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The Kings of Oak Springs - Episode 57 - 1883 Passed in the Oak Creek Valley

Updated on November 18, 2017
Homeplace Series profile image

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

A new year was well underway

The freshness of spring
The freshness of spring

They played parlor games

Parlor Games book cover
Parlor Games book cover

Kent King celebrated his 17th birthday on April 11 of 1883

The 11th fell on a Wednesday in 1883, and Kent wasn’t really anxious to have a big party this year, anyway. He decided that on the following Sunday afternoon, the 15th, he would just invite his girl friend, Janice Carver, and his best friend and neighbor, Junior Yokum, over to the King farm for a social afternoon. With Junior’s approval, they also invited Lillie Rhodes, a west valley neighbor, a year younger than the other three, to join them. Junior and Lillie were not quite boyfriend-girlfriend yet, but a relationship seemed to be budding, and Lillie seemed to accept the invitation with some enthusiasm. Kent and Janice found this to be quite cute, and even felt some obligation to ‘move the relationship along,’ if it seemed to work out that way.

Katherine and Karla, Kent’s mother and younger sister, served as hostesses and enjoyed watching the interactions of the two couples as they played parlor games, had some birthday cake and punch, and talked a lot. Well, at least the girls talked a lot. Kent was beginning to be able to participate in the small talk, but Junior was still very shy, and mostly quiet. It was obvious, though, that he was generally having a good time, and especially enjoyed having Lillie as his ‘partner’ in some of the games. Kent felt like Junior had a perpetual smile on his face, though he wasn’t sure if it was all joy or mostly a scared, polite reaction to the situation.

All four were approaching the end of the school year, of course, and that was a common basis of some of the discussion among the four. The three older ones were in the Junior Class, of course, and Lillie was a Sophomore. It was easy to tell that she was truly enjoying being a part of the conversations of the three ‘Seniors-to-be.’ They all hated to see the afternoon end, and left with happy smiles and multiple ‘thank you’ words to their host and his family.

4th of July kicked off the summer season

Balloons at patriotic celebrations
Balloons at patriotic celebrations

4th of July and the Annual Fair kept the summer rolling along

The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) - Patton Post - had both the Memorial Day observance and the 4th of July Celebration processes down to a near science as these events got everyone in Oak Springs into the summer spirit. The farm crops were all in and both towns folks and farmers were getting ready for the Fifth Annual Oak Creek Valley Fair set for the first weekend of August. Organizers stressed the ‘Fifth Annual’ aspect of the fair and kept everything about the same as in prior years. They just tried to improve the execution of the plans as best they could. Most folks seemed to feel they accomplished that. This was especially true of the prize and contest winners, of course.

Each year, the annual elections for Town Council and School Board followed right after the Fair. For 1883, Caroline Truesdale had announced in the spring that she would not be running for re-election. She had wanted to simply resign, the prior year, most people realized, but she felt an obligation to complete the term to which she had been elected. She was well respected throughout the community for this. Edward King, a second-generation farmer in the west valley, was elected to a three-year term as her replacement.

The Town Council election was also uncontested for another year, with leading businessmen, Joshua Cox and Jacobi Inman, being re-elected to new three-year terms. The economy was basically still stagnant, and most businesses were simply holding on, hoping a recovery would come soon. It was not a time to ‘upset the applecart’ so to speak. The election reflected that reality.

Harvest time came and went

The fall harvest was successful
The fall harvest was successful

Harvest 1883 and year-end activities

There were rainy stretches and periods that felt like droughts, but overall, the 1883 crops came in fairly well for most of the farmers in the community. For those wanting to sell some of their crops on the market, prices were still depressed, because of the national depression, but generally good yields made returns tolerable. It did not appear that any farms would be changing hands because of defaults, in the valley, and under the current conditions, that was a good sign. The local chamber of commerce would like to have seen a new business or two open during the year - that did not happen - but none closed, either.

Oak Springs was a small rural community surrounded by a rather compact farming community in a small, fertile valley surrounded by rough hills and forests. It had a good history of coming back from the late war, and most of the local folks were very happy to be there. The valley had a history of optimism among the people who settled there as well as among those who had followed. Most of the young people stayed in the valley to raise their families as well. The few who left the valley for other pursuits generally looked back on their experience in the valley with fond memories.

The Karl and Katherine King family represented both of these conditions. Their oldest son, Keith, had enjoyed the farm but had gone off to high school (before the local school was available) and then on to college at the State University where he was progressing well. He returned each year to visit his family. Daughter Kate was planning to marry the local banker’s son and make their home in Oak Springs. Son Kent was determined to stay on and farm the expanded home farm, hoping to marry his local girl friend and raise their family in the west valley as each of them had been raised. Daughter Karla was not yet in a position to know what direction her life might take. Only time would tell. This was true of all of the population of the Oak Creek Valley, and Oak Springs, in the southern Missouri Ozarks, as the year 1883 came to an end.

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks, Larry! ;-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Always interesting.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I take that as a high compliment, Dora. Thank you, so much!! ;-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      The details of the community you describe make me want to visit. I love the history and the present spirit of optimism. Good read!

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Having grown up in a small, rural community, it has been very interesting to observe those who stayed and those who left... for various reasons. Lots of source material there... Thanks for your comment, Sha! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      It's nice to see that the community is a tight one. The kids don't want to leave the town in which they grew up, which makes for strong bonds. It's also nice to see that life goes on regardless of economic conditions.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I once served as chair of a 4th of July Celebration committee back in the 1970s in the Iowa town we lived in, at the time. Hadn't thought of that for some time. Thanks for the reminder! I appreciate each of your visits and comments. ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You mentioned the 4th of July Celebration. In the small towns I've lived, this has always been a major event. The whole town comes out for the festivities. I can only imagine how important it was to the rural towns of 1883. Anyway, thanks for another history lesson.

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