The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Jimmie Ellison lived on the north side of White River a short distance above the mouth of Beaver Creek. He owned a fine farm in the river bottom. His dwelling house stood on a rise of ground that sloped down toward the field. He and family were industrious, influential and prosperous. They made fine crops of corn, saved an abundance of blade fodder and other feed for their stock. Uncle Jimmie’s wife and daughters spun and wove a great deal of cloth for the family with their own hands. Mr. Ellison was also a dealer in horses. By the time his crop of corn was matured he would buy a drove of horses from the settlers and feed them until they were sleek, fat, and take them south to Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas and sell them for a good price. He also owned several slaves. The Ellison family were closely identified with Taney County’s early history, for the time I refer to was back in the latter forties. Though I was quite young yet I remember their kind neighborship while we lived at the mouth of Beaver. The names of his children that I can call to mind now were Jane, Hezekiah, Rebecca, Susan, Berry, Jack, Marion, William and Layfayette. The three first named daughters after they were grown married the following well known citizens of Taney County: Hezekiah married John Cardwell; Rebecca married John Yandell, and Jane married Crum de Lazier. On the old homestead which is now owned by other parties is a family cemetery where Uncle Jimmie and Hettie, his wife, are resting, and also two of his children, Susan and Layfayette. The former child died before she was grown. The latter married a widow lady whose given name was Sarah Ann and who was a daughter of Daniel Thurman. How well I recall the days to mind when part of the Ellison children went to school to Bill Wheeler on the flat near the mouth of Beaver Creek. Then in the autumn of 1860 I and William, Marion, Layfayette ("Fate") and Susan Ellison and Alex Steward and Sarah Steward, a brother and sister who were relatives of the Ellison family, were schoolmates together. "Fate" Ellison enlisted in Ben Crabtree’s company in the confederate army and was accidently shot and killed by one of his best friends whose name I have forgotten. Fate came near going insane over it. The accident occurred on Mill Creek near the Antioch Schoolhouse in Izard County, Arkansas, June 30, 1862. We were all mounted men then, but were dismounted at the time and were in line of battle on the creek bank expecting to be attacked by the enemy, when orders came to remount and retreat back to camp at the mouth of Livingston’s Creek opposite Mount Olive. As we were remounting one barrel of the man’s gun which was double barrel shotgun was discharged by accident and his friend who was in a few feet of him received the entire load into his body and fell dead instantly. As we were in close proximity of the enemy we were ordered to leave the body where it fell. I learned after the war that a few old men and some women buried the remains three days afterward as decent as their decomposed state would admit. I was informed that he was buried on the spot where he was killed. Poor Fate Ellison’s mind never fully recovered from the effects of killing his friend. He survived the accident until the latter 70’s when he too joined his old friend in death. After the death of Uncle Jimmie Ellison his surviving children placed a monument over his grave which cost $160.

John Ellison, or Uncle Jack as he is commonly known, a son of Uncle Jimmie, who we have mentioned above, lived many years near Pontiac, Ozark County, Mo., and while he resided here was interviewed by the writer in regard to his recollections of the time when his father came to White River, just above the mouth of Beaver Creek. "Well," said Uncle Jack, "I was born in east Tennessee, September 13, 1833, but when I was only four years old my parents settled in Webster County, Mo. We lived there two years, then came down to White River in Taney County in 1839. But we were not the first settlers in the river bottom where we made our home. Joe Bartlett, is I mistake not, settled it in 1831. When we came to the river there were a few bands of Indiana there. The river bottom occupied by us had been a camping ground and burial place for them. After we put the land in cultivation there were numerous Indian bones turned up by the plow. Shortly after we located here only three families lived at Forsyth. Their names were John P. Vance, John W. Danforth and Dr. A. S. Layton. Though Forsyth was composed only of a few log buildings and a small business house or two, yet it was a merry hamlet especially when there was plenty of whiskey. The Indians and whites would collect there frequently and fill up on liquor and gamble and carouse. The usual manner of betting was to split the end of a stick and insert a silver dime and plant the stick in the ground with the end of the stick with the dime in it several inches above the surface. After counting off ten paces the Indians one at a time were allowed to shoot at the dime with their bows and arrows. If they succeeded in knocking the dime out of the slit at a certain number of shoots, the money was theirs. If not it belonged to the whites. Both Indians and whites furnished an equal amount of dimes.

"I never hunted but little," said Uncle Jack "I remember so well the first time I ever went out to kill a deer.

It was one day in the autumn of 1845 and I was 12 years old. I felt before starting out that I could kill a deer as well as any hunter could. After I had got this settled in my mind I picked up my father’s rifle and went out a short distance from the house and saw a deer and the animal stood still while I took six shots at it and never touched it. I then changed my mind and concluded I was not born for a deer hunter and went back to the house. My brother, Berry Ellison, one day killed two deer at one shot on a hill near the river bluff two miles above our house. He did not see but one when he shot. The deer was standing broadside toward him and it turned out that another one was standing on the opposite side of it. The one shot at fell on the spot, the other ran a few yards before it fell. My brother said that he was greatly surprised to see another deer start to run and fall after the one shot at had fell. I saw 50 deer in one bunch on Cedar Creek which empties into the river below the mouth of Beaver. This was in the early fall of 1853. I had rode out to hunt cattle and had no gun. The deer as they stood and looked at me allowed me to approach in 100 yards of them before they ran. After getting across a hollow they all stopped on the hillside where I had a fine view of them and counted them. While we are speaking of deer I want to tell you about a scrimmage Columbus Gaylor got into with an enraged buck one day in the hills a few miles south of Forsyth. Gaylor had shot and wounded the buck, when it suddenly pitched at him with its hair standing out straight. Its eyes almost flashed fire. The hunter had no time to climb a tree, but to avoid its sharp antlers he dodged behind a large tree. Though the buck was severely wounded it dashed around in pursuit but staggered as it ran. Round and round the tree the man and deer went until Gaylor’s head grew dizzy. The buck made savage motions to strike him with its horns but the hunter contrived to keep just out of its reach. Gaylor was afraid to leave the tree and run straight forward for fear the animal would overhaul him and gore him to death, but he could not run around the tree any longer for the dizziness of his head caused by running in a circle would cause him to fall and then he would be at the mercy of the enraged beast. With these thoughts in his mind he wheeled around and grabbed the deer by its horns. The wound and loss of blood had greatly weakened the buck and the man found he had strength enough to hold it and while the deer was struggling to gore him he threw it down broadside and placing his foot on its neck he held it down until he snatched his knife from the scabbard and cut the deer’s throat and took a breathing spell while it was dying.

"Well, you wish to know something about the great hords of wolves that used to inhabit Taney County in those early days," said Mr. Ellison. "I never met any serious trouble with them, except that they destroyed sheep, hogs and calves for us. But I will tell you about the capture and killing of a lot of wolf pups which probably will be of some interest. Every year about the first of June, wolves would collect together in the settlements along the river and Beaver Creek and howl more than usual. They would make the loudest racket about midnight. The settlers claimed that this was the best time to hunt for their young and would start out into the forest to destroy as many wolf pups as they could find. One day during the first days of June, 1844, when I was in my eleventh year the wolves had howled so terrible that it had stirred up the settlers and they collected together with dogs to make a sweeping raid on them. They invited father to go with them as the hunt was intended to be a big one and I begged permission to be allowed to go too. There was no settlements then on the ridges and the wolves had full sway in the hills between Beaver and Swan Creeks. That day’s hunt for the ravenous beasts is still fresh in my mind for we rode several hours over rough hills and across hollows and searched under ledges of rock and other rough places. But we were not rewarded with success until we were passing over some flat woods on what is now known as the Taney City ridge. We discovered two beds under the roots of a large tree that had been blown down by a wind storm. Each bed contained nine young wolves several weeks old. We went to work and enjoyed a pleasant time killing them, which slightly repayed us for the loss of our stock. A bunch of the old ones were close by and they made a vigorous protest against the slaughter of their young. The dogs would dart at them for a fight but they would drive the dogs right up to us and then retreat as fast as they could go. They would run so fast and darted around so quick that they apparently dodged the rifle balls that the hunters fired at them. Though we did not succeed in killing any of the old ones, yet we were satisfied with our day’s hunt. The following year we returned to the same spot and killed seven more which made a total of 25 taken from the same tree roots."

The writer will add here that a person passing over this same land now where it once was overrun with howling packs of wolves will see well improved farms which are owned by industrious and intelligent farmers, and viewing the thriving and growing town of Taneyville he will soon reach the conclusion that the days of big packs of wolves in that locality are past and gone forever.

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