Volume 7, Number 7, Spring 1981
Acknowledgements & Dedication
The information used in this article concerning historic dates and places of Douglas County, and its origin, came from, "The Douglas County History," by J.E. Curry, 1957.
Historic dates and information concerning ancestors came from: many obituaries of early Spurlock settlers; stories related to Dicey Spurlock Valentine, by late, Great-uncle, Charles Mason Spurlock; stories told to my Dad and his brothers and sisters, by their parents, Charles Monroe and Stella Adeline Kennedy Spurlock; and priceless memories and tales left to me by my late, Great-aunt, Mary Belle Spurlock Reed, 1883-1977; to whom I wish to dedicate my version of the Spurlock Family History-R.A.S.
In the year 1832, John Spurlock and Sarah Ann Mason were married in Knox County, Kentucky. To this union disgrace was passed on both persons by their families.
John Spurlock was born January 26, 1811, in Lee County, Virginia. He was born into a family of laborers. The Spurlocks owned much land in Virginia, the land of Johns fathers, but they worked to receive their reward of land.
Many Spurlocks would not own another man (or slave) to till his soil, but those who did, worked along side their slaves. Their harvest was truly their reward.
John took a job on the Cumberland River. He worked on the riverboats and barges, which soon would change his life from an honorable young man to a disgrace in the eyes of his peers.
John was working on a riverboat when he caught the glimpse of some girls in a sycamore tree, waving to the handsome brutes aboard the boat.
The girls would pin sycamore leaves together with thorns to make hats, to further attract or distract the men from their work.
What a sight to see in the year 1832, when girls dressed as ladies in long skirts and petticoats, and then to be hanging from a sycamore limb, with leaf hats atop their heads, waving frantically as "Indian warriors!" Who wouldnt take a second look? Thats exactly what John did, and he spied Sarah Ann Mason, daughter of wealth and worldly possessions.
John did "take-a-shine" to Sarah and started "sparking" her. This was an upset and outrage to both families, which in time did prove to be a life-long feud and separation of the Spurlock and Mason families.
Sarah Ann Mason was born December 4, 1818, in Knox County, Kentucky, into a family who had many acres of farmland in Virginia and Kentucky, the old South.
The Masons were well-educated for that day and time. They understood the economics of business. Leadership and control was a speciality of these aristocratic pioneers.
On every angle, John and Sarah Ann, were opposite, except for a lifelong friendship and love they had for each other.
On May 7, 1832, in Knox County, Kentucky, Sarah Ann Mason, age 16, became the wife of John Spurlock, without consent from either of their parents.
For a period of eight years they lived in Knox County, Kentucky, where their first three children were born: Pleasant Right, 1836; William Washington, 1838 (my Great-grandfather); Elizabeth Jane "Sis," 1840.
John and his family were far from being friendly. He and his future generations had lost their inheritance, but more importantly, they had lost all correspondence and contact with the original Spurlock family, a scar we still have today.
During the first years it must have been hard for this young couple. The Masons were willing to semi-accept the marriage but John would have to learn a new way of life which would go against everything he believed in; family members helping each other, honest
business ethics, and family unity in the business world would have to go.
With nothing left to hold on to, except each other and their children, John and Sarah moved northwest to Indiana. There they lived for a short period of time (less than one year). There a fourth child was born, Nancy Malissa, 1842.
We have no inkling why John and his family left Indiana, but somehow, they found their way to Ozark County, Missouri (later named Douglas County).
They settled and homesteaded a farm in the Whitescreek Community, which is now divided into several fair-sized farms.
On this farm were born the remaining ten of their fourteen children: Rolla C. "Rolly," 1844; John Milton, 1846; Polly Ann, 1848; Lucinda, 1851; James Madison "Jemes," 1853; Rebecca, 1855; These were listed under Ozark County records; Simon L., 1857; Sarah Ann, 1859; Charles Mason, 1861; Eleander, 1863 or 4; the last four found under Douglas County records.
As John and Sarah Anns children grew up they were each given a portion of land from the original farm, which had bottom land that ran for several miles.
Not all of the fourteen children were reared to maturity; Rolla, Polly, Simon and Eleander, all died young or in infancy. A spot was chosen and set aside, from the farm, for family burial grounds. Later neighbors buried their dead in the "Spurlock Cemetery" and soon it was named the Whitescreek Cemetery," where several generations of Spurlocks are buried.
John and Sarah Ann came to Missouri in 1843, fourteen years before Douglas County was established. When the Spurlocks came here, this was known as Decatur County, organized as Ozark County in 1841, the name was changed to Decatur in 1843, and back to Ozark in 1845. It was later divided into two sections, the northern section known as Douglas County, established in 1857. In 1864, the county was increased by portions of Taney and Webster Counties, which established Douglas County as we know it today.
John, an early pioneer of Douglas County, was among some of those civic-minded men who helped name the county and establish a county government.
The county was named, Douglas, after a noted U.S. Senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas. Senator Douglas also ran against Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential race.
After a legislative act was passed which created Douglas County, October 29, 1857, three commissioners were selected to locate a county seat. The home of James A. Wilson was designated as the place for conducting court and county business until a county seat was named.
The first county seat was established at Old Vera Cruz. There the county court house was a primitive log cabin. In 1869, the county seat was moved to Arno, and remained there one year. Then it was moved to Ava, formerly known as Militia Spring, where it remains today.
John Spurlock was elected three times judge of Douglas County. He was the first politian of the Spurlock family in Missouri.
After establishing a home here, there was a lot of work waiting to be taken care of, such as: clearing land, plowing (by horse) and planting fields, maintaining a good herd of cattle, and of course rearing children. This was a way-of-life most all pioneers had to adapt to.
When the Civil War broke out, John and several of his sons enlisted in the U.S. Infantry, at the first call of volunteers. Here again we see brother-fighting-brother in the Civil War, John and his sons against the Spurlocks and Masons of the South.
During the Civil War many families found themselves bereaved and heartbroken, when husbands, sons and fathers went off to war.
It was also a trying time for the Spurlock wives and children to see their "menfolk" walk into battle.
During this time Pleasant Right Spurlock, son of John and Sarah Ann, had become ill and died. He left his wife, Urbanna Ellison Spurlock, and two small sons, Pleasant Right Jr. and John.
The law at that time gave inheritance only to children of deceased parents. John and Sarah Ann made a legal adoption of their grandsons, Pleasant Jr., and Little John. This gave them the right of inheriting by descent, their fathers portion of the family homestead. This was in 1863.
Legally, John and Sarah Ann had sixteen children. Five had died by this time, which left a total of eleven children (9 natural).
John was 50 years old when their youngest was born, and Sarah Ann was 43. Their entire lives were centered around their children and grandchildren. The love they gave their children would, in time, form a very close family relationship and unity many Spurlock families are noted for today.
Education in our family has always seemed an important factor. Knowing this I ask my great-aunt, Mary Spurlock Reed, "how many years of schooling her father, William Washington Spurlock, had completed?"
She chuckled as she answered, "My father was five years old when his family moved to Missouri. At that time there wasnt any established rural schools in their area. He and the others were taught at night, around the old fireplace, by their mother, Sarah Mason Spurlock, my grandmother. She had a very good education for her day and time.
The younger ones, I suppose did attend some sort of one room school, but the older ones were taught by Grandma, and I imagine Grandpa learned a lot by listening."
Whatever they learned, they were taught good penmanship. Ive seen my Great-grandfathers hand writing, and thought he had been a perfect scholar.
For over forty years John and Sarah Ann Lived on the old homestead, while their children lived on different sections of the farm.
Those children who lived to maturity and their spouses were: Pleasant Right Sr. and Urbanna Ellison Spurlock; William Washington Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Shelton Spurlock;
Elizabeth Jane "Sis" and William Ephram Haynes, she later married Fred Morris; Nancy Malissa and Luke Marler Sr.; John Milton and Nancy Malissa Shelton Spurlock; Lucinda and Andrew Jackson Manning; James Madison "Jemes" and CelIa Jane Eslick Spurlock; Rebecca and John B. Lakey; Sarah Ann and Elisha Smothers; Charles Mason and Mary Elizabeth Shelton Spurlock.
All of these people left an impression in Douglas County history. They brought the first race horses to this part of Missouri, according to late, Great-uncle Charles. John Milt was also noted for his wild horse trades.
Uncle Charles also said, "the family had a horse track on the farm where Max and Dicey Spurlock Valentine live," near Ava.
John "Uncle Johnny" Spurlock died January 23, 1890, as a result of pneumonia fever. He was buried in the Whitescreek Cemetery.
Sarah Ann Mason Spurlock died January 7, 1892, she was also buried in the Whitescreek Cemetery.
Uncle Charles summed all this up when he told Dicey Valentine, " we know, no one travels through Ava, when you get here its the end of the trail, so perhaps our pioneer ancestors couldnt go any farther and stopped here, or perhaps like most of us, John and Sarah Ann felt it was the most beautiful spot in the world!"
Whatever their reason, Im glad my ancestors chose Douglas County and decided to leave their inheritance, for this rough, rocky and beautiful land. Im proud to be a "disgraced Missouri Spurlock."
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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