Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bruce Creek Excursion

Reading about history and investigating history can be two entirely different activities. I love reading about history; I’m a nonfiction nut. But when I have an opportunity to explore the real thing, that’s where the fun lies with hidden lessons within. My son, Alex, and I went to explore the mouth of Bruce Creek. To the contrary of opinion, I realize it was discovered before Europeans ever set foot on the continent. But to recorded history, the area was discovered early in the North American exploration by Hernando de Soto sometime after 1541.
According to the book History of Baxter County, Arkansas: From the Beginnings to 1939 by Frances Shiras McClelland, written in 1940 & The History of Baxter County, written in 1973, by Mary Ann Messick, de Soto sent a contingent of men up the White River and came to the mouth of Bruce Creek. It was also referenced in these books that his men and a group of American Indians were mining for gold & silver. As of 1939, evidence could be still been seen of the slag piles that the Spanish produced while looking for precious metals such as gold and silver. No pun intended, but it didn’t pan out.

Nevertheless, copper, lead, magnetic iron, and tin were discovered by explorer Henry R. Schoolcraft in 1818; Dr. John C. Branner, state geologist, & Herbert Hoover found outcroppings of lead and zinc in 1896. Nevertheless, it was on these shoals of the White River & Bruce Creek that de Soto’s men discovered fertile valleys with herds of buffalo and sustenance for the journey.
Notice...concerning the above photo. 

This picture was added for emphasis.
I stole it off the Internet.  
It's actually not stolen.
It's from a government website. I'm a taxpayer...I probably paid for it many times will my children.
The buffalo pictured in this photo are a few survivors that escaped from the starving de Soto scouting party.

Still, with references listed in books, it is always nice to see it in person.

Since time is a nice commodity, I decided to do a little homework & sleuthing in order to make the most of our time. I pulled up Bruce Creek on Google Earth and took a small snapshot & geological survey of the area. I placed “Bruce Creek” & “Baxter County, Arkansas” in the search engine, and this is what I got.

An interesting feature caught my attention when looking at the map. It was the faint straight line trekking from Baxter County Road #1/Denton Ferry Road straight over to Bruce Creek. Looking at a U.S. Geological Survey Map, the line is labeled, “Railroad Grade.”

Quickly looking at the history of this area, tracks were laid on this grade for equipment to be hauled for the construction of Bull Shoals Dam.  

With map in hand, we headed to Monkey Run, Arkansas & Baxter County Road #1.This is the first area we came into heading down into Bruce Creek. The steel tracks and wooden ties are missing today, but the raised grade makes a beautiful trail.

Coming to the end of the grade, we peered off its’ precipice that’s about 25 feet above Bruce Creek. Using our mind’s eye, we imagine the train bridge that once traversed Bruce Creek below.

Scaling down the bank, through the bamboo, thistles, and ground hog holes, we hastily discovered the six concrete foundations that once supported the trestles of the Bruce Creek Bridge.

My son and I are dreamers. We not only talked about the men, the blood, the sweat in building the railroad grade and bridge, but how this was one of the first ways dependable transportation was established in the Ozarks. Not to belittle the importance of the White River and its’ steamboats. The river was fickle due to drought & flood. This railroad was the consistent artery of commerce and travel everybody was praying for.

Next, we wanted to see if it's possible to see any evidence of mining debris or a slag pile. While at the bridge, we couldn't find evidence of mining. Unfortunately, the answer was, "No." It wasn’t going to be that easy. It was probably up stream. Well…it finally came to the decision of crossing the creek and going up its’ tributary. It has been raining quite a bit lately, and the creek is thoroughly flushed and swift. In our “preparation,” we didn’t think of bringing wading boots. Oh well...since we’re here, we decided to make the best of it. I hated for both of us to get our feet wet. So, Alex climbed on my back, and we headed up stream for the first small shoal. This probably looked hilarious. Alex is only about a half an inch shorter than I am. Thankfully, he’s only 115 pounds. We really wanted to see evidence of de Soto’s men and mining.

By the time we made it to the second shoal, we came up on a large group of weathered rocks. Many of them were large and rectangular and squared. They were not from the bedrock of the creek but they were clearly brought to the creek. We looked up from their location to see a large ravine and could see it would be possible for this to be the location of the mine. Although it was not easily seen, I believe we found the slag pile among these stones

Was this the true evidence of de Soto?     Well..he didn't leave a sign or business card. 

Had there been some activity in the past there? Yes. 

Author Frances Shiras McClelland references of personally finding three places of crude smelting efforts and the writer has found both magnetic iron & copper in them that fused but didn't run out.

If you have read my past blogs concerning mining in Baxter County, the Bruce Creek District contained 19 mines, which were the: McCracken, Hawkeye No. 2, Cedar Gap, Rocky Hill, Richmond, Stratton, Old Spanish, Bruce, Wild Cat, Mooney King, Evening Star, Stafford, Sorrell, Big Ike, Bullion Beck, Bruce Creek, Killinger, and Big John. The link to that blog is at:

With all the activity on this creek and trying to discover the originator of the rubble, it kind of reminds me of the old Tootsie-Pop commercial..."How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop?" - "The world may never know."

Opposite of the slag pile & rubble was a small level field that could have easily become a camp. Looking at the composition of the rocks in that area there was a nice mixture of limestone with chert, calcite, and quartz with traces of iron and red marble. Here’s Alex sifting through the rocks looking for remnants of the slag pile and mining traces.

As we were preparing to leave, we came upon a “Discovery!” Remember…every good adventure has an element of surprise, a mystery, or a discovery. This is was a “Discovery!”

It is here…we let our imagination run wild. We were wondering if this rock contains unique markings etched on its’ fa├žade conveying a message. Maybe a map of an unknown silver mine covered by debris…or…ancient  hieroglyphs pleading for help. Or was it some cool haphazard grooves scratched & gnarled by years of weathering and neglect. It’s probably a piece of weathered limestone, but a map to a lost silver mine seems tempting when we’re walking up a cold creek in soggy socks and squishy tennis shoes.

While pondering today’s small adventure, it makes me wonder what else is out there that is slowly ebbing away that once was a vital link of society. As we were looking for the old railroad, a missing bridge, and a forgotten mine, we were also walking along some of the Ozarks’ forgotten foundations. It reminds me of the scripture from Psalms 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? “ Though foundations are rarely seen, foundations can give us stability, purpose, and reminders. Foundations serve as reminders of our purpose and the stability to weather life’s storms. I believe that’s why history is so important. Whether it’s the lessons of Hannibal’s conquest or the slow trickle of an Ozarks’ stream, lessons should be ever present and ever gleaned. It is my hope, Dear Reader, that we all consider our past foundations. Even though Bruce Creek is an obscure trickle in the fabric of the Ozark terrain, it’s still a part of our Ozark History.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Rhyme of History

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
                                                                        -  Mark Twain

Since the founding of Baxter County on March 24th, 1873, the Spanish–American War was the first multi-national military conflicts Baxter County men had the opportunity to serve in. This convenient war took place between the United States and Spain between April & August, 1898. To many Americans, this was not a war of aggression, but it was a needful war for peace on behalf of the liberation of Cuba from Spain.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt & the Rough Riders
charging up San Juan Hill

The acting Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas was the Honorable Jerry C. South of Mountain Home, Arkansas. He led a 65 mile march with 17 young men from Mountain Home, Arkansas, to the train station at Newport, Arkansas. The contingent that left on the spring morning on April 29, 1898 consisted of not only young men from Baxter County, but men from Baxter, Fulton, and Izard County .It was a true sampling of the Ozarks.
Lt. Governor South was commissioned as a Captain in the United States Army. Captain South led Second Arkansas Voluntary Infantry, Company M, until they were mustered out on February 25, 1899. Of the 75 regiments enlisted in the Spanish–American War, Arkansas was well represented with two of them.
How can this be a representation with distinction?
During training for combat, a target competition was made, and the boys from Baxter County won the distinction as the best shots. The title of “Highland Sharpshooters” was conferred on the small group from the Arkansas Company by Major General John. W. Brooks, commanding officer at Camp Thomas, Georgia.

Model 1898 "Krag-Jorgensen" bolt-action rifle .30-40
manufactured by the Springfield Armory in 1898.

On the national scope, it was a small war with 208 men killed in action. Our boys came back without the need to serve outside in continental U. S.  Yet, it was the careful and crowning jewel of a war that enabled us to flex our military might in the Gilded Age. Our young men saw machinery, weapons, cities, and organizations that would forever transform their thinking.
Political partisanship in the U. S. was diverse.

1900 McKinley / Roosevelt
Presidential Campaign Poster

After President William McKinley's assassination on September 14th, 1901, the Progressive Republican Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, came into his own right. There was also a sense that government intervention in the economy inevitably led to favoritism, bribery, kickbacks, inefficiency, waste, and corruption. Mudslinging gained as a favored ploy for the polls. Republicans carried the North; Democrats garnered the South.  The Ozarks showed its’ diversity as border regions with a fair representation for both parties. Local 1900 newspapers reported debates in Baxter & Izard Counties were spirited & cordial.

Here in Baxter County, the Republican Committee was lead by Captain Bodenhamer advanced the charge of this new change in our nation. Many men who supported the advancing efforts of this progressive thinking were members of this club. When McKinley & Roosevelt ran for the Republican ticket, their campaign advertisements were ran on the adage of “Change.”
This continued through 1908 according to The Baxter Bulletin.

August 14, 1908: Political Speaking…Notice. The Democratic and Republican Nominees for the various offices in Baxter County will address the voters of Baxter County on the political issues of the day. Signed B. F. Bodenhamer, Chairman of the Republican Committee & W. F. Eatman, Chairman of the Democratic Committee.

September 18, 1908: There probably never was a race in Baxter County on any cleaner grounds than the representative race in this election between Hon. Ed Smothers, Chairman, and Capt. B. F. Bodenhamer, Republican. There was no personal abuse, no mudslinging. Both of their talks on the stump were forceful talks on the issues, both state and national, of both parties. Such campaigning is a pleasure to the voters and was much enjoyed by the large crowds that greeted them.

There are so many similarities to this era I have been drawn to…it’s almost eerie. Karl Marx said history is linear. But, I  have to agree with Mark Twain. If history doesn’t repeat itself, it must unquestionably rhyme.
Its’ cadence can be seen, pulse felt, and stanzas reverberate.
With the rise if Progressivism…
The veneration of the past Republican Progressive Teddy Roosevelt by today's Hilary Clinton, John McCain, and Barak Obama…
Partisans in Politics…
The mantra of “Change”…
The chant for a war for “Humanities’ Sake”…
And the Banking & Financial chaos in the midst of profit.

As ideas ebb on the scale of history, it is always inspiring to look out and see the past dedication & patriotism that has made the Ozarks History part of the American song.

Krag-Jorgensen Model 1898, bolt-action rifle .30-40 of the Springfield Armory, Springfield Massachusetts. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D. C., 1898.

Marx, Karl. Selected Writings. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, pp. ix-xxxv, 54-68, 209-213. Dean, M. 1994.

(1900) Neill, Arthur. Report of the Adjutant General of the Arkansas State Guard, 1897-1900: Including the Period of the Spanish-American War. Thompson Lithograph and Printing Company. Little Rock, AR.

Remington, Frederic S. Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D. C.. 1908.

Shiras-McClelland, Francis H. History of Baxter County to 1939. Mountain Home, AR: J. W. Daniel and Shiras Bros. Print Shop, 1940.

Shiras, Tom “Political Speaking.” The Baxter Bulletin 14 Aug. 1908, Volume 7, Number 35 ed.: 1A1-1.

Shiras, Tom “The Debates.” The Baxter Bulletin 18 Sept. 1908, Volume 7, Number 40 ed.: 1A1-5.

Twain, Mark. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D. C.. Photograph of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 1907.

William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt Campaign. Advertisement. Administration's Promises Have Been Kept. Aug. 1900.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Growing Up in the Ozarks

I grew up in the heart of the Ozarks, surrounded by a time and culture that has slowly ebbed away. It was in a small place called Mammoth, Missouri. It's south of Gainesville, Missouri, and just a few miles north of the Missouri/ Arkansas state-line. Literally, it was in Ozark County, and you can’t get any more Ozark than that.

Vincent Anderson, Lesa Anderson-Pulliam, Dana Long-Headrick, Lynn Anderson,
Jereldene Anderson, and Jimmy Anderson on Granny's front porch banister

Living in today’s culture, is a totally different time or era than when I was growing up. I am really not that old; I’m only 44. But, times have changed so much. Many people spend hours occupying their time in endeavors that would have been foreign to me. I’ll admit, sometimes I catch myself in trivial pursuits that really have no eternal value. This could be surfing the Internet, texting for hours, and even watching TV. It does sound somewhat hypocritical for me mentioning the Internet, since this is a blog…and it’s posted on the Internet. But as I grew up, TV was sometimes a luxury. We lived so low in the valley that TV reception was not that viable. Therefore, we didn’t have a TV for years. We listened to the radio. We also spent many of those hours we could have been watching TV and did other things. Though at times I complained about not having TV, I was saved from fruitless hours and rewarded with memories I cherish, such as:
  • Going visiting…that’s what we called it. We didn’t need to call ahead of time or make a special time on the calendar. We would just show up…
  • Sleeping with the windows open and positioning for the perfect breeze through the screened windows…
  • Sleeping with the roar of the attic fan on high…
  • The smell of the fresh & humid air as it saturated the sheets at night…
  • The chorus of tree frogs, bullfrogs, crickets, and whip-poor-wills chanting in the night…
  • The huffs of the hoot owls and the haunting shrill of the screech owl’s phantom call…
  • The yelps of the coyotes and the barking yaps of the gray fox…
  • The cry of the bobcat or the scream of a mountain lion/ panther echoing on the banks of Lick Creek which sounds like a lady convulsing in terror…
  • Fishing Possum Walk and Lick Creek for small mouth bass, blue gill, perch, and sunfish…
  • Catching grasshoppers, crickets, and crawdads for bait…
  • Finding and flipping the perfect 4 to 5 day old cow pile that held the juiciest night crawlers for fishing…
  • Stepping on thorns and old nails and soaking my foot in kerosene because Granny said so…
  • Helping my dad load the old aluminum V-bottom boat into the pickup bed and going to Liner Creek on Norfork Lake…
  • Watching the spring floods inundate the Possum Walk Creek & Bridge...
  • The fear of failure I felt… before I pulled the trigger on my rifle and dropped my first deer…
  • The pride of trapping my first gray fox…
  • The panic I felt when it came back to life in my hands…
  • The relief I felt when my dad helped me put it out of its misery for the second time…
  • The dread I felt in seeing my first skunk in a trap…
  • The joy I felt in the sense of knowledge in skinning my own animals on the trap line…
  • The wonder of seeing a herd of 60 white-tailed deer in the fields in front of the Mammoth Church…
  • The early morning breakfasts at Granny Anderson’s saucering hot coffee, eating biscuits, twice toasted toast, soakie, greasy gravy, black-eyed gravy, fried eggs, bacon, and sausage all covered in flour gravy made from grease…basically…a lot of grease…By the way, if you haven’t “saucered your coffee or had “soakie”,” you haven’t lived…
  • The mornings she spent reading to me from the Bible and the afternoons she spent reading to me The Ozark County Times, The Baxter Bulletin, or The History of Baxter County. Then, she would talk about the people she read about or how we were related…

  • Her lunches of black-eyed peas, rice with sugar, or cooked cabbage…all with cornbread…
  • The summer days I spent at her front porch and swatting flies…
  • Covering cousins up in the fallen maple leaves…pretending they were in graves…and jumping out and screaming like it was the Resurrection Morning…

Aunt Phylis, Aunt Velma, Aunt Jesse, Aunt Ruby...and me eying in Christmas dinner at Granny Anderson's.

  • Uncles, aunts, and cousins gathering a Granny’s house every Thanksgiving & Christmas Eve…

Kim Long-Sinor, Lesa Anderson-Pulliam, Roger Anderson
Jimmy Anderson, Dana Long-Headrick, Lynn Anderson, Jereldene Anderson
Jackie Anderson-Jennings, and me

  • Listening to KTLO Radio out of Mountain Home, Arkansas, to hear the most important news of the day…the hospital report, listing all the names of the people who were admitted and released, and the list of the people who died in the area…
  • Going to brush harbor meetings and using funeral home fans to keep cool…
  • Swimming at the Possum Walk Bridge, ole' Baptizing Hole, the Big Rock, or the Hoggard Hole…
  • Skidding down the icy cemetery hill on sheets of plastic & inner-tubes…
  • New Year’s Eve hike & camp-outs…
  • Playing football for Gainesville and always hoping for the next game to be a win...(long story)
  • The glee of watching spot-lighters chasing deer in the field in front of our house…knowing the game warden, Ralph McNair, was watching them from a hay barn...

  • And the work…
  • Hauling & splitting wood…
  • Feeding the chickens & protecting them from the coons…
  • Picking up rocks…gardening…picking up rocks…
  • Picking up beer bottles & beer cans on T Highway because Baxter County, Arkansas, was a dry county until 1978. Therefore, our road was the shortest distance between the honky-tonks on the Missouri / Arkansas state line on Highway 201 North & Highway 5 North…

This whole list thing could go on….and on.
Although no time or era is perfect, in the past or present, these times have helped to mold and form me into the person I am today. Though I cannot go back, I still hold these memories in my heart. At times, I am quickly swept away by some sight, smell, taste, word, or phrase to a little place called Mammoth. After all these years, it is still part of my essence. It is my sampling & experience of the Ozark’s History.
Thanks Dad & Mom.

The old smoke house behind Granny Anderson's house.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mining in Baxter County – Part II

Mining in Baxter County, Arkansas, was an up and coming enterprise and very speculative. By 1901, over 400 mining claims had been reported in The Baxter Bulletin. By the same article, mining claims had been registered in the county starting in 1886. Of some of these mining claims, a geological survey of Baxter County was completed by 1892 by state geologist Dr. John C. Branner.

Some of the minerals collected and verified were:
  • Zinc Carbonate
  • Lead
  • Dolomite
  • Chert
  • Iron
  • Red Marble
Many of the minerals were amalgamated together in a blend. Therefore the jack or mineral ore that had to be processed to get the desired zinc.

While doing the survey, Dr. Branner had a young geology student & assistant named Herbert Hover, future president of the U. S., inspect 13 shafts, prospects, and mines in Baxter County, which were:
  • The Michigan Prospect
  • The Partnership Claim
  • The Gilliland Shaft
  • The Commercial Shaft
  • The Jones Prospect
  • The Big John Claim
  • The Bruce Creek Hawkeye
  • The Hawkeye No. 1
  • The Hawkeye No. 2
  • The Gold Standard Claim
  • The Lost Mine
  • The Halsenbeck Prospect
  • The Bean Prospects

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Districts were also mentioned such as the Bald Dave, Bruce Creek, Jenkins Creek, and the North Fork of the White River area.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

As the years rolled by, The Baxter Bulletin Published a front page article & graphic about the “Lost Mine” owned by the Kimberly Company.
“The most important discovery yet made in this county, and one that is second to none in the Arkansas District, has been revealed by the log of the Kimberly Mining and Milling Co.’s drill on the Last Chance. This company commenced drilling on their property in January, but the inclement weather in February compelled them to temporarily shut down, after reaching the depth of 68 feet. The work was resumed three weeks ago and the hole put down to a depth of 154 feet. At 42 feet the drill passed into a heavy body of ore and continued for 20 feet, then the ore got lighter and showed lead mixed with the jack. This run continued for 32 feet, then passed into a heavy ledge of blend, and this held out any breaks for 60 feet and was still good ore at the bottom of the hole- making an almost continuous run of ore for 112 feet.”
As progress was made, the founding of other mining companies became a norm in Baxter County, and these companies were selling stock to cover the expensive investment of mining in northern Arkansas.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Lastly, as a Tribute to the hard working prospectors & miners, The Baxter Bulletin published a popular poem entitled:
"The Man Behind the Pick
There has been all kinds of gush about the man who is "behind"—
And the man behind the cannon has been toasted, wined and dined.
There's the man behind the musket, and the man behind the fence;
And the man behind his whiskers, and the man behind his rents;
And the man behind the plough beam, and the man behind the hoe;
And the man behind the ballot, and the man behind the dough;
And the man behind the jimmy, and the man behind the bars;
And the Johnny that goes snooping on the stage behind the "stars";
And the man behind the kisser, and the man behind the fist;
And the girl behind the man behind the gun is on the list;
But they missed one honest fellow, and I'm raising of a kick,
That they didn't make a mention of the man behind the pick.
Up the rugged mountain side a thousand feet he takes his way,
Or as far into the darkness from the cheering light of day;
He is shut out from the sunlight, in the glimmer of the lamps;
He is cut off from the sweet air in the sickly fumes and damps;
He must toil in cramped positions; he must take his life in hand.
For he works in deadly peril that but few can understand;
But he does it all in silence, and he seldom makes a kick,
Which is why I sing the praises of the man behind the pick.
He unlocks the bolted portals of the mountains to the stores
Hid in nature's vast exchequer in her treasure house of ores.
He applies a key dynamic, and the gates are backward rolled,
And the ancient rocks are riven to their secret heart of gold.
Things of comfort and of beauty and of usefulness are mined
By this brave and quiet worker—he's a friend of humankind;
Who though trampled down and underpaid, toils on without a kick;
So I lift my hat in honor of the man behind the pick.

                            Click on picture to enlarge  poem.

I would like to thank Brenda Johnson for her valuable help in acquiring the Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1892.

Anonymous. “The Man Behind the Pick.” The Baxter Bulletin 1.32 1 Aug. 1902: 9.
(1892) Branner, John, C. Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1892. Thompson Lith. and Ptg. Company. Little Rock, Ar.
Shiras, Tom. “The Mineral Field: The Kimberly Mining and Milling Company Couple work with Faith and are Rewarded.” The Baxter Bulletin 06 June 1902 Volume 1, Number 24 ed.: A1-1.
White River Mining and Development Company. Advertisement. An Opportunity of a lifetime11 July 1902: 29. Published in: The Baxter Bulletin.