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John Perry Steele
By Eugene Hampton

John Perry Steele was born in Christian County Missouri on December 19, 1877. The 1880 Federal Census for Christian County Missouri, page 29 listed John, age 4, (he was only 3): with his father, Wm. R. (Bud) Steele, age 25; his mother Josephine, age 18; and his younger sister, Mary E. age 2. The township is given as Lincoln. However there is no town by the name of Lincoln in Christian County. Lincoln was the name of a township, and by 1920 the place where he was born is called Clever.

John was the first of seven children born to Wm. (Bud) Steele and Josephine nee Young (AKA Solomon) Steele. His siblings were: Mary Ella, born April 19, 1878; Marion, born in May of 1881; Reye, born in April of 1884; Hershel, born in February of 1895; Nigel, born in January of 1898; and Dillard (Abe), born in 1902.

Because if the destruction of the 1880 census, the author has been unable to determine when the family moved to Stone County, Missouri. I have some reason to believe he moved there about 1893, and the Wm. R. Steele family was living in Stone County, in or near the town of Ponce de Leon when the 1900 census was taken. John and his sister Mary Ella had left home to be married, and Dillard was not to be born until 1902.

John married Callie Bell Norman on September 30, 1885 in Stone County, Ponce de Leon, Missouri. He met Callie when he was working for her father Thomas "Squire" Norman He was eighteen years of age and she was only sixteen. They had a total of ten children, but only nine children lived to adulthood.

Of the ten children, four were males and six were female. One of the males , Arbie, died as an infant, date of birth and death unknown. The surviving males were: Arthur (Doc), born on may 12, 1903; Orel Millard, born on September 6, 1905; and Harold Norman (Buster), born on November 12, 1910. The females were: Jessie Florene, born on December 23, 1898; Nettie Lillian, born on April 13, 1900; Florene, born on May 9, 1909; Delcie, born on November 25, 1915; Isadore Imogene (Bobbie), born on October 12, 1917; and Elsie Juanita, born on June 5, 1920.

We know from the Federal Census that John, Callie and the first two daughters, Jessie and Nettie, lived in Ponce de Leon, Stone County in 1900. Florene, who was born in 1909, recalls two places other than the house where John and Callie lived when he went blind.

Both places were only a very short distance from the final location. Juanita remembers one house near the Ed Harris place burned. Florene recalls they moved to the final location when she was about seven or eight years old. That would make it about 1916 or 1917.

The farmhouse was very small and consisted of a bedroom, a kitchen and a combination sitting room and bedroom. There was also a smokehouse, a chicken house and a barn. According to Nettie, the mother of the author, life was primitive. In fact, the author recalls a great deal about the farm, and understands the family was dirt poor. Cash crops were almost non-existent according to Johns youngest brother Dillard, and the best that could be said was they made a living. Most of the children left home as soon as possible to escape the rigors of living and working on a small farm. Although the children were apparently anxious to leave the farm, it was the life style, not the parents that drove them from home. All of the children at one time or the other went to California, but three of the girls, (Florene, Isadore and Juanita) returned to Missouri to live. All of the children visited the parents after they left home, some more frequently than others.

In 1937 John was to move for the last time to a house in Ponce de Leon . He went totally blind that year and could no longer operate the farm and it was too much work for Callie and Juanita to do. John Perry Steele died in Ponce de Leon on April 4, 1953 and is buried in the Ponce de Leon cemetery which is actually in Christian county.

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© 1996, 1997 Jo Dunne