Jake Patton Memoirs - JP1 - In The Beginning
Lumbering in the Pine Forests Attracted Many Workers From Far and Wide
From the Author
This series of stories, JPx, is part of a first draft of what I hope and assume becomes a published novel in support of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories. It features the self-told story of one of the original settlers of the Oak Creek Valley, Colonel Jake Patton. Some, including him, would say he was the leader of the group. He had a very big ego, that is for sure, but he always tried to make it look like what he was doing was for the benefit of the community. And, of course, it was. But, there was always something in it for him, as well. He managed to grow the inheritance he was fortunate to receive from his father into something that left a nice trust fund for his descendants. We’ve already seen some of these stories, earlier, in the Saga tales. Come along, and let’s see how Colonel Patton tells his own story…
Note: I will publish JPx hubs, from time to time. I will write occasional notes at Patreon about Jake Patton. I may write other things elsewhere. These are each a part of the creative process to create the true first draft of a novel. You, my readers, can take part in this effort at www dot patreon dot com slash HomeplaceSagas. Join us there Today.
They sought a valley with a stream
My name is Jake Patton. Now having reached my 70th year, I must follow through on my promise to write my memoirs. My father made guns for George Washington in the Revolutionary War. I came along a little later, 1798, and after the turn of the century I went west to Missouri to seek my fortune. I’ve done that well. I helped settle a wilderness valley in the southern Missouri Ozarks. I helped build a community there. I saw it totally devastated by the War between the States, the Civil War. I recruited and led a Cavalry Regiment during that war. Along with friends, I helped rebuild that community, Oak Springs, into the prosperous town and community it is today. It is quite a story, and I’d like to bring you along on my ride through that history.
I was born the youngest son of Cyrus and Clara Patton in 1798 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. My parents were natives of Carlisle, as well. My father, like me, was a blacksmith and a gunsmith all his life. He was born in 1756 and as a young man made guns for George Washington, among others, at the Thomas Butler Gun Shop. That would have been 1776 to 1781, a number of years before I was born, of course. I mention it now, however, because my father, like many of his time and now, greatly admired General Washington. He encouraged me to adopt many of the traits and habits people associated with their understanding of what made Washington a great man. This started with his integrity which he had valued from his youth. He grew up on a strict code of conduct that he adhered to throughout his lifetime. I have tried, as best I could, in my own way, to do the same.
Since the story of my adult life is really wrapped up in my involvement with the development of Oak Springs and the Oak Creek Valley, let’s start the story there. I will fill in much of the background details in flashbacks and shared story telling, as the Oak Springs stories develop. I had been working in a blacksmith shop in Jefferson City, Missouri. One of my regular customers was Eli Truesdale. Sometime in 1828 he began talking seriously of going up to the lumber camp area of the Big Piney country in what is now Texas County to build a saw mill. He asked me if I would come along with him, set up my own blacksmith shop there. He said he would give me plenty of work. We went up in the spring of 1829 to do that. By the spring of 1830, I was well enough established to bring along my wife, Kate, and daughter, Victoria.
Would there be farm land available in the valley they sought?
Life at the Lumber Camps
Large and small companies of all kinds were involved in the cutting of pine trees in the area, floating them down the Big and Little Piney Rivers, the Gasconade River, and down to the Missouri where they brought high prices from the many developers in the growing central Missouri territory. It was 280 miles from the headwaters of the Gasconade and it’s feeders to its junction with the Muddy Missouri. These were north flowing waters off the major ridge divide (roughly from St. Louis to Springfield) rather than south flowing streams. Many emigrants from states to the east, like Kentucky, arrived to serve as workers, both directly involved in lumbering and supporting the lumbering businesses. Towns were not yet formed, but services of all kinds were needed to support the many people employed to meet the needs of the lumbering business.
My blacksmith shop was one of several set up around the area, serving all manner of needs, from shoes for horses, mules and oxen, to complex metal work required by the many mills and other businesses in support of the lumbering operations. I quickly got to know a lot of people in the area, and found that I had a talent for generating trust and support from many of them for my work and my integrity. One of my observations was that most of the workers in the area, regardless of current ‘occupation,’ were there to make money quickly, while the boom was on. While many of those workers quickly squandered their earnings, there were others, many of them with families, who had specific plans for their future with their savings. It was some of these people that I was most drawn to. I had a vision for my future and the future of my family as well. I soon found myself working closely with a small group of others with compatible plans and dreams.
Early on during my time at the lumber camps, I had fallen into discussions as well with itinerant travelers that passed through the camps as they roamed the state. There were preachers, traders, explorers, and others who just seemed to enjoyed traveling from place to place, spreading the gospel or trying to make a living by trading and traveling. From many discussions with them I found that much of the land south and east of the ridge, where the waters ran south, was yet to be settled. It was largely virgin land. There were many hills, valleys, streams and rivers where no one lived on a permanent basis. Indians still roamed the territory hunting during season, but even they were vacating the land and moving west and south. The idea of locating a vacant valley, along with others, to make our own settlement, and eventually a community, began to grow on me. It became stronger as I listened to and talked with some of the others I knew who I found shared that dream.
This all occurred over a couple of years, of course, while each of us was heavily involved with our individual work, whatever that was. It didn’t come about overnight, it evolved over time. The participants in the discussions changed some, from time to time. By the middle of 1832, however, for myself and a few others, a fairly solid, clear idea of what we really wanted to do had morphed into some pretty specific plans, with clear selection criteria of what we sought and how we wanted to go about it. We had become eleven people, men, women and children, who were committed to a specific plan, and we were ready to carry out this plan to build our future from it.