Volume 8, Number 10 - Winter 1985

Our Move from Kansas City to Douglas County and Return
by Norvil L. Brown

Our Mamma (Etta Lovisa McGinnis Brown) had inherited some money on the death of Grandpa McGinnis (1898). Our parents, David Norvil Brown & Etta, planned to move to Douglas County in southern Missouri, expecting to make a lot of money. Dad bought two mustangs and we planned to drive from Kansas City to Douglas County in a covered wagon. I attended Bryant School in Kansas City and mentioned our plans to my teacher, Mrs. Sadler. She was not as enthusiastic as I was. My older brother, Wallace, had run away from home when he was about 12. While we were preparing to leave, a policeman came to our house and advised us that Wallace was in Wisconsin and wanted to come home. It had been four years to the day since he left. Dad sent money for Wallace's return and we delayed leaving while we awaited his return. While waiting for Wallace the Mustang mare bit off her tongue and Dad replaced her with an old mare. Dad found the white mustang uncontrollable. A very neighborly German lady offered to clean up the rooms we occupied after we left.

When the white mustang was hitched to the wagon he went on a tear and the old mare just went along for a ride, as I remember it. When we reached South Greenfield the neighbors warned us not to stay overnight at a place dad had selected, because a sudden storm would flood the place. The neighbors had us go to a log cabin to spend the night. At Springfield Dad traded the white mustang for Nate, the spotted appaloosa. Dad had Nate shod at Springfield and Nate kicked the device to pieces that was supposed to hold him while the blacksmith shod him. Dad said the blacksmith did not charge him for the breakage. Dad had to teach Nate to back. We spent that night outside of Springfield.

As we were preparing for night a tornado hit and soaked our bedding. Wallace accidentally hit mothers mouth with a slat causing her mouth to bleed. The storm tore up Joplin pretty bad we heard. I was very scared.

When we reached the Ozark mountains we found rocky roads and difficult hills. Some of these we climbed afoot and used rocks to chuck the wheels when the horses had to rest. It was at one of these stops that Mamma found "The Snack Rock" a rock with a petrified or fossilized snake in it. Henry "Lawrence" was with her when she found it. The fossil was not visible in the rock according to Henry until the wagon wheel rolled against the stone and split it open. The stone was used as a door stop in later years and is now in the possession of David and Etta’s oldest living grandson George L. Brown of Imperial, MO. (Photographs of the snake rock are herewith) After returning to Kansas City, Elfie took the rock to her zoology teacher at Manual High School. The teacher, Miss Jean Sublette, said it was some kind of a snail and wanted to put it in a museum, but Mamma would not consent.


According to Henry Brown the family lived near the corner of Boone, Spring Creek and Monterey Township of Douglas County in 1903 & 1904. Elfie described the house as "a log cabin with a rough wood lean to for the kitchen. The logs were chinked with mud and the fireplace was stone--very primitive. I do not remember but one window in it." Henry remembers waking up mornings and finding snow on top of his bed covers. Wallace slept in an upstairs "room" (loft) reached by a ladder. Elfie does not remember where she or her youngest sister, Ellison, slept, but remembers that Mamma and Dad slept in the main cabin.

Corn was already planted when we got there. Some was washed out and had to be replanted. Wallace and I, Rosa and Bowen Murray did the replanting on their place, which is the one Dad had rented to farm. We must have been very unsuccessful farmers. I don’t know what return, if any, was ours. The losses were very great to us. A cow that Wallace tethered choked to death. Also three horses died. We all had boils, climate sores, and stone bruises. Sheep and wood ticks were prevalent. We all lost our health. (But they all lived past 70).

But there was the sunny side also. The Pansies, wild Hyacinths, Violets and other wild flowers were so beautiful. Momma took us kids for hikes and showed us arrowheads, rock formations, cliffs and beautiful trees. She opened our minds to many of natures wonders - moss, clear water, etc. Elfie’s girl associates were Belle Rippee, Rosa Murray, and Naomi Turner. She also admits to having been interested in Bowen Murray & Monroe Turner.

Mamma made friends with families named Lemon, Berry, Gardners, Murray and Hatfields. Henry recalls "I went with Ma to visit a woman who offered Ma a chaw of tobacco - no go. On the way back home I found a pile of arrows (I imagine they were arrowheads) but had to leave them to catch Ma." He also related that, to the best of his memory, Larissa had a Post Office where the family got their mail and also had a grist mill. Elfie took Henry and Ellison on Nate, a blind black horse with white spots on his rump, and coached him to walk across two logs over a creek.

Henry Brown tells of some of the experiences that he had as a child there" Wallace took me along froging at a spring for greenbacks and Ma got sick watching skinned legs jumping in hot lard. Another time he took me and a muzzle loading gun turkey hunting at night and I fell off a log into a creek. We went to school, don’t know the name, but boys like to throw rocks and there was a ball of grass in a tree. I hit it and got hit in the forehead by hornets, knocked me flat." Elfie said the name of the school was Star School.

Henry told that there were lots of rocks to remove from the fields, and as he was helping he stuck his thumb under a rock and got stung by a hard shelled lizard. (Later he learned this was a scorpion). The family gathered dried beans in the pods into burlap bags and stored them on the rafters of the blacksmith shop they were then using as a house. Henry is not certain but believed this "home" had dirt floors. He said, "We had lots of bed bugs and ticks while living there."

Elfie recalls the time the bull visited their home in the Blacksmith shop or the Jim Brooks place. Lawrence and I were alone. Momma was probably at the Jim Brooks house where she cooked for the hands. All the animal did was drink Mamma’s rain water. A man on a beautiful grey stallion came to inquire about him but I did not know where he had gone.

Dad and some other men went down on the White River to work for a while. They cut and hand hewed railroad ties. When he returned we all prepared to return to Kansas City. When we left for Kansas City, Ma took us on the train with our last hen cooked and in a five pound syrup pail. Dad rode Nate back to Kansas City.


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