Volume 9, Number 12 - Summer 1988

The Levi Boswell Family of Taney County, Missouri
By Mary Lou Boswell

Levi Boswell Sr. and his third wife, Abigail Ray, arrived in Taney County in 1839. They first lived on a farm about 16 miles northeast of Forsyth in what is now Christian County; that is where their first son, Levi Jr., was born in 1840. They lived there a number of years, and during that time Levi Sr. served as sheriff of Taney County.

In 1847 Levi Sr. sold the farm and moved to Forsyth, and in 1848 a second son, John Benton was born. It is said that Levi Sr. opened a trading post atthe mouth of Swan Creek and later told his grandson, Samuel Walter, many stories of those early days. One of those stories was about Indians who would come in a group to the trading post to drink whiskey, but they always appointed one of the group to abstain and remain sober to see that the others reach home safely.

Levi Jr. grew up helping his father on the farm and in the store. He received his education from his parents and any teachers who happened to be around. Apparently the education was a good one judging from later documents which he wrote and from the fact that he taught penmanship.

In 1857 Levi Jr. married Lucretia Paralie Sanders, and they set up housekeeping in Forsyth. In due time they started a family. Mary Frances was born in 1858 and Samuel Walter in 1860.

The hostilities between the North and the South were beginning to heat up, but the Boswells remained in Forsyth, despite the skirmishes being fought in and around the town. In 1862 after the Pea Ridge battle, Levi Jr. joined the Union Army as it passed through Forsyth, serving as an ambulance driver for Major Wright.

Samuel Walter Boswell told Douglas Mahnkey of Forsyth that his sister, Mary Frances, when she was about four years old, was playing in the yard and was struck by a stray bullet, probably from a sniper’s gun. It may be that the near-fatal accident made the Boswells decide that it was dangerous to stay in Forsyth. They moved north to Greene County in 1862.

Shortly after they arrived in Greene County they were confined by some epidemic from which Lucretia didn’t recover. She died in October and was buried in the city cemetery in Springfield.

Levi Sr. and Abigail either bought or rented a farm and kept the two grandchildren with them and John Benton while Levi Jr. went to fight the war.

By this time Levi Jr. was in the service of the Enrolled Missouri Militia, and in December 1863 he married Ann Ellen Tirey of Polk County. The following March he was released from the army, and he and Ann Ellen farmed in Polk County until she died in 1865.

The war was over, and Levi Sr. and Abigail moved back to Forsyth to the old family homestead. Presumably they took Mary Frances and Samuel Walter with them, as Levi Jr. went off to Sedalia and began work as a house painter and carpenter.

In 1866 Levi Jr. went back to Polk County and married his third wife, Ann Eliza McKinney, but it wasn’t until the following year that he brought her to Taney County. Try to imagine Levi Jr.’s feelings. He had seen his home and town burned and destroyed, he had endured the hardships of war, he had seen firsthand the death and destruction, and he had buried two wives - all of this by the time he was only 25 years old.

Here is what he wrote of his return to Forsyth:

The 11th day of March following (1867) I landed back to the old stamping ground (Taney County) but did not venture to town until September. During the summer previous there had been a few buildings erected by some of the old citizens who had returned to view the charred remains, though in fact nothing save the brick wall of the old Court House had escaped the firey (sic) vengeance of both the Northern and Southern army’s (sic). It was then that pale faces and soldier worn bodies were to be seen viewing their once happy homes. It was at this time a sad and lonely country, and while contemplating upon all the horrors, the sight of Refugees were constantly in range who had fled from Arkansas and farther south and west, and continued for days, weeks, months, returning from whence they came."

Levi Jr. and Ann Eliza


settled on a farm with Mary Frances and Samuel Walter and began to have more children, eight more to be exact: Royal Grant, Clarissa, L.A., Levi III, Ella, Minnie, Harrison, and Boone.

In 1870 Levi Jr. became quite active in the civic affairs of Taney County. He was elected county treasurer twice - in 1870 and 1872. He also served as deputy county and circuit clerk, probate clerk, sworn deputy post master, and special deputy county clerk under his father who was county clerk at the time. He was also a school director and a Master Mason (also the first Mason made in Taney County) and was admitted an Odd Fellow in initiation.

In 1874 Levi Sr. died and in 1879 Abigail died. They were buried in the old Swan Creek Cemetery in Forsyth.

Sometime before 1880 Levi Jr. and Ann Eliza moved back to Polk County, where Levi died in 1889. He is buried in the Slagle Cemetery in Polk County along with his wife Ann Eliza.

Mary Frances married Thomas Jefferson Van Zandt, and they remained in Forsyth where they had a large family. Thomas Jefferson was a barber, and he and Mary Frances ran a hotel in old Forsyth.

Samuel Walter also remained in Forsyth, and in 1885 he married Marietta Frazier. She was an orphan who had come to Forsyth to live with her aunt, Phoebe Rebecca, who was married to Barnett P. Parrish. Samuel Walter and Marietta had a comfortable home in old Forsyth and began their family with Ben (who died at age 2) followed by Virginia, Beulah, Agnes (who died at age 7) and Byron.

Samuel Walter was engaged in a variety of business ventures. He, along with Calvin Parrish, R. S. Branson, and Wil ham Peck, owned and operated a distillery. He was vice president and later cashier ofTaney County Bank, the first bank in Taney County. He established the White Swan Camp and employed John Ray as a guide for hired fishing expeditions. He owned a number of pieces of property both in and outside the town of Forsyth and had an interest in a number of businesses in Branson.

He served as county treasurer for two terms, was a member of the school board, the Masonic Lodge, the Knights of Pythias, and the Woodmen of the World, and contributed both time and money to the building of the Stone Chapel.

Marietta Boswell was an energetic little lady. She was a charter member of the Haworth Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, helped organize a garden club, started a chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and was a Real Daughter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, her father having fought for the South during the Civil War. In 1935 she was appointed the first woman post master of Forsyth by James A. Farley upon the recommendation of several senators, one of them being Harry S Truman.

Samuel Walter died in 1937 and Marietta in 1947. They are buried in the family plot in old Swan Creek Cemetery.

Their children grew up in Forsyth and attended the School of the Ozarks when it was in Forsyth. But after they were grown, they began to leave, one by one.

Virginia married George

M. Root and had one daughter, Marietta. After Marietta was grown, Virginia moved to Ft. Worth, Texas, where she was secretary to the president of a chemical company. She died in 1970 and is buried in the old Swan Creek Cemetery.

Beulah married Otis W. Carter, who died after six y~ars of marriage from tuberculosis which he contracted during World War I. Then Beulah went to Washington D.C., where she worked 30 years in the Veteran’s Administration. She came back to Forsyth after her retirement and is presently living at Plantation Hills Nursing Home in Forsyth.

Byron married Marie Rooke, and after the birth of their only son, they moved to Chicago where Byron first sold insurance and then became a stock broker with W.C. Gibson & Company and later with McCormick and Company. He retired in 1970, and he and Marie returned to Forsyth to live. He served as deacon in the Forsyth Community Presbyterian Church which they attended faithfully. Marie was one of the six women who organized the Forsyth Library and was a member of the first board of directors of the library.

Byron died in 1974 and is buried in the Ozark Memorial Cemetery. Marie is living in Rosenberg, Texas, near her son, Samuel Rooke Boswell, a retired family physician.

Samuel Rooke, his wife Mary Lou, their six children, and six grandchildren maintain a cottage in Forsyth and return several times each year to enjoy the beautiful Ozarks and the happy memories of those who came before and made it all possible.


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