Posts Tagged ‘Stone County Missouri history’
Stone County, Missouri Military Veterans – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard – Give Me A Shout !
To Sam !
by Samuel E. Warren Jr.
I am a retired United States Air Force Public Affairs Staff Sergeant, My lifetime calling began when I picked up a pencil – I’m a writer. My dream was to be a reporter. I lived the dream.
Thanks to Uncle Sam, I got a blue suit and a paycheck. I beat feet to the street and chased airplanes with my cameras to put images on film. I’ve always found people interesting, so I had to become a writer because I enjoy people stories.
Now, Stone County, Missouri is reaching out to all their veterans, who ever donned the fatigues and shined up the collar brass. Yes, the Stone County Historical and Genealogical Society would like you to be aware of the parade, September 24, On The Square, by the Stone County Courthouse. If you wish to “Dress, Right, Dress !” Please by all means, call them at 417-357-6317.
I, Warren the Word Warrior, am trying to make sure the word gets out so that come September 24, all Stone County military veterans can at least say, “I got the word.” While I’m trying to get the word out to the vets, I would also like to get emails from my fellow retirees. If you have a story or a war story that you’d like to share, then, please, email me.
I’m trying to contact the Stone County, Missouri veterans, who have something that they want to say that they think a future heir or citizen might like to know. Jot me an email in 2011 and let’s see if we can’t publish something that a Marine in 2015 will find interesting or an airman in “the year 2525” ( I couldn’t resist the music reference – I hope Air Force airmen still have a sense of humor in 2525) will be amazed that uniforms looked so. . .well . . . uniform.
When I get the email input, my standard operating procedure is to try and contact the person by phone or email to clarify some details to find splashes of color in our life that seem normal to us, but might seem “cool” or “neat” to someone else. Then, I tap dance across the keyboard and try to come up with a story that should allow you to step off the page and captivate the reader.
Once the hard copy looks like something the Library of Congress would be proud to have on their shelves, then, since it is a Stone County story I submit it to The Crane Chronicle and Stone County Republican as part of my Stone County 160th Anniversary Coverage. Of course, the editor of any and all American newspapers get copy and have deadlines and designated priorities and always limited space, so there is no guarantee that the story will be published in the print of a Real World newspaper.
Military spouses and military children are also welcome to email me and recount their stories. Uncle Sam knows that if he gets one single person in uniform there is a really good chance that he will eventually”Get Two For The Price Of One” – The Military Spouse, who while that person doesn’t usually wear a uniform they end up “serving” and being caught up in TDYs, TADs and doing “The Duffel Bag Drag” to some interesting places.
And, I know that military children have their own spin on trying to have a childhood amid armored personnel carriers rolling past their on base elementary schools and not being able to pet that nice German Shepard – the U.S. Air Force Military Working Dog.
But, we can submit the copy and see if the presses roll. If you have a story that you want to tell – email me and we will see what we can do. Go ahead, sound off to Sam !
Uncle Richard’s Mission :
by Junior Warren
Richard Branford DeLong, a Stone County, Missouri farmer worked hard all his life trying to raise cattle, hogs, chickens, wool goats and hair goats on the rocky southwest Missouri soil.
Mother Nature never seemed to have any second thoughts about manipulation of weather to do “the exact opposite” of what local farmers needed to survive year after year.
Born January 10, at the beginning of the 20th Century, astrologers would be inclined to classify his life the embodiment of “The Stereotypical Capricorn,” because his struggle to survive on the land seems to have begun almost as soon as e left the womb.
Covered Wagon to Stone County
He entered this life in Versailles, Missouri. By the age of seven, his father Charles “Charley” Hermann DeLong, loaded his wife in a covered wagon and made the trip to southern Stone County. The first homestead was set up in the hills and hollers around Reeds Spring, Missouri.
The mythic Capricorn “curse” (or blessing) of “earth” would ensure that Richard would always be involved in “agriculture” and trying to work the “real estate” – to make a living. As a young man, he and his mother, Martha Lou DeLong would at times sit upon a buckboard and go into the woods. Grandma DeLong had told me as a child, at times, “Richard and I would spend two weeks in the woods cutting down trees for ties to sell to the Union Pacific railroad for a few dollars.”
Richard DeLong had one girlfriend in youth, and the “family story” always remarked, “she ran off and married another man.” He never had another girlfriend, but he worked the land. Somewhere in his youth, he accepted a unique responsibility.
Richard B. DeLong became a grave digger.
In the days, before the invention and common use of the backhoe, local men and boys would from time to time find it necessary to help out neighbors by digging graves. Yocum Pond Cemetery, in pictures from the era, was simply farm pasture on a hill above Reeds Spring that families used to bury their loved ones. The responsibility for the care and maintenance of the graves of loved ones belonged to the individual families.
Around the 1930s, the DeLong family moved to northern Stone County and homesteaded a piece of land about three miles from Galena, the county seat. Richard farmed the 160 acres that his mother and father owned and he brought 80 acres that joined their land to farm.
Richard’s brother, Willie had a reputation as an outdoors man, who hunted, trapped and fished for a living. His brother, Hobert , also a farmer, had a reputation as a marksman and successful local hunter. And, Richard’s sister, Opal went from being a World War II shipyard welder to being a local farmer.
Richard stayed the course and farmed the family farm. His idea of entertainment started with going to the Ozark Sale Barn on Mondays about once a month. He enjoyed watching wrestling on the small black and white television. And, on some Thursday evenings, he would go to Play Nights at the Coon Ridge Saddle Club Arena to watch local horsemen and horsewomen train for upcoming rodeos and horse shows. Uncle Richard always made time for the meticulous care of the family graves.
Yocum Pond Passion
If we all have a mission in life, then, Richard DeLong took up the banner to make Memorial Day his life’s mission. His campaign was to make sure the family graves were always immaculate and to teach nieces and nephews respect, and protocol to be observed in the cemetery and to pass on the Memorial Day tradition.
Once or twice a year he would take the “pig trails” of country roads like Bass Hollow to drive the old black 1952 GMC along the back roads to Yocum Pond. At the pole and woven wire gate, he would stop and shovel “fresh dirt” into the pickup bed and then drive out to the family graves. Any grave that had “settled,” meant that it was “sunken in” and required fresh shovels full of topsoil to restore the peaceful appearance of an earthen blanket to the grave.
While he always made the periodic maintenance visits, his personal protocol meant a week before “Memorial Day,” Richard DeLong would be at the cemetery making sure the graves reflected the love and care of the family grave sites
In the years before the invention of weed eaters, Richard DeLong would get on his knees next to a headstone and use his pocket knife to remove weeds from around the stones. Then, whether it was the cylindrical S blade push mower or the gasoline powered push lawn mower, he would mow around each of the tombstones.
When he was done you would have to read the date on the tombstones to know how long the graves had been there. On one trip, with Uncle Richard to the cemetery, we even used dirt to “fill in” some nearby neighbor’s graves because “they have no living kin to look after their graves,” Uncle Richard explained to me.
Sister, Opal M. DeLong Warren had acquired the responsibility for providing “the flowers for the stones” for Memorial Day.
Memorial Day for Richard DeLong was never put flowers on the stones and leave. For Richard DeLong, it was the World Series, the Super Bowl and Christmas Day rolled into one major event.
After breakfast, the old GMC pickup, with the worn out shock absorbers, would bounce up and down the gravel county back roads to Yocum Pond. When Richard DeLong was “on scene” at the Yocum Pond Cemetery, he was in charge. All the nieces and nephews knew the rules of Uncle Richard’s Cemetery Command. He had drill the proper protocol into us from the earliest of ages.
Dressed in his new overalls, he would conduct his own final “white glove inspection” of the family graves to make sure they were all ship shape. Any of the nieces or nephews, who ever went with Uncle Richard to the cemetery knew that he didn’t want anyone to find fault or make any negative comments about the appearance of any of the DeLong graves. Like a “First Shirt,” he would make sure by Memorial Day the graves were immaculate in their appearance.
Pass In Review
The morning of Memorial Day, Richard DeLong would rush through his daily livestock chores to be “on scene” at the cemetery as the sun rose over the horizon.
Richard DeLong always loved to “visit” with his neighbors. In the 1960s, Yocum Pond Cemetery families did not “rush” through placing wreaths and flowers on the graves. People would place the flowers and step back and look at the stones. They would step back look at the dates and glance at the stones around the headstone they were looking at. People would converse about their buried family members, recall or ask about the “day of the funeral.” Visitors would try to remember or decide if nearby graves were those of distant relatives or friends.
Memorial Day festivities at Yocum Pond in the 1960s was more like those of air show attendees. People would comment on the colors and styles of the headstones. They would look at the headstones and make comments about any graphics on the stones like a Masonic emblem. People would read the inscriptions on the stones. Some headstones were literally stones with dates carved in them because the families simply could not afford more expensive headstones. Richard DeLong was aware how closely people looked at the individual graves because he did the same thing. Thus, for a visitor to do a “pass in review” of any of the DeLong graves; those graves were expected to show the care and concern of the living for the deceased.
The Library of Congress in overalls
Richard DeLong was “The Library of Congress in overalls,” because of the wealth of information that he had gained through the years of being one of the grave diggers. People who had questions about graves actively sought out Uncle Richard. Richard having been involved in so many of the burials is why family members would look for him at the cemetery
When it came to the details of a grave, the funeral and the burial, Richard DeLong was the “walking, talking graves registration office.” Like a mortician, he could recall details from the days of the funeral and sometimes even the weather of the day. Graves with missing markers, headstones or that had never had a headstone would be a complete mystery to family members who would arrive for Memorial Day from another state. Richard DeLong had an infallible memory on “who was buried in what grave.”
It had not been uncommon in childhood to witness “strangers” and “visitors” from other states who would drive up the gravel driveway to Grandma and Uncle Richard’s house a few days before Memorial Day. Whether the visitors sit out “on the porch” or “sat at the kitchen table,” Richard DeLong would answer their questions about the graves and recount what he had remembered about the burials. Few were the instances, when Uncle Richard didn’t have any information about a grave at Yocum Pond Cemetery
Usually a day or two, before Memorial Day, Uncle Richard would spend a few hours at the cemetery, in case, loved ones from another state showed up to inquire about “forgotten” or “lost graves.” To Richard DeLong there was no reason for an “unknown” grave in Yocum Pond.
Whenever I or Cousin Donna went with Uncle Richard to Yocum Pond, you could seldom walk past a grave that he did not have a story to share about the person or their grave.
The Charles Herman and Martha Lou DeLong family in Stone County had always observed “Decoration Day.” When Earl DeLong died in Springfield, Missouri, the story was that relatives could not afford to bury him, so he was buried in Yocum Pond to be looked after by the DeLongs in Stone County. “Uncle Earl” still sleeps among his Stone County relatives.
May 30 Is Memorial Day – Always
The DeLong family held to the passionate belief of the “Traditional Memorial Day of May 30.”
Memorial Day at Yocum Pond Cemetery always arrived like a ticker tape parade through the streets of New York City. Once family members arrived, Uncle Richard would pass among the stones like a general on a formal inspection tour.
Operational Readiness Inspection
Strategic Air Command’s Operational Readiness Inspection meant the base and personnel had to be ready to support the B-52 Stratofortresses and the KC-135 Stratotankers to ensure the aircraft could carry out the mission. Of course, SAC Intercontinental Ballistic Missle bases had to be sure their ICBMs would reach their targets to pass a SAC ORI. Richard DeLong would have been an excellent inspector.
At the cemetery, on Memorial Day, he would look carefully at the headstones and the graves. No detail went unnoticed. His smile or a nod of his head meant that Uncle Richard was pleased with the floral arrangements.
Once Uncle Richard was pleased with the DeLong graves, he would move on to look at the graves and flowers placed on the headstones of friends. He would spend the entire day walking around the graves on both sides and in the back of the cemetery No detail ever seemed to go unnoticed.
The Traditional Memorial Day Debrief
Upon leaving Yocum Pond, momma and I would always stop at Pop’s Dari Dell in Reeds Spring, Missouri. I’d get a thick, juicy hamburger and momma loved their foot long hot dogs and their thick vanilla malts. Before going home, we would stop at Grandma and Uncle Richard’s. Uncle Richard would of spent the whole day at the cemetery He would have comments about various headstones, graves and the flowers. His observations always made for a detailed situation report of the day’s activities.
The Richard DeLong Cemetery Code Of Conduct
Going to the cemetery with Uncle Richard before Memorial Day was like being the executive officer on the staff of a four star general – everything had to be meticulous and correct. If you weren’t a nervous wreck before going to the cemetery you would be a babbling bundle of nerves afterward.
A lifetime of care and respect for family graves had given Uncle Richard a Code Of Conduct and a sense of protocol that would make a Department of State foreign service career diplomat nervous and a United States Ambassador anxious in Uncle Richard’s company.
- Children never ever ran in the cemetery – especially if their last name was DeLong or Warren.
- Always watch were you step. Uncle Richard repeated this rule to Cousin Donna and I, so many times through the years, that in 2011 – as a senior citizen myself – I still look down at my feet to watch where I step. To say I am careful, where I step is an understatement. I walk around graves like a nervous private in a minefield.
- Proper, respectful conduct in the cemetery was never demanded – it was simply expected Nieces and nephews had been drilled in Uncle Richard’s version of boot camp from an early age, so by our teenage years, we had earned our “stripes” and knew what was expected..
Richard DeLong never served in the military. His draft card showed that he did not pass the physical requirements. But, he had a sense of order, discipline and devotion worthy of a military commander. And, his ability to instill the Memorial Day tradition in his nieces and nephews were equal to those of any professional military historian.
Uncle Richard, the farmer, passed on a legacy of respect, protocol, and admiration for those who have lived before. His passionate devotion to the maintenance of the graves were a testament of respect to the sacrifices of civilians and veterans, who are remembered in the sheen of the flowers on the monuments and the subtle movements of the small American flags waving upon the graves.
Like General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, when the career of earthly campaigns ended – Richard DeLong faded away.
Old Spanish Cave
by Junior Warren
Tales of the Spanish Conquistadors making their way through Stone County, Missouri. They carried treasure chests of gold doubloons and rare jewels. This childhood folk tale has a real physical location: The Old Spanish Cave, near Reeds Spring, in Stone County, Missouri.
Old Spanish Cave is NOT an urban legend or Ozarks folklore.
The treasure of Old Spanish Cave ? Will have to be found to be proven.
I visited the cave as a child in the 1960s.
I was in the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade at Abesville Elementary. Thus, the years would have been 1964, 1965 or 1966.
My mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren, a farmer, and I went one afternoon to visit the man, who happily mentioned that the land he owned had a cave. As I remember the events, it seems the previous owner had told him about the cave, but had apparently never had any intention of opening the cave to the public.
My mother had went to see the couple about some farming matter and the cave owner brought up the topic of his new cave.
Southwest Missouri’s Famous Caves
At the time, southwest Missouri’s Famous Caves totaled two: Fantastic Caverns, near Springfield, Missouri. Fantastic Caverns gained fame with their ride through jeep tours of this amazing cave.
Silver Dollar City had only been up and running as a tourist attraction for a few years. Marvel Cave, which for a time was known as “Talking Rocks,” near Silver Dollar City, was beginning to attract visitors and became the other major southwest Missouri cave that attracted bus loads of tourists each year. (For information on Silver Dollar City visit the website http://www.silverdollarcity.com/ and to find data on Marvel Cave, check out Wikipedia’s article on Stone County, Missouri’s famous Marvel Cave http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvel_Cave )
Branson, Missouri had the Baldknobbers musicians and there was talk that people like Buck Owens and Roy Clark might open music theaters in Branson. It was the early -1960s and Taney County’s business optimism was leaking across the county line into Stone County.
Suspicious Stone County Folk Tales
Stone County, Missouri has a wealth of folklore. When I was a child there was the tale that famous Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon journey through southwest Missouri, in search of the Fountain of Youth and thus, Ponce de Leon, Missouri was named in his honor.
There was also the tale that Abraham Lincoln had once journeyed through southwest Missouri. Thus, Abesville, Missouri was named in Lincoln’s honor.
As a child, Old Spanish Cave and the tale of the vanishing conquistadors was told like the Ponce de Leon and Abesville tales – but, Old Spanish Cave had a real physical location to back up it’s story.
Coming Tourist Attraction ?
The man, who talked to us about his cave, mentioned his desire to try and open the cave to the public. The story, we were told is, essentially that Spanish conquistadors took refuge in the cave either from the weather or Native Americans. The story claimed the conquistadors had either one or three treasure chests of coins or jewels.
Mystery takes over and at that point, it seemed people weren’t certain what happened to the soldiers or their wealth. Naturally, Old Spanish Cave was the last supposedly confirmed sighting of the soldiers and the treasure. Folklore suggests that either the soldiers buried the wealth and never came back for it or left the wealth there with the intention to return.
Although it was late in the afternoon, my mother and I did have the opportunity to step inside Old Spanish Cave. There was no grand public entrance. Literally, it was a rough arch shape opening in the side of a rock hillside. To a farmer walking by, the opening would of looked just like a large hole at the base of a moss covered limestone cliff.
There was a small black yard gate at the entrance that the owner used to keep trespassers out. Traditionally, Stone County farmers usually didn’t talk about caves on their property to keep out trespassers and fortune hunters as well as not having to worry about liability issues of someone roaming around their property and falling into a cave by accident.
Unlike southwest Missouri’s famous caves, at this point, in the 1960s, the cave had not been as thoroughly explored or developed. There was still some sunlight, so the owner, momma and I stepped inside the first chamber.
Inside Old Spanish Cave in the 1960s
About 10 feet inside the opening there was a nice deep hole. When you are eight, nine or ten years old a 10 foot hole can look like it is 100 feet deep. My “knee high to a grasshopper “ mind measured the hole at about 20 to 30 feet across and probably about 10 to 20 feet deep – keep in mind – these were the measurements of an excited grade school kid looking down into a really deep hole, with the story of Spanish Conquistadors hiding their doubloons away in the Missouri hills.
I remember to the left of the massive hole in that center chamber was a pool of water about three feet wide and probably about two feet deep. The pool of water, supposedly kept the relative cool temperature throughout the year.
There were some tool shaped pieces of wood that could be seen in the bottom of the big hole, which could suggest someone might have at one time been digging in the cave.
My mother and I only went into the first chamber, while the landowner serving as the proud tour guide told us the story about the cave and explained that he had hopes to explore and open all the cave to the public. The entrance and chamber of the cave, actually seemed spacious. It had no lights, so the setting sun served as the persistent indicator that our time would be limited to look around the cave.
“Missouri The Cave State”
Treasure hunters surfing the web and trying to find the location of Old Spanish Cave will be confused by other reported or suspected locations of this cave. One possible reason for the confusion on the location of the cave could come from the amount of caves in Missouri.
Around the late 1960s one of the popular tourism slogans stated: “Missouri The Cave State.” Growing up in Stone County I knew several kids and landowners who mentioned that they had caves on their property. Supposedly the entrances of some caves were wide enough you could easily walk into, while others were holes in the ground that a small dog would have problems going into or out of.
I remember Old Spanish Cave, was on private land, near Reeds Spring. The cave is near the Coon Ridge Coffee Shop before you reach a sign for the city limits to the City of Reeds Spring, as I remember.
Old Spanish Cave – A Tourist Attraction ?
In looking through my Galena Bears yearbooks from 1962 through 1976, I found there were advertisements for Old Spanish Cave for the years 1969, 1971 and 1972, which suggests the cave was open for a time to the public.
I found stories on Ancestry.com by people that also recount visits to the legendary southwest Missouri cave.
Could there be gold doubloons and Spanish jewels in Old Spanish Cave ?
The end of this tale will have to wait until some adventurous treasure hunter gets permission to venture inside the earth and see what lies hidden in the regions of Old Spanish Cave.
Me, I love to think the forgotten conquistadors are resting comfortably alongside their full treasure chest in the seclusion of Old Spanish Cave.
Bonnie and Clyde’s
by Junior Warren
The old man working on the landscape at the School of the Ozarks at Point Lookout, Missouri usually went unnoticed by most of the students. He was simply, after all, just a groundskeeper. I, on the other hand, always smiled or nodded at him.
The quiet, elderly man, who helped to keep the lawns mown and trees pruned was Clarence Marshbank,* a citizen of Stone County and a resident of Galena, Missouri. Every time I saw Mr. Marshbank I remembered the story my mother told me about how he had worked on the automobile of America’s Famous Bank Robbery Sweethearts Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows.
The Psychological Armageddon of The Stock Market Crash of 1929 encouraged a generation of Americans to hide money in their mattresses and in the walls of their homes. Stone County, Missouri, since her legislative birth in 1851 had always been “A Child Of Hard Times.” Stone County farmers raised pigs, chickens, hogs, cattle and put out small “truck patch” gardens of vegetables to earn a living. Mother Nature’s two crops that thrived in the rocky soil of Stone County was tomatoes, the legendary “Red Gold of Stone County” and corn.
Corn proved to be worth it’s weight in gold because not only could local families serve up and sell “roastin’ ears,” but the grain was important to feed the “fattening hogs” that would be raised and butchered, so that families would have meat to get them through the severe southwestern Missouri winters.
Of course, corn had an award winning entertainment and economic value – it was a primary ingredient of “Moonshine.” Stone County Stories are numerous about the many illegal moonshine stills that dotted the hills and hollers of Stone County – not all the stories are folk tales and urban legends.
In the midst of the economic paranoia of the 1930s, American bank robbers hit upon the faster automobiles, Tommy Gun’s and sawed off shotguns to “make a quick buck” by “knocking over banks” one after another. Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Faced Nelson became overnight folklore heroes by their daring, cunning and the courage to “Stick It To The System.”
American banks were real unpopular in the 1930s. American banks foreclosed and forced Americans out of their homes and off their farms. Unfortunately, the celebrity status of the dashing and debonair status of the gangsters was understandable – they were giving “payback” back to the bankers. Obviously, some Americans wished they had the courage and opportunity to – “Make The Bankers Pay.”
The economic chaos of the 1930s cannot be overstated. After all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The President Of The United States Of America went public and asked Americans to donate their pieces of gold to America. That gold was then melted into gold bars that became the bullion that is stored at Fort Knox, Kentucky. FDR and his Gold Democrats went a step further and took the United States “Off The Gold Standard,” no longer could you take a dollar bill into an American bank and demand to exchange it for a dollar’s worth of gold.
Economic hard times were a reality in Stone County, Missouri long before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Survival had always been a day to day struggle that encouraged farmers to go deer hunting and squirrel hunting to supplement the meat hanging “sugar cured” or “salt cured” in family smokehouses. Grandma DeLong told me stories about the hard times of day to day survival in Stone County, during The Great Depression.
Clarence Marshbank had a reputation around Galena of being an excellent automobile mechanic. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows, the bank robbers, were on the road, near Galena, Missouri, when they had “car trouble.”
The Stone County story goes that Bonnie and Clyde’s car wasn’t going to get much farther than Galena. Once in Galena, the bank robbery couple, learned that Clarence Marshbank was an excellent automobile mechanic. The Stone County story points out that at gunpoint Bonnie and Clyde forced Clarence Marshbank to repair their automobile.
One of the amazing points of the story is that the building that the car was put into to be worked on. The Old Parminter Body Shop building in Galena, sits near the historic courthouse and almost on the back parking lot of the modern day First Home Savings Bank in Galena, Missouri.
The story of Bonnie and Clyde kidnapping a Galena man walking into town is well known. They kidnapped the man to find out how to get to Reeds Springs and rob that bank. This story is supported by numerous newspaper accounts. However, the story of Bonnie and Clyde forcing Clarence Marshbank to work on their car is one of those stories that was usually whispered more than spoken about.
The incident probably did occur. First, my mother, Opal M. DeLong Warren had a reputation of never “making up” stories and she told me the original story about Bonnie and Clyde forcing Mr. Marshbank to work on their car. Second, local boy George Leonard “Shock” Short had a reputation of robbing banks and returning home to Galena to “lie low” between bank robberies. Thus, Stone County, Missouri wasn’t all that supportive of law enforcement efforts in the depression years.
I never had the opportunity to interview Clarence Marshbank, but I always remember his friendly, warm, “neighborly” smile, whenever he would nod at me walking across the campus of the School of the Ozarks.
*The last name was always spoken as Marshbank, but I have seen it spelled as Marchbank.
by Junior Warren
Stone County, Missouri’s Major Claim to Global Historical Fame is as “The Site Of The Last Official Public Hanging In The United States,” which is also the “Last Hanging In the State of Missouri.”
Roscoe “Red” Jackson, 36, on May 21, 1938, walked up the steps of the gallows on the Stone County Courthouse lawn. He had robbed and killed a salesman who had given him a ride.
The crime had happened in a neighboring county, but, the Missouri Law of the day stated that a “Death Sentence” had to be carried out in the county that passed the sentence. Thus, the duty to execute Jackson fell to Stone County officials.
There was a board fence built around the scaffold and tickets were issued to witnesses. Still, the actual event was relatively easy for the public to witness. The 1920 Stone County Courthouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a structure that would allow people on the second floor to view the hanging with ease.
The actual specifics of the story written for the “History of
Stone County Missouri,” Volume I, was authored by Ammabelle Burk, my second grade school teacher at Abesville.
The actual layout of the courthouse square from the 1930s to the late 1970s would of propably made it relatively easy for anyone who was interested to find a place to view the execution.
I met Herschel Johnson, a quiet, soft spoken easy going man, who liked to smoke his pipe and wore stripped railroad overalls. An outstanding carpenter, in my childhood, I was told that Herschel Johnson is the man that built the gallows for the Red Jackson hanging.
More Hangings ?
There were other hangings in the United States, after Red Jackson, but, research indicates that these executions were usually carried out in state “Death Houses” away from the easy or accidental view of the public.
Stone County, Missouri’s unique claim to fame isn’t the sort of publicity that has Mom and Dad loading the kids into the RV for a summer vacation to Galena, Missouri.
But, the “hanging” event does raise not only “Death Penalty” and “Capital Punishment” issues, but it also brings the focus of attention on The Great Depression and America’s never ending war to understand economic issues.
While there may have been people in the “Depression” who were simply “crooked,” ;it does seem as though some Americans were pushed to the limit and turned to “crime” to make ends meet on a day to day basis.
Shock Short Search Continues
For the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to research events in the life of Leonard “Shock “ Short. I know other kids heard stories about Shock Short growing up.
I would love to get emails from these people spelling out what they were told as kids. I was told time and again Shock Short was “Stone County’s Robin Hood,” who really did use some of his loot to help neighbors in the Depression.
Family Members’ Recollections
I would hope the grandkids, great-grandkids, grand neices and grand nephews would also send me some emails with information about their famous relatives: Dewey Gilmore, Davey Gilmore, Virgil “Red” Melton, Fred Reese, Irish O’Malley, Jackson “Jack” Miller, Russell Cooper, Daniel T. “Dapper Dan” Heady, “Pretty Betty” Heady, and, of course, Leonard “Shock” Short.
I would also like to hear from the grandkids, great-grandkids, grand neices and grand nephews of the Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma lawmen who pursued “Shock” Short and his gang.
Are there any family members of FBI agents, who pursued the gang ?
Obvious Subjective Approach
I grew up in Stone County, so I’m inclined to give “Shock” Short the benefit of the doubt, especially based on the times that he grew up in. Plus, as a kid, he was portrayed to me as a “Robin Hood” larger than life. Also as a child, I often saw Shock’s sister Bess Short Allman, almost everytime my mother and I went to Galena. I met Congressman Dewey Short, when I was a young boy in Galena. Since I met and respected members of the Short family, I will, no doubt, be subjective in an article about Shock.
I went to military journalism school and wrote numerous articles for Uncle Sam, where the instructors and editors always drove home “a journalist must be objective.” True. But, journalist and reporters are humans and humans have emotions, which usually influence the overall “objectivity” on the issues. Unfortunately, in the Real World, even reporters, are not Mr. Spock.
The Forgotten Gangster
Jake Fleagle isn’t one of those names that leap to the forefront, when people talk about Prohibition and Depression Era Gangsters. While I don’t know of any books that have been written or movies made of his crime spree; you can find information about him.
The Forgotten Gangster Of The Depression Era seems to be Shock Short and his gang. The information is out there and Ive found some. But, even now, there are more questions than answers. Where did these men get together as a group to begin robbing banks ? Who were there contacts along the way, who helped them out in the various cities ? Who were their girlfriends ? Besides, “Pretty Betty,” did any of the rest of the men have wives ? Did they have a favorite hangout to hide from the law ? These and other questions, really keep me from getting a good night’s sleep.
It’s not fun waking up in the middle of the night and asking, “If these guys were on the lam, did they ever hookup with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker to take down a bank ?” Stone County history does record the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow having a shootout, near Reed Springs, Missouri.
Finding the information on America’s Forgotten Gangster might help to add new information to the well known gangster stories of Dillinger, Karpis, the Barker Gang and perhaps others.
Reason For Writing
What is in the Shock Short Story for Junior Warren ?
A Good Story.
I’m not trying to write a book.
I don’t have a book deal of any kind.
I don’t want to write a book – I’m too “long winded” when it comes to writing.
My Grandma DeLong told me the Shock Short Stories, when I was a kid. I would just like to write the story and post it to my blog. Maybe, then, I can finally get a good night’s sleep.
The kids of Stone County, Missouri had their own local John Dillinger, so they should have an opportunity to know the history of the man and the difficult times that he lived in. And, the Stone County Historical Society can fill in the blanks about the local boy who made history by robbing banks in the 1930s.
I ‘ll leave the intense research of the Shock Short story to other writers, authors, Missouri and American historians to dig deeper for the true trivia of history (- like did Shock have a newspaper route as a boy ?)
I leave it to the Hollywood screenwriters to look for the details to try and get Michael Mann, Dick Wolf, or Jerry Bruckheimer interested in bringing the story to the movies. The Hollywood screenwriters can try and convince Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis or Don Johnson that here might be another unique gangster story that could use their talents to bring the story to the silver screen.
If family members want to send me their Shock Short stories, then, please email me your stories and recollections to : SamuelWarren55@gmail.com
AMERICA’S IGNORED GANGSTER
by Junior Warren
John Herbert “Jack Rabbit” Dillinger and “The Terror Gang” blazed their way on to the nation’s front pages blasting away with Tommy guns, sawed-off shotguns and an arsenal of pistols. Wearing bullet proof vests on occasion, they squeezed the triggers of the Chicago Typewriters to spew hot lead, and make a mad dash into an awaiting V-8 sedan. When the thick curtain of gunpowder smoke vanished, stunned wounded, confused local sheriffs, deputies and police officers were left with the echoes of squealing tires in the distance and spent shells cooling on the pavement.
Rowdy Reporters, Ecstatic Editors,
Excited crime reporters “beat feet” back to their offices. Tipping back the press card fedora, the cigarette smokes in the ash tray, the reporter’s fingers dance on the keys of the Olivetti as characters explode on to the wiggling sheets of bond paper and the story blasts to life.
A quick glance up at the newsroom clock, the reporter pounds out the story to beat the deadline for the next Dillinger story. Across the nation, copy boys rush the editor approved copy down to the press rooms. The waxed sticks of copy go on to the galley sheets with the black and white photographs. The metallic groan of the giant presses waking up blends into the rapid fire melody of the broadsheets shooting across the thundering presses and down on to the conveyor belts.
Ah, the smell of newsprint in the morning and ink in the evenings. Tilt the hat and head for home; it’s all up to the guys in the press room now to get the hot copy on the streets.
Hot off the presses ! Bundled copies of the morning and evening editions of the nation’s newspapers slam on to the pavement. In moments, newsstands have the hottest editions and newsboys are hawking the bank bashing bravado of the debonair, dashing, daring Dillinger desperadoes. The Terror Gang’s 13-month crime spree is a shotgun blast across the Midwest.
“Doin’ da’ Dillinger Dance !”
President Roosevelt makes his daily call to J. Edgar Hoover at
the United States Bureau Of Investigation to find out why Hoover hasn’t got Dillinger yet. Hoover, then, picks up the phone and calls the Chicago Office’s Special Agent In Charge Melvin Purvis, head of the “Dillinger Squad,” and asks Purvis, why he hasn’t gotten Dillinger yet ?
Dillinger becomes “The American Godfather of The Great Depression Gangster,” enthroned by anxious editors and excited reporters of the nation’s newspapers. The American Public of The Great Depression were not fond of banks. The G-Men, had a reputation as “College Boys,” who couldn’t shoot straight.
Gangsters worried about the Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents, but the BOI agents were not originally considered a serious threat. The U.S. Department of Justice’s BOI had a reputation of being corrupt.
The young J. Edgar Hoover worked within the Justice Department’s BOI to try and reform, reorganize and promote his struggling band of government lawmen.
Dillinger and the other gangsters were a persistent thorn in the side of the BOI. J. Edgar Hoover’s
agents had law degrees, but most had never fired a gun, while Dillinger and the other bank robbers of the era were knocking over banks like a kid’s dominoes.
The brouhaha of federal legislation favored the gangsters: (1) Bank Robbery was not a federal crime
(2) As early as 1917, apparently the BOI agents had been issued a service revolver, but Congress had stressed, the firearm was for “defensive purposes.
(3) The BOI agents weren’t originally authorized the “arrest power,” which meant U.S. Marshalls, local sheriffs, deputies, town marshals, and city policemen had to be on hand to “arrest” a gangster.
Dillinger, an Indiana farm boy, quickly became the hero of poor and out of work Americans who could identify with the humble beginnings of the Depression Era Robin Hood on his Horatio Alger Jr.’s“Rags To Riches” rise to celebrity notoriety before their eyes.
Dillinger’s legendary charismatic nature and willingness to talk to the reporters made him the flamboyant “Teflon Don” of his era. Dillinger and The Terror Gang were on a roll.
Alvin “Old Creepy” Karpis and the Barker Gang got their fair share of ink on the nation’s broadsheets of the day. Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and The Purple Gang were among the gangsters grabbing headlines. They earned several column inches of newspaper copy almost daily to detail bank robberies, shoot outs, jail breaks and daring get aways.
Shock Short’s Shadow
Meanwhile, Shock Short, a Stone County, Missouri man and his gang were also successfully credited with robbing banks in the Midwest, but they always seemed to be, in the shadows,at the edge of the limelight.
I heard about the adventures of Shock Short, growing up a boy in Stone County, Missouri. The information was always sketchy at best.
First, when I heard the stories it was the 1960s and Shock had been robbing banks in the 1930s. Second, Shock is the brother of the late U.S. 7th Congressional District Congressman Dewey Short, of Galena. Third, Shock’s family – the Shorts of Galena – held a local respected reputation, which ranked the family at a position equivalent to that of the Political Dynasty of the John D. Rockefeller Family, which meant while everyone talked about Dewey and his successes in the nation’s capitol; “Shock Short Stories” were quietly told by parents, grandparents and Stone County Old Timers.
Grandma Martha DeLong’s Shock Short Stories always stayed locked away in the bank vault of my mind along with the legendary tales of his hidden loot. Recently, working on some Stone County stories, I recalled the fingerprint of Shock Short Grandma DeLong had left in my mind. I decided to see if I could find some evidence to flesh out grandma’s stories. I was surprised when my search of the FBI website didn’t list Shock Short or any member of his gang in the FBI history of gangsters of the 1930s.
I’ve kept digging through the dark corners of history trying to find dusty files hidden in the warehouses and morgues of cyberspace. A clue here and a lead there has gotten me searching the rundown flop houses, skid rows and strolling the back alleys of the Internet. I adjust my fedora, turn up my trench coat collar and work the street beat trying to find information to knock out a story on : “Shock Short America’s Ignored Gangster.”
I’ve gotten some notes and scraps of data, but, I’d like to get some more in depth information. Somewhere standing in an unlit doorway of the Internet is a grandfather, grandmother or grandchild with a Shock Short Story to tell. I’m ready to listen and pass it on, please, email me at SamuelWarren55@gmail.com.
To date, I’ve poked around the Internet and it looks like Shock’s gang at one time or another involved: Daniel T. “Dapper Dan” Heady, Dewey Gilmore, Davey Gilmore, Russell Cooper, Virgil “Red” Melton, Fred Reese, Jackson “Jack” Miller, and Walter Holland who used the alias names of “Leo O’Malley,” and“Irish O’Malley.”
The Dillinger Gang had several wives and girlfriends, who live on at The Official Website of Don’t Call Us Molls:Women Of The John Dillinger Gang http://dillingerswomen.com/index.html To date: “Pretty Betty,” the wife of Daniel Heady, is the only woman that I have found associated with Shock Short’s Gang.
The irony is while Shock Short’s tales has spawned numerous stories, myths, and urban legends about hidden loot in Stone County, Missouri; the man is still “hiding out” and remains an overlooked mystery in the American’ Archives Of Gangster History.
FBI -Federal Bureau of Investigation http://www.fbi.gov/
Home – Dusty Roads Of An FBI Era http://historicalgmen.squarespace.com/
Midwest Gangsters of the Depression Era – Mister 86’s Report http://mister86.wordpress.com/2008/08/25/midwest-gangsters-of-the-depression-era/
Hollywood goodfella http://af11.wordpress.com/
Crime Magazine http://www.crimemagazine.com/history-kansas-city-family
Prohibition and Depression Era Gangsters and Outlaws http://www.legendsofamerica.com/20th-gangsters.html
Tru TV Crime Library http://www.crimemagazine.com/history-kansas-city-family
Between the Wars (1920s & 1930s) http://www.chenowith.k12.or.us/tech/subject/social/depression.html
Wikipedia John Dillinger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dillinger
Official Website of John Dillinger – Public Enemies http://johndillinger.com/
Stone County Missouri US Gen Web http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mostone/stone.htm
This article is my observations of growing up in Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s. Stone County is a rural southwest Missouri county that neighbors Taney County, which is usually most famous for being the home of Branson, Missouri.
Stone County is a rural conservative county. Politics centers around a “fanatical”, i.e., “die hard” support of the Republican party. There are more than 150 churches in Stone County, which usually has the Baptists ranking above the other Protestant religions. Usually, the Pentecostals rank a close second. In terms of economics: Stone County at the end of the 20th Century would be considered a poor county, even in a depressed U.S. economy.
Galena, Crane, Reeds Spring, Cape Fair, Kimberling City, Abesville and the majority of Stone County towns are the classic Sinclair Lewis and Norman Rockwell “small town American towns.”
This is the county, I grew up in.
In 2010, Stone County really hasn’t changed that much, except the Stone County Sheriff’s Department now has more than 20 deputies.
The article is my observations and analysis. I hope you enjoy the article.
Editor,Writer, Photographer, and Stone County, Missouri Old Timer
A Stone County Old Timer Editorial
Top Secret – Stone County, Missouri
by Junior Warren
Step up to the cipher lock of the massive steel doors and punch in the numbers.
Slowly, the six-inch thick steel doors part and open outward. The rotating red beacons, beside the doors, comes to life and tosses out their rays of crimson light.
You step through the doors.
Once inside, you continue into the secure subterranean area. Technology transforms nature’s large cave into a complex secure government facility miles down inside the earth. You stroll along the asphalt path lit by the uniformly spaced overhead recessed cavern lights. The massive underground bunker doors halt. The twin doors sensors scan the entrance. The concealed infra red beams scan the opening. The motion sensors and surveillance cameras confirm no unrecognized heat signatures.
The massive twin steel doors move and swing close. You hear the metallic thunder click of the massive steel vault locks in the doors seal behind you.
“Welcome to Stone County, Missouri.”
You’ve just stepped into Stone County, Missouri in the 1960s.
Stone County, Missouri of the 1960s
really isn’t that different from
Stone County, Missouri in 2010.
Area 51 – Midwest
Long before background checks or America’s Gated Communities of the 1980s became fashionable, Stone County, Missouri was essentially an Area 51 in the Midwestern United States.
People are familiar with the “Southern Hospitality” of the southern states and their cities; “Ozark’s Hospitality” can be ever bit as friendly, but, has to be earned over time. You don’t just show up and 24 hours later expect to be treated like a long lost friend. People in the Ozarks have to get to know you and “warm up” to you.
Growing up in the Ozarks in the 1960s was a lot like living inside a secure enormous government facility. You felt protected from the Outside World. The terrain of Arkansas’ Boston Mountains could be considered the southern most boundary. The usual belief is the northern most limits of the Ozarks imaginary boundary stops a few miles south of Jefferson City, Missouri, the state capitol. The natural terrain of the Ozarks area in the 1960s always gave the residents a sense of maximum security.
In the years before cell phones and computers, the height of technology was black and white televisions tuned to any one of the two local stations Channel 3 – KYTV, or Channel 10, KOLR. Both stations usually signed off at midnight, Monday through Friday.
You got on a waiting list to get telephone service. When you finally did get a telephone, it would be a Party Line. Thus, when your phone rang it meant at least three other people on the phone line would hear their phones “jingle.” People on the party line knew you were getting a phone call because their telephones made a muffled rumbling sound like a phone trying to ring under a pillow. In those days, eavesdropping tended to be a major pastime for some people. It was obvious because some of the information that you and the caller talked about would usually become public knowledge from Abesville to Galena a day or two later.
Keep Watching The Ozarks
There were three popular local radio stations KWTO – “Keep Watching The Ozarks, “in Springfield, 40 miles away from Stone County, Missouri and KTTS, also in Springfield. Some people would tune in to KSWM in Aurora, Missouri, also about 40 miles away. These were the three local radio stations that were usually listened to in the 1960s in Stone County, Missouri.
The Springfield newspaper
The two major newspapers were The Stone County Republican and the Springfield Leader and Press, which was usually just called the Springfield Newspaper. If you lived in Crane, Missouri, you might subscribe to the Crane Chronicle, but, in the early 1960s, that newspaper usually didn’t circulate to far outside the Crane city limits.
People didn’t lock their doors day or night. They left the keys to their cars and pickups in the ignitions.
The nearest hospitals, in the 1960s, were about 40 miles away. You would drive north 40 miles to Springfield or south, “as the crow flies” to Aurora. The Skating hospital was being built in Branson in the 1960s.
The geography and infrastructure of southwest Missouri in the 1960s, essentially kept Stone County, Missouri as isolated and as mystical America’s legendary “Area 51.”
Stone County’s Top Secret Security Measures
Stone County’s Greatest Security Measure in the 1960s were the people.
Visitors were usually uncomfortable on their first visits to Stone County. Time and again, the comments were, “people in Stone County are stand off-is” It was true. All non residents were simply “Strangers.”
No amount of background checks, security clearances, security badges mattered to the residents of the time. If you lived outside of Stone County, Missouri you were a “Stranger.” Whether you were the President of the United States of America or the Governor of Missouri; it did not matter. If you didn’t live in Stone County; you were a “Stranger.”
All strangers had to earn the trust of the local citizens. It was a slow process. Most visitors didn’t understand it.
While most visitors in the 1960s came to Stone County expecting to find a “Beverly Hillbillies Hospitality;” they were disappointed. True, some men wore overalls and grandmothers worn nondescript cotton dresses. No one was jumping up and down to invite you to their house for “possum vittles” on the fancy dining table with the six pool pockets.
Twilight Zone Address ?
A visitor or stranger to Stone County in the 1960s might feel as though he or she had actually arrived at a “Twilight Zone” address or wound up on the set of the science fiction television series “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.” Stone County citizens simply had to “warm up” and get accustom to being around a new visitor or stranger.
Stone County citizens had a different approach to visitors and strangers than neighboring Taney County.
The Reverend Harold Bell Wright’s “Shepherd Of The Hills” novel had put Forsyth, Hollister and Branson, Missouri in the national spotlight and Taney County, Missouri had become a household word in the 1960s. Meanwhile, next door, Stone County remained a mystery to most Americans.
National Political Obscurity
Stone County, Missouri, had Dewey Short, Galena’s favorite son, and the United States 7th Congressional District congressman. But, if you weren’t into national or state politics in the 1960s, then, you probably had never heard of Stone County, Missouri or Galena.
Hunters and fisherman were familiar with Stone County, Missouri.
Folklorist Vance Randolph’s stories had drawn hunters and fishermen to Stone County. Bill Rogers, a local fisherman and hunter, acted as a local guide and operated the Bill Roger’s Motel, on the banks of the James River, beside the Y Bridge.
Galena, Missouri – Float Fishing Capitol Of The World
The large painted bass on the billboard on the corner of the square bragged: Galena, Missouri – Float Fishing Capital of the World. People did come from throughout the United States to float fish the James River. Usually, they would put their canoes in at “Horse Creek” and float down the James River to the boat dock, near the Bill Roger’s Motel.
One reported stop along the way was a place called, “Buttermilk Springs.” Loretta Gordon told me why the stop was called Buttermilk Springs. In those days people drank buttermilk. When fisherman came to float the James River, some of the local citizens would put jars of buttermilk in the cold water to chill until the visitors in the canoes arrived. They would buy jars of buttermilk to take back home with them, before continuing their float trip on to Galena. Loretta had worked as a waitress at the Bill Rogers Motel, so I remembered her account.
Moonshine Stills Along James River
One urban legend is that Buttermilk Springs might have been a location where visitors could buy local moonshine. In Stone County, Missouri, in the 1960s, the soil allowed you to grow hay, tomatoes and corn, in relative ease. Corn is a principal ingredient in moonshine. Throughout, my childhood in the 1960s, Stone County, Missouri had a notorious reputation as a location for the production of “moonshine.”
By the late 1970s. Federal, state and local authorities were roaming the hillsides searching for marijuana plants. Still as late as the late 1980s, there were rumors of hidden “and still producing ‘moonshine stills’ in Stone County, Missouri.’”
Stone County’s Area 51 Mystique
The Area 51 Mystique Of Stone County, Missouri continues in 2010 because the overall psychology has not changed. A Stranger is still a stranger.
To become comfortable and accepted in Stone County, Missouri, there is only one thing you can do: You must live here.
“The Stone County, Missouri difference”
Living in Stone County, Missouri is unlike living any other place on the planet. I’ve lived on military bases. I lived on base in Okinawa and off base in Misawa, Japan. I lived off base in Angeles City, Philippines and off base in Bossier City, Louisiana – to name a few places. Overtime, you usually feel at home and feel as though you can blend in. Stone County, Missouri is different.
Most places I’ve lived in around the world you could choose to immerse yourself in the culture or to sit on the sidelines and be an observer. I believe to live in Stone County, Missouri, you really have to become a part of the culture.
To feel at home in Stone County, Missouri, you simply have to live here. The feeling will not come in six months or a year. It probably will be closer to 29 years before you wake up in the morning and actually feel like you belong.
If you move to Stone County, Missouri, it helps to know or have some proof that a great-grandfather or great-grandmother lived here at one time. Still, that link to the past doesn’t make you “welcome” by traditional standards.
People who move into Stone County, Missouri are called, “Newcomers.” When I was a child, in the 1960s, the only way that a “Newcomer” would be accepted is to live in Stone County 20 years. The “Old Timers” of the day referred to anyone and everyone, who moved into Stone County as a “Newcomer” until they had lived here 20 years.
That is the magick number – 20 years to be considered a “citizen of Stone County” by the “Old Timers.” Nothing under 20 mattered. If you lived in Stone County, Missouri, 19 years and 364 days and then moved, if you moved back into the county later, then, you would be called a “Newcomer.”
Find The Ancestors
Alex Haley’s book, “Roots,” had everyone tracing their ancestors in the 1970s. People talked about their ancestors. You had people trying to find their ancestors, who had served in the Civil War, on either side, In the years before computers, people took great efforts to try to trace their ancestors back to the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower.
Meanwhile, in Stone County, Missouri, the only heraldry, lineage or coat of arms that meant anything to local citizens were your grandparents. You could have been a direct descendant of General George Washington or General Robert E. Lee and Stone County citizens would of smiled and said, “That’s nice.”
The next question would have been, “Who is your grandpa ?”
Stone County Heraldry and Lineage in the 1960s focused on your grandparents. If your grandparents were well thought of and respected in Stone County, then, a complete “stranger” got the benefit of the doubt and it didn’t take local citizens as long to “warm up” to that person and accept the individual as a friend.
If either grandparent had been considered less than honorable in Stone County, then, the grandchild was simply considered a “newcomer.”
None of the rules were written down, but they were understood. Grandparents and Old Timers in Stone County carried weight that would be the envy of the chair people of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.
The Old Timers Of Stone County
The Old Timers Of Stone County were simply elderly men and women who had lived most if not all of their lives in the county. When they told you something it was almost always based on their lifetime experiences.
The Old Timers Game
In the 1960s, college graduates who moved into the county and decided to become farmers like to try and prove to the Old Timers that they were “wiser” and “smarter” because they had college educations. Usually, the Old Timers just shrugged off the bragging of the younger college educated farmers. Sometimes the youth went to far in bragging about their college educations from the University of Missouri, Southwest Missouri State University or the School of the Ozarks.
Then, the Old Timers would play their game. They would tell the youth something that they had observed all their lives. The Old Timers knew that human nature being what it is, most if not all, of the young farmers would ignore their lifetime wisdom and experience. The end result is The Old Timers would have the last laugh. The most certain information in the 1960s was the Memorial Day Hay information.
Memorial Day Hay
Old Timers would tell Newcomer farmers time and again: “cut, bale and get your hay out of the field before Memorial Day – May 30.” Usually, the newcomer farmers would tune into the radio, TV or read the newspaper weather report and make their decision. Through the years a lot of Stone County hay rot in the fields.
Newcomers didn’t always listen and they would almost always lose some if not all of the hay. Perhaps, it is just a freakish weather occurrence, but, even in 2010, if you have hay cut and lying in the field waiting to be baled, there is a good chance it will get rained on during the May 30 Memorial Day Weekend.
Old Timer’s Stories
An Old Timer might not know you, but, if you told him or her your grandfather or grandmother’s name, then, they would smile and start in with the stories about your grandparents. Having lived in the county all his or her life, the Old Timer would of known your grandpa probably all the way back to his grandpa or grandma. Old Timer’s in Stone County, “didn’t pull punches” in their storytelling. They would tell you their accounts and “let the chips fall where they may.” There was no political correctness, especially among the Old Timers, in Stone County in the 1960s. They were great sources of information because they would tell you stories that some families had tried for years to hide as though the event never happened. The Old Timers had long and clear memories.
Little Hoss Jennings
In my childhood, one of my favorite “Old Timers” was “Little Hoss Jennings.” A short man, about five foot two inches, who wore railroad pin stripe overalls and would sit on one of the benches underneath the large trees on the courthouse lawn. He also worked part-time as a dispatcher in the Stone County Sheriff’s Office, when it was in the courthouse I’d listen as he would tell people stories of bygone days of Stone County.
Back To Square One
Grand kids, nieces, nephews, and long long cousins, who came for the summer didn’t figure into the Stone County citizenship equation. It may have made them feel good to have spent time roaming the hills in the summer, but, if they came back years later to visit or live, then, they would be considered “Newcomers.” Basically, the person would go back to square one because “summer vacations” weren’t considered “living in Stone County.” And if none of the Old Timers remembered you, then, you were a “newcomer.”
There are references in American history where a parent refused to acknowledge a child. Growing up in Stone County in the 1960s, there were times when you would hear of a parent or grandparent that refused to recognize a child or grandchild. Usually, the policy to “disown” a child came out of an act like a child being born out of wedlock. The family that “disowned” the child would not speak their name, nor, would they admit any type of connection to the disowned child.
Even in the 1960s, in Stone County, there were family members that could be considered “Black Sheep” because they didn’t fit into the overall family pattern. Family members considered “Black Sheep” were recognized; but, a “disowned” person simply didn’t exists by Stone County standards.
DNA’s discovery in the 1970s served to prove legal and medical issues of heritage, but, if a grandparent or grandparents had “disowned” a child, it would be the decision of later family members to admit or deny that person’s connection to the family, after the grandparent’s deaths.
Natives of Stone County
In 2010, a person can claim to be “a native of Stone County.” In the 1960s, to be “A Native Of Stone County” was like being a recipient of the Congressional Medal Of Honor. In the 1960s, if an Old Timer overheard someone making the claim of being “a native of Stone County; it wasn’t unusual for the Old Timer to call the person’s bluff on the spot/ Remarks like, “You haven’t live here that long.”
By the Old Timer’s definition: Natives of Stone County, Missouri are those people who can trace there family back at least two generations and usually three. Once, you’ve lived in Stone County for 20 years, then, you begin the process, but, by the Old Timers standards, you have to live here and raise your kids and watch your grand kids start to grow up before you could be called or considered, “a native.”
Green Horns, Tenderfoots, Tin Horns
In the 1960s, Newcomers to Stone County, Missouri were seldom taken seriously. People would move into the county with ideas. Usually in two or three years the disappointed “newcomer” would move to another city or state. Green Horns, Tenderfoots and tin horns were the names usually given to people who came to Stone County with ideas of how to change the county.
In the 1960s, Stone County was definitely a farm county. Farmers milked Holstein, Guernsey and Jersey cows. They raised Angus and Polled Hereford beef cattle. Hog farming was in it’s heyday with farmers raising Hampshire and Duroc pigs. Tomatoes, corn and hay were the crops.
Ozarks Hillbilly Stereotype
“The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show went on the air in the 1960s, The daily publication of Al Capp’s “Lil Abner” comic strip in newspapers contributed to America’s stereotype of the “hillbilly.” The recently opened “Silver Dollar City” and “Shepherd of the Hills attractions had people coming to Taney County like the Oklahoma Land Rush. The popularity of “The Baldknobbers” music show sprouted like corn, especially when “Hee Haw” filled the nation’s air waves. It seemed everyone wanted to see the stereotypical “hillbillies” in their native surroundings.
People who showed up with business opportunities in the 1960s, usually left frustrated. Basically, if the ideas didn’t relate to agriculture; people weren’t interested.
In the 1960s, most people farmed. Some wives worked at the garment factories in Reeds Spring or Crane. Some wives worked in the shoe factory in Marionville or the casket factory in Crane. A few people worked at the courthouse. The Stone County Sheriff’s Department from the 1960s through the early 1970s had one sheriff and usually two deputies for daily law enforcement throughout the county. There was at one point a Stone County Sheriff’s Posse, but, in the 1960s, it was usually local citizens who rode their horses in local parades.
Central Intelligence Agency World View
Neighboring Taney County always seemed to have a “Cosmopolitan View” of visitors; Stone County, Missouri had the “Central Intelligence Agency World View.”
In the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency was the ultimate super secret agency shrouded in secrecy. Ian Fleming’s James Bond made a “spy” and the “secret agent” popular in the American culture. Despite the critics, in my lifetime, the CIA has always been known as the government agency that keeps “secrets” and gets the job done, on behalf of all Americans.
Like the CIA, Stone County, Missouri citizens “keep their secrets,” “mind their own business,” and go about their daily lives.
Basically, you live in Stone County, Missouri and over time, then, you will be accepted.
People in Stone County were always friendly, but, they never did the “Welcome Wagon” routine. You might actually live in the county several days or weeks before a local resident welcomed you to the county because the standard Ozarks mentality was people didn’t “butt in” and everyone minded “their own business.”
Moving into Stone County, Missouri didn’t mean that you were anonymous. Whether it was a single man, woman or a family; within a few days, usually a few hours, people would know your complete background and history.
Stone County Grapevine
The Stone County Grapevine of the 1960s went beyond anything Uncle Sam could come up with in the age before computers. You might not know your new neighbors, but, they would know your background and family history, within days of you moving into the county.
It didn’t matter if you moved into or near Galena, Abesville, Ponce de Leon, Crane, Cape Fair, Kimberling City, Reeds Spring,Bass Holler or a remote area in the county, within hours of your move into the county, people would know about you or would know “of you,” which meant that although they had never met you, they had already heard “stories about you.”
Within days of moving into Stone County, Missouri, a newcomer would have a “reputation” based on the stories about the person that circulated around the county about the person. Whether the “reputation” was true or not did not matter, Once a person’s “reputation” got around the county; all the “newcomer” could do was either “live up to it” or try and “live it down.”
Always an unspoken factor in your reputation was that of “your parent’s reputation” and “your grandparent’s reputation.” If either of your parents or grandparents weren’t liked or thought “well of,” then, that was always a consideration in a person’s reputation.
Slow To Accept Visitors
In my lifetime, Stone County, Missouri is unique because the local culture has always been slow to accept “visitors.” The natural geography is still an obvious factor. The hills and bluffs of the countryside suggest s sense of fortification from the outside world.
The technology of the day probably contributed to the slow acceptance of visitors and strangers. The slow growth of infrastructure, no doubt, provides the continuing sense of security. In 2010, it is still basically 40 miles in any direction to the nearest hospital. However, Greene County hospitals in Springfield are accustomed to emergency medical helicopter flights into and out of Stone County, Missouri.
‘A’ Bomb Scare
When I began going to Abesville Grade School in 1960, “the A Bomb scare” was a part of life. You went to bed at night and hoped that the “Soviet Union” would not launch their nuclear missiles or that Soviet bombers would not violate U.S. airspace and drop the dreaded “Atomic Bomb.”
By the third grade, I had found the address of the U.S. Superintendent of Documents and had wrote off to request the advertised plans to “build your own underground bomb shelter” I spent the next nine years pleading and begging with my mother to build a bomb shelter.
In 1969, Momma built a pole barn for the livestock. In 1978, I joined the U.S. Air Force. I never did get my “bomb shelter.”
The “Cold War” and the whole “United States versus the Communist” psychology was a real concern in the 1960s and 1970s.
20th Century Election Night Festivities
In the 1960s and 1970s, someone would park their pickup on the street in front of the courthouse. A big chalkboard would be in the pickup bed and someone would write the incoming vote tallies on the board for everyone to see. People either crowded around the pickup or would sit across the street in Gene Hick’s Cafe and Drugstore and stare out the large glass windows as the election eve results were being written on the chalkboard. Everyone waited to see who “Would Be The Next Sheriff Of Stone County.”
Crowds of people would fill the street and move around the pickup waiting to see who the next sheriff and president would be. Once the announcement was made and the vote tallies were written on the board, then, people would head home.
No one ever cared about who would be a Stone County commissioner or county clerk in the 1960s. In the 1960s, the “Power of Stone County” was known to rest in the Sheriff’s Office.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the only elections that really mattered were “The Sheriff Of Stone County” and “The President Of The United States.” Galena was the native home of Congressman Dewey Short, until he retired in the late 1970s. Thus, in the 1960s and 1970s, it didn’t really seem to matter who would be either of Missouri’s U.S. Senators.
Perhaps, Jefferson City, the state capitol, was considered too far away at the time to worry about. I don’t remember anyone really caring about who got elected governor or any of the senators or representatives who got elected to the Missouri General Assembly.
Of course in the 21st Century, Stone County residents seem more concerned with the election results, even if the ceremony in front of the courthouse no longer occurs on election night. Jefferson City isn’t that far away after all.
Cleared for Stone County
In 2010, in Stone County, Missouri, people use their cell phones, computers, send email and have their Facebook, My Space, and Twitter accounts, which they update while watching Direct TV or Dish Network television. The cities don’t look much different than any small towns in America. And, Galena, Missouri, the county seat, is one of the eight towns in the United States known as Galena.
You simply enter and leave the county by crossing any of the shared county lines from Barry, Christian, Taney or Lawrence counties Satellites circle the globe and broadcast their radio, TV and cell phone signals into and out of Stone County.
Area 51 Mentality
Secrecy occurs naturally in Stone County, Missouri. The traditional concept of “minding your own business” is a part of the county’s natural psychology. Outgoing and friendly people might feel like they are on a Hollywood movie set for a science fiction movie on their first visit to Stone County because the local people do seem distant.
In my lifetime it has always been this way. People meet you slowly and get to know you over time. The intent is not to make anyone feel like they are in the middle of an “X Files” episode or movie.
Stone County, Missouri is not located a mile below the earth with an impressive Cheyenne Mountain type of entrance. Nor, is Stone County, Missouri located in a parallel time and space dimension that will require you to have precise mathematical calculations or mystical, magickal incantations to open or close any kind of portal.
Perhaps, the best way for a “newcomer” to ever feel at home like “a native” is to try and understand Stone County’s “Area 51 Mentality.” You live in an area of the United States where the weather is as stable as a politician’s promises – frequently changing. Stone is an accurate description of the soil. Change of all kinds: political, religious, economic, social and technological – are slow process that occurs at a snail’s pace over time in Stone County, Missouri.
Writer, Photographer, Stone County, Missouri Old Timer
Stone County, Missouri US Gen Web http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mostone/stone.htm