AN INTERVIEW WITH A PIONEER SETTLER OF BRYANTS FORK
By S. C. Turnbo

The three Fleetwood brothers, Isaac, Jim, and Adam were old-time people of Southern Missouri. Mr. Isaac Fleetwood son of Jim Fleetwood did not come to Missouri until the year 1858. On the lst day of December 1903 I had the pleasure of an interview with him at his home 5 miles west of Clarksville in the Indian Territory. Mr. Fleetwood’s wife whose name is "Ciller" is a daughter of Ewing Hogan -who died on White River near Oakland Ark. many years ago.


In giving reminiscences of the long ago Mr. Fleetwood said that his uncle Isaac Fleetwood came from the state of Indiana to Missouri in 1830 and settled on Bryant’s Fork in now what is Douglas County. The land he settled on is 4 miles above where the village of Rock Bridge the former county seat of Ozark County was started up in 1839. This land is known now as the Tom Brown Place and is just below the mouth of Rippy’s Creek. When my uncle Isaac arrived on Bryants Fork he and family took up their abode in a rock house that nature itself had formed. The projecting cliff afforded protection from the storms in summer time and the cold rains, snow and blizzards of winter. He lived in this rock shelter until in the fall of 1831 when he built a small log hut and moved his family into it. During the winter of 1831-2 he cleared a few acres of land and after the leaves on the trees had put out in the spring of 1832 he planted it in corn. When the crop of corn had matured he prepared an Indian mortar and pestle and beat corn in this mortar for bread. The mortar was used until after a mill was built at the mouth of Little North Fork when he went there to mill on horse back; this was when there was no wagon roads and but few trailways that lead from Bryants Fork to White River. Uncle Isaac was a hunter and went after the wild game with more interest than he took in his farm. After he had accumulated a lot of furs and pelts he would take them on pack horses to Pokahontas or Powhatan on Black River and exchange them for salt, coffee, and other things that he and family needed. Soon after the village of Rock Bridge had commenced to build up Uncle Isaac engaged in the mercantile trade. He bought nearly all his goods and groceries at the two trading points mentioned and had them hauled to Rock Bridge in the old time slow get up ox wagon. I forgot to mention that my father Jim Fleetwood and my uncle Adam Fleetwood came with uncle Isaac from Indiana and Uncle Adam stayed with him several years but my father said that he did not remain but a few years when he returned back to Indiana and married and lived in Brown County in that state until after I was born in 1841 when he moved into Jackson County and lived near Browntown. I left Indiana in the year 1857 and reached Bryants Fork in the early part of 1858 where I lived a number of years with Uncle Isaac. While I was there with him I have heard him tell repeatedly about the killing of the biggest bear that was ever known to be slain on Bryants Fork. Here is the way Uncle Isaac told it.


"On the afternoon of the day that I and my two brothers Jim and Adam Fleetwood raised the wall of my log cabin in 1831, Adam or "Add" as we called him took the old flint lock rifle and went up on the bluff to kill a deer, he hardly got out of sight before I heard the report of his rifle soon after this I heard him hallow to I and Jim to come up there and bring "old Bird" with us. Old Bird was a large stout chestnut sorrel horse which belonged to me and I always thought that he was the best horse I ever owned. When my brother Add called to us to come and bring the horse with us I supposed he had shot a big fat buck and we catched the horse and started on up the point of the bluff to where Add was. On arriving there we were almost dumbfounded with surprise to find that Add had shot a monster bear and was engaged in taking out its entrails. I do not know how much the animal would have weighed but we made a careful estimation of its weight and put it at 600 pounds after its entrails were taken out and I don’t think this is overdrawn either. We now proceeded to load the bear on Old Bird by first dragging the bear down to a low ledge of rock and then the horse was lead up to the edge of the ledge on the lower side and by hard lifting we managed to get the bear across the horses back on its belly. One of us walked along at the horse’s side and held to the bear’s ears and another stayed on the other side and held to its tail to prevent it from ballancing over or slipping over the horse’s head and the third man lead the horse, and after much trouble we got to the rock house ½ mile away. The bear was so large and extremely fat that the horse was almost give out when we got there. "By Heavens" said Uncle Isaac "Old Bird was so nigh gone that great drops of sweat as big as the ends of my fingers were thick all over him. By Heavens, I thought I had killed old Bird but thank Heaven for my good luck and the good of my family he gradually recovered and in less time than two weeks he was ready to tote another fat bear," said Uncle Isaac as he brought his story to a close.

Next Story | Table of Contents