Volume 5, Number 7, Spring 1975
The first White men came to the Ozarks hunting and trapping the wild game that abounded in the hills and along the clear streams. Wild turkey, deer, bear, panther, small herds of buffalo roamed the hills and canebreaks along the rivers and creeks. Beaver, raccoon, opossum, squirrel and other small game were more than plentiful.
Vivid description of these early Ozarkians, their manner of living, and the game and furs they hunted is set forth in the diary of Henry R. School craft, "Schoolcraft in the Ozarks," a journal of a tour into the interior of Missouri and Arkansas in 1818 and 1819. He describes the hunters as wild, reckless men, living a nomadic life. They migrated from the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky and other sections of the Great Smokies. Most of them walked or had pack mules. Few of them brought families and many of them took Indian wives. Turnbo also reported these facts in his papers. (Springfield Art Museum) They lived in crude huts and leantos.
These hunters and trappers sold the pelts of beaver, buffalo and bear to fur traders who made annual trips into the mountains, either by pack train or river boat. The oil was extracted from the bears carcass and sold. (The Indian wives did all of the skinning and rendering the bear oil).
These people cleared no land, built no fences, erected no permanent homes. They lived on the wild game, fruits, berries, and wild honey. Supplies of salt, coffee, powder, lead, tobacco, and
some whiskey were obtained from the fur traders. Once the game became scarce these hunters followed the Indians westward, leaving only a little lean-to here and there, ashes from their many campfires, and the bleached bones of the deer, bear, and buffalo to mark their short stay in the Ozarks.
The hunters and trappers were followed in the early eighteen hundreds by the homesteaders who having first choice, settled along White River, Beaver Creek, Swan Creek, Little North Fork and other streams affording rich bottom land. Some of these farmers brought their slaves with them and soon the homesteads were well established. Sturdy log homes were built. Trading posts were established. Fields of cotton, tobacco, corn and other useful crops grew where cane breaks had grown in dense profusion.
Soon all the bottom lands were homesteaded and the settlers who followed, "cash-entered" the better ridge lands.
The homesteader loved the land. He loved the freedom and peace of mind that came from living on the new frontier. He set about establishing schools and churches.
The ridge famer had no slaves. He and his family cleared the land, made rails for fences, built log houses and barns. He was thrifty and not afraid of hard work. His land was all he had and he respected it and nurtured it.
I count many of these hardy pioneers my friends, beginning back as far as 1914. I could cite
many examples from the stalwart mountain people I have known. However, space for this story allows for only one.
Alfred Pinkerton came to Taney County from Iowa with his father, David H. Pinkerton in 1900. David bought 280 acres near Brown School House. Alfred took care of his invalid father and worked the land. He was married to Pata Morgan in 1911. One child, Geneva was born to them. Pata died in 1971 just before their 60th wedding anniversary.
During their long married life this hardworking couple made the 280 acres into a producing farm. Vegetables and fruits were preserved for winter use, and surplus sold fresh from horse-drawn wagon at Forsyth and along the big road.
Alfred did not have cash funds to buy budded fruit trees. He planted the peach seeds. First he dug a hole down to hardpan and drilled a hole where he set off a one-half stick of dynamite to loosen the hard-pan. The trees began to bear in the fourth year. Being from the seed, the trees produced a strange variety of fruit. The finest were big yellow clings. He sold these in Forsyth for fifty to seventy-five cents a bushel.
Alfred Pinkerton was school district clerk for Brown School (Union Hill) for many years. He was one of the leaders in obtaining signers for R.E.A. when the White River Valley Electric was struggling to get organized.
The Pinkertons had to leave the farm and a few years ago. Left alone, Alfred still grows a large truck patch. Each spring he faithfully brings us fresh rhubarb. It is now late November, 1974. I notice that he has sown wheat in the truck patch. He told me he would plow it under next spring for green fertilizer. He is now 88 and walks with a cane but his spirit is strong and he continues to manifest his love for his land.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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