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Mules and Horses were used around the Homeplace from an early date

Updated on October 16, 2013
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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.

A gray mule

A gray mule with bridle.
A gray mule with bridle. | Source

Mules and Horses were used around the Homeplace

Reading the Summer of 1843 Progress Report of the Founding of the Homeplace (on "The Homeplace Saga" blog), I was reminded that in order to go into the mule breeding business you need both male donkeys and female horses (mares). Mules are the result of that combination and are sterile, so they cannot reproduce. The size of a mule and the work to which it is put depends largely on the breeding of the mule's dam (mother). Mules can be lightweight, medium weight or even, when produced from draught horse mares, of moderately heavy weight, according to Wikipedia.

The following short story, a part of “The Homeplace Saga” series of historical fiction family saga stories, first published here, will likely be included in the collection of short stores in the series to be published in 2014 related to the Founding of the Homeplace.

* * *

The reason to breed mules for farm work relates to this contention made by 'mule people' - they are "more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys."* Both Hugh Truesdale and Victor Campbell, in our stories, subscribed to these feelings, and Jake Patton, Hugh’s father in law, supported them in those thoughts. By the time these three men formed their partnership, “Oak Creek Mule Breeders,” in the year 1840, in what would shortly become Oak Creek Township in the northwest corner of Shannon County, Missouri, each had been raising some of their own breeding stock for some time.

Settlers from across the valley, west, east and central, gathered on the Fourth Sunday of each month south of Jake Patton's General Store for a once a month social day. There was shared potluck dinner, where general announcements of interest to all were shared. In the afternoons, there were social activities, children's games, and music perhaps, and different groups got together for talk of mutual interests. These Fourth Sunday meetings had become a strong tradition in the valley from the first settlements in 1833.

This was, for example, where Hugh and Victor first talked of their strong feelings about using mules for farm work here in the valley versus the oxen that most of the early settlers used. Jake already had grown a number of breeding mares, breeding horses, and saw potential in expanding his own business, which was located centrally, whereas Hugh was in the eastern and Victor was in the western part of the valley. Jake also already owned enough land that wasn't being fully utilized in the central valley that he was pleased to have the opportunity to utilize in the new venture partnership.

As had become their custom in the valley, all of the aspects of the partnership agreement were put in writing so that whether they were successful or a failure, as a partnership, each party to the agreement knew well in advance where they each stood as well as what happened if any of partners was unable to fulfill their obligations under the partnership. Each had found success by operating each venture they approached in this way.

In the beginning, Hugh and Victor each contributed the services of three male donkeys and two mares to the venture along with their knowledge and expertise in the breeding, maintenance and training of mules. Jake proved two mares, a lease to the land for use by the partnership, and general management of the operation along with his two partners. Part-time workers were contracted to perform necessary maintenance functions. Jake made arrangements to use General Store credits as payments for services agreed to and performed. Various barter arrangements were common in the valley and had been common practice since the first settlements.

  • Jackson, Louise A. The Mule Men: A History of Stock Packing in the Sierra Nevada, p. 5 (Mountain Press Publishing Co, Missoula, Montana, 2004). ISBN 0-87842-499-7

Mules used to plow the ground on the farm

Mules working in a pair to plow the field
Mules working in a pair to plow the field | Source

Horse and Mule use near the Homeplace

In each of the following couple of years, the partnership found success and continued to build their herd of breeding stock by reinvesting and careful selection of animals to keep and animals to sell. By the end of the planting season in 1843, the partners decided that they needed a full-time person monitoring and supervising the breeding operation, so they hired Victor's eighteen-year old son, Ralph Campbell, to move into the central valley to take that position.

That same spring, two young couples purchased farms just north of Jake Patton's property in the central valley. Each of these young men was already experienced with working and even training mules for their farm work. Starting in the summer, shortly after Ralph Campbell joined the partnership as a full-time employee, Frances Holt and Jacob Pryor began working for the operation on a 'permanent part-time' basis. With these additions, the business continued to prosper.

In related activities, in 1844, Ralph Campbell and Sally Rhodes (his western valley neighbor) were married. They arranged a sharecrop farming arrangement with Jake Patton on 40 acres just west of town, adjacent to the mule breeding land, and built a house there. Sally worked at the Patton Hotel, where Ralph had been living since he moved to the central valley the prior year.

Later in the year, Jake Patton completed construction of the Livery Stable just to the north of the Patton Hotel along what was becoming called Central Avenue. Ralph Campbell became manager of the Livery Stable as well as his other duties and these operations were conducted as an integrated manner incorporating the donkeys, horses and mules of the combined ownership interests. Careful books were maintained so that each interested party received appropriate credits and reports.

Southern Missouri Cottonwood tree

Southern Missouri Cottonwood tree
Southern Missouri Cottonwood tree | Source


When the town of Oak Springs was platted in June 1848, the western edge ran along the eastern edge of the Oak Creek Mule Breeders pasture area. The Livery Stable was only three blocks away, to the east. There was easy access, all the way around. The road running along the south edge of pasture, and just north of the Patton General Store to the east, was designated Patton Road. Ralph and Sally Campbell’s house was west of the pasture on the north side of Patton road that now extended out along Center Creek to serve the farms in that direction.

Oak Springs was created as a plat of four blocks wide (east and west) and six blocks long (north and south) with Central Avenue running through the center from north to south. Patton Road was two blocks north of the south end of the plat. Each block consisted of 2 ½ acres square, divided into four equal sized lots.

To the north of Patton Road, along the east side of Central Avenue, stood Donagan’s Tavern, the Patton Hotel and the Livery Stable. The blocks on the west side of Central Avenue stood vacant as of the summer of 1948.

When word of the gold rush hit the Oak Springs community and Oak Creek Township, many talked of heading to the gold fields in California. Only one family actually left, to head in that direction. Frances Holt quit is job with the Mule Breeders, sold his farm to his neighbor, Grant Carroll, and headed to Springfield to join a group of “forty-niners” headed to California. Elizabeth Holt left the valley with him, of course, intending to live with relatives near Springfield. No one in the valley ever heard from either of them again, as far as anyone knows.

I look forward to your comments and feedback. Thanks!

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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Good for you. Thank you for sharing. Your story reminds me of listening to my brother, Jim. Been a while since I talked to him. Thanks for the visit! ;-)

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      Noah 3 years ago

      How long do I have to pump before gtietng water? Oh, I'd guess about 3 seconds just long enough to move the handle up and down one time. That's how it works here anyway. For those in cold country, there is usually a weep hole drilled in the drop pipe just below the frost line so that it doesn't freeze. When you stop pumping, the water drains down to the weep hole after several minutes. You would need to pump a couple of strokes to get it going again.Much depends on how the pump is set up. My first hand pump was very much a do it yourself job, and it was not only very hard to pump, it would drain down to the static water level after a day or so of non-use. At that point, it took exactly 21 full strokes to get water. The new pumps have lower volume per stroke, so that would need to be factored in there also.I am very pleased with the hand pumps that I have now. My thinking is that, should the situation arise where power is out for an extended period of time, those who live in the same area (we are on a dirt road with maybe 10 to 20 families on it) would be welcome to use it to pump all the water they can carry. We would have to set a specific time when it becomes a public well , and probably have some sort of security arrangements, but that would also be a good way for everyone in the area to keep in touch with the situation. Being someone who is an asset to the community is a good way to make sure that neighbors look out for my best interest, so my motivation is more than just being a nice guy.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for the visit and comment, Jolene. It is a fascinating world that we live in, if we but pay a little closer attention to details, sometimes! ;-)

    • JoleneBelmain profile image

      JoleneBelmain 3 years ago

      I once knew a person who had a donkey (his name was Peso) and a mule, and he had explained to me about how the mules are sterile. I find that to be so fascinating (I'm not exactly sure why lol). Beautiful creatures anyway. :)

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, so much for your visit, and comment. Many more stories, as well.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 3 years ago from Minnesota

      This is more than interesting information on the importance of mule breeding in the 1800's . It is a historical document, and an interesting one at that from the beginnings of Oak Springs.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your visit and comment, Kevin! Learning something new, each day, is a sign of a life-long learner. That is my aspiration!

      Sounds like the Frances and Elizabeth Holt story might be worth researching. This account was nearly verbatim from some of our (my wife and I) family research. In almost every case we were able to find them... they often led rich later lives... even some who were said to be "killed by Indians" - few actually were, in our research experiences... ;-)

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Interstng about how to get mules. I am afraid of horses, but my sister owned one for years. I like the story.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      Amazing William, I never knew that you needed male donkeys and female horses to get mules. I learn something new everyday. I wonder why Frances and Elizabeth Holt were never heard from again. Gold, Indians, something else? I voted it up, shared it and pinned it.


    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Good for you. I am frankly fascinated by them, myself! ;-)

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 3 years ago

      Very interesting hub, hard to put down. I love them both to death: mules and horses.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for the visit, Peggy. I've really enjoyed creating both of my series of hubs. I hope you, and others, like them as well.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This sounds like an interesting series about the people who settled our country using their wits and skills and of course their helpmates, the horses and mules who were needed to do some of the heavy work.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for stopping by, Eddy. I very much appreciate your vote up plus share! ;-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub and thank you for sharing once again H.I am going to enjoy following you on here and vote up plus share. eddy.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Yes, Abbyfitz, there were/are strong differences of opinion. Some depends on the specific uses, the ground or other tasks being work, family traditions, of course! Thanks for leaving a comment! ;-)

    • Abbyfitz profile image

      Abbyfitz 4 years ago from Florida

      I know they're stubborn, but they're so cute! My grandparents in missouri didn't mules though. My mother said they had draft horses. Don't know why.