Volume 5, Number 11 - Spring 1976
Long before the Rogers family took up residence in the Ozarks, French traders and adventurers had been there, traveling in their boats through the streams that wind around the hills of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri -- trading with the Indians, trapping and fishing. They called the region Aux Arcs, meaning "at the curves" or "bends." Pronounced ozark, the name was accepted by the settlers, who changed the spelling to the English version. Many geologists maintain that the Ozark Mountains, gently eroded and beautiful, were the first range in America to emerge from the sea. The town of Ozark in Christian County,
Missouri, lies on a plateau up the hill from the Finley River, a small stream that is not really a river. In fact, we often called it Finley Creek. Below the townsite, almost level with the river, is Bluff Spring, a fine water supply for the early settlers.
Jesse Green Rogers, born in 1791 and a native of Tennessee, was the first Rogers to settle in the vicinity of Ozark. There is no record of the first Watts, which was the maiden name of my fathers mother, but it is believed that both the Rogers and the Watts families went west with the Cherokee Indians in 1838-39 at the time of the forced removal of the Cherokees to Oklahoma from their native
homelands in southeastern United States, a sorrowful journey often referred to as "the trail where they cried," or "the trail of tears." One of the routes passed through Springfield, Missouri, a few miles from what became the Rogers "Home Place." Our Grandmother Rogers (Juritta Watts Rogers) was a quarter-breed Cherokee, and both Rogers and Watts are prominent names in the tribal rolls.
Father, born in 1853, grew up as a farm boy on a spread of some 300 acres about eight miles from Ozark, part of it still woodland during my boyhood. It was a good farm, this Home Place, and it is still owned by a branch of the Rogers family. The house was built before the Civil War and resembled in a modest way the much larger mansions found on southern plantations of the period. A whitepainted wooden structure, it was characterized by the tall chimneys of two massive fireplaces, one at each end.
Father used to tell his sons that his own father literally stole our grandmother to be his bride, carrying her away from her home on horseback, pursued by two of her brothers who attempted unsuccessfully to rescue her. The romantic bridegroom, Robert Doak Rogers, who was to become our grandfather, was both a farmer and a country doctor. During the Civil War Grandfather Rogers sympathized with the Union cause, but he was never molested or even threatened by the local Confederate vigilantes, the "bushwhackers," because they desperately needed the services of a doctor. Both North and South valued a physicians skills.
Grandfather Rogers offspring numbered six, one of whom died in infancy. The five who reached adulthood were "Uncle Doc" (Isaac Newton, b. 1849), Aunt Lizzie (Nancy Elizabeth, b. 1851), Father (John Clark, b. 1853), Aunt Mollie (Mary Jane, b. 1855), and Aunt Mandy (Amanda Malvina, b. 1857). The three daughters eventually married successful farmers and lived within a few miles of the Home Place. As children we Rogers boys of Ozark often visited our aunts. Jesse Green Rogers lived on the Home Place with his sons family until he died in 1872. Father used to tell of being with his grandfather as a boy during the Civil War when the battle of Wilsons Creek was raging a few miles away. He had to chase the geese away so that the patriarch, a veteran of the War of 1812, could hear the cannonading better. It was a sound which pleased the old veteran mightily.
Father and his brother Isaac Newton were sent to St. Louis to study medicine. Uncle Doc got
his M.D. but Father was unable to stomach the cadavers and switched to a business college, such as it was in those days. Uncle Doc started his practice in a village which became known as Rogersville. The story is that he sold some land he owned in the vicinity to the Springfield and Southern Railroad for a station upon condition that it would be named for him. He was a successful doctor, later practicing in Springfield, about 18 miles from Ozark.
Grandfather Rogers died in his 40s of "inflammation of the bowels." It was probably acute appendicitis, but surgery for this afflicion had not yet been developed. His death took place while the two sons were studying in St. Louis, so the management of the farm fell to Grandmother Rogers. When Father returned to the Home Place there was no money for him to finance his plans. He wanted to be elected to a county office; Ozark is the seat of Christian County. So he rented a quarter section of land and put in a corn crop, cultivating it barefoot. With the earnings from the crop he campaigned for the office of county clerk, still going barefoot, and won the election handily. That was Fathers start in life. He met and married Mother while he held the office.
Mother was christened "Ivie Elvina," a name which she disliked. Father usually called her "Dear," but occasionally addressed her very formally as "Mrs. Rogers." Similarly, she would sometimes address him as "Mr. Rogers." She was a foreigner to the Ozarks, her family having migrated there from Pennsylvania. Her American origins went back to New England colonists. She belonged to the seventh generation of a family of Quaker settlers named Southwick who had been unwelcome in the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of their religion. It is believed that the first of the Southwicks to make the voyage from England to the New World did so on the Mayflower, although not on the small vessels first trip. The family settled in Salem, Massachusetts in 1634. Its head, Lawrence Southwick, is reported to have been the first man in the colonies to manufacture glass and earthenware. Later the Southwicks found refuge in Rhode Island and one branch of the family migrated from there to Pennsylvania.
One of Mothers ancestors on the maternal side surely deserves mention. His name was Henry Francisco, a French Huguenot who was Mothers great-great-great grandfather, well remembered by her own grandmother. A fantastic fellow was Henry Francisco -- he reportedly lived to the age
of 134, his life touching three centuries! Mother possessed a long and interesting document consisting of a newspapermans account of a visit with him in Whitehall, New York in 1819, the year before he died. She had also saved a sketch about him which appeared in Ripleys "Believe It or Not" in the Tulsa World of February 28, 1939, under the title of "The Oldest Volunteer." The Ripley account follows:
The oldest man ever to enlist in the American Army was Henry Francisco, born in France in 1686. When he enlisted as a private in Captain Burroughs Company, Colonel Warners regiment, of the Continental Army, on January 15, 1777, the old soldier was aged 91. He was discharged April 20, 1778, and survived for another 42 years, dying on October 25, 1820, in Whitehall, New York at the age of 134. He had been present at the Coronation of Queen Anne of England. Twice married, he was the father of 21 children. His last child was born when he was 82.
Having a direct ancestor who is supposed to have lived six score and fourteen, it seems to me that I have a chance of making it to five score at least. I have a good start.
How Mother got to the Ozarks is a story of her familys wandering from Pennsylvania, where she was born in 1861, to Michigan and thence to Missouri. Her father, Grandfather Southwick (b. 1831), had the wonderfully biblical name of Hosea. He was the son of another Hosea, who was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of Daniel. . . . When Grandpa was a young fellow in Pennsylvania he hauled oil for an upstart from Pittsburgh named Rockefeller. But he saw no future in oil and turned to farming. Times were hard when the family moved west in 1868. Money was a scarce commodity; they were often hungry and some died of tuberculosis. Grandmother Harriet Winston Southwick was one of these.
Grandpa Southwicks fortunes improved somewhat after he settled in the Ozarks. In the late 1870s he courted and married a childless widow named Jerusha Jones, a woman with a little substance; her first husband had been a doctor. They moved to a farm not far from Ozark -- 120 acres situated at the point where the level plateau begins to break into rounded limestone hills. The land was neither rich nor poor, just mediocre. This was the third or fourth farm that Grandpa Southwick had tried to work and it is the one I remember.
Hosea Southwick lives in my memory as a sort of modern replica of the ancient Hebrew prophet for whom he was named. He even looked like my idea of a prophet, with gentle face and snowy hair and beard. He was a livestock farmer in a small way, raising cattle and hogs. But the margin of profit on everything was so small that he could never make more than a modest living for our step-grandmother and himself. The fact that he didnt make much money did not seem to bother him. He had a genuine enjoyment of livestock farming and seemed to do it for fun as much as anything else. A man of some culture, he always had time for the Bible and Shakespeare, his favorite reading. If he lived today he would be classed as liberal in religion and politics. Like the Quakers who were his forebears, he opposed war and was against capital punishment and violence of any kind. He pitied wrongdoers. I think of him as living by a certain verse of Ecclesiastes, his favorite book of the Bible:
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
When Mother was 20 years old she took a teaching job in the Ozark public school. One of her pupils, William Neville Collier, paid a fine tribute to her in a booklet entitled Ozark and Vicinity in the 19th Century, which he wrote in 1946:
In the year 1881 the primary grades of the school were taken over by a teacher of more than ordinary ability; a young lady lately come to Ozark and whose coming was one of those rare streaks of good fortune that sometimes honor an unworthy community. Miss Ivie E. Southwick brought to her pupils the singular combination of an earnest Christian and a good teacher. Her patience, tact, understanding, and unfailing sympathy and friendliness for the youngsters in her charge have been but partly repaid by the love and respect these former pupils have held for her. .
Mother kept a personal journal from 1882 to 1885. She had met Father in 1879. At that time he was among the most sought-after bachelors in Christian County. he was eight years her senior. Below is one of the early entries in her journal relating to Father, whom she called "Johnnie" at that time.
For some unaccountable reason Johnnie fancied me and was not slow in telling me about it. That summer (1879) was brimful of happiness. A year passed. Johnnie still came to see me and I learned to love him.
How dearly he loved me, and how much he hoped to make me his wife. He placed a ring on my finger, saying, "This is a token of my sincerity."
Because Johnnie feared that Ivie might have "consumption" he put off marriage, but she had no doubt of his devotion. It took him more than three years to get the knot tied. The wedding finally took place on December 21, 1882. in Joplin, where Mother was visiting relatives. Ten days after the wedding she wrote in her journal: "I find my husband is even better than I expected, and his love is dearer to me each day." A year later she confided, "I am still very happy and find my husband growing dearer to me all the while. Never was a man more kind to a wife." It was a good marriage.
The five sons born to Mother and Father came one to three years apart. The first was Herbert Newton, born in 1883. So far as is known, his first name was simply one that Mother happened to like. His middle name, Newton, was also Uncle Docs middle name. Seven months after his birth Mother wrote in her journal: "A sweeter child surely never was." When he was just a toddler Herbert frequently visited Grandpa Southwick, whom he called "Podges," and the two became great friends. After Herbert had learned to speak quite well, Grandpa wanted to know why he continued to call him "Podges." "Cant you say Grandpa? He asked. Replied little Herbie: "No, I cant say that, but I can say Jackass "I Overlooking the childish impertinence, Grandpa relished telling the story to relatives and friends.
Next to arrive in the family was Robert Emmet, born in 1886. The name, of course, was that of the Anglo-Irish Protestant who died a martyr to the cause of Irish Catholic freedom. Since Mother had a prejudice against Catholics it seems odd that she used the name for one of her sons. I do not recall that anyone ever questioned her about it. In any case, her second-born was always known as Emmet.
John Byron Rogers came along in 1887, named for Father and for Lord Byron, Mothers favorite poet. Family and friends always called him by his second name, usually shortened to "By."
Two years later, in 1889, the fourth son was born. He was called James Winston, the latter
being a family name on Mothers side. "James" was one of her favorite names, but we usually called this son Jamie. To the rest of us he was Jim or Jay.
Charles Elkins, youngest of the boys, was born in 1892. As Mother told it, I was actually christened "Charley" because she liked the sound of it. While I have always been called Charley, or Chuck, I formalized the first name to Charles for the record when I entered higher education, deeming it more seemly than "Charley." The middle name, Elkins, was that of a family friend, a doctor who was said to have saved my life in infancy when I had pneumonia.
Ruth Elinor, the youngest member of the clan, was adopted. She was the daughter of a family named Park who resided in a house located across an alley from our property. Mrs. Park was a distant relative of Father. After she gave birth to a girl in 1903, she asked Mother to name the child and Mother suggested "Dolly Varden," having in mind the character in Charles Dickens Barnaby Rudge. Mrs. Park agreed to so name the baby. A few weeks later the mother died and the infant was adopted by Father and Mother. Oddly enough, Mother had the baby christened Ruth Elinor rather than the name she herself had originally suggested to the natural mother. But curiously, most of Ruth Elinors Ozark friends called her Dolly all her life.
Of the five sons, three had died by late 1975 when these lines were written. Ruth Elinor, too, had passed on. The two sons still alive were Herbert, the eldest, and myself, the youngest. It is ironic that during our childhood and adolescence we two were regarded as "delicate" and were not expected to survive to manhood. It may be that because of this our health received a certain amount of special attention, and that in turn may be why, as this is being set down, the two who were considered poor health risks in their youth are still going strong -- Herbert at 92 and Charley at 83, great grandfathers both.
For a short time after their marriage father and Mother boarded. But not for long. Soon Father bought most of a block just east of the town square and built a small house on the site, later to be known to us as the "little red house." It was destined to shelter the family until a new and much larger dwelling was built on the lot around the turn of the century. The little house had a small sitting room, a large dining room, a kitchen "out back" and a single bedroom. How all of us found places to sleep in that house is almost impossible
to imagine. The huge lot accompanied a large vegetable garden, a barn, and a barnyard. The barn housed horses, a cow or two, and pigs. There was also a chicken house and plenty of chickens. It was a miniature farm in town.
When Father married mother he was still county clerk, working in the courthouse. For a while Mother continued to teach. She also assisted Father in his office and had a "hired girl" to help her look after the house. One day Captain Taylor, a well-to-do Christian County farmer, came to Father and offered to provide the capital to start the first bank in the county if he would go into it and accept the Captains son John as his business partner. Father agreed and thus was the Christian County Bank founded, Father and John Taylor becoming business partners and lifelong friends.
Ozark, in my boyhood, had a sign at its northern limits which read "Population 830." It was a village, really. In the middle of the town was the Public Square. The old county court house, built of brick (and long gone) stood in its center. Nearby was the county jail, also brick. It was here that the Bald Knobbers, a southwest Missouri vigilante band, were held after their trial for murder in 1889, pending the hanging of three of the group in the jail yard. Father had been a member of the committee assigned to witness the execution. He was acquainted with all of the doomed men, and when one of them had to be hanged twice owing to the awkwardness of the sheriff in arranging the rope Father fainted and was carried out of the jail yard. It was an experience that must have haunted him all his life.
Around the Square were hitching racks for farmers who drove to town to attend court or to shop at one of the mercantile establishments. Most of the stores on the Square catered to the farm trade. The bank -- perhaps the only bank that has ever had "Christian" as part of its name --faced the jail on the southwest side, occupying the best commercial buildng in town. The Square was the hub of community life. Here was conducted all the business of the town and county, and the open space surrounding the courthouse and jail was the scene of a variety of activities. These included band concerts, medicine shows, small carnivals, church-sponsored ice cream festivals, and various patriotic observances. Preeminent among the latter was the Fourth of July celebration, which was focused on the Square but not necessarily confined to it. The day was marked by family and group picnics, a parade, stirring speeches, and even fireworks. People took their patriotism seriously in that far off time, when many a Civil War veteran was still around to don what was left of his old uniform and stand proudly with his comrades beneath the flag.
As time went on our home surroundings had many attractions. The "new house," built about 1900, had ample space for all of us. It had two main storys as well as a basement and an attic, and there was a veranda along the front and one side. On the first floor was a kitchen, dining room, parlor (used only on ceremonial occasions) and a sort of living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Upstairs were four bedrooms and a "modern" bathroom --the toilet flushed by pulling a chain attached to a water tank on top. For me the attic was the most interesting part of the house, a storeroom of cherished family artifacts. In one corner of it a workshop of sorts was installed where we boys could "make things." There too eventually was my small hand printing press.
The yard around the residence was expansive. It was here that Mothers former pupils celebrated her birthday every year, bringing a picnic dinner. (In later years some also brought their families, even grandchildren - a nice tribute to Mother as a much loved teacher.) When Father bought the lot he had gone up the Finley River and gathered several maple saplings which he planted in the area where he built his house. They grew as the family grew and were handsome trees indeed. There was a fence a round the property and when we were small we were not allowed to go beyond it without permission. One of my nicest memories relating to the yard concerns a fine tent that our parents bought for us. Here we could play "Indians" and sometimes "camp out."
An early memory is a party given in the yard to celebrate my fifth birthday. Invitations were sent to all the kids my age in Ozark and most of them must have showed up; the place was filled with rambunctious youngsters. Mother served lemonade, among other things, and when the party was over I cried on her shoulder because my lemonade had been served in a cracked glass. The party was for my birthday and look how I was treated! Actually, I think I was quite spoiled as a child, being the youngest and Mothers special darling. Of course, as the youngest son I was also subject to being "picked on" by my older brothers. And my status as the most junior member of the family (until the adoption of Ruth Elinor) at no time
exempted me from chores as I grew old enough to do them. Hunting eggs for Mother was an early one; she paid me a penny an egg, as I recall (there was no such thing as a regular allowance for any of us). Later I had to take my turn milking, feeding the animals, mowing the grass, etc. During one seemingly endless period I was the one who was expected to roll out early each morning to build fires in our two fireplaces.
We had several horses, some for riding, some for driving the family buggy. Father, a heavy-set, imposing man, presented the air of a Napoleon astride our old mare Queen, a registered animal who produced fine colts. One of these was Teddy, named for Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was often ridden bareback by Jim and me and he sometimes threw us out when an imaginary roadside hazard made him skittish. But Kate was the horse most loved by all. For some reason Mother always called her Ribbon. A mare who knew all the gaits and therefore made a good saddle horse, she also could be used in driving the buggy, which proud Queen disdained. Kate transported us countless miles along the country roads that wind among the scenic hills surrounding Ozark.
When I was a small boy Mother was frequently heard to say that she would prefer to live in the country rather than in a small town like Ozark. Her chance came when Grandmother Rogers died. Grandmother had left the Home Place to Father and Uncle Doc, ignoring her daughters, and Father got permission from his brother for our family to occupy the property temporarily. So we moved out to the farm.
The nearest store was at Pembina, at the terminus of Parch Corn Hollow about a mile from the Home Place. The one-room country school was perhaps two miles away, a distance which we walked every school day, carrying our lunch in a basket. A traveling photographer took a picture of all the pupils one fall day. All five Rogers boys were in it -- I, the smallest, in the front row. It was a time exposure, and just before the photographer opened the lens he cautioned the group and their teacher to remain absolutely quiet until he gave the signal to relax. I took him seriously, not daring to move a muscle even a fly had settled on my nose. So this picture, which still in my possession, shows little Charley with a fly on the end of his nose. Under a magnifying glass it appears very clearly.
One of Grandmother Rogers brothers, a widower and Civil War pensioner known as Uncle Stoke, had lived with her until her death. He was still at the Home Place when Mother and her brood moved in. Uncle Stoke was a rugged individualist who did pretty much as he pleased. Tobacco chewing was one of his strong habits, and he would rid himself of the tobacco juice whenever and wherever he felt the urge to do so. He seemed to favor the stairway. One day Mother asked him politely if he would use a spitoon if she provided one. Uncle Stoke took offense at the suggestion and moved away, probably to his daughters home south of Ozark.
All Uncle Stoke had was his small pension and a pony. Since the pension was little more than enough to support his pony and his tobacco habit, he lived off his relatives after the death of Grandmother Rogers. Every now and then over the years he would show up at our home in Ozark, and once he told the family that he had just come from the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, where he asserted he had killed a "wagonload" of squirrels in one hunting expedition. Brother By asked a logical question: "A little wagon, Uncle Stoke"? Uncle Stoke was almost illiterate, but he had a lively imagination and the Rogers boys enjoyed his tall tales, few of which were based on fact.
During our stay in the country Father had to remain in town on week days to look after business. So he boarded and roomed with one Mrs. Wrightsman who operated a hotel on the Square, but on weekends he rode old Queen out to the Home Place to be with the family. After a couple of years, perhaps less, Mother had had enough of the country and we moved back to town. I dont think she ever again expressed a yearning for farm life.
Nevertheless, we boys, and Mother too, often visited in the country, piling in on Grandpa and Grandma Southwick for a weekend or a few days during vacation time. Wed hitch Kate or one of the other horses to the family buggy and scramble inside, sitting, kneeling, or hanging onto some part of it, and off wed go down the rutted, dusty road to the Southwick farm. In my eagerness it seemed forever before the persimmon tree in Grandfathers yard came into view. There were many other trees around the house, but the persimmon was the one we saw first and it meant we had arrived.
Rowdy, a friendly little house dog, would announce our arrival with sharp barks, and a peacock roaming the yard or perched on the ridge pole of the barn would screech an alarm and spread its beautiful fan while two frightened guinea hens flew over our heads into the nearby woods. And there were Grandpa and Grandma hurrying out to
meet us. They always seemed to be ready for us and yet always a little surprised to see us. If it was fall or winter we would find a big fire burning in the fireplace. The house, built or logs, consisted of two large rooms, an all-purpose room on the first floor and a huge loft above. At night I would lie with my brothers in the loft, almost completely surrounded by a feather tick, and take inventory of the next days possibilities.
They were many. For one thing, the garden was a delight. Grandma, with no small talent, used to practice the art of topiary for the enjoyment of her step-grandsons, trimming the small evergreens around the house to resemble animals -- fat hens, funny potbellied bears and others. There were lovely flowers in season too. And in the vegetable garden were peanuts which we could dig and have Grandma roast for us. Birds and small animals thrived on the tree fare of the yard and on spillover from Grandpas cribs and granary and were almost as tame as the chickens and livestock that were an orthodox part of the farming operation. Feeding the squirrels and chipmunks was great fun.
There was a spring, too, where great quantities of watercress grew. On a warm day in summer it was pleasant to lie on the cool grass near the spring and look up and up through tree branches to the limitless sky. It was just as nice on a snappy day in autumn to cover yourself with oak leaves, close your eyes, and let the tinkly music of the spring brook carry you off to far places. A visit to the Southwick farm was itself a trip to another land for a small boy. Certain I am that no journeys of later years were more pleasurable than the trips to Grandpa Southwicks farm.
A vivid recollection of my childhood is that of Ailsey Kelly coming to our home each week to do the family washing. In good weather it was done in tubs in the yard under one of the maple trees. Ailsey was a cheerful weekly presence at our house for all the years I was at home and for long after. She was one of a small colony of blacks in Ozark, many of whom had been born slaves. She never married but was the mother of four children, a boy and three girls, all of whom accompanied her on her visits when we were children. One was a boy my age called By, named for my brother Byron. He and I were pals. On washday we would often swap jobs -- I would scrub clothes on a washboard while he did one of my chores. . I can remember Mother making a point of waiting to eat dinner (which we always had at noon) with Ailsey and her children after the rest of our family were finished their meal.
She thus anticipated integration by scores of years. With Mother this was a natural thing to do since she regarded Ailsey as very much her equal.
As of 1975 Ailseys son, By Kelly, still lived in Ozark. Highly respected, he had long been retired on a pension from the local flour mill where he had held a responsible position. Ailseys eldest daughter persevered in acquiring education and eventually taught school in Springfield. The middle daughter died in adolescence and the youngest worked for an Ozark family until she married. Our Ruth Elinor was a close friend of the latter, and they carried on an extensive correspondence after Ruth left Ozark.
Among the joys of growing up was the ever-present river, with fine picnic spots along its banks and swimming holes where we boys often swam naked. All of us learned to swim in the stream. Jim learned fast when Father tied a rope around his chest when he was very young and threw him into a deep place in the river. He managed to swim out under his own power, a natural athlete even then. Most of the lads my age swam before I did; I was a little afraid of the water. Finally I became so ashamed that one day I plunged recklessly into the river at a spot where there were rapids, and to my surprise found that I could stay afloat. It was easy after that. Father taught many of the neighborhood boys to swim. He enjoyed the water and liked to show off in it. One of his acts was to swim with a lighted cigar in his mouth.
A picturesque covered wagon-bridge was still in use on the river when we were children, spanning the Finley near the water-powered mill. Father, who was a great storyteller, used to describe a suicide that had taken place on the bridge years before. One night a man named Sheets had hanged himself from one of the beams that supported the roof. We could all imagine the trauma experienced by the person who first encountered the hanging figure in the dark. Fathers account of the incident was so vivid it seemed to us boys that the ghost of Sheets must surely haunt the bridge every night, and even sometimes in the daylight. As a result we preferred to cross the stream over the railroad bridge a few hundred feet below the covered one.
Another spook had inhabited a space much nearer home, just across the yard from our house. The locale was an ancient frame structure on the corner of the lot, the upper story reached by an enclosed stairway. Beneath the stairs, according to Father, a dissection had once been performed by local doctors on a corpse dug up from the town
graveyard. The door to this space faced our bedrooms, and for some time after hearing the tale we imagined we saw the ghost of the dissected corpse in the dark of the night when we looked out the window. A local lodge frequently held its meetings upstairs in the building and their mysteriously flashing ritual lights added considerably to the eerie atmosphere.
Natural caves are to be found in large numbers throughout the Ozarks. Near the town of Ozark are two sizable ones -- Smallin Cave and Garrison Cave. Smallin is some three or four miles distant from the town, and in my boyhood could be reached only by horseback or horse and buggy. It has an enormous mouth but dwindles rapidly in size as it is penetrated. Some Ozark youths of my day managed to make their way through it, crawling along its farther reaches to a narrow exit giving access to a field. This is an activity that I somehow missed. Garrison Cave is above the mouth of a small tributory of the Finley, known locally as the "Branch." It was comparatively easy to get through Garrison Cave. The entrance is located half way up a hill, and in my childhood there was ample evidence that Indians had sometime camped there. In the fields above we could always find perfect arrowheads and flints after spring plowing. Garrison Cave was within walking distance of home.
The shores of the Branch formed a kind of natural park, and in the spring, summer and early autumn young couples from the town strolled along the banks, picking wild flowers and holding hands. Ozark boys waded in its waters to catch crawfish. The tails of the crawfish being edible, we sometimes persuaded Mother to fry them for us. More important, the tails made excellent bait for catching perch and catfish in the Finley.
Father acquired possession of the source of the Branch, which flowed from a good-sized spring beneath Garrison Cave. It was his intention to devise Ozarks first system for piping water into its homes and places of business, and this he did. First he had to install a hydraulic ram which sent the spring water to the top of the hill above the cave. It then flowed through force of gravity to a reservoir that had been dug at a lower elevation overlooking the town, and from there it was piped. Thus Father became the founder of Ozarks first public water supply. As the need for water increased he installed a steam engine to pump the water to the top of the hill. Herbert, his eldest, was appointed to tend the engine. Father later sold his waterworks to the town.
During my childhood Mother took me on occasional train trips, mostly to nearby Springfield, but sometimes farther afield to visit relatives or friends. I can remember that on one such trip, when I was slightly over the half-fare age, she asked me to hide my rather large-sized feet under the seat so that the train conductor would not guess that I no longer qualified for the reduced childrens rate. She was really the soul of honesty, but in those years it was not considered sinful to cheat the railroads just a little.
In 1904 Mother and I went to St. Louis to see the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, often described as the most artistic and beautiful of all our worlds fairs. To a 12-year old lad it was indeed an unparalleled delight. Besides the breath-taking splendor of the buildings, fountains and gardens, especially when lighted at night, there was the wonder of the many exhibits and special features of all kinds. The one that apparently impressed me most, since it is still lodged in my memory more than 70 years later, was the spectacle of a hero of the Boer War daily reenacting his daring escape from the enemy by plunging on horseback into a deep pool. While in St. Louis we were guests of former Ozark Neighbors, the Grays, who had moved there to open a drugstore (they later moved back to Ozark). One of the sons, Neil, somewhat older than I, was my guide at the Exposition. He knew all the best things to see.
A fine outing that took place in several summers of my adolescence was a camping expedition lasting about two weeks. Both boys and girls participated, properly chaperoned of course. The camp site was at the junction of the Finley and James rivers, some 30 miles from Ozark, and the means of getting there was a large farm wagon. Some time before the start of the expedition the wagon would be drawn up in the Rogers yard for the loading of supplies. Attached to its rear was a two-wheeled trailer which held two tents and a fine canoe that Emmet had sent to his younger brothers as a gift. An aunt of one of the boys went along as chaperone. The girls and the chaperone occupied one tent, the boys the other. And what a fine time we had, roaming the woods, swimming and fishing in the river, telling stories and singing around the campfire at night.
Passing through the vilage of Nixa, eight miles from Ozark, on our way to the camp site we would sometimes stop for certain supplies, and one summer the stop at Nixa led to an investigation by the county grand jury. One of the campers -- myself --
was summoned unexpectedly to appear at a hearing and was questioned regarding an incident relating to the Nixa stopover. A young teenager at the time, I was badly frightened on receiving the summons, not knowing what it portended. At the hearing I was asked, first, whether the campers had stopped in the village. On answering in the affirmative I was asked whether I had gone into a store there and carried out a bottle filled with liquid. I had to reply that this was so. The next question was "What did the bottle contain"? When I said that it contained coal oil I was dismissed, much to my relief. It seems that a Nixa resident who observed my visit to the store was convinced that I had obtained a bottle of liquor there -- a violation of the law in that locality -- and had reported it to the county attorney.
Although no Indians inhabited the region in our time, Father still had enough of the frontier spirit to surround himself with firearms of almost every description. Naturally, accidents involving the guns were not uncommon. Once when Jim was fooling with a shotgun in the kitchen it went off accidentally and tore a great hole through the screen door. By good luck it hit no one, although he was not alone in the kitchen at the time. On another occasion he fell into a deep ditch while hunting, and the gun he was carrying went off as he slid down. I was following him and the shot just missed me.
In the Rogers yard was a well which supplied fresh water for the neighborhood as well as for the family (predating Fathers piped water system). One day as a neighbor girl was drawing a bucket of water By happened to be carrying a 22-caliber rifle around the corner of the house not far from the well. Thinking the weapon was unloaded he pointed it at her, playfully shouting "Hands up"! When the girl smilingly kept on drawing up her bucket he pulled the trigger. The gun turned out to be loaded and the bullet hit her, causing a flesh wound in her left arm and missing her heart by inches. It was a shattering experience for all of us, and you can be sure that much more care was used in handling the guns thereafter. Looking back on all this, it seems miraculous that we boys managed to survive to manhood. Father must have warned us about the guns more than once; nevertheless his little arsenal was dangerously available to all the family.
Among the boys, Jim was the hunter. He loved it and I loved to follow him on his hunting trips to carry his game -- rabbits and an occasional squirrel or quail. On one of these expeditions we saw a skunk take refuge under an abandoned house. Jim foolishly used a long forked stick to try to force the animal out of his hiding place. But when the stick reached the skunk he let go with his scented spray, catching Jim in the eyes and temporarily blinding him. It was painful but fortunately there was no serious injury. I couldnt help feeling that it served Jim right for tormenting the little creature. We must have received something less than an enthusiastic welcome on our return home in the fragrant state resulting from our losing engagement with the skunk.
Jim and I, the two youngest sons, were close friends even though Jim as my elder liked to demonstrate his physical prowess by giving me a beating now and then. For some reason I seldom resisted. He was hero to me when I was a child; I admired his dash and courage. Despite his small size he liked to fight and there were plenty of fights he could get into in the vicinity of Ozark. For one thing, there was always an undercurrent of hostility between the town and country boys and this often led to fighting. One of the country lads Jim fought from time to time was Virgil Clark, a boy much bigger than he. Jim always won until the day came when it dawned on Virgil that he did not have to take beatings from a little guy like Jim. On that day my idol came home with a black eye and there were no more fights with the newly militant Virgil.
Emmet became my family hero after he left for the Naval Academy, and especially after he had graduated. The fact that he often sent me fine gifts added to his stature. But I really did love him dearly. One September during his vacation he and I together painted our house. Normaly not keen on summer work (although Father saw to it that I had plenty of it), I found myself loving that particular job because I was doing it with Emmet. When he left to return to duty I can remember crying like a baby, even though I was a teenager by then.
We were encouraged to have pets at home. Jim had a cat which was permitted to be fed at meals while perched on his shoulder. We also had dogs. A favorite was old Towser, who met with a tragic end. A neighbor boy, Claude Garrison, borrowed him to go hunting one Sunday afternoon. Claude had an overactive imagination, and when he came home without the dog he told us that he had mistaken Towser for a wolf in the woods and shot him. He had killed him, all right, and to the Rogers boys it was as if one of the family had died. Claude was known around Ozark as a "cow killer" because he had once shot a cow belonging to a
neighbor, declaring that he thought it was a lion! Apparently guns were as available in the Garrison home as they were in our household, and Claude was a trigger happy lad.
The strangest pet the family ever had was a tame crow. It may actually have been a raven, but my recollection is that it was a crow. The bird would mount Fathers shoulder and go to town with him to get a handout of meat at one of the markets. Another pet was a donkey named San-Ann which had originated in San Antonio (Herb brought it home after a stay in Texas). San-Ann loved tobacco and would mosey to the square on her own to beg for it at the grocery stores and from passersby. Once Father hired a workman to clean up the barn and barnyard, and the man had left his coat in a buggy in the yard. It had tobacco in one pocket and San-Ann chewed the coat to rags getting at her favorite snack. Then there was the chicken that fell in love with Mother. It would follow her wherever she went, and she became so fond of the animal that she could not bear to kill it when it had grown to the appropriate size. I presume it stayed around until it died.
There were certain restrictions on the Rogers boys behavior. Mother, who was something of a puritan, would not let us play baseball on Sunday. The three sons who later "majored" in football --By, Jim and I -- attributed some of our success in the game to this ban on Sunday baseball. Sunday was the only day worth playing baseball as that was the day the local team played match games with out-of-town teams; so we had to channel our athletic talents into football, which was played on Saturday, and as time went on we acquired considerable competence in the game.
Cigarettes were prohibited by both Mother and Father. Like many parents of the period they were ahead of their time in sensing the danger in cigarette smoking. On one occasion Father discovered cigarette stubs on the window ledge of my room and promptly warned me that he would "disinherit" me if I continued to smoke. He himself was a steady cigar smoker, but cigarettes were not to be tolerated.
Other activites condemed by Mother were theatrical productions, card-playing, and dancing. Despite her disapproval, Father loved the theater and often took us boys to see stage productions that came to the "opera house" on the Square. She was more successful in preventing card-playing, at least at home. One of our hired girls who brought in a deck of cards and taught us to play pitch was dismissed immediately when Mother
found out. Dancing she could not control except within our own home. We all learned to dance, more or less, at the occasional parties we went to.
A devoutly religious woman, Mother required our attendance at Sunday school at the Ozark Methodist Church, then known as the Methodist Episcopal Church (South). For many years Father resisted her efforts to have him join the church but eventually he too became a member. There was no resident minister when I was a boy, but every two or three weeks a circuit rider came to conduct services and to preach what seemed an extraordinarily long sermon. And as Mother almost always invited the preacher to have Sunday dinner with the family after the service, we boys had to endure an additional mealtime ministerial monologue. Father somehow managed to remain mostly silent on these occasions, clearly an ordeal for him.
A persistent memory of Father involves his tendency to carry on his own monologue at the family dinner table. He would sit imposingly at its head at every meal, holding forth on many subjects and often using the occasion to scold one or the other of us for something we had done, or perhaps had not done, thereby failing to live up to his expectations. He was the quintessential pater familias. Sometimes his criticism was directed toward absent members of the family. One time Father used his mealtime platform to berate Emmet, who was by then a commissioned naval officer. He dwelt on what he perceived as Emmets lack of appreciation for the expenditures on his schooling. Actually it had cost Father little, the government having financed his education at the Naval Academy. Grandpa Southwick was living with us by then and I noticed that Fathers tirade brought tears to the old mans eyes. Grandpa was a sweet and gentle spirit.
Grandpa Southwick had left his farm when he became too old to work it. He and Grandma moved to Ozark and lived in a cottage on the Rogers lot until Grandma died. He never recovered from the shock of her death. For a time he lived alone. But one day he mistakenly took a toxic ovedose of medicine and almost lost his life. Mother took him to live with us after that. For hours on end he would sit in front of the fireplace and stare at the flames. His main activity was to visit, almost daily, his one close friend in town, a Swiss cobbler. Although not a churchgoer he did ocasionally attend revival meetings. At one such meeting in the local Baptist church he suffered a stroke, becoming partially paralyzed, and soon afterward contracted pneu-
mania. Mother pressed me into service to help care for him. There came a day when I asked Grandpa, on impulse, whether he would like a hot toddy. He nodded his head vigorously -- he could not speak. I had seen Father make many a hot toddy, so I fixed one for him and helped him to sip it. He seemed to enjoy it, and ever afterward I felt good about having administered this "last rite." He died the next day.
Looking back on my years of school in Ozark, most of the teachers seem to have been poorly trained. There were exceptions, naturally. One was William Lynch, a highly regarded teacher who, with his young daughter, boareded with our family for a time. Another was a man named Angwin, who stands out in my memory as a fine teacher of English. I can see him now standing at the blackboard, drumming into his reluctant pupils the relationship between the various parts of a sentence. Mr. Angwin was a stern disciplinarian. I discovered this the hard way at the close of a recess period when a football with which we boys had been playing landed in the opening outside a basement window of the school after the bell had sounded summoning us to line up and march back in. Ignoring the bell, a few of us dashed to reclaim the ball, with me leading the pack. When I finally got the ball and fell into line, Professor Angwin grabbed me by the coat collar and gave me such a violent shaking that Ive never forgotten it. On another occasion I and several other boys were given a good switching for skipping school. To put it mildly, corporal punishment was not unusual in the schools of that era. I might add that it did no good for the culprit to complain to his parents. There was little sympathy in that quarter -- the teacher was always right.
Fathers main hobby during spring and summer was his vegetable garden, which occupied a fourth of the block on which our home and barn were located. He was a good gardener, raising all the vegetables that were adapted to the climate. Because he particularly loved sweet corn -- "roastin ears" he called it -- and wanted a continuous supply all season, he planted four crops, the first in the very early spring and the last in late summer, with two in between. And he was not above stopping beside a field of ripe corn that did not belong to him and helping himself to half a dozen ears. Only one of his sons, By, was permitted to work in the garden. He felt that By had the right touch but did not trust any of the rest of us to do the job.
As time went on Father owned considerable farm acreage near Ozark which he leased to farmers in return for a portion of the crop. On these farms his sons were not only allowed to work but were required to do so. Every year, after the farms had been plowed and April showers had exposed the annual outcroppings of rocks, Father would send whatever sons were available to help the farmers clear the fields of boulders.
Father had an abiding faith in those rocky acres on the hillsides of southwest Missouri, a stubborn and unwavering belief in the lands promise. Long before the county agents came to teach the farmers to lime the land and rotate crops for greater productivity, he had set himself up as the countys agricultural adviser. He had learned farming the hard way, plowing barefoot as a youth; there among the rocks he got his start with stone bruises on his heels. Later he added to his practical knowledge by reading farm papers and bulletins from the state agricultural college and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After all, his bank depended upon the farmers of the county and the productivity of their land. He was a firm believer in the technology of his day, promoting all the methods known to him that would change a subsistence farming area into a fruitful one particularly suited to raising livestock. Today nobody picks rocks out of the soil of Christian County, or needs to. But we did, my brothers and I, and we also baled hay and stacked it in our barn.
Father was strict with all of us about money and would sometimes lecture Mother about charging items at the grocery stores. To him a montly grocery bill of $20 was outrageous. He felt, of course, that we should be living off the products of our land and livestock. The fact is that our large and ever-hungry family was fed almost entirely from these sources. The montly grocery bill would be for staples and a few canned items that Mother would buy. She did a great deal of canning herself, both of vegetables and fruits. Among the fruits available to us from our own yard were cherries and strawberries, and I can remember gathering loads of blackberries in the countryside around the town where they grew in wild profusion.
A family joke concerned a staple of our diet that Father insisted on having every day -- cornbread. He apparently enjoyed Mothers cooking except for that one item, which he claimed she had never learned to prepare properly. One day we had as a guest a friend who had grown up in the correct cornbread tradition of the region and Mother asked her if she would make it for us for dinner. She did, without Fathers knowledge. At the table later, when Mother had excused herself to return to the kitchen for a moment, Father turned to the guest,
pointed dramatically to the plate of cornbread and said, "See what I have to put up with"! -- meaning that, as usual, it utterly failed to meet his demanding standards in appearnance and taste. When the woman informed him that she had made it, his chagrin was painful. It seemed quite funny to the rest of us, including the guest, who had been told by Mother that Father had this "thing" about her cornbread.
Although Father enjoyed drinking, keeping a bottle at home and in the bank and often indulging in a drink or two at one of the local saloons on his way home in the evening, Mother was a strict teetotaler and a member of the Womens Christian Temperance Union. I often heard her deplore the evils of drink. But apparently she and Father had reached some sort of accommodation in the matter because I never heard her scolding him for his drinking habits. Mostly, I think, she wanted to keep her sons from acquiring a liking for alcohol. Her success in this endeavor was rather limited.
Despite her efforts to provide us with religious training and to monitor our conduct, Mother often suspected us of misbehavior. Once she used a peach limb on me for allegedly flirting with the hired girl, although I was not guilty of that particular charge. Another time I had to commit to memory the Ten Commandments for a suspected transgression, the nature of which I cannot recall.
How horrified she would have been to know that I once broke into the bank! I was about 16 at the time. Aware that Father kept a bottle of whiskey in the safe and somehow knowing the combination of same, I crawled through one of the banks windows one night (security was rather lax!), opened the safe and filled a flask from the battle. I then diluted the remainder with water from the back room so that the level of liquid was the same as it had been, replaced the bottle, closed the safe and stole out the window through which I had entered. All this despite the banks close proximity to the jail and the sheriffs office. It was larceny and if I had been caught I could have been incarcerated, or whatever they did with delinquent boys of the period. Fortunately nobody saw the reckless act and Father never knew what happened to his whiskey.
Father reed the daily newspaper thoroughly each morning. His favorite was the St. Louis Chronicle, not because it was the best St. Louis paper but because, unlike the famous Post Dispatch, it was Republican in its sympathies. After he had read his Chronicle he would go down to the Square and relate the main news of the day to a knot of people who clustered around him to hear. If he slanted the facts in favor of his political persuasion, few of his listeners knew. In any case he rarely met with an objection as Ozark was overwhelmingly Republican. Democrats were considered queer in those parts.
On one occasion, however, a dissenter popped up as Father was holding forth to a gathering of men on the Square. I do not recall what the subject of contention was, but after heated words the man called Father a liar. Although past middle age at the time he did not hesitate; within seconds he had knocked his accuser to the ground with a single blow of his right fist, the only time he was ever known to have struck anyone. Let it be said that he was never again called a liar to his face, at least in public.
As a result of his self-appointed function as dispenser of the news, Father was often as much as two hours late arriving at the bank. Radio and television were still far in the future but he served quite adequately as Ozarks first newscaster.
One of my hobbies involved my hand printing press located in the all-encompassing attic, on which I used to print cards and simple notices of one kind or another. This I enjoyed, and at one time I got myself a sparetime job as typesetter for the Christian County Republican, a weekly published in Ozark. With fine impartially I also took on a job inking the press on publication days at the Ozark Democrat, also a weekly. The Democrat used an old Franklin hand press which today would be a museum piece.
When I was 15 or so I worked for a while for the local telephone company as night operator on the switchboard, and through the line to Springfield I was able to scoop the town with news stories quite frequently. One such scoop concerned a tragic happening in Springfield itself -- the lynching of a Negro who had been confined in the local jail as a murder suspect. A party of whites broke into the jail, took him to the public square and hanged him. Subsequently another man confessed to the murder of which he had been accused.
My job with the telephone company also kept me somewhat abreast of the activities of Ozark residents. For example, many of the local ladies would let me know ahead of time what their plans were for the evening in case they received a phone call. Thus, if Mrs. Adams wanted to call a neighbor I might be able to tell her that she was not at home but was over visiting Mrs. So-and-so. The
job gave me a kind of basic training in reporting, which came in handy years later when I worked on the Tulsa World and the Kansas City Star.
A prominent aspect of Fathers personality was his strong feeling for the work ethic, prompting him to keep his sons busy during vacation time by finding jobs for them to do, something that he regarded as character-building and very much for our own good. I think he also hoped we would be examples to the other young fellows of the town. I remember one exceptionally hot summer when local carpenters refused to lay flooring on the second story of a business structure that was going up on the Square. Father told the contractor that Jim and I would lay the floor, and we did. We had to --Fathers word was law. Fortunately, neither of us suffered injury through being overcome by the heat and falling through the beams.
Another time he volunteered Jim and me to a contractor to dig ditches. We used long-handled shovels to hoist hardpan clay and rocks out of ditches that were sometimes more than six feet deep. Much of the soil and rock fell on our heads and shoulders despite our efforts to pitch the diggings up and over the side. One summer after I had gone away to school I managed to finesse Fathers urge to put me to work by enrolling in absentia in a summer school English course which required plenty of reading. I knew that Mother would protect me from hard physical labor to give me time to read the books necessary to pass the course. It worked fine.
Although Mother had little formal education by todays standards, she acquired on her own enough knowledge to qualify as one of the "intellectuals" in Ozark. Early in her married life she had enrolled in the Chautaqua system, a pioneer in home reading courses, and thereby obtained a liberal education by mail. She was a naturally bookish person and passed on her love of good books to her children and even to a few eager-minded neighbor children, who would cluster, around her of an evening as she read from Dickens, Mark Twain, and other authors. The Bible was an old friend to her and she was familiar with Shakespeares plays. I often spied her reading a book while doing one of her "sitting" chores. I can see her now, churning butter with an old-fashioned dash which she operated with one hand while holding a book in the other, her head bobbing up and down as she read. No wonder she inspired her offspring with an interest in books.
Mother was also quite "musical." She gave elementary piano lessons to Ozark youngsters until a month before her death. Numerous children in the town received a start in music from her, those unable to pay the small sum she charged being taught free. Unfortunately, her love of music did not take hold very strongly among her sons. For a while I took violin lessons, and I can remember Herb playing a cornet and Emmet tootling away on a clarinet. None of us became proficient in these instruments.
Our Mother was a busy woman. Besides caring for her home and family and carrying on an active social life (our parents had many friends), she was a leader in a number of organizations. These included the local chapter of the Eastern Star, a Ladies Literary Club, and a study group known as the Modern Seekers. She also seemed to be constantly involved in quilting bees. Over and above these activities was her church work. A pillar of the Methodist congregation, she was steadily occupied with church matters. For many years she taught an adult Sunday School class. With all of this she still had time to give generously of herself to those in trouble. In that small town she kept track of people in need and was always one of the first to visit a home where there was illness or death, bringing sympathy and practical aid. It is not surprising that Mother was much revered in the town.
As active as Mother in his own pursuits, Father was involved in most aspects of the towns life. At one time he served as mayor and he was a member of the town council for many years. In addition to his banking activity he conducted an abstract business. While he was still in the bank he did this work mostly in the evening at the courthouse, working in the county recorders office. As a result of this work he came to know every acre of land in the county - the name of its owner, its potential yield, and its value. Long after he had retired from the bank and up to the years of his decline when he was well into his 70s he continued to do abstracting. He was not as much of a "joiner" as Mother. While he belonged to the Masonic lodge he rarely attended meetings.
Most of the friends with whom I and my brothers grew up disappeared from our lives after we all went off to seek our respective fortunes. But there were a few exceptions. The Gray brothers, for example. The Gray family lived across the street from the Rogers home, and Neil and Tom Gray were very close to us. Tom, a few years younger
then I, was constantly with me. One of the local farmers used to call him my gander because he was always trailing along wherever I went. We traveled many a mile together along the pleasant roads in the hills -- pleasant in the sense that they were secenic; as roads they were not much. Sometimes we roamed on foot, sometimes we rode in the family buggy pulled by old Kate. Tom was always mechanically minded and he eventually obtained a degree in engineering (as well as a later honorary degree) from Purdue. In the course of time he became an official of the Pullman Company, with a number of engineering patents to his credit. Neil Gray, Toms older brother, was closest to Herbert. His talents were in the financial sphere and he worked for a time in the Christian County Bank. Late he became one of the leading bankers in Springfield. During the period Herb lived in Springfield Neil always saw to it that he had a satisfactory job. Neil Gray has been dead for may years but Tom is happily retired in California and we still correspond.
Another Ozark contemporary with whom I have kept in touch is Lucile Anderson. As Lucile Adams she was the "dream girl" of my boyhood, but Im afraid I elicited few reciprocal sparks. Long a widow, she eventually returned to Ozark to live and to serve with distinction as the towns librarian. Lucile is a fine writer and a specialist in the history and lore of Christian County. In August 1975 she was honored by having the local history room in the new Christian County Library named for her.
Contemplating the pleasant rural atmosphere of Ozark and the Tom Sawyer-like boyhood that it had fostered, the Rogers brothers experienced some regret as they left the little town one by one to finish their education.
During the years when the older sons were finishing grade school Ozark had no high school so they were sent to Drury Academy, a prep school (and college) in Springfield. Herb played on the baseball team there. Later he attended Springfield Normal School for a while, dropping out when he learned that he was expected to take a course in botany. He viewed such subjects as botany and Latin as useless. "What good do they do you in business"? he would ask. He was interested in business and learned accounting; in later years he made his living as a bookkeeper and accountant. Herb worked for Father in the bank for a time, the only son who was encouraged to do so. Twice married and the father of two sons (one now dead), he has lived in many places during his long life but finally went back to Ozark to make his home.
I have already touched on the fact that Emmet attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He was only 16 when he went out to Annapolis and he "bilged out" the first year, but he made it after a year of study at St. Johns prep school there. He graduated with the class of 1908. Later he taught navigation at the Academy and served the Navy with distinction in World War I, earning the Navy Cross. While still in his prime he found it necessary to retire from the service on disability; he was a commander at the time. He lived until 1970. The Navy tradition has continued in Emmets family. His only son had a long career as a civilian employee with the Navy Department, and his daughters son is an Annapolis graduate who attained the rank of commander in 1975.
Byron starred in football at Drury College and joined Kappa Alpha fraternity, a southern group that had recently decided to open chapters north of the Mason and Dixon line. He went on to the University of Michigan, hoping to win a letter in football under the Legendary Coach Yost. Failing in that he dropped out and married at the end of his first year there. By subsequently became a draughtsman and spent much of his life in California. He died there in 1971. By had one daughter.
Jim decided to prepare for medical practice after his stint at Drury. Originally he had wanted to follow a military career, but Emmet, the Navy man, dissuaded him from trying for West Point by denigrating it as a "second-rate" school. Jim studied medicine at Michigan and acquired his M.D. there after first attending the University of Oklahoma in Norman. At Oklahoma he made a name for himself as a flying tackle on the varsity team, although he weighed only 140 pounds. Sportswriters of the day referred to him as "the Little Indian" because of his dark complexion and jet black hair. Jim joined the Kappa Alpha chapter at Norman, following Bys example at Drury. He practiced medicine in Tulsa after leaving the University of Michigan. Married twice, he had four children, a son and three daughters. He died in 1956.
Two years of high school had been added to the Ozark school system by the time I was ready to go to secondary school. I completed the two years at Ozark and went on to William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, deviating from the family tradition of Drury. Mother favored the school because it had a religious orientation (Baptist), and I because of its proximity to what I thought of as the gay life of Kansas City. After prepping at William
Jewell I joined Jim at Oklahoma in 1911 and made my own letter in football, playing end under a famous coach, the one-armed Bennie Owen. That same year the Sooners had their first all-victorious season. I dont claim all of the credit for it, but the fact is that it had not happened before I appeared on the scene! Although I was involved in a number of campus activities I was known chiefly as "Chuck Rogers, the football player." Like By and Jim before me I became a member of Kappa Alpha. At the time I thought of it as the preeminent college fraternity in the nation. Oklahoma had not long been a state in those days and the university was small, with a few hundred students. I was enrolled in the journalism school and was on the staff of the University Oklahoman, good practice for my later career as a reporter and still later as a professor of journalism.
Ruth Elinor was much younger than the rest of us, and in fact had been adopted after the three oldest boys had left the nest. The only girl in the family, she had a particularly close relationship with Father. Ruth Elinor remained single and spent her entire adult life in California. After graduating from the University of Southern California she taught school for a few years and then became a social service worker. She died in 1968.
After Father became afflicted with arteriosclerosis, Mother cared for him at home for many years until his death in 1942 at the age of 89, firmly resisting suggestions that he be placed in a nursing home. He was almost continuously in bed during the latter period of his life, a hard lot for one who had been so active. Mother was badly worn from the ordeal of caring for him, but she lived on for several years after he died, offering a ready welcome to children and grandchildren when they came to visit. She remained active until shortly before her death in 1949. She was 88.
During Fathers years of invalidism and after his death, his old partner John Taylor handled Mothers financial affairs. At her funeral I took occasion to thank him for his kind concern for her over many years. A stern man normally, Mr. Taylor surprised me by breaking into tears. "Your father did everything for me," he said. "The least I could do was to give your mother financial advice." During all the years of Fathers illness, John Taylor would come regularly each Sunday to sit beside him, although there could have been little conversation between them in view of Fathers condition. I came to realize the strong bond of affection that existed between the two men.
The story of the Rogers Family of Ozark, Missouri, as a family, ends with Mothers death. As long as she was alive we all kept going back to Ozark and the old house near the Square. I and my wife and son spent many a vacation there. The house is gone now. The property was sold in the 1950s and the local post office stands on the site. Herbert, many years a widower and once again a resident of the town, remains my close link to the old days. At 92 he has become the town patriarch, an amazingly active one to be sure. We have seen each other several times in recent years and we never tire of discussing our boyhood. In the halls of memory it was an untroubled time, that turn-of-the-century period before the first World War, and Ozark was an idyllic spot for growing up. Although parental discipline sometimes seemed harsh, there were compensations, and we have long been able to appreciate the integrity of our intelligent, hardworking parents. They reared us in accordance with their own sturdy values and tried to give us a good start in life. Looking back on it all, they did not do too badly. May they rest in peace.
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