CHARLEY SMITH THE MILLER AND THE MAKER OF WHISKEY
By S. C. Turnbo
We have alluded to the Charley Smith mill on Big Creek which was built just over the line in Ozark County, Mo. on several occasions in these sketches. Mr. Smith was a giant in strength. His mill stones were large but when they needed sharpening he could handle them the same as if they were only grind stones. The mill stood on the west side of the creek a short distance below a bluff. Here at this mill Smith ground corn into meal for the settlers and manufactured whiskey. He loved to drink liquor himself. It was told by those who was well acquainted with Smith that he was stout enough to lift a 40 gallon barrel full of whiskey from the ground and drink out of the bung hole. This was hearsay only but it come from trustworthy sources. Smith was a hunter as well as miller and a maker of whiskey. One morning before day break he took his rifle gun and went up an the top of the McVeys bald hill to shoot a turkey. When he arrived at the crest of the hill, he rested himself on a stone and waited till early dawn when he heard a gobler down in McVeys hollow and he took his caller out of his pocket and commenced calling the gobler and he would answer frequently and advanced closer to him and so was a hungry catamount approaching him from the opposite direction from where the turkey was coming. The cat suppose that Smith was a turkey and he wanted breakfast. Smith was ignorant of the cats presence until the animal leaped on his shoulders and back, though the man was taken on surprise but he was equal to the occasion. Dropping his rifle he reached up and grabbed the catamount by the neck and jerked it over his head and slammed it against the stones with such force that it was stunned and he finished its career with stones and then went on with his turkey calling and finally about day light the gobler got in gun shot range and Smith shot and killed it. The catamount had scratched the mans back enough to make it bleed but the wounds were so slight that they soon healed over. In the year 1857 Charley Smith sold his mill and started to California in an ox wagon. Before he had got out of Missouri he fell In with a train of wagons consisting of several families who were also going to the same country that Smith was destined for and they all traveled together. One night while they were all in camp on a stream of water that has its source at the base of the mountains a great roll of water come sweeping down the creek. The roar of the water as it went swiftly along gave warning to the emigrants in time for some of them people to barely escape with their lives. The others were drowned. The death list included Charley Smiths wife and her youngest children. It was reported also that Charley Smiths son Charley and his wife were drowned. I have never learned whether any more of his family were drowned or not but Smith had one girl named Susan who married Hartwell Tabor son of Arch Tabor. There was another daughter of Smiths who I think her name was Sarah that married Wes Baker. Some years afterward a report come back to Big Creek that Charley Smiths son Charley was not drowned and that he and his father were the only ones of the family that escaped. The torrent of water that launched so many people into eternity was supposed to have been caused by the collapse of a huge cloud at the head of the creek.
Springfield-Greene County Library