Volume 32, Number 3, Spring 1993
Hundreds of thousands of acres were to be inundated by the flood pool of Table Rock Lake. Certain to be covered were many hundreds of prehistoric Indian sites. Dr. Carl Chapman was determined to locate and record as many of them as he could before they were lost. He began that effort in 1950, more than seven years before the dam was finished and the lake filled.
At first, he made week end trips from Columbia to the reservoir area, about 220 miles. He and one or two companions would walk the lands on one side of the river and record whatever evidences they found. He soon realized that that approach, given his limited time he could devote to it, would take several years even if nothing else interfered. Shortly before I became involved in survey work, he turned to what came to be called the float survey.
I was with the second or third such survey and several ones that came later. The procedure was to recruit one or two enthusiastic and/or dependable men, usually members of the Missouri Archaeological Society, drive to Kimberling bridge over White River near the site of Kimberling City, today. On the right side of the river lived Jim Owen, who operated a boat rental service. We would rent one of Jims john boats, load it with food, equipment and up to four men. Jim then would haul us and the boat to a place well upstream from his place, where we would put in, after arranging a pick-up point downstream that evening or, sometimes, a day or two later.
The purpose of all this was to survey the lands to be covered by the lake. The area was easy to determine because we had highly accurate and detailed maps furnished us by the Corps of Engineers. The maps provided not only a reliable guide to elevations (they were 1 foot intervals) but an excellent means to record the exact locations of Indian sites.
Our usual procedure, then, was to disembark one or two persons on the low side of the banks to search terraces, hillslopes and small tributary streams while one or two others would scan with binoculars the bluffs on the opposite side of the river. The latter duo could expect to locate caves, rock shelters and rock mounds if any or all were present, while the other pair would seek evidences of Indian campsites or villages on the open terraces and, sometimes, in the lowlands bordering the terrace and the river.
Clues to habitation such as stone tools, implements and weapons and, often, much artifact-manufacturing debris were noted and collected, the locations plotted on the map and site boundaries delimited insofar as possible. Often, it was rather uncertain business because the bulk of lands to be searched were uncultivated and the surface was obscured by vegetation. Happy was the surveyor who located cattle trails where the vegetation had been worn away and happier still where long stretches of land had recently been scoured by river floods. We also occasionally benefited by road cuts and recent bulldozing. At that time, however, few farmers did bulldozing because they were not subsidized by the USDA for that activity until a few years later.
Upon finishing the survey of appropriate terrain and getting far enough away from the transportation, we returned to the boat, organized our collection and records and waited for the others to return. Sometimes, the first pair returned first depending on what they had located. If they had found one or more rock shelters, it was necessary to climb the bluff and determine whether or not it had been occupied or used in any way by the Indians. Normally, that determination was easy to make but the job of recording pertinent facts and conditions took much longer.
Often, a reasonably thorough check of a half mile of the river up to the maximum flood pool limits, required half a day. Sites found might number as many as ten or as few as one or two. A couple of float surveys would convince most of us that the total number of separate and distinct Indian sites present in the total number of acres we had to cover would number in the thousands.
Those float trips that required a night or two out meant that we would need to stop an hour or so before dark, gather firewood, arrange beds of grass or leaves on which to position sleeping bags, fix supper and eat it before turning in to sleep the sleep of the truly fatigued. On one trip, we spent a night on the river bank that we hadnt counted on and we got caught in a cold wave that sent the temperature tumbling to zero. Some of the party stayed up all night piling logs on the fire and revolving their bodies in front of it. I kept all my clothes on and zipped my sleeping bag to my chin. I kept reasonably warm by lying pretty close to the fire. Our drinking water froze in the GI can that night. We ran short of food to the point nothing was left but bread, jelly and sardines. Ever have a bread, jelly and sardine sandwich?
It was necessary to conduct the float trips in the wintertime because during growing weather, tree leaves and rank vegetation obscured the landscape to the extent that we in the boat could not see beyond the waters edge most of the time.
After the float was finished and we were back home, we compiled the information we had and made decisions as to which sites were worthy of further consideration, as in excavations or, perhaps, in resurveys. We confirmed well over 1000 sites in the Table Rock reservoir area and realized full well that
there were probably several times that many that we did not find. Surveys were a continuing thing throughout our efforts in Table Rock, including after most excavations. The excavations always attracted visitors.
By far our most colorful visitor was Jesse E. "Prof Wrench who was then, and earlier, a great legendary character on the MU campus. There has probably never been anyone at MU who was more notorious and active. He was a firm friend to all students, particularly foreign students, whom he and his wife often provided lodging for in their home. Prof was a great social activist years before activism came into vogue. He helped found the community grocery, a co-op, as well as three co-op housing units for students; Crest for boys and Templecrone 1 and 2 for girls.
Prof was not your stereotypical academic type although, granted, he was eccentric. The story was universal that Prof submitted his thesis for an MA degree in history at a prestigious Eastern university in longhand. Of course, it was rejected and he never resubmitted it, getting along thenceforth in the academic world with only a B.S. degree.
Many other stories were told about Prof Wrench. Some of them are true. At the Rice Site, there was a shallow well beside the house. We pumped our water for drinking and cooking from it. Chapman took it for granted that the water was contaminated, as he put it. He insisted that all our water be halozoned. I didnt mind the halozone as I had become used to it during the war. But Prof Wrench exclaimed, "Oh hell, Carl, in Egypt, I drank water from mud holes full of camel crap, and Im not scared of Missouri well water." He always drew his own water and drank it raw.
Prof was a great friend of the black man. During the summer of 1952, while he was camped with us, he had been invited to give the dedicatory address at the newly opened George Washington Carver National Monument at Diamond, Missouri. He and his wife drove about 45 miles from the Rice Site to attend the ceremony. When they returned, his wife and he were distraught. She was in tears. What on earth? "Oh, weve killed the baby," she cried. That gave us all a shock as we envisioned an auto accident involving a child. We all knew that Prof was wild and impetuous behind the wheel just as he was in all situations. But,
it turned out they had left their daughters pet parakeet, which they were caring for, in the car with the windows rolled up; in July, yet! The poor bird died from the heat. The parakeet was the "baby" they had killed. Being an old farm boy myself, it was hard for me to understand their great concern over a dead bird. I felt like saying to them, "Yes, but aside from that, how did you like the dedication?"
Prof drove an old Studebaker with all four fenders caved in. He had had several police citations in his past. Once he was observed climbing a tree in his own back yard, with nothing on except his boxer shorts. A neighbor complained and he was cited again. I think Prof must have been temporarily dissuaded to drive his Studebaker on campus because, for a time, he came to work on a bicycle. He wore a womans hair net on his luxuriant white mane and, on his shoulders, a long, dark blue cape fastened under his china cape which almost formed a streamer behind him as he pedaled furiously down the street.
In those days, the Missouri Archaeological Society sponsored occasional amateur participation in excavations at Graham Cave. They were invariably scheduled on Sundays. Digging crews were made up of members of the Society, some of whom came from as far away as Kansas City. These come-one-come-all affairs were dubbed "picnic digs" by Mett Shippe, an experienced archaeologist but not an academic professional. He deplored the excavation of archaeological sites by "picnickers and Sunday afternoon dawdlers."
But that didnt faze Chapman, who was a highly opinionated person. He believed that, since "all people have the same capabilities" that it didnt matter who one chose to help in the excavations. He believed in training them, however, and that was his rationale for supporting "Society Training Sessions" (his term for them). He maintained that people are going to continue to dig sites regardless of what we do and, for that reason, as many as possible should be trained in how to do it properly. In that, he was correct. What he didnt acknowledge was the fact that many collectors joined the picnic digs simply to have access to productive sites and the opportunity to form opinions as to the best way to exploit their own private sites.
Professor Robert T. Bray, descendant of the Bray Community in Christian County, has authored a manuscript titled Memoirs, Personal and Historical of a Fourth Generation Boy of the Ozarks, Including Genealogies and Military Histories of the Bray Family, 1992. This article is one small excerpt from the much larger work that may be published for a general audience in the future.
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