Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pauline Starke

I have known for a long time that several people who went on to become well known in the entertainment and film industry were born in or otherwise had connections to Joplin. Ones that come immediately to mind include Dennis Weaver (Chester on Gunsmoke), Robert "Bob" Cummings (who starred in movies and had his own TV show during the 1950s), and Percy Weinrich, a ragtime composer in the early 1900s known for such songs as "Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet"), and John Beal, a serious actor who played opposite famous actresses like Helen Hayes and Katharine Hepburn during the 1930s. One famous actress from Joplin that I, however, was not aware of until very recently was Pauline Starke (photo below). She was born in Joplin in 1901 and went on to star in silent films during the late 1910s when she was just a teenager. Her fame continued into the early and mid-1920s but began to peter out in the late 1920s. She lived until 1977, however, dying in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 76.
There might be one or two other lesser known people from Joplin who succeeded in show business or the entertainment business, but these, I think, are the main ones. Certainly there were other famous people, such as the poet Langston Hughes, but I don't really consider writing poetry show business, even though Hughes did, I think, sometimes give public readings of his poems.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Towns' Changing Names

I've written on this blog before about the fact that many towns in the Ozarks (and presumably elsewhere as well) eventually adopted a name other than the one by which the place was originally known. Sometimes the name was changed to honor a prominent resident of the area. Other times it was changed to honor an outsider, such as a railroad official when a railroad first reached the community. Sometimes it was changed simply because the citizens decided they liked a different name better. One of the most common reasons for changing the name of a community, however, was the fact that the postal service often rejected the original name when the community applied for a post office, and the main reason for this was that a community by the same name or a very similar name already existed in the state.
Here is a list of some of the many places in the Ozarks (current name followed by original name) that changed their name because of postal service objections to the original name: Competition, Mo.--Newburg; Crane, Mo.--Hickory Grove; Dadeville, Mo.--Millville; Fair Play, Mo.--Oakland; Olean, Mo.--Proctor Station; Sarcoxie, Mo.--Centerville; and Willard, Mo.--Robberson.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Affair on Lane's Prairie, Maries County, Missouri

The guerrilla warfare in Missouri during the Civil War was characterized by raids, sabotage, and occasional atrocities. Most of us know about the big massacres, like the one at Lawrence, Kansas, carried out by Quantrill, and the one at Centralia, Missouri, carried out by Bloody Bill Anderson. However, there were numerous smaller massacres, occasionally involving civilians but more often involving soldiers who had surrendered or were attempting to surrender. In fairness, it should be noted that Federal soldiers as well as Confederate-allied guerrillas were guilty of such atrocities, but in honesty, it should also be admitted that the bushwhackers were guilty of more than their share. (Given the desperate situation the Missouri guerrillas found themselves in late in the war, their occasionally resorting to extreme actions can perhaps be somewhat understood, if not condoned, but let us save that argument for another day.)
One minor atrocity of the guerrilla warfare in Missouri occurred in Maries County when about ten men of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry under Sergeant Legrand Carter went out on a scout from Rolla on May 26, 1864. Northwest of Rolla on the Waynesville to Vienna road near Maries Creek, the soldiers met a party of about twenty guerrillas dressed in Federal uniforms. According to civilian reports after the fact, some heated words were exchanged between the two parties as the soldiers apparently tried to ascertain the identity of the blue-clad strangers. The witnesses said the two parties then moved off together (the soldiers apparently being herded as prisoners) into some nearby woods, where the guerrillas opened fire on the Federals. Some of the soldiers broke and ran and made their escape, but the sergeant and four of his men were shot dead.
A second Union scout went out from Rolla the following day and found the corpses of Sgt. Carter and his four comrades still lying in the woods, minus their weapons. In addition, Carter's body had been stripped of his pants and boots, and someone had put a pair of old worn-out shoes on his feet in place of the stolen boots. The second scouting party ascertained that the guerrillas had left in the direction of Waynesville after killing the Union soldiers, but nothing was discovered to indicate who their leader was. So, on the 18th, the second scouting party gave up its hunt after the culprits and returned to Rolla.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Springfield During the Civil War

In my book Civil War Springfield I touched on the fact that the town was overrun with refugees from southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas (mostly Union sympathizers trying to escape the bushwhackers who infested the rural areas), and I mentioned the poverty and miserable living conditions that many of them faced once they reached Springfield. In browsing the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, I recently ran across a letter written by a Springfield correspondent in early April of 1863 that further illustrates what I was talking about in the book.
Colonel William F. Cloud had recently replaced General Egbert B. Brown in command of the District of Southwest Missouri and had issued several orders upon assuming command. One of the orders had to do with removing offal from the city precincts. Estimating that there were no fewer than 2,000 "dead horses, mules, pigs and cattle lying unburied in and around Springfield," the correspondent welcomed the directive. "Upon a warm spring day," he continued, "the stench is even now unbearable and is the sure presage of a sickly season."
The carcasses were to be gathered up and hauled two miles west of town, and the work was to be done by prisoners under guard. "Commanding officers will henceforward be required to keep their camps clean," concluded the correspondent, "and the sanitary condition of Springfield will thereby be greatly improved."
Not surprisingly, another letter from Springfield, written by the Reverend Frederick Wines and published in the same newspaper a few days later, mentioned the tremendous amount of sickness in Springfield. He said a statement published in the Daily Missouri Republican a week or two earlier that many people had died in Springfield from a lack of food was not true, but he said at least a hundred had probably died just during the past winter from sickness and a lack of proper medical attention.

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