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Episode OS4 - 1st Qtr 1878 - Life in Oak Springs and More
It snowed and snowed that winter
January 1878 brought snow, winter visits, and planning for the New Year
Keith King enjoyed his holiday visit in the parental Karl and Katherine King farm home but realized that it felt less and less like ‘home.’ He had completed the fall semester of high school in Jefferson City, where he lived with his aunt Ann, and her family. He worked part-time some evenings and on weekends in the mercantile business of her husband, Mr. Walters, and enjoyed that very much. In school, he excelled at his new college preparatory courses, and had begun to look forward to going on to Columbia to the university upon graduation. Life on the farm of his parents had begun to seem filled with ‘sameness’ rather than the many new challenges he faced each day in Jefferson City. Kate, Kent, and Karla, his siblings, were now the focus of his parents’ attention, he could tell; even as proud of him as they were, and said so. Life was moving on.
The day that Keith left on the stagecoach for Jefferson City it had begun to snow and, as it turned out, it snowed for three days, leaving piles and drifts of snow everywhere throughout the Oak Creek valley. Even long-time residents said they could not remember this much snow in January before. And then, the temperature plunged, and remained below freezing for nearly two weeks, some nights below zero. There was no melting of the massive quantities of snow. Folks made do by using up unusual amounts of firewood that they had accumulated. Most felt the need to go cut more, lest they run out, and freeze. Such was life in the Ozarks of southern Missouri.
With all the snow, and the extreme cold, building projects were put on hold, of course. Planning for spring and summer continued, with plenty of time to do it. The High School Planning Committee kept at their work, diligently, their time passing by quickly as the Fall 1878 opening approached, minute by minute. Wingfield and Cox were frustrated that they could not be working on their rental houses, but were already thinking of, perhaps, developing another block in Oak Springs. Word seemed to have gotten out, and they were receiving query letters from prospective tenants. Farmers across the valley, while working hard to feed and protect their animals, were looking forward to spring planting, a couple of months away.
Two babies were introduced this month
February 1878 was a reversal from January weather
The end of January weather was more moderate, nearly normal for a week or so, and the snow began to melt. This was followed by early February when temperatures soared into the fifties, many days, and there was some flooding from the snowmelt runoff. Many people in the valley felt that false sense of spring that could so often overtake Ozark residents this time of year, with a few warm days. Old-timers, like Blacksmith Owen Olson, however, mostly just smiled and chuckled at such talk, knowing that more winter weather was just waiting over the northern horizon to swoop down and bring reality back to the valley residents.
This was also the winter that Owen had decided to turn over the Blacksmith Shop to his son, Liam. Liam had seemed to overcome the loss of his close friend, David Baldridge, and had become fully engaged in work at the shop. Owen and Anna, both aged 65, though still enjoying good health, recognized that it was time to ‘slow down’ a bit. Each would continue to work, but on a reduced time commitment. Anna enjoyed helping out at their General Merchandise store, though their daughter, Allison, was now in charge. Their grandson, Aden, who would be two in March, also took up much of Anna’s time, so that Allison could concentrate on her store duties. They had other employee’s of course, but both still felt a strong sense of responsibility to see that customers were served properly.
Two babies were announced at the February Fourth Sunday gathering. The first was George Mason, Junior, son of G.W. and Margaret Mason. The second was Abby King, daughter Edward and Lilly (Johnson) King. Both sets of grandparents were in attendance, George and Marcia King, and Lawrence and Lucinda Johnson, of rural Oak Creek Township.
A new blacksmith came to town
March 1878 reminded everyone that spring was yet a dream
March 1, it was a Thursday, brought five inches of fresh snow, along with a 20 mile per hour wind, to make life miserable again, for a few days. This time, however, the temperatures moderated after those first days, and stayed mostly in the mid-forties for a couple of weeks. Farmers could begin to make preparations for crop season. Town folks could go about their work in a more routine manner. Firewood could be gathered without urgency.
On Wednesday, March 21st, two young couples arrived on the stagecoach intent on making their new life in the Oak Creek valley. Twenty-four year-old Bryce Taylor, and his bride, Cissy, had come from Franklin, to the north, where he had been an apprentice blacksmith. He had heard that the local blacksmith shop might be able to use an assistant, and they had decided to check it out. They were able to get a room at the Duncan Boarding House, and Bryce made his first visit to Owen and Liam Olson at their shop. Twenty-two year-old Mathias Tombridge was a carpenter. He and his bride, Callie, had come from Rolla, and he hoped to get on with the Wingfield construction crew. They took a room over the tavern until they could determine whether they would be able to stay and find work.
Each of these new arrivals had learned of the possibility of work in Oak Springs from the business members’ committee work the prior year that had sent out letters to friends in communities across the state seeking to draw in new people to the community as the economy seemed to be picking up. These seemed to be the early fruits of those efforts.
Owen and Liam Olson welcomed Bryce Taylor to their shop. Taylor talked about his background, his preparation work and his interest in demonstrating that he could make himself useful, if given the opportunity. Owen and Liam perceived that Taylor was worth giving that opportunity to see what he could do. There was work to be done, and this might just be a great opportunity to see how the shop would work, with Owen cutting back on his workload, without overburdening Liam.
Note from the author
This is the fourth episode of a new short story (OSx) series, Life in Oak Springs. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. This episode is for the First Quarter of the calendar year 1878, following the 40 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs” stories. That series had followed the time period of the “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below. These OSx episodes move the story forward for the entire "Saga" series.
The first 20 episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into an eBook, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol 1." The second 20 episodes will become Vol 2. See the link, below, to get yours.
“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”