The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Just below the mouth of Elbow Creek is a bluff which overlooks the John Yandell farm and Elbow Shoals. An observer here commands an excellent view of the neighborhood, and the usual variety of the scenery as found on White River is seen. One day recently the writer visited the summit of this bluff and viewed the old settled farm referred to above. On this farm I passed 4 years of my childhood. The memory of those happy days from August 1849 to October 1853 is still fresh in my mind. Looking over the swift flowing waters of White River and the little brooklet of Elbow Creek, then at the bluffs, gulches, hills and the big shelving rock on the west side of the creek calls to mind incidents which occurred here in the long ago. Just below the shoals is Longs Ferry; part of the shoals are in Boone County, Ark. and part in Taney County, Mo. The old channel is in Arkansas but the new cut ways is in Missouri. Between the two channels is an island, where I am told a man was assassinated in 1839. A man by the name of Stephens was the first to settle in this bottom locating here in 1837. One morning in 1839 Mr. Stephens accompanied by his daughter, started for Carrollton Arkansas, for the purpose of prosecuting a maker of counterfeit money, who was there awaiting trial and while they were riding over this iseland Stephens was ambushed and shot. The horror of the murder and the death scene in the presence of his young daughter was sad and distressing. The screams of his helpless child as he fell from his horse into the cold embrace of death ought to have softened the heart of the cruel assassin, but with a boastful and exultant laugh he was seen to leave his concealment immediately after he had slain his victim. Stephens cabin stood in a small clearing near the mouth of the creek and after he was murdered his wife and children sold the claim to John Haddon and Mr. Haddon sold the improvements to my father and he entered 40 acres of land in this bottom which was the first entry of land made on this farm.
The channel and shoals here were once a dreaded place for the passages of flat boats, two of which collided against the right bank and sank. The first of these occurred in 1835. This boat was loaded with iron vessels, such as wash kettles, pots, frying pans and other vessels of a like nature which the owner was selling or trading to the few settlers who lived along the river. After the boat sank and before the proprietor could recover any of his wares, a big freshet come down the river and when the water subsided the boat and contents were entirely covered with sand and gravel. The boat had been built at the mouth of James River, and the iron vessels had been brought from Saint Louis there in freight wagons. The other boat that sank belonged to Ben Majors. His boat was loaded with corn and fat cattle that he was taking to New Orleans to market. As the boat was passing the curve which the shoals and the creek takes its name from, the swift current forced the bow of the boat against the bank and tore away one bottom plank out at the corner of the boat, and the water come into the boat in a sluice. Unfortunately the cattle which were 5 and 6 years old and large and fat had been tied with ropes to the boat and there were no hopes for their escape. The men realized their danger and as the stern end of the boat was swinging around Majors and his crew rushed to the bow of the boat and leaped for the shore all landed safely except Bob Rains and he fell backwards into the water but was rescued by his companions. The sinking boat and drowning cattle were swept along rapidly until it reached deep water, below the shoals where it sank from sight. This was in the early spring of 1848, and during the succeeding summer and fall, a large number of fish collected at the sunken boat, and settlers visited the spot in "dug out" canoes and killed hundreds of them with harpoons and during low stages of water, great flocks of buzzards gathered in the vicinity, but they were unable to get the carrion as a little water covered it. Mr. Majors was one of the first settlers of Taney County and was a prosperous man but he never fully recovered from the loss suffered from the sinking of his flat boat.

In those early days farmers did not plant their corn until after winter was broke or when the leaves on the trees were the size of squirrels ears, which calls to memory another incident, in the month of June 1851 when the earliest corn was nearly knee high people along the river were surprised as well as delighted at seeing a steam boat shoving its way up the river. As the boat came in sight of each cabin it gave a loud whistle, and the people ran to the bank to see what made such a strange and fearful noise. The sight was wonderful to them, cattle were terrified and stampeded and horses snorted and ran away. The name of the boat was "Eureka" and it was the largest and finest boat ever came this far up White River.’ The day was sultry, the air calm suffocating, small cumulus clouds floated slowly along in the aerial regions. It was just such a day that knowing ones who tell you what the weather is "going to do", view the watery clouds and predict a thunderstorm. As the boat approached the shoals the firemen were ordered to heave wood into the furnace that there might be plenty of steam to force the boat over the shoals. Great volumes of smoke ascended high in the air and slowly drifted away. Great jets of steam belched from the escape pipes and formed miniature white clouds that rested over the water until dissipated. The propelling wheel of the boat churned the water so rapid and strong as to dash water high up on the bank; grown people as well as we children looked on with wonder and amazement. The steamer as she plowed her ways through the swift current of water had attained good speed when she arrived at the foot of the shoals and entered the old channel, her intended destination was Forsyth. The captain and passengers were anxious to pass the shoals and as she was forced along against the strong current the water heaped and foamed against the bow. The beautiful steamer succeeded in reaching the curve, where her speed was checked and she soon came to a standstill and the bow in spite of the efforts of the pilot to prevent it turned toward the south bank. For a moment the pilot had lost control of the boat and there was imminent danger of a collision against the shore and the chimneys being swept off by the timber. The engines were instantly reversed and the boat was righted again by its being backed down stream a short distance, then another trial was made to stem the rolling tide of the swift flowing water with no better success than the first attempt. It was now evident that she could proceed no further up the river, the efforts of the captain and crew were unavailing and they had to drop back to the landing at DuBugne two miles below the shoals. The captain and the passengers were sadly disappointed at not reaching Forsyth The village below the shoals was not yet named, and the few settlers asked the captain to name it. His home being DuBugne, Iowa, he named this village in honor of that city. The boat remained there that night and early the following morning a crowd of men, women and children had collected at the landing to see the boat, and just before her departure from here back down the river she gave a loud whistle which startled the entire assembly of people. Among the crowd was a young man with red hair and red complexion who when the steamer whistled thought the boat was rent asunder and started away on a fast run and was soon lost from view. Those of the crowd that quickly recovered from the fright created by the blast from the whistle, yelled and laughed at the panic stricken fellow. The Eureka was the first steam boat ever reaching this far up White River. During the early summer of this same year work was began on the shoals to improve the navigation of them by cutting a channel just over the state line in Taney County, Mo. "Hack" Snapp who lived on the opposite side of the river from Forsyth, was foreman of a large number of men who were employed to cut the new channel. The water was at a low stage and the men kept busy at work for several weeks. The labor was tedious and disagreeable on account of working in the gravel and water but the new channel gradually widened and deepened and great banks of sand and gravel were heaped upon either side until a part of the river sought this route, the men then devoted their labor to build a dam of stone part of the way across the head of the old channel, thus throwing volumes of water through the new made chute. The work to some extent was a success, the hands (men) were a merry and fun loving crowd, they camped on the south bank of the river just above the shoals and passed the time of evenings by debating having literary work or other passtime amusement. When the work was completed Mr. Snapp paid the men their wages in gold and silver coin and they all left camp for their respective homes rejoicing and jingling their money in their pockets. The following spring or in 1852, the Yaw Haw Ganey a much smaller and older boat than the Eureka came up the river and steamed into the mouth of the chute. She was heavily loaded with freight for the merchants of Forsyth. The crew of the boat worked hard all day trying to pass through the chute. A large number of the passengers disembarked and waited on the bank of the river at the mouth of Elbow Creek for the boat to pass over but she failed to pass over the shoals and late in the night the captain was compelled to back his boat out of the chute and landed at the lower part of the bottom on the north side of the river and put off 300 sacks of salt, which belonged to the merchants of Forsyth. The following day was Sunday and just before noon she succeeded in passing through the chute and went on to Forsyth. The Yaw Haw Gaeney was the first steam boat reaching that town. The salt was left in the care of the writers father, Jim and Tom Clarkstone sons of Lewis Clarkstone who lived then on the old Buck Coker Place at the lower end of the Jake Nave bend of White River were employed to haul it on ox wagons to our house on Elbow Creek one half a mile above the mouth where the salt was stored in a new log house. We have already told in another chapter of the sad fate of Jim Clarkstone in war time and we will now give a brief account of the death of Tom Clarkstone. He lived to be old and feeble and his mind at times was deranged. He lived on the north side of the river just over the line in Boone County, Ark. and below the Jake Nave Bend. On the morning of the 14th of November 1906 his body was found hanging in a cedar tree near his residence. The poor old man had committed suicide by hanging himself witha plow line, his body received interment in the graveyard at Pro-tem. Bob Williams hauled most of the salt to Forsyth during the summer following the spring that the Yaw Haw Gaeney came up. Williams used a big stout wagon drawn by two yoke of oxen. Ben Lea, another fine boat less in size than the Eureka, but larger than the Yaw Haw Gaeney came up in the spring of 1853. She was just 5 hours in passing the shoals, but on her second trip that same spring she lay in the, chute two days before she succeeded in passing. In the evening of the first day after her cable had been made fast to a willow tree she pulled it up, and during the night following she jerked up another willow tree. Other steam boats that visited Forsyth from 1854 to the beginning of the Civil War were the Mary L. Darity, Mississippi Belle, Jesse Lazza R., Mary M. Patterson, and Thomas P. Ray, the two last named made several trips. Jesse Mooney and George Pearson had charge of the Rays, and in the spring of 1858 she steamed as far up as the mouth of James River which was the fartherest point reached by a steam boat at that time, Mooney and Pearson had her upper deck elaborately decorated with flags to celebrate the occasion on their return trip, this was her last trip, her owners sold the machinery to a Mr. Long, who converted it to the running power of a saw mill at what is now known as the Boiler Spring just below where Dodd City Ark. now stands, this mill was burned down during the war. The Mary M. Patterson was owned by Morgan Bateman, this was a trading boat and made many trips to Forsyth. One night in the early part of 1859 after landing at the spring where George Frittz lived in now what is Keesee Township Marion County, Ark., the boat caught fire and barely escaped destruction and was saved by the heroic efforts of the crew and passengers. During another trip which was in April 1860 while she was anchored at Forsyth the water fell so rapidly and the weather remained dry so long that she was compelled to stay there until the following February when there was sufficient rain fall to raise the water in the river to allow her departure; but she traveled only as far as the Ned Coker farm, just below the mouth of East Sugar Loaf Creek where she had to remain until a higher stage of water which was just enough to float her down to Bull Bottom where she was compelled to stay until the latter part of March when the river rose several feet. Bateman went on his way rejoicing and swearing alternately glad that he was able to get away and sorry he had to stay so long.

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