Volume 2, Number 9 - Fall 1966

Ozark Notes
by Charles E. Rogers

Grandmother Rogers had Indian blood—Father said she was an eighth Cherokee. Unauthenticated, family legend has it that she was related to John Ross,* Chief of the Cherokee tribe.

*John Ross was born October 3, 1790, near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. He died in Washington, D. C., August 1, 1886. His Indian name was Cooweescoowe or Kooweskowe. His father was a Scotchman of Loyalist sympathies who settled among the Cherokees at the close of the Revolutionary War. His mother, also Scotch, was a fourth Cherokee. He protested against the removal of the Cherokees from their lands in Georgia, but when his efforts failed, he led the tribe to their western home in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1838-39. He helped draft the Cherokee nation’s Constitution of 1839 and that year was chosen their chief, an office that he retained until his death. In 1813 he married a Cherokee woman named Quatie. She died in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1839. In 1845 he married Mary Bryan Stapler of Wilmington, Delaware, a white woman of Quaker faith who was many years his junior. She died in 1886. Ross was aristocratic in training and manner. His home near Park Hill resembled the mansion houses of the old South, surrounded by fields cultivated by numerous slaves. Ross sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Grandfather Rogers was a farmer and country doctor. During the Civil War he and Grandmother sided with the Union cause. Grandfather had 3 brothers. The four brothers took out Government claims around 1840, all in the Elm Grove neighborhood of Christian County, Missouri. Two of the brothers favored the Confederate cause, and they moved from Missouri to Texas before the Civil War broke out. One of the Texas brothers was Uncle Jess. Wattsville, in the Elm Grove neighborhood, was named for one of Grandmother’s brothers, or her father.

Despite the perils of living in a border county that was ravaged by partisans of both North and South, Grandfather Rogers and his family never left their farm during the war years. Probably his being a doctor protected him — both sides needed doctors and Grandfather treated all alike, giving "Johnny" and "Yank" the same treatment when they came to him ill or injured.

When I was a boy we lived on the "home place" — eight miles from Ozark — for 2 years. I was about 6 years old. Grandfather’s "office" —it was called his "apothecary" -- was still intact, a small frame structure across the road from the dwelling house and yard. It was still there in 1900, nearly 30 years after grandfather’s death (June 6, 1872), and it still smelled faintly of drugs. Some


of the remnants of his medicines were scattered around -- pills and pill bottles, a leather case for carrying them horseback. Part of the apothecary was used as a granery when I was a boy.

One day during the Civil War grandfather was treating a Confederate soldier who had been wounded. A Union patrol stopped at the farm. The officer demanded the surrender of the soldier as a prisoner of war. Grandmother was the one who resisted.

As grandmother walked across the road from the family dwelling house to the apothecary carrying a double-bitted axe which was as sharp as a razor. She faced the group and spoke directly to the leader:

"Bill Adams, I know you and I know your kin-folks, and before this was started none of you had a second shirt to your back. This is the King’s highway; it’s as much yours as mine. Take your part of it — take these ragamuffins with you — and git."

At this point, Bill Adams and his ragamuffins did "git". This is the version that Father handed down to us.

Another time a detachment of soldiers—they were Confederates this time—came to the farm to requisition horses. In telling the story, Father spoke of the Lieutenant’s gray uniform with the red stripes of the cavalry arm. Grandmother told the Lieutenant that he could not take Sorrel — he was the gelding that Grandfather rode on his rounds to visit patients in the neighborhood. When Grandmother grasped Sorrel’s bridle rein the officer drew his saber and threatened to strike her across the shoulders. But Grandmother held on. In even tones she said, "I don’t think you will do that." And when he said, "Why do you say that?" She replied simply, "You’re a gentleman." Whatever he was, he was no match for Grandmother— he rode away and left Sorrel on the home place. Sorrel lived to the age of 29. In later years he would work only for Grandmother, holding his head high and refusing to be bridled by others. Sorrel was Grandmother’s pet.


Father was a boy of 8 when the Battle of Wilson’s Creek was fought near the home place, in August 1861. His grandfather, a veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, got Johnny (my father) to drive away the geese so he could hear the cannonading better.

The Civil War, to Father, was THE War. Once when my son Bill* was talking about My War (World War I) grandfather lost his patience and asked Bill what war was he talking about!

*Dr. W. C. Rogers, Director, World Affairs Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

The official history of U. S. military actions ("American Military History—1607-1953") gives the Battle of Wilson's Creek just half a sentence: ". . . and the drawn Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Mo...."

To Father, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek bulked larger than Waterloo or Gettysburg, and so to me during much of my childhood. Great were the heroes of this bloody fight south of Springfield. Main soldiers on both sides were boys from farms North and South—only a few veterans of Indian wars were there, and a few German volunteers from St. Louis. These boys from the Ozark hills stood up and fought like seasoned soldiers. Bright indeed was the Union leader, General Lyons, who lost his life in the battle. In my recollection is a vivid picture of the General as he was mortally wounded in the battle, riding his charger at the head of his troops. Some illustrator had drawn it from imagination for a magazine or newspaper of the time.


Grandfather died of inflammation of the bowels"—appendicitus—and left Grandmother a widow with 5 children. Three were daughters— Lizzie, Mandy, and Mollie—and two were sons— Issac Newton (Uncle Doc) and John Clark (my father). Grandmother got the girls married off to farmers in the neighborhood. Lizzie, the eldest, married Uncle Billie Wilkerson, Civil War veteran. Her Civil War pension came in handy, after her husband’s early death. She was left with a daughter and 3 sons to support. Mandy and Mollie married brothers — Mat and Tom Russell, farmers, Democrats, Campbellites, and Confeds, by Gum!

Somehow, Grandmother scraped enough cash together to send her sons oft to St. Louis to study medicine. Uncle Doc finished and set up practice at nearby Rogersville—but Father couldn’t stand the stench of the cadavers in the anatomy class. Instead he took a business course— penmanship, bookkeeping, commercial law and office work—forerunner of present day "business administration."

Everybody worked hard on the farm, but the details Father handed down to us were few. Once Uncle Doc (according to father) became exasperated with one of the oxen which he and Father were driving to plow. In his anger Uncle Doc drew a razor sharp pocket-knife and gashed the beast’s belly open, letting his guts drop to the ground.

Father had to tell stories of violence — stories of blood and brutality—to keep his sanity, I suppose; anyway he did specialize in them. It surely had a sterner motivation than that of scaring hell out of his sons— but it did that too!


When Father came home from St. Louis he decided to run for office. He needed cash to conduct a canvass of the county; and (according to Aunt Mollie, who loved "Johnny" and admired him, too) he rented a piece of rocky, hillside land above Linden and put in a corn patch. Poor land that it was, Father cultivated it that summer, and barefoot made a crop. With the money he got for it, he rode off (or walked — perhaps he didn’t even have a mount) to solicit votes—still in his bare feet. Aunt Mollie told me so! He won the election, served a term and was re-elected. Then Captain Taylor tapped him to start a bank—Taylor wanted to set up business for his son John and matched his capital against Father’s wit and talent for business. This was the start of the Christian County Bank and the business partnership of Rogers and Taylor of local fame. The bank had a monopoly in Ozark, the rockbound county seat. Local businessmen and farmers of the vicinity who wanted bank credit were almost forced to patronize Father’s bank, or else do without. With capital stock of $25,000 the bank paid as high as 30 percent on the shareholder’s investment. The Taylor family, the Robertsons, Yoachum, and Father held nearly all the stock.


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