AN EXPERT SWIMMER GIVES UP HIS LIFE IN THE WATER
By S. C. Turnbo
The following account of the drowning of a young man in White River was furnished me by Mrs. Melia Keesee, wife of Peter Keesee, of near Protem, Mo.
"My father and mother, Andrew and Elizabeth Friend, were married in Scott County, Mo. Eleven children were born to them there and one on Barren Fork in Ozark County. The names of the children who were born in Scott County were John, Margarette, Elizabeth, Jim, Mary Jane, Catharine, Amelia, Joe, Sarah, Israel and Emeline. The one born on Barren Fork was Martha. After the close of the Civil War my parents lived a few years in the bottom on the north side of White River known as the Panther Bottom which is In the southwest corner of Ozark County, Mo. One morning in the year 1867 while we lived here my two brothers, Jim and Israel Friend, while making preparations to go to the mill on Little North Fork, found that it was necessary for them to cross the river to borrow some sacks from Jim Jones who lived on the opposite bank of the river from where we lived. Jim Jones was a son of Hugh Jones. The canoe was down below the Panther Bottom at what was known then as the Pew Anderson canoe landing. The river was swollen several feet and their craft was not a good one which made it dangerous to cross the rapid stream in and my father told the boys that they had best not undertake to go over. But Jim who was an expert swimmer says., "Well make it across, all right, father. I have swum across the Mississippi River and did not get drowned and we surely can cross White River this morning without risking our lives too much." And they pushed the canoe from the shore and went on across with small risk and with little trouble and went on up to Mr. Jones and borrowed enough sacks to put their grain in and started on their way back home. On reaching the canoe they both got in and pushed off from the landing and just after they left the shore the swift current of water swept the craft against a stout willow tree and one side of the boat was forced under the water and was filled with water immediately. As soon as the craft was full of water it was dislodged from the willow and went rapidly downstream. When the canoe was forced under the water both the boys were thrown out of it and Jim held to the canoe and Israel grabbed the willow and pulled himself up out of the water onto the tree. As Jim was swept along and while he was clutched to the canoe Israel cried out to Jim in alarm, "Stay with the canoe, Jim." But in a short brief of time Israel saw that his brother lost his hold on the canoe and was gone. He had sank in the water and was drowning. Israel now pulled off his shoes, coat and pants and hung them on the willow and plunged into the water and swam back to the shore and gave the alarm to the first person he met. Messengers were dispatched over the neighborhood and before night many men had assembled there to make an effort to recover the body. The men searched several miles down the river without any success. The continued the search until the sixth day after he was drowned and the water had fallen several feet, when Pew Anderson, while he was in a canoe looking for the drowned young man, discovered a small bright object down in the water at the stern of the canoe which proved to be a pearl button on the shirt collar at the back of the neck. A close investigation showed the outlines of the dead boy lying on the gravel bed. The dead form lay on its face and was 40 yards below where the canoe struck the willow and lay in ten feet of the shore. It was winter time and he had an heavy boots and thick clothes, though he had pulled off his coat before starting back across the river. The coat nor his hat was never found. He was buried in the graveyard opposite the Panther Bottom."
Springfield-Greene County Library