Volume 8, Number 2, Winter 1983
"History and Folklore: The Case of the Delaware Nation and the Yocum Silver Dollar" was the subject discussed by Lynn Morrow of Walnut Shade, area historian and teacher at Galena High School.
Morrow, speaking to members and guests of the White River Valley Historical Society on Sunday, Dec. 12, contends that no silver lodes of practical value have ever been found in this region. He backed his opinions with a well-researched study.
Morrow traced the silver mine propaganda back to its source in the early eighteenth century, when "Louisiana" was a vast territory awaiting development by the French who laid claim to it. The roots of the legend appear to be in a hoax in which Spainish silver was passed off as being from mines in the eastern Ozarks.
This story contributed to the famous "Mississippi Bubble" stockshare fraud of 1717, and to the North American maps of that time on which cartographers located various mines of precious metals.
It was in search of rumored silver that Philippe Renault opened the first lead mines near Ste. Genevieve in the early 1720s. But as prospectors search in vain, the legends did not die; they appear to have been nourished even up to the present times, when the "Lost Silver Mine" of the Yocum Family continues to intrigue people.
In the early 1800s, Indian tribes were being allocated certain lands west of the Mississippi River by the federal government. Some of the James River lands were awarded to Delaware Indians.
About the same time they established themselves along this tributary of the White River, four brothers of the Yocum Family arrived in the area and established friendly relations with the Indians. They soon learned that the Delawares were recipients of a federal annuity of about $4,000 in silver species.
By the 1820s, some of the Yocums had found a way to obtain some of that silver. They made potent peach brandy to use as trading material.
Providing Indians with liquor was illegal, so, according to Mr. Morrow, the Yocums felt it wise to "launder" their profits by melting down the federal silver and recasting it as the famed "Yocum Dollar." Creating new coinage was not yet an illegal act.
To cover their activities, they claimed the silver came from a mine they had found; later the mine entrance was supposedly blocked by a cave-in, and therefore was difficult to find, Morrow said.
Morrow had an interesting theory tying the Yocum dollar to a centuries-old Bohemian coin, the "Joachims Thaler," produced at a place named for St. Joachim (pronounced Yo-a-kim). The name Yocum is a derivative of Joachim, in one of its many spellings.
Similarly, "dollar" comes from "Thaler," through the Dutch. Morrow assumes that European Yocums knew of the Joachim Thaler, and that it was an easy step to the Yocum Dollar.
The legend familiar in this area has the Yocums trading horses and blankets for a silver mine that the Delawares had discovered, and working to obtain their silver. (The Yocum family story, told by Artie Ayers, was tne subject of an earlier meeting of the WRVHS.)
"Ozarkers know that the Yocums produced a silver dollar, presumably from Silver Cave where it was mined," Morrow said. "But the silver did not come from the earth. It came from the Delaware Nation - in the form of federal specie.
Morrow concluded, "It seems historically fitting that located east of the historic Yocum settlement lies the sprawling Silver Dollar City, the real Ozark silver mine, with its one-half million annual visitors!"
Also brought to the societys attention, by representatives of the American Legion, was the question of saving the community building, part of which is the Legion Hall, which formerly housed the Branson city offices. It is reported that the city intends to raze the building to create a parking lot.
The right of the city to do so is questioned, as the structure was a WPA project of the 30s brought about through the action of a womens civic club and the American Legion post, with sponsorship by the city as a legal requirement, according to Paul Penner, spokesman for the Legion post. The societys help in saving the building is asked.
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