley (Called Findleys Fork) perhaps at about the site of Linden. From that point they proceeded down stream a few miles, so the journal states, until finding a ravine entering from the norththe direction they wanted to gothey followed it and came to a large cave. A full description of the cave (Smallins) is given, including the geological formations incident, and Schoolcraft named the place "Winoca", an Osage word meaning an underground spirit.
The following day the party arrived at the James River diggings, erected temporary cabins and remained several days. This in the first part of January, 1819. Schoolcraft made an exploration of the vacinity with respect to the prospects for lead, dug out some ore and smelted it. The travelers then returned to White River, but by a different route from the one they came, due to having lost their way. On their trip in and out they saw
no other person. The Osages recently had entered into a treaty with the Government by which they gave up the Ozark region, as a hunting ground, and the Delawares had not yet arrived. Schoolcrafts description of the James River country at that time is as follows:
"This stream (James Fork) originates in highlands a few miles south of the Gasconade and after running in a southwest direction in the course of which it is swelled by Findleys River, and by other streams, forms a junction with White River one thousand miles above its mouth. Its waters have the purity of crystal; it lies under a climate the most mild, salubrious and delightful; on its banks are situated a body of the most fertile and beautiful lands which the whole valley of the Mississippi affords. The timber on its banks is abundant a remark that cannot with justice be made of many parts of the adjacent country, and is remarkable for its size and its value, and nothing can exceed the vigor and the verdue of vegetable nature on this beautiful and neglected stream. Prairies are also found within a mile of its western banks, and extend towards the Grand Osage as far as the eye can reach, level as a graduated plain, and waving with tall grass on which the Elk, the Buffalo and the Deer feed in countless numbers".
Schoolcrafts account of the trip was published in London in 1821. He became a noted explorer of the American Continent and for many years a most intensive student of the customs and languages of the American Indian. Levi Pettibone died in 1881, ages 101.
But the country had been visited by hunters and trappers long previous to Schoolcrafts visit. The French settlements at Kaskaskia and Saint Genevieve were then about one hundred years old, and the adventurous hunters from that vicinity ranged far and wide in the country to the west, and quite probably had penetrated into every part of the Ozark region long before hunters from more distant points arrived. French names of streams, such as Pomme de Terre, Marias de Cygne, and others testify to an early acquaintance with the region by the hardy woodsmen from the French settlements. Apparently these men were content to use the country as a hunting ground only, as there is no record of their attempting a permanent settlement in what is now Christian county. But by 1819, trappers, evidently not of French descent, had lived in the valleys of Finley and James long enough for these streams to bear their names.
The earliest settlement of which there is any account in the territory now embracing Christian County was about 1822. Two years before that date John and William Pettyjohn, of Gallia County, Ohio, came into the Ozark country on a trapping and hunting expedition. The beaver were plentiful along the James, Finley and .Swan creeks, while buffalo, elk, bear and other wild animals common to the unsettled part of the country were numerous, and this section of the state offered a rich field for the hunter. But the land at that time had not been surveyed, consequently there could be no "settlement" in the ordinary meaning of that termit was not possible to acquire land. Houck says that John Pettyjohn came to what now is Christian County in 1820 and that he was a Revolutionary Soldier and came from Virginia. He may have been from that state originally but he came to Missouri from Ohio. The three Kimberling brothers, Joseph, Benjamin and James were among the very early settlers. One of the Kimberling brothers built a saw mill on Bull Creek.
In the year 1822 John Pettyjohn, Jr., made a settlement on James at what afterwards was known as the Berry Gibson place. At about the same time Thomas Patterson settled on James near what latter was the line between Greene and Christian counties. Also about this date John Pettyjohn, Sr., located on James, and George Wells located on Finley at what afterwards was known as the Yoachum, or Glenn place. Up to the fall of 1822 the above named persons, and the members of their families, seemingly were the only persons who could call the territory now comprising Christian county their home, although at that time and for many years thereafter it was not possible to own the lend.
The country immediately north was not then inhabited, and that south only by a few settlers along White River. The state had been admitted to the union only about two years and the public lands in the Ozarks had not been surveyed. No courts were held in this part of the state, there were no officers of the law, nor any roads for public travel. A wilderness stretched eastward to the Mississippi River, and overland travel was beset with many difficulties and hardships. Such difficulties may be illustrated by the trip of Joseph Roundtree and his family in moving from Tennessee to Missouri by wagon in 1831. The trip from the Mississippi River to the site of Springfield requires twenty-three days.
To escape the hardships of overland travel some settlers made their way up White River and its tributaries by boats. One party of twenty-four pioneers came from Ohio in a keel boat down the Muskingdom, Ohio and Mississippi to the mouth of White River and thence up that river to the mouth of North Fork. The ascent of White River was especially difficult, the shores were covered with heavy canebreaks, the water was high, the current swift, and only now and then an inhabitant. Provisions ran out and for a period of eight days at one time the party subsisted entirely on wild
grapes. In this party was the Mother of John McD Pettyjohn.
As late as 1900 there was no method of travel in Stone, Taney, Douglas and Ozark counties other than by horse drawn vehicles, and on roads of a wretched character.
In the fall of 1822 the Delaware Indians were moved from a reservation in eastern Missouri to one in the southwestern part of the state that included the greater part of what later was Christian county, together with a much larger area to the west and south. The Indians headquarters was a place called Delaware Town, not far from the old ford at James on the road to Billings. The tribe was about five-hundred strong and were peace loving, giving the whites no trouble. About 1832 they were moved to the Kaw Purchase in Kansas. The great Osage trace ran through the western part of the county.
Persons settling on lands prior to about 1835 did so simply as squatters, for the lands had not yet been surveyed and no one could obtain title to his place. Surveys were begun about 1835 and on September 1st of that year a United States Land Office was opened at Springfield, the location being a log cabin on the square near the site of what is now Heers store. The first house in Springfield was said to have been built by A. J. Burnett in 1830. But John P. Cambell was among the first to build and was the first postmaster. His daughter, Mrs. Rush C. Owens, in a letter dated August 31, 1876 said her father arrived in 1827 at the site where the town of Springfield afterwards was laid out.
The first Register of the land office in Springfield was Joel H. Hayden, and his son acted as clerk and auctioneer. This son was the "Uncle Charley" Hayden who lived for many years on James near Galloway and was well known to countless persons in southwest Missouri. In 1897 Uncle Charley celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday. As the Springfield land office was the only one in a vast area in the southwestern part of the state, and as it was necessary that all settlers visit the office in order to obtain titles to their lands, the town rapidly became a trading point of importance, and to this good start perhaps owes its present commerical importance.
But the fertile prairie lands in that vicinity were not much sought after at that time. The settlers, coming principally from Kentucky, Tennessee, and western Virginia, belonged to a pioneer stock whose fathers had carved homes for themselves from the great forests in those states. They were used to timber and clear running streams and springs of cold water. These were what they wanted, and the rich creek bottom lands and surrounding hardwood forests of the rugged hills, rather than the flat and treeless prairies, were their first choice as homes.
One of the early entries of land in the vicinity of Ozark was made by Joseph Kimberling, 160 acres just north of the town, including the mill-site. This on December 7,1839. On October 15th of that year Benjamin Chapman entered a tract just west of Ozark and on April 13, 1840, John Nash entered the 160-acre tract that afterward included the farm of R. J. Lawing. John Pettyjohn and Archioald Young, on May 9, 1840, made entries on Finley three or four miles below Ozark. And, as previously mentioned, A. N. Farmer entered two forty-acre tracts on which Ozark subsequently was built, in 1840 and 1845. Kindred Rose, also, was an early comerabout 1830.
William Chestnut came from Ohio in 1831, William Gideon, Sr., arrived in 1837, Samuel McDaniel, Benjamin Marley, Mark Bray and James Vaughn, Sr., came about 1842. In 1855 Ozark had about one hundred inhabitants. There were three stores of dry goods and general merchandise, one drugstore, one grist and saw mill, and two blacksmith shops. Some of the citizens at that time were: The Dickermans, Pettyjohns, Dr. T. C. S. Whitsett, L. P. Ayres, N. G. and D. G. Morrow, May Tatum, Isaac Inmann, John R. Weaver, Dr. N. A. Davis, and Mrs. Farmer, widow of A. N. Farmer. A good school was an outstanding feature of the town in the later fifties. The teachers at different times from about 1854 to the beginning of the civil war were Mrs. Farmer, widow of A. N. Farmer, who taught the first school, F. J. Comstock, Mr. Stockbridge, Rev. J. C. Leonard, Tilden Upton, and C. P. Hall. Rev. Leonard had control of the school for about three years during which time it acquired wide recognition as an educational institution of merit, and students came from Lawrence, Taney, Phelps, Greene and Webster counties.
The first church organized in the county was in 1833 by a minister named McMahan, a circuit rider, at the house of William Friend near the mouth of Elk Valley, and was of the Methodist denomination. Near that place in the year 1834 a man by name of Sullivan had a blacksmith shop.
The following letter concerning the early history of Ozark was printed in an Ozark paper in 1901.
"Thinking that a short reminiscence of your county seat and vicinity would be of interest to some at least of your readers. I herewith give you a few items of its early history.
"About the year 1832 three brothers by the name of Kimberling in moving out West camped on Finleys Fork. Joseph, the oldest brother, located on the creek and built the first mill, known in later years as the Hoover Mills. Benjamin Kimberling went six miles below on the
creek and settled a place known in the 50s as the old Jess Yoachum Place.
"James, the younger brother, went ten miles south and settled in Bull Creek and erected the first mill on that stream, known in after years as the Jones sawmill. Those brothers were the first to settle on the hill where Ozark now stands and was the first to cultivate the ground where your courthouse has been erected. After the death of Chas. Day, which occurred about 1840 or 1841, the property fell into the hands of James Kimberling, he having moved back and settled a half mile west of Ozark. Hoover built the second house on the hill. Alfred Farmer was the third settler. He started a small store, and about that time it was called Ozark. The wife of Alfred Farmer taught the first school. The first blacksmith was James Clemens. The first saddle and harness maker was named Turner, about 1845. The first physician of any note was N. A. Davis, about 1846 or 47. The first saloon was run by Pinkney Cooper, 1844 or 45.
"Among the early settlers below Ozark was Benjamin Chapman, in the later 50s. Also Lee Adams on the south side of the creek below Kimberling. The old Billy Chestnut place, three miles south of Ozark, was settled by Isam Choate in the early 40s. The McCoys, Tillmans and Duncans were early settlers along Elk Valley. James Vaughnn settled seven miles south of Ozark as early as 1842. The Friends, Shipmans and Clouds were the early settlers up the creek. Abraham Woody, father of ex-Sheriff J. C. Woody, of Christian county, was also an early settler near the creek.
"Among the early settlers north of Ozark were James Horn, Thomas Epperson, and John Weaver, father of the late J. R. Weaver, and of Mrs. W. A. Lawing, Mrs. Robert Lawing, and Mrs. Fielding of Springfield.
"A mail route was laid out from Springfield to Carrollton, Ark., as early as 1840, and the contract for carrying the mail once a week was let to James Kimberling. It just took a week to make the round trip on horse back, and there was one place on the route that was thirty miles between houses. Your county was thirty miles between houses. Your country
The foregoing letter was dated River Bank, California, August 19,1901, and signed merely "A Reader." It had been clipped from the paper and placed in a scrapbook belonging to the writers father, John P. Collier, who had written in pencil under the signature "G. A. Pettyjohn."
The statements in this letter are at variance in some respects from those set forth in the history of the county compiled by James R. Vaughan, and others in 1876. And it seems strange that the letter makes no mention of the early coming of the Pettyjohns; the author of the letter stating, in effect, that the three Kimberling Brothers, who arrived in the 1830s were the first settlers. If the author of the letter was a Pettyjohn he was one of the family of that name who came into the region in the 1820s and it seems unlikely that he would say nothing about them. Doubt is thus raised as to whether the author was a Pettyjohn. On the other hand that family was well know to John P. Collier and more likely he would inquire of the editor as to the writers identy.
The author of the letter, whoever he may have been, would necessarily have been quite old in 1901 to have remembered events that happened in the 1830s. And as to the discrepancies between his letter and the history of the county prepared in 1876 it would be logical to think the latter more authentic, as it had been written twenty-five years earlier than the letter and by men who knew firsthand something of the towns early history. Possibly the letter contains a typographical error with respect to dates. If "1822" be substituted for "1832" in the second paragraph it would make the matter somewhat more clear. For the Pettyjohns and the Kimberlings were said to be related, and it may be that they came at the same time. It seems certain that Friend and Wells came with the Pettyjohns, and there may have been a number of others. Making allowances for his possibly faulty memory concerning some events it cannot be denied that the writer of the letter knew a good deal about early days in Ozark.
In the spring of 1857 a steamboat came up White River to the mouth of James, bringing merchandise for merchants at Ozark and at other places. A similar trip was made in 1858 but there are no records of any subsequent trips. The danger and difficulties of navigation probably proved too great a risk for continuance of the service. It was necessary to wrap the boats through Buffalo Shoals. And the last boat to make the trip was wrecked. While it lasted the service must have been a great convenience to the merchants of the region, whose other means of obtaining goods at that time were by wagon from Saint Louis or from Missouri River points served by steamboats.
On September 17, 1858 the first west-bound stage of the Overland Mail passed through Springfield enroute from Saint Louis to San Francisco, and on October 22nd the first east-bound stage passed through, twenty-three days out from San Francisco. Just how long this stage line was maintained is not know, but the rapid extension of railroads penetrating the west not long after that time would soon curtail the stage business. Discontinued 1861 on account of the Civil War. W.N.C.
In the year 1821, when Missouri was made a
state, and county lines established, the county of Howard comprised a vast territory covering a large part of the southern half of the state. Later when Greene County was organized it embraced an area that included the present counties of McDonald, Newton, Jasper, Barton, Dade, Lawrence, Barry, Stone, Christian, Greene, Webster, and parts of Taney, Dallas, Polk, Cedar, Vernon, LaClede, Wright and Douglas. This in 1833. White River township, which then included parts of Christian and Taney counties and all of Douglas county, cast 34 votes in the 1834 election. In 1839 Hoovers Mill was a voting place for Finley Township, Greene county. In 1858 Ozark was in Linden township.
Christian county was organized under an act of the legislature dated March 8, 1859, and included in its limits parts of Greene, Webster, and Taney counties. All of the south part of the county was originally in Taney county, and that countys representative in the General Assembly. F. M. Gideon, Sr., was active in getting the new county organized, although his residence was then in the area to be detached from Taney county. Dr. N. A. Davis, a resident of Ozark, and one of the most influential citizens of the new county, worked hard in getting the movement on foot, making a trip to Jefferson City to urge passage of the law, a trip that probably would have had to be made horseback. The name "Christian" was given the county at the request of Mrs. Thomas Neeves, an aged woman who had lived in Christian county, Kentucky, and who had asked that the new county be named in honor of her old home. First efforts to organize the county were made in 1857 but was blocked for about two years through opposition by Greene county.
Upon passage of the act establishing the new county the governor appointed certain officials to attend to the ordinary business of the county until the next general election, J. K. Gibson was appointed sheriff; Jesse A. Marley, C. L. Dickerman and William Chestnut were named justices of the county court. These officials met and organized as a county court on the second Monday in May, 1859. About one month prior to this the commissioners authorized by the legislation to select a county seat met in Ozark for that purpose. These men, Samuel D. Nelson of Stone county, Archibald Payne of Greene county and John H. Hight of Wright county, after hearing the claims of other places selected Ozark. Linden was a contestant for the honor, as were other places, and it was claimed by their proponents that Ozark was not a central location with respect to population and territory. But none of these reasons seemingly were sufficient and Ozark was selected.
The county seat having been established at Ozark, fifty acres of land adjoining the town on the south were acquired for county purposes and V. B. Dalrymple was appointed commissioner of the seat of justice. Under his direction J. C. Inmann, then county surveyor, laid off the new town. On the 5th of March, 1860, a sale of lots was held and about one-half of them disposed of for something like $4,000, total. A small two-story court house was built on the north side of the square in 1860; also a jail. The population of the county in 1860 was 5,491 of which 229 were colored persons. At an election held that year wereat the people were givn an opportunity of expressing their sentiments on the question of secession of the state from the union 108 voted in favor of session and 800 voted against.
The first circuit court was held in January, 1860. The first county clerk was D. G. Morrow, formerly a merchant of Ozark, who served until the general election in August, 1859. At that time H. P. Greene was elected Representative; J. K. Gibson sheriff; E. H. Cornog, Joel Hall and Jesse A. Marley justices of the county court, and L. P. Ayres Treasurer.
When the civil war broke out the people were divided on the great questions involved, and the citizens of the county who enrolled in the northern and southern armies did so in about the same ratio as the vote on secession. The fighting in the county amounted to little in the number of casualties, it appears, but for all that there were many tragic affairs in which the participants lost their property or even their lives. The military organizations of both sides seemingly were little more than marauding bands so far as operations in the county were concerned. The Union adherents were known as "Guerrillas" and the Confederates as Bushwhackers". In October, 1861, a party of bushwhackers while traveling in Benton township were ambushed by some guerrillas and James Chestnut was killed.
In that year (1861) was fought the battle of Wilsons Creek, or Oak Hills as designated by the confederates. General Ben McCulloch, a Texas veteran of the Mexican War, with his army was enroute to engage General Nathaniel Lyons federal forces at Springfield when he camped at Wilsons Creek preparatory to the assault. It was McCullochs intent to reach Springfield in time to storm the town at dawn, but the evening before there came a rainstorm, and as it would not have been possible for his troops to keep their ammunition dry in the rain, the movement was postponed. But Lyon did not wait to be attacked, but moved in the night to Wilson Creek and attacked the southerners early in the morning. The ensuing battle of August 10th was a bloody affair. Although the total forces engaged emounted to but 11,139 men the casualities (killed, wounded and missing)
were 2,547, or about 22 per cent. For comparison the casualities at the battle of Waterloo amounted to 23 per cent. Apparently the battle was won by the Confederates, for they occupied Springfield, the Federals retreating to Rolla. Parker Cox and Almus Harington were guides for General Sigel, Lyons second in command. General Sterling Price commanded the Missouri State Guard in the battle, but the strenght of the Confederates was in the seasoned troops from Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. In August 1897, a big reunion of the survivors was held in Springfield and on the battle field site.
A company of Home Guards was organized in 1861 with Jesse Galloway as captain and F. M. Gideon, Sr., as lieutenant. Other companies of a similar nature were organized in the county, one in Porter township had William Vaughan as captain with Jackson Ball and I. W. Faught as lieutenants. In the spring and summer of 1862 a company with J. W. Robertson as captain and Hardin Coffer and John Inmann as lieutenants, was organized and stationed at Ozark. This company was engaged in a small fight under command of Capt. Birch of the 14th Missouri State Militia with a party of Confederate forces under command of Major Lanther at Ozark on August 1, 1862. The Confederates numbering about one hundred men, attacked the town at night but were repulsed with a loss of two wounded, the Federals having one wounded. Thomas H. Vaughn was taken prisoner by the Confederates but was released soon thereafter near Forsyth. The Ozark company was in Springfield in defense of that place against the attack of General Marmadukes forces in 1863.
Three companies of the Enrolled Missouri Militia were organized in the county; Company A was headed by Jackson Hall as Captain with I. W. Faught and Nathaniel Sink as lieutenants. In the spring of 1863 these companies were disbanded and two companies organized which later became a part of the 16th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry. The first engagement of regular troops in the county was August 2, 1861, at Dug Spring on the Wire Road commanding the advance of Prices army, with Major Solomon of the Federals with small losses on each side. A few days thereafter was fought the battle of Wilsons Creek. During this engagement a part of the forces engaged were in Christian county. The last skirmish of the war in the county was on Swan Creek between a squad of a company of the Enrolled Militia under command of Lieutenant Alexander Kissee with a body of Confederates.
Christian county, like all others in the southwestern part of the state, was the theatre of many scenes of plunder and bloodshed during the war. The conflict gave an excuse for a certain class of men to commit crimes and excesses that many times amounted to banditry or even coldblooded murder; an excuse to settle personal feuds in the name of war. Among the worst of such criminals about which we have any account was Alf Bolin, a resident of Taney county, but pursuing his bloody career in Christian county also. Bolins speciality was the murder of Union men at home on furloughs. His plan of action was the very simple one of lying in ambush along the side of a lonely road he knew his victim traveled and shooting the unsuspecting man as he traveled to or from his home. Bolins activities became such a menace that a price was put on his head by the Federal commander in Springfield. To obtain this reward a Union soldier caned out a dangerous and crafty plan, involving posing as a wounded Confederate soldier, gaining admittance to a house known to be visited frequently by Bolin and killing him with a blow of an iron bar at a moment when Bolin leaned over the fireplace to light his pipe.
In order to claim the reward of $4,000 Bolins head was cut off and brought to Ozark. All along the route the ghastly trophy was greeted with delight. Before the head reached Ozark the long shaggy hair mottled with blood had been cut off by soldiers and other people who wanted the hair as souvenirs. The head was kept on exhibition in Ozark for several days when it was dissected and the skull sent to Saint Louis. One of Bolins victims was the father of Wood Johnson, the latter being a prominent citizen of the county to this day. An intended victim was Charles McGinnis, who will be remembered by some of the older citizens of Ozark. Bolins aim was not true in this case and the bullet merely took an under-bit out of one of Uncle Charleys ears.
Another product of the times was the career of a man named Kelso. At the beginning of the war there flourished in Ozark a school of more than ordinary excellence, so that many students came from surrounding counties to attend. One of the scholars from out of the county was John H. Kelso. A description of this young man by persons who knew him indicates that he was quite different from other students in the school. This tall, dark complexioned chap was not a mixer in social activities. On the contrary, he formed no friendships and had no companions, holding himself aloof from the student body. But he was an ambitious and distinguished student, formal in manner, precise in speech, passionately fond of languages and mathematics, studying Latin and Greek with tireless zeal. Such were some of the early characteristics of this man Kelso when he left school at the beginning of the war and whose single-handed exploits of fanatical cold-blooded savagry in that struggle made his name one to mention with a shuder when tales of the conflict
were told in the lonely cabins of southwest Missouri.
It was said of Kelso that he could lie at the side of a road in ambush, with a Latin grammar in one hand and a cocked pistol in the other, awaiting the passing of his intended victim; Kelsos attention being distracted from the book for only the time it took to shoot. One of his reported exploits was his creeping alone one night into a camp of three bushwhackers who were a-sleep and with his knife killing all of them. It seems that the sleeping men were covered with a quilt of a pattern that attracted Kelsos fancy, so he carefully removed the quilt before making away with the men. He was said to be a man of exceptional self-control, could not be scared by an unexpected assault, and never lost his methodical judgement. It seems also that he never engaged in trivial or unnecessary conversation, or in any speech not suited to refined ears. Rigidly temperate, Kelso never touched a drop of intoxicating liquor or tasted tobacco.
Kelso had espoused the Union cause at the onset of the war and most of his exploits were while he was a captain in the 8th Missouri State Militia. The territory over which he scouted included Christian and Taney counties, and from Springfield to Forsythe was one of his bloodiest trails. He was at Ozark many times during the war and the citizens were amazed at the change from a quiet retiring student to a blood-thirsty killer. Martin Hancock, whom some of the old-timers will remember, was one of Kelsos men. In 1864 Kelso was elected to Congress on the Radical ticket (afterwards Republican) as a result of that ticket sweeping the state. His opponent was S. H. Boyd.
The bitter feuds and hostilities between the guerrillas and the bushwhackers and their sympathathizers led many citizens of the county to leave their homes during the war and take up abodes in less turbulent sections of the country. At the wars close, however, most of them returned, but of course to find their farms much the worse for their absence. But about this time there was an influx of new settlers from the eastern states, so there was much new land to be cleared, houses and fences to build or to be repaired, and the general run-down condition of the country due to the war to be overcome. From this time on there was a steady gain in population, wealth, and general betterment of living conditions in the county, but such gains were slow due to the sparse population and the countys isolated location.
In 1870 there were about 32,000 acres of improved land in the county out of a total of about 360,000 acres. Thus in that year, five years after the wars close, more than nine-tenths of the countys land was unimproved and much of it still belonged to the Government. The improved lands were located principally along the streams, where its fertility was higher and more suitable for raising crops than was the case with the hill lands. In fact the latter was considered practically worthless at that time, as the numerous tax sales in that period indicated; sales at which good titles passed sometimes for as low as twenty-five cents per acre.
About 1878 the writers father bought 160 acres of timber land one-half mile from Ozark for sixty dollars.. In 1864 there were still more than ten-thousand acres of Government land in the county, much of which, however, was of little value for farming purposes.
It was a curious fact that according to the first settlers, - those arriving in the early 1820s -there were large areas of the county almost treeless. In the vicinity of Nixa this was true, and the locality was known long afterward as the "Guinn Prairie". Schoolcraft tells of camping one night in a place between Swan and Finley creeks where there was no fuel for a fire. And to quote from his journal: "The ridges and mountain chains of the Ozarks, a wild and illimitable tract, are nearly destitute of forests often perfectly so." And at the time the first hunters came into the county the country along Elk Valley was covered with prairie grass as high as a mans shoulders. This valley was named by George (or J.) Yoachum, an early settler on White River and the father of A. T. Yoachum, who was in the habit of visiting the valley in hunting the numerous elk found there. One reason for the timber being so scarce before the coming of the white man was that the Indians burned the grass each year and thus killed off the young growth. Along the streams where the fires would die out the timber had a chance to grow, and thus spread when there were no longer any fires to prevent.
The frame court house built in 1860 was burned during the night of August 20, 1865; Many years later it was learned that the fire was started by two men to get rid of some indictments pending against one of them. A year or so later a brick court house was built in the center of the square, the builders being John R. Weaver and Wm. A. Lawing, the cost being $7,775. And about this time the covered bridge was built across Finley on the site later occupied by a steel bridge on highway No. 65. The covered bridge was carried away by a flood sometime after 1900.
The first newspaper published in Ozark was by J. C. Shook in the spring of 1860. It was called the Ozark Banner. Shook was a southern sympathiser, and in 1861 he suspended publication and left the county. The press and other materials
were destroyed by soldiers during the war. The second paper started in the town was the Ozark Monitor which began its career in 1869 under the ownership of John A. Richardson. The third newspaper venture was the Christian County Herald, the first number of which appeared August 1, 1872, published by A. R. Craven. It was Democratic in politics and suspended after about eleven months. The fourth paper established was by James R. and Ralph Bell, sons of Morgan Bell, the press, etc., being from the plant of the defunct Herald. This paper was called "The Ozark Weekly Reform Leader" and the first issue was printed January 22, 1874. On March 27th of that year this paper consolidated with the Monitor under the name of Monitor and Leader, Bell and Richardson, editors and proprietors. On February 19, 1875 James R. and Ralph Bell purchased the interest of Richardson and at that time it was the only paper in the county.
The oldest copy of an Ozark newspaper available to the writer was one of the Monitor & Leader, dated April 24, 1880. From its advertising columns the following firms were seen to have been in business: S. M. Jernigan sold hardware, drygoods, groceries and drugs; Tunnell & Wrightsman sold General merchandise, dry goods, drugs and groceries; Wiand Tunnell sold stoves and hardware. J. H. Fullbright was a physician and J. F. Kindrick an attorney. In that issue of the paper the financial statement of the county took up most of the space and obviously many advertisements were omitted. The list given is far from complete for the year in Question. Cowan Brothers began doing business in their new mill at Linden (Kenton, in the advertisement) in that year.
The Monitor & Leader in that year was a 7-column folio, the "patent" inside pages being largely taken up with political news, sermons, poems, and "items of interest", this last being mostly about foreign rulers and of doings in the courts of Europe. Much space on the patent side was used by advertisers of all manner of nostrums. Consumption and cancer cures predominated. The Saint Louis market quotations gave prices for choice beeves at $4.70; hogs $3.70; butter 23 cents; eggs 7 cents, wheat $1.09 and corn 33 cents. Local advertisers were Tunnell & Wrightsman who called attention to their "large stock of general merchandise, drugs and medicines, groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes, hats and caps", S. M. Jernigan advertised dry goods, drugs, groceries, plows, saddles and harness. Wiand Tunnell dealt in hardware.
Sometime in the 1880s the Christian County Republican was established under the owner and publishers name of W. W. (Deacon) Kinloch, and with his passing went the hey-day of newspaperdom in Ozark. There have been many papers since but not another "Deacon."
In 1872 among the citizens of Ozark were the following: Mrs. Christman, who ran the Finley House, the Pettyjohns, Doctor Gonce, Mr. Ramey, a Baptist preacher; G. W. Logan, John A. Richardson; A. C. Cram; Henry Clark; A. H. Cravens; S. M. Caudle; William Weber; Morgan Bell; E. L. Shepard; Captain Dorland; Doctor Bedford Brown; Essau Smith; James R. Vaughan; A. T. Yoachum; Samuel Payne; Thomas McPettyjohn; Mr. Isenberg; Boyd; Pierpoint Edwards; John L. Tunnell, David William Wrightsman; Mrs. McGaugh; Joseph Kimberling; Doctor Robinson; John Whitlock; J. D. Caudle; T. J. McCord; Milo Weaver.
Robertson & Yoachum ran a general merchandise store in a brick building still standing on the south side of the square. This store was established about 1863 under the firm name of Robertson Yoachum & Inman, and for nearly three quarters of a century under the name of Robertson & Yoachum, and much later as Robertson Bros., it was the outstanding merchantile establishment of the town. Morgan Bell had a store in a two-story frame building on the north side of the square, a printing office occupying the second story. John L. Tunnell had a drug store on the west side of the square. A blacksmith shop owned by James Marley was near the southeast corner of the square. This list of families and firms is only a partial one of those living in Ozark in 1872.
The first church building of which there is any record was a building, called so long as it was in existence, the "Old Church" at the corner of High and Church Streets. It was completed in 1872, being built by the Baptists. Shortly thereafter it became the joint property of the Baptists, Presbyterians, Christians a n d Methodists. The second story was owned by the Masonic order and was used as a lodge room until construction of the building in which the order is now being housed. The Methodist church was organized in 1873 with the following named members: Mrs. Pierpoint Edwards; Mrs. Samuel Boyd; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Vaughan; Mr. and Mrs. John P. Collier.
In 1880 W. A. Aven was Probate Judge, Morgan Bell Public Administrator, John C. Rogers, County Clerk, E. B. Brown and J. H. Fullbright were physicians. Pollard & Hendrick, Real Estate. Some of the merchants in Ozark were: S. M. Jernigan, hardware; Wiand Tunnell, stoves and tin-ware; Tunnell (John L.) and Wrightsman, general merchandise, J. W. Robertson and son (T. L.) general merchandise; Bigbee, Caskey, & Co., clothing; Pollard & Kendrick, real estate; E. B. Brown and J. H. Fulbright were physicians. (This list is not complete but was taken from the advertisements appearing in a copy of the Monitor & Leader issue
of April 24, 1880.)
Among the newspapers of Ozark that had a short life was the Real Estate Monitor, Hammond and Skidmore, publishers. No. I of Vol. 1 is dated December 13, 1884, and was to have been issued monthly. It starts off with a column of flowery superlatives as a salutatory, and several columns of "boiler-plate" general news. Whether a second issue was ever gotten out is not known. Among the business firms in Ozark at that time were the following: Johnson & Eliason, Miller & Wolff; John F. Bigbee; S. M. Jernigan; J. W. Robertson; McAdams & Co.; J. W. Larkins; B. L. Shepard; R. N. Gray; L. E. Malone; W. A. Aven; Wood & Lawning; Wiand Tunnell; C Couts; Perry & Lawning; Horton & Woody (Livery); J. W. Robertson Son, William Webber (Wagon shop), W. G. Dennis (Hotel-Ozark House); Mrs. W. L. Mack (Hotel-Finley House), J. D. Caudle was an undertaker; Herston & Burgess were builders.
At this time the countys inhabitants, outside the few small towns, lived in "settlements" scattered around over the county; locations where the character of the land or other favorable characteristics of the locality had induced early settlers to take up land, and a community would be formed to support a school and perhaps a store and a church. These communities, or settlements, generally were separated by several miles of practically uninhabited areas, dreary stretches of foreset through which ran the winding and lonely roads by which the settlements were reached. For there was yet more government land in the county than there was under private ownership, to say nothing of the railroad grants which comprised every alternate section of land in the north and western parts of the county. Land was a drug on the market. Government land could be acquired for one dollar and a quarter per acre, but this was considered at the time to be too high.
The writers memory of the town reaches back to about 1880, although somewhat hazy in many particulars for that time. With the exception of the old brick building now standing on the south side of the square none of the buildings now on the square were in existence in that year. Some of the original log cabins in Old Town were still occupied. Much of the east and west sides of the square were vacant lots, and a grove of trees grew at the southwest corner. The principal business district was the south side. Streets (always called "roads") were ungraded, there were few sidewalks or any other attempts at civic improvements. Around the court house yard was a high board fence with stiles in the place of gates in the center of each side. Along the fence were long lines of hitching racks. Cattle and hogs roamed at will. Every store had a shed roof, or porch, in front where the umemployed congregated to talk and spit. The court house yard with its grove of trees also was a rendezvous for a goodly number of stout and ablebodied citizens; in a place where they could stretch out on the grass in the shade, in the summer months, and await with patience and resignation the close of a day.
Blacksmith shops and livery stables occupied prominent places on the square, and the town seldom was without a saloon or two. Saturday afternoon was a time for farmers to come to town to trade, and usually there were others who came for no apparent reason other than to see what was going on. Among there were generally a few who thought it fitting to celebrate the end of another week and create a little hilarity with the help of hard "likker", usually with no more hurt to themselves than strained vocal chords. The town itself, not to be out-done in any celebrating, generally could contribute a citizen or two who were adept in such matters. Saturday afternoons and evenings were times when the town marshals stock of alibis often ran short.
For some reason a livery stable in those days was considered to be, by the so-called better class, a sort of dive. Curiously enough, it rated somewhat like the saloon in point of respectability. For one thing, it was used as a place where a man could sleep off the effects of the night before, and was sort of a haven for celebrants with hangovers. Moreover, on Sunday mornings - particularly in summer - there gravitated to the stable many citizens not addicted to the church-going habit, yet having the same urge for communion and fellowship. Here they argued, whittled and spit; here were told highly personalized jokes, and stories with the rich, earthy flavor rightly belonging to a stable. It was a place shunned or to be quickly passed by the primly clad denizens on their way to church.
Dwelling houses were built close to one corner of the lot. This gave room for a vegetable garden and for the location of pig pens and other necessary structures that it was desirable to place as remote from the habitations as possible. The principal uses of the streets were as woodyards. Everyone burned wood for fuel, generally delivered in tree lengths and was chopped to suitable lengths by the householder as needed. There were no side-walks, and after prolonged rains, and especially after a spring thaw, the citizens were practically marooned on account of the deep and sticky mud. All premises were fenced to protect them from cattle and hogs. Water was obtained from near-by springs or from wells. If a family had no well of their own it was perfectly all right to use a neighbors well, there being a sort of understanding that water was free. Usually there was a man who made a sort of business hauling water in barrels from the creek or the near-by springs.
Amusements and diversions were few. Fishing in the summer months attracted a good many people, and in early spring it was customary for everyone to take at least a few hours off and go fishing. And some there were who worked at it apparently to the exclusion of every other activity. Lodges and churches served the purpose of clubs and proved entertainment for those who liked to work together in a common undertaking. There was a considerable negro population, much larger than in later years. These were the former slaves, and their descendents, of such old settlers as the Weavers, Marleys, Haydens, and others.
There was little wholesale entertainment for the young people or the older ones, either, for that matter. There were some dances, but not many, perhaps because of the lack of suitable places for such entertainment. One room in a dwelling was about the limit as to floor space, but a good deal of enjoyment could be gotten out of dancing in that small space if the partners were congenial. One or two fiddlers furnished the music, maybe augmented by a guitar or organ. A noted fiddler of those times was Sam Weatherman, a rough-and-ready sort of fellow, always in high good humor, with a hearty and infectious laugh, and with-all a good fiddler perhaps the best in the county. Never prosperous, indeed quite the reverse, Sam never minded; his philosophy was to enjoy himself, and the lack of material possessions never bothered him. The country could well afford to have a lot more Sam Weathermans.
Circuit Court sessions lasting about two weeks were held twice each year and brought to town many people having business at court, together with many others who just liked to go where there were a lot of people. Frequently a medicine show would embrace the opportunity to appear for a day or so at times, and was good entertainment free, too, for the wise ones. The "Doctor", with his patter and jokes was good for an hours entertainment, particularly in the evening when the flaring gasoline torches added glamor to the scene. Usually he had the help of a couple of banjo players, or other kinds of musicians, to hold the crowds attention. Two local boys began their careers on the stage in just this way. Frank and Leon Weaver, sons of "Bud" Weaver, himself a banjo player of some note and the son of one of the first settlers in the county. Today there is probably no community in the country that has not seen "The Weaver Brothers" on the stage or screen.
There were no industries in the town; small opportunity for the young man to get a start, so it seemed. The few jobs available were confined to work in the stores, a small number of which usually employed help, and to clerical jobs in the county offices, where employment generally was not steady. A good clerk in a store could command perhaps $40 per month, often less, for from twelve to fifteen hours work six days in the week, and the pay for clerical help was about the same. Farm hands working from "Sun to sun" were paid $13.00 per month and keep. Occasionally a man would have a chance to accept a position with the railroad company as a member of the local section gang where he was pretty certain to earn the daily stipend of what was known among the gang as "a dollar and a damned dime."
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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