PIONEER INCIDENTS ON SUGAR LOAF PRAIRIE AND VICINITY.
AMONG THE WOLVES AND BUFFALO
By S. C. Turnbo

Sugar Loaf Knob, in Boone County, Ark. is a picturesque spot and a noted place. This bald hill is comparatively a low eminence; however it is so situated that an observer commands a fine view from its summit. On the east is Sugar Loaf Creek, fertile farms and a large amount of stone fencing. Most of the farms all along this stream produce fair crops when the temperature and moisture is favorable. Across the valley are hills and hollows interspersed with glades and broken belts of scrub timber. To the right is seen Short Mountain which towers above the surrounding hills. Looking to the north we get a glimpse of the wooded hills and Prairie Knobs of Taney County, Mo. To the west is West Sugar Loaf Creek with its small farms and diligent owners. Just south of the Knob, on the bank of East Sugar Loaf Creek is situated the town of Lead Hill a prominent trading point. This town is visited by farmers and others from many miles around to purchase supplies from its busy merchants, or transact business with other enterprises of the town. Lead Hill has been a noted trading point since 1868, when "Yellville" Bill Coker kept a stock of merchandise here. This was the first start made for a town. Although the post office was established in the early 50s at the place known now as the Derry Berry land on Sugar Loaf Creek about two and one half miles above its present location with Elijah Tabor as Postmaster. Near one mile below Lead Hill is the Alex Morrow Mill Place which is just below the old Joe Coker Mill Site and residence. The Morrow dwelling stood on the east bank of Sugar Loaf just above where the Big Spring flows into the creek. The Morrow Mill has been done away with years ago but another mill was constructed by another party on the spring branch between the bluff and creek. In 1894 a man of the name of William Trusty rented this last named mill (I think Brice Mllum owned it) and he and his family lived in the Morrow house. On the afternoon of the 4th of July of that year a rainstorm of great energy formed over Northeast Texas producing cloudiness and Northeast wind over North Arkansas and South Missouri. The storm center moved northeastward with increased velocity of of wind and spread over the north part of Arkansas and Southern Missouri. Heavy clouds formed rapidly which resulted in terrific peals of thunder and torrential rain at intervals from 6 p.m. of 4th until 5 a.m. of the 5th. A great overflow occurred in the two Sugar Loaf Creeks, Locust Hollow and Trimble Creek. East Sugar Loaf spread from hill to hill and flooded the business part of Lead Hill. A blacksmith shop and a carpenter shop was hurled down stream. The Morrow dwelling with Mrs. Liddie Trusty, wife of William Trusty with three children, Homer, Lester, and an unnamed infant were swept away. The house was torn to pieces and the occupants drowned. Trusty with another little son named George was sleeping in the mill house and a little girl of theirs named Voner had gone to a picnic on the 4th and had not returned home when the roaring flood of water went rushing down. These were the only members of the family that escaped destruction of their lives. On the morning of the 5th as soon as the falling of the great swollen waters admitted it searching parties started down stream to hunt for the bodies. Mrs. Trusty’s body was discovered on the bank of the creek just above where the Lead Hill and Bradley’s ferry road crosses the creek at the lower ford. The body had lodged against the roots of a fallen oak tree. The two forms of the little boys were found on the west side of the creek from where their poor mother lay cold in death. The infant child had drifted near a mile further down the stream. This last child was not found until Saturday the 7th following the night of the 4th. The loving mother and her darling children were snatched into eternity so sudden on the afternoon of the 4th they were happy and enjoyed life but before daybreak of the 5th they all lay scattered along the stream cold in death and were found lying among the driftwood, leaves and sand. Little did the trusting mother and innocent little children think they would be separated in a few hours in cola grim death to never meet again here on this earth. It was a sad time for the people of Lead Hill and vicinity. The bodies were tenderly cared for and given interment in the Lead Hill Cemetery. Among the greatest sufferers in the loss of this world’s goods of the citizens of Lead Hill was John Morrow who lost about fifteen hundred dollars worth of tools and his carpenter shop. But Mr. Morrow said that he lost nothing in comparison to the loss of life in the Trusty family. Farmers who lived on the stream named lost heavily in fencing crops and soil. White River at Keesee Ferry rose 18 feet during the night but fell rapidly on the morning of the 5th. In a weather bureau rain gauge which the writer kept in Keesee Township Marion County 8 miles northeast of Lead Hill 5 inches and 22 one hundreds of an inch of water was caught in 11 hours. My station was not in the limits of the heaviest down pour. But a depth of 5 inches is a remarkable rainfall for the number of hours named.


Returning to the Knob, from it we have a fascinating view of Sugar Loaf Prairie with its fine farms, comfortable dwellings and outbuildings. It is surprising to note how rapidly this beautiful spot of land has settled up. I remember well my first visit to this prairie which was in 1859. I rode through the tall grass to the foot of the Knob and went up to the top to view nature’s beauty in its wild state. It did look rather wild then as well as pretty for there were only two settlers living on the prairie. They were "Prairie" Bill Coker and Henderson Buck. The former named had two sons named Mich and Jim I think the first named son enlisted in the 14th Ark. (Confederate) Infantry. The latter was a large tall young man and served some time in the same regiment the writer aid and was a good soldier. I remember that Henderson Buck had a son named John. I was present one day at DuBugne in the early part of 1860 when John Buck and Jeff Ray son of M. P. Ray had a terrible knock down with their clenched hands. The young men’s father got in a quarrel with each other caused by gossiping tongues. The old men threatened to do some fighting between themselves but the young fellows told them if there were any fighting to be done they would do that and the two old men could do the quarrelling. There was a big crowd present and the friends of each formed a ring and the two youngsters gave up their weapons and prepared themselves for the combat and stepped into the ring and the men formed a strong cordon around them and several of the men gave the crowd to understand that there must not be any foul play showed to either combatant. In a few moments more the two resolute young men began the fight, it was a desperate battle. They hit each other with their clenched hands and knocked each other down but as each one would fall he would be on his feet again in an instant and the hot work would continue. There was no hurrahing for either man but the crowd stood in silence. After they had fought about 4 or 5 minutes they clinched together and both fell with Ray underneath Buck but as they struck the ground Ray caught Buck’s thumb in his mouth and bit it with all the power he had in his jaws. This was more than Buck could stand and he said, "Boys take him off". This created a laugh among the bystanders for Buck was on top of Ray. But when he hallooed "Take him off" some of them told Ray to let loose of Buck’s thumb and after he released it from the vice like grip of his teeth they lifted Buck off of Ray’s back. Both men were very bloody and their friends took them down to the river and washed it off and peace was restored.


On this prairie is a grove of small pine trees which mark the spot known to the present day as the "Buffalo lick". It is supposed by some that the way these pines got started to grow here was by the buffalo bringing the seed from the pineries in the wooly hair that covers their heads. Here on this ground in the midst of the beautiful wild flowers which then adorned this find landscape, the buffalo would graze on the wild grass, tender herbage and taste of the saline dart. I was told by Sam Carpenter who was born in the hills of northwest Arkansas before the buffalo had been killed or driven out of this section that he has seen herds of buffalo that once inhabited north Arkansas. This was when only a hunters hut stood here and there along White River and its larger tributary’s. Mr. Carpenter said that when he was quite a young man John Hart, a negro man and himself. While passing through the prairie one day met three buffalo - a bull or "Surley" as he called him, a cow and a small heifer. Each man carried the old style flint lock rifle. The animals were wild "But we wanted to take them in ‘out of the weather’ and by being very careful we gained the advantage of them and managed to kill them all". Said he, "I shot the cow, Hart shot the heifer and the negro the bull. The three buffalos furnished us a fine supply of meat which we had been wishing for many days." Not only buffaloes were here but this section was infested by other wild beasts. There is a traditional yarn, handed down by the first settlers, relating to an incident said to have occurred on this prairie. As the tale has some semblance of truth about it we give it here which runs about this way. One day a son of Joe Coker who was a little fellow, accompanied by another boy, went out on the prairie to gather strawberries. They saw a wolf approaching and they fled toward the house. The wolf soon overtook them and the Coker boys stopped to fight it. While his companion kept up a lively gait toward home. When he arrived at Cokers house he immediately informed him of his son’s trouble with the beast. Immediately the parent and Charles Coker, guided by the boy, started to rescue the boy; they met him coming on a run. The youngster told his father that he had quite a hard struggle with the wolf, but he soon discovered the wolf could not bite. The boy had a hard time, however, to free himself from the beast. The men continued to the spot where the combat had occurred. The wolf was there and they shot and killed it, and learned that it had been shot some time, probably several days before, and its jaw bone was broken, thus disabling it so that it could not eat and it was almost famished. The Coker boy was in a rage, and severely reprimanded his companion for deserting him in so perilous an hour.


Another interesting experience with wolves in this vicinity of long ago, was that of Luke Tatum and Tom Stalling, pioneer hunters of years gone by. Uncle Luke told the story to the writer himself. "One night" said he, "Tom and I went out on a coon hunt. We took a cur and a hound pup. I carried an axe and Stalling a big knife. We went down East Sugar Loaf Creek until we reached "Horse Hollow" and crossed this branch and went east of it a short distance in a glade where the dogs chased a coon and it climb a post oak tree. We soon felled the tree and after a lively fight between the pups and coon the latter was captured. Just before the coon was entirely dead a pack of wolves dashed up and greatly surprised us. I at once went up a post oak tree that stood in a few feet of the one that had been cut down for the coon, when high enough to be out of danger I looked to see where my companion had gone. To my amusement Tom had stood pat, and was in a fistic combat with the beast. Aided by the dogs he was beating the wolves back. He looked up in the tree and said, "Luke if you don’t come down from there, I’ll take my knife to you". Although the knife was an ugly one, the wolves looked much more horrifying, and I remained in the tree until Stallings and the dogs had won the combat."

S. C. Turnbo

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