Volume 34, Number 4, Spring 1995
The numerous informants to Silas Turnbo a century ago now have even more numerous descendants living in the White River Valley and beyond. One of them is J. Ross Baughman whose ancestors, according to Turnbo, were among the great southern hunters of the Ozarks.
A decade ago Mr. Baughman began family history research and writing that resulted in Some Ancestors of the Baughman Family in America, 1989, and Harvest Time, 1994, both published by Shenandoah History, P.O. Box 98, Edinburg, Va. Ross has consented to the publication of extracts from these model family histories. He further stimulates his historical imaginations by performing living history interpretations of blacksmithing and hatmaking for the Old Bethpage Village restoration near his home on Long Island, N.Y., and with the 30th Regiment of Virginia Confederate Infantry.
In 1978 J. Ross Baughman became the youngest photojournalist to ever win the Pulitzer Prize with startling work from the guerrilla war in Rhodesia. During the 1980s Life magazine assigned over 50 stories to Baughman. Subject matter in his controversial publications have ranged from radical Arab nationalism, Chicano street gangs, gay fathers, death squads, fugitive felons, victims of cosmetic surgery, American Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan and de-institutionalization of mental patients.
Mr. Baughman was a faculty member of the University of Missouri graduate school of journalism for two years. He currently teaches graduate classes in ethics and investigative reporting for the New School for Social Research in New York City. He has published books in his professional field and is a cofounding partner in the Visions photo agency for investigative photo reporting in New York City.
Stimulated by an international menu of subjects, Ross Baughman has also found the Ozarks to be a significant avenue of research. Trailing the Baughmans has taken him across the United States, Great Britain and Europe. We welcome him as our latest contributor to Ozarks history.
Baughmans in the Ozarks
An unmatched portrait of Ozark Mountain life has been preserved through interviews conducted around the turn of the century by a local newspaperman and historian named Silas Claborn Turnbo (1844-1925). In several rough, unpublished manuscripts, as well as passing references in his Fireside Stories of the Early Days in the Ozarks, Turnbo records three extended conversations with neighbor Peter W. Baughman on 22 May, 10 July and 14 July 1902. In brief titles and introductions, Turnbo reveals a few basic genealogical facts about Peter and his family, in addition to calling him "a pioneer of Crooked Creek," "a famed, veteran hunter" and "uncle." Turnbo, a resident of Protem in Taney County, had earlier talked to Peters uncle, Gideon Baughman, who died in 1898.
Though the Marble Creek community in Madison County, Missouri, had been the Baughman home for 12 years, Peters father, Henry Baughman [IV], packed up the family and household, moving it south and west some 200 miles.
On Peters 10th birthday, 11 October 1840, the family stopped its wagon along the Fallen Ash Military Road at a settlement originally named Shawnee Town. The same spot just across the Missouri border is known today as Route 62 in Yellville, Arkansas.
Having Arrived in Northern Arkansas
Travelers returning to the East circulated reports that Arkansas was "people by a race of semi-barbarians, who would not hesitate to cut a Christian into shoe strings..." During an 1838 session of the state legislature, the Speaker of the House, James Wilson left his chair, pulled out his bowie knife, and stabbed to death a legislator whose remarks had offended him. After the state reluctantly brought Wilson to trial, he was acquitted anyway and reelected.
Wilsons handy blade, with its newfangled finger guard, was invented in 1831 by an Arkansas blacksmith and named for Jim Bowie, the wild adventurer who wielded the first one made. Knifework west of the Mississippi--and especially in the Ozarks--was seen as so notorious that the long, wicked style of throwing dagger there was dubbed the Arkansas Toothpick.
In the pecking order of the American frontier, Kansas was populated largely by educated, abolitionist Northerners. Since they looked down on their Missouri neighbors as uneducated, slave-owning "Pukes," Missourians had no where else to look down on but Arkansas.
Arkansas entered the Union on 15 June 1836, amidst great optimism, but by the next year, an economic depression shrouded the entire United States. Land values crashed and took Arkansas two banks down with them. A few unsinkable spirits kept going, including Archibald Yell, who became the states first congressman that year.
For his contribution to the fighting at the battle of New Orleans, Yell was first promoted with captaincy in the 47th Tennessee Regiment in 1815, and later rewarded with a territorial judgeship in 1835 by his old commander Andrew Jackson. By 1840, Yell won the governor's race in his state but longed to return to Congress in 1844. In that hotly contested campaign, Yell was rumored to have paid $50 to the residents of Shawneetown to rename their village Yellville. Whether the bribe was necessary or not, the name was changed then and today serves as the seat of Marion County.
Having arrived in northern Arkansas in October of 1840, Henry Baughman and his family must have been entertained and worried by all these events. Henrys father had also served with Jackson in New Orleans, just as Yell had; and before packing up their wagon again to head west along Crooked Creek, the Baughmans had the chance to meet the colorful folks of Marion County, some of them there since before statehood.
As they grew to maturity, at least four of Henrys boys--Peter, Lewis, John and Tipton--became blacksmiths. Their teacher, no wonder, was their father. Henrys great-granddaughter, Leona Clyde James Crow was told that he had made his living as a wagonmaker, a level of crafts mastery he had also passed on to Peter.
In the earliest days, having a wagon built demanded the combined talents of a wheelwright, a carpenter and a blacksmith, three areas of expertise seldom found in one person. Starting in 1717, when pioneers began pouring west from Philadelphia to cross Pennsylvania or head south, their demand for sturdy wagons was met by the Swiss and German craftsmen near the Conestoga River in Lancaster County. But farther and farther from civilization, solitary pioneers had no other choice but to repair or build a wagon on their own.
As a young man of 20, Henry may have helped build the wagon that his father John drove from eastern Tennessee to Marble Creek, Missouri. Eleven years later, with a wife and children of his own, it is even more likely that the Baughmans put together their own wagon for the move to Arkansas.
Back in 1770, it was thought that turning a young apprentice into a blacksmith took 20 months of daily instruction, but to make a strong wagon from start to finish took four years. That included the time for choosing, cutting and seasoning the different lumber, especially the large pieces of gum tree used for each wheel hub, and the hickory used for the axle parts. The floor boards needed to be at least half-inch oak, while the rest of the coach should have been as light as poplar wood. Between eight to a dozen overhead hoops had to start off as 16-foot by 3-inch-wide strips, shaved from water-softened green ash.
Only the lightest, strongest and most flawless wood made sense when imagining the final weight of a horse-drawn wagon. Empty, it would run at least 3,000 to 3,500 pounds; but depending on the customers needs, wagons were designed to bear from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds. Once all of the materials were on hand, four
wagonmakers would be kept busy for two months. As many as 117 iron parts had to be made, including 84 bolts of different sizes, nails, pins, brackets, hinges and 8 to 12 feet of various chains. Some of the horses intricate, interlocking breast chains were made so that three links would have to break before the chain could pull apart. Other chains, called rough locks, were only ten links long and got wrapped around wheel rims just ahead of a slippery slope.
The blacksmith also made a wagon jack, the most crucial piece of the drivers equipment. Several times a day, friction made the wooden axle parts groan and squeak dangerously. To prevent a break, it was necessary to stop, raise one corner of the wagon with the handcranked jack and liberally apply grease to the complaining parts. A wooden grease bucket was kept dangling from the bottom of the wagon for just this purpose, fitted with its own lid and built-in dauber. If the wagons load was so heavy that the jack could not lift it, a feather was greased up and slipped between the tight cracks.
Making strong wheels was considered by many to be the hardest part of the job. The dozens of wood pieces had to match exactly, fit together tightly and take the most punishing jolts and lateral pressures imaginable. Then a great circle of fire had to heat the perfectly matched iron tire until it reached an even glowing red, expanding it just enough so it could be wedged around the wooden rim. By 1820, the typical price charged for a fully equipped Conestoga wagon was $250, on delivery.
Wagons only needed four wheels at a time--a smaller pair in front with the larger in back--but came six in a set from the wagonmaker. Back wheels as large as five feet in diameter gave the smoothest ride over rocky roads, but once they reached their homesteads, and started hoisting bales and bushels into it, farmers wanted the wagon bed closer to the ground. So the small pair of spare wheels were put on the front; the old front wheels were put on the back; and the five-footers were put in the barn or sunk into the ground as gateposts, signifying that the owners had decided to stop moving and stay put.
The wagons proportions were tall and thin, so that wheels would not get hung up on the narrow Indian trails that mapmakers liked to call roads and turnpikes.
German wagonmakers drove their Conestogas from the left-hand side, either riding on the back of the left-rear horse or walking along beside it with long reins in hand. A retractable wooden seat, called a lazy board, was mounted to the left-hand side of the wagonbed, so that the drivers feet could rest every few miles. When German wagons had to pass each other on the narrow roads, both drivers stayed on the left to watch their clearance. The English manner of riding on the opposite side was erased by the predominance of the Conestoga wagon trains. Their rules of the road became such a habit that American drivers still sit on the left and stay to the right 250 years later.
The distance of a mile came from a much older tradition called the milia passuum. The ancient Roman legions kept track of their march by counting off 1,000 paces, and then chipping markers into a boulder beside the road. Milestones were important in Missouri, Arkansas and the rest of early America, serving as the forerunner of todays highway signs.
When Henry Baughman arrived in Arkansas with his wife and children in 1840, traveling with them was his youngest brother, 18-year-old Gideon. Their father and mother, John and Dorthea Baughman, followed after them the next year. The brutal life they had to witness--and eventually take up--was just one price for moving into this beautiful, awful wilderness. Cruel and bloody scenes made a stark impression on Gideon and his nephew Peter; and over 60 years later, the memories were still vivid when their younger friend and neighbor, Clabe Turnbo, asked about the Ozarks in the early days.
Peter Baughman, Gideons nephew and junior by ten years, savored the fresh landscape as a young fellow in Arkansas:
"The deer were playing and running in a circle. The sight of them was so interesting that I sat down and watched their antics and counted them as accurately as I could and found there were 31. I had often seen from four to ten in a bunch, but these were more than I had ever seen together before. They jumped and played in a most lively way. This herd of deer was the most fascinating forest scene I ever witnessed.
"I had a slow track dog with me which belonged to Sam Edmonson. I was leading the dog with a rope, one end of which was tied around the dogs neck. The other
end was tied loosely around my waist.
"The dog wanted to go in among them and he tugged vigourously at the rope to get free. I made bin-quiet down until a buck left the bunch and walked up near me and as I raised my gun to aim at him with the dog behind, the dog jerked at the rope and pulled me backward on the ground.
"As it happened, the dog pulled loose from me and darted at the herd and they all scattered. The dog and deer soon passed from my view.
"I was now in a rage and determined to kill the dog on sight or whenever he came back. I sat there a long time holding my rifle ready to send a bullet into his brains the moment he returned back. But the dog did not put in an appearance for several hours. This saved his life, for by that time I was in a better humor and did not hurt him."
Peters blood was one-eighth Cherokee, by way of his mothers grandmother, but he did not mention--or perhaps had never heard about--old traditions regarding the white buck named Little Deer when telling Turnbo the following tale:
"The first year I come to Crooked Creek a white deer was seen several times on the creek. Every hunter was anxious to kill it, but it was too shy. Along after awhile someone thinking the deer had a madstone in it offered five dollars for its body, but no one could get close enough to hit it. Several shots were fired at it but it was too far off and it was supposed none of the bullets touched it. Finally the deer left and we heard nothing more of it.
"While I am speaking of this white deer I am reminded of seeing a deer in this locality with a white spot that covered half of its right side. The animal was something of a curiosity in color. Others saw it too, but it was too wild to allow a hunter to get in rifle shot of it until one day John Anderson approached close to it without its seeing him and shot it dead and he brought it to my house."
Fighting for the South
Only months after civil war broke out in April 1861, the new U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln, ordered Arkansas to raise an army. The mission of such a militia would be to help force the other southern states back into the Union, so Lincoln hoped. The general population was outraged, and Arkansas own secession soon followed.
If any citizens had hoped to stay out of the fight, neither Confederate nor Union leaders were about to allow them neutrality. In Arkansas, 77 members of a non-slave-holding Society of Peace were ordered arrested by Governor Henry Rector in November 1861 and offered a choice of six months in prison, without trial, or service to the states Confederate militia as wagon drivers, blacksmiths or cooks. About the same time, the Union commander, Major-General H. W. Halleck, wrote the following orders regarding Missouri and Arkansas civilians to Colonel J. W. Birge:
All citizens who are not Rebels must loyally support the Government. If they aid Rebels, they are traitors; if they refuse to aid.., the Union, they are disloyal... Those who are not for us will be regarded as against us. There is no individual neutrality.
By Mid-July of 1861, volunteers between Crooked Creek and the White River stepped forward for one year enlistments to join with the South. They were armed with nothing more than old squirrel rifles, a few shotguns, muzzle-loading pistols and homemade knives, according to witnesses accounts. Their Confederate uniforms were likewise improvised, or quickly sewn together at home. Short on battle flags, the women around Lead Hill and Sugar Loaf, just south of the White River, held a late-night bee and produced a large version of the southern "Stars and Bars."
Their training was about as haphazard as their appearance and after writing to Arkansas governor to volunteer, they had a hard time getting assigned to active duty. Finally, on 13 October, 938 fighters from the Ozarks reached General Ben McCullochs encampment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and were officially designated as the 14th Regiment of the Arkansas Confederate Infantry. To distinguish them from a different, undersized 14th Regiment organized briefly by John S. Garver, the Ozarkers regiment was often referred to by the name of its successive commanders, Mitchell, Powers or Dodson. Their weaponry was strengthened with official issue from the state militia armory, including 305 muskets, 208 bayonets and 19 sabres.
The winter was harsh that year, and the men of the 14th were moved from their first base at Yellville, in Marion County, on to Huntsville at Christmas. then it
was out west to Pea Ridge, on the border with Missouri, in Benton County along the main road. While McCullochs troops were already set up and keeping dry in log huts, the newcomers were stuck in tents by a hollow where the Eagle River flows, three-and-a-half miles from Huntsville, on the old revival camp ground on Neal Doss land. By mid-February, the better part of Crooked Creeks Company G was wiped out by disease, hunger and cold.
From 6-8 March 1862, their camp ground turned into one of the decisive battlegrounds of the Western Campaign. With the defeat of the Southern troops, Missouri and Arkansas were in Union control for the rest of the war. The 14th Regiment withdrew to Mississippi by late April of 1862, and joined the successful siege of Corinth, and battles at Booneville (30 May-12 June) and Iuka (19 September).
On 31 October, Arkansas troops opened a duel with the Union general Ulysses S. Grant between Bolivar, Tennessee, and Coffeeville, Mississippi. From their last stand at Port Hudson, Louisiana, beginning 7 March 1863, the 14th Regiment began its four-month-long fight to the death. The strategic city and docks were the Souths last back door for much-needed supplies; but finally, on 9 July, it fell.
Back in the Ozarks, the diary of a Yankee foot soldier preserved a glimpse of how war was being waged against a civilian population. While marching from Carrolton, Arkansas, to Forsyth, Missouri, Private Benjamin F. McIntyre, of Iowas 19th Union Infantry, crossed paths with many Crooked Creek residents, and recorded the following:
14 January 1863, Wednesday - The hills around us seem to furnish many hiding places for those who at our approach deserted their homes fearing that they may receive from us a just desert for their crimes or from fear of injury from us or to act as Spies upon our action.
15 January 1863, Thursday - Many butternuts are coming in claiming protection and wishing to take the oath of allegiance.
20 January 1863, Tuesday - I learned that after our departure . . . seven rebels were shot by order of provost marshal [Major] Baldwin. I hope this may prove incorrect for it is establishing a precedent which must end in rapine & murder and is giving butternuts an excuse to put to death every Union man that should fall into their hands.
7 February 1863, Saturday - Forage teams are compelled to search 20 or 30 miles for fresh food. Major Baldwin, provost marshal, who caused the shooting of guerrillas [in Arkansas] has been ordered under arrest for exercising cruelty and undue authority.
6 March 1863, Friday - A couple of refugee families came into our camp today. . . The bushwhackers had overhauled them. They are certainly objects of charity. wet to the Skin, covered with mud and half frozen.
8 March 1863, Sunday - A large number of ladies has visited our camp todaySome to beg, some to barter socks, pies, etc. for Salt, Sugar & coffee, and some to see "Fed" soldiers, and some in wide hoops to show their pretty faces & display their graces.
17 March 1863, Tuesday - Several men and women living but Short distances from our camp, and who have been loud in their praises of the Union it is now ascertained beyond a doubt have been keeping up a regular communication between the rebels and our camp. I think there will be an account to settle ere long with some of them.
Back in 1863, Union troops under Major Moore (later promoted to general) swept through the Crooked Creek area, killing and burning everything in their path. Ohios 2nd Union Cavalry had noteworthy engagements along Crooked Creek beginning on 31 March, and Companies H & L of Arkansas 1st Union Cavalry recorded skirmishes across Carroll County and into Yellville from 3-8 April.
With almost all grown males hiding for their lives, off fighting or dead, women tried to defend their homes--and dignity--as best they could. One Taney County wife wrote after the war:
Many a time these raiders would dash up to my house, search under the beds and in every closet and place where I tried to hide bread and meat for myself and the little ones and then compel me with oaths and indecent language to prepare a lavish meal out of my very scanty food... I could never bring myself to look upon a Federal soldier with anything but disgust and hatred, as the cruelties of the Thirteenth Kansas, who were that blue, were villainous.
Some of the most ruthless "anti-guerrilla" hunting was conducted in early 1864 by Arkansas 1st and 2nd Union Cavalry, joined by Company C of Missouris 2nd
Union Cavalry. On 16 January, the four-week campaign began in Carroll County, with the bloodiest clashes taking place at Crooked Creek on 23 January and again on 5 February. The hills south of the White River heated up again on 25 March, and the town of Bellefonte was ravished from 28 March to 1 April. By the end of 1864, only two houses were left standing--the Holt and Terry homesteads--and every farm animal and bit of food not hidden had been destroyed.
The White River had become a life-and-death border, since the unwritten rule was that Yankees left civilians alone to the north of it, but anyone caught past its southern bank was an open target. Old men and young boys found there were often interrogated, tortured and hanged. The settlement around Stifflers Spring, as well as the surrounding towns of Yellville, Carrollton and Huntsville, were all torched. Thousands of civilians were killed throughout the Ozarks; most of the villages of Carroll County had become ghost towns. Even with the war all but over, Missouris 16th Union Cavalry sent Captain James H. Sallee and Company B to the area between Cedar Creek and Yocums Creek, north of the White River, in Taney County, Missouri. In their reports filed 22 February 1865, Sallees troops described trying to track down, arrest and shoot several small groups of rebels.
As the war wound down and Confederates saw themselves on the losing end, many started out for Texas or Mexico. Disillusioned with the lost cause of states rights, and never really part of the pro-slavery economy, some Ozark Rebels quit their units and defected. A 20-wagon caravan was organized by Union troops to evacuate the loyalist families through Taney County, just north of the White River, and on to Springfield, Missouri. Even though Federal troops had burned down Forsyth, Taney Countys seat, most of the surrounding farms--and food stocks--were intact.
Blacksmiths, especially those who had ever tinkered with gunsmithing, were hunted down by Union troops for execution. Calvin Gayler, a well-known gunsmith in Taney County, had to hide for the entire war from pursuing jayhawkers, bushwhackers and regular Federal troops in a cave on Branson Heights bluff. Most civilians had few weapons, and no ammunition left with which to hunt. To feed their families, hillfolk killed squirrels with slings, stones and bare hands. parched corn was used as a substitute for coffee, and salt was grubbed from the floors of burned-down smokehouses. Some who survived the war starved to death after it.
Among them could be counted the American descendants of old Swiss families: Baughmans, Boehms, Coffmans, Ebys, Esteps, Girtens, Grabeels, Moyers, Neffs, Snavelys and Stovers. Old German families from the Shenandoah Valley included the Glicks and Snapps. Some remained near Crooked Creek, to build the town of Harrison up from scratch, and a new county named Boone. For economic and emotional reasons, many simply gathered what was left of their families and moved west yet again, or at least far enough away for a fresh start.
To be continued.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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