The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The old pioneer settler William B. Flippin informed me that Lee’s Mountain in Marion County, Ark., derived its name from a man of the name of Lee who stopped awhile in the early twenties in what is now called Flippin Barrens, which lies between Yellville and White River. Mr. Flippin said that the old settlers told him that Lee made no improvements here except breaking an acre or two of land. The spot where he located was beautiful, but it is told that the few settlers who lived in the river bottoms discouraged Lee by telling him that if he made a permanent home here he would starve to death, and he left for other parts. The part of the Barrens where he lived was mostly prairie, and after he went away the settlers called it Lee’s Prairie. It retained this name until Thomas H. Flippin came to this part of the county in the month of March, 1837. Since then it is called Flippin Barrens, but the mountain retains the name to the present day. As we ascend Lee’s Mountain on the south side, we have a grand scenery composed of the valley of Fallen Ash Creek. The little town of Flippin and the low hill just northeast of the village on the summit of which is the Flippin graveyard. We also have an extended view of the track of the White River branch of the Missouri Pacific Railway which runs between the base of the mountain and Fallen Ash Creek. John H. Tabor informed me that he built the first log cabin in the Flippin Barrens and set out a few apple scions, which was the first apple orchard set in Marion County. This was in the early part of 1833 and the land where this orchard stood was afterward known as the Betsey Tucker place. Looking across to the south side of Crooked Creek the noted Hall Mountain looms up in full view. This hill which was so well known to the bear hunters of old divides the waters of Lower Buffalo and lower Crooked Creek. Among the old pioneer settlers who lived many years in the Flippin Barrens was the Hon. W. B. Flippin, son of Tom Flippin, both of which is mentioned in the foregoing. William Flippin is dead now but during his life he was an honorable and useful citizen. I remember that he represented the people of Marion County in the legislature at Little Rock and served a term as County Surveyor and filled other useful offices and was also a prominent preacher and a noted writer. During his lifetime Mr. Flippin delighted to relate stories of early life here among the wild animals. His narratives are reliable and entertaining. One among his amusing accounts which he told frequently is of a woman who had an adventure with a gang of wolves while on her way to a blacksmith shop. The story as was told by Mr. Flippin is as follows.

"There lived in the early settlement of White River Valley, five miles above old Tolberts Ferry, a woman by the name of Tersey Fellows who had, from some cause, separated from her husband. She was of Yankee descent and had a fair English education. Added to this she possessed good common sense. She had some sons and daughters nearly grown when she and her husband separated. She was a large fleshy woman and a good manager on the farm. Among her horses was a big gray or white horse she called Boston—Boss she often called him. She was monarch of her own land and superintended the cultivation of it and, of course, had to provide the necessary farming tools, which then consisted of the bull tongued and single shovel plows. She would take a dry beef hide and soak it in water until it was soft and turn up the edges and shape it into a kind of saddle bag to hold her plows. Her iron, when she had any, consisted of a piece of an old wagon tire. When ready to start to the shop she would saddle up Boss and throw the beef hide containing her plows across her saddle and go to the blacksmith shop at the mouth of Big North Fork, which was 20 miles or more below where she lived. Just think, now, if men had to go to a blacksmith shop at the present day that was 20 miles from their home, lots of horses would go unshod and many farming tools would go unsharpened. This woman was certainly a plucky one.

"In course of time, Allin Flippin, an uncle of mine, moved into the country and located on Fallen Ash Creek, and put up a blacksmith shop. I was told, on my arrival here in 1837, Fallen Ash Creek was named for an Indian who once lived at the mouth of this stream. Allin Flippin lived near where the old village of Flippin now stands near one fourth of a mile from Flippin Station on the railroad and near ten miles from the residence of Mrs. Fellows. The following spring, after my uncle began work in his shop, Mrs. Fellows’ plows needed some necessary work and Boss needed shoeing, she had no dry beef hide on hand, so she killed a beef and used the green hide and prepared it in the usual way to hold the plows., and mounting Boston, her favorite horse, she went on her way to the new shop—it was ten miles nearer than the one at mouth of Big North Fork. The trip would not be so long and tedious. She felt safe while riding Boss and never hesitated to go far and near when business called her. She knew the nature and ways of the prowling wolf and the screaming panther. She did not fear an attack from a wild beast while on Boss’s back, if a wild animal should attack her Boss would soon carry her out of danger. On that day she was unexpectedly annoyed which was beyond her anticipation, for while she was riding along a dim trail at the north end of Lee’s Mountain a pack of hungry wolves, attracted by the fresh beef hide, came rushing up behind her—holwing like mad fury. The attack from the vicious animals took her on surprise but she kept her presence of mind and as the pack rushed toward her she urged Boston into a gallop and continued to urge him until he went along the trail at his best speed and the woman kept in advance of the holwing pack. Mrs. Fellows was not overly frightened but however as the horse ran along a few yards in front of the impudent creatures, the beef hide slipped off the saddle, and hide and plows fell to the ground. Probably no other woman, or even a man would have stopped at this critical moment, but would have urged their horse along the faster. Not so with Mrs. Fellows, however, for she halted at once, and dismounting quickly snatched up some stones and threw them at the wolves and caused them to stop where they stood and howled while she was replacing the plows back in the hide. Then lifting it from the ground, she put it across the saddle and led the horse to a log nearby and mounted again.

"While leading the horse to the log the wolves followed and were in a few yards of her and the restless and frightened horse when she remounted. The entire pack put up a direful holwing. Their presence and dreadful noise was not comfortable, and when the woman seated herself in the saddle again, she made Boss spread himself running. The noisy wolves pursued. The race was interesting from the fact that the large fleshy woman on the big white horse was able to keep in the advance of her four footed foes. The wolves wanted the fresh beef hide and stayed at Boss’s heels. Tersey was determined they should not have it. Onward she urged the willing horse at breakneck speed until she hove in sight of a settler’s cabin. Here, to the woman’s great relief, the howling beasts stopped and went back into the forest.

"After her excitement calmed and Boss’s scare was over the woman proceeded onto the shop at her leisure and the smith sharpened her plows and shod Boston. When my uncle had finished the work the woman sold him the beef hide in payment for the work in sharpening the plows and shoeing the horse saying that she could manage to do other ways to carry her plows back home by pealing hickory bark and tieing the plows together and hanging them to the saddle. This trip to the shop put a weaner on the woman, for she learned to carry her plows to the shop other ways than wrapping them in a green or fresh hide."

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