Monday, November 30, 2009

A Good Duel & an Honorable “Cussin”

"O’ be careful little mouth what you say.
O’ be careful little mouth what you say.
For the Father up above is looking down in love.
O’ be careful little mouth what you say.”
This is an old refrain from my days in Sunday School that was loved by all who chirped its lines. This exhortation was and still is a warning for young and old.
A tongue-lashing with honor is a rare deed that is not practiced today.  Yet, in its’ day, this exploit was known as a “good cussin.”  I found this tidbit which came out of an article dated February 2, 1896, from the Wheeling Sunday Register, in Wheeling, West Virginia. This article shows a great commentary on how our society has digressed on the honor of our words and the maliciousness we may have in heart.
Personal Note
One of its’ participants was an authentic historical character from the Ozarks, Captain Uzza “Uz” Finley.
Captain Finley was a member of the Confederate States Army and fought in Ford's Battalion, Missouri Cavalry, Company A. Before the Civil War, he lived in Izard County, Arkansas.  He is also the father-in-law to my great, great uncle, Stephen J. Wayland. Their comradery must have fared well for Stephen to marry the Captain’s daughter, Aseneth M. Finley.  Uz Finley was also a friend to my great, great grandfather, Thompson Henderson Wayland.

Gravestones of my great, great uncle & aunt, Stephen J. Wayland & Aseneth M. Finley Wayland, at the Amos Cemetery in Lakeview, Arkansas.


Thompson Henderson Wayland
Member of J.R. Shaler's Regiment
Capt. R.C. Matthews' Company
Confederate States Army the Cussin.

“Cussin’ out” used to be one of the ways of settling controversies in the Ozark country. It originated with old Uz Finley and John Carter. The Finley’s came from Georgia. Old Finley took a great interest in politics, and wherever he went he was followed by a venerable negro named Bosen, whose duty it was to steer his master home when he needed help. At one of the earlier elections old Uz and John Carter became very angry with each other. It looked as if nothing but a fight could settle the issue between them, when suddenly old Uz shouted, “Mr. Carter, stand and be cussed.”

Carter removed his hat, walked out about ten paces from the crowd, and told old Uz to go ahead. Finley removed his hat and walked out in front of Carter and said, with deliberation and emphasis.

“Mr. Carter, if this earth was one parchment and the son one basin of ink and every quill upon earth was one quill and I had the power to use that quill that parchment and that ink would fall short of being able to describe of your old heart, sir!”

Carter said never a word but stood with uncovered head until Uz was through. Then he said.

“Mr. Finley, stand sir, until I cuss you.” Old Uz bowed his head and Carter said.

"Mr. Finley had I all the talent ever produced in Europe and America combined in solid phalanx and was to undertake to speak to you, then I would fall short of describing the corruption of your old heart, sir.”

This settled their difficulty. The two men resumed friendly relations. The custom of “cussin out” was thus introduced to the Ozark country.

The Downhill Side of the Other Side
Lastly, there is a difference Cussin with Honor and Swearing with Disgust. Here two more excerpts from newspapers concerning the “Tale of the Tongue.”   
The Baltimore Sun
 November 24, 1893     Page: 6      A Crusade Against Profanity
The Bismarck Tribune
Page: 1
November 25, 1893
Indicted for Swearing   
 Works Cited:
A Crusade Against Profanity.” Baltimore Sun (24 Nov. 1893): 6: Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <>.  
Indicted for Swearing.” Bismarck Tribune (25 Nov. 1893): 1: Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <>.
Word Duels.” Wheeling Sunday Register 33.198 (2 Feb. 1896): 6. Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 12 Dec. 2009 <>.

Friday, November 27, 2009

From Ashes & Memories: The Old Mammoth School House

As everything in life fades to a stalwart end and dims from memory, cherished photos can sometimes hold fast these apparitions of the past. In this small entry, I have posted a couple of pictures from the old Mammoth School House. This is the school house my father, J. R., and his siblings attended..

An old school photograph from 1947-48.

Though the school was closed long before I was born, it is also the place of my own childhood memories. Since I only lived a half mile from here, it is one of my old and treasured haunts.  At times, playing with cousins or friends, we would go inside and pretend to teach a lesson in math, history, or geography, in addition to pretending to have church or preach a fiery sermon.

The school house is gone today due to a fire.  I have a current picture of its' cinders and ashes, but I do not have the heart in posting it.  Instead, I have posted two pictures from January, 1984.  I took the photos before joining the Air Force.  Even at that time, it was more than a mere vacant structure; it was a haven and a passageway in time…of my Ozarks' History.

(Double click photos to enlarge pictures.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 3

As the Miles-Gibson Saga wanes from the daily press, harsh realities can be gleaned in reading history’s text and between its’ lines. The Cycles of Justice catch the guilty, and the meat of punishment is doled out.  In the past, its’ prisoners awaited their outcome in conditions that would seem deplorable and inhumane. This was the temporary fate of Uncle Bartlett Gibson.  With the spectacular stories published concerning the quick drawing Hod Miles & the Gibsons, hell-bent on destruction, the audience was left with a horrid description of the Gainesville Jail in 1890.  In the previous article, the only word that wasn’t used was a dungeon.  Well…that has changed.
Another follow-up story was printed in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in the Aberdeen Daily Press, March 22, 1890. It was in this edition the term “dungeon” was used.  In addition to the details of the jail, a picture was published.
A Queer Word

As society changes, so too our vocabulary evolves over time. “Queer” is one of those words that seems to have fallen from grace.  For the past two decades, it can be taken as an offensive term.  Nevertheless, the former use of the term was used as for a strange or odd viewpoint, for something unusually different, or of a questionable nature or character.  The reason for this explanation can be plainly understood when looking at the article’s title, “Queer Missouri Jail.”  I’ll admit it…I did a double take and made sure the article was about Gainesville, Missouri, and not in someplace in California. So, here it is.

Queer Missouri Jail

How Prisoners Fare When Incarcerated at

At Gainesville, the capital of Ozark County, Mo., there is a jail of unique construction. It is a two story log building eight by ten feet, and twenty feet high. There is neither door nor window to the upper story, and the upper story is reached by a ladder from the ground to a small platform at the heavy door which is always doubled locked and barred. There are six grated windows to the upper story, and when the jailer is inside and the ladder drawn up the place is almost impregnable as a fortress. The top floor is used for detaining ordinary criminals, but desperate criminals are placed in the dungeon beneath the entrance being through a trap door and down a ladder. The place has no light save that furnished by a small kerosene lamp. Food is supplied the inmates in a bucket lowered by a rope into the hole. Eight men are now confined in the dungeon, and, despite its dismalness, the jailer thinks they are lucky to be there.

Closing Thoughts
With all the mortification and foulness this jail contained, its’ stench and humiliation was a constant reminder for every wayfarer to keep on the straight and narrow. This too can be a sweet melody of our Ozarks’ History.

May we never…
       fall into the abyss of apathy in guarding our past & future as a nation…


fall into the dungeon of despair that God cannot deliver us.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your liberty.
“A Queer Missouri Jail. How Prisoners Fare When Incarcerated at Gainesville.” Aberdeen Daily Press 4.193 (22 Mar. 1890): 1. New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 15 Nov. 2009 < >

"QUEER." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.Merriam-Webster Online. 24 November 2009.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 2

Well folks…Hod Miles is at it again in Ozark County, but “the rest of the story” becomes an eye-opening event in the details of a feud “gone south.”   I have been blessed to glean another episode that is ripped from a Hollywood Western made in Ozark County, Missouri.

From Part 1 of the story last week, I received calls, comments, and emails inquiring on how Hod Miles can get away with such outlandish & cantankerous deeds. Fortunately, I believe the answer lies within another set of old and fragile leaves of a bygone newspaper, The Sun.  As I started to assemble this next blog, I started thinking of many time honored morals for lessons never learned, and how someone can add insult to injury.

Skeletons in the Closet
Reading about the quick demise of the Gibson Clan can put a shiver down one’s spine. History has a way of rubbing some people raw…especially when it gets a little close to home. Nevertheless, they were someone’s cherished infant in the past, but a few wrong decisions leads to a path of thorns & thistles. Unfortunately, some uncomfortable situations can arise and feelings can get miffed. No matter who we are today, skeletons can be lurking in everyone’s closet, but that’s ok.  This is an issue that I wrote about at the beginning of the year after I left writing a history column for The Baxter Bulletin. You can read my rant here at: The Bleaching of History’s Tapestry. Along this venue, I have a friend, Mary Ann Edge, who wrote a book on the murders in Baxter County, Arkansas, entitled, Was It Murder?  She also apparently ruffled & cackled some feathers when laying bare the facts of past crimes.

Bibles & Moonshine
Concerning the Gibson family, they came from a region that was ripe with religion, and they knew better. Before the Ozarks, they came from Jackson County, Tennessee. This county was the homestead one of the pioneers of the Primitive Baptist Movement…which became The Church of Christ. This pioneer is my Great, Great, Great Uncle, Joel Blanton Anderson. Today, one can drive through Gainesboro, Tennessee, or look through the Jackson County phone book yellow pages and see the many Churches of Christ listed. As to the moon-shining profession, great training went in procurement of this craft in Jackson County also. This can be evidenced in a book entitled, Bullets, Fire, Moonshine and the Bible: Life in Jackson County, Tennessee, transcribed by Shelta R. McCarter Shrum.

Older Vocabulary & Colloquial Speech Here is a list of words or terms that are not in our everyday vocabulary. I have tried to render an explanation after each statement; yet, some may be familiar.

  • “The county had become one of the drys.”Baxter County had become a county that would not allow the manufacturing or sale of alcohol.
  • “If he didn’t “pull his freight.” If he didn’t stand up and face it like a man.  
  •  “They were simply spoiling for a fight.”  - They were simply looking for a fight.
  • “A …charming Ozark Mountain lass.”  - She was a charming Ozark Mountain girl.
  • “He alone of the lot strove to bushwhack the man.” - He alone endeavored to surprise and attack the man.
  • Davidson’s store was about three rods away.” – Davidson’s store was about fifty feet away. (A rod is an old English measurement that is about 16.5 feet…give or take)
  • “They … felt like doing something to relieve their ugly feelings.” No explanation…just another great line.

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth
Lastly, I have endeavored to reprint the story as it was published in the same manner of grammar, sentence structure, and colloquial language as retrieved. I have also placed the title banner from The Sun newspaper from New York City. Notice the caption on the upper left-hand corner, which states, “IF YOU SEE IT IN THE SUN, IT IS SO. THIS APPLIES TO ADVERTISEMENTS AS WELL AS THE NEWS.”

Let this be your judge.

I hope you enjoy the column.

(Double click banner to enlarge picture.)


A Sequel to the Story of the Gibson-Miles
Feud in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri
Gainesville Has a Novel Jail.

Gainesville, Ozark County, Mo., March 4  -  Hod Miles has killed another Gibson.   He might with reason have killed two more, but to the surprise of everyone who knew him, he simply arrested the second and lodged him in jail at this place.  Hod Miles first became known to the people of the United States generally when THE SUN told, in December, 1888, something of his history.  He was a Massachusetts boy, who drifted into this country, found the climate and soil to his taste, bought a quarter section of land for $100, improved it, and finally got into trouble with the Gibson boys, all on account of an unusually charming Ozark Mountain lass.  Miles had paid but little attention to her until Dan Gibson got jealous of him and tried to run him out of the country; but when this thing was undertaken Hod began to realize that the girl was really worth fighting for.  He took her to a Christmas eve dance after she had declined to go with Dan Gibson, and Dan went to the ball to kill Miles.  Miles heard he was coming for that purpose, and went prepared for a fight, for he had taken kindly to the Ozark Mountain habit of carrying a pistol, and was counted a good shot even here where the most skilful pistol shots in the world, taking the community as a whole, are to be found.  How the two happened to be crossing at opposite ends of the dancing hall at once when the floor was empty, how Gibson strove to draw a heavy revolver, how Miles was quicker because his weapon was a light target pistol, and how he shot Gibson dead with the tiny pellet of lead, formed one of the most interesting stories of life in the Ozarks that THE SUN correspondent heard when here.

Miles had three brothers who swore to kill the man who had shot Dan, but one after another they met the Yankee and found him quicker than they were, and died in the finding, until at last but one remained.  He alone of the lot strove to bushwhack the man. He hid behind the team which Miles had hitched to a post in front of Davidson’s store here, and with his revolver levelled waited for Miles to come out of the store.

Miles knew the man was there, and knew that to leave the store was death.  To complicate the case he had left his pistols at home - had forgotten them. However, he borrowed one of Davidson, stepped to the door, stood there an instant with the pistol in his left hand and the muzzle up, and then with a motion too quick for the eye to follow dropped the muzzle outside the door frame and pulled the trigger.  Gibson fell dead with a bullet through his brain. He was the last of the brothers, and every one supposed that the trouble was ended by his death.

Last January, however, Bartlett Gibson, an uncle of the boys whom Miles had killed, moved into this county from Arkansas.  Bartlett was a moonshiner, and he had a little trouble with the local authorities in Arkansas over the sale of his liquor. The county had become one of the drys, and the officials, lead by a preacher named Gerton, made life a burden even for the men who for years had defiled the deputy United States marshals.

How it happened that Bartlett and his son Jacob took up the almost forgotten feud between Miles and the Gibsons is not known, but it seems likely that they were simply spoiling for a fight - they had been driven out of Arkansas and felt like doing something to relieve their ugly feelings.  As a result, Jacob’s feelings are relieved permanently.  He is dead.

After the fashion of the country old Gibson let it be known that he and Jake were going to do for Hod Miles, if he didn’t “pull his freight.” It is said that when this word was brought to Miles it caused him real distress. He had hoped that he could live in peace. But he at once took to carrying the target pistols he had worn when the boys were alive, and thereafter never lighted a lamp in his house at night. Then he began coming to town more frequently.  He told John Davidson that he came simply in the hope of meeting the enemy and having the thing ended as soon as possible

It was not until Saturday of last week that he met his man. They were both at the Danson Hotel, and both had been drinking.  Jake came out on the veranda and saw Miles on the steps in front of Davidson’s store, about three rods away.  Miles was looking the other way at the moment, and Jake succeeded in getting his revolver from his holster before Miles turned.  It was then too late to draw even the light target pistol; and, for once in his life, Miles had to run. He did not run away; however, he simply jumped off the steps.  It was lucky for him that Jake had been drinking; however, for the liquor no doubt made the young man’s aim uncertain quite as much as the sudden jump did. At any rate, the bullet which Jake fired flew wild, and then Miles had a chance. He drew his pistol and shot Jake through the heart.

This part of the fight was all over in much less than a minute, but old Bartlett Gibson was inside the barroom of the hotel and had to be cared for.   Miles drew another pistol at first, and then, to the surprise and apprehension of his friends, put it back again and ran toward the hotel.  He met Gibson at the hotel door, as he had hoped to do.  Gibson had a revolver in his hand, but Miles knocked it aside, and grabbing the old man by the neck, choked him into submission.

This done, the people remembered something they had forgotten.  Hod Miles was a deputy sheriff.   He had determined to arrest the old man and prosecute him according to the law.

When one comes to consider the sort of an existence the criminal who is unable to get ball leads in the Gainesville jail, it is almost a question whether Miles was really merciful in sparing Gibson’s life.  The jail is built of hewed logs and is of a form much better adapted to resist the attack of a party of lynchers than to prevent the escape of prisoners.  It is about ten feet square and nearly twenty feet high to the peak of the roof.  It has two floors, but the sole entrance is by a ladder to a door in the second story.   The lower story has neither door nor window.  The lower story is entered by a ladder through a trap in the second floor.  Once in the lower story the only hope of escape is by tunneling; it is impossible to get on through the trap after the ladder is removed.  Having neither the light of day nor ventilation, and only a wooden tub for refuse the prisoners in the lower floor of Gainesville jail are in a most deplorable condition.  They have a lamp, of course, but it only serves to make the air more foul. Their food is carried down the ladder to them, but the ladder is invariably carried away to the home of the Sheriff between meals and at night.  When dangerous prisoners are there the food is lowered to them in a tub.  There are half a dozen prisoners in the lower cell now, and one, a woman in the upper.

Bartlett Gibson will be taken before the Grand Jury next week. The chances are that he will eventually be tried on a charge of carrying concealed weapons and fined $10. Meantime, Hod Miles expects to patch up a truce that will prevent the necessity of further use of the target pistols.

McCarter Shrum, Shelta R. ed. Bullets, Fire, Moonshine and the Bible: Life in Jackson County, TN. Lafayette, Tennessee: Ridge Runner Publications, 2004.

“Has Killed His Fifth Man.” The Sun 57.186 (05 Mar. 1890): 7. New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 15 Nov. 2009 < >

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 1

While looking over snapshots of Ozark History, I am always amazed to see human passions replicated in every scenario. In searching old newspapers entailing forgotten history of the Ozarks, I stumbled upon an article which could be an everyday love story, but it dramatically morphs into a Hollywood plot of almost unbelievable circumstances. There have been other Ozark stories of love and tragedy published, such as Shepherd of the Hills, by Harold Bell Wright. Nevertheless, Shepherd of the Hills is mostly a fictional work. However, the story in this blog is not fictional, and it transpires in the heart of the Ozarks…Gainesville, Missouri, in Ozark County.

Apparently, this story caught someone’s attention somewhere, since the story made it to the East and West Coast newspapers. I found this story in New York’s, The Sun, and Portland, Oregon’s, Oregonian Morning, newspapers. The column transcribed in this blog is from the Oregonian Morning entitled, “Among The Ozarks.”

Before going to the story, I would like to deal with three aspects while looking at this column. These will be the plot, older vocabulary or terms, and colloquial speech.

The Plot…Spoiler Alert!
A young man named Horace "Hod" Miles moved to Ozark County from the North. (When I was a kid, we used the politically incorrect term for these people…”Yankees” or “Yanks.”) This young Yankee turns every eligible lady’s head in the county with his ingenuity, looks, and wealth. This also apparently catches the attention of the other young men in the area…especially the Gibson brothers. The next turn of events ensue with the dance, the standoff, the quick draw of pistols, and the untimely death of the first Gibson brother. As fate would have it, there is a marriage, a baby boy, a set of beautiful & fast wheels (carriage), and subsequently, more Gibson brothers have revenge on their mind. In the background, one can only surmise the undertaker will profit from the whole series of tragic events.

On a Personal Note
As I was reading this story, it was the name of Gibson that caught my attention. The Gibson and the Anderson family migrated from a small place in Jackson County, Tennessee, called Gainesboro in the 1870’s. Yes, I know, it still sounds funny to me…Gainesboro…Gainesville. These families settled in Howell & Ozark County, Missouri, and Baxter & Marion County, Arkansas. The marauding Gibson brothers in this story are distantly related to me. For that story, please go to this link on my blog.

Older Vocabulary or Terms
Here is a list of words or terms that are not in our everyday vocabulary. I have placed an explanation after each term; yet, some may be familiar.
Hitching-post- A fixed post with a ring to which a horse or mule can be tied to prevent it from straying.
Obliged – Thankful or grateful.
Row - A boisterous disturbance or quarrel; a brawl.
Stalwart – Rugged or muscular.
Tenderfoot – A novice or inexperienced person.
Toothpick– Bowie knife.
Trifle – A little bit.
Virginia Reel – A folk dance. The Reel was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1600’s. The Reel has its’ origins in Scottish country dance and the Highland Reel.
Waylaying – Intercept and ambush.
Yankee thrift – Resourceful person.

Colloquial Speech/ Quotes
Here is a list of quotes. Some of these quotes are old Ozark Colloquial speech. I have tried to render an explanation after each term.
Blow of a stalwart fist. – It was the hit of a muscular or powerful fist.
Didn’t have no call to be shootin’ the rest. – There was no reason to shoot innocent bystanders.
He resisted their arch looks. - He resisted their look for admiration or attention.
I haven’t got a toothpick. – I don’t have a bowie knife.
I ‘lowed he war dead. - I allowed/knew he was dead.
I reckon. - I suppose or guess so.
It was the prettiest thing ever seed afore or since. - It was the prettiest thing ever seen before or since.
Jest killed. – Just killed.
Lord, stranger, it was a sight. – This should be plainly understood. I just like the quote.
Lord, stranger! ye orter seed it. - Lord stranger, you ought to see it.
Mrs. Miles…had grown handsomer. – Mrs. Miles…had grown more beautiful.
Thank ye, John, I'm much obliged to you. - Thank you, John, I'm grateful to you.

Lastly, I would like to thank my wife, Michelle, in transcribing this long column. It is transcribed as it was printed in 1888; this includes the grammar & spelling. For example, some words were not capitalized in the 1880’s, as we would do today, such as Christmas “eve” or Ozark “county.” Additionally, West Pains, Missouri, was spelled as West “plains.” States were also abbreviated in an upper & lower case manner, such as Gainesville “Mo.”

I hope you enjoy the article.

The Trouble That an Immigrant Had With the Gibson Family
A Pretty Girl the Cause of the Row and Four 
Dead Gibsons the Result Thereof

One of the peculiarities of Ozark county, says Gainesville (Mo.) letter to the New York Sun, if one may believe what the people say, is that while from one to two men sometimes, more are shot to death every year, there never has been a murder. They are “jest killed.” According to Ozark mountain ideas there is but one sort of killing that could be construed as murder, and that would be the waylaying of a man for the purpose of robbery. If a commercial traveler were shot from the brush by one he had never offended and the simple grip were carried off, the murderer, if caught, would be hung.

The hanging would not cost the county a cent, either. A mob would do it.

The killings that occur are generally so much alike that when the story of one is written out one need only change the names of the parties to the fight to have the story of the next killing complete. There was a dispute, then a quarrel. Next time they met one made a motion as if he were going to draw; the other one was a trifle handier with his gun and shot him. One bullet did the job effectually.

An exception to the rule was the killing of the Gibson boys by Hod Miles. Horace Miles was a Massachusetts man, living just above Lowell when in his teens. At 21 he drifted down into Ozark county, Missouri, looking for a country where there was a game in plenty, a good climate, and where the necessaries of life could be had with little labor. He found what he wanted right here. He was somewhat surprised to find that one of the necessaries of life was a big revolver, but he took kindly to the condition of society, and, being a good fellow and a fair shot for a tenderfoot, and withal possessed of enough money to buy a farm, he was welcomed by the people.

Having Yankee thrift, his farm blossomed, and all the pretty girls of Ozark, of whom there are a plenty had their caps set for him, for he was unmarried. He resisted their arch looks and winning ways much longer than one would have supposed possible after seeing the Ozark girls, and it was not until the second winter of his sojourn here that he fell a victim. There is no telling whether he would have fallen even them but for the fact that another young man wanted her and undertook to run young Miles out of the county. Miles was not of the sort to run. He smiled when told of the threats, and said, having learned the ways of the country, to the friend who warned him:“You’ll swear to hearing those threats, won’t you, at the inquest?”

The inquest followed in due course. Miles rival was Dan Gibson. He belonged to one of the best families in the county, had money, as wealth goes in this county, was good-looking and companionable. But for the girl the young men would have continued good friends, as they had been all along.

On Christmas eve there was to be a dance at the hotel. Gibson invited the young lady to go with him and she declined. She knew Miles would ask her, and he did. Gibson sent word to her to order crape for her bonnet, and she sent the message to Miles. Both young men were at the dance, Gibson arriving first. When Miles came in he sent a friend to tell Gibson that he would rather go to the bar-room and have it settled by the word of a referee than to spoil the evening’s fun by watching for each other all the time. Gibson declined to fight.

So the dancing began, with Miles at one end of the room and Gibson at the other. It was a quadrille, and there was room for six sets in the room. The dance was uninterrupted. Then there was a call for the Virginia reel. Miles started across the room to seek a partner at the same moment that Gibson walked across his end of the room for the same purpose. Half-way across each looked at the other, and both stopped. They were about twenty-five feet apart, and no one near either. Gibson’s hand flew to the holster on his hip, Miles’ to the armhole of his vest. The spectators became dead silent in an instant. Gibson drew a heavy revolver, Miles a single-barreled target pistol. At that-his sweetheart screamed, frightened at what seemed his disadvantage.

Her scream was drowned in the crack of the target pistol. Gibson was knocked off his feet as if by the blow of a stalwart fist, and fell dead from the bullet that struck him square between the eyes. Miles put another cartridge in his weapon and replaced it. Then he walked back to the girls, who still trembled with fear, and, patting her on the shoulder, said as quietly as if nothing had happened: “You must not be frightened. One’s enough."

So it was. The target pistol being lighter than Gibson’s navy revolver had been handled a fraction of a second more quickly.

Miles married the girl within three months. Gibson had three brothers. They had declared that Miles should not live to marry her, but somehow neither of them ever “met up” with Miles during the time, and they were not of the sort to shoot from the bush. Inside of a year, however, two of them had had the misfortune to meet him, and both had been a trifle too slow. Both had made the mistake that cost their brother his life, for one had been armed with a shotgun and the other with a big revolver, while Miles had depended on the single barreled target pistol with signal success. The last of the brothers, Jerome Gibson, lived over in Howell county, near West plains. It was a good deal of bother for him to come over to Ozark, hunting for Miles, and the consequence was that he didn’t come very often. It was three year before they met. Mrs. Miles, in spite of the care of a big boy baby, had grown handsomer, as all well kept wives do, and the proudest man in Ozark county was Hod Miles. He had sent all the way back to Boston for a carriage for his wife to ride in, and it got to be a regular practice with him to hitch up on Saturday and drive to town, whether he had any trading to do or not. Gibson heard of the practice and straightway had business in Gainesville on a Saturday. When he reached town he found Miles’s carriage hitched in front and a short distance to the right of John Davidson’s store. Miles and his wife were inside buying something. Gibson walked over to the store and sopped at the doorway for a moment, looking at his man. Miles looked up and saw Gibson, and stepped to one side so as to be out of range of his wife. Then Gibson came in. There were other people in range, and he knew that Davidson would shoot him if any one save Miles were hurt. Besides, Gibson “didn’t have no call to be shootin’ the rest.”

Walking down past Miles, Gibson made a sneering remark about Mrs. Miles.

“Lord, stranger! ye orter seed it,” said Davidson. “Miles, he gathered that ‘ere twine-holder, and fetched him a rap on the temple that stretched him on the floor quicker’n you could flash your eye. I ‘lowed he war dead.”

But he wasn’t. The two clerks and one or two men carried Gibson out, and he revived in a few minutes. Miles made but one comment:

“That was a rather careless thing to do,” he said. “I haven’t even got a toothpick.”
By toothpick in the country is meant a pocket-knife with a 8 1/2 inch bowie-shaped blade. For the first time since the night when Dan Gibson was shot Miles had left home without a weapon. But he went on and finished purchases as coolly as he ever did in his life.
When Gibson recovered from the blow, he drew his revolver and walked out behind Miles’ horses. There he leveled the pistol at the door over the back of one of the horses, using his left forearm to support eh weapon. He might have got behind a big stump used as a hitching-post at the left of the door, but he chose the horses for an excellent reason. He was sure Miles would come out with a pistol in hand. If he (Gibson) were at the left of the door, Miles could shoot at him without exposing more than a head and arm. If Gibson were on the right, then Miles must jump clear out before shooting. But he was not thoroughly acquainted with Miles.
When the trading was done, Miles walked deliberately to the front of the store. Stopping by the door frame, facing the door frame, he slowly bent his body until he could nod his left eye beyond the door from and back, with a motion too quick to give Gibson time to shoot. That one glance enabled him to locate the enemy.

“John,” he said to Mr. Thompson, who was behind a desk just then, entering up an account, “lend me your gun a minute, please,” He was as deliberate as if asking the loan of a tack-hammer. Mr. Thompson passed over the ordinary weapon of the county, a first-class navy revolver.

“It’s all right is it John?” said Miles, and John nodded.

Once more Miles bent his body slowly out, this time holding the revolver in his left hand, with the muzzle up and the hammer cocked. Suddenly the muzzle dropped just outside the door-frame and a cartridge exploded. The weapon was withdrawn and passed back over the desk without even a tremor or a second look out the door.

“Thank ye, John; I’m much obliged to you. Now we’ll go home, “said Miles, in the same quiet tones.

“Lord, stranger, it was a sight,” said Thompson, with hearty admiration in his voice. “It was the prettiest thing ever seed afore or since. His wife was a sight, too. She just got in a cheer, and never did no more nor just blushed a bit when he was walkin’ to the door the first time. She ‘lowed he might not be going to shoot, I reckon.”

They went out and looked at the dead body of Gibson. The bullet had struck him just over the right eyes. The body was placed in Gibson’s wagon and driven away by Livery-Keeper Beals. There never was any inquest held.

“Among the Ozarks.” Morning Oregonian 28.8816 (27 Dec. 1888): 6. Access Newspaper Archive Access. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 11 Nov. 2009 <>.

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 <>.