The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo


A pathetic account was given me by Wess Henderson son of Christopher C. Henderson which relates to a small boy being lost in the wild woods of Taney County, Mo. and died from starvation and cold or was destroyed by wild beast. Mr. Henderson said that the boys name was Henry Smith and was between 8 and 10 years of age and was a son of Mr. Miles Smith and Sally Smith. The parents lived on the head of Lower Coney (or Big Coney) Creek that flows into Beaver from the east side. Their residence was some 10 miles from Beaver. The child was weakly and had been sick most of its life. One Sunday morning in the month of March 1868 while the Smith and the Tom Ellison children were out playing together the older ones proposed to go off some distance from the house and gather the gum of the resin weed to chew. The little boy Henry started to go with them and they thinking it was too weak to keep up with them scolded the little fellow and tried to make him go back to the house. The parents had went on a visit of 7 or 8 miles from home and had left the children alone, and they and the Ellison children had got together that morning among Ellisons children were two twin boys named Saul and Thomas and one girl 13 years old named Jane. The child did not return back to the house as expected but followed on behind them crying and it seems that they made no effort to care for it. There was a gun and an ax which the party had carried with them and being anxious to catch squirrels and rabbits as well as collect resin they hurried on out of sight of the little helpless boy. When they returned back home in the afternoon they found that the child was gone and they give the alarm, and runners were sent to notify the neighbors. The country was sparsely settled but the news spread rapidly and the hardy sons of Taney County turned out willingly to search for the little lost boy. A heavy rain fell on Sunday night following the day the boy had wandered off but notwithstanding this Tom Ellison and John Ingram went all the way in the rain to notify the parents. Day after day was spent by a large number of the citizens in a close search for the bewildered boy, but their search was in vain. The rough hills and deep hollows was over run with timber wolves panther and other wild beast and there was danger that the boy would come in contact with one of these wild animals and be destroyed or it would perish from cold and hunger. This spurred the men to a more unceasing hunt in the deep recesses of the mountains. A number of the men continued the hunt after night, but no tidings of the child fell in possession of the parties. The search was not for some relaxed but after many days the whereabouts of the child was given up and decided that it was slain by a wild animal and its remains had been carried into some cave and the remains of the child or its clothing would probably never be discovered. The men who had engaged themselves so unceasingly in hunting for the little boy were now discouraged returned to their respective home and nothing was heard of the child until one day 3 months after he was gone when my father Christopher Henderson while out hunting in a rough hollow that runs into Coney Creek and near 5 miles from where the child had wandered away discovered a boys coat and on looking around he saw a small black wool hat and picking up the coat and hat he hung them up on the limb of a tree. Being convinced that the articles belonged to the unfortunate child he started immediately to notify the mother of the child when her and other parties guided by my father started on the following morning and soon reached the spot where my father found the coat and hat and the woman recognized them as belonging to her boy. But instead of thanking my father for discovering them and notifying her she proceeded to Forsyth the county seat of Taney County and attempted to prosecute him for picking up the coat and hat and leaving them hanging on the limb of the tree. She claimed that he ought not of touched them, but the lawyer who she had consulted advised her not to follow such an unfair course and that she ought to feel under obligations to my father for finding the articles and informing her of it, and she did not proceed any further with the case in bringing suit against him. In a few days after this a thorough search was made by some of the citizens and the skull bone, parts of the back bone and one of the shin bones and a thigh bone were found lying in the bed of the hollow some distance below where the garments were found. A few days after this the mother of the child found other parts of the back bone, some of the rib bones and fragments of some other parts of its clothes. It was evident that the little unfortunate waif had taken shelter under a ledge of rock and had died there from hunger or had chilled to death from the effects of the cool temperature or had been slain by a wild beast and appearances indicated that after the child was dead its body had been dragged from under the ledge of rock to the bed of the hollow which was nearby where the remains were found. Among the citizens who taken a deep interest in the search were John Ingram, Mort Ingram, Tom Ellison and John Mosely. There were 25 and 30 men out in the woods from the time the news of the lost child had spread over the country until they quit hunting for it. Mr. Mosely who had taken a very active part in the search said that he had rode near the ledge of rock where the boy had got under while on the hunt but he had rode on the upper side of it."

Mrs. Orr a widow informed the writer that the bones of the child were enclosed in a wooden box and were kept out of the ground by the mother until one of her other children died with consumption and the body of their child and the bones of the other one was taken to the Isaac Brown Grave Yard on ½ mile above the Keesee Mills on Beaver Creek and buried. I am told that Miles Smith the father of the child was dead when this sad incident took place.

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