Volume 7, Number 10, Winter 1982


Molly, the Visitin' Doll

(A Footnote on History)

by Mary Scott Hair


Part of the fun of growing up in, and with, my little town of Hurley in northern Stone County, Missouri was having a bachelor uncle. He was W.C. - Uncle Carrol - Woods, my father’s half-brother. His father, James Woods, died of pneumonia when Union troops were stationed in Camp Bliss Hollow "in time of the war." That’s the way my grandparents always spoke of the Civil War. The winter Jim Woods died it was bitter cold, the men had little to eat and snow was so deep it was difficult for the troops to bury the dead.

It was even worse for families of the troops. Uncle Carrol, who was just a little tad, and his mother, Elizabeth, who was called Libby, lived in a log cabin not far from Camp Bliss Hollow in Barry County, Missouri. But it was some time before they knew of James Woods’ death.

When hostilities ended and my Grandfather Scott came home to his family in Barry County not far from the home of Libby Woods and her son, Carrol, he began looking around for a nice woman to marry and mother his children. His wife, Nancy, had passed away while he and three of his sons were with the Union troops. At first he served in the Home Guards but when he came home on leave early in the War, he found that bushwhackers had burned his home, stolen the livestock and burned everything they could stick a match to, he was so angry he walked to Cassville and enlisted in the US Cavalry and served, without a scratch, until the end of the War. Nancy and her children had taken refuge in a cave nearby.

So, John Scott married Elizabeth Woods, at Cassville. The service was performed by the Justice of the Peace. To begin with they had a family of 10 children - 9 were Scotts, one, Woods - and in time six more Scotts were added. Martha Jane Scott was the only girl. She had mothered her brothers until Libby and Uncle Carrol joined the family, then she went right on helping Libby with her home-making. At the time of the marriage Uncle Carrol was the "baby" of the family.

As our bachelor uncle, Uncle Carrol was a giant among men! He was short and stocky, red-headed like his father, our Granny said, and his eyes were crossed. He wore thick glasses in his later years but squinted and somehow managed to see well enough in his younger years to read books, papers, anything -he was thirsty for knowledge!

One of the reasons children loved our Uncle Carrol was the fact he was so jolly. He was never too busy to tell us a story, his eyes twinkled when he told us a funny one. He would play dolls with us. He must have remembered his own bleak childhood and somehow in doing for us, he was re-living days as he would have liked them to be.

Uncle Carrol had living quarters in the back of the only store in town. He had a small wood-burning cookstove, a cot and a table with one chair and two wooden boxes turned on end for seats. A shelf for his books was on one wall. And he had a trunk which was a veritable Treasure Chest. Simple as his living quarters were, they were neat and orderly.

The years went by. Uncle Carrol dabbled in numerous enterprises. He sold land and things like that. When the first store building was moved and a new one took its place, Uncle Carrol bought furs and sold them from the old building. The new building housed a Post Office, along with the store, and a pretty young woman named Miss Mollie Barnett, was Postmaster. We had a railroad, with boom days while it was being built almost wholly by hand and mule power. It serviced the area from Crane to Springfield. And over the rails of the Missouri Pacific, Uncle Carrol obtained red bricks to build a two-story building on Main Street in Hurley. He, himself, stocked the building with merchandise area residents would need.

It was during his period of merchandising that this little footnote on history took place.

Two of Uncle Carrol’s dearest friends were Benjamin F. Kerr and his good wife, Caldoana. We called them Uncle Ben and Aunt Doan. He was extra help at the Spring Creek Mill, a growing enterprise in Spring Creek Valley. She was practical nurse and midwife to the Valley and its surrounding area. Each had been married previously.

Medicine shows were popular during those years. Products of the boom days when our railroad was a-building, each show spon

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sored a contest of some kind: the prettiest baby, the most popular young lady, the ugliest man - you name it, given time a show would come along and sponsor such a contest. Votes for the contestants varied. The high point was when the winner was announced! It was even more exciting when the winner was a "dark horse," or filly, or whatever.

It was in October, I think, of Uncle Carrol’s first year as merchant in the new brick building that a popularity contest was announced. And the prize, a beautiful almost life-size doll which was to be the prize, was displayed in the store window. There she stood in her cardboard box, all dressed in pink with a pink picture hat on her dark curls. She had blue eyes that went to sleep, her jointed limbs could make her most appealing, especially when her arms reached out to every little girl that paused to wish for her standing there in Uncle Carrol’s store window.

A list of popular young ladies names soon joined the doll in the window. Tickets which were used for votes were issued for merchandise purchased. Uncle Carrol stressed the fact that as late as the date for give-away, someone whose name had not appeared on the list COULD be the winner!

I don’t know how we ever lived through the suspense! I know every girl whose name was on the list had dreams of what it would be like to own that beautiful doll for it was a for-sure thing someone would get it.

Finally The Day arrived. It was a few days before Chirstmas. Uncle Carrol had stocked some gift items in his store, thinking that when the crowd gathered they would buy and buy and buy.

It was a beautiful day. Everybody crowded around the front entrance to the store, waiting. Uncle Carrol came out, mounted a wooden box and announced the winner. Said he, "The new owner of this beautiful doll is Aunt Doan Kerr!" Her name wasn’t even on the list!

No one dared ask Uncle Carol how it happened. And of all the surprised by-standers, Aunt Doan was the most surprised of all! She came forward to get the doll and everybody cheered. Everybody wondered who she would give it to, her "girls" were boys named George and Lon!

Vistin’ ‘round was a way of life for the homeless old maid, orphan, widowed grandmother and/or whoever. Each went from home to home for as long as they felt welcome and then moved on to "visit" another family. So, when Aunt Doan named her doll Molly, for our pretty Postmaster Mollie Barnett, and said she would be a "Visitin’ Doll" to little girls who were sick, we knew what she meant. The box Molly stood in in the store window was made into a valise to "house" her clothes. She was provided with a wardrobe that could be washed, most of the things being nightgowns and night caps to match. And Molly was sent on her errand of mercy.

In time just about every little girl in the village had Molly to help her get well from whatever childhood disease was prevalent. The only requirement was that Molly be returned with her wardrobe freshly laundered. I had her visit me a number of times for, until I started to school, I was puny. The last time I saw her she looked some the worse for her years as a Visitin’ Doll. Not long after that Aunt Doan’s house burned and Molly perished in the fire.

When I related this story at the Golden Agers Christmas banquet sponsored by the Hurley Church of God, I was the only "little girl" present who remembered Aunt Doan Kerr’s Visitin’ Doll.

May this little story be a memorial to a dear kind woman and her desire to help little girls endure the childhood diseases all of us had: To Aunt Doan and Molly, the Visitin’ Doll!

It was Uncle Carrol who remembered how Hurley got its name. The first settlers followed close on the departure of Indians inhabiting Spring Creek Valley. Who named the Creek we do not know. But for half a century the settlement went by the name of Spring Creek Valley. When the mill was built in the early 1890s and became the main industry, it was called the Spring Creek Mill settlement. There was a store supplied by merchandise hauled out from Marionville, Missouri, arriving there on the Frisco railroad. The store was owned by my father, Ed Scott, and my grandfather, John Short. It was called Scott and Short. When my father petitioned the US Post Office Department for an office of our own, mail came haphazardly from School (now Union City) Missouri, and from Marionville.

The year was 1898, the month, July. Notification had come through that officials would come to inspect the facilities provided

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for the office and commission the postmaster. My father was appointed the postmaster. His commission, dated July 28, 1898, is part of our family archives.

"What name do you suggest, Mr. Scott?" A logical question to which my Dad gave the only plausible reply: "Spring Greek Post Office, sir," said my Dad. The reply: "That’s too long to go on the cancelling stamp!"

While the two postal officials and my Dad were pondering, the daughter of one of the gentlemen said, "Oh Papa, let’s name it Hurley!" The young lady was engaged to a young man whose surname was Hurley. Who his kinsmen were we have no idea. We never did know if the engaged couple ever got married.

Uncle Carrol, standing by, laughed when he told how Hurley got its name. The new postmaster was supremely disgusted with the sudden turn of events for it had been taken for granted that the official name would be Spring Creek Post Office.

Nearly 85 years later it is STILL Spring Creek, actually, if not officially!

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