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The Bolin Wilson Family
By Ruby Steele
Submitted by Jeannie Owens

My story is about an early day family and their life on a farm on the banks of Flat Creek in Stone County, Missouri.  The Farm is now owned by John Asher and I’m sure life must be quite different there now than it was in the late 1800’s when it was owned by Bolin Green Wilson, a chubby little man of about five feet, eight inches stature.  His hair was black and he wore a mustache, as most men of that time did.  His wife, the former Sarah Elizabeth Pitts, was co-owner.  She was a tall, slim woman, slightly taller than her husband.  Her hair was coal black and was so long that when she sat down to comb it, it touched the floor.

Bolin Wilson was the son of David Daniel Wilson and Sarah (Sally) Eden.  He had one sister, Nancy, and six brothers, Dan, charley, John, Lee, Jim, and George.  Bolin Wilson was born January 30, 1853, and died April 24, 1919.

Sarah Wilson’s parents were a man named Pitts (first name not known) and the former Hannah Essary.  Pitts was killed in the Civil Was and is buried at Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Sarah Pitts was born January 3, 1863 and died November 22, 1903.  Hannah Essary married Absalom Blythe after the death of her first husband and they became the parents of a son, Absalom Hiram Blythe, who was born June 10, 1867.

Both Bolin Wilson’s and Sarah Pitts’s parents were among the early settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee.

Bolin and Sarah Wilson started their married life on a hillside farm in Stone County.  Later, after the death of Sarah’s stepfather, Bolin Wilson and the younger Ab Blythe traded farms.  Hannah Essary Blythe had owned the Flat Creek farm and deeded it to her son.  Bolin and Sarah Wilson now owned the farm on Flat Creek and Absalom and Hattie Blythe owned the farm on the hill.  The Bolin Wilson’s lived on this farm until their death.

Ten children were born to Bolin and Sarah Wilson.  Two of the girls, Nellie Eferd and Edie Susan, died while they were very young children and are buried in the family cemetery on the farm.  The others lived to maturity.  They were William Absalom, born in 1880, Julia Ann, 1882, Rosa Belle, September 23, 1884, Noah Alton, 1885, Charley Lafayette, 1891, Leonard Daniel, 1893, Wiley Franklin, 1899, and Vernie Roscoe, 1902.  At this writing three of the children are still living; Rosa Stele of Joplin, Mo., Leonard Wilson, living on a farm near Wheelerville, Mo., and Roscoe Wilson of Modest, California.

A church once stood on the farm near the site of the cemetery.  Both Bolin and Sarah Wilson are buried in this cemetery.  Also buried there are Bolin Wilson’s second wife, the former Rebecca Jane Hutchison, and Sarah Wilson’s mother, Hannah Blythe.

A school was built on the bluff above the Wilson farm in 1885.  It was called Cedar Bluff School.  Here the Wilson children received their only education.  Bolin Wilson served as a school director from November 3, 1889, to April 1890.  School was held from two to six months a year, depending on the weather and the availability of a teacher.  The tax levy in 1919 was forty cents, thirty cents teacher’s fund and ten cents incidental.  The teachers were paid from ten to forty dollars a month.

It wasn’t always easy to get a teacher for the school and it wasn’t always easy for a teacher to stay once he or she was hired.  About the year 1898 George Hendrix was teaching when he incurred the anger of some of the parents and they refused to send their children to school.  Leonard Wilson, son of Bolin Wilson, was the only pupil who would attend school at that time.  That was enough to enable the teacher to hold his job however as the rules were that they had to hold schools long as there was one pupil in attendance.

Some of the school rules were No. 1. No pupil to leave school without consent of teacher.  No.2. No note writing or paper wad throwing.  No.3. No swearing or using bad language on the school ground.  No.4. No one shall go to the creek without teacher’s consent.  No.5. No one dismissed without note from parents.

The resident taxpayers of the school district in the year 1890 were:

William Asher 
J.W. Asher 
Charles Bilderback 
Absalom Blythe 
Hannah Blythe 
Parry Carr 
William Calhoun 
Isham Foster 
Benton Gouge 
F.M. Hanson
Absalom Jones 
Charles Jones 
C.L. King 
A.B. Kerr 
Nancy Kerr 
W.J. King 
Albert King 
Telitha C. King 
J.W. King 
Henry McDowell
Josaph Potter 
T.S. Pike 
J.A. Razor 
Price Summers 
J.M. Taylor 
Bolin G. Wilson 
Robert Wilson 
A.D. Withers 

Life was not always easy on the farm but there was no time for complaining, even if anyone were inclined to do so.  The boys helped in the fields and with the stock while the girls helped with the household chores and caring for the younger children.  Rosa, (my mother-in-law) didn’t like to iron so she made a deal with her sister, Julia, that she would do the washing if Julia would do the ironing.

Their summer days were filled with caring for the garden, raising chickens for meat and eggs, and preparing food for winter use.  They loved to pick greens in the early spring before the vegetable garden yielded any food.  They hunted for the young shoots of polk, the tender leaves of shawnee, ladyfingers, crows foot, dandelion, thistle, and sour dock.

Some of the fruits and vegetables were canned for winter use, others were dried.  Mom Steele tells me they cut pumpkins around in circles and hung them over a pole to dry.  Apples and peaches were cut, then spread on a cloth to dry in the sun.  The dried fruits were stored in the attic along with onions hung in bunches from the rafters, and sweet potatoes which were spread on the floor.  The canned fruit and vegetables were stored in the cellar along with crocks of home pickles and kraut.

White potatoes and apples were buried in holes filled with straw.  Cabbages were pulled up by the roots, turned upside down and buried in the holes with the potatoes and apples.

There was an orchard on the farm, across the road from the house, between the cemetery and the creek, where big juicy red apples grew in abundance.  Mom says they were kind of striped and when ripe real mallow and sweet.  The ones buried in holes would keep until Christmas.  Some of them were made into cider

A hop vine had grown up into the big elm tree in the garden, which was across the road from the house.  Mom tells me of picking and drying the hops and making their own yeast for bread.

Saturday was bake day.  They would roll out dough for cookies on the long table, which stretched across the kitchen.

They always baked a dishpan full of cookies along with the loaves of fresh bread and pans of hot rolls.  There was always an ample supply of fresh cow butter to eat with the hot bread and rolls.

Rosa’s first attempt at baking when she was about ten years old.  Her mother was sick so Rosa decided to bake a cake.  Julia protested, saying Rosa would just make a mess.  Ma told her to just leave me alone, Mom tells us.  Rosa proceeded to make her cake, putting it in a big iron skillet with a lid on a baking it in an open fireplace.  Everybody bragged about how good it was thereby boosting Rosa’s ego and squelching Julia’s protests.

There was always a plentiful supply of meat as they raised there own.  The smokehouses were well filled with juicy home cured hams and side meat.  There was an abundance of big fat heas in the barnyard and the boys added to the meat supply by hunting squirrels and rabbits.  There was plenty of fish in the nearby creek and the boys always liked going fishing.

Sarah Wilson made the family’s clothes.  The only store bought clothes were the men’s overalls and the shoes.  Sarah taught the girls to knit and they helped knit socks and gloves for the family.  They raised cotton and carded it for quilt bats.  Nothing was wasted, the scrapes from sewing were used to pieces quilts and worn out clothing was torn into strips and rugs woven from them.

But all was not work on the farm.  The children used to play on a big flat rock down by the creek.  They would get the rock wet and slide down it.  This rock was once the scene of a hunt for buried treasure.  A man with a divining rod was hired and although the rod indicated the presence of metal nothing was ever found.

There was a swing Bolin Wilson hung in the big Burr Oak tree between the house and the creek.  The neighboring boy and girls used to stop by on their way home from school to swing for awhile.  Although the swing is gone the big Burr Oak is still standing their today.  It was a large tree when the Wilsons first came into possession of the farm.  Nobody knows how old it is.

The older boys and girls enjoyed the pie and box suppers occasionally held at the school to raise funds for some items needed for the school.  The boys worked out some kind of code to enable them to identify the box or pie belonging to their favorite girl so that they could bid on it and spend the evening with her.

Some of the parents held parties in their homes for the enjoyment of the young people.  Sometimes there were dancing but more often games were played or they had taffy pull.

Rosa Wilson was sick quite a lot of the time, so to pass them time she had a pen pals.  They received their mail at the town of Flat Creek, in Barry County. (The town has since vanished as so many towns of the past have done.)  The postmaster was Rose Peck, who liked to tease Rosa about her pen pal “ boy friends”. Rose Peck had a brother, s. A. Peck, and a sister, Itaska.

The Wilson girls, Julia, and Rosa, were popular with the boys.  Julia was going with Charley Bolin and his brother, Noah, wanted to go with Rosa but her father thought she was to young to go with the boys.

Rosa recalls one time she and Julia was hoeing cabbage in the garden when the Bolin brothers came by in a buggy and wanted them to go riding.  Their father wouldn’t allow them to go.  A little later that evening the” girls went up the road a piece” to “ Aunt Hat’s” to return a wash board they had borrowed.  Both girls were barefoot as nearly everybody went barefoot in the summer time.  While they were at their aunt’s house the Bolin boys happened by and once more tried to get them to go for a ride.  The girls refused and Noah, becoming angry, shot a gun into a nearby pine tree, under which Rosa was standing.

She had her arm up holding onto a low hanging branch when the gun was discharged.  The shot severed the branch, dropping it onto the ground.  Luckily no one was injured.  The Bolin boys made themselves scarce around the Wilson place for awhile after that.

Rosa often earned the money for a new dress to wear to the Jenkins Picnic, the main social event for most of the farm families in that vicinity.

She would take eggs and cider and even the surplus hops to Cape Fair or Crane and sell them to buy material for dresses for Julia and herself.  The eggs brought ten cents a dozen and the cider, fifty cents a gallon.

Sometimes she would help a neighbor, Mrs. Kerr, with her washing and earn a little money that way.  She and the Kerr’s daughter, Lillie, were best friends, and together they did the Kerr’s washing to earn money for the picnic.

Rosa, Delia Branstetter, and “Sis” Carr used to help measure wheat and put it into the sacks when the trashing crew came to thresh the grain.  They always fixed a big dinner for the threshing crew.  This was a busy time of they year.

Bolin Wilson would take his share of the wheat and corn in a wagon to the mill in Jenkins to have it ground into flour and meal for the families winter use.  If he had more than they needed he would take the surplus grain to Aurora and sell it.  Sometimes Rosa was allowed to accompany him and occasionally he would let her drive the team of spirited horses.

Finally the crops were all taken care of and the summer work had slowed down a little.  Preparations were then made to go to Jenkins Picnic.  Cakes and cookies were baked, great skillets of chicken were fried, and the choicest pickles and preserves set out.  The children were all dressed in their Sunday best.  The day before the picnic the wagons was loaded with food quilts and pillows.  Everybody piled in and they were on their way.  The picnic was usually a three-day affair.  That night the women and girls would sleep in the wagon and the men and boys would spread a quilt on the ground underneath the wagon and sleep there.

The next day several families would spread their food together and eat, while exchanging news of the season just past.  All the aunts, uncles, and cousins were there so this was a good opportunity to catch up on all the latest happenings.

There were rides, of which the swing was the most popular.  It was a sort of merry-go-round pulled by horses.  There were horseshoe pitching, sack races, and other various other games.  There was music by old time fiddlers and dancing for those who cared for it.  But most of all it was a chance to get away from the farm for a friendly visit with friends and relatives whom they hadn’t seen for awhile.

Another things that always drew a large crowd and was popular in those days were baptizing which were held in Flat Creek.  Rosa recalls the one, which she and her sister and Jewell Carney were baptized.  She recalls that Julia, her sister and Jewell got strangled when the preacher, Reverend Cotterell, raised them up out of the water.  She says she came up laughing.  Steps were built up the sides of the bluff to make it easier to get down to the river.  People lined the hillside and both sides of the creek.  Rosa tells that at one of these baptizing over a hundred people were baptized, among them Grant and Delia Branstetter.

There were many twist and turns in the little creek and many fords.  Each of these fords was named for the neighbor living nearest it.  There was a Wilson Ford, just a “little piece” from the house, The Taylor Ford, The Buck Kerr Ford, and the The Henson Ford “on down the creek a ways”.

The houses weren’t far from each other; all were within walking distance.  Ab ( Sarah Wilson’s brother) and Hattie Blythe lived up the road across from the school house, Major Wilson (no kin) lived across the creek and around the bluff from Bolin Wilsons, Silas Carr and Buck Kerr lived around the bluff in the opposite direction, John Taylor and the Hensons lived across the creek and down the road “a right smart piece”.  All were good neighbors and friends, always ready and willing to help one another.

Sarah Wilson died November 22, 1903, after a short illness, and was buried in the family plot in the cemetery on the farm.  The task of raising the younger children was left largely up to Rosa, then about seventeen years old.  Her sister, Julia had married Charley Bolin and had a home of her own.

About two years later Bolin Wilson married again, this time to a widow, Rebecca Jane Hutchison.  She was kind and good and all the children liked her.

One by one the children married and made homes of their own.  Rosa was first; She went to Galloway, Mo. To visit some cousins, Alex and Laura Galloway.  While there she met Grover Steele.  They were married in December 1905, by “Grandpa” Threfall, who lived on Dry Creek.  He used to come to Cedar Bluff School to preach the first Sunday in every month.  Rosa and Grover became the parents of four children three boys and one girl.  They are Clevy, Chloe, Kenneth, and Clovis Eugene.

Charley was next to marry.  He married Lona Luna of McDowell.  They were the parents of a boy, Raymond, and a girl, Opal.  Opal died while still a very small child.  This marriage didn’t last however.  Charley married again, this time to May Hankins.  They had ten children; Louise, Loyed, Cecil, Delphia, Nellie, Nadine, Ray, Bob, Mary, Edith, and Betty.

Noah married Flora Parker; daughter of John Parker who at one time was sheriff of Stone County.  They had two sons, Fred and Jay.

Bolin Wilson’s second wife had died and been laid to rest in the family cemetery on the farm before Leonard was married.  Rosa was staying at home to help out with things for awhile.  She and her husband lived in a log cabin on the farm, which Bolin had built for them.  Her oldest son, Clevy, was born there.

Clevy was a good size boy when Leonard was courting Arvilla Butler.  Clevy was used to tagging along with Leonard wherever he went and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go with him to court Arvilla.  She lived over in “Mineral Holler” and Leonard tells us he “couldn’t hardly get his buggy down the holler to her house”.  The house was built on the side of a hill and slanted so much they had to prop the table up on one side to keep the food on it.  Leonard says he courted her for four years before they married.  They became the parents of two boys and one girl; Rhuel, Kenneth and Maxine.

Wiley married Luther Gardner’s daughter.  They had no children and Wiley died at the age of twenty-eight.

Roscoe, the youngest boy married Golda Eutsler of nearby Abesville.  They became the parents of three boys and a girl.  They youngest boy, Gale, died shortly after they moved to California.  The others are Loyed J., Billy Joe and Ida.  Billy Joe is a preacher in California.

William, the oldest boy, remained single all his life.  After the death of his father he made his home with Noah, then later with Noah’s youngest son, Jay, where he lived until his own death.

Julia and Charley Bolin were the parents of two daughters, Nattie and Lottie.

Julia died while still a young woman and her children were raised by their father and his second wife.

Bolin Wilson married for a third time in 1919, to Jane Roland.  They were chivaried, this being the seventh chivari to be held at “the old place”.  Two of them were for Bolin himself, the others for his children.

Bolin Wilson had been married to Jane Roland but five days when he suffered a heart attack on April 24, 1919 and died.  He had helped dig a grave for F. Essary’s little boy that morning.  He had come home and laid down to rest when he suffered the heart attack, which was fatal to him.  Dr. Kerr came from Crane, Mo. And pronounced Bolin dead.  Mr. Taylor, a neighbor, helped lay him out in the home, as was custom in those days, and he was kept there until his burial in the family cemetery.  Blaine Kerr and Ira Taylor made a trip to Galena, Mo. Where they purchased the clothes Bolin was buried in.  Ed Stump officiated at the funeral.

And so ended an era of hard work, happiness, and heartaches for the Bolin Wilson family as the father was laid in his final resting place in the cemetery on the farm where he had reared his family to manhood and womanhood.

NOTE:  On December 8, 2005 we received an email from Vern Wilson.  According to Vern, " I was just reading the story by Ruby Steele on the Stone Co. page, about the Bolin Green Wilson family.  His son, Roscoe Verney Wilson was my grandfather, and a correction needs to be made in the story.  My grandfather married Golda Medlin, the story says her maiden name was Eustler, we are related to the Eustlers (in a round about way!), but she was a Medlin.  Her parents were John and Ida Medlin, they lived their entire lives in Stone Co. My Grandparents, Ross and Goldie Wilson, moved to CA when my father was about 13 years old, my Grandfather passed away in 1976, Grandma remarried, a Mr. Knowles.  They are pictured in the History of Stone Co MO page #536, but the caption reads wrong, it says John and Ida Medlin, that is Golda Medlin Wilson Knowles, and Grandpa Knowles."