The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

On the farm at the mouth of Brattons Spring Creek in Ozark County, Mo. known now as the Jesse Herd Place we find an old burial place of white people, where there is 300 bodies more or less resting and is probably the oldest grave yard of the white people in Ozark County. The cemetery is situated on a beautiful spot containing 1 ½ acres more or less of land which lies in a field of high ground between North Fork and Spring Creek. The grave yard is marked by a grove of timber which keeps the silent village shaded during the hot days of summer. Though the departed people who lie here are at rest. They are done with the trials, troubles, hardships and deprivations of this earth, yet I feel sad when I visit this cemetery and view the resting places of so large a number of pioneer settlers and others. A short account of the first interment in this cemetery may be of some interest to the reader. Elias Keesee said that his father Paton Keesee informed him that after he had bought John Petty’s claim on Little North Fork 3 ½ miles above the mouth of Spring Creek in 1823, the old man Petty and his wife lived with their son in law John Pettyjohn at the mouth of Spring Creek. They remained here until in October of the same year when Mr. Petty and his son in law went into the hills between North Fork and Big Creek to kill bear, but the chase proved to severe on the old man’s health and he taken sick and Pettyjohn brought him back home on a horse. The aged man continued to grow worse and sank so rapid that he died on the following day after he was brought back home. The sorrowing wife, daughter and son in law selected this lovely spot of ground which was shaded by a large and thick growth of trees for the resting place of the old pioneer. The old man and his wife - the latter of which was also feeble with age - had traveled far, with their son in law and daughter to make their home on this beautiful stream of water. They had lived together from youth to old age, now they were separated by the cold icy hand of death. The grief of the poor old lady was great, tears of deep sorrow ran down her wrinkled cheeks her companion was gone - he had entered the dark shadow - never more to awaken until called forth by the sound of the trumpet on the day of judgement. It seemed that she could not live without him. Her grief was unbearable and she prayed that she might be with him in death as she had been with him in life and it appeared that the good and supreme ruler of heaven looked down on her in pity and answered her prayers by sending the angel of death into the little cabin again and called her away to join her husband not only did they meet together in spirit but her body was buried at the side of the dear one she had loved so long and well."

There is a story told in connection with the graves of this aged couple that is too interesting to be omitted. Elias Keesee and his brother Peter Keesee both informed me that their father told them that it was true. Elias Keesee was born in the following years after the death of the old couple and Peter Keesee was born 7 years afterward.

In relating the account they said that the two graves were dug in a few feet of the trail way that Petty and his son in law had beat out in visiting each others cabin. This trail after leaving the creek bottom leads along the crest of the bluff between North Fork and Spring Creek and went down the hill to where Mr. Petty lived. A few days after the second interment here our father rode down the creek near the mouth to examine the creek bottom of soil, cane and timber and it was late in the evening before he started back up the creek toward home and it was after night when he reached the mouth of Spring Creek. There was no moonlight and the heavy growth of timber obstructed the light of the stars which made the dim trail seem dark and lonely. In a few minutes he reached John Pettyjohns cabin which stood just up on the point of the hill in the forks of the two creeks. Passing the cabin a few rods he again entered another dark forest and as he rode on toward the two graves the darkness seemed to grow deeper in black. He said that he had often heard tales of belated travelers seeing the forms of spirits hovering over the graves of the departed dead while they were passing by a grave yard "But I did not believe in such unreasonable stories but I have no doubt but that a few persons have observed what they supposed was strange objects in cemeteries which they called ghost but if they had not allowed imagination to over come there and taken time to investigate, the supposed ghost would have turned out to be something else that had no resemblance to a so called ghost and I laughed out right to think that a few people went so far as to believe and circulate these absurd tales. By this time I was nearing the two graves. Though the night was intensely dark in the timber but when I advanced a few yards further I was astonished at discerning a white object on each grave. The darkness of which prevented me from identifying the strange beings but there was no mistake but that it was something of some shape and the forms of some sort of things. My horse frightened and snorted and tried to tam back. When he had become more quiet I peered at the singular objects through the pitchy darkness and they seemed to grow bigger. Of, course I had refused to entertain the idea of the existence of real spooks and such like but for all this I felt the hair of my head bush up and stand out straight and I could almost feel my coon skin cap being pushed off my head. Cold sweat exuded from my pores. I felt in spots all over. I had said that if I ever saw anything in a grave yard that resembled the descriptions of a ghost I would find out what it was and so rather than turn back I resolved to make an investigation to identify the peculiar and unlooked for objects before me. I then urged my horse forward but I had to compel him to go, step by step. I forced him along until I was in 15 yards of the two graves. I had fought wounded bear and met the screaming panther and been attacked by wolves but none of these wild animals caused me to feel such an awful dread that I then experienced. I had rather have tackled a thousand of these animals mixed together in one bunch as to have had to force myself along toward those frightful looking beings. Though I was certainly convinced that they were not genuine ghosts or anything of that nature, but all the same to me I trembled fearfully and the cold clammy sweat over spread my body and limbs. I simply could not help it. onward I compelled my terrified horse to advance a few feet nearer to the graves when suddenly the white forms got in motion and rose up, then I understood what they were. John Petty before his death owned two big cows that was as white as snow which remained in possession of Pettyjohn and his wife after the death of the old folks. There were no pens around the graves and the cows had went to the graves and lay down on the fresh soft dirt of the new made graves. It does seem that these cows had visited the resting place of their former owners to mourn over their loss. I have believed since that night that the actions of these cattle were similar in some respects to the human family In visiting the graves of their dead relatives and friends. If I had turned back that night or passed around the graves without making an effort to ascertain the nature of these objects I might have told that I had seen two sure enough ghosts but as it was I had only met two white cows." said our father as he ended his narrative of observing the ghost like forms that night on Little North Fork.

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