Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Godforsaken' & The Poor Man's Country

What was it like in the Ozarks in 1889?
Growing up in the beautiful hills and valleys of the Ozarks, a native can swiftly discount the harshness of the terrain & elements our Ozark pioneer parents endured. In search for a snapshot in time, I came across a newspaper from Spirit Lake, Iowa. In its’ time worn leaves, a young writer, Hale Knox, journals regarding his travels and sentiments about Baxter, Marion, and Boone County, Arkansas.
One of the treasures in this column is a sentence contained in the last paragraph, which states, “The more I see of this country the more I am convinced that this is 'The Poor Man's Country' in every sense of the word.” Though this comment seems comical, I have heard this echoed many times in my life. Even though there may be a nugget of truth in this statement, I do not look at it as a statement of despair and doom. I believe it is a declaration of determination and faith to persevere no matter the circumstances.
I hope you enjoy the column.
Walks from Abroad
Hale Knox, who is now in Baxter county, Arkansas, writes to his friends here about as follows:
The people here are sowing oats. Some oats and a few potatoes were put in the ground before I came here. The farmers are really just beginning their spring work now. Their plows here are similar to our one-shovel corn plow. They sow oats by hand and plow them in with one horse with these plows. Some harrow afterwards. Some hardly ever use two-horse teams on the farm. If one man farms from 15 to 20 acres he does well. A few farmers have cleared the stumps and stones so as to use reapers in harvest. The majority of farmers cut with the old fashioned cradle. Nearly all farmers raise corn and oats, but not enough for home consumption. And they don't feed nearly as much as we do in Dickinson county. If perchance more is raised than is needed there is no sale for it at all.
This country, I think, will not amount to anything if a railroad is not built into it, that is, in the way of farming. I think money could be made here raising horses, mules and cattle. Mules are in good demand. Cattle are low now. A drove of steers going through town the other day were purchased at $15.00 per head—three and four years old.
I went over to the mines in Marion county last week. Passed through some of the roughest, most rockiest and, 'Godforsaken' country I ever went to see. Couldn't get a horse in town for less than $1.75 per day (one livery in Mountain Home), and the horses had had the distemper. I started out on foot, thinking I could get a horse on the way, but had to loot it for two days before I got one, and then had to pay more than if I had got one at the start.
The first day out my boot heels began to wear out, the nails began to work through, and before night my feet were blistered all over. My boots are too limber and loose for walking over stones and climbing mountains. I am going west again Tuesday. Am going to hire, or buy a horse or a pair of the heaviest cow hide boots I can find. The people here lie so I cannot tell anything about distances.
They said it was twenty miles to Rush Creek mines, but after I had walked eight or ten miles I inquired the distance of an old farmer. He said it was twenty miles and good long ones, too, from his place, and I don't think he stretched it, either. The natives here are good and accommodating. I stopped the first night with a man who had just moved into the state. He charged me 75 cents for lodging. The next night I stopped with a native, and he charged me 25 cents, and that is about the difference between the two classes in everything.
If I don't get work of some kind this week I think I shall start for home, but don't know much about it yet. There are people from all over the United States coming here all the time. Several went to California from here last fall, but all have come back.
There are a few cases of rheumatism here, but I can hear of none of the inflammatory kind. It is said that a number have been entirely cured of severe cases, of inflammatory rheumatism. My own rheumatism is nearly gone.
I went to church today. Got sister Laura's letter coming back (that is, while I was coming back). There is to be two weddings in the Baptist church this evening, I hear.
The more I see of this country the more I am convinced that this is 'The Poor Man's Country' in every sense of the word. I expect to start for Boone county next week Tuesday, if nothing hinders. Have a chance to go through with a man going to Harrison, county seat of Boone county. Until then I shall work on a farm at 50 cents a day. If I can't find out what kind of a country this is without working for 50 cents a day I don't want to know anything about it.
1875-Silver Dollar 
“Walks from Abroad.” The Spirit Lake Beacon 198.18 (22 Mar. 1889): 3. Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Nov. 2009 <>.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy all your articles. I think you should someday put them all together as a published book.
This article reminds me of some of the letters I have that my Great Grandfather, the Rev. Jacob Skiver, wrote to my Grandfather back in the early 1900's. I was born and raised here so I can appreciate what you write about the land; it's rough but beautiful landscape.
Keep up the good research so all of us can continue be entertained by your writings.
Brenda Johnson