The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The towering bluff on the west side of Beaver Creek just above the mouth is part of a subject in another sketch but there is a further history of it. The Laughlins - Mat and Henry and their father Billy - came from Virginia and settled on the creek above this bluff. This was several years before I was born. Their father was a very old man. He had but one tooth. One day while Mat and Henry were putting a bell on a cow she ran backward and over the old man and knocked his tooth out and he wept like a child at the loss of his last tooth.

Taney County was a wild country then and over run with the wild animals of the forest. The Laughlins were industrious and labored hard to open up their claims and in a few years each one occupied a fine farm, and owned plenty of stock. The principal product of their farm were an abundance of fruit of several varieties, corn wheat and oats, they were known as being among the best tillers of the soil on Beaver Creek. While the brothers were improving their land they visited each other of nights for a social chat. One night Mat took his rifle and went to Henry’s for their usual talk. The night was pleasant and was brilliantly lit up by the full moon. Henry was clearing land in the creek bottom between where his and Matts cabin stood they lived on joining land and their residences were only a short distance apart. Henry’s new ground was fenced. The two brothers had prolonged their conversation until a late hour before Mat picked up his rifle and started back home. On his way back home and while passing along the fence that Henry had built he was surprised at seeing a strange object as he supposed lying about 100 yards on the inside. What it was he could not conjecture, except that it was something frightful in the beast line. It was far ahead in size of any wild animal he ever met on Beaver Creek. Being a fearless man he determined to shoot it, so shoving the muzzle of his rifle through a crack of the fence, he sent a rifle ball at it but the object failed to move. He hurriedly reloaded his gun and fired a second shot with the same result. He repeated the firing until seven balls were shot into the monster, but it remained perfectly motionless. It is an established truth that the bravest of men are sometimes overcome with fear and become panic stricken, so it was with Laughlin when he saw that the 7 balls from his rifle made no impression on the frightful creature he believed it was a great demon which bore a charmed life and losing his presence of mind he fled from its presence in terror. Henry heard the reports of his rifle but supposed his brother had got in among wild turkeys where they were roosting. Mat did not slack his pace until he reached his domicile and informed Ludy his young wife of seeing a terrible "varmint" in Henry’s new ground. Next morning he armed him with all the weapons he had on hand and ventured slowly and cautiously back to his brothers clearing. When the man had crept up in sight he discovered that the huge beast was still there. But to his astonishment it turned out that it was his brothers big Tennessee wagon box that he had left in the clearing. Seven bullets had perforated its sides. Imagination had carried Mat off his ballance. After this he took care to fully investigate all the big "bugers" he found after night before shooting at them. It was many years before the man’s friends quit joking him about shooting the wagon box into splinters.

We will now return to the high precipitous bluff referred to at the opening of this chapter and John Mosely said that shortly after Mat Laughlin and Lucy Onstott were married they purchased a few sheep and later on raised a fine flock of them. They guarded the sheep carefully to prevent their destruction by wolves. They kept them in a lot near the house of nights. One evening they wandered off out of hearing of the tingle of the bell. Mat searched the woods for them but failed to locate them. The night was cloudy and misting rain, just the sort of weather for wolves to prowl. The following morning early Laughlin lost no time in making another search for the sheep and finally went to the top of the bluff mentioned. The sheep as he soon discovered had stopped here and lay down. Some time during the night they were attacked by Wolves and several were killed. At that time which was about 1839 the summit of the bluff was clear of timber except scattering trees, but now there is almost an impenetrable thicket of under growth. Further investigation revealed the direction the other sheep had run. One trail lead toward the towering precipice, near the brink of which a few locks of wool was found which indicated that a wolf had caught one of the sheep here but it had jerked loose. Suspecting that one or more of the flock had leaped over the bluff while being pursued Laughlin passed around to where he could descend to the creek then followed it to opposite where he had seen the locks of wool and discovered a dead. sheep and a dead wolf. No doubt the poor sheep in its terror to escape the wolf had leaped over and probably the wolf in its eagerness to catch the sheep could not check its speed and went over with its victim and the life was crushed out of both animals.

Talking of sheep leaping over a cliff reminds me of an incident of this kind on Cedar Creek which flows into the river a mile or two below the mouth of Beaver. In 1859 when the southeastern part of Taney County, Mo. began settling up Jimmie Ellison Mat Laughlin and others blazed out a new road from Beaver to Shoal Creek. This road crossed Cedar Creek where the Lead Hill and Chadwick wagon way now crosses, just north of the crossing the road leads up a hollow that empties into Cedar below where the road crosses the stream. Where the road strikes this hollow from the south side is a cliff of rock which extends across the bed of the hollow. The precipice is near 17 or 18 feet high. The road when it was new passed in a few feet of the edge of this cliff and the ground was in such a shape that it took a careful driver to pass the cliff with a wagon without danger of the wagon and team being hurled over the ledge. Soon after the road was established Billy Walker and Tom Coulter passed here one day with an ox wagon loaded heavily with cedar posts. They had two yoke of oxen. The posts were held on the wagon with log chains. Cedar Creek is a small stream and the valley rough. In dry weather the creek is almost dry and was in that condition when Walker and Coulter crossed it that day with the big load of posts, but up the hollow a short distance above the cliff there was plenty of water for the cattle to drink. The weather was hot and the cattle wanted to get to water and as they neared the cliff after crossing the bed of the creek the oxen began to trot and run in spite of Coulter who was driving. The man thinking they would push him off the cliff ran ahead of the cattle. When the wagon was on the brink of the precipice the hind wheels tilted over but fortunately the coupling tongue broke in two or the entire wagon and load would have gone over and almost sure to have jerked the cattle over but as it the hind wheels and part of the posts went over and the oxen rushed on up the hollow with the fore wheels to hunt water leaving the remainder of the parts scattered along the road. While the cattle were going up the hollow at full speed Walker and Coulter followed behind on a fast run and the former would sing out at short intervals, "By George hee, by George hee, I lowed that old brindle steer would do something, By George hee, he has done something".

A few years after this a man by the name of Saint John started with 400 head of sheep up north. On his way he camped one night near this same cliff. During the night a pack of wolves attacked the sheep, killed several and scattered the remainder to the four winds. A few of the sheep in their flight jumped over the cliff. Two of them caught in the cedars which were standing there at the time. Some of the lower limbs of these trees were dead and had been broken off leaving long snags. One of the sheep dashed against some of these which pierced its body and it hung there. The other one had leaped into the fork of another cedar tree which stood in a few feet of the other one and was wedged fast. As it was winter time, their carcasses hung there for several weeks afterward or until the bones and decayed flesh fell to the ground.

S. C. Turnbo

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