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Eli Rhodes, Oak Creek Township Fiddler

Updated on July 9, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

My Grandma's Fiddle

My Grandma's Fiddle
My Grandma's Fiddle | Source

Learn about Eli and his family

Eli Rhodes, Oak Creek Township fiddler

Every rural Ozarks community had a fiddler, and in the Oak Creek community, in 1846, that was Eli Rhodes. Eli's roots were from deep in the hills of western Virginia, but he was born in Kentucky, like so many others here in this valley in the Ozarks.

Eli and his family arrived in the west valley in 1838, just two years after the Campbell family, to the north and back upstream on the Western Branch. By 1846, Eli was 41, his wife, Emeline, was 40. They had six children: Delia, 17, Theodosius, 14, Kaitlin, 11, Luke, 8, Mark, 5 and Rose was a 1 year old. Their oldest daughter, 19 year-old Sally, had already married Ralph Campbell and they lived on a small farm just west of town. Ralph worked at the Livery Stable and Sally continued to work at the Patton Hotel.

Eli always brought his fiddle to "Fourth Sunday" meetings each month. This one Sunday, each month, was a long tradition in the Oak Creek valley, established by the first settlers in 1833. It continued in 1846 with virtually all residents converging for a pot-luck meal, at noontime, and spending the afternoon as a social day at and around the Community Building on the south edge of the centrally located town, just south of the Patton General Store.

Some Sundays, of course, there were discussions the men needed to have to coordinate their seasonal activities around crops, roads and bridges, or other important events. Usually, however, there came a time, early or late, when Eli would get out his fiddle and start to play. Usually, everyone gathered around to enjoy the music. Sometimes he was joined by a banjo or another fiddler. Recently, Eli's son, Theodosius, had taken up the banjo, and joined the group performing.

Eli's favorite songs included Buffalo Gals, Arkansas Traveler and Turkey in the Straw. He also liked the patriotic Yankee Doodle and America. Do you remember the words:

The original novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories - if you have not read them, they are new to you!

Turkey in the Straw

As I was a-gwine down the road,
With a tired team and a heavy load,
I crack'd my whip and the leader sprung,
I says day-day to the wagon tongue.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Went out to milk, and I didn't know how,
I milked the goat instead of the cow.
A monkey sittin' on a pile of straw,
A-winkin' at his mother-in-law.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Source: Turkey In the Straw:

Folk music to consider

Buffalo Gals

As I was walking down the street
Down the street, down the street,
A pretty gal I chance to meet
Under the silvery moon.
Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight?
Come out tonight, Come out tonight?
Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight,
And dance by the light of the moon.

I asked her if she'd stop and talk,
Stop and talk, Stop and talk,
Her feet covered up the whole sidewalk,
She was fair to view.
Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight?
Come out tonight, Come out tonight?
Buffalo gals, won't you come out tonight,
And dance by the light of the moon.

Source: Buffalo Gals:

A fiddler making his music, just like Eli


Fiddle Music - You like it?

Do you like old-fashioned fiddle playing music?

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Other of Eli's favorites

Here are the others, as well:
Arkansas Traveler:
Yankee Doodle:

The novella in "The Homeplace Saga" series of stories

Oak Creek Township in 1846

The Oak Creek valley was first settled in 1833 when eleven members of what were and would be become five original families came across what would later become the Houston Road from the Big Piney River lumber camps to the (fictional) valley formed by three western branches of the infamous Current River, in the far northwest corner of Shannon County, Missouri, deep in the southern Missouri Ozarks mountain country.

Four of those first settler families settled along Oak Creek, the more substantial of the creeks, in the eastern valley, where the big creek, spring fed from the north, created a falls off the ridge before meandering to the south and south east to join the Current several miles to the south. One of the founding families, Jake Patton, and his wife, Kate, located their farm, including his blacksmith shop, off of the Center Creek. This location, by 1846, was the site of what would become the town of Oak Springs just a couple of years hence. The post office, Oak Springs, was located in the Patton General Store (Oak Creek was not available in Missouri at the time, already used, so it became Oak Springs!).

Victoria Patton, Jake and Kate's only child, married Hugh Truesdale in September of 1833, that first year, upon her reaching her sixteenth birthday. Hugh was the youngest of the men to arrive in the valley that first year, wanting to "make it on his own" as a farmer. His parents had wanted him to join them in their mill operation. Hugh wanted to be a farmer, farming primarily with mules. By 1846, he was well on the way to establishing himself in just that manner. He was very popular across the valley, and beyond, as a proponent of the use of mules in farming.

Owen Olson and his wife, Anna, also arrived in the Oak Creek valley during 1833. Jake and Kate sort of took them under their wing from the start, and they played an increasing role in the eventual Oak Springs community in the central valley. Besides farming just to the east of the Patton's, Owen apprenticed as a blacksmith and Anna worked in the General Store.

Victor Campbell and his family were the first to settle on the Western Branch, followed by the Eli Rhodes family and others. Jake Patton played a large role, from the very beginning, in building an unusual cohesion among the settlers in the valley, and it continued as exhibited by the ongoing acceptance, and even embrace, of the "Fourth Sunday" and other community-building concepts. Each family was totally independent, and liked it that way. But, they also found benefit in the community cooperation both for self-protection and grown potential opportunities.

Forested valley along the stream

Forest by the stream
Forest by the stream | Source

The latest novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of stories

The Rhodes family in the valley

Eli Rhodes had known Victor Campbell in Kentucky when they were young men. When Victor Campbell moved to this area, he kept up an occasional correspondence with Eli. A couple of years later, Eli decided it was time for his family to make the move west, as well. It appears from the full involvement of the family in their farming endeavor and other valley activities that by 1846 they were pleased with their decision.

The land they claimed and worked was very similar to the photo above, taken not too far away. The land along the Western Branch was not quite as steep, but was hilly with some fertile land in the valleys along the spring fed stream, such as the Western Branch.

Hope you enjoyed learning about Eli, the Fiddler.


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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Mel, how very nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. Lots of stories to share, here and on my other accounts. Hope you'll choose to read and comment on a few more! ;-)

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      This was a wonderful story, Bill! I bet Eli made wonderful music. Although I am familiar with both Turkey in the Straw and Buffalo Gals, I just realized that I did not really know the words to either. Thanks for sharing this story and the music!

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for you visit, ocfireflies. The Ozarks are much like the area along the Blue Ridge. Folks from there, settled here. I love to visit each area. Love the music, needless to say! ;-)

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Good Morning! I was not sure where to start so I began with this one. I am hooked and look forward to following the lives of Eli and families.

      I live in the Appalachian Mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in NW NC. Both of my sons are musicians. Lots of the places seemed like places you would see around here. I have never been to the Ozark Mountains, but hope I will get to see them someday.



    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks, Eddy. Your words of support are much appreciated! You are indeed an inspiration here in Hub world!! ;-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      How interesting H ;sorry its taken me a while to get back to reading your hubs but my weeks have become slightly hectic to say the least. I have been catching up on here like mad today. However this is not a task as I love reading hubs and yours no exception. This gem I thoroughly enjoyed and vote up plus share for sure. enjoy your weekend.