Volume 6, Number 1, Fall 1976


The Welch Girls

by Lucille A. Brown


Does anyone remember the "Welch Girls"? There were four of them, Laura, Eva, Sadie and Maggie, daughters of Thomas H. and Angeline Whitlock Welch, all red headed, all musical and all teachers. They came to Missouri from Saline County, Illinois in the early 1880’s.

The family consisted of the four girls and three sons. The three sons were Tom, my father T.R. Welch, Ernest and Will. They came to Springfield and lived on Dollison Street where Thomas Welch earned a living for the family by freighting, which meant hauling goods and produce between Springfield and Harrison, Arkansas. ‘Twas a journey fraught with many perils and much discomfort, requiring nearly two weeks travel over the rocky hills of South Missouri and North Arkansas.

The family later moved to a rented farm at the mouth of Bull Creek on White River. They suffered from malaria, called ‘chills and fever’ to such an extent that they felt compelled to move. They located on Goff Creek west of Ponce de Leon, on the Jim Clines farm. Later they traded a team of mules for a 120 acre claim about one mile west of Spokane where the father and mother lived the rest of their lives. Angeline Welch died in 1894 and Thomas H. passed away in 1900. They are buried in "Poncy" cemetery.

The Welch family was a lively bunch, all fairly educated and good singers and musicians. The old fashioned log house, quite large with an upstairs and a big "side room" which was a meeting place for their young friends of the neighborhood. They took advantage of all the education available. All the girls and my father, Tom, became teachers.

Laura, the eldest girl, taught one term at Garber before marrying M. F. (Fish) Davis, She became the mother of twelve children, Kate, Duke, Charles, Bill, Clyde, Lester, Ruby, Jim, Irene, Everett, Herbert and Hazel. Ruby died in early childhood, Herbert was killed in 1933, Kate, Charles and Bill died in later life but seven survive. All are successful and outstanding citizens. Duke the oldest lives at Nixa and at age eighty four years claims to be the oldest living member of the Davis clan.

Eva was, perhaps, the most outstanding teacher of the family. I believe the first school she taught was Abesville, known as "Buzzards Glory", a log school house with a dirt floor and seats made of split logs. She taught the Stults school where Reed’s Spring Junction now is.

She taught at Spokane. There, Rudolph Hilton, now eighty-four years old recalls going to school to her and that she started a library and instilled a love of reading in her pupils. When Springfield Normal School was established, she and her two sisters Sadie and Maggie built a two story house which yet stands near the college and took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by that institution.

The three "Welch Girls" taught in many schools in Christian and Stone Counties until Maggie married Fred Oberlander of Nixa about 1912 and Eva and Sadie moved to the state of Washington. There they taught for many years.

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Sadie was the bravest of the family, the first woman to buy an automobile. I remember the consternation caused by the news that "Aunt Sadie had bought an automobile". She married Harry Brown and they lived on a "ranch," twelve acres, within sight of Mt. Ranier until Uncle Harry’s death and soon that of Aunt Eva who was well up in her nineties. Aunt Eva taught in Washington for about fifty years.

Aunt Maggie and Uncle Fred moved to Seattle Washington and lived there until their deaths in 1972 and 1973.

When the three "Welch Girls" lived in Ozark, they lived in the Tom Robertson home. Maggie and the late beloved Loretta Leonard were school mates and friends. Aunt Eva taught in the Ozark school at one time and Lucille Adams Anderson was a favorite of hers which is why I am named Lucille.

My father, T.R. Welch, was the only teacher among the boys. In his "autobiography" written just before his death, in 1960, he tells of raising and training a team of oxen and plowing with them. He sold the oxen when he was seventeen and went to Marionville Collegiate Institute for a short time. He obtained a teacher’s certificates and was employed to teach Coon Ridge School, a three month term at $20.00 a month. The money ran out before the three month term expired. He considered the outstanding experience of that term was teaching a 19 year old boy who had never gone to school a day in his life, to read, write and do simple arithmetic. The boy, who was older than the teacher, started out in the primary class and by the time the short term ended, was reading what would be called the 5th and 6th grade books. That boy was Tom Shirley who became one of the most successful citizens of the community.

My father taught several terms of school in Christian County and Stone County including Union City where he and Aunt Eva both taught and where one of fathers pupils was my mother, Annie Young. He taught at Nixa, Spokane, Poncy and many other schools. I remember watching the road waiting for him to come in sight on horseback, then running to meet him to get a ride on the old sorrel mare. I believe Poncy was the last school he taught and that must have been about 1910.

All of the Welch teachers are gone, but many old timers remember going to school to them and attribute their good penmanship to my father’s instruction, and their love of literature to Aunt Eva.

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