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By Richard White


    The Nickerson Family emigrated from England to the American colonies in the early 1600’s settling in Massachusetts. Isaac Nickerson was born in 1798 in Upper State New York or possibly Canada. Isaac is believed to have been an avid hunter and trapper as he made several trips to the Ozark Mountains in the mid-1800’s. On one particular hunting trip from his home in Fulton County Illinois, Isaac and his young son Joshua built a log cabin that still stands today in present day Kimberling City Missouri. From this cabin Isaac, Joshua and others would strike out into the Ozark wilderness trapping and hunting.

    Joshua Nickerson turned eighteen years old in February of 1862. In October, Joshua and his cousin Daniel Matney signed up for a three-year enlistment in the 103rd Illinois infantry to fight for the Union Army. During their tour of duty, Joshua and Daniel saw action at Vicksburg and Jackson Mississippi, Chattanooga Tennessee where Daniel was wounded during the assault up Missionary Ridge, then Kennesaw Mountain Georgia where Joshua was wounded by a confederate cannon shot ultimately causing him to lose sight in one eye and hearing in one ear. Daniel was sent home due to his wounds but Joshua remained and saw further action in Atlanta, Jonesboro and Savannah Georgia. He was part of Sherman’s march to the sea then through the Carolinas and eventually to Washington D.C.

    Joshua was discharged in Chicago Illinois in July 1865. Soon after, he married Mary Margaret Clark and started a family. In 1877 Joshua and Mary moved their family, America Francis age three and William Albert age one, to Stone County Missouri to the little cabin Joshua and his father Isaac had built. Joshua supported his family hunting and farming the land around present day Kimberling City, eventually settling on a farm on the Banks of the White River near Mill Creek. Here Joshua grew corn, raised hogs, hunted and fished in the White River.


    The White family probably immigrated to the American colonies from England but when and where is unknown to this researcher. Charles White was born in Tennessee around 1794. Here Charles grew to an adult and may have fought as a Tennessee volunteer in the war of 1812. Sometime before 1818, Charles married a woman named Anna and started a family. Not much is known about Anna but this researcher believes that she may have been a Choctaw Indian. Soon afterward, Charles and his family moved to Illinois then Missouri and finally settled on Bear Creek in present day Boone County Arkansas, near Harrison. Hear Charles and Anna raised their ten children and lived out their lives. Charles and Anna’s sixth son, John R., was born on Bear Creek in 1849.

    John R. grew up on Bear Creek with his brothers and sisters during a very turbulent time in American history. When he was twelve years old, war broke out in the Ozarks between the newly succeeded Confederate State of Arkansas and the greatly divided Border State of Missouri. Many homes and communities were divided. Some believed in the sovereignty of the Federal government to ultimately rule the States and were against the institution of slavery. Others believed in States rights and believed the Federal Government should leave questions such as slavery up to each State to decide. Many were just against any one who would take up arms against their homestead and threaten their way of life. So strong were people’s convictions that they fought against friends and even family for their beliefs. From 1861 when hostilities erupted at Wilson’s creek south of Springfield Missouri, until the last ditch effort by the Confederates to retake Springfield in 1865, people in the Ozarks had to live with occupations by both armies as they seesawed back and forth for control of Southwest Missouri.

    In 1864 when John R. turned sixteen years old, he joined a regiment of Arkansas Home Guards formed on Long Creek by Captain Gaddy of the Union Army. By this point in the war, the Ozarks were under Union control with occasional small scale guerilla attacks by the Confederates. Home Guards were formed to protect communities. They were armed men of the community trained by army officers to protect their homes and businesses from raiding parties. John R. and some of his brothers and cousins joined the Home Guards and helped keep peace in Carroll County Arkansas and surrounding communities.


    After the war, John R. White married Martha Benton and settled on Long Creek. Here they raised a family of six children and farmed the land. Martha and John R. ‘s first son was named John L. White. John L. was born on Long Creek in Carroll County Arkansas in 1868. Here John L. grew up to be a tall strong boy and by the time he was twelve years old, he was driving a team of oxen. Sometime after John L. grew to be a man, he met and went to work for Joshua Nickerson on his farm on Mill Creek in Stone County Missouri. By 1894, John L. had married Joshua’s daughter America Francis and they had started a family of their own. John L. and Francis’s first child Maggie was born in 1894. Their second daughter, Menrvia (Allie) was born in 1898. Around the turn of the century tragedy struck Joshua’s farm when sickness swept through his hogs killing all but one. With all their hogs gone, Joshua and John L. turned their attention to the vast numbers of tall oak trees dominating the Ozark Mountain forests. With the railroads spreading across the country there was money to be made making railroad ties. Tie hacking was hard work but a profitable way of making a living. Large oak trees were sawed down by hand and then cut into eight-foot long sections. A chopping axe was used to score the bark on the sides of the log and then a broad axe was used to hew the log until a tie was made. The ties were then loaded on a wagon and hauled to Springfield Missouri and sold. The trip to Springfield took two days and a load of 20 ties brought six dollars. Once the ties were sold, supplies could be bought and the day and a half trip back to the farm was made.

    In 1902 Joshua and John L. went to the bureau of land management in Springfield Missouri and signed up to homestead land in Stone County. Joshua homesteaded one hundred sixty acres where highway 13 and double O intersect today. John L. signed up for eighty acres just north of Joshua’s land. Here they farmed and ran a railroad tie hacking business. In 1903 John L. and Francis had a son they named Melvin. Over the next fifteen years they had four more children. Ray in 1906, Orville in 1910, Alpha in 1915 and Birchie in 1917. Tragically, before 1910, Allie died of a heart condition and in 1917 Maggie died from pneumonia leaving behind her husband, Jessie Garrigus and three children, William, Berthy and Luvene.

    For many years after they homesteaded the land in Stone County, the Whites and Nickersons farmed the land and cut oak trees into ties. Everyone helped out and the family thrived and survived. Melvin made trips to Springfield with his grandpa Joshua. They would pull handfuls of blue stem grass and tie it into bundles to feed the horses on the long trip. On one trip, the mare pulling the wagon had a colt. Joshua and Melvin let the colt nurse for a short while and then tied it in the wagon and continued their journey. They brought the colt home and Mary Nickerson named it Rock. Rock turned out to be a fine plow horse and Mary Nickerson rode him sidesaddle all over Stone County delivering babies. In addition to delivering all of John L. and Francis’s children, midwife Mary delivered many other babies in Stone County around the turn of the century. Allie kept her fathers books for the tie hacking business. Francis raised the children, kept the house, grew a garden and fruit tree orchard and raised geese and hogs. Everyone had to pitch in. It was a matter of survival. In 1930 Joshua Nickerson died and was buried on a piece of his land at the intersection of Highway 13 and double O. John L. and Francis deeded this property to Stone County and it remains today as Nickerson Cemetery.