Friday, February 7, 2014

The Founding of the Homeplace - Summer 1855, Progress Report Part 1 of 2

The Founding of the Homeplace
Summer 1855, Progress Report
Part 1 of 2

"The Founding of the Homeplace" stories will continue here on every other Friday during August and September. This is a serial presentation of the story, beginning in 1833, when four families decided to settle the land, the valley, that would become the setting of the first two books in the The Homeplace Saga: "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited" and subsequent series stories, set in 1987 and 1996, to date. The underlying premise of this series is the desire of the family matriarch to retain the family farm in the southern Missouri Ozarks in whole and in the family. 

Characters in this series become actively involved in the study of their family history and snippets of that research appear, from time to time through the series (one example). This serial presentation begins to share that ‘research’ in Story Form, and, some of the Stories represent 'writings of the family' that were ‘discovered’ in the process of that research. Each Story is an essay or report of the activities of the initial four families and their descendants that settled the Homeplace – the farm and the surrounding valley.

Summer 1855, Progress Report

In this episode, we share "Part 1 of 2"

Now seven years after Oak Springs was organized as a town, the community has seen six new residences added, six new commercial buildings and two expansions of existing commercial properties within the town itself and five additional new farms created across Oak Creek Township. This has been a period of steady if not great growth for this valley.

In 1849, ‘gold fever’ got the better of Frances Holt. He sold his farm to his neighbor, Grant Carroll, and took off for Springfield to join a group of ‘forty-niners’ headed for the California gold fields. Elizabeth Holt left the valley with him, with the stated of intent of going to live with relatives in the Springfield area. We are not aware of anyone hearing from them again. There was fear in some quarters that others might leave, but no one else was ready to make the commitment and actually leave.

In the summer of 1850, a count of young people in the valley disclosed 15 students between the ages of 6 and 13. This would be enough for a school, but they were spread fairly evenly across the valley, and the distance to travel to any one location was too great. Those students who would were of school age were:

First grade - Anderson Cooper, Charlie Dodson, Monty Carroll
Second grade - Bernie Cox, Alfie Duncan, Lorraine Bartlett, Caroline McDonald
Third grade - Elmo Simpson, Lewis Truesdale
Fourth grade - Mark Rhodes
Fifth grade - Arne Duncan
Sixth grade - none
Seventh grade - Luke Rhodes, Daniel McDonald
Eighth grade - Jane Truesdale, Allison Olson

The total count of young people under 20 was 35. The older population ranging up to age 54, totaled 47 making a grand total of people in the valley of 82 persons.

Robert and Susannah Baldridge purchased the south half of Block N in Oak Springs, diagonally northwest across Central Avenue from the General Store. They built their 
new residence on the the west lot, Lot 3, in the fall of 1848. In the spring of 1849, they opened a business, a combination of feed store and lumber yard, on Lot 4 on the corner of Central Avenue and Patton Street. This provided a central valley location from which to sell products produced by the mill operation in the eastern valley. Robert and Susannah initially ran the business themselves. In 1850, eighteen-year-old Theodosius Rhodes came into town and worked as a clerk in the store. In 1853, he was promoted to manager. Shortly thereafter, he and Lillian Campbell were married. 

A dry goods store was build by proprietor Percival Jones and his wife, Katherine, in 1850 across the street from the Patton Hotel (on Lot 2 of Block N).  They lived at the hotel while the store was being built and through that winter. In the spring of 1851, they built their home a block west of the store (on Lot 2 of Block M) and continued to operate the store with an ever increasing line of goods for the entire family. In 1853, the Jones’ built a boarding house on the lot (Lot 1 of Block N) between their store and their home. It is currently managed by Mrs. Sally Rhodes Campbell.

Physician Jonathan Ames and Lawyer Wesley Mathison formed a real estate partnership late in 1850 and their first project was a building north of the Jones Dry Goods Store (Lot 4, Block J). This office building, beginning in May of 1851, housed offices for each of their professional practices. Their second project, in 1852, was to construct a third building in the row on the west side of Central Avenue (Lot 2, Block J) which now is being used for their real estate business and an insurance agency operated by Gideon Inman. 

[to be continued... Part 2 of 2]

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