Meet the Folks - Ep. FO2 - … of Oak Springs - Duncan Boarding House
Duncan Boarding house had a big front porch
In the fall of 1877, Joseph Cox and Abner Wingfield jointly purchased Lot 1 of Block O in Oak Springs and built on the lot a Boarding House facing on Central Avenue. They contracted with the widow Amanda Duncan to operate the establishment that was named the Duncan Boarding House. Amanda’s husband, Michael, had died the prior March, following a brief illness, at their farm home in the west valley. The Duncan and Cox families were neighbors there for many years before Joseph and Tetisha Cox had moved to their new home in Oak Springs a few years earlier.
Immediately following the death of her husband, Mrs. Duncan stayed with the Cox couple for several months. The Cox sons, Coleman and Roy, planted the crops on the Duncan fields and had agreed to harvest the crop for her, on shares, as well.
Mrs. Duncan officially opened the Boarding House for business on November 1, 1877. It was anticipated that her guests would be a mix of long-term and short-term in nature. Business was slow to build, but rates were set so that half-capacity was break even. The first six months were below that level, but at or above that level thereafter.
They had a large dining room
The Duncan Boarding House
The house had two floors, with the upper level having four rooms for singles, two rooms that would accommodate two persons, and two rooms adequate for a couple with small children. The lower level had a nice parlor, a large dining room, a good-sized kitchen, and an apartment for Mrs. Duncan. There was a porch along the front of the house on Central Avenue. On the back of the lot there was a small barn, a carriage house, and a large kitchen garden along with the privy away from the house and the water pump near the house. Mrs. Duncan had, at any given time, from one to three girls/women working for her preparing and serving meals as well as performing household cleaning and maintenance tasks.
Some of her regular, though not long-term, guests were salesmen traveling through town who would stay from a single night to several days at a time. Several of them kept rooms booked ahead for two or three months when they knew their travel schedules. These were the salesmen who sought the more complete accommodations during their visits to town.
With the valley continuing to grow during this period, another class of guests were often couples, who were visiting looking for property, or, who had already bought property and were awaiting their houses being built or completed. This was especially true in late winter and into the spring. One of these was Earnest Potter, and his wife, Cordelia, and their two small children ages 2 and 4. They arrived in mid-January of 1879 and stayed until their home in the east valley was completed in late April. Having the children in the house created an ambiance like nothing else could do. Everyone missed the children when they moved out to their own farm home in the country.
The Reverend went for an evening walk
A typical evening meal with the residents
The Reverend Willis Bailey became the first really ‘long-term’ guest when he arrived in mid-1879 with intent to assist local families to establish a Methodist Church in the community. He requested a “doubles” size room, so that he could have visitors without feeling cramped. He knew when he arrived that his visit could last from a couple of months to possible a couple of years, so the Duncan Boarding House met his needs very well. He was 47 years-of-age and single.
Young Ellis Prince was the second ‘long-term’ guest, arriving in July of 1879 with a teaching contract for the following year with the subscription schools in town. He was hired away from his position in Houston because he could both teach the upper elementary students of Alex McDonald, who had resigned, but also teach some needed High School courses. Prince was 29 years-of-age and single.
In January of 1880, Clyde and Minerva Orchard moved into the Duncan Boarding House as they took over their new Grocery and General Merchandise business, from the Owens family, and awaited the construction of their new home in the southern part of Oak Springs, just to the south of their store. The Orchards were each 45, both worked in the store, and their two grown children did not come with them.
Seaborn Carr arrived in February of 1880, as the new Clerk at the Oak Creek Savings Bank. He was 26 years old and had just completed the banking program offered by Washington University in St. Louis. He had a lady friend back there, but wanted to assure this position offered the stability he hoped and expected it would before making further commitments.
Dr. Ollie Seaman, Dentist, arrived as a new resident, just a few days in May 1880 before Clyde and Minerva Orchard moved out and into their new home. Dr. Seaman was 32 years old, and was opening his office in the Preston Office Building. He hoped the renovations and equipment would all be in place so that he could open his office on Tuesday, June 1.
All residents were expected to be present at the 6 p.m. start of the evening meal at the Duncan Boarding House, unless they let Mrs. Duncan know they would be absent prior to noon of the day of the meal to be missed. All six residents were expected on this particular evening, and there would be no others for this meal. The meal this evening was a pot roast, with boiled potatoes and fresh cooked carrots (from the garden) along with hot rolls and fresh butter. Served family style, the serving dishes were passed around as soon as the girls brought them in under the direct supervision of Mrs. Duncan. Immediately upon arrival of the food, Mrs. Duncan asked Rev. Bailey to bless the meal, which he did, quickly and briefly. Tradition was that passing began immediately thereafter, and everyone began to eat as soon as they had their food.
Conversation picked up as the first ones done eating were finishing, and seconds available were passed around. There were always seconds available for those wishing them. Mrs. Duncan saw to that. She knew that a ‘full belly’ made for happy guests.
Rev. Bailey said that he would miss the Orchard couple when they left, but knew they were anxious to get into their own home, living closer to their store. They each agreed, but suggested their evening meals would not be nearly as nice as this one, which they would miss, a lot. They each thanked Mrs. Duncan for the great meal. This was followed by additional ‘thank you’ expressions from those around the table.
Fresh baked apple pie was served for dessert. Conversation ceased as all ate their pie, followed by compliments to Mrs. Duncan, again, for another outstanding finish to their fine meal.
Small talk prevailed. Dr. Seaman gave brief updates of the progress on his office. Ellis Prince said he was pleased to have been offered a new contract for the coming year. Seaborn Carr just smiled when asked about his lady friend. Rev. Bailey was noted to generally speaking little, but he listened a lot. When he did speak, everyone listened closely.
Shortly, Mrs. Orchard excused herself to join Mrs. Duncan in the kitchen; she said to ask about that apple pie recipe. Reverend Bailey said it was time for his evening walk. The rest of the men adjourned to the parlor for their customary cigars and business man-talk.
View from an evening walk after dinner
Note from the author
This is the second episode of a new short story (FOx) series, Meet the Folks | … of Oak Springs. Each episode will explore, at first hand, some folks who lived in Oak Springs c. 1880. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. These episodes are around the 1880 time frame, following by a couple of years 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 FOx episodes provide depth and background stories 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.”