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Springfield Wagon Company

18 Apr

The Little Fish In A Big Pond

Years ago I was asked by Wayne Hocklander to clean out the basement of his business, Hocklander Jewelry at the corner of South and Walnut in Springfield. It was filled with boxes of misc. papers, old jewelry boxes and basically what Wayne thought was junk, He wanted it gone. I started early one morning cleaning out the boxes and loading them into a dumpster when I dropped one of the boxes and had to pick up the papers. Much to my surprise they were old documents from the Springfield Wagon Company. I showed them to him and at the time they were in pretty rough shape. He made the decision to just pitch them. They were of no value I suppose back in the early 70’s.

I decided to hang on the few decent ones, mostly correspondence to buyers and post cards. At that time I was more impressed with the elegant handwriting displayed and thought they should be saved. I’m glad I did. Below is the basic history of the Springfield Wagon Company if you’re not familiar with it.

The Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that didn’t blink. Through nearly 80 years of business, it took on many bigger companies head on, challenging them on their own terms. Now, the Springfield Wagon Company could be called the company that wouldn’t die.

About 200 people recently gathered at Founder’s Park in Springfield, Mo. to attend a public forum in order to share their common interest in an early-day vehicle. They collected memorablia, one-of-a-kind photographs, and videotaped interviews. They also celebrated the return of a company that closed fifty years ago.

The original Springfield Wagon Company, which operated near the scene of the collectors’ meet, sold many thousands of wagons from 1872 until 1941, when the factory relocated to Fayetteville, Ark. ‘Farm and road’ type wagons were made there near the Ozark hardwood forests until 1951. The wagon was one of the last high-wheeled vehicles in production.

Springfield wagons were made from the best materials. The yellow poplar box was finished in green with yellow striping, and the brand name was printed in white-painted block type. Its oak or hickory running gear, including spoked (12 in front and 14 in the taller rear) wheels were orange, trimmed in black. This combination of distinct colors would remain trademarks of the well-known wagon for 80 years.

When Springfield entered the market for wagons, it was a little fish in a big pond. Three major wagon manufacturers looked down their proverbial noses at the fledgling company. Studebaker had one of the longest pedigrees and was probably the most successful wagon at the time, followed closely by the Bain and Schuttler wagon companies. These companies were not alone. Birch, Wilson, John Deere and others had begun to establish footholds in the market.

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18 Mar

A couple of local folks making good!
What do you get when you give a hillbilly a Hasselblad, a pickup truck, and a big gray dog and turn them loose in the wild Ozarks? In Leland Payton’s case, you ultimately get a beautifully photographed and expressively written book about his homeland: The Beautiful and Enduring OZARKS. One hundred-thirty-nine photographs, eightyseven in full color, spanning more than 30 years of Ozark rambles, illustrate this original photo essay on the mountainous region of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Leland and Crystal Payton created Lens & Pen Press to produce titles that large publishers might consider too specialized for a national audience. Before that, the Paytons had been published by Abbeville Press in New York; Chronicle Books, San Francisco; and St. Martin’s Press, New York. An early entry into ‘niche publishing,’ the Paytons found their niche in the sometimes stereotyped but always intriguing region of the Ozarks. They live in Springfield, Missouri.

I could kick myself.

16 Mar

As a youngster in school our teachers did their best to involve us with the history and heritage of the Ozarks, which included reading The Ozarks Mountaineer Magazine. At the time it was what most of us thought…”boring information about stuff we could care less about, bring on the lunch bell”. With a little age under my belt I was dead wrong and now I wish I would have read it from cover to cover.

According to it’s publisher The Ozarks Mountaineer publishes factual articles about the hill country and highlands between the Mississippi River and the lakes country of eastern Oklahoma, bounded on the south by the Arkansas River and on the north by the Missouri River. Subjects of interest include, but are not limited to, personalities, crafts and crafts people, our environment, architecture, geography, historical and current events in the region and humor.

Heck it’s more than that,  it’s a fine slice of of our family, friends our grandfathers and grandmothers. Today I would have be thrilled to have all those back issues that slipped through my grubby little hands and were thrown away in the trash. I think a good thrashing would be deserved.

Today’s Mountaineer, in it’s latest issue, is featuring the Paul and Ruth Henning Conservation Area in Branson, I like the fact it’s not concentrating on the much covered Branson Music Scene. Another story instructs you on modern methods in making  lye soap and another on non-native plant species in the Ozarks. With today’s economy, issues and costs those back issues would come in handy when it was time to “do it yourself”, at least we would have references as to how our ancestors did a few things. The magazine is still available and it still has some of those great stories with information that could be used today.

Worth the subscription in my opinion.

Missouri State Parks of the 1960s

3 Mar

In this video we go back in time to the 1960s with a visit to the state parks of Missouri. This promotional film shows the exceptional recreational and natural opportunities offered by Missouri State Parks and enjoyed by families, fishermen and fun-seekers.

This was before iPods, cell phones, fax machines, texting, and yes, YouTube videos. There wasn’t some woman suing over burning her mouth on a hot cup of coffee and I can’t remember ever hearing about a single recall of a ’57 Chevy. No one ever mentioned terrorist or chatted over an Egg McMuffin. These were the good old days…bring ’em back.

“Last Hanging In the State of Missouri.”

2 Mar

Possibly The Last in The Nation

GALENA, Mo. – Jack Jennings’ buddies beat him to the good perches in the trees. They could see over the temporary wall to the gallows on the courthouse lawn. He slipped through the crowd and found a narrow gap between two of the wall’s rough-cut oak planks. He held his ground. Jennings wasn’t about to miss Stone County’s first and only public hanging. Jennings was 14 when Roscoe “Red” Jackson was hanged at dawn on May 21, 1937, for murdering a traveling salesman for his car and $18. Several hundred witnesses were jammed inside the temporary stockade, built around the gallows, and many more people milled about the courthouse square.

Sheriff Isaiah H. Coin had issued about 400 written invitations to the hanging. Holding a pass was enough to get inside the 40-foot-square stockade. “I had an uncle who got in, but the kids weren’t allowed,” said Jennings, now 77. “I got my spot and could see them walk Red up the stairs and put the noose on him. Everybody got real quiet. The priest said some prayers and Red said something. They put the hood on him and I heard the crack of the trap door dropping. “Just like that, I couldn’t see him anymore. The crowd inside was just too big for me to see him go down.”

Nobody could have known it then, but they constituted the last big audience for an execution in the United States. There are some qualifiers – Owensboro, Ky., had hanged a man one year earlier without building a stockade to limit viewing – but two historians who have written books on the death penalty cited Jackson’s as the nation’s last public execution.

Watt Espy of Headland, Ala., who has cataloged 19,000 executions through colonial and United States history, is more circumspect. He said Owensboro can argue that its hanging could be viewed by anyone, and Galena can argue a later date and a large, general audience.”The one in Missouri certainly was the last to draw that large a crowd,” Espy said.

The old tale of Red Jackson is getting dusted off as Timothy McVeigh, the man who killed 168 people by blowing up a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, awaits execution. About 250 survivors of the bombing and relatives of victims have expressed interest in witnessing McVeigh’s execution, which is scheduled for May 16 in the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. There will be some major differences with Red Jackson’s hanging. McVeigh is to be executed by lethal injection. Only the approved witnesses have a chance of getting inside the prison to see it, and they are likely to watch on closed-circuit television from another room. McVeigh wrote a letter in February to a newspaper in Oklahoma City urging that his death be broadcast on the television networks. “Hold a true public execution,” he wrote. The federal prison bosses aren’t about to oblige him.

No matter. If the historians are correct, his will be the most-witnessed execution since Jackson plunged 11 feet to his death on the temporary gallows in Galena.

Then and now, Galena is a small town. It is about 25 miles southwest of Springfield, Mo., built upon a hillside overlooking the James River, and has a population of about 400. A main line of the Union Pacific, formerly the Missouri Pacific, runs through town past the old depot. But the closest major highway is U.S. 65, 15 miles east on its way to Branson. Table Rock Lake is just to the south. Jennings lives three doors away from the quiet courthouse square. His contemporaries remember the boisterous crowds that gathered the evening before the execution, but Jennings is the only one left in town who can claim to have seen it.

Public executions were regular events during the first half of the nation’s history. In the 1890s, about 90 percent of all executions were held in the county in which the offense was committed – not in state prisons. That put arrangements into the hands of sheriffs, who could make them as public as they cared to. Some executions drew special excursion trains. But by the 1920s, states had taken over 90 percent of executions, said Robert M. Bohm, professor of criminology at the University of Central Florida and author of “Death Quest,” a textbook on capital punishment. Missouri followed suit in 1938, ordering that all executions be carried out in a gas chamber at the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. In the same month as Jackson’s hanging, the Missouri Legislature passed a law ending hangings by county and moving the executions to Jefferson City. State Sen. Paul Jones of Kennett, who was repulsed by the “carnival and Roman holiday” atmosphere of executions in his native Bootheel, pushed for the change. Newspaper editorials of the time cited growing revulsion over public hangings.

Missouri first used its gas chamber to execute two murderers from Kansas City on March 4, 1938. It would be used 37 more times until 1965.

When Missouri resumed carrying out executions in 1989, it chose injection as the method. After holding one that year in the old penitentiary in Jefferson City, the state opened a new death chamber in the Potosi Correctional Center, where 46 executions have been carried out. And since 1938, only relatives of victims and small groups of selected official witnesses have viewed executions in Missouri. Bohm, the professor in Florida, said he believes there is substantial public support for making executions public again. But federal and state governments are strongly against the idea, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is working to ensure that nobody slips out of McVeigh’s execution with a videotape. “I think there would be a fair demand to see it on TV, but the government does not consider itself in the entertainment business,” Bohm said. “For many people, it’s just a matter of morbid curiosity, like going to a car race hoping to see a wreck. In some respects, human nature is fairly predictable.” It certainly was on the evening of May 20, 1937, when townsfolk and strangers packed the square in Galena. Marie Tilden went downtown that night with her parents and was amazed by the commotion. What she most remembers is the solitary older man who rested in the street, his head propped against the curb.

“It turned out to be Red Jackson’s dad,” said Tilden, 75, who still lives in Galena. “There were all these strangers having bonfires and ducking in and out of the taverns, and all I could think of that night was that little man with nobody talking to him.” One week later, the Stone County News said this: “One of the most disgusting things in connection with the execution was the attitude of some folks who came to Galena the evening before. While some of them conducted themselves in a way befitting the occasion, others considered it a time for merriment. . . .”Among the drunks who got locked up that night, said the News, was a visiting police officer.

Jay Pace of Galena, who was 5 years old back then, said his parents went down to the execution. Pace said he remembers that it was a big deal in town, something the adults didn’t think they should discuss around children. “I remember them saying they couldn’t believe that people were making such a carnival about such a gruesome thing,” said Pace. “But they never really told me why they went to it.” Jackson, 36 when he died, had been born to a respectable farm family near tiny Howards Ridge in Ozark County, 50 miles east of Galena. Andrew Jackson, his father, claimed to have been a great nephew of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of Virginia, hero of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

In the phrase of the time, Roscoe Jackson didn’t amount to much. He fathered four children and left his wife, drifted through odd jobs in the Oklahoma oil fields, did prison time on a weapons charge. He was hitchhiking to his parents’ farm on Aug. 1, 1934, when he got a ride from Pearl Bozarth, a traveling salesman from Evansville, Ind., who frequently conducted business from the old Majestic Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Bozarth, 53, had a business that made nutrients for chicken feed. That evening, he bought Jackson a meal and got him lodging at a travelers’ camp near Brownbranch, in Taney County. A farmer found Bozarth’s body on a roadside three days later. He had been shot twice in the back of his head. The trail led to Jackson, who was captured in Oklahoma. A change of venue moved the case from Taney County, which includes Branson, to neighboring Stone County. On Dec. 11, 1934, Jackson was convicted in a two-day trial in Galena and sentenced to death. He claimed during the trial that another man shot Bozarth, but confessed to Sheriff Coin a few days later and was baptized in the James River under heavy guard.

While in prison awaiting execution, Jackson took up the Catholic faith, a decision that bothered his Protestant father. (The Rev. Michael Ahern, a priest from Springfield, stood with Jackson at the gallows, but a Protestant minister conducted the burial.) On execution day, sheriff’s deputies opened the stockade to the witnesses well before dawn. Jack Jennings went down early with his uncle, Fred May, who had a pass. Jennings had staked his place at the stockade wall when Jackson was taken out of the courthouse shortly before 6 a.m. With Ahern leading, Jackson climbed the steps to the waiting Coin and the noose. Ahern and Jackson recited the Catholic Act of Contrition. With the noose around his neck, Jackson turned to the crowd and spoke calmly.

“Well now, folks, it’s not everybody that realizes what it takes to die. It’s easy when it comes accidental, but it’s not so easy when it comes gradual,” Jackson said. “Well, be good, folks.”

A deputy covered Jackson’s head with a black hood. At 6:04 a.m., Coin pushed a lever to drop the trap. Jackson’s neck snapped in the plunge. As his body was carried down the stairs, deputies cut pieces of the rope and tossed them into the crowd as souvenirs.

The Stone County Library, across from the courthouse in Galena, has a file of newspaper clippings from the execution, but there is no monument or plaque in the courthouse attesting to Red Jackson’s death. It will be mentioned, with pictures, in a book the local historical society is preparing for the county’s 150th anniversary. “Having the last public hanging is a matter of pride around the county, but people don’t talk about it much,” said Jay Pace, who is helping on the book. “A lot of the newer residents don’t even know about it. It’s become a footnote in our history.”

Related Story from Junior Warren

The following story was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Everyday Magazine on Tuesday, March 20, 2001 (copyrighted, 2001).

80 Years Ago Today

1 Mar

Roaring River on opening day 1931. I guess it’s always been busy on opening day!

Current River – The Vanishing Ozarks

26 Feb

The Vanishing Ozarks from Missouri History Museum on Vimeo.

This film by my estimation was produced  somewhere between 1958-1961 after seeing the Pontiac on the ferry.  It was hard to quickly research the year, the shot went by pretty quickly but I know I am in the ballpark as there were a couple of early Volkswagon’s spotted as well on the riverbank.

By the third decade of the twentieth century, the loss of the forest resulting from the hinterland development threatened traditional ways of living along the Current River even more than had the many social and economic changes of the lumber and railroad era. Timber, the resource that attracted the railroads and many people to the Current after 1880, showed signs of playing out soon after 1900. The forest was the foundation of the uplander culture. It housed the game that the uplander hunted and fed the hogs that the hill families ate. The uplander-frontier culture’s economic tradition was based on a reactive relationship with nature. Before the introduction of large-scale lumbering, the settlers made few visible changes to the natural environment. Their hunting practices helped to deplete much of the big game but their open range livestock grazing had little impact on the forest. The loss of so many trees through unbridled lumbering, however, damaged the natural and thus the cultural habitat of the traditional homeland.

Some Ozark and state leaders saw tourism as the economic salvation of the region. The early development of modern recreation on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers accompanied the introduction of railroads into the southeast Missouri Ozarks. There were two trends in the growth of recreation. First, the railroad and lumber companies encouraged sport hunting and fishing. The depletion of the wildlife and the exodus of the large pine lumber corporations limited this activity and, by 1914, the promotion of recreation began focusing on attracting tourists to the areas scenic beauty. Although tourism boomed around the springs of southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas during the previous century, it was slow to develop in the more isolated Courtois Hills. Unlike lumbering and hunting, tourism was an unfamiliar concept to most residents of the Current River region.

Urban businessmen formed several hunting and fishing clubs and built cabin retreats on the Current River after the Current River Railroad laid its tracks to the mill of the Missouri Lumber and Mining Company. In 1888, the year that the railroad was completed, businessmen from St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, Missouri, established two clubs. Sportsmen in St. Louis chartered the Current River Fishing and Hunting Club with a five-dollar membership fee. Another group from Springfield and Kansas City organized the Carter County Fishing and Shooting Club and charged its members twenty dollars to join. The Current Local reported that the club had 125 members and that Alex Carter, a leading political figure in Carter County, appeared to be the only member from the county. The incorporators of the club were mostly officials of the Kansas City, Ft. Scott, and Memphis Railroad, the parent company of the Current River Railroad. With lumber from the Grandin mill, the members built a clubhouse six to eight miles south of Van Buren on a bluff overlooking the Current.

In 1912, another Springfield group incorporated a club, Shannon County Hunting and Fishing Club, and built cabins on the Jacks Fork. Again, as the purpose of the corporation stated, it solicited an exclusive membership:

“The object and purpose of this club shall be to furnish facilities for bringing together as often as may be, gentlemen in commercial, manufacturing and professional pursuits throughout Southern Missouri for educational, and for recreation and improvement . . . [and] to develop the mental and moral faculties of its members.”

The Shannon County Hunting and Fishing Club out lasted the other organizations and continued to exist into the 1980s.

The records of the Carter County Fishing and Shooting Club described something of the logistics and recreation activities of late nineteenth century float trips down the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. Because of the club’s association with the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Memphis Railroad (later part of the Frisco line) and because of this railroad’s partnership with area lumber companies, club members had ready access to the main KFS&M lines and the lumber trains. The sportsmen often traveled by train to Chicopee or to Chilton and from there headed the short distance downstream to the clubhouse. The favored pastime was floating and fishing down the rivers and, at least until 1930, most parties recorded in the club registry their catch and sometimes highlights of their trips. A 1907 entry by sportsmen from Carthage, Missouri, stated:

Put in Jack’s Fork about 3 miles above Eminence May 24, 1907, and floated to Club House. River about 18 inches high. Caught 60 bass, one jack salmon, one shad. Saw first engine cross Jack’s Fork. E. B. Jacobs caught a double consisting of two 3-pound bass. Had a fine time and good ride with Andy Pitman (guide) in gasoline boat.

This brief trip record noted an important transportation improvement furnished by the lumber railroad crossing the Jacks Fork. Before the construction of the tram in 1907, the fishing parties heading for the upper Jacks Fork had to depart the KFSM track at Birch Tree or Winona and travel overland by wagon to the river. They then floated downstream in canoes or johnboats, the latter was most common on the Current. The early johnboats were built of pine planks sixteen to twenty-four feet long. They were narrow (often three feet wide), flat bottomed, with slightly beveled sides. “Bow and stern [were] blunt, and the bottom at both ends tapered upward so that the boat [could] be swung easily in the current by a boatman operating with a single paddle from the stern.” Boards for making boats were carried to the departure point, along with the other sporting gear, and local woodsmen/carpenters built the boats on the spot for the fishing parties. The club records indicated that members organized float trips of varying lengths. Some excursions started up at Round Spring, on the Upper Jacks Fork, at Van Buren, or a number of other locations.

During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the tallies of fish caught boast of the Current and Jacks Fork as a “fisherman’s paradise,” but a marked decline appeared after 1900. In 1946, Charles Callison, secretary of the National Wildlife Federation, demonstrated the decline by examining the number of fish caught by members of the Carter County Fishing and Shooting Club during the decades 1890-1940. The last column of the table, displaying a person’s average catch per day, reveals two dramatic declines: first, after 1900, the catch dropped from 13.5 to 7.3 and then, after 1920, fell from 8.8 to 5.9. The number of recreational fishing trips, themselves, decreased sharply during the Great Depression decade of the 1930s. Yet the trend reflected more than just the extensive removal of fish by sportsmen. The gigging and illegal dynamiting of fish by the residents of the Current River basin also contributed to the decline.

(Excerpt From the National Park Service)