Volume 7, Number 7, Spring 1981
The Ozark landmark on Highway 76 known as Notch, or "Uncle Ikes Post Office," has an unique story that was told to those attending the quarterly meeting of The White River Valley Historical Society on March at The School of the Ozarks by R. Layne Morrill of Kimberling City.
Morrill is the great grandson of Uncle Ike, who was christened Levi Morrill in faraway Maine in 1837. Levi was a man of strong opinions until his death in 1926.
Along the way, he graduated from Bowdoin College in 1849, when our nation was obsessed with the problem involved in rivalry between "free" and "slave" states. After learning the printers trade under Horace Greeley in New York, Levi Morrill joined the many ardent abolitionists who established residence in Kansas to swell the ranks of those who would vote for it to become a "free" state.
After serving in the Kansas Militia in the Civil War, Levi made frequent moves, establishing newspapers and then selling them in Colorado, Texas, and back to Kansas. The year 1875 saw him become a resident of Missouri at Lamar, where he established the "Lamar Advocate." He married in 1880 and in 1883 moved his wife and two children to the secluded and wild location in eastern Stone County. According to R. Layne Morrill, a stand of tall pine trees on the 160 acre homestead influenced Levis choice. The trees were reminiscent of his Maine childhood home. An asthmatic, Levi found relief in the use of a pillow stuffed with pine needles. The pines also furnished much of the building material for the
large house that became home to the Morrill family.
Morrill soon felt cut off from the world he had known, and applied for the establishment of a post office at Notch, also known as "The Forks," where the road divided to go down to either Roark Creek or Fall Creek. The application was approved and Notch Post Office began operation in 1895, with Morrill as postmaster. Morrill told of how Uncle Ike reigned over the mails, brought in by son Oscar (Laynes grandfather) on muleback from Galena. When Uncle Ike was 86, there was an unsuccessful attempt to unseat the autocratic postmaster. The post office was at first located in the parlor of the Morrill home, but sometime later (in the next ten-year span) was moved to a small outbuilding where Uncle Ike added a small sock of groceries.
It was Harold Bell Wrights story, "The Shepherd of the Hills," published in 1907, that gave lasting fame to "the post office at the Forks." Morrill read a description of his great grandfathers domain from the opening of Chapter 22 of Wrights story.
The little building became a tourist attraction (this reporter recalls a visit to it in 1934, when the mail-carrying mule was still around), and recently the outbuilding and the Morrill home were awarded a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Morrill family retains ownership of the land and buildings, which are now closed to the public.
Those at the meeting felt this was one more interesting glimpse into the unique character of the region studied by members of The White River Valley Historical Society.
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