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Big Creek As It Was Fifty Years Ago 

By E. H. A. Hovis

From the Fredericktown "Democrat News" 

dated: 18 Jan. 1922


Submitted my Michael Miller



Today we will visit Big Creek in the southern part of Madison county, Missouri and see what changes have been made since fifty years ago.

What stream is this? This is Castor. What farm is this ? This is the Miles Whitener farm, but I see the Whiteners are all gone. Yes. Miles and his wife died in Oregon. His two sons are dead, also one of his daughters lives in Arizona, another in Oregon, and another in Fredericktown, MO. I wonder if all of the old families have been scattered so much? 
We will go on.

This is the "Ab" Whitener farm. Yes but I don't see any of the old people. No, the Whiteners have all gone. Ab and his wife, all of the girls and one boy have died. One boy lives down near Green Briar and the other lives at Gravelton, MO.

Look over across the creek. What farms are there? Those farms belonged to Sidney and Henry Stroup, but Henry and his wife are dead. They had no children fifty years ago so their children belong to the younger generation. Sidney is dead but his wife lives on the old farm. Yes and one of their sons lives on the old farm and another son lives on an adjoining farm, while the other two live on farms not far away. We are coming to a small village. This is the Moser mill, but we shall not find any of them. Rev. J. R., his wife, their four sons, three daughters and three sons in law and two daughters in law are dead. The other daughter lives in that house you see there by the lane. His second wife, their two daughters, and on son in law, Mr. G. W. Hovis lives at Cascade, MO.

We are now at the D. Rainey farm at the mouth of Little Creek which flows into Big Creek from the west. Dr. Rainey was the father of Judge John Rainey of Wayne Co., MO..
In 1868 or 1869 Judge Rainey taught our school near where Buckhorn now stands, but I have met him quite often since then.

We are now at the Ambrose Gray farm. They are gone. Only one of this family lives any place near here, and this one is "Dock".

Now we are at the head waters of Little Creek near the big pond. These two fine farms have been cleared during the last thirty years. When father and I and Alec Dorten and his father came to hunt here in the fall of 1868 there were only a few patches of cleared. Some peach trees, a lot of old rail fences, pretty well tumbled and an old barn and an old cabin. Deer went in gangs here then and we counted 100 during the day. We have now seen all of the old farms on Little Creek so we will return to Big Creek.

We are now at Cascade, at the Calvin Butts farm. Calvin died, Cryus Skaggs married his widow. After many years they moved to Montana where Mrs. Skaggs died. Cyrus returned to Fredericktown, MO. married again and died not many years ago. The farm is now owned by Rev. Wagner, but he has not lived here quite fifty years.

We will walk across the footbridge. We are now at the Gravel House farm, from which Gravelton got it's name. Nearly a hundred years ago Moses Hovis put a dam across Big Creek at this place and built a mill. The someone built the Gravel House for a store building. In 1878 two men came from Fredericktown and put a stock of goods into the house. The men were Messrs. John Sonderman and Zack Picker. This being the only store on the creek it had big gatherings of men every fair Saturday. As good good corn whiskey was plentiful and cheap the men had big times playing marbles, pitching horseshoes and shooting for beef. These were grand days; and the men did not get drunk as you suppose. But those grand old men have all passed except Mr. Picker of Fredericktown, MO. John Johnson remodeled the Gravel House and is now his comfortable dwelling house. But as he has not lived here more than 20 years we will go on up the creek.

This is the Michael Butts farm. He and all of his family are dead except Mrs. Jett of Cascade, MO. and sone, John. This is the Peter Butts farm. All dead. This is the Samuel Pugh farm. All dead. This is the Pugh farm. He is dead, his wife and two of her daughters by a former marriage are dead. One daughter by a former marriage is living at her home on Little Creek. A daughter, and a son, Henry's children are dead, but one son Benjamin lives on the farm, a son Issac has a store and post office at Buckhorn, Mo. Another son, James has a farm and a store at Oak Grove, west of Fredericktown. This is the James M. Clubb farm. James his wife and two daughters and three sons are dead. One son has a store at Cascade, one son lives near Fredericktown. Two sons live at Olathe, Colorado. One daughter lives at Gravelton, Mo., and one daughter lives at Fredericktown, Mo.

You see that farm over in that hollow. We will call that branch Wildcat. Fifty three years ago J. R. Land and his family lived there, but they went to Star P.O. Linn Co., Oregon. We will say more of them further on.

We are now on the Jacob Huffman farm. This was one of the great boarding houses during the many protracted meetings which were held at the church a mile northeast. Besides Mr. and Mrs. Huffman there were three sons, seven daughters, and a young negress. All of the females were good cooks. The free boarders were so numerous that every found the family in about the same circumstances. About thirty years ago Jacob sold his farm to Judge G W Huffman, not a relative and moved to Montana.

We are now on the George Barrett, more recently called the McKelvey farm. George , his wife and his children are dead. Just west of the farm George built a dam across Big Creek and built a mill to grind corn and wheat. Nearly sixty years we boy would visit the old house and play hide and seek, often hiding in the grain bins, the hopper or the bolting chest. 
Nothing remains of the mill or the dam, except part of a mill stone. Sixty one years ago last fall George having died, his sale was held. A number of wild hogs had been put into a big field. These were sold to different men. The question the arose, "how can we ever catch those big wild hogs?" Dr. Rainey told the men to get ropes ready to the hogs that he would catch them, He then went after his dog. The men declared the hogs would kill any dog. When Dr. Rainey returned he had medium sized bull dog. Some of the men got on horses and rode into the field and some went on foot.  Dr. Rainey took his dog and the fun began. The dog would dart into a bunch of those savage hogs, fasten his teeth in ones ham then sit down. The men would dash up on horse, scare the other hogs away, and tie the one that the dog held. Within a few hours all of the hogs were tied. After the sale, Green Barrett, one of George's sons lived on the farm awhile, then moved away. Then a Wyatt family ran the farm a few years. The Dr. Mattocks lives there a few years. Then Mr. Philipps, a man who had lost both his feet in the Civil War from exposure lived there awhile and made shoes. He died and his family moved away. The farm lay idle for many years, the fences went down and the field became common pasture for the neighbors cattle. Then W W McKelvey, grandfather of Henry McKelvey, a barber now living in Fredericktown, came from Ohio and bought the farm. As this purchase was only 49 years ago we will visit the east prong of the creek.

We are now at Buckhorn. You see that ledge of rock running almost across the creek and the store house standing upon the flat ledge of rocks on this side. Well, here is where G. W. Graham had his sawmill 56 years ago. His dam extended from this ledge of rock to the bank on the opposite side of the creek. He a long sash saw fastened into a frame. This was called an up and down saw. It did not cut as it went up, but it gave the log a furious rake as it went down. It was slow work but it was the best kind of mill here then. Well, Washington's family has gone from this farm. He, his wife, two daughters and one son having died. One daughter, Mrs Cloninger lives on lower Twelve Mile Creek and the daughter, Mrs. Cloninger, lives in Montana. A son, Edward, lives in Detroit, Michigan.

This is the place where the old school house stood. It had a dirt floor and the doors, one on each side in the middle of the house were eight feet wide. They dragged long logs into the house with a yoke of oxen, then rolled them into a wide fireplace at the end of the house. Their seats were slabs with pins of wood driven into auger holes bored in the slabs serving as legs. Their writing desks were planks laid upon wooden pegs which were driven into auger holes bored into the wall. The walls was of big hewn logs and the cracks were chinked with split timers and daubed with mud.

Just across the creek over there where you see that nice white church stood the old log church house. In that house in 1866 I spent my first days in school. I attended school 100 days. That was counted a long term of school back then. Dr. Valentine Crook, the father of Frank Crook and Mrs. George Whitenever who lives south of Marquand on Castor River, was our teacher. On that tree near the house Col. Marmaduke hung the hide of a cow killed by his men in 1865.

This is the John Graham farm. Not one left to tell the tale. We now come to the Carter Graham farm, This is perhaps one of the best known families in the county. Rev. Carter Graham was a preacher of more than ordinary ability, widely known and highly respected. He died about 60 years ago. His wife lived to a ripe old age. His son, Samuel, lived on the farm all of his life and died about thirty years ago. His son, Napoleon, died in early manhood having just completed his education. His daughter Jane, died perhaps 30 years ago. His daughter, Sarah Ann, when perhaps about the age of 35 became the wife of Mr. David Farquahr. Of this union were born two sons and one daughter. Napoleon and Samuel are highly respected gentlemen, the latter having served as Representative from Madison County in the last general assembly in Missouri. The daughter is the honored wife of Judge Charles Barrett. Mrs. Farquhar is the only living member of her father's family.

Who lives in that hollow to our left? Calvin Barrett lives there, but hasn't lived there more than 25 years.

We are now at the "Robin" Graham farm but he and all of his family are dead. The last of his to die was Hannah the wife of A. C. Hovis, who has lives o n the farm since his marriage until his wife died little more than a year ago when he went to live with his daughter, Mrs. Parker. Albers's sons William and John live on the farm and as they are 50 years old we will put them on our list of old residents.

We are now at the J. T. Graham farm, but he and his wife are dead. The girls have all gone, and I have been told that all are dead except Mrs. Heath. The only son Robert, who is past 50 years of age, has always lived on the farm so we will make a note of this and pass on.

We are now at the John Hovis farm, but we find that John, his wife, daughter and 2 sons died many years ago, and A. C. who we found on the Robin Graham farm and J. D. Hovis who lives here are the only ones of Johns family living.

We are now at the Caleb Hovis farm, but we find that this family has been dead for years and that Mrs. Giles Huffman owns the farm. There was at one time a first class wagon shop here. Here a couple of farms. Are they on our lists? No they have been cleared up by Pink Huffman and Wm. Henson not many years ago.

We are now at the Issac Meyers farm. He and his wife and second wife are dead. Their children went west. Later two grandsons, one of whom is named Elonzo, returned and now lives on Mill Creek, south of Fredericktown.

We will return to Buckhorn. We notice several houses of which did not tell me as we went up. Yes, but there were not even here thirty years ago.. But do you see that apple tree standing in the field there? Yes. Well 65 years ago when father came to this state a house was standing there. He moved into it until he could hunt a home. He lived there from December 1857 till the autumn of 1858. On the 7th day of July 1858 in that house I was born. Now not a log or even a stone remains to show that a house even stood there. No, but we have found many changes that have taken place since that time. Yes, that's so. After father moved away from that house Joe Branham moved into it. When he moved away Emmanuel Hedrick moved to it. When he moved away Joe Hovis moved into it. When he moved awa the old house stood vacant for several years. Then thirty nine years ago Hener Senter bought this land joining this field and the old house was moved away.

I see a farm in the hollow west of the John Hovis farm. Is it old? Yes, sixty years ago, Milton Skaggs lived there but he sold to Michael Cloninger and now both families are dead except one daughter of each family and they live in Wayne Co., MO.

We are now at Buckhorn and we will visit the middle prong of the creek.

We are now on the Eli Hovis farm. Sixty years ago grandmother, Susan Hovis (the mother of the well known, John, Jacob, Solomon, Eli & Henry) lived with her son Eli. At the time Eli was a widower with two children, Jacob and Susan. Both died at an early age. Sixty years ago Eli married a daughter of Jacob Huffman whom we have mentioned above. Sixty two years ago grandmother Susan Hovis died. About thirty five years ago Eli Hovis died leaving his wife, two sons and three daughters having previously married all of whom moved to Olathe, Colorado not many years ago.

We are now on the David Barrett farm. We find only one son occupying a part of the old farm while a daughter in law and some of her heirs possesses the remainder. David, his wife and several of the children, died several years ago.

We are now on the William Darnell farm but we find only two of his children on the farm, a son and a daughter. Another son and a daughter live in Wayne Co., MO. One daughter and four sons and William and his wife are dead. At this place on the north end of the farm we find the place where fifty years ago a lively sawmill stood in which Pate Brewington, Mat Allcorn, Ben Couch, John Foster, John Berryman, E. F. Bing, Henry Skaggs, and many lesser lights shown, making the night as light as day with songs, musical instruments and dancing.

We are now at the Billy DeSpain farm, but all are dead.

We are now at the Henry Settle farm. Henry and his wife are dead. A daughter, Henrette Mary Magdalene, lived at a far off city, son John, lives on the G. W. Graham farm, and the other, Newton is dead. We are now at the Stephen Skaggs farm, but the families are scattered across Wayne county.

We are now at the Alec Barrett farm, but this family is dead.

We are now at the Joe Dudley farm, but this family is dead.

We are now at the Gibson farm, but this family except for Tom is dead. Tom holds forth on the head waters on the east fork of Big Creek. We will return to Buckhorn and visit the west prong of the creek.

We are now on the Henry M. Hovis farm on Big Creek. Here was once a flourishing family, Henry, his wife, their four sons, and seven daughters. These good old people were widely known and highly esteemed by all who knew them. No needy neighbor ever asked for help that he did not get, no strangers ever failed to receive a hearty welcome to their shelter and food. They were noted for their intelligence, honesty, industry and truthfulness. Henry was the seventh son of Jacob Hovis of Gaston Co., N.C. Jacob was the son of John, who was the son of George Hovis who came from Saxony in 1760 in company with two young men, Hoyle and Rudacil. Geo. was a captain tin the Revolutionary War. In 1908 Henry and his closed a useful and honored life at the age of 75 and 73 years. Henry died on 48 days before his wife. Only a few years before they mourned the death of their baby daughter Claudes, ( who was then Mrs. Stroup, the mother of Misses Calra and Alice two well known school teachers of Wayne Co., MO.) Just after they died their second daughter, Mrs. Emily Fox of the Dalles, Oregon died. The oldest daughter, Miss Julia lives on the farm. The youngest son Theodore, owns the middle part of the farm, while south forty of the farm has passed from the family. The eldest son and the second and their highly respected families live in Fredericktown, MO. The third son Charles lives on a farm at Mountain Grove, MO., The third daughter Mrs. Stroup lives on a farm at Gravelton, MO., The fourth daughter, Mrs. Alexander, lives at Kelso, Washington. The fifth daughter, Mrs. Senter, lives here on the far. The sixth daughter Mrs. Graham lives on a farm at Buckhorn. This completes the list so we will move on.

We are now on the Willis Graham farm. These were good people but the family has died except a son Stephen who lives on lower Twelve Mile Creek and two daughters who live in Montana.

We are now on the Ananais Land farm, but there is not one of the Lands in this state for the whole family went with teams from here to Linn county, Oregon 53 years ago. All of the little farms that we see here have been since cleared that date except one small one up this hollow. It was the home of "Dock" Land at the time. We wish to speak more fully of this land family and their trip across the plains to Oregon. Rev. Ananias Lands was a well meaning preacher about 65 years old, his wife was a kind and industrious as one need be, they had nine sons and no daughters. James had a wife and six children; Henry had a wife and four children; Dock had a wife and three children. Zacharias, had a wife. Jerry, Jehu, Adolphus, Issac and Ananias were all single but grown up men. Rev Joseph Johnson of Creek Nation and family went out west with them. They took four wagons pulled by four "yoke" of oxen and eight "yoke" of milk cows. 

We have now visited all of the old homes on Big Creek and we told many things about the old citizens that the present generation could never learn without the aid of the older heads. So if we have furnished the folks with information which has interest and pleased them to join us thanking the Editor of the Democrat New for printing this "visit" up Big Creek.

Vouching for the approximate correctness of every statement made.

Dec. 25, 1921