Volume 8, Number 2, Winter 1983
Following the great internecine conflict of 1861-1865, Americans were on the move. The boom in railroad construction and visions of new lands rich in resources attracted many to the Trans-Mississippi West. Southern uplanders gradually left Appalachia and others migrated down the Ohio River corridor.
My great-great-grandfather, David Hadley Pickett, came to Taney County from Alamance County, North Carolina, via Tennessee, in July, 1868. His original name had been Piggett, but when the family left North Carolina in a wagon drawn by a pair of mules he changed his name to Pickett.
He left North Carolina for two major reasons: he was unpopular with his relatives because he quit the Quaker Church, and he was unpopular with his wifes family because he refused to fight in the Civil War. The Confederate money he carried was worthless and he had little that was negotiable. Consequently, he stopped in Tennessee and worked in a sawmill for two years. When he had saved a little money, he started West again.
He had sixteen dollars when he arrived in Forsyth, Missouri. He bought a 160 acre Taney County homestead paying a $14 government fee. It was located on Hickory Ridge near Kirbyville. He then spent $1.85 for flour, pork, molasses and potatoes, and the remaining 15 cents for paper and stamps to write home to North Carolina.
Beginning his new life with a family of eight, including six children, he pitched a cloth tent for shelter until winter. Years later Pickett described his homesteading experiences to a journalist, who recorded it in an 1896 Frisco railroad promotional pamphlet:
The first thing was to build a cabin. Winter was coming on and the family could not live in a tent much longer. My boy and wife helped me. We felled the trees and made a small cabin. I hauled logs to the sawmill and obtained lumber for flooring. The doors were of split cedar clapboards. The roof was of oak clapboards. It had no windows, only an opening with shutters. The doors were hung with wooden hinges--a peg and auger-hole affair. The only hardware I had were nails, which I obtained by working for a neighbor.
But I could not work at the house continuously. I had no means and no resource but my own labor. I worked for the neighbors to obtain the necessities of life one day and on my cabin the next. I built my cabin, stone chimney--the first I ever made--in three weeks. The nails were the only material I did not obtain on my claim and fashion with my own labor. I did not spend a dollar on it.
The cabin complete, it must be furnished. I had brought with me all my bedding, clothing and cooking utensils. I had an axe, but no other tools; borrowed a saw, auger and chisel, and out of the lumber sawed from my own logs, fashioned a bedstead for myself, a trundle bed for the children, a table and benches. This was all the furniture I started with. For several years I made all my own furniture: cupboards and chests, in fact all we needed.
I was very, very poor. I had no farm tools, but by working and trading soon obtained all I needed. I traded my overcoat for a turning plow. I worked for a neighbor and obtained a bull-tongue plow and an axe; both were old, but useful.
I picked up all the stray mules shoes I could find and used them in shoeing my own team. Out of boot tops my neighbors had cast away were made by me shoes for the little children.
Luxuries were dear and the Picketts knew the value of a dollar and the worth of work. David Pickett understandably became very attached to his homestead and kept it the rest of his life.
David Pickett was too busy to hunt and fish; in fact, he never owned a gun. Much of his spare time he assumed the role of country preacher. Raised a Quaker, but leaving that tradition behind in North Carolina, he turned to one of the two most common faiths on the Ozarks frontier--Methodism. He preached at the Helfrey schoolhouse,
about 1 1/2 miles north of Taneyville, at the Cedar Springs schoolhouse, south of Hollister, and at St. James Church, about 1 1/2 miles east of Kirbyville and -1/2 mile southeast of his homestead. Picketts exemplary life reaped great dividends for himself and his children. In 1887 he owned 460 acres of good land--some was river bottom--and paid $72 a year taxes. I had sheep, hogs, cattle and horses. But in that year my children were grown old enough to marry and were leaving me. I divided my land and my stock with them. I have eight children living. They all live close enough to borrow meal. They have each a farm, a home and are doing well. When my birthday comes, they all gather in, numbering 47, big and little.
Due to a growth in his throat that prevented him from swallowing, David Hadley Pickett died in 1903.
In October of the same year that David Pickett arrived in Taney County, 1868, a pioneer from Ohio settled there too. My great-great-grandfather, John Hannibal McClary came from Chillicothe, Ohio. Accompanying him were his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Nathaniel and Ann Stinchcomb; and his brother-in-law, Alexander MacFarland, and his family. The three families made the trip in three covered wagons.
John Hannibal McClary was born in Piqua, Miami County, Ohio, November 13, 1832. During the 1850s he went to medical school, but decided not to practice medicine because he did not want to live a doctors life. He married Emma Catherine Stinchcomb on March 12, 1857, in Grandville, Indiana. He then ran a shoe and harness shop in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Like many people who came West, John McClary wanted to homestead. He stopped in Taney County because there was cheap land for him and his sons to develop.
Having the advantage of an eastern education helped make McClary into an Ozarks entrepreneur. He was another Yankee Unionist who came South and was an innovative, progressive on a new frontier.
Upon arrival, John McClary bought a $500 claim that was about three miles west of Kirbyville on the Springfield-Harrison road. He could have bought better farms for less money, but the claim was well situated for trading and a homestead.
The Springfield-Harrison road was one of the upper White River countrys main land routes for freighters between Missouri and Arkansas. John McClary was farsighted enough to realize that the freighters needed a place to stop and rest, eat, and feed their stock on the eight-day round trip from Harrison to Springfield. Like many Ozarkers have done, McClary taught school for a couple of years in order to establish himself in the community. Then about 1870, he built a camphouse and market on the Springfield-Harrison road. He sold camping spots, meat, vegetables, oats, and garden supplies to freighters.
John McClarys versatility aided his success. He traded well; used his medical knowledge to treat neighbors ailments; was a craftsman who made shoes and brooms; and held the trust of his fellow citizens evidenced by his elections during the 1880s as county surveyor and county judge. The latter accomplishment was even more impressive in Taney County as John McClary, the man, outweighed McClary, the Democrat. Around 1890, he bought land where the Holiday Hills Country Club is today and traded his old homestead for a sawmill in Cricket, Arkansas, and a pair of mules.
He, his wife, and their children, Calista (who died in childhood), Leora, Estella, Clarence, Ulysses, Eugene, Alonzo, Dora, Owen, Emma Ethel, Laura, John Milton, Mary Lillian, and Eva May (who died in infancy) built a home in Taney County. Most of the McClary children continued to participate in the westward migration settling in Oklahoma and Colorado. Although John McClary did not farm, his sons did and the McClarys lived off the crops and livestock they raised. The field crops they raised were corn, cotton, cane and sorghum (used in making molasses). The garden crops included beans,
potatoes, pumpkins, squash, cabbage, and turnips.
The preservation of food was of grave importance to agriculturalists like the McClarys. Since there were no refrigerators or freezers, meat was quickly eaten, smoked or salted. Dairy products were lowered into a spring or a shallow well to keep them cool. Fruit was dried in the sun. Pumpkins and squash were cut into strips and dried by hanging from the ceiling in an attic or shed. Turnips, potatoes, and apples were buried in a hole that was lined with straw and a layer of dirt. Cabbage was made into kraut (fermented cabbage) and stored in barrels. Food was cooked over a fireplace or an open fire.
The McClarys raised sheep for clothing and meat. Sheep were common in the Ozarks, due to their versatile utility. The McClarys also kept a few milk cows, two or three teams of horses or mules, bees, chickens, and hogs. Bees were kept to provide honey, which was used as a sweetner.
The clothing was homemade from wool or cotton. The wool was sheared, washed, and carded. Carding is a process in which the wool is combed and separated into fibers. The fibers were spun on a spinning wheel to make thread, and the threads were woven on a loom to make cloth. The cloth was then dyed by putting it in a kettle of boiling water and adding roots, walnuts, bark, etc. Then the cloth was sewn by hand into clothes. The process for making cloth from cotton was the same except the seeds were picked out by hand before carding.
Hogs provided the majority of meat eaten by most Ozark families. The hogs were earmarked for identification and ran free on "open range." Open range meant that everyones stock was allowed to run free and forage for themselves. In the fall there was a hog "round-up." At the "round-up" young hogs were earmarked and some hogs were butchered. John McClary raised some beef cattle, but dairy cattle provided the regular income. His work as a surveyor and duties as county judge also supported his family.
The McClarys enjoyed visiting their neighbors during leisure time. Travel by horses, wagons, and on foot gave extra time to think and converse. Kirbyville was often a point of destination as were church and church socials John Hanibal McClary, my great-grandfather, was born on January 25, 1879, in Taney County. He was the eleventh child of John and Emma McClary. At manhood John Milton married Rosetta Allis Pickett, one of David and Eliza Picketts children, on December 14, 1898. This marriage aligned my McClary and Pickett ancestry in the Ozarks. John and Rosetta eventually reared six children; Beva, Cecil, Nezzie, Violet, Exie, and Owen.
A severe regional drought in 1901 caused this family to try Oklahoma for a new home. After three years they returned to the Ozarks to care for the ailing Eliza Pickett. John and Rosettas family lived on the Pickett homestead until 1909.
In 1901 John became very ill from a bleeding ulcer; he was bedfast and not expected to live. Following a particularly severe night-long bout with the ulcer, he left the house the next morning to hitch his wagon for Oklahoma. He felt his latter days would best be spent traveling. The family toured Oklahoma but John did not die. He and his family returned to Taney County where Johns diet for three years was a raw egg mixed with hot water. The McClarys resumed living on the Pickett homestead until 1912 when they moved to an adjoining forty.
From c. 1900-1920 the McClarys generally prospered. During that period the national per capita wealth tripled, signaling a strong economy. It was no different in the Ozarks where there seemed to be work for everyone.
In 1920 John moved to the old Forsyth Mill, which was about mile upstream from the mouth of Swan Creek, and operated it until the 1927 flood. In 1927 he bought a farm on Swan Creek at Hulls Ford. Still later in 1950 he moved to Dickens, which was about one mile west of Taneyville. In 1961 he moved
into a trailer house in the yard of his son Cecil.
During this first half of the twentieth century John never had much money and in many ways lived a comparable lifestyle to his own father. He raised corn, wheat, cane, and was of the last generation to raise cotton. His large garden contained the same foods and were preserved in the same manner as the previous generation.
Stock remained crucial to the farm operation, but more clothing and shoes were bought already manufactured. Leisure time was still spent visiting neighbors, participating in church-sponsored events, and "going to town." The early twentieth century saw an end to steamboat traffic on the White River as Powersite dam was built. Branson became Taneys major town with the advent of the railroad and automobiles began to penetrate the rural countryside.
John Milton McClary was a Democrat like his father, but not as active. He too was a man of religious convictions, but did not belong to any particular denomination. He was however, deacon of the non-denominational Union Chapel, Taneyville. John died January 8, 1965, and Rosetta passed away December 1, 1966.
The last major character to be discussed in this writing is my primary informant for my family history, my grandfather, Cecil McClary.
Cecil Hadley McClary was born on November 16, 1900, on the Pickett place. As a child he had to accept more responsibility than most children. He had to perform tasks that his father would have done, but was unable to do because of his ill health. Often, Cecil and his mother would go to work in the fields when his father was sick.
Automobiles were rare during Cecils childhood. In 1912 a car passed the St. James schoolhouse, and school was dismissed so everyone could see the car. Cecil and Beva, who had seen a car during their trip through Oklahoma, were the only children who had.
Cecil married Monta Elizabeth Fisher on October 7, 1923. They have five children: Hazel, James, Ray, Rubie, and Betty. In the early years after their marriage, Cecil and his family moved every year or two around the area. In 1944 he settled on the old Railback place, which is 2 1/2 miles south of Kirbyville on Highway J. He lives there today.
During the early years of his marriage, he too raised a few cattle, horses, hogs, and chickens. But during 1935-39 he worked for the Works Progress Administration, a Roosevelt New Deal program. In 1935 and 1936 he began to build a cattle herd. The herd multiplied to some 250 head by the early 1970s. Since then he has cut the size of his herd.
During the 1940s Cecil had some 125 head of goats. They kept his farm free from brush and sprouts. Also at this time a revolution in food preservation occurred--pressure cookers, a new technology, ended traditional ways of preserving vegetables, fruit, and meat. Even the Depression era clothing made from coarse, cotton feed and flour sacks began to disappear in the wake of cheap, mass-produced factory clothing.
The 1940s and 1950s witnessed the demise of many economies and lifeways in the Ozarks. Like it or not, the Ozarks began to be ushered into the modern, international world. Automobiles became common in the Ozarks and replaced the horse and wagon as the most common mode of transportation. In 1945 the whole area received electricity. With electricity came modern conveniences such as refrigerators, freezers, radios, fans, electric lighting, television, etc. Because of the convenience of these modern appliances, many of the old ways faded into the past. Children today grow up not knowing what the world was like without TV.
Following the McClary tradition, Cecil is a strong Democrat. He was a committeeman of Scott township and began the petition that got the "open range issue on the voting ballot. Neighboring Oliver township had already abolished open range. Those in opposition ran their cattle in Scott township where many appeared on Cecils border property near
the Scott and Oliver township line. But open range like the house-raising was a custom that saw an end in Taney County.
My mother, Betty McClary Hall, was born on August 22, 1936. She married Frank Foster Hall on April 19, 1963, in Branson Missouri. Frank and Betty have two children. Andrew Foster was born on January 28, 1964, and Ronda Jean was born on November 7, 1965.
So ends my first inquiry into my family history. I do not reflect upon it without the image of my gruff-looking, work-hardened grandfather of eighty years in my mind. He has a good memory and still tells the stories of his youth.
Editors Note: Andrew Hull was, also, a 1982 Historical Essay Contest Entrant
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