Volume 9, Number 1 - Fall 1985

The Early Settlement of The North Fork Area in the Eastern Part of Douglas County, Missouri
Contributed by Ray Lovan

Some of the first settlers on North Fork River in what is now Douglas County were the Wood family. Henry Wood settled on this part of the North Fork River in 1840. He lived to be 103, as indicated by his stone in Mt. Ararat Cemetery, 1795-1898. The Wood family, of English descent first emigrated from North Carolina in 1839, settling on the Meremac River in what is now St. Louis County. In the spring of 1840 Henry Wood and a friend, Posey Freeman explored the North Fork hills in search of land to be homesteaded. At that time the Shawnee Indians guarded that stream as their hunting ground. There was an abundance of game-deer, bear, elk, wild turkey and fish. Returning to the Meremac they loaded their families and household goods into oxcarts and headed for the North Fork hills. It took 25 days to make their way back through the wilderness to the settlement where they established their first camp March 10, 1840. J. H. Wood was born that same fall and was the first white child born in that area.
Other early settlers in this area were Alabeth (Ball) Freeman who with her husband Aaron Freeman who were my great, great grandparents. She was a half-blood Choctaw and they owned an improvement in Mississippi Choctaw Nation. They left Mississippi and went to North Carolina in 1831. In or about 1939 they and some relatives came to the Ozarks and located at a large spring at Topaz on North Fork and put up a grist mill and a distillery. William Clinton located at a large spring on the West side of North Fork near the mouth of Indian Creek and close to where H. W. Wood settled below and on the West side of the same creek.
A. F. Johnson was another early settler. He moved to the North Fork country after the Civil War and remained there until his death January 1, 1905 and was buried in the burying ground at Mt. Ararat Church. His children were Moses, Henry, Isaac Monroe, Levy Jane, Sarah Clementine and Easter Elizabeth. Moses Johnson, the oldest child, was born November 21, 1859 and was married May 18, 1893 to Sarah (Cole) Hines, the daughter of Marion Cole and Sarah Ailieta Palmer.
A. F. Johnson’s grandfather was born in England, emigrated to Virginia, fought with George Washington, then left his home in Virginia and came to Eastern Tennessee where he raised a large family and accumulated considerable wealth but lost it in a lawsuit over a Spanish Grant. A. F. Johnson’s wife, Levy, lived until 1877 and died in Douglas County and is buried in the burying ground at Fairview church.
In the early days of the North Fork settlement, before there were any sawmills, a young man named Freeman died. His friends cut a large pine tree and hollowed it out for a coffin, took part of Henry Wood’s wagon bed and made a lid for it and buried him at Mt. Ararat, the first person buried in that burying ground. He was the son of Aaron Freeman. Aaron died Nov. 3, 1861 and his wife died about three months later and they were buried at Mt. Ararat where their son James was buried. Alabeth and Aaron had thirteen children with only twenty two years between the oldest and youngest.
About the year 1840 a large family moved from Western Tennessee moved to Greene County Missouri and about 1843 a part of them moved into Ozark County. Their names were Lock Ben and Bill Alsup. They raised quite a lot of boys. They were shrewd people, friendly but controlled things the way they wanted. They had many friends which gave them great strength. During the Civil War they were very active, killed a considerable number of people and took their wealth to south Missouri and North Arkansas, but the people got very tired and angry and watched for an opportunity to let them down. All of them went out in a mysterious way which brought peace in Douglas and Ozark Counties.
Moses Johnson died at his farm on North Fork Easter Sunday, April 20, 1924, leaving his wife Sarah Frances and six children, Sarah Elizabeth, Winnie Mae, Easter Cordelia, Elnora Alabeth, Lenzy Theodore, Alfred Lee and stepson James Edward Hines.
Isaac Monroe Johnson died in the fall of 1973, leaving his wife Lizzie and three children, Orval, Charles and Erma, he was found dead in his hay loft. Easter Elizabeth married a man by the name of Fortune and went to Washington, raised a family of four children, Ernie, Ruth, Austin and Frances. She died in her rocking chair.
H. W. Wood died at the home of his son John Henry Wood. He was the first white child born on North Fork and lived his entire life, 86 years on the same creek.
Samuel Morton taught the first school in Ozark County and was the first County and Circuit Clerk elected in that County.
Robert Hicks was a very prominent man. He was elected Sheriff and Collector of Ozark County. Then he was elected representative at the time Douglas County was established. The population was so small


the law would not allow each county to send a representative so he represented both counties at the same time. He died in Jefferson City while there attending to his official business. He was badly missed by the people of Douglas and Ozark counties.

Article by Leonard Ross in The Willow Springs
News, March 12, 1959
History written by Moses Johnson
Addition by Alfred Johnson
Article appearing in Mountain Grove newspaper 1959


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