The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Overlooking White River and vicinity from a tall bluff makes an interesting view especially if calling to memory old time scenes and incidents on the north side of White River just above the Panther Bottom and over the line in Taney County Mo. is a high bluff where an observer commands a good view some distance up and down the river. In the early 50’s the face of this bluff was covered with a thick growth of cedars, but in the month of April 1854 while the weather was so dry, a forest fire swept over the face of this bluff and destroyed all the cedars in places. The great devouring flames as it ran through the rank grass would ignite the cedars and the flames of fire would dart up several feet above the top of the cedars and big volumes of black smoke would rise high above the summit of the bluff. The spots where this great fire reached is naked to the present day. On the opposite side of the river in the Southeast corner of Taney County, Mo. is the old farm where we lived from October 1853 to February 13, 1859. When we first moved there the dwelling houses stood on the river bank just above the mouth of the hollow. Later on or in 1856 we built new houses further back from the river on the bank of the hollow. The corner of the porch stood in a few feet of the division line between Ozark and Taney County. My father bought this land from Cage Hogan in the month of June 1853 for $525. Mr. Hogan remained here until the following spring after we moved here when he moved to Rock Bridge. A number of old timers lived here before Hogan did. Among them was old Billy Howard who it is claimed was the first settlers here then came Jess Journeygan, Peter Snapp and the Magness boys Bill and Joe also John Fisher and his Enock Fisher and Martin Johnson lived here. As I stood on the top of this bluff I call to mind the memorable cold weather and snow and ice during the months of January and February 1856. The severe weather and lasting snow made it a remarkable period. On the 23 day of January a heavy snow began falling which continued at intervals for several days. When it ended, 22 inches of snow on an average covered the ground. In places where it drifted the snow was much deeper. Men experienced great difficulty in traveling around either a foot or horseback. Women and children were compelled to remain in doors until the snow settled down a few inches. In a few days after the snow ceased falling a warm wave set in followed by a light rain which materially lowered the depth of the snow, but on the 2ed of February a severe blizzard swept over the Ozark region from the northwest and the weather turned to icy cold. On the maning of the 3rd the temperature was 180 below zero and it was 120 below on the morning of the 4th. Though the thermometer climb back to zero and above, but the weather remained so cold for several days that a hard crust of ice formed on the snow. The water in the river was hid by thick ice. Wild animals including flocks of wild turkeys crossed at will, the crust on the snow cut the deers legs so bad that they were hardly able to keep out of the hunters way. Hundreds of them were slaughtered for their hides only. The men who hunted on horse back wrapped their horses legs with leather to prevent the ice from cutting them. Deer and turkeys were soon on starvation and become very poor before the snow and ice went off which did not occur until the middle days of February when the air warmed up with south wind and rain clouds formed and a heavy rain followed. This with the melting snow soon put the river on a boom and it rose 12 feet in a few hours which broke the ice to pieces. Some of the flakes were very large and thick. The river was choked with floating ice for three days. The noise of the ice crushing and grinding together, as the swift current carried it down was heard for miles. When the biggest flecks of ice would collide against the bank they would force away tons of dirt and sand and would crush down and ride over small trees. I never witnessed such a sight before or since that time. A large number of skifts and canoes were swept downstream by the ice and water. It was said that the majority of crafts along the river were carried aways, part of which was crushed between the jamming together of ice. This calls to mind another fall of snow which occurred in the month of April 1857. The spring season of that year was cold and backward, the weather was stormy and changable at short intervals. On the 8 of April the atmosphere was oppressively warm in the forenoon which resulted in a thundergust and a light shower of rain which was soon followed by a cold blustery wind from the north west, which caused the temperature to fall rapidly. In the early hours after midnight a fierce snow storm set in. By day light of the 9th a mantle of snow nearly two inches deep lay on the ground. A few men had planted corn and it appeared strange to see the fields with a sheet of snow on them that late in the season. The snow continued to fall that day until afternoon when the weather cleared, leaving a covering of snow on the ground 3 inches deep. This snow storm was remarkable from the fact that it occurred so far southward or on the Arkansas state line. No such a storm of snow so late In the spring season has took place in this section since that date.

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