The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

From the summit of the bluff on the east side of Shoal Creek an observer has a pretty view of White River, the tumbling shoals and the backwater or sloo in the mouth of the creek. The top of this bluff or the point of it rather is just over the line in Boone County, Ark. On the opposite side of the creek is the old Fielden Holt residence. The main part of the farm is below the mouth of the creek. Mr. Holt came to this land in the latter part of 1849. Here on this farm Mary Matilda, the writer’s wife, was reared from early infancy. She is a daughter of Fielden and Elizabeth (Hamblin) Holt and was born on the bank of Little North Fork one mile and a half above the mouth of Barren Fork January 27, 1849. We were married in the Sugar Loaf Prairie on what is known as the Prairie Bill Coker place, now the Bill Pumphrey farm, January 28, 1869. Dr. W. A. Langston, a Presbyterian, officiated. Mr. Langston died at the residence of his son, John Langston, at Joplin, Mo., April 17, 1907. I remember the parties who were present at the wedding, namely Fielden Holt and Mary A. Holt, Fielden’s second wife; and Mrs. Catherine Orr, widow of Samuel Orr and mother of Mrs. Holt; Peter Keesee and Sally Keesee, his wife; the latter is a sister of my wife’s; Dick Rosenberg; and two young negroes of the name of Bob and Candis who in slave times belonged to River Bill Coker. These were all except the preacher who performed the ceremony. Fielden (F. H.) Holt was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee October 19, 1823. His first wife, Miss Elizabeth Hamblin, was born in the state of Indiana in 1811. Mr. Holt came to Ozark County, Mo., in the autumn of 1839. Miss Elizabeth Hamblin came from Indiana with her uncle Jim and aunt Franky Jones near the same time Mr. Holt did and her and Holt were married on Little North Fork a few years later. Jim Jones and his wife went from Ozark County, Mo., to Lamar County, Texas, where they both died near Ruxton. I remember that one day in March, 1877, while I was in Lamar County I and Jim Jones, son of Uncle Jim Jones visited their graves which are in a cemetery near Ruxton. Mrs. Elizabeth Holt died in Hickory County, Mo., September 15, 1864. Mr. Holt survived her until the 29th of January, 1902, when he too succumbed to grim death which occurred at his son’s, (George Holt), residence the Holt Hotel at Protem, Missouri. His body is resting in the cemetery there. He had been a resident of the Ozarks nearly 63 years. Just above this part of the bluff on the east side of the creek is a fine spring of water which flows out at the base of the hill near the ford (crossing) of the creek. My wife carried water from this spring in a cedar pail when she was a little girl. On the right bank of the creek some 300 yards from the river is a large burr oak tree. On this tree Isaac Ashton and Tom Dial made a mark with an axe to show the highest stage of water in White River on the evening of the 13th of February, 1884. The highest crest of water rose to this same mark on the 6th of May, 1898. A measurement taken by George Holt and myself one day in July of the same year of the last freshet indicated that the river during both floods was about 36 feet above the lowest stage of water. The month of January, 1868, was a severe one. The ice in the mouth of the creek was 18 inches thick. Owing to the dry weather during the summer and fall of 1867 the river remained very low which kept the fish which were so abundant then in White River from going downstream and hundreds and thousands of them collected under the ice and George Holt and George Coker cut holes through the ice and speared hundreds of them with three pronged harpoons and heaped them upon the ice and the settlers in this neighborhood had the pleasure of feasting on fish for a number of days in mid winter. Great quantities of fish were fed to the hogs which grew fat on them. The water in the river remained at a low stage until late in the spring before sufficient rain fell to swell the water. Across the river opposite the mouth of the creek is the old River Bill Coker farm that we have so often referred to elsewhere which calls to mind a wolf hunt in the long ago. The account of which was told me by Fielden Holt himself in the following way. "Two years before I moved to the mouth of Shoal Creek or in 1847 while I was living on Little North Fork I and my wife and my sister, Miss Nancy Elizabeth Holt, went over to the river one day on a visit to see our sister, Peggie, wife of River Bill Coker. Old Billy Clark was living then at the mouth of Shoal Creek. Solomon Laveall and his brother Silas Laveall was living in the river bottom known afterward as the Mat Hoodenpile farm. We remained overnight with Dave Jones who lived at the next house above the mouth of the creek. Mr. Jones informed me that a few of the settlers were going on a wolf hunt the following day which was to come off on the south side of the river and early on the following morning Mr. Jones took his dogs and went with us across the river to Coker’s. We forded the river at the Tumbling Shoals. When we arrived at Mr. Coker’s house he and Ned Coker. Hiram Bias and Henry Tabor were ready to start on the hunt for wolves and I and Jones joined them. We rode down through the river bottom to the mouth of the hollow where Bradley’s ferry is now. Here we turned up the hollow and followed the trail to the forks of the hollow where we rode up the hill between the two hollows and followed a dim trail to the cliff where afterward the wagon way lead from the river to Sugar Loaf Creek. where it passed over the brink of this cliff which is at the head of a gulch. Here on the top of this cliff were five wolves wallowing and playing on the grass. The wolves were so busy cutting up and working their antics and didoes that they did not notice our approach and Jones and Bias shot and killed one each and what was left of them fled at once. Two of them ran up the hill toward the Sugar Loaf Knob pursued by Jones’ dogs. The other wolf ran around the cliff and darted down into the gulch and ran off down the hollow toward the river. A brindle cur dog of mine chased it. Jones’ dogs followed their game to the top of the bald hill and beyond where the two wolves turned on them and they ran back to us and the wolves escaped. My dog pursued the lone wolf down the hollow to the mouth of it and up the point of the bluff below the mouth of the hollow where he overhauled the wolf halfway to the top, where the wolf and dog engaged in a desperate fight. The dog was gritty and a fighter and proved to be more than a match for the savage beast, but it was a long struggle before the dog slowly got the advantage of his adversary and finally overpowered the wolf and killed it. The wolf hunt was short but a lively one and we enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that we had exterminated three of the bunch of five."

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