Volume 7, Number 3, Spring 1980
"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praiseth her" Proverbs 31:28
Neva Richardson Davis was born in Stone County, Missouri, in 1901, the daughter of Arthur and Lena Richardson, the second of seven children. Her father worked in timber, which was about the only source of income available to poor people at that time. She spent her early childhood in the vicinity of Notch Post Office. For a time the family lived in Mutton Hollow in a three-room house; three rooms in a row with no opening between them. All had outside entrances, so, to go from the kitchen to the bedroom or living room it was necessary to go outside. Here Mr. Richardson made railroad ties with Ben Logan. Later they rented what is now known as "Old Matts Cabin" from J. K. Ross. They had a few chickens and pigs and a milk cow. At this time Neva was six or eight years old. They walked to Notch to get their mail and were well acquainted with "Uncle Ike" Morrill and his family.
Marvel Cave was just a big hole in the ground and the floor was reached by a series of pole ladders. The Richardson kids learned to go up and down those rickety ladders with the agility of squirrels!
When Neva was a bout eleven years old, Mr. Richardson, who never liked to stay in one place very long, conceived the idea of going to Florida to live and farm in that warmer climate. By this time the family had expanded to six children -- 3 boys and 3 girls. They started in the Spring of 1912 in two covered wagons - each built with an "overjet", a frame attached to the wagon bed, which added to the capacity of the wagon.
They started out with high hopes and it was just like a vacation for a time. They camped out, cooking on a camp fire, occasionally finding a country store where supplies could be bought. Trouble came when they left the Ozark Mountains and reached the swamps of Arkansas. Here they encountered flood waters, mud, deserted homes and completely lost roads. They had to abandon one wagon, leaving behind many things they needed, and put both teams on one wagon. Their greatest trouble was the lack of good water. Sometimes they had to use muddy water from roadside ditches for use in washing and cooking. Finally they found a good road built up on an embankment with water on each side. Tragedy was narrowly averted when the overloaded wagon overturned and the family watched all of their possessions go tumbling down the bank. The horses got away and had to be rounded up by some people in the neighborhood. Their possessions recovered as much as possible and the horses and wagon eventually back on the road, they continued their travels. They crossed the Mississippi River at Memphis on a small ferry just large enough to carry their wagon.
The journey took two months and, by the time they reached Mobile, Alabama, and crossed Mobile Bay on a little ferry, the Florida fever had subsided. Mr. Richardson was glad to find a job in that area. They lived in a house with a man who butchered animals and sold meat to the residents of Mobile. Here the Richardsons made a garden in that rich soil and enjoyed the warm climate. However, this life soon lost its charm and they longed for their old home in Missouri. They sold their wagon and team and bought railroad tickets to Reeds Spring. They reached there on Christmas Day, 1912 with all their possessions in two trunks and $16.00 in cash. There was a big snow on the ground and all had to walk three miles to stay with grandparents. They had no winter clothes, so the smaller children stayed in the house while Neva and her mother went into the woods and cut cordwood which they sold to Mr. McCormick to run his tomato canning factory. This money was used to buy warm clothing for the family.
At that time, just before World War I, there was no way to earn money in the Ozark Hills except by making railroad ties, cutting cordwood, or raising tomatoes for the many canning factories that had been built around the country. At one time Frank Mease of Reeds Spring owned six canning sheds and that furnished employment for women of the area.
On August 14, 1920, Neva Richardson and Clyde Davis were married by Dewey Short, who was then a Methodist Minister. They are the parents of five children; Loyd and Dale Davis of Marionville; Merle Mallonee and Marie Gamble of Crane; and Doris Cutbirth of Ginny-Waller", north of Reeds Spring. In 1942, Loyds son, Russell, nine months old was abandoned by his mother. With the consent of Loyd, Russell was legally adopted by Neva and Clyde, making a family of six children. Times were hard but the Davises were industrious and good managers, and they prospered. Again tragedy struck. Loyds son, Jerry, (by second marriage) was discovered to have hemophilia. The mother had
died of a hemorrhage during childbirth. Troubles never came singly to this family. While Neva was employed at the garment factory in Crane in 1952, she fell and broke a hip. Despite numerous operations the hip never healed and from that time on Neva has been crippled. On crutches she done all of her work; cared for her family, washed, ironed, cared for the afflicted Jerry, cooked, canned and kept an immaculate house.
Now, at her home in Crane and confined to a wheelchair since an unsuccessful operation on her "good hip, Neva is still the perfect hostess. She sees to the welfare of her family with patience, uncomplaining endurance, surrounded by a loving family.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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