Volume 4 , Number 9, Fall 1972


Return Home (after 2 years a prisoner in the Philippines)

by Lyman Paul Edwards


(Mr. Edwards answered the battle cry, "Remember the Maine", joined the Navy in 1898, and went to war with Spain. Here starts his story of his return to Missouri.)

I bought an outfit of civilian clothes and a ticket for home—now Mexico, Indiana, as my father, mother, and brother had moved back to their former home....Everyone I met in Mexico, Indiana, wanted me to tell them about the war in the Phillipines, and I wanted to forget it.

To get away from the questioning of old friends, I decided to go back to Missouri, where my parents had left their farm in the care of tenants by the name of Hyder. I took the train as far as Springfield and went to the Jones Wagon Yard where most of the people from the Fairgrove area left their wagons when they came to town. There, I found a farmer just ready to leave for Fairgrove and I got a ride. In Fairgrove I met one of the Hyder boys and rode double with him out to the farm.

My father had a fine bay mare which had given birth to a colt while I was gone. When they went back to Indiana, they left the colt for me with the Hyders. I was of course anxious to see the colt, then a little over two years old. As we approached the house I saw the fine bright bay horse with black mane and tail tied to the post out in front. The Hyders had taken good care of my horse and saddle; in fact they had kept the saddle in the house.

After visiting with the Hyders for a while, I saddled my colt and rode back to town. Fairgrove was, to me, the same as when I had left several years before. I went over to the old barber shop to get a hair cut...hair cuts were then 15c and shaves 10c. The shop was built of rough lumber and the walls were plastered over with several thicknesses of newspaper to close the cracks of the up and down siding. The equipment consisted of a pair of shears, comb, razor, and razor strop. The shop was heated by a small upright stove with a three-gallon can on top equipped with a small bibcock to draw water into the shaving cups. The proprietor was Willis McMinn. He had been a threshing machine engineer and always had to tell me the story of how quick he could line up the engine and separator and be ready to thresh after arriving at the site. He would not start the story until he had me in the chair with some lather on my face and he never finished the story until he had finished the job, no matter how long it took. I had heard it so often I could tell it to him.

I went to the Hine store and met Mrs. Hine and her sons, George, about my age, and Jake, two years younger. Mr. Hine had passed away while I was gone. They wanted me to spend the night with them, and during the conversations the next day, they talked me into joining them in the merchandise business, and buying out a competitor. It looked pretty good to me, so I accepted. I did not have any money, but I borrowed some and the deal was closed. We agreed on a wage or drawing account for the three of us. Also I was to pay Mrs. Hine $8.00 per month for room and board and keep for my horse.

Well, we made the deal, bought out our competitor and assembled the two stocks in a larger building. It didn’t change the stock but very little, if any; just made more of each item. In dry goods we had calico, gingham, blankets, bleached and unbleached muslin, blue jeans, and other heavy material in pants and jackets. A good many farmers bought material by the yard and the women made both men’s and women’s clothing from it. Very few had store-bought clothes or hand-me-downs. We had ladies high top button shoes and socks, too, mostly cotton; hats for both men and women—felt and straw for men and mostly hand-made bonnets for women. The best selling shoes for men were a brand called ‘‘Don’t Kick", and it took a real "he" man to break in a pair. They were hard as iron, almost, and by the time they were worn out they began to get comfortable. We paid $12.00 a dozen and sold them at $1.25 a pair. They came in bulk, no boxes. There were very few dress shoes for either men or women.

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In hardware we had grain binders, pitch forks, etc., plow points, and right hand walking plows, spike tooth steel frame harrows, and harrow teeth. Some of the farmers made their own frames out of wood. We also handled Banner buggies and spring wagons from Banner Buggy Company in St. Louis, and farm wagons made by the Springfield Wagon Company.

The grocery department was really pitiful compared with the present-day food market: Arbuckle and Lion coffee, green coffee in bulk, salt, sugar, rice, hominy, Bull Durham and Duke’s mixture smoking tobacco, and snuff. Papers came with each sack of tobacco and some of the more daring young blades made their own cigarettes. Cotton Boll Twist, which was one of the kinds "he" men used to smoke and they chewed both Star and Horseshoe plug tobacco, were all on the shelves, as were hog jowl and salt side meat, cheese, and crackers and some few canned goods, mostly sardines and salmon.

In the spring, and early summer when the hens were producing eggs at full volume, we paid 21/2c cash per dozen or gave 3c in trade. Most people took trade and we issued due bills for the balance. Eggs were so cheap that we couldn’t afford to buy crates for them, but hauled them to Springfield in the wagon box with lots of straw on the bottom and sides. Surprisingly enough, no more breakage occured than in crates, but they were much slower to load and unload.

We also made money on turkeys, so much that it brought us a buyer by way of the publicity to whom we sold out lock stock and barrel and then some. We contracted and had delivered to the store almost 2000 turkeys several days before Thanksgiving all in one day, before noon. The number of turkeys each farmer brought in varied from four or five to twenty to twenty-five. As they came in, the turkeys were weighed at the store and each party was issued a ticket of weight. Later on he was issued a due bill for the amount. Then we turned the turkeys out in a cow pasture back of the store, and hired boys to herd them. At noon the turkeys had all arrived, been weighed and started down the road towards Springfield following a wagon with a man in the rear of the wagon throwing out an occasional handful of corn. As the lead turkeys became satisfied, they naturally slowed down and other hungry ones in the rear took their places. We took them down the road to a pre-arranged grove of timber for them to roost in. We scattered more grain here and at sundown they flew up into the trees to roost. When we arrived at the Swift Company Plant the next afternoon, not a single turkey was lost and they had all gained weight! Before sundown they were all weighed and paid for at a nice profit.

During my merchandising experiences with the Hine brothers in Fairgrove I met and fell in love with and married Lela Lee Louise Bedell, daughter of Mahlon O. Bedell and Susan Jane Whitlock Bedell. Mr. Bedell was Greene County Tax Collector for several terms and was well-liked in Springfield. Lee was born there, but spent most of her early life on the family farm, Cedar Lawn Farm, about 8 miles north of Springfield. She started school at Hickory Barren and later attended a Methodist College at Morrisville, Missouri.

Lee (Lela) and I were married October 28, 1903 at the family home, with a ring ceremony and all the trimmings. All of my bride’s relatives and friends and neighbors were there as were my friends from Fairgrove. George Hine was best man and Mayme Klinger was bridesmaid.

While I was courting Lee I had strained my finances to buy a rubber-tired buggy to impress Lee and her family. After the wedding and a big dinner Lee and I got in this buggy and went to Springfield and put up at the Metropolitan Hotel on College Street, which at this time was THE HOTEL. As finances were not available for a longer trip, we spent our honeymoon there and then drove back to the farm. There we loaded our few belongings into a wagon owned by Lee’s brother, Charlie, and started for Fairgrove with a nice jersey cow that Lee’s father had given to her, tied behind. With Lee’s brother and sister Etta in the wagon and Lee and I in the buggy bringing up the rear, we proceeded to Fairgrove where I had rented a three-room house.

Shortly after we were married, George and Jake Hine and I left the merchandising business. The wide publicity from our successful turkey drive brought us a buyer for our business.

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As soon as the details of the sale were wound up, we began looking for something to do. George Hine, along with Henry Potter, one of the wealthiest farmers in the area, organized a bank in Fairgrove. The operation of the bank was successful from the start and attracted the attention of Mr. Thomas Watkins who owned a bank on Commercial Street in Springfield. He approached George with the idea of consolidation and George became cashier of the new bank in Springfield. George and his mother moved to Springfield.

Everything went on successfully for a number of years until George contracted tuberculosis and had to retire from the bank. He and his mother moved to Colorado hoping the climate there would help. They stayed in Denver for a while then went to Raton, New Mexico, a higher elevation, but he gradually grew worse and they returned to Springfield where he died, leaving his mother alone as Jake had married. George was devoted to his mother, as he should have been; she was a wonderful person. George was the kind of a man we should have a lot of and Mrs. Hine was the same. She was like a mother to me and took me in and treated me like her son. Her advice was invaluable during the rearing of our children—in times when no one had books to turn to, or competent doctors.

Jake Hine campaigned for Mur Milliken, who was running for Sheriff of Greene County, and after his election was appointed Office manager and later became cashier of the Exchange Bank of the corner of Boonville and the Square and from there to Cashier of the Holland Bank on the corner of St. Louis and the Square. He also operated a real estate business very extensively and was becoming quite well known in banking circles in Springfield. He was in Tulsa negotiating a loan with the Adker Temple when he was striken with spinal meningitis and was taken home where he soon died.

I accepted a position as traveling salesman for the Springfield Wholesale Grocery Company. In those days nearly all the merchants paid their invoices in cash. My predecessor had sometimes given receipts but the money did not reach the company so I inherited a terrible mess, and it was up to me to straighten it out. We could not afford to question the honesty of the merchants when they said they had paid the salesman, not only because it looked as if they had, but because their future business was worth much more than an amount in question.

My arrangement with the company was 40 percent of the gross profits and one-half of my expenses. When I began, the company’s reputation was not good and I was averaging only a little better than $200 a month. However, business improved as word got around that all the accounts were settled peacefully, and then greatly increased due to the building of the North Arkansas Railway from Joplin, Missouri to Cotter, Arkansas. The general contractors let numerous subcontracts up and down the line. I would leave town Monday morning with Jess, and the sturdy buggy loaded with pint bottles of beer and half pint bottles of whiskey— necessary if I wanted the business. Then I would move on to the next camp. After making the line, I would take the list to the general contractor for an O.K. then go back to Springfield. My take grew to $600 per month or better. This got to be too much for my company so they decided to pay me a straight salary of $300 and all of my expenses. I did not complain too much as that was good money for those times (around 1905).

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