Impending War

Original Artwork by Curtis Copeland

Something a little different from me today. A fiction piece titled “Impending War” for an event that paired writers and artists for State of the Ozarks magazine in 2018. I was paired with artist Curtis Copeland, some of you may remember that Curtis and I worked together on a story about the existence of Black Panthers in Missouri.

Cotton was not king in the Ozarks but hard work was. The soil was not suited for farming. If it had been the planters would have bought it up and brought their slaves with them.

Planting was done in small clearings. It was no easy task and the crops grown in the rocky soil were done so for subsistence, not cash.

Some of the corn was used to feed the cattle and some was ground into meal for the family.

News was slow to travel to the Ozarks but when it did arrive it brought word of the impending war.

My father doubted the war would make it to our isolated homestead.

Leaning against a split rail fence he stated, “There is barely enough for us to survive on, much less enough to fight over.”

He was in deep thought. He shifted the rocky soil back and forth with his foot and it was not clear whether he was trying to convince me or himself. With pipe in hand , he pointed at the barn and said, “Harness the mule son. We’ve got a crop to put in”.

From time to time a neighbor would bring news on the current state of affairs. Jim Sutton stopped by one day and stated the Governor had met with Captain Lyon in St. Louis to negotiate a peace and that the meeting had ended with Captain Lyon declaring war on the Governor, the State and every man, woman and child who lived there.

News traveled “through the grapevine” in the mountains, from neighbor to neighbor. Newspapers were a rarity. Partly because of  isolation and partly because more than a few settlers could not read and had very little time for such luxuries even if they could. Despite the rumors of war, there was always work to be done. Wood needed to be chopped, livestock fed and fences repaired.

Most of our neighbors were of Scots-Irish who had immigrated from the neighboring states of Kentucky and Tennessee. They were Southerners of a different social class. A working class who placed more emphasis on necessary labor and taking care of their families and neighbors than the politics of the day.

August brought news of a great battle in the Western portion of the state and another visit from Jim Sutton.

I had just finished my chores for the day and had drew a bucket of water from the well. I dipped the ladle into the bucket and was taking a sip of the cool water when I saw Mr. Sutton ride up on his horse.

“Howdy Elijah”, he said with a smile, “Is John around?”

“Daddy’s in the barn Mr. Sutton” , I said. 

My father walked out of the barn and said, “Howdy Jim. What brings you around?”

Jim Sutton climbed off of his horse and shook Daddy’s hand. “Can I talk to ya?”

They went to the barn but I could still make out part of the conversation. Mr. Sutton was trying to convince Daddy to join the Confederate forces and Daddy countered with, “Who’s going to take care of this farm and this family? This is no war for us besides you said Lyon was dead. There might not even be a threat to us now.”

“I’m going John”, Mr. Sutton said. “Lyon being killed isn’t going to stop what’s comin’, if anything, those Yankees are going to want vengeance and don’t go thinkin’ we’re gonna be safe here. Mark my words. They’re going to swarm over the whole state like a plague of locusts.”

“I wish you luck Jim”, Daddy said.

“You too John”, replied Mr.Sutton as he mounted his horse and turned it toward the road. Before riding off he stopped and added, “John. There are a lot of families headed down to Green County, across the state line. If the war visits your place take what you can and get down there.”

To learn more about the Civil War in the Ozarks region purchase “Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition” $15 paperback / $2.99 Kindle

Black Panthers’ Existence Confirmed in the Press of the Past

Original Artwork By Curtis Copeland

This article is a continuation of an article that I co-authored with Joshua Heston for State of the Ozarks online magazine which was titled “Black Panthers’ Existence Denied” Which stated , in part:

“There are no black panthers in Missouri. It is a myth like Bigfoot.” — Michael Flaten

Years ago at my grandmother’s house, I discovered an old high school yearbook. Thumbing through the pages, I found my uncle’s senior photo with the usual details of titles, predictions and nicknames.

Panther,” said the entry. Uncle Phil’s nickname was Panther.

“Your uncle once saw a black panther on your great-grandfather’s farm but nobody believed him,” explained my father when I asked him.

Uncle Phil’s panther sighting took place in Stoddard County, Missouri, in the 1960s. Back then his biggest skeptics were his peers. A brief internet search on the topic of black panther sightings in Missouri will turn up the occasional news story, blog post or photo of the elusive cat.

With today’s new technology, citizens are no longer dependent on the “gate keepers” of old media. Convincing one’s peers of a black panther sighting isn’t nearly as difficult as it was when Uncle Phil was in high school.

Today, if a resident spots a black panther, his biggest critic will be the Missouri Department of Conservation. Officially the MDC has this to say about black panthers in Missouri:

“Black panthers” are not native to North America, but they do exist as melanistic (black color) phases of the leopard (Panthera pardus) found in Africa and Asia and the jaguar (Panthera onca) of Mexico and Central and South America. Throughout its range, no melanistic (black) mountain lion has ever been documented by science….In 1996 MDC established a Mountain Lion Response Team (MLRT) with specially trained staff to investigate reports and evidence of mountain lions.

“The MLRT has investigated hundreds of mountain lion reports. Animals reported as mountain lions include house cats, bobcats, red foxes, coyotes, black and yellow Labrador retrievers, great Danes and white-tailed deer. Almost all reported tracks have been those of bobcats or large dogs.”

The article included other recent eyewitness reports and accounts I found in newspaper articles from the past. I thought I would revisit the archives blow the dust off some old papers (figuratively) and see what I could find.

I decided to explore the archives of Van Buren , Missouri’s Current Local newspaper, I found the following accounts:

From the Thursday February 4, 1926 issue of The Current Local. The headline reads: “Kills Large Panther.”

“A large panther was killed one day last week in the western part of Pemiscot county by Homer Weaver , according to the Dunklin County News. The hide of the animal measured a little over ten feet from tip to tip and is the first of its kind in that section for many years past . The hunter shot the big cat out of a tree from where it had taken refuge from a pack of dogs and when it hit the ground , though mortally wounded, it killed one of the dogs before expiring.”

From the Thursday December 9, 1926 edition of The Current Local under the heading of “This Day in Missouri History:

“Late in 1816 there was approved an act to encourage the killing of wolves, panthers and wildcats. It authorized a payment of $2 for each wolf or panther and fifty cents for the scalp of each wildcat.”

From the Thursday July 17, 1930 Current Local under the headline “Hauled Freight to Pilot Knob with Oxen”:

This particular article featured a pioneer of Carter County, Missouri by the name of C.G. Bunn who moved to the area in 1866 and stated:

“When I first moved to Carter County, 14 votes would elect any county officer. Few people resided in the county. An old log shanty was used as the courthouse in Van Buren. There were all kinds of deer, panther, wild turkey and some bear in the Ozark region in my day. Once I thought I was going to get a panther but he saw me and ran just as I was getting ready to shoot.”

The January 8, 1953 edition of The Current Local contains an article bearing the title “Chilton Notes” by Lucile Masnor who writes:

“Well, ever since I saw that big cat-like animal run across the field and leap into the woods , I’ve been I’ve been scared to go very far from the house. If I should meet it face to face, even if I had Pa along, I’ll bet I’d be the last one in the kitchen door. The hunter in me declares that I didn’t see anything, but I still maintain it was a panther.”

My final example (for this article) comes from The Current Local dated March 1, 1973 which includes the article “The Current River Cat” written by Lucile Masnor:

“Some people say there is no such thing as a panther. But we Carter Countians call our big cat a panther.

The first I knew there was a panther in these hills was many years ago. I was preparing supper one evening. My step-father had walked up the valley road. Mother and I heard what sounded like a woman scream up the hill behind the house. My step-father heard it and came running to the house thinking we were in trouble and screaming for him. When it wasn’t us he decided it was a panther.

Later one bright summer morning I saw the big cat crossing the valley field. He was black, about the size of a young calf but longer and slimmer with shorter legs. He did not run but bounded along with cat-like leaps…”

Great Excitement in Greenville

The February 17, 1927 edition of the Greenville Sun newspaper carried the story of a fiddling contest that attracted more than 600 people to the Wayne County, Missouri community more than 200 people were turned away , failing to gain admission to the event.

According to the paper over 20 contestants entered the event, though a few failed to appear for various reasons. A couple of contestants competed with very old fiddles, one of which was found by the contestant’s father on a riderless horse during the Civil War.

Tunes that were played included “Little Brown Jug”, “Drunken Hiccoughs” and “Buffalo Girl”

Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition” Is available in paperback for $15 or Kindle for $2.99 Click Here to order.

After the ballots were counted Earnest Woods was declared the winner, Brian Bell was awarded second place and Abner Barrow third. Prizes for first , second and third place were $10, $5 and $2.50 respectively and paid in gold.

The Sun reported that the winner of this contest was supposed to compete in a larger event encompassing the Southeast Missouri area. I am posting the full article below

Greenville Missouri Fiddler's ContestGreenville Missouri Fiddler’s Contest Thu, Feb 17, 1927 – 1 · Greenville Sun (Greenville, Missouri) · SHSMO Digital Newspaper Project

Harry B. Hawes: Pioneer of Missouri’s Highway & Flood Control Systems

Missourian Harry B. Hawes had family ties to the Confederacy, was elected Commander in Chief of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1905, served as a Missouri state representative from 1916-1917, U.S. Representative from 1920-1926 and U.S. Senator from 1926-1933

The Thursday September 28, 1905 edition of the Wayne County Journal (Greenville, Missouri) reported on the election of Missourian Harry B. Hawes to the position of Commander in Chief of the United Sons of Confederate Veterans and as the paper pointed out , his family tree made him well qualified for the position.

Wayne County Journal (Greenville, Missouri) September 28, 1905Wayne County Journal (Greenville, Missouri) September 28, 1905 Thu, Sep 28, 1905 – 1 · Wayne County Journal (Greenville, Missouri) · SHSMO Digital Newspaper Project

In addition to the information found in the Wayne County Journal , the Political Graveyard website states that Harry Hawes grandfather , Richard Hawes served as the Confederate Provisional Governor of Kentucky from 1862-1865.

Harry Hawes was a member of the Democratic Party and after an unsuccessful bid for the office of Governor of Missouri in 1904, He was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives and served from 1916-1917.

A brief history of Harry Hawes on the Wikipedia website states:

“Hawes’ next foray into elective politics was more successful, as in 1916 was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. While brief [Editor’s note: Hawes served from 1916-1917 before resigning to join the U.S. Army, due to World War I, where he was commissioned a captain] , his career in the House was eventful. Hawes authored bills that created the Missouri Highway Department and revised state traffic laws. He also served as chairman of the Good Roads committee and led the effort to pass a $60 million bond issue for creation of the states first highway system. Pertaining to river transportation and its importance to Missouri, Hawes was one of the chief organizers of the “Lakes to the Gulf Waterway Association”, whose goal was creating a series of locks & dams along the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers that would enable easier shipment of grain and other goods.”

Upon returning home from the war, Harry Hawes was elected as U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 11’th Congressional District and serving from 1920-1926.

In 1926 Hawes was elected to the U.S. Senate serving from 1926-1933 (he resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives to take his Senate seat early due to the death of Senator Selden Spencer.

During his time in the Senate Hawes continued his work of flood control, by advocating the building of dams and levees along the Mississippi River.

After leaving the U.S. Senate, Harry Hawes returned to practicing law , specializing in foreign relations. During World War II , Hawes served as legal council for the Philippine government in exile while the island nation was occupied by Japan.

Harry Hawes, the architect of Missouri highways and flood control efforts, died on July 31, 1947 in Washington , D.C. his remains were cremated and his ashes scattered along the Current River, near Doniphan, in Ripley County, Missouri. He was the product of Southern honor and ancestry, upholding his family’s long tradition of politics, patriotism and military service.

Murder in Mississippi County…

Rush Ridge Cemetery near Wyatt, Mississippi County, Missouri

An article published in 1987 by the Missouri Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans newsletter , “The Missouri Partisan” carried the article of two Confederate soldiers killed near Norfolk, Missouri and that they were buried at Rush Ridge Cemetery near Wyatt in Mississippi County, Missouri.

“Killed near Norfolk, Miss. Co., Mo. Give me the
death of those who for their Country dies, be
mine like their repose when cold and low they lie.
Their loveliest Mother Earth enshrines the fallen
brave, in her sweet lap who gave thee birth they
find an honored grave. The love of liberty with
life is given and life itself the (inf) gift of Heaven.
(See also Strickland. These were two
Confederate soldiers found dead near Norfolk and
buried at Rush Ridge under a single stone.)

An article published by “The Missouri Partisan” newsletter in 1987.

I have yet to find exactly how these two soldiers died but I did find their names on the Rush Ridge Cemetery website, they are W.E. English and the other’s last name was Strickland but no first name is given.

Looking through the records I found something else very interesting. It appears that an entire family was wiped out during the course of the war and buried in Rush Ridge Cemetery:

Ema Heard was born in July 3, 1861 and died on December 16, 1861 she was the daughter of G.A. Heard and Rebecca Heard she was just over 6 months of age.

Her mother Rebecca Heard was born on March 21, 1840 and died on March 19, 1865 at the age of 25.

Emma’s brother M.J.T. Heard was born on January 8, 1862 and died on July 1, 1865 at the age of 3 1/2 years.

The April 10, 1865 edition of the Charleston Courier reported flooding that isolated the residents of Rush Ridge, it also reported the mandatory enrollment of local men into the militia to combat guerrilla fighters.

I have not been able to find the cause of death for the Heard family or what happened to the head of the family A.G. Heard. I did find that the April 10, 1865 edition of the Charleston Courier (Charleston, Mississippi County, Missouri) reported:

“Many of our citizens in the lower end of the County and also on Rush’s Ridge have been blockaded from our town on account of high water, and consequently, are not posted as to the arrangements being made to put down guerrilla warfare in our area for the next twelve months. Gen. Pope issued an order a short time ago for each County in the State to raise at least one company for the purpose of home protection and the carrying out of law and order in our courts throughout the State. In conformity with this order, Mississippi County has raised her Company, who will be mustered on Wednesday next.”

Since the Heard family did not all die at the same time I can only speculate what happened. Was it starvation? The flooding? Sickness? Or did a rogue element of militia from one side or the other take them out one by one? I’m not sure but it certainly seems systematic in nature and something I will continue to research.

– Clint Lacy is the author of “Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition” Available in paperback for $15 and Kindle eBook for $2.99
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Digging Coal / Carrying Fire

Steve Earle performing “Devil Put the Coal in the Ground” for Public Theater NY.

Reader’s of this blog will no doubt notice that this post is a bit of a detour off the beaten path of my research into historical articles. Steve Earle has a new album coming out as well as a play about coal country both titled “The Ghosts of West Virginia. The first release is a song entitled “The Devil Put the Coal in the Ground”.

The song is haunting, both lyrically and musically. Lyrically the song is pure Appalachia:

The Devil put the coal in the ground

The Devil put the coal in the ground

Said I double dog dare you to follow me down

The Devil put the coal in the ground

As you would expect a banjo would be a natural fit for a song about tempting the Devil and digging coal but it is how the instrument is played that got my attention.

The lyrics are Appalachian, the instruments are Appalachian but the music is Middle Eastern. How could that be?

One possible explanation is that Earle is liberal in politics so maybe consciously or unconsciously he is linking coal and oil with global warming. Coal is from Appalachia and people usually associate oil with the Middle East. Appalachia lyrics and music but Middle Eastern music. It makes sense.

I have not found any interviews in which Earle suggests anything to confirm my theory. Could their be another reason?

In 2017 Robert Plant released “Carry Fire” its title track featured a Middle Eastern influence lyrically and musically

I suddenly remembered that this is not the first time I’ve heard a Middle Eastern influence in Western music. In 2017 Robert Plant released “Carry Fire” both the music and lyrics in the title track are heavily influenced by a Middle Eastern theme.

As with Earle, I could find no interviews in which Plant explains the inspiration for such a musical influence.

What if this sudden Middle Eastern influence in music is something more than the artists realize? What if it is a streaming consciousness that they are tapping into?

Is it a trend? I don’t think so, it’s natural, a foreboding musical prophecy. Humanity began in the Middle East and it is there where humanity will end. Time is accelerating and as it ushers in the final historic age a mass consciousness or awakening is developing organically. A calling for the final gathering.

Dr. Frank Nickell: Causes of the Civil War

On January 25, 2020 Dr. Frank Nickell was the guest speaker at the Stoddard Rangers Camp #2290 Sons of Confederate Veterans January meeting as part of the camp’s Civil War in Missouri Lecture Series. The event was held at the historic Stars and Stripes Museum in Bloomfield, Missouri. Dr. Nickell spoke to a capacity audience and encouraged dialogue and audience participation. We thank Dr. Nickell for taking the time to speak to the community.

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