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Local History

The Rountrees

Lucius Rountree FamilyRountrees Arrived 118 Years Ago Today
Lucile Morris Upton

"It was 118 years ago today - Sunday, January 16, 1831- when a wagon train from Maury County, Tenn., pulled into a little homestead near what was to become the settlement of Springfield.

"For two months the emigrants had been battling cold, sleet and snow as they pushed on toward the Ozarks.

"It was almost night when they reached shelter, but their leader, Joseph Rountree, took time to make this entry in his diary:
'Today was extremely cold; snowed a little; we proceeded and got to Joseph H. Miller's between sunset and dark; found the people about the Prairie all well and glad to see us all arrive safe; traveled 23 miles.'

"Well over a century later, the names of members of that party are firmly engraved in Greene County History. Today many of the descendants of those pioneers are prominent in various activities of this section.

Joseph Rountree"Joseph Rountree was born in North Carolina and had lived in Tennessee slightly more than 10 years when he moved his family to Greene County. The trip from North Carolina to Tennessee had held enough hardships to make preparation for the later journey to the Ozarks. Albert H. Rountree, farmer living on route 7, recalls hearing his father, Junius Rountree, eldest son of Joseph Rountree tell of the trip. Junius was 10 when the family moved to Tennessee.

"He said that while crossing the Blue Ridge mountains they lost one horse,” relates Mr. Rountree. “They proceeded the remainder of the way with grandmother and the two smaller children riding horses while grandfather, father and Uncle Buck (Zenas Rountree) walked.'

"Joseph Rountree farmed and taught school in Tennessee. Apparently he prospered, for he brought four slaves as well as considerable other possessions to Missouri.

"There were six boys and three girls in the Rountree family when it left Tennessee.

"The family of Joseph H. Miller traveled with the Rountree party and Mr. Miller went to meet the emigrants one day’s journey out and gilded them to his homestead. The eldest son of the Rountrees, Junius, and the daughter of the Millers, Martha Jane, were married August 7, 1831. This was the first wedding among the settlers of southwest Missouri.

"Sidney S. Ingram, another prominent Greene County pioneer, also was with the Rountree family. He first settled in Springfield then moved on [to] the James and erected a mill which took his name. The first Ingram mill was built in the middle thirties.

"This was the second journey of Joseph Rountree to the Ozarks. He and his son, Zenas, had made the trip the year before and built a small cabin on Wilson Creek, 3 miles southwest of Springfield. It was here that he settled with his family and he lived on that farm until his death December 25, 1874.

"The first white settlers had come to his section only two years before the Rountree family. The Delaware Indians were forced to give up their lands here in 1829. Shortly after that John P. Campbell made the first home location in what is now Greene County. When the Rountree family reached here the settlement, which around 1835 was to be named Springfield, was called Campbell and Fulbright Springs.

"There was no school here, so Joseph Rountree, with the help of his eldest son, Junius, immediately set about erecting a log cabin where he was to teach the children of the pioneer families. A University club memorial marker today points to the site of that school on Mount Vernon Street.

"Albert Rountree locates the site as about 150 yards south of Mount Vernon and about the same distance west of the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks and around 400 yards west of the present channel of the Jordan, a short distance north of a spring which flows out of the southeast side of the hill. It is on the Ashworth place.

"The school had a dirt floor, logs cut out for windows, and puncheon benches. The Ozark Standard for Thursday, October 14, 1847, had this item of interest:

"'School news: Mr. Joe Rountree is serving his fifth term as teacher in the Springfield school this year. Mr. Rountree has the honor of serving as the first teacher in this community. Although the school is a mere log structure with a dirt floor, the children seem to be happy in learning how to read, write, and cipher. Mr. Rountree thoroughly believes in Pike’s Arithmetic. The school was built in 1832. Plans are being made for a new building which will have a mud and stick chimney. Springfield is very proud of its school and scholars.'

"The same issue of the Standard told of the marriage of Zenas Marion Rountree to Elizabeth Massey. She was a sister to William Massey, who married Almarinda Rountree, sister of Zenas. There also was an article relating that Zenas had established a shoe store in Springfield. 

"Joseph Rountree quit school teaching after a few years and served as justice of peace until 1856 he became judge of the Greene County court.

"Junius Rountree settled seven miles southwest of Springfield on Wilson Creek and one-fourth mile west of the old wire road. His land included the old Rountree Spring, still known by that name. He was by trade a wheelwright and cabinet maker. He made everything that could be made of wood - wagons, spinning wheels, looms, coffins, beds, and household furniture.

"Sometime after 1850 Junius Rountree gave land for the Rountree rural school, which still has that name. The present building is the third on the site. He was justice of peace for a number of years and county clerk from 1866 to 1870. In 1873 he moved to his farm on the Mount Vernon Road, three miles west of Springfield, where he lived until his death in 1888. Two sons of Junius Rountree survive - Arthur, of Colstrip, Mont., and Albert - and are believed to be the only living grandchildren of Joseph Rountree.

"Zenas Rountree, known to his family as ‘Uncle Buck,’ served as representative in the state legislature, justice of peace, and in several appointive offices. He was the father of Newton M. Rountree, for many years head of the Keet-Rountree Company, one of the largest merchandising businesses in the southwest, and for who the N.M. Rountree School of Springfield is named.. Another son, William Worth Rountree, died a little more than a year ago at the age of 98.

"Amanda Rountree, daughter of Joseph Rountree, married John H. Slavens, a Methodist minister who preached the first sermon in the Springfield settlement. This was in the home of William Fulbright in 1832 and the first church organization was started at the time. A minister came from Boonville to perform the marriage ceremony in June of 1833 and the couple lived most of the remainder of their lives in Urbana in Dallas County.

"Captain Lucius A. Rountree, third son of Joseph, lived most of his life on a farm two and a half miles west of Springfield on Mount Vernon Road. He was an officer in the Army before and during the Civil War. Albert H. Rountree recalls him today as a bright, jovial, and cheerful man with a great fund of wonderful stories.

"M. Jerome Rountree, the fourth son, served as county judge and was known as a fine singer and highly educated man. He lived on Cherry Street, just across from the present site of First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, where he operated a nursery.

"Almus Linueus Rountree, the fifth son, moved to California in an early day, and the sixth son, Allen Jones Rountree, died when a young man.

"On the original Rountree homesite the youngest daughter, a frail little girl, planted some seeds of the ‘coffee tree,’ a tree of the locust family similar to the honey locust except it has no thorns. She had brought those with her from Tennessee. From these seeds grew a pretty, shapely tree.

"Apparently sensing that she would not live long, she asked to be buried under that tree. Her wish was granted, and thus was started the Rountree graveyard, a burial plot such as was sacred to every pioneer family. Quite a large number of the family has been buried in this cemetery, the last being Joe Rountree, son of Zenas.

"Among the great grandchildren of Joseph Rountree living in this section are Dr. E.L. Beal, Republic, grandson of Junius; former county Judge Ernest Scholten and Miss Neva Scholten, Ralph, Roy and Rush Wilhoit, Zenas and Joe Rountree, Mrs. Edith Johnson and Miss Jessie Rountree, grandchildren of Zenas; and Roy Lawson, grandson of Lucius."
News & Leader, January 16, 1949

District has a large collection from the Roundtree family.  The photographs included above of the Lucius Rountree family and Joseph Rountree are from the archival collection.

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