1818: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in Ozark County, MO

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft: A 200 Year Connection

Reminiscing about growing up in the Ozarks makes me a little homesick to see familiar places. Sometimes seeing the haunts I once ventured can lull me into sentimental mood. Though living in the remoteness of the Ozarks never seemed to bother me, and it has afforded me an awareness and uniqueness of the area that I would never trade. In my corner of Ozark County, I grew up on Lick Creek at a little spot in the road called Mammoth. Though some people have looked at the small size of the community as an oxymoron, others glorified the peculiarity of its name. 

My family and extended relatives settled here generations ago; and still, many can trace locations along Possum Walk & Lick Creek wherein we were taught how to win & lose, raised to respect, learned to worshiped, dreamed of times passed, and wondered the plans of the future. And yes, there were times I was humbled, sometimes in public of my own accord and others in private under the merciful eye of my Father in Heaven. It can seem like small things can be hidden in the remoteness of the Ozarks. Yet, even the insignificant can be revealed years afterward. 

While in my youth, little did I know that someone passed through this small region, faintly noticed, two hundred years ago. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft & Levi Pettibone passed through this region on Lick Creek, a tributary of the Norfork River. In their day the river was called the Big North Fork of the White River. The "corps of discovery" involving this journey is sometimes referred to as the "Lewis & Clark of the Ozarks." The date for the Mammoth escapade was December 5th & 6th, 1818. That’s right folks; it’s time to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Schoolcraft & Pettibone venture through the Ozarks.
Bad Day at Work:
Horse Stuck in the Mud, Lost a Knife & the Wind Cuts
We are blessed that we have a snapshot of this specific moment in time because Mr. Schoolcraft documented his 90-day / 900-mile venture trip through the Ozarks. The first edition, in 1821, was called, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw: from Potosi, or Mine á Burton, in Missouri Territory, in a south-west direction, toward the Rocky Mountains: performed in the years 1818 and 1819. (That's quite a mouth full.) The journal also came out in 1853 entitled Scenes and Adventures in the Semi-Alpine Region of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, which were firist traversed by De Soto, 1541
Concerning Schoolcraft and Pettibone's mishap in on Lick Creek, Schoolcraft writes:
"Dec. 5th. The rain ceased during the night, and left us a clear atmosphere in the morning. At an early hour we completed the package of the horse, and, taking the reins, I led him to the brink of the river, and with difficulty effected a passage. The cliffs which formed the western side of the valley, presented an obstacle not easily surmounted. By leading the animal in a zigzag course, however, this height was finally attained. The prospect, as far as the eye could reach, was discouraging. Hill on hill rose before us, with little timber, it is true, to impede us, but implying a continual necessity of crossing steeps and depressions. After encountering this rough surface about two miles, we came into a valley having a stream tributary to the Great North Fork of White river, which we had quitted that morning, but at a higher point. In this sub-valley we found our way impeded by another difficulty—namely, the brush and small canes that grew near the brook. To avoid this impediment, I took the horse across a low piece of ground, having a thicket, but which appeared to be firm. In this I was mistaken; for the animal's feet soon began to sink, and ere long he stuck fast. 

The effort to extricate him but served to sink him deeper, and, by pawing to get out, he continually widened the slough in which he had sunk. We then obtained poles, and endeavored to pry him up; but our own footing was continually giving way, and we at length beheld him in a perfect slough of soft black mud. After getting his pack off, we decided to leave him to his fate. We carried the pack to dry ground, on one side of the valley, and spread the articles out, not without deeply regretting the poor beast's plight. But then it occurred to us that, if the horse were abandoned, we must also abandon our camp-kettle, large axe, beds, and most of our camp apparatus; and another and concentrated effort was finally resolved on. To begin, we cut down two tall saplings, by means of which the horse was pried up from the bottom of the slough. He was then grasped by the legs and turned over, which brought his feet in contact with the more solid part of the ground. A determined effort, both of horse and help, now brought him to his feet. He raised himself up, and, by pulling with all our might, we brought him on dry ground. I then led him gently to our place of deposit, and, by means of bunches of sere grass, we both busied ourselves first to rub off the mud and wet, and afterwards to groom him, and rub him dry. When he was properly restored, it was found that he was able to carry his pack-saddle and pack; and he was led slowly up the valley about three miles, where we encamped. The grass in this little valley was of a nourishing quality, and by stopping early we allowed him to recruit himself. We did not estimate our whole distance this day at more than nine miles.1

Dec. 6th. Butcher had improved his time well in the tender grass during the night, and presented a more spirited appearance in the morning. We were now near the head of Bogbrook, which we had been following; and as we quitted its sides, long to be remembered for our mishap, we began to ascend an elevated and bleak tract of the Mocama or Knife hills, so called, over which the winds rushed strongly as we urged our way. Few large trees were seen on these eminences, which were often bare, with a hard cherty footing, replaced sometimes by clusters of brambles and thickets. In one of these, a valuable couteau de chasse was swept from its sheath at my side, and lost. I was now reduced to a single knife, of the kind fabricated for the Indians, under the name of scalper."2
Finding Schoolcraft's Trail

How do we know the trail Schoolcraft & Pettibone ventured 1818-1819? First, a there’s a great book called Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft's Ozark Journal, 1818-1819.3 In this edition, Dr. Milton D. Rafferty spent years studying Schoolcraft’s journal, visiting likely locations, and detailing maps. This 1996 book is a classic and should be at the ready reach for any Schoolcraft aficionado.

Next, thanks should be trumpeted to Curtis Copeland, G.I.S.P., Geographic Information Systems Coordinator, for the City of Branson. Curtis recently presented at the latest Ozarks Studies Symposium, hosted by Missouri State University-West Plains.4 Curtis has also marvelously crafted an interactive map detailing Schoolcraft’s journey and campsites correlating with date & location. The layered map is accessible at Schoolcraft Exploration into the Ozarks 1818-1819.5

Curtis Copland'sGIS Map of Schoolcraft's Exploration into the Ozarks 1818-1819.

Additionally, Curtis worked with a crew near Dora, Missouri, to discover another viable Ozark County location Schoolcraft visited November 22, 1818: the Potato Cave. Dr. Jason McCollom, assistant professor of history, Missouri State University-West Plains, also lectured at the Ozark Symposium, “In Search of Schoolcraft: The Hunt for Potato Cave and the Role of the Unlock the Ozarks Project.”6 It is worth to keep one’s eyes on this latter crew to see what else comes to light in the coming years.
A Drive of My Own
In doing recent research, I couldn’t resist taking a quick trip back to Lick Creek. Heading up to Ozark County, I had a Schoolcraft’s journal with multiple highlights and notes scribbled along the side. I recorded the drive on my phone and posted it on YouTube below. This video is a quick trip through Mammoth, Missouri, and it's specific goal is to roughly audit the route Schoolcraft traveled December 5th & 6th, 1818.

YouTube: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft & Levi Pettibone location December 5 - 6, 1818.

The YouTube Shows:
  • The "Bogbrook" Schoolcraft details could be the Jack "Barger Spring" at the beginning of this video.
  • Next, is a portion of the valley wherein Schoolcraft & Pettibone trekked.
  • The next scene is a drive through Mammoth, across Possum Walk Creek, and up the hill to the Mammoth Cemetery
  • About a 1/4 mile down the road from the cemetery is a large 40-acre field. Schoolcraft passed through this field from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. Incidentally, the lone house in this valley is my childhood home.
  • After passing this field, we cross over a small creek Schoolcraft skirted coming up from the Arkansas region, and we dive up partially the adjoining hill to overlook the portion of Lick Creek Valley Schoolcraft documented.
  • Lastly, we drive to the bottom of the hill on the Creek Road to see a foremost part of the slough and travel a 1/4 of a mile to dive over a small, one-lane, concrete bridge  over Lick Creek.
About 2:46-3:50 minutes into this video, a large field can be seen on the left-hand side. Playing in this field across from my home as a teenager, I always noticed a 2-foot difference in the height in the sod that divides the field in half. This area of the field always yielded an abundance of points, projectiles, and scrapers. This area could (could, not definitely was, but possibly could) be evidence of an ancient trace once traveled by Native Americans & Schoolcraft because it was a definitely a path we would watch deer and coyote would run.
Schoolcraft notes he and Pettibone temporarily lose their only horse, Butcher, in the mud & mire along the creek. Most likely this location would be behind the Mammoth Cemetery. This area has a spot that sounds familiar to Schoolcraft’s description.7 This slough begins near the Big Rock on Lick Creek, and it passes intermittently for almost a mile downstream. 

1. Looking downstream from Big Rock, and Fox Knox in the Background. 
               Schoolcraft’s probable Slough on the Right.

2. Standing in Lick Creek & Slough on the Right.

3. Standing on the Edge of the Slough.

4. Standing in Lick Creek, Slough to the Left & Bald Dave / Knife Hills in the Background.

5. Walking through the Slough 35 years ago and Discovering a Fairly Angry (and Hissing) Racoon.
Throughout the 1800’s to the early 1900’s, this was once the old county road. If one walks this ancient trace, evidence of past centuries can be found in this area as bird points, scrapers, and atlatl points lie dormant under the valley’s prairie sod.

I would like to note a few topographical changes in this area over the last 200 years. On December 6th, Schoolcraft mentioned, “Few large trees were seen on these eminences, which were often bare, with a hard cherty footing, replaced sometimes by clusters of brambles and thickets.”8 Today, hickory, oak, and walnut trees cover a vast portion of this area. A question is often asked concerning the growth of trees throughout this region, but according to historical sources, it was not always the cases. Even though the Ozarks had some forests, the region was scattered with high rolling prairies and savannas. 
Excuse the Academics, But it’s Important.
So, Let’s Talk Prairies.
Ladd's book: 
Tallgrass Prairie Flowers
Douglas Ladd, Director of Conservation Science at the Nature Conservancy of Missouri, gave an important lecture on the Ozark prairies on August of 2015 in Harrison, Arkansas. In Ladd’s presentation, he reviewed one of his papers entitled: “Reexamination of the Role of Fire in Missouri Oak Woodland." For any historian wanting to know what the Missouri Ozarks looked like at the dawn of  European exploration, it is well worth securing a copy of Ladd’s paper. I was immediately drawn to his corpus on fires & prairies, as Ladd initiated his first sentence: “Over the past 400 years or more, fires shaped the nature of the vegetation throughout the Ozark Highlands.” 9 In Ladd's paper, he not only draws out Schoolcraft’s quotes, but he also supplies other witnesses before Schoolcraft’s journey and afterward. These witnesses reiterate Schoolcraft’s observation of the prairies versus heavily forested areas. 
For example, in 1750, Father Viver, a French Jesuit missionary to the Illinois, described southern Missouri as “plains and groves, wherein trees are almost thinly scattered as in our public promenades. This is partly due to the fact that the savages (sic) set fire to the prairies toward the end of autumn, when the grass is dry; the fire spreads everywhere and destroys most of the young trees.” 10 Father Viver eludes to the eastern flank of the Ozarks in 1790 as sparsely timbered. Even up to 1859, Swallow mentions, “The stunted growth [of trees] is not, however, due to the poverty of the soil, but to fires which have annually overrun the area.”11 
Additionally, Ladd highlights quotes from Major Amos Stoddard’s observation in of the prairies in Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of Louisiana published in 1812, Stoddard states, “…it is a common practice among the Indians and other hunters to set the woods and prairies on fire, by means of which they are able to kill an abundance of game. They take secure stations to the leeward, and the fire drives the game to them.”12 
Maj. Amos Stoddard’s excerpt on Ozark prairie fires.
In 1824, Gottfried Duden, a Prussian attorney, came to the St. Louis, Missouri, region searching for tracts land for Germans to settle made similar observations concerning Native Americans using fire to control the growth of forests and prairies. At his own expense, Duden published his findings in Germany to convince fellow Germans to migrate to Missouri called Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika's / Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America.  Concerning Missouri and the fires being burnt throughout the region, Duden wrote,” In regions where the Indians are in control, prairies and forests are set on fire.”13 The Native American nation utilizing the Ozarks as their hunting ground at the time of Schoolcraft’s journey was the Osage.
https://amzn.to/2yRt6cbDaniel C. Dey and George Hartman, Research Forester & Fire Ecologist respectively, wrote: “Since the advent of fire suppression in the 20th century, savanna and woodland communities have developed into mature, closed-canopied forests. Tree density and stocking have increased, and vertical structure of woody species become more complex.”14  Furthermore, Schoolcraft mentions “clusters of brambles and thickets, and this description closely aligns with Ladd's definition of  an Ozark savanna.15 It is not hard to imagine cockelburr, briers, and begger's lice woven among the canebrakes & sloughs. Even today, these thistles & native hitchhikers are scattered along the creeks and valley snarling their tentacles along the hollers. 

For anyone interested in reading more on fires altering our ecosystems in the past, I would suggest reading Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by the University of Oklahoma Press, 2009.16
Back to My Speculations
Schoolcraft mentions using “sere grass,” known as tall, dead grass, to clean and dry their horse Butcher.17 Most likely use was Broomsedge bluestem, Andropogon virginicus L., also called Whiskey grass.18
Broomsedge or Whiskey grass
Broomsedge or Whiskey grass

Broomsedge is one of the most abundant species of native prairie grass in Lick Creek Valley, and it has been a common staple in many fields and along the roads. My Dad and I would burn this grass in our field, and we anticipated the new growth of prairie grass sprouting back in the coming Spring. Even today, if I get a slightest whiff of its scorched & pungent aroma, dust its charred remains off my boots, or see a field of blackened grass clumps, it reminds of home.

Concerning the "Bogbrook"19 Schoolcraft writes about, it’s most likely the Jack "Barger Spring" at the beginning of this video. Growing up in this valley, we called this area the Old Sorensen Place. At the base of this spring, lie high ridges, hills & knobs. One knob is known as Bald Dave. The knob and the ridge extending west are regionally skirted with hollows (pronounced “hollers” locally) and creeks flanking its 1102 foot apex. The creeks are known as the Little, John, Pine & Possum Walk. The region is also riddled with hollows have fetched such names as Coon Den, Fletcher, Orchard, Persimmon, Rail, and Cane Patch. Apparently, Schoolcraft labeled Bald Dave and its successive ridges westward toward Pontiac, Missouri, the Macoma or Knife Mountains. From experience, the ascent up to some of these ridges, I can understand the title.
Barger Springs
I would like to mention of Schoolcraft’s couteau de chasse, French for hunting knife, that he lost while ascending the “eminences, or ridges, while leaving the Mammoth area.20 As a native to the area, I have never heard of the moniker "Mocama or Knife hills" given to these hills. From reading Schoolcraft’s journal, it appears he sanctioned this name due to the stiff and cutting winds as they trekked through this area. Additionally, I’m also guessing it doesn’t hurt naming this ascending district Knife Hills due to Schoolcraft losing his couteau de chasse/hunting knife in the briers entangling the cavernous hollows of the region.
March 20th, 1983, view from Fox Knob.
Lick Creek in the foreground & Bald Dave, Schoolcraft's Knife Hills, in the backbround.

Concerning the winds coming whipping off these hills, I believe I experienced this in February of 1979. On one snowy day, I was adventurously flying a classic Black Bat kite in tow with a good 50 lbs fishing line as the wind drew down from these hills in heavy gales. The snow-laden prairie was encapsulated with a quarter inch of ice & sleet on its crust. I laid down on the frozen field, and the winds drug my kite high above the snowy vesper while dragging me across the hardened & crusted snow. It’s pretty much like skiing on one’s stomach with the breath of God dragging a June-bug on the tail of His chariot. It’s one of those unique times, alone and remote on an Ozark prairie, I believed this cutting & cold wind was created for me. That’s quite a thrill for a 14-year-old kid.

A View from Fox Knob.
Lick Creek Valley Field I Skirted Across in 1979.
 Only a Hike & a Wade in Lick Creek from My House.
Arkansas Mountains (Hills) in the Background.
 A Reflection on Signs & No Coincidences
That’s right; I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. As we progress through our lives, we have the opportunity to hear our Father in Heaven’s voice. For those a little hard headed at times...who need a nudge or a sign, His mercy shines through and a sign appears. Sometimes, I need something a little obvious.
This past summer, my wife and I happened to be passing through Michigan, and my wife was driving. As we stopped in traffic at a set of train tracks, the locomotive melodiously clanged on its steel ribbons. As we approached our "spot of hesitation," I looked outside my window and saw my sign. Elated, I had time to unbuckle my seat-belt, scurry out of the van & snap this picture just in time before the traffic began to move. Though it may have looked silly to those behind me, they had the opportunity to watch a redneck sprint across the yard and snap a few pictures. I was not going to miss my sign. Though it seemed like a delay in our destination, there was a purpose for our delay. It was my sign. It was there, at Schoolcraft, Michigan, that the seed of this article was planted on May 31st, 2018.
My Sign to You.
Welcome to Historic Schoolcraft, Est. 1830.
Preserving Our Past, Enriching Our Present, Planning Our Future.
Whether you’re a historian or a sojourner on this earth, I believe there may be a word for you. Pause for a moment, and look for the signs the Father has placed for you.  He is ever-present, and a delay can work to your favor... even when your horse is stuck in a Bogbrook or a freight train is blocking your path.

1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3
Enjoy Your Ozarks’ History
Portrait of Henry Schoolcraft painted by Maria Louisa Wagner in 1852.

Amazon Affiliate Links
https://amzn.to/2yN6oCk               https://amzn.to/2yPbyxB

1. Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw: from Potosi, or Mine á Burton, Which Were First Traversed By De Soto, In 1541; 1818 and 1819. Lippincott, Grambo & Co. (Philadelphia, PA 1853), 83-84. 
2. Ibid., 84-85.
3. Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, and Milton D. Rafferty. Rude Pursuits and Rugged Peaks: Schoolcraft’s Ozark Journal, 1818-1819. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1996.
4. Copeland, Curtis. "Utilizing GIS Technology to Trace the Route of Schoolcraft’s Journey." Lecture, Twelfth Annual Ozarks Study Symposium, Missouri State University-West Plains, West Plains, MO, September 22, 2018.
5. Copeland, Curtis. "Schoolcraft Exploration into the Ozarks 1818-1819." City of Branson, MO: ArcGIS Web Application. Accessed October 09, 2018. https://gis.bransonmo.gov/schoolcraft_3/.
6. McCollum, Jason, Ph.D. "In Search of Schoolcraft: The Hunt for Potato Cave and the Role of the Unlock the Ozarks Project." Lecture, Twelfth Annual Ozarks Study Symposium, Missouri State University-West Plains, West Plains, MO, September 22, 2018.
7. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, 83-85.
8. Ibid., 83.
9. Ladd, Douglas. “Reexamination of the Role of Fire in Missouri Oak Woodland.” In: Burgur, G., Ebinger, J., Wilhem, G. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Oak Woods Management Workshop, Charleston, IL: Eastern Illinois University, 1991: 67.
10. Ibid., 72.
11. Ibid.
12.Stoddard, Amos. Sketches, Historical and Descriptive, of Louisiana. Philadelphia, PA: Published by Mathew Carey. A. Small, 1812: 218.
13. Duden, Gottfried, James W. Goodrich, and George H. Kellner. Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America: And a Stay of Several Years along the Missouri (during the Years 1824, 25, 26, and 1827). Columbia: State Historical Society of Missouri and the University of Missouri Press, 2017:73.
14 Dey, Daniel C., and George Hartman. "Returning Fire to Ozark Highland Forest Ecosystems: Effects on Advance Regeneration." Forest Ecology and Management 217, no. 1 (May 02, 2005): 37-53. Accessed October 8, 2018. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2005.05.002.
15. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, 84.
16.  Stewart, Omer Call, Henry T. Lewis, and Kat Anderson. Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009.135.
17. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, 84.
18. Brakie, Melinda, and R. Alan Shadow. Broomsedge Bluestem. PDF. United States Department of Agriculture:Natural Resources Conservation Service, East Texas Plant Materials Center NRCS Louisiana State Office, National Plant Data Center, & the Grazing Land Conservation Initiative-South Central Region, September 22, 2009. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_anvi2.pdf 
19. Schoolcraft, Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansaw, 83-84.
20. Ibid., 84-85.

No comments: