The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Strange things occur every now and then on some part of this globe of ours. The Ozarks are no exception to this rule. A few years ago the St. Louis Globe-Democrat published a lot of matter under the head of "freaks and snakes", and a few correspondents sent in all sorts of snake stories for publication, some of which seemed to be entirely fictitious. The editor announced that he preferred accounts of actual occurrences, but for the sake of amusement, a little harmless fiction would be received. Some of the correspondents over did the thing by exaggerating to such an extent that their statements were rediculous. Among the rest the writer sent an account to the editor, of a freak child, which was published in the Globe-Democrat of September 22ed 1899. The following is the letter as published including the editors comments before printing the letter.

"A reader deprecates the tendency to ward exaggeration displayed by some of our correspondents, and submits the following.

"Protem, Mo. Sep. 11, 1899 -I have read the interesting snake stories in the Globe-Democrat, some of which undoubtedly originated in the craniums of your correspondents. While I do not admire fictitious snake stories, yet some of them are amusing and interesting for the ingenuity displayed in their construction. It seems to me, however, unnecessary to resort to fiction and exaggeration when so many strange freaks really live and move and have their being upon this green earth of ours. I want to tell you of an account given me by J. N. (Newt) Milum, a prominent merchant of Lead Hill, Ark. of a strange freak he saw during the Civil War.

"In 1863, when I was 14 years old," said Mr. Milum, "I was among a large number of refugees, who accompanied Col. Phelps regiment of Union troops to Missouri. Among the former was a family whose name if I remember rightly was Mannus. In this family was one of the strangest freaks born of woman I ever saw or heard of. The object appeared to be half human and half serpent, and about two feet in length. The largest part of its body was about the size of a man’s arm, and it had legs the size of one’s finger. The arms were still smaller, and its tail protruded to about the length of its legs. From the hips up it was human in form, except that its teeth resembled the fangs of a serpent. The head was the size of a tea cup and covered with hair. It was said to have been born in 1844 - nineteen years before. This strange being was kept in a coffee sack and was taken out each morning and evening to be fed. It attracted a great deal of attention among the soldiers, refugees and others, and was the object of much comment."

Mr. Milum said that the last he saw or heard of it, was on their arrival at Springfield Mo. The writer will add that Mr. Milum is reliable, and bears a good reputation for honor and truthfulness. It seems more than likely that some of the surviving members of Phelps’ command or others can give additional information regarding this remarkable curiosity."
S. C. Turnbo

Though I had never doubted Mr. Milum’s account of this singular formed child, in the issue of the Globe-Democrat of November 3erd, appeared a letter confirming Mr. Milum’s story which we copy verbatim.


More about the Arkansas snake child. To the editor of the Globe-Democrat: Van Buren, Ark. October 20 - I was not much stuck on the snake stories that was published in the Globe-Democrat, until I read one from S. C. Turnbo, and I will say that he gave a very correct description of the same. At the time he speaks of I was a soldier in Col. Phelps’ 2ed Arkansas Cavalry, which was in camp at Cleppers Is Mill, near where the town of Harrison is. Our train was sent down on Buffalo to bring out a lot of refugees. The train returned well loaded with human freight, and among the rest the family with the Snake-child; that was what we all called it. I was detailed as one of the guards to escort the train to Springfield, Mo. I can assure the readers of the Globe-,Democrat that the account given by Mr. Turnbo is correct. The mother of the child was named Mannas, and she told me that the Snake-child was 19 years old. It was sick all the way to Springfield, and died soon after we got there. It would lie on a pallet and lick out its tongue like a snake, and its body would squirm and twist like a snake. It knew its mother from any other person. The snake-child had a sister that was two years younger who was very handsome. The snake-child was also a girl.

John A. Stevenson

As the foregoing is such an interesting case, the writer hopes others who know any about it will give additional information so that we may obtain a complete history of this uncommon strange formation of a child.

S. C. Turnbo

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