Search billions of records on

By Jim Lair (staff writer)
(Submitted by

Seldom, in this present day does a writer have the opportunity of interviewing a native of the Ozarks whose life span both reaches back to those day of object isolation in these hills and forward to view life as it is now lived in these beautiful mountains.  A few days ago this writer was afford such an unique opportunity.

Nettie (Kimberling) McCullough was born December 26, 1866, a daughter of William Wesley and Phoebe A. (Cox) Kimberling.  Both her father and her mother were possessors of a deep Ozarkian heritage when Nettie was born.

Her father had been born in Franklin County, Arkansas, on April 16, 1840.  He was a son of Nathaniel and Nancy (Birchfield) Kimberling.  Nancy Birchfield was a daughter of John Birchfield, who was one of the pioneer settlers of Stone County.  Nathaniel Kimberling was of German descent and he had settled in the Ozarks during the 1830's.

Nettie's mother, Phoebe A. Cox, was the daughter of another Stone County pioneer, born in the Kimberling home, south of the present bridge, and I was the 11th child born in my family. I have outlived them all," Nettie said.

Times have certainly changed since that day almost 95 years ago when Nettie was born into the Kimberling family.  At the time of her birth only the Wilderness Road ran through what is today Kimberling City,  "It was four miles to our closest neighbor's house, we only got our mail once a week, it came from Galena by horseback, and then we had to cross the White River and pick it up at the post office," Nettie said.

'My father would take the family to Springfield once a year when I was young.  It was a 50 mile trip, after we crossed the river, and it took two days to get there.  In those days camp grounds were located along the Wilderness Road, and we would have to camp one night going and one night coming," Nettie remembers.  This journey was made to sell the year's harvest and to purchase items that the family could not raise, coffee and sugar would be examples.

"A few years ago I let Dan Diego, California, at 7 am and at 2 pm I was in Springfield, so you see times have changed," Nettie said.  Certainly this lady has witnessed many changes in her lifetime.  She is only one generation removed from the Civil War.  Her father and three of her uncles, James J. Benjamin and Peter Kimberling, fought in that war that rent the fabric of the nation.  William Wesley Kimberling was a member of the Home Guard, he later served the 14th Missouri State Militia, Company F, and finally served in the Eight Missouri Militia.  He saw action at the Battle of Springfield and he assisted in the attempt to control "bushwhacker" activities in the area.

Older residents will remember the Kimberling home, it was located south of the Kimberling Bridge, on the first road to the right after you crossed the bridge.  The home was destroyed by fire some three years ago.  During her childhood days, Nettie's father operated a ferry to assist in crossing the White River.  That ferry was just above the present location of the bridge.

Some people called this the Mayberry Ferry, others knew it as the Kimberling Ferry.  It was hand operated, "Dad began to operate the ferry when a man named Smith go sick.  After he died, dad bought the ferry from the widow," Nettie recalls.

"In those days the ferry was the only way a wagon could cross the White River when the water was up.  Dad, and then my brother Fred, ran that ferry until a bridge was built across the river," Nettie said.  In addition to operating the ferry, Nettie's father was also a farmer and he served for a time as the postmaster of the Radical Post Office.

After Nettie grew up, she attended school near her home in the one room Kimberling School and she later taught there for a time, she was united in marriage with David Martin McCullough.  Three sons were born to this union.  Nettie has been a widow since October 30, 1939.  One of her sons is dead and the other two reside in California.

Nettie returned recently to the land of her birth to have a new fence placed around the Kimberling Cemetery.  "This cemetery began as a family burial ground,  My parents had a child that died as an infant after the burial dad put a small fence around the grave and covered it with lumber to keep the snow and the rain off.  Later, another child died who had requested to be buried there too.  So dad made the fence larger and he cover her grave with lumber too.  From that the cemetery just continued to grow," Nettie said.

This grand lady of the Ozarks has lived in Tracy, California, for the past 15 years.  "I first went out there in 1947, I stayed about four or five years and worked to finish out my Social Security, but then I came back home and stayed here until 1966," Nettie said.  She still lives alone, keeps her own house and cooks her own meals.

All of the changes that this lady has witnessed in the Ozarks are not looked upon with favor.  Particularly in this true of the massive man-made lake that now covers so much of her native land.  "I would rather see it back like it was, we sure lost a lot of good farm land to the lake.  In fact, most of the low land that dad bought with his mustering out pay from the Civil War is now under that lake," Nettie stated.

When questioned about Kimberling City being named for her family, Nettie said "I was glad and it's alright but I was not asked.  When they built the bridge across the lake, I did ask the engineers to name it for dad."

Nettie McCullough has also witnessed some changes in family life that she does not entirely agree with, "My parents were always sweethearts, they always loved each other.  We were always their children, not their kids, a kid is a small goat.  I can remember my mother sitting up with the sick all night a lot of times, today we don't have time for that, we either send them to the hospital or let them die."

After the workman complete the fencing of the cemetery Nettie will be returning to California, far from the land of her birth.  Born as one of fourteen children, seven brothers and six sisters, this lady has outlived John; Nancy, who marred Thomas F. Biles; Susan, who married William Biles; William W.; Lula A.; James H.; Charles B.; Frederick; Bessie; Myra; Columbus and Myrtle May.  "There is no one left here that I grew up with, even those who were babies when I was grown are senior citizens now."

Nettie (Kimberling) McCullough may not live in the Ozarks any longer but she is still a true, "Hillbilly" in the best sense of the word.  She is a lady, both in her dress and in her thoughts; she still exhibits that reserve that "Furriners" often saw in the natives of the hills and took for distrust and she still speaks her own mind on any issue.  Stone County and Kimberling City was settled by pioneers of her genre, for that fact the region is fortunate and this writer is fortunate to have been allowed to share some time with this grand lady.