Volume 2, Number 9 - Fall 1966

Ozark And Vicinity In The Nineteenth Century
By William Neville Collier 1946

The cover page of the original edition was a wrap-around cover filling front and back covers and depicting a panorama of the old water mill, millpond, and part of the old wooden wagon bridge at Ozark. The author copied the cover design from an old picture.. . This copy of the original text was made by Charley Rogers in Washington, D.C., in August 1957, done as a labor of love. Charley will send a free copy to any relative or friend who asks for one — as long as they last. Address: Charles E. Rogers, 917 Hughes Court, N. W., Washington, D.C.


In the year 1876 at a Fourth of July celebration at Ozark there was read, as a part of the exercises, a brief history of Christian County, and of the area from which it had been formed. This history had been prepared by James R. Vaughan, James A. Gideon and W. H. Pollard, all having been long residents of the county and perhaps personally acquainted with most of the very early settlers. The manuscript was printed, or perhaps reprinted, in 1893 by F. E. Patterson, editor of an Ozark paper at that time. A copy has been in my possession since that date and from it has been taken some of the salient items of interest pertaining to early Ozark history.

For perhaps twenty years, beginning about 1890, H. Clay Neville was a writer for the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat and other papers. His work included a number of stories of early days in Southwestern Missouri. Some of these have been available, as have several Ozark papers printed in the 1890’s, and two older ones of 1880 and 1889, these last having been kindly supplied by Mrs. Angie Taylor. A Springfield paper of 1865 was also available. Some use was made of Louis Houck’s History of Missouri, although he makes scant mention of the area under consideration. Records of the Missouri Historical Society, and the writings of Henry R. Schoolcraft were consulted at the Henry E. Huntington Library at San Marino, California.

For the names of persons living in Ozark in 1872 I have largely relied on the memory of my mother, Mrs. Louanna H. Collier, who prepared the list several years ago. The list is incomplete, as it comprises only those persons whom she was able to remember after a lapse of nearly sixty years.

Some information was obtained from Mrs. Ismania Olds, a daughter of William O. Pettyjohn and niece John McD. Pettyjohn, the latter having been a grandson of John Pettyjohn the earliest settler of record in what now is Christian County. Mrs. Olds lived in Ozark with her parents when she was girl, perhaps about 1869-1874, having moved there with the family from Chile where she was born. Mr. Lynn Tunnell of Ozark supplied a certain amount of information concerning the Pettyjohn family of which he is a decendant.

A considerable part of the events recorded of the two decades 1880-1900 is from my own memory. That such memory may be faulty is conceded; things may not have happened just as they are remembered. And—to forestall adverse comment of contemporaries—they may not have been in every case set down precisely as remembered. The deviations where existing, however, have been slight, and the intent has been to present a record bearing a reasonable resemblance to the truth. The time covered by the record is that of the nineteenth century. There are many persons much more competent than myself to write the town’s history since 1900.

The work has been done solely for my own entertainment. Should any reader think the chronicle poorly presented and generally of little value he may have whatever satisfaction there may be in the knowledge that I think so too.

Long Beach, California Wm. Neville Collier 1945 Copyright 1945 Wm. Neville Collier


A tall, spare-built man with chestnut-colored whiskers, his coat held by one button at the chest, chopped with an axe on a pole of green wood laid across a small log used as a chopping block. As the sticks were cut off the man pitched them over a fence into a yard. As one pole would be finished he would select another from a pile, drag it out with the axe used as a hook, lay it across the chopping-block with the larger end of the pole sticking cut beyond the block, place one foot on the pole and chop off the protruding end. At each blow of the axe the man would give a violent exhalation of breath accompanied by a hearty grunt, this combination being held by woodchoppers of the time to give increased power to the blow.


The pile of wood had been delivered that day by a farmer who had driven to town in the early morning atop the load, returning to his home in late afternoon, sitting side-ways on the running gears of the wagon. Sale of the wood had been made by the farmer down on the square where he, upon arrival at the village, had hitched his team of horses to a pole hitching-rack that was set out a few feet from a high, unpainted, board fence that enclosed the court-house yard. Here the farmers hitched their teams while trading in the small stores or transacting business at the courthouse. In the course of time the horses had pawed depressions in the ground at the rack which filled with water after rains and formed mud-puddles.

The farmer who had brought the wood had spent a day or more cutting down the trees, trimming off the branches and loading the poles on the wagon. The better part of another day was taken up in bringing the wood to town, finding a buyer, and unloading it at the home of the buyer. The farmer pocketed the seventy-five cents as the price of the wood and considered that he had made a satisfactory sale. He had also sold to a general store a few dozen eggs for 5 cents per dozen, taking pay in merchandise.

As the man chopped he stopped occasionally long enough to eye keenly the cutting edge of the axe, giving vent to a snort of disapproval after each inspection. But any improvement in the axe’s condition would involve hunting up a grind-stone, perhaps at a blacksmith’s shop, getting some one to turn the stone while he spent an hour or more grinding the metal down to a sharper edge. As this would take a good deal of time, the man perhaps thought it were best to keep on using the axe as it was.

A small boy alternately hacked with a dull hatchet on the small ends of the long poles protruding from the pile, emulating his father’s chopping, or rode the poles as make-believe horses, the spring in the poles which lifted him clear of the ground, simulating the gallop of a horse. The wood-pile was in the street and a neighbor stopped to pass the time of day and exchange small item of interest anent the town and its citizens. The man was not old, but to the boy he seemed very old and frail, and the boy wondered that his father could endure such prodigious labor as the chopping, to his young mind, appeared to be.

The boy now strolled out to the road to play in the dust. This was a one-lane rutted track flanked either side by weeds, gullies, wood-yards and the general debris incident to human habitation, a veritable no-man’s land where the cows and hogs roamed at will; a space used by each citizen, so far as the part abutting his property was concerned, for any purpose he saw fit. Dead dog-fennel, weeds, mullen stalks, and sun-flowers bore evidence of the street’s summer crop, while piles of ashes, and a scattering assortment of old shoes, bones, rusting tin-ware, and general debris were the human contributions. The street was innocent of side-walks. Indeed, the citizens' wood-piles occupied the space where in after years the walks would be. At this time there were none in the village and of course were not missed. A gulley ran along a few feet outside the fence, and after rains became a stream of liquid mud, where, in summer, the boy delighted to wade bare-footed and feel the soft mud squash up between his toes.

A string of wagons clanked slowly along the road, the drivers husky-looking bearded men, who sat their seats and held the lines with the air of men to such work born and bred. "Freighters," they were, and their mein that of men who had come leisurely a long journey and were still far from their destination;—too far to hurry. The wagons had bows and sheets, the former generally placed at rakish angles and the sheets tucked in here and there—drawn taut in places—all in that apparently hap-hazard manner that marked an experts handiwork. For these were men of the road, hauling freight from the railroad terminus, a day’s journey from the village, into that great southern "hinterland" where fourty-thousand square miles of rough hills and endless forests knew no other means of transportation. For this was in the 1870’s and the scene a village in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

The boy stopped his play to watch the wagons, a familiar sight to his eyes, and was fascinated by the small cascades of brown dust pouring from the wheels’ felloes as it was lifted from the ruts. The freighters had come up the Wilderness Road, camping over night at road-side springs, and tonight would camp at the Hill spring at the creek just outside the village and pasture their horses on the lush grass, still green and unimpared in the late fall days, that grew in the open spaces in the creek bottom. Later in the evening the men would come up town, perhaps stopping at a saloon for a few drinks of whiskey. At daylight they would be on the road again.

A two-room house was located in the yard that was enclosed by a rough board fence, the house being crowded up into one corner of the yard so as to give room for a vegetable garden and for the location of the pig-pen, and ether necessary structures, as far from the house as possible. A barrel to catch rainwater stood at the corner of the shed room, and a wooden tub rested on a near-by bench.


Smoke came from the chimney on the low roof, a coal-oil lamp burned on the table in the shed-room, and a white-and-yellow spotted cat sat outside the door slowly washing its face, but stopping now and then to look expectantly at the closed door. It was supper time and the cat knew it soon would be fed.

A woman opened the door and called to the man that supper was ready, the cat taking quick advantage to scuttle inside. The man cut off another stick without appearing to have heard the call, then stopped, set the axe over the fence, and came through the gate. The boy, meanwhile, had climbed the fence and ran to the house. The man stopped at the wooden bench, dipped a tin basin in the barrel of water and methodically washed his hands, going into the kitchen to dry them on a towel hanging on a nail in the door. Supper was being placed on the table. There was a platter of bacon and eggs, gravy, biscuits with butter and perserves. A pot of hot coffee sat on the near-by stove, easily in reach of the woman’s chair at the table. The fall air was chilly at night, and the warmth from the cook-stove together with the smell of hot food was a satisfying combination to the boy, who was eagerly hungry. The man said a simple blessing and the meal was eaten largely in silence.

After the dishes had been scraped up the man took a bucket of slop to the hogs that were confined in a rough board pen at the far side of the lot. The restless creatures had been "raised" by their owner, a hill farmer, by letting them run at will in the forest, getting their food in any way they could, and consequently about lost whatever small domestic instincts their progenitors may have had. Wild animals they were now, beasts that snorted at the approach of a human being and gnashed their teeth in apparent rage at being trapped. The man poured the slop over the fence into a wooden trough while the hogs fought for an advantageous place. Hungry vicious and unbelievably dirty, they were, but destined to supply a goodly portion of their owner’s living during the coming winter.

A small fire had been started in the stone fireplace after supper to take the October chill out of the air and make the large, low-ceiling room seem more cheerful. It was always and merely "the room." It and a shed-room kitchen made up the house. A lamp had been brought in from the kitchen and placed on a little table in the room. The woman sat near the light and knitted, the gray ball of yarn occasionally escaping from her lap and rolling on the floor, an event to which the cat gave alert attention. The man sat in front of the fire and chewed vigorously on a quid of tobacco, spitting copiously into the fire-place. Talk was in short sentences, wide in range but withal desultory and not plenteous. Periods of many minutes’ silence occurred between the short sentences, or questions. Had he seen anyone from Linden township in town that day? Whom did he think would be elected county clerk? When was the next quarterly meeting? How did people like the new school teacher? She must make some apple sauce tomorrow.

The boy sat on the carpet and played with a flat-iron, or dragged it around over the floor with a string, playing that it was a wagon. Occasionally he stopped to play with the cat, whose comfortable pose before the fire would be rudely disturbed for a few minutes while it submitted good-naturally to being pulled and hauled and generally manhandled. To the cat that was part of life—it had known nothing else since a kitten. The boy’s parents were kind and well intentioned, but they required the boy to find his own entertainment, something that stood him well in after years.

A rap at the door and a neighbor woman came in bringing a plate of fresh-baked gingerbread. The wife of a doctor, she knew many items of news, and always was a welcome caller. The doctor had just left for a trip to Stony Ridge, a twenty mile round trip ride on horseback over roads that were little better than trails, to see an ailing woman. He was accompanied by the woman’s husband who had ridden into town that day for medical aid. The doctor would be gone all night and the better part of the following day, during which time he would get no sleep. Moreover, he probably would never get any pay, a matter which he knew beforehand and which gave him little concern.

There had been a stranger in town that day, but the doctor had failed to learn his business. A butcher shop was to be opened soon if the weather remained cool, so she had heard. She did hope it would get cooler, as the flies had nearly eaten them up. Eggs had gone up to six cents per dozen, and no good butter had been brought to town by the farmers lately. The doctor couldn’t eat butter unless he knew who made it; the maker didn’t matter, just as he knew. The new preacher’s wife had caused some talk, so the doctor’s wife said. She was a good deal younger than the preacher, and some folks thought she was a little more gabby then a preacher’s wife should be; had told that she had gone to a dance once when a girl, and had been heard to say that she didn’t see why a preacher’s wife shouldn’t have as good clothes as any other woman. Some of the church members were sort of worked up about it, the doctor’s wife said, and one or two had told somebody that they


wasn’t going to donate any of their hard-earned money to the preacher if his wife was going to spend it on clothes. Also that things had come to a pretty mess when a minister of the gospel would marry such a woman. Yes, the protracted meeting was still going on. She had heard Aunt Liza shouting clear up to her house last night, and reckoned it was on account of some no-account kin getting converted.

When the visitor had gone the man and woman sat awhile longer before the fire. Talk was of Kentucky and of their relatives and friends there, probably none of whom they would ever see again. There they had been born, and their parents and grandparents before them. There they had grown up and married. It was still home to them— Rocky Hill, Sinking Creek, Smith’s Grove, Horse Cave and all the old places that had been a part of their lives for so long. And then they had been set down in a strange land—the hill country of Missouri—and were slow and perhaps reluctant, in becoming adjusted to a life differing so greatly from that to which they had been accustomed on Kentucky farms.

The boy had long since gone to sleep on the floor. His mother now undressed him without his awakening, pulled out a trundle bed from under the big bed and placed him in it. The fire had burned down to a few brightly glowing chunks. Presently the man leaned over in his chair and with an iron shovel searched out the ashes and piled them on the coals. Thus fire would be kept all night. Then he picked up the cat, balancing its belly across one hand and put it gently out of doors.

The boy was awakened by the sound of the coffee-mill, which the man held between his knees while he turned the handle, this chore being the man’s part of getting breakfast. The boy did not get up at once, as the room was chilly and he was warm and comfortable in bed. But he knew this was to be a big day for him and that thought kept him from going to sleep again. The boy’s breakfast was soon over and a little later he was being washed—neck and ears, like on Sundays—and had put on his new jeans suit that his mother had made. Then taking his father’s hand, and clutching clumsily a small thin book, they were gone. The woman went as far as the gate, gave the boy a pat on the head, and stood watching the boy and his father, hand in hand, as they turned their steps toward the school-house.

No longer young are we who swiftly tread the quiet path
Beyond the mark of three-score years and ten.
Long ago we climbed the heights, as such they seemed to us,
And sometimes since have started down.
The road we’ve come is thickly strewn with those who came
Part way and could not make the grade.
And now the few that have by chance come through thus far
Salute the silent throng behind.
Not much you’ve missed by stopping on the way
Is what we’d like to say to you.
Things have not changed to make the world
A better place to live and work.
It matters not just when one stops - at morn, or noon, or eve
The span if long is also short, and time will even up the score.
Yet Time is but a man-made thing; where you are there is no time
And though we think of you as being left behind
It wall may be that it is we who lag along the way
While far in front you wait for us to come.

The bus drew up at its station and an old man got off, standing alone on the walk after the other passengers had left. The man had no business in the town and felt a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable. He had come a long journey to visit the place, but now that he was here there came over him a feeling that may be he shouldn’t have come. Before reaching the town there had been a chance for the man to get a brief view from a hill to the north, of the wide expanse of the Finley valley and the town on its southern slope. And although a well-remembered scene, and in itself a beautiful and satisfying sight in the clear October air, yet it did not seem like home. Already he sensed what he came for would not be found - that his trip was a useless quest. But he would go on with it; he needn’t stay longer than he wanted to.

As the man strolled uncertainly along the walk he glanced casually at the people he met, half fearing that he would see no one he knew, and yet a bit apprehensive in a way that he would. He stopped momentarily now and again to read the names of merchants in the signs on the store fronts, or to peer expectantly inside where the doors were open. It would be fine, after all, to run across some old-timer whom he knew. This was his town, or once was. Here he had been born, had gone to school, had known everybody and they had known him. Now he was a stranger. Well, that was all-right, too - it was the natural way of things. There was no one to blame and the man was not resentful, but he did not feel just as he had expected to feel.


Here was a spot in a street, the man recalled, where once a week in days long gone had been boiled a big iron pot of licorice to flavor the thin plug tobacco made in a small local factory by Mike Graber and his sons. The wood fire and boiling pot was a gathering place for the small boys; a place where maybe they could get a taste of the pot’s pungent contents.

The old court-house fence with its wooden stiles, instead of gates, was a thing of the past. The stiles served as "Home" when the young fellows played "Run sheep run" on summer nights. Gone, too, was the court-house well with its clattering tin bucket and pulley, a common meeting ground for those who came to get the only fresh and cool drinking water available for the stores around the square, and for many households as well. Always there was someone at the well, and on summer evenings it did a big business.

The old brick jail with its unsightly high board fence and ugly out-building was gone, making a marked improvement in the appearance of the court-house yard. The man remembered that when a boy he had peeked through cracks in the fence to watch workmen erect a rough timber scaffold on which, a few days later, three unfortunate and bewildered farmers were hanged. And nearby, the man recalled, was a place where when he was a very small boy he had climbed up on the hub of a wagon standing at the hitching rack and peered fearfully over the side of the wagon-bed at three dead men lying in the bottom. These were a part of a band of out-laws recently come into the county, and the dead men had been killed by a sheriff’s posse in the hills a few miles south of town.

At a high corner of the square once stood Caudle’s carpenter shop, the making and selling of coffins being part of his business. Sometimes a customer from several miles away would arrive at night and the coffin had to be made ready at once. At such times the people living round about were apt to be awaken at some unholy hour by resonant sound made by the tapping of a hammer on a hollow wooden box, and ill-omened hearld -as it were - bringing disturbing and gloomy visions of the dreary black cloth with which a box was being lined; of a somber group gathered around a newly-dug hole, of a big box being slowly lowered to its final resting place, and of the dismal sound made by the first shovel-full of clods falling on the box.

Here at a corner of the square once had been a blacksmith shop run by Jim Marley, and where at break of day on the Fourth of July the blacksmith began the firing of anvils, the first one being a signal for all the small boys to tumble out of bed, and those who could manage by hook or crook to evade their parents to rush to the scene. To intently watch the blacksmith pour a handful of black powder into a recess in an anvil, cover it with a piece of damp paper but leaving a little of the powder uncovered, bring out from the forge a long iron rod glowing red at one end, and amid squeals of delight and plugging of ears by his audience bring the rod slowly down until it touched the loose powder on the bottom anvil. An ear-splitting explosion followed as the top anvil jumped several feet into the air. This was the liveliest sort of entertainment, well worth the tongue-lashing, or worse, that a youngster might get upon returning home, and a fitting start of a glorious day of popping firecrackers, picnic dinners, lemonade stands, swings, dancing platforms, and a real brass band from Springfield. All possible excitement crowded into one short day, ending in a display of fireworks at night. That was the day of days for the small boy and no wonder it seemed an eternity of time between one Fourth and the next.

The old frame school-house where the man had gone to school had been gone these fifty years or more. Standing on what in winter was a black and wind-swept site, a desolate piece of architecture, devoid in itself and its surroundings of any feature that might appeal to the esthetic sense of a pupil, and lacking the conveniences now considered so essential to a decent way of life, the man could feel no regret that the structure was no more. On a greatly expanded site he now saw a structure in keeping with the times, one that attested the citizens’ interest in education and their willingness to spend money in its behalf.

In his walk around the square the man stopped at a corner where long ago there had been a grove of young trees - a place where farmers in summer hitched their horses in the half shade. Now the area was covered with business buildings. He looked with interest at the big hill and noted the new highway - a ribbon concrete - that had replaced the former rocky and rutted road. And the man’s memories turned to a leaf-carpeted winding path that once ran through the forest at the top of the hill; to moonlight summer nights and tile scent of lilac blossoms in an old-fashioned garden at the end of the path.

The Highlandville Hill! So named for a small town on the road - the old Wilderness Road - a few miles to the south. There, about the year 1870, Ferdinand Kentling settled and started a store, perhaps now the oldest in the county. Here, too, a lady of gentle birth lived out a long, long life, no doubt oftentimes dreaming of the days when she was a friend of Queen Charlotte and


a welcome visitor at the court of Austria; of Napoleon’s made scheme for an empire in Mexico and of the parts she and her husband played in Maxmillian’s brief and tragic regime in that country.

The old Bluff Spring would be there so he would have a look at that. But the path from the street down to the spring was choked with brush, and the place had so changed in looks that he didn’t care enough to go on. Here at the spring had been the creek ford, a place where horses were brought to water, a twice-a-day chore. Here, also, was where baptismal rites that required plenty of water were performed, events which always drew a goodly crowd of spectators. And from the spring the man had helped carry a pail of drinking water to the school-house when he was a boy. This spring had played an important part in the beginning of the town, being the sole source of water for domestic uses for many years after the first settlement on the hill. Indeed, its presence, coupled with a good site for water power development, were the primary reasons for there being any Ozark.

Already the man had seen that the old wooden bridge was gone. It had served its time - served it well indeed, - and now in its place a double-lane steel span carried the highway (In old days merely the "road") across the creek. The old bridge with its deep shade was a great attraction for youngsters. Always there was several inches of dust on the floor, even in wet weather, and this could be raked through the wide cracks between the floor boards and be seen to fall in brownish streams in the dark water of the mill pond. It was a fine place for foot-races for barefooted boys and it oftentimes served as a shelter for picknickers when rain storms came up. The old bridge had been built a year or two after the close of the Civil War and for a long time was the only one on the whole length of Finley. When fords were impassable, which often occurred, the only crossing on the stream was here, and this contributed somewhat towards the town’s up-building.

The cemetery was not far away and the man spent a little time there strolling along its paths, noting the well-kept appearance of the place in contrast to what once it had been. As he read the inscriptions on the stones there was no need to wonder why he had seen so few people he knew. Here, in a quiet and pretty spot on a high bluff overlooking the creek and valley beyond, close to where they once had lived, many of his old-time friends slept the long sleep.

The bus would soon be leaving so the man went back to its stand. This was the site of an old livery stable long since demolished to make way for a hotel. Here in former days was a sort of gathering place in summer for the town’s unemployed; a place to sit in the shade, chew tobacco, smoke, whittle and talk. And the man thought what a rousing greeting he might have been given were that old-time gang still there. For he, himself, had been one of them. Here he had sat, smoked and talked many an hour. Often, too, pondering sullenly on his wasted life, how bleak and dreary the outlook, how small the hope for anything worth while in a place where opportunities were so lacking. "Loafers" they were called but that was only half true. Most any of them would have worked steadily at a good job, but there were none of that kind, and few enough of any sort. It was simply a case of more workers than work, and idleness and its evil train was inevitable.

The man climbed aboard the bus. He was a bit tired and sleepy and sank down gratefully into one of the comfortable seats. On the whole he was content; he had seen the town. His intended visit of several days had shrunk to one of a few hours, but that had been long enough. One can go back to a place, he cannot go back to a time. And the man now knew that his desire to visit the old places had been, in reality, a wish for an impossible thing; a longing for the associations of days long past.

But wasn’t that the old livery stable he now saw? And wasn’t that Horce Foster? Sure, that was Horce, he would know him anywhere, his old slouch hat pushed back on his head showing a map of black curly hair, hands in his pockets, leaning gracefully against the old unpainted wall. Well, it sure was fine to see Horce, and the man ran up to him to give him a playful punch with his fist, as so often he had done. And Horce, his eyes lighting up in recognition, warded off the blow, spat out a huge chew of tobacco, wiped his mouth with his hand, grabbed the man’s arm and said: "Well, I’ll be damned, you old son-of-gun, how in the hell are you, anyway," and gave the man a slap on the shoulder.

"Your ticket, please," said the bus driver.


Picture of Old Bridge at TANEYCOMO before the Lake was built there.

Picture of Old Bridge at TANEYCOMO before the Lake was built there.

Old Riley house, 1899 Kissee Mills, Mo.

Old Riley house, 1899 Kissee Mills, Mo.

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