MOGenWeb Site, Johnna Quick -- Coordinator
Charles Owens wrote a book during the winter and spring of 1969 entitled "Memoirs" detailing his early life in Ozark County. It is a wonderful resource for information about homesteading and family life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Ozark County and the surrounding area. There are many descendants of Charles and his wife Lula Witt Owens, this was contributed by Jane Owens.
I have tried to keep the spelling and punctuation just as Charles left it. He left handwritten additions in the margin of the pages, those are noted by *NOTE: Also, information added by Jane is noted by brackets, [ ].
About the author:
Charles Owens, the second child of Napoleon Boneparte and Mattie Hobby Owens, was born on rock prairie in Pond Creek township in Greene County, Missouri, 20 miles west of Springfield on the old Owens Homestead, May 24th, 1887. Moved to Ozark County, Missouri in 1897. Attended the Gainesville Normal School and taught 20 years in the rural schools of that county. Was elected and served one term as an Associate Judge of the County Court. I moved to Ava, Missouri and went to work for the Federal Land Bank of St. Louis Missouri, appraising farms and making farm loans for them. I worked 35 years for them until I was retired. I served for a time on the Banks New Business Committee. I married Lula Witt Dec. 23, 1906. She was born March 24th, 1888. We raised seven fine children.
I was a member of the building committee when the present Christian Church in Gainesville was built (1936). The other members of this committee were J.C. Harlin and Orville McClendon.
I joined the Odd Fellows and belonged to them for 20 years. I held every office in the lodge, including Noble Grand. I joined the Masonic Lodge in 1936 just before moving to Ava.
Homesteading In Ozark County:
We had a neighbor, Walter Kieth, who lived near us in 1895 in Greene County, Missouri that moved to Ozark County, Missouri and homesteaded 160 acres of land known as the Creath Herd place and where Barney Douglas now lives. He came back the next year and bragged on the country to my Dad so he decided to go down and look around.
In the fall of 1896 Dad took a wagon and team and myself and went down to see for himself. Walter Kieth didnít have any land in cultivation on his homestead so he had moved on the Almus Neff place and rented land from him. This is the place that Archie and Jewel [Reynolds] owns and lives on now. The log house they lived in was across the creek east of the present new dwelling.
Walter told him that Noel Green Lulaís Uncle wanted to sell his place. We went to see him the next morning and Dad traded for the place. He gave him the wagon we were in, one of the mares we were driving, and two sets of harness. It had a small one room house and two log pens for a barn. *Note: This old log barn is still standing.* There were about 2 acres cleared and fenced. He showed us a spring where Dadís old pond is now and said it run the year around never went dry. That was in November. Noel Green went with us to Springfield, rode one of his horses, to relinquish his homestead right. We took the wagon and team.
The roads were so muddy that we stopped at Old Henderson about 6 miles east of Springfield, left the wagon and the mare we had traded Mr. Green, loaded our quilts and camping equipment on the other mare and put me on her to hold things down. Dad had borrowed a double barrel shot gun from a neighbor to take down there with us for protection. We thought we might run into some bears or other wild animals.
We set out for Springfield with Dad on foot carrying the shot gun. We went into town on Walnut Street by the old Springfield Normal school. The streets had not been paved yet and were awful muddy and Dad had to take to the sidewalk.
We stopped in Springfield and got the title to the place fixed. Noel Green went back to his wagon and we went on home that night. We lived 20 miles from Springfield got there after midnight. It was awful cold that night. I would have to get off and walk a piece every once in awhile. I couldnít get Dad to ride a step. He walked the 26 miles from Old Henderson home and carried the old shot gun.
Dad went to work and sold his place and some other stuff that he didnít want to move. Dad hired a neighbor, Bud Morgan to take his wagon and team and move a load for us. We left there the last week in February arrived down there the 27th, 1897.
Mother had a cow that she didnít want to sell, wanted to take her along. Of course we had to take her afoot. She was broke to lead. We put a halter on her and tied her behind the wagon brother Homer and I would take turns driving her as she didnít want to walk as fast as the teams. After we got through Springfield we turned her loose and undertook to drive her after the wagon, but her feet was so sore after the first day that she didnít want to walk in the road as it was softer ground and better walking out of the road. We had quite a time keeping her out of the bushes.
We stayed the last night of the trip at the Ein Shindler place just above Almartha. When we got to Gainesville we inquired the best way to get out to the place. They directed us to go down Lick Creek and go up the Wattenbarger hollow as that was the best road at that time. We came out on top of the ridge where Virgil Graves built his cabbins then on west down by the Lee Wood place. Lee Woods and Clarence was making rails by the side of the road and we stopped and talked with them awhile.
By the time we got to the house it was getting dark, Mother sent me to the spring to get some water so she could get supper while the rest were taking care of the teams and getting some stuff unloaded. When I got to the spring it was as dry as a bone not a drop of water anywhere. When I got back to the house and told them there was no water, I will never forget the expression on Mothers face. She just sat down and cried I had never seen Mother cry before and we all cried but Dad.
Homer and I took a bucket and went to Lee Woods and got water for supper and breakfast. Mother didnít want to unload, she wanted to go back to Greene County, Dad wanted to stay a few days and that was it. We are still there.
The next morning February 28, 1897 after we had stayed one night in Ozark County on our newly acquired farm my Dad went over to Lee Woods place and inquired of him as to where we could get water. He said the Little Creek spring about two and a half miles south was the nearest place. He said we could get water for house use at his well but it wouldnít furnish enough for any stock. Dad borrowed a barrel from him and we hauled our first barrel of water. When we got to the spring another man was just leaving with water and we had to wait about three hours as it took about that long for the spring to run a barrel. The spring basin would only hold about a barrel.
We found that there were three or four families depending on this spring for water and the first man there got the water and it didnít take us long to learn that either. We would get up at midnight and go get our water. Dad tried to find a scraper to make us a pond for stock water, the only one in the country belonged to the road district, and the road overseer wouldnít let us have it. The next year Dad applied for the overseer job and got it, and had charge of the road tools so we got busy and made us a pond. There was only one pond in this school district and Jim Reynolds had it. Dad never refused the scraper to any one wanting to make a pond, and it wasnít long until there were several in our neighborhood. Now everybody has a pond.
Next after water was land to make a crop. We would saw trees down, take a team and hitch them to it and drag it off to a hollow. If the tree was too big for the team to drag we would saw it in two or three pieces and drag it off. That was one winter and spring when overbody worked at our house.
The next month in March the road overseer came and wanted Dad to work the road. Back at that time every man had to work four days or pay four dollars poll or road tax. To pay four dollars was almost impossible for everyone in the district. Dad told him that we were awful busy trying to get enough land cleared to make a crop and he would appreciate it if he could wait till later. He said yes that would be alright and started off when he saw me standing there and asked my Dad if he could do without me for a day or two. Said he could use me to carry water. Dad told him he could. The Gainesville and Theodosia road then turned to the left about 40 yards west of the Jess Owen cabins and went off into the hollow and came out where the State Highway sheds are now. We started in at the cabins location and cut out the road down the ridge over the hill where the Catholic church is now and down to the foot of the hill at the Harrison place.
My job was to carry water to the hands, from a spring in the hollow South and just above the old Burk place and on land owned by Benton Breeding at this time.
*Note: This road overseerís name was Almus Neff. He lived where Archie and Jewel [Reynolds] now lives. His wife Eve was Adam Uptonís sister.
When we moved to Ozark County the school district had been divided into two or three districts. *Note: The old District was called Lone Ash. It was divided into Center Point, Lone Ash and Pleasant Grove. A few years later Pleasant Grove was cut into and made New Harmony. Lone Ash was cut into and made Hazel Grove and the Martin district. Hazel Grove burned down about 1912 and the new house was built at Locust and renamed Locust.
We were in that part that didnít have any school house. So the first thing after crops were made was to build a school house. My father, Lee Wood, Uncle Sam Farmer, J. A. Reynolds and Almus Neff got together and made plans to build one.
Two of them took their wagons and went to Rockbridge and got some lumber. They paid forty cents per hundred feet for it. They made up money among themselves to pay for it. Others in the district came and helped with the building of it also helped put on the roof. When it was completed the district owed Wood & Reed at Gainesville about twenty dollars for nails, windows and paint.
Our first teacher was Frank Wood, We had a three months school at fifteen dollars per month and he was to give the district back nine dollars to pay on what the district owed. The next year his sister Maud Wood taught it for the same money and gave back nine dollars to the district.
Other teachers that taught there in the early days were, Joe Farmer, Dr. John Small, Sister Maud taught there in 1903. Richard Aldridge, Stella (Terry) Harris, Bryan Terry, Austin Luna, and Everett Johnson. James N. Ford, Fay Mahan.
The present school building was built in 1920, Walter Blount and Arthur Pruett were the directors.
Some of the later teachers were L.D. Blissard, O.J. Breeding, Sherman Brown, Jim Chaney, Bertha Graves, Madge Cockrum, Geraldine Farmer, Charles Owens taught there five terms.
This school district was consolidated with the Gainesville school district in 1961 and the building and grounds were sold and converted into a church.
When I was eleven years old my brother Homer and I cleared a place for the first grave to be dug in 1898. [Center Point Cemetery]
To be continued...
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