FINDING THE SKELETON OF A MAN IN A WILD WILDERNESS
By S. C. Turnbo
The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad depot Batavia, Boone County, Ark. is 8 miles west of Harrison and 6 miles east of Carrollton. This part of Northwest Arkansas from Bellfont to Harrison and from there to the new town of Alpena and northwest from there to Berryville and adjoining territory is becoming of some note as a fruit country. In fact we might say and not miss it far that Boone and Carroll Counties are taking a prominent place as two important counties in the growing of fruit. Part of Northwest Ark. and a portion of Southwest Mo. have been noted for years for the growing of good fruit where enterprise and care existed in the selection of trees and setting out of orchards and due regard observed in the care of the trees and the proper cultivation of the land where the trees are set. We hope the enterprising citizens who have invested their means and labor in the planting of orchards may be successful in growing hundreds and thousands of bushels of big red apples and sweet flavored peaches. If you want your children to grow fat and healthy give them pure water to drink, healthy air to breathe, nice sorghum syrup and luscious fruit to mix with their diet and we think that Northwest Ark. and Southwest Mo. furnishes all these necessities mentioned. In truth the entire state of Arkansas and Missouri are taking rank with their sister states in the raising of fruit and other farm product and we trust that in a few years both of these states will be second to none. A ride on the Missouri and North Ark. Railroad through the picturesque hills of Searcy, Marion and Carroll Counties Ark. is to be enjoyed. The many little farms villages and towns as seen along the route from Leslie to Eureka Springs indicate that the inhabitants are industrious law abiding and making long strides toward improving the country. And now the White River branch of the Missouri Pacific is completed from Newport to Carthage and has been in opperation several years and what a fine scenery of hills and valleys is presented along this road from Cotter to Branson, and from there to Aurora and from Cotter along the beautiful White River to Batesville. The rugged but beautiful scenery from the Oregon flat in Boone County Ark. across the rouge hills and hollows of Bear Creek and down the romantic stream of Turkey Creek and across White River and up the narrow valley of Roark and over the James River to the little town of Crane on Crane Creek in Stone County, Mo. is never to be forgotten. Going back to Oregon Flat and traveling eastward to Cotter the trains runs down Sugar Orchard Creek to Crooked Greek and down this pretty valley to where the railway leaves it and crossed over to Fallen Ark. Creek and down this valley to White River. All along this route the cars passes through tunnels, deep cuts over high bridges and tresstles along the side of steep mountains and across narrow gorges which makes a ride on the train through this section of Arkansas and Missouri wonderful. Among the towns villages and other stopping places of the train along this route from Cotter to Crane going westward are Flippin, Yellville, Comal, Powell, Pyalt, Zinc, Keener, Bergman, Myrtle, Cricket, Melva, Branson, Roark, Ruth, Galena and Elsey.
Well now I liked to have forgot my story that I started out to tell at the beginning of this chapter and will return back to the Missouri and North Ark. Railroad and begin our account at Batavia which we mentioned at the commencement of this story. In the neighborhood of this depot George W. Lipps lived many years. He was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina in 1828 and was 16 years old when he and his father, James Lipps, settled here in 1844. George was a hunter and owned the same muzzle loading rifle until his death that he carried in the long ago. The last time he wrote me which is only a few years ago he said, that his eye sight still permitted him to see how to shoot fattening hogs with his old favorite gun.
When the beautiful deer were seen on almost every hill, and wild turkeys were almost as numerous as snow birds, George Lipps killed his share of game, and he knew nearly every trail between White River and his fathers cabin. Among other things which relate to the then wilds of Carroll County, Ark. Mr. Lipps sent me the following account in a letter, of finding the bones of a man during one of his hunting tours, which he describes in the following manner.
"James Youngblood, who lived on Long Creek, had relatives living in North Missouri which he had not seen for several years. Wishing to pay them a visit and not desiring to post pone the trip longer he went to their homes and remained with them several days. This was in 1859. On his return back home, he fell in company with a young man by the name of Lewis Tyler, who was on his way to Carroll County, Ark. When they arrived at Laytons Saw Mill, 12 miles south of Forsyth, Tyler stopped there to work two weeks, but he told Mr. Youngblood that when his time expired at the mill he would go to Long Creek in Mr. Youngbloods neighborhood. This was in the month of July.
When Tylers time was out at Laytons Mill, he left for Long Creek in company with Bill Dooly and struck out into the wild forest.
That was the last seen of Tyler alive, Dooly went to Youngbloods alone, he trumped up a story concerning Tylers whereabouts, but the old timers refused to accept it. His account was not plausible and some of them contended that a murder had been committed, but testimony was lacking to prove it. Here the case stood until July, 1860 -- it was just one year after Tyler was missing. At this time Jones Estes and I went on a camp hunt in the pine forest. Wolves were as thick as fleas in a hog bed, and the firstnight out we were much annoyed by them. Their howling was dreadful but they did not charge camps. Early next morning we eat our lunch and departed on the days hunt. We were both afoot and after traveling for a while, we separated on a ridge, intending to meet at a designated place. Sometime after we had parted I grew thirsty and very tired and stopped at a fine spring of water where I drank and rested my weary feet.
Then I went on up a hill to the top, and turned in the direction where I was to meet my pardner. I had not observed a deer since I and Estes had separated. I was in a pinery and I felt lonely as I walked slowly along. And while passing along among some tall pine trees I was horrified at discovering a human skeleton and fragments of clothing. I was so astonished at the sight of the bones that I was dumfounded. I stood and gazed at them and the pieces of raiment several seconds before I recovered from the shock of finding what was left of this human being. A fine hunting knife lay on the ground near by. When my senses returned sufficiently, I examined the skeleton and found that a bullet had pierced the skull bone at the back of the head. There was no trail here and it was a number of miles to a settlers house. When I grew calmer I settled down to thinking. Though I had never seen Tyler, his sudden disappearance was still fresh in my mind and I believed this was the remains of the missing man, and that he had been foully murdered by Bill Dooly in this lonely forest. There was no more hunting for game on my part that clay. I hurried on to where I was to meet Estes and on getting together again we returned to camp and hurried to the settlements and reported the finding of the skeleton.
On the following day a number of citizens collected there and an inquest was held: Parties who had seen Tyler recognized the knife and bits of clothing, and said they belonged to Tyler. Though the evidence was circumstantial as to who was the cause of his death, but the verdict rendered was, that it was Tyler, and that he was murdered and that Bill Dooly was his murderer.
We dug a grave near a large pine tree and, as a gentle breeze of wind blew through the tops of the stately pines and made that peculiar roaring noise, tender hands, urged by tender hearts, lifted the bones from the ground where doubtless they had lain for a year and placed them gently down in the grave. While some were filling in the dirt and formed the mound to mark the resting place of the young man, others cut the name Lewis Tyler, with their pen knives on the big pine tree which stood near the newly made grave. I was allowed to keep the knife and have kept it in my possession until the present clay. The words, hunters companion are engraved on the blade.
Dooly, before he could be arrested, fled the country. A good sum of money was donated by the settlers as a reward for his apprehension, in a few weeks we learned that Dooly was in Southern Texas, and Roland Boyed and I, armed with proper authority, went down there to hunt for him. It was a long hot ride on horse back, and we were disappointed in finding our man for when we got there the citizens said that such a man as we described had been there, but he had stolen a suit of clothes and skipped from that part of Texas. We followed, but he escaped.
Tyler said his home was in Virginia and he had no relatives here. Doubtless his relatives and friends in the old country never knew what became of himnot knowing that he was slain in a wild pine forest. The locality where his bones were found and buried is 8 or 9 miles south of Laytons Mill and 14 miles north east of Carrollton, Ark.
Springfield-Greene County Library