The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One by one the pioneers drop off. They are passing over the dark Jordan of life. Those who are gone on beyond this life, I hope they are resting in the shade of the beautiful grove of trees where trouble is no more. Those of us that are left are waiting near our graves and will soon cross the river and rest with our old time friends. John B. Wood, who died in the month of June, 1899, was born in Calloway County, Mo., November 8, 1829. His father, Johnny Wood, or Uncle Jacky as he was called, settled at the mouth of Turkey Creek above Forsyth, Mo., in 1836. It was in the fall of the year when he reached the beautiful stream of White River and made his home among the stately trees of the wild forest. John was seven years old when his father located here. At this writing this pioneer family have all entered the deep shadow of death. The last one, E. W. (Ed) Wood, died August 25, 1905, and lies buried at Protem, Mo.

John B. and his brother Ed related to the writer several items that occurred in Taney County after their father made his home there. (John B. Wood died at Catoosa, Indian Territory, June, 1899.) There were a few bands of Indiana here then. They said that two leading spirits among these bands were two Indians named Jim Wilson and Jim Powell. John B. Mike Yocum finding 13 bee trees during one day in the neighborhood of the mouth of the James River, "but do not understand me to say," continued Uncle John, "that this number of bee trees were located every day. It was done only every now and then when the hunter’s luck was good. It so happened some days that a hunter would search the woods all day for game and hardly see a deer. At other times he could go out and find more deer than he could shoot at."

In giving the names of early settlers in Taney County, John and Ed mentions Ben Majors, Jimmie Oliver, Theophilus Bass, John Danforth., George Gipson, Dr. John Shannon, George Cooper and Mrs. Harriet Denton. "If you remember Mr. Majors lost a flat boat loaded with fat cattle in Elbow Shoals. He also built a water mill on the White River below the mouth of Beaver Creek. Many settlers for miles patronized this mill. A big freshet in the river swept this mill out of existence. When the glad tidings of news reached Taney County of the discovery of gold in California Mr. Majors with others lost no time in starting to the promised gold fields and after a wearisome journey of six months arrived there safely. But the old man was not able to bear the hardships of the life of a miner and he started on his way back home. But he was destined to never see the crystal waters of southwest Missouri again for he was attacked with a malady that proved fatal and was buried on the wild plains where the coyotes howled and the wild buffalo grazed. John Danforth kept a hotel and says he remembers about a band of these Indians consisting of 12 men, 8 women and a lot of children that camped several months on Turkey Creek a short distance above his father’s residence. This was during the winter of 1837-8. They had stopped on the creek to hunt and hunted far and wide. With the help of a few white hunters, these Indians killed 113 bear from early fall till late spring. The band were in charge of the two Indians mentioned above. "These Indians not only killed the number of bear as given but many deer also, the pelts of which they exchanged for guns, ammunition, blankets and ornaments."

Speaking of the numerous deer which inhabited this region, John mentions that one day in 1844 while he and Nathan Workman and Jess Allred were out hunting they counted 88 in one bunch. On another occasion while his father was hunting with a companion they killed 7 deer out of a bunch of 9. They all fell in a space of 60 yards. At another time his father and brother William went out fire hunting together one night on the river and from the time they started just after night until 2 a.m. they counted 75 deer. Of this number they killed 11, 3 of which were killed at one shot.

In giving an account of the great number of wild bees on Turkey Creek in those early days, Mr. Wood said that it was small trouble to keep an abundant supply of honey on hand. He said that he and his father went one day and found nine bee trees in a short time. He also give an account of post office at Forsyth when only two other families lived there. John Shannon was the first physician in Taney County. Mrs. Harriet Denton lived to be 94 years old. George Cooper was raised by the Indians who lived on White River above the mouth of Swan Creek. He was grown when the great flood in White River occurred in September, 1824. At the time of the highest stage of water he made a mark on a tree with his hunting knife. Nearly 20 years afterward or in May, 1844, when another memorable rise in the river came down, the highest stage of water was six feet below Cooper’s mark."

An incident of an experience of Ed Wood’s in his boyhood days is given here which may be of interest to a few juvenile readers. Uncle Ed relates the incident himself. "I was a lad of a boy when Dave Washam was hung at Springfield, Mo. Nearly all the people in our neighborhood went to see the hanging. I was anxious to go too but my father told me that all the saddles and shod horses in the settlement would be used by those who went to see the unfortunate man launched into eternity. But he consented that I might go if I could provide a way to get there. I told him that I had the will and the means were at hand. "All right," said he, "You can go." The others had been gone several hours and I would have to go alone but nothing daunted me and mounting an unshod horse I rode him all the way to Springfield bareback. I arrived too late for the man had just been hung and taken down and was placed in his coffin when I reached he gallows."

John and his brother Ed gave some entertaining stories about bear in that region in an early day. They said that their father and Ben Majors often hunted together. On a certain time while they were in the hills of Turkey Creek they met a bear and two small cubs. The old bear was small in size but was not a bit afraid. Seeing the hunters she started away. There was one dog with the men and it began chasing the bears. The men followed, and pretty soon they saw the bear stop and place her forefeet on one of the cubs which made the little fellow squall. Then she lifted her feet off of it and both cubs went up a tree. After watching them until they had climbed high up in the tree she turned on the dog which was baying her and knocked him down with her paws and then rushed at the two surprised hunters. They stood their ground until the bear was in a few yards of them and both fired their guns at her simultaneously. Bruin fell as if dead but revived quickly and was on her feet before the astonished hunters could reload and charged at them again. The two men stood near together and braced themselves for the attack. Their empty guns were now useless and throwing them down father held his Indian tomahawk and Majors his big hunting knife. With these weapons and the aid of the dog they succeeded in killing the bear without either one getting seriously injured. They now turned their attention to the cubs. One of them they shot but concluded to capture the other alive. They hurled stones at it until they knocked it out of the trees, then caught and tied its feet together. Unfortunately they had struck one eye with a stone and put it out. They swung the little live bear on a pole and carried it to our house and we kept it three years and sold it for a good price."

They relate another account of a bear entering their father’s fattening hog pen one cold night. In giving the sketch they said their father had just recovered from a hard spell of winter (pneumonia) fever.

The hog pen was on the opposite side of the creek ford, about 300 yards from the house. The pen was nine rails high and the rails were large. Some of the hogs were big fellows and all were doing well. One Sunday night we heard the hogs rallying in the pen and one began squealing. Though father was just able to get around some he told us to make a torch of boards in a hurry while he put his gun in shooting order. Then we all went to the pen—crossing the creek in a dugout; we had one trained dog, a large brindle cur we called "Watch". On going up to the pen we saw a bear in it with a squealing porker in its arms. The bear was walking around on its hind feet, trying to throw the hog over the fence. Bruin worked lively to raise the struggling hog up on the fence, but the big white hog was too heavy for his bearship. The torchlight seemed to worry the beast and he wanted out of the pen but he did not want to give up the hog. As his bearship was stirring around on his hind feet trying to lift the hog over the fence father took aim by the light of the torch and shot at the bear, but being weak and excited he missed the mark. At the report of the rifle the bear took fright in earnest and dropped the wounded porker and scrambled over the fence and ran into the forest. The dog gave chase but did not follow it far. As the weather was cold we went back to the house to warm. In an hour the bear returned to the pen and there was another disturbance. The scared hogs made a louder noise than they did before and we heard a hog squealing again. We ran back to the creek and crossed over and soon reached the pen with pick, gun and torch. Bruin had caught the same hog and the other hogs in a mad rush around the pen knocked a panel of fence down and out they went with a loud racket. Our yells, the barking of the dogs, and the frantic rush of the hogs over the fence was more than Bruin could stand and he released the hog and over the fence he went and disappeared in the dark. This time the dog chased him out of hearing. The bear in its efforts to put the fat porker over the fence, pushed it so hard against the rails that they were saturated with grease where the wounds of the hog came in contact with them. The hog after it was dressed, weighed 250 pounds. We had a big job the following day collecting the other fattening hogs and getting them back in the pen."

We cannot quit this story without relating another. For this one we are indebted to John B. Wood. He said that two of their neighbors, Valentine Hurley and George Clevinger, lived on the opposite bank of the river. One very dark night Hurley heard his fattening hogs rallying. They ran to the pen without a light. There was not a dog on the place. Looking over the fence they could discern a black object moving about among the rallying swine. They were convinced it was a bear but it was too dark to take aim properly at it and shoot. When the bear noticed the men it relinquished the idea of trying to catch a hog and climbed over the fence and ran toward the heavy timber in the river bottom.

Hurley and Clevinger expected Bruin to return to the pen before daybreak and they set about to devise a plan to entrap him. Some 30 feet from the pen and on the opposite side from where he ran off was a large log and they made a little fire against this log so as to keep the pen in the shadow. After the fire was started which the men had made to warm by while watching for bruin, one of the men went to the house for a bees wax and tallow candle and with gun in hand they awaited his bearship’s return. The weather was very cool and the two settlers as they sat by the little fire would shiver with cold. It was several hours before they heard him approach. They now lighted the candle to see how to aim at it after it got into the pen. The bear instead of entering the pen went near the log to see what the men were up to, and the men saw the bear close to the log. Clevinger held the rifle and Hurley held the lighted candle. The bear kept moving up slowly and cautiously until within a few feet of the log when he stopped. This action of bruin was so bold that the men were bluffed and the man with the gun refused to fire. Each man stood as still as a post and viewed the bear. Bruin in turn gave them a steady gaze with defiance in his eyes. The men thought he was going to attack them and there they both stood not offering to shoot. Finally the bear’s mind seemed to change from anger to disgust and turned around and walked away very slowly without going into the hog pen. They may have chosen the wisest plan," said Uncle John. "There were but few settlers that would have allowed that bear to step off without giving it a parting shot."

When asked about the death of his father and where he is buried Uncle John replied, "As far as I know my father’s body received no interment. He was quite an old man when the war began. Later on as the struggle went on a party of men rode up to our house one day and took him away. We learned afterward that they killed him in the hills of Roark Creek. After the close of the war our family and his friends made many diligent and careful searches for his remains but we failed to find the least trace of them. Such was the dark deeds of crime during the progress of that terrible conflict," said Mr. Wood.

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