Volume 6, Number 8 - Summer 1978

Across the Rivers and the Mountains They Came
by Douglas Mahnkey

A few weeks ago a man from Minnesota came to my office. Before we began discussing the business at hand he asked me this question:

"Tell me, Mr. Mahnkey, how in the world you were lucky enough to select this beautiful country for your home?" He smiled as I replied "I had nothing to do with it. Both my grandpas picked this country for homes long before I was born."

Many of you can say the same as I. Your grandsires came across wild streams and rugged mountains, over unmarked trails which led all the way from Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and the Carolinas to these Ozark Hills. In the little space of this page I shall tell a little of three of these pioneer families.

George Washington Gideon, as a lad of 18, walked from near Nashville, Tennessee to the Missouri Ozarks. He had no funds or way of travel. He earned his way by driving livestock for a wagon train of movers. He settled in an area that is now Christian County. This young man was the beginning of the Gideon family that has contributed so much to the history and well being of this section of the Ozarks. Two of his grandsons, Robert L. and Joseph R. Gideon were lawyers and both served as judges. Joe Gideon told me of his grandfather while visiting on the street the other day. His grandfather loved the Ozark hills far they reminded him of the country where he grew up.

David Hadley Pickett, a native of South Carolina, was a young soldier in the Confederate Army. Near the end of the bitter war, Pickett found time to visit briefly with his wife. He told her the South was going to lose the war and be left in a ruined and destitute condition. He urged her to use all the Confederate money they had and buy blankets, quilts, feather beds, linens and anything light that could be hauled by wagon a long distance. She did that and hid these things where they could not be easily found. The war finally ended. David Pickett loaded his wagon with a few household furnishings and the goods that Mrs. Pickett had hoarded away. They decided to come to Southern Missouri. Their route led them to Springfield, Missouri, then a wild frontier town. He had only $10.00 in U.S. money. He paid ten cents to camp in the Springfield wagon yard. This gave him an opportunity to visit with people on the move like himself. He had no idea where he would go from Springfield. He struck up a conversation with a man who had just given up a claim near Kirbyville, in Taney County. This man offered to give Pickett his right to the claim and sketched on rough paper the route that would take Pickett to the place.

David Pickett followed the route and after some days of travel pulled his wagon to a stop at the rude log cabin on the claim. They unloaded the wagon and Mrs. Pickett began cooking supper over the fireplace. David walked down the long black oak ridge to the south from the cabin. He noted the good new land and said to himself, "This is the place I want to live." He improved the place and traded quilts and other items to the Moore family on the river for seed corn, meat and other things needed to get the little claim in production. The Pickett family and descendants have always been ranked among our best citizens.

Mrs. Mahnkey’s great grandfather was Abraham Walker. He was born near Nashville, Tennessee, August 12, 1817. He settled in an early day in either Christian or Douglas County. Leonard L. Walker, his son was a Union soldier, serving in the 8th Regiment of Missouri Cavalry, Company C. They are both buried in the Witte Cemetery, in Douglas County. Mrs. Mahnkey cherishes the Union Army discharge of her grandfather issued in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 20, 1865 and the long barrelled Kentucky rifle that old Abraham carried from Tennessee.

These pioneer settlers from the Great Smokies were attracted to these Ozark Hills for they reminded them of their homeland. They loved the freedom this country then afforded. They carved out a way of life in these rugged hills that is now gone forever. These pioneers, all of them, working together set up the schools, churches, mills, shops, and lived an independent life, removed from the outside world. They asked no help, only an opportunity. I recall that Uncle Tom Smith, then an old man, said to me "Yes, them was hard times but if I knew where there was another country like it I would start in the mornin’."


This volume: Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues

Other Volumes | Keyword Search | White River Valley Quarterly Home | Local History Home

Copyright © White River Valley Historical Quarterly

 Springfield-Greene County Library