When I was writing my book Other Noted Guerrillas of the Civil War in Missouri
and specifically when I was researching the chapter on infamous guerrilla Sam Hildebrand, one of the most surprising things I found out about the man had nothing to do with his Civil War exploits but instead pertained to his family heritage. I was surprised to learn that his great great grandfather, John Hildebrand, was the very first white man to settle away from the early French villages in what later became Missouri. In 1774, he settled on Saline Creek south of St. Louis in the area that later became Jefferson County. I found it rather amazing that there were white settlers in Missouri almost fifty years before statehood. In fact, I was also quite amazed, while studying my own family history, to learn that my earliest ancestors in Missouri came here before statehood. Not fifty years before by any means, but still the idea that I had ancestors in Missouri (the Franklin County area) as early as the 1810s was certainly surprising. So, I guess that's why I identify so strongly with the Ozarks. At least one branch of my family has been here for almost 200 years, and the other branches weren't far behind.