Volume 2, Number 6, Winter 1966
(Editor's note: Mrs. R. L. Vickery, Salem, gave the following material in a talk to the Taneycomo Chapter, DAR. It shows what one woman, interested in the history of her area can do to preserve it. I consider her cook book, "Sugar and Spice," the best Ozark Cook Book that we sell at the Book Shop. JRM)
We do not have a D. A. R. in Salem at the present time, but when we did have an active chapter I participated in their activities through my mother, Mrs. Ben L. Ray, who was for many years their Regent. Our soldier ancestor was Nicholas Stillwell.
Jewell has asked me to speak on "Missourianna," and now in writing a weekly womans column, I also, discover the early history of our county.
Dent is a young county, scarcely over 100 years old, so its history is just beginning. In writing about our women, their hobbies and favorite recipes, we are compiling our own history for future generations. However, in my rambling down a country road one day I did find one Revolutionary soldier, John Welch, buried in Dent County, and I also found a marker of his son, John. Finding the grave did not make the owners of the old farm any too happy. John Welch is buried in the front yard along with his wife, a few children and a few slaves. The gravestones have been covered over and gone but not forgotten. The marker, which stood proudly in the churchyard about a mile farther on down the road, is broken and dumped in a culvert. The deacons of the church felt that the grave was not there and so, the marker did not belong in the church cemetery. But I found it and cleaned it, and photographed it. It reads: John Welch, Co 1, W Tenn. MTD Vols, War 1812.
This is not the only time I have had a rendezvous in a cemetery. The log cabin store and home that was the meeting place of the early settlers when they gathered together to form Dent County has long since rotted away. The little graveyard by the store has been covered, again because it was a depressing sight from the picture window in the new home. But this site, famous because of a large spring, was a stop on the old White River trace where the covered wagons and Indians swapped and traded for supplies. Through the years, with talking to old timers, have been able to mark the trail on a map, so that its history will be preserved. This took over a year to complete in my spare time.
And before the Meramec River succeeds in washing away all visible signs of the old home-place of Lewis Dent, I have visited and photographed this home, which is still standing, with its original beams, now plastered over, only the sandstone fireplaces remain the same. I have recorded their history down to the present day. For Lewis Dent is the man from whom Dent County got its name.
And, the controversy still goes on -- who lies in the unmarked grave. Some say he was killed by neighbors during the Civil War. Relatives say Marshall Dent died in another state and his grave unknown.
One rewarding find came about by an inquiry from a School of Mines professor at Rolla who was hunting the grave of Col. T. R. Freeman and the Battle of Salem and gave me several possible locations in Dent County. After many trips through briar patches and hunting tombstones from old timers who knew just where the grave was, I found through our paper from an Oklahoma subscriber and not only did I locate his past descendents but they sent a photo of him with a history, and after locating his grave in Neosho, I begged a friend to go take a picture of the stone. This brought many letters from historical societies in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Another exciting find came about in a most unusual way. My husband and I used to go to work about six oclock every morning and as we parked the car we usually met the street sweeper at the same time in front of our office. He was a kindly man and quite an old timer who liked to do a little talking along with his sweeping. Since we were so early and no one was yet on the streets we fell to having a morning chat with him. As we had had a few historical features in the paper, and he had read them, he dropped a little hint one morning that he might have a valuable Civil War diary . . . but it wasnt for sale, but he would let me read it. It turned out to be the diary of Wm. H. Lynch, a famous Missouri educator and scholar and one who was quite well known around Springfield. It contained his personal experiences day by day on their marches through the south. Our street cleaner let us run it word for word in the paper, and I not only discovered an interesting story, but turned up something that the family did not know about Mr. Lynch. Our grade school is named after him, and I persuaded his only daughter,
Florence Lynch, to pose on our grade school steps a few years ago when she visited here. She is now bedfast in St. Louis. Our street sweeper has died, and, if, anyone inherited the little diary they have kept it. I could not persuade them to give it to the historical society, and they felt they owned something of value. One of their relatives, a soldier, found it on one of their marches and sent it home to his folks. So you see, while writing about the living, I also write about the dead.
Mrs. Robert Vickery collects pictures and history of Dent County.
And, now to bring you up to the present time. About a year ago I had an inquiry about where was the old Battle Axe Post Office, from a California subscriber. I not only found where it was, I photographed it, and we ran this story only last week in the paper. The most interesting part of it all was how it got its name . . . from a large poster on the side of the store . . . Battle Axe tobacco.
I have been searching for at least 15 years trying to find a copy of Goodspeeds History of Dent County, 1889 . . . the only known recorded early history of our county, as all the records were destroyed when the court house burned. There are only about 5 of the books known to be left, all the rest have gone to relatives out of the state. This summer I found one, and a kind gentleman who consented to loan it to us to reprint, word for word in our paper. We plan to print the biographies in the back of the book when we finish. I have asked for old timers to come in as we go along and give us history. We have already had dozens of requests for interviews. I am expecting old photos too. We ran a notice we would run the history word for word, beginning January 1, in our paper, and we have had at least a hundred extra subscribers. We plan to make plates of the type as we go along and reprint the book when we finish, for scholars and libraries.
And, now, a little about the cookbook and the women.
When my husband Bob, and partner, Chas. Stacey, bought The Salem News, 16 years ago, and attended their first Missouri Press meeting, they
decided we should have a personal column for our paper, and then they decided that I was to have the job. Furthermore, they handed me a Graflex camera to take pictures. I had never done any writing nor taken any pictures. My friends were patient with me as I learned. Tolerant of my errors and encouraging when my spirits were low.
With the passing ten years, we had so many requests for back issues with the recipes, that someone suggested I put them out in book form. It took a year and a half to go back and retype the recipes for the printer. As I labored in my spare time I thought, why not have some pictures to portray the Ozark woman. It was a frightful job to pick out the few we used in the book. I loved them all.
And then, I wanted something really different for a cover, so I persuaded my son, who was a student in the School of Architecture in Washington University to design a cover. I got the idea from a friend who had a European cannister set.
Before we were through, everyone in the office had a hand in getting out the book. We used offset and letter press. We used a new ink. I had at one time over two tons of paper stored in my front room with only a path through the house. We had card tables in every corner with sections of the book, we couldnt sweep or dust or raise the windows while we assembled them. I had high school boys and girls help and we had jam sessions on the stereo, and peanut butter and lemonade sessions in between.
When the great day arrived, June 25, 1962, we ran a story and photographs of how a cook book was made.
The book is dedicated to all those wonderful women without whose help it would never have been possible.
In 1961 we purchased the second paper in Dent County. We now publish the News on Monday and The Post on Thursday. I write my "Sugar and Spice" column for Monday and Ive added a new column, "Yesteryears," which includes the happenings every ten years for 50 years back in The Post.
No need to tell you, I thoroughly enjoy my work in writing about the everyday women, and in reliving the past in "Yesteryears."
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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