NARRATIVES of the OSAGE RIVER
By Dwight Weaver
The mighty Osage River, often called the “Hudson of the West” in earlier decades, has
a watershed covering a rural area of 15,300 square miles that includes a portion of eastern Kansas, and a large portion of west central and central Missouri. It empties into the Missouri River about 15 miles downstream from Jefferson City, Missouri.
The main channel contains the combined waters of three streams – the Little Osage, the Marmaton and the Marais des Cygnes (mar-uh-duh-seen), all of which originate in eastern Kansas. These three streams merge about 20 miles northwest of Nevada, Missouri, on the Bates-Vernon county line to form the Osage River. The river also receives water from other significant tributaries in its meandering through the prairies and hills of Missouri, such as the Sac, Grand, Pomme de Terre and Niangua. The river has 360 miles of waterways in Missouri and a total length of nearly 500 miles when the Kansas streams are included.
Named for the Osage Nation, the indigenous people of the region when Europeans and Americans began to settle along its banks in the early 1800s, the river presented significant navigation difficulties for the settlers due to its frequent flooding, its torturous meanders, and its abundant shoals and islands. But there were exceptions.
THE LITTLE STEAMER AND ITS LOAD OF SALT
One daring river-man who navigated the Osage in the days before the Civil War, gave the following account of a remarkable trip from the mouth of the Osage to Suns Point in Bourbon County, Kansas. It is probably the farthest point upstream ever reached by a steamboat. The tale was told by Richard Fugus, who was the boats carpenter on the trip.
“The steamer was itself named the Osage. The hull was laid and launched at Linn Creek in the winter of 1856-57 by the owners who were residents of Linn Creek. The hull was towed to St. Louis where the boat was finished. It drew nearly three feet of water with a cabin capacity of 75 passengers, double engines, double boilers, and side wheels.
“Major Melton placed Elijah Melton, his brother, in charge as clerk and the Osage made regular trips for eight months in the year from St. Louis up the Osage River, often as far as Papinsville in Bates County, Mo., but more frequently going only to Osceola in St. Clair County. Those were boating days on the beautiful Osage River and as many as eleven boats have been tied up at Warsaw, Mo., at one time.
“Before the war the freight and passenger service made a profit to the owner of the boat and $1,500 was not an unusual amount for the round trip. The crowning feat in navigation was in taking a cargo of two hundred tons of salt to Suns Point in Bourbon County, Kansas.
“The Civil War had destroyed the boating service on the Osage River, and salt was so scarce that a pound would sell at times for one dollar. They knew if they could get it to the western counties of Missouri, the people would pay a handsome profit for it. With George Crawford, an Osage River pilot, the boat was loaded to its capacity with salt in barrels and sacks and the voyage began.
“At Osceola the news came that heavy rains for a week at the headwaters of the Osage in Kansas would keep the river at high water marks and Crawford, the daring Osage River pilot said he would try for Suns Point, or failing, he could stop at Bell View, a few miles below. Suns Point was reached at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the following day, and the river bank was full but very narrow. It was so full that the presence of the boat forced the water out of its banks on to the low land. In an hour the water began to fall and all hands rolled off the salt. Everybody who would work was hired for help. The unloading continued all night without interruption until 4 o’clock in the morning.
It was then observed that the narrow stream was not wide enough by ten feet to turn the boat around. Every available tool was put to use by deckhands and the bank of the river was dug down low enough to allow the stern of the boat to back into it; and by the aid of ropes and capstan the turn was made. The unloading was completed and at 5 o’clock the race for deep water began. The wood supply was running low when a woodyard (sic) was seen in the distance on the bank some thirty miles below Suns Point. No time was lost in tying up and appropriating all the wood in the yard, and the little steamer was on her way to escape the shallow water. The mouth of the Osage below Jefferson City was reached before noon the following day.(The Daily Post, Jefferson City, Sept. 7, 1912)
(Illustration: The Nellda, an Osage River boat that worked the Osage in the early 1900s. It was owned and piloted by Sam and Nellda Salsman. The boat was powered by a kerosene engine and provided some living quarters for the Salsmans; circa 1917; photographer unknown; courtesy Camden County Historical Society.)
PHOTO:Perceptions.jpgCAPTION: Out of the mouths of babes. How the childhood sweetness and perceptions of a small boy could create smiles on the faces of a dozen other people within his world.
Grocery store. Drug store. Car wash. Library. Just some of the half dozen or so stops on a busy pre-holiday weekend. Family was coming over for the Easter holiday, and we were tagged as the host destination. Well, I could pretend to grumble about that, but I'd by disingenuous if I did. Because we love it when the kids and the family get together at our place. Any old excuse is good enough for the McCain house when it comes to family and big tasty holiday meals and such.
That's from where the bus route known as store hop-scotching is derived. No city bus was slower, or made more stops, than a typical McCain shopping fest in anticipation of a holiday eating event. So forgive me if I was wound a little tight about it all. Step one: Drop Beth off at the closest locale to the front door, red painted curbs be darned (for a second or two, anyway!)… Then put on my NASCAR headset and play Beat the Granny to the closest parking space. I'm telling you, Beth's bribery of lunch at the Home Town Buffet loses its appeal after the fourth Sumo Match of the day over the elusive car parking spot. I'm serious when I tell Beth we need to buy a helicopter.
So, surly me sat in the car with the windows cracked like a loyal golden retriever as Beth zigzagged the aisles of our local big box (them kids of ours do know how to eat!) when I witnessed something that will forever be in my heart. Worthy of one of those "Last Thoughts" they describe when you're in the process of checking out of this big world. In fact, as I write this I once again feel the lump the size of a cue ball growing within the confines of my stout neck.
It happened like this: Dozens of shoppers were pushing their grocery laden buggies to and fro, performing what could be described as one of those musical flash mobs one sees on the internet these days. In this case, it was more of a crash mob as the frowning shoppers did all they could to avoid colliding with the cart pushers landing within their personal space. The scene got complicated when a gentleman in his fifties who had a very advanced case of cerebral palsy tried to make his way to the door through the bumper carts of groceries. The frowns got frownier as the push-carts were forced into all stop to let the man pass.
I'll tell you, it looked painful. The contortions the man went through just to put one foot in front of the other seemed so debilitating. He looked like a rag doll in a windstorm that would fall and blow away at any moment. Though he was doing well, I couldn't help but worry about him and wish him the best. And I hoped the other shoppers would cut him some slack. Then the bleakness and pity of the moment changed in an instant.
It happened that one of the aforementioned shopping carts came with a red headed, freckle faced four-year-old with a smile the size of the moon. He wasted no time noticing the man and pointed right at him. I cringed. Please, kid, don't make fun of the poor soul.
"Mommy, look! That man is dancing!" he said, with all of the innocent glee that only a boy of four could muster. Then he trotted over to the man and looked up at him square in the eye and said, "Boy, mister, you really are a very good dancer!"
The man smiled back and entered the store. The shopping carts stood still. And every wrinkled frown that had been displayed until that moment was immediately replaced by pure sunshine smiles. The kid had no idea. He just continued on, looking left and right and left again before giving his mother the all clear that it was okay to cross the ramp over to the parking lot.
So it is all about perceptions. The adults saw only the negative: A guy who was afflicted by some awful physical malady. The child saw dancing. And such a good dancer he was, said the boy.
Maybe it's time for us all to see the dancing. It certainly can't hurt. And it certainly didn't hurt that afternoon in a crowded and bustling parking lot full of overwrought consumers on a singular mission. So once again, out of the mouths of babes. You know, life isn't really all that complicated. Especially when there's dancing.
REMEMBERING THE OLD HIGHWAY TO BAGNELL DAM (Part 4)©
By Dwight Weaver
The narrative for Part Three of this series explored the history of Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppe and Nickerson Farms Restaurant, which once sat along old Highway 54 (now an abandoned segment of highway known as Midway Road) a short distance south of the junction of highways 54-52 in the Eldon area.
In Part Four, we simply step next door to visit the former MAX ALLEN’S ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, a roadside attraction that was at first typical of the small privately-owned roadside zoos so popular with vacationers in the Ozarks in the 1950s, 60s and 70s (See building photo courtesy of Dr. Max Allen Nickerson). All that exists there today are the rock ruins of a long, narrow, one-story roofless building with vacant window openings staring out at people passing by on Midway Road like empty eye-sockets.
Ivan James “I. J.” Nickerson, the owner and developer of the Nickerson Farms restaurant chain, opened Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens in 1951. The Nickerson family sold appliances and had businesses in Albany, Rock Port, Mound City and St. Joseph, Missouri, before moving to Eldon. They named their animal attraction for their son Max Allen who, from early childhood, had a strong interest in animals, reptiles in particular. By the time Max graduated from high school he was so dedicated to the zoological gardens and herpetology that he began running and moderating the garden’s first television programs on a local scale. Three years later he organized and led his first collecting trip outside the United States to obtain live specimens for the gardens. The field trip went as far as Guatemala in Central America. (See the 1968 photo of the author’s daughter, Karen, at age eight, sitting on the back of the garden’s giant turtle.)
With Max at the helm, the zoological gardens was transformed from a run-of-the-mill roadside attraction into one of the most respected zoological parks in the world featuring live reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds. Max also began working towards academic degrees in the field of zoology. He obtained his B.A. degree from Central College of Fayette, Missouri, and his Ph.D in Zoology from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.
All of this was good for the Nickerson family roadside attraction south of Eldon. Of course with Max often away on field trips to obtain new animals and to expand his education and contacts, he had to maintain a staff of six to eight people (many of them college trained) back home to keep the zoological gardens up and running. His mother Ruby Maye Nickerson was closely associated with the management of the gardens.
A visitor to the zoological gardens could see exotic live snakes like reticulated pythons, deadly cobras and mambas as well as common species from Missouri and the Ozarks such as copperheads and rattlesnakes. Sometimes Max would demonstrate the milking of snakes for their venom. The venom could be sold for use in medical research and the creation of anti-venom. The value of this activity would be realized when one of his employees, A. E. (Ed) McDaniel, was bitten by a black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) one of the world’s most deadly snakes. In Max’s own words: “I had just completed my German language exam requirement for my Ph.D at Arizona State University, Tempe, when I got the call about Ed’s bite. I provided information on which anti-venin [sic] was needed and had him taken to the hospital. I then called the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (AAZPA) anti-venin officer, Dr. Herndon Dowling at the Bronx Zoo, and started the process of getting anti-venin coming in from there and the Oklahoma City Zoo. We did have one vial of polyvalent mamba anti-venin at Max Allen’s, but it would require many 10 cc vials to counteract the bite of a large mamba. The anti-venin from Oklahoma arrived first on a jet fighter which arrived at the Jefferson City airport and was transferred to the hospital at Tuscumbia by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Ed survived the bite and perhaps didn’t receive much venom from the bite or our quick action reduced the venoms effectiveness.” (From the author’s personal communication with Dr. Max Allen Nickerson in 2004)
Not all of Max’s field trips were far from home; many were taken in Missouri. One of his favorite haunts was the wetlands and swamps of southeast Missouri where he and his students could find highly venomous cottonmouth snakes. And yes, he sometimes got bitten. One such bite cost him the first two knuckles on his right index finger.
It was field trips in the Ozarks that introduced Max to the endangered Ozark Hellbender, an ancient species of giant salamander. Once plentiful in Ozark streams, they are scarce today. Dr. Nickerson has studied the Hellbender for more than 30 years and is one of the world’s leading experts on the animal. He still prowls Ozark streams with his students in an effort to better understand and protect this fascinating creature.
Dr. Max Allen Nickerson’s accomplishments as a professional zoologist are extensive and impressive but the list is too long to cite here. He currently lives in Florida and is associated with the University of Florida at Gainesville.
Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens thrived for several decades. When U.S. Highway 54 was upgraded to a divided highway and bypassed their business location entrance, Max built a new building along Highway 52 at the northeast corner of the Highway 54-52 overpass and continued to operate for several years. That building is now being used by Mid-Mo Liquidators.
Remembering the Old Highway to Bagnell Dam ©
By Dwight Weaver
Part One of this series remembering old Highway 54 north of Bagnell Dam explored the history of the roadside from the north edge of Eldon to the junction of 54-52 south of Eldon. The second section of the old highway actually begins at Lake Ozark Speedway, a section now called Twiggy Road. The Twiggy Road segment is one-half mile long and junctions with Highway 52 across from the north end of Midway Road, another portion of old Highway 54 that was abandoned in the mid-1970s when the current stretch of divided Highway 54 was opened. Along Twiggy Road on the south side are Earth Angelz and Reed’s Wrecked Cars. The acreage behind Reed’s building, which is now a storage area for wrecked cars, was a 20-acre practice golf course in the 1930s and part of Musser’s Ozark Resort property. The main portion of the resort was located where the Phillips 66 truck stop is today at the junction facing Midway Road.
The first commercial building erected at the junction of 54-52 was very likely the William Cahill gas station, known as the Model Station. It was a two-story brick structure that also had living quarters for the Cahills. It sat between the present day Silver Dollar Restaurant and the Phillips 66 Station truck stop. William and Amelia Cahill bought land here in 1926. At some point shortly afterwards, Phillips 66 of Kansas City acquired an interest in some of the property. The Cahill Station sold Phillips 66 products.
Gay’s Tavern arrived in 1933 after Gay S. and Flora Lucas bought 10 acres from George M. and Barbara Nettleton. Gay’s Tavern sat where Silver Dollar Restaurant is today and was a rock building veneered with field stone. Gas pumps were added later, with a canopy over the top and neon lighting, giving Cahill some competition.
Everything changed in 1936-37 when the Musser Tavern Company, owned by Clarence W. Musser, began buying and consolidating property at the junction, including the Cahill Station and Gay’s Tavern properties. His attorney was L. N. Musser of Kansas City, apparently a family member who was invested in the enterprise. Clarence Musser planned a huge development. Within a few years the resort site included a 2-story, 8-room hotel, 10 cottages (which sat across the highway where the El Rancho Car Wash sits today), a filling station, ladies bath house, gents bath house, 38- x 60-foot swimming pool, a three-room office building, a 20-acre practice golf course, a water tower with a 10,000 gallon water tank fed by three deep wells, a barn, a chicken house, an enormous ballroom and nightclub facility , tennis court, camp ground, coffee shop, café, and liquor store.
With so many amenities to offer travelers as well as locals, Musser’s Ozark Tavern prospered and became known far and wide as one of the best resorts in the entire Lake region. Musser, a lover of jazz music, hired black orchestra’s from Kansas City to play in the ballroom to overflowing crowds. It was a place where politicians and other notables came to stage their events.
Musser was a controversial individual said to have been hot-tempered and to have had ties to the corrupt Tom Pendergast establishment operative in Kansas City at that time. It is rumored that he didn’t like to leave a paper trail, paid in cash and often worked his daily cash transactions out of a cigar box. He had his enemies and often went armed.
In January 1941 a fire destroyed much of the resort. Some people believe it was arson of one kind or another. He rebuilt but on a smaller scale. Then in 1945 Clarence Musser exchanged gunfire with another man in Eldon. His opponent was killed. The trial had a change of venue to Jefferson City. Musser pleaded self-defense and won his case but in the process sold the resort to Jefferson M. and Sylvia Mitchell of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Jefferson Mitchell had ties to the Phillips Petroleum Co. of Kansas City.
One year later the Mitchells sold the business and property to James E. Hannaford, Francis J. Biselx and James H. Lawrence, three young men who went into partnership after finishing their tour of duty during World War II. The new owners renamed the business El Rancho of the Ozarks. In so doing, they unintentionally bestowed the name El Rancho Junction on this meeting of Highways 54-52, the only name many locals know the intersection by and a name now preserved by the El Rancho Car Wash.
As time passed, Jim Lawrence and his wife Martha bought out the partners and became sole owners of the business. Martha Lawrence died in 1992 and shortly afterwards, Jim retired and sold the property. Jim died in January 2009. All the buildings on the property that were once a part of Musser’s Ozark Resort or El Rancho of the Ozarks were removed by the new owners except for a small, ivy-covered, gable-roofed well house that sits on the lawn out in front of Heritage Inn. Ironically, Phillips 66 Petroleum Co. products are still sold at the junction.
For more history on Musser’s Ozark Resort and El Rancho of the Ozarks, see the author’s book: History & Geography of Lake of the Ozarks, Volume One.
Midway Road continues on southwest for two-and-a-half miles. Part Three of this series will delve into the history of the Nickerson Farms Restaurant and Max Allen’s Zoological Gardens, once prominent business establishments one-half mile west along Midway Road.
(Illustrations: William Cahill Model Station, circa 1930; photographer unknown; from the author’s collection. Musser’s Ozark Resort, circa 1940; photographer unknown; from the author’s collection.)
REMEMBERING THE OLD HIGHWAY TO BAGNELL DAM©
By Dwight Weaver
The narrative for Part Two of this series began on Twiggy Road (formerly part of old Highway 54) near the Lake Ozark Speedway and traveled south to the junction of Midway Road and Highway 52. Silver Dollar Restaurant, a Phillips 66 Truck Stop and Heritage Inn and Suites are located here today, but in the 1930s it was the location for Gay’s Tavern, William Cahill’s Model gas station and Musser’s Ozark Tavern. From the 1950s to the 1990s, it was the location of El Rancho of the Ozarks.
In Part Three we journey further south along Midway Road going by an electrical substation on the right, then around a curve in the road. There is an overgrown field to the right, which was the location of an oak sawmill operation in the 1970s and early 1980s. On the left today is Handy Jon. The office building occupied by Handy Jon housed a café in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just a bit further, on the right is the former location of two very prominent attractions in the 1950s, 60s and 70s – Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppe and Nickerson Farms restaurant. All that marks the location today is a concrete slab. Toward the back of the lot is a mobile home.
Travelers of the 1950s could not miss seeing these two businesses, first because the high-peaked roof of the large Nickerson Farms restaurant building was a brilliant red, and the Stuckey’s building sat close to the old highway. Many travelers were familiar with the Stuckey’s brand name because it was a chain known best east of the Mississippi River. The Stuckey’s business here was the first one built west of the Mississippi River and was established in 1957 by I. J. Nickerson of Columbia, Missouri.
Stuckey’s carried a wide variety of candy, sold many varieties of honey, and had a colony of bees with the hive built into the wall of the building. The author can remember once standing before the clear glass window that separated the active bees from the interior to watch the bees as they made their honeycomb and raised their young. It was a fascinating and educational exhibit for which there was no charge.
The building that housed the restaurant was quite large and built in the Tudor style of architecture. It had a steeply-pitched roof with gable ends and had half-timber cross gables decorating the exterior white walls of the restaurant. The restaurant could seat up to 100 guests and the author can remember eating there at various times. They served excellent meals ranging from hamburgers to steaks.
The Nickerson Farms headquarters was located in Eldon for a time. For a look at the distinctive architecture that characterized the Nickerson Farms restaurants, one can drive down Oak Street in Eldon. Their former headquarters building is along Oak Street across from the fire station. The former headquarters building also displays another feature characteristic of Tudor style buildings – tall, narrow, multi-paned, paired windows.
The Nickerson’s stated their goal in their advertising. It was “to have the cleanest, friendliest, most courteous stops on the nation’s highways, and to sell the finest products available at the best prices possible and to give fast efficient service to all of our customers.”
The Nickerson’s were in the right place at the right time to begin their ambitious plan for building a chain of Nickerson Farm restaurants across the nation because the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized the construction of 41,000 miles of Interstate highways. Interestingly enough, Missouri was the first state in the nation to begin Interstate system construction. Within a few years the Nickerson’s had their restaurants in 17 states. You could see them from miles away because of their bright red roofs and they were generally located as close as possible to a major off-ramp.
Nickerson Farm restaurants were not franchise operations. They were wholly owned by the Nickerson’s who hired managers to run each restaurant. The author can remember being in their headquarters building in Eldon in the 1960s and marveling at the rows of desks, each occupied by a lady with a busy telephone responsible for a particular group of restaurants at some far away location.
But back home at Eldon, where they built their very first restaurant, which just happened to be on the road to Bagnell Dam, matters weren’t always smooth sailing. It is said they had differences of opinion with W. S. Stuckey of the Stuckey chain over whether to serve complete restaurant meals, as the Nickerson’s wanted to do, or just fast food. The first ads for Stuckey’s called it a “candy shoppe” but then it became a “pecan shoppe.” Not long afterwards the Stuckey’s building was remodeled to house the restaurant. A peaked-roofed pyramid-style canopy with a brilliant red roof was built to protect customers from the weather while filling their gas tank in front of the restaurant.
Nickerson Farms restaurant remained in business to about the year 1980.
Part Four of this series will focus on Max Allen Nickerson’s Zoological Gardens, which was located next door to the Nickerson Farms restaurant. Max Allen is the son of I. J Nickerson. The Zoological Gardens was more than just the dream of a young man who became fascinated by reptiles when he was a teenager. The Zoological Gardens became a precursor to Max Allen’s academic future and fame as one of the nation’s leading zoologists.
(Illustrations: A typical Nickerson Farms restaurant, from a postcard, photographer unknown; the original Stuckey’s Pecan Shop near Eldon, from a postcard, photographer unknown; a view of the later modified Stuckeys-Nickerson Farms restaurant operation near Eldon, photo courtesy of Dr. Max Allen Nickerson.)
HEADLINE: Our Own Pawn Star
SUBHEAD: High End Collectibles and Museum Quality Wares Worth a Visit
By Lee McCain
Be on the lookout for a bright red 2010 Grand Sport Corvette when you're driving the streets of Lake Ozark, Missouri, and when you spot it screaming down the road make sure to tip your hat to Richard Brown and his canine friends, a Red Pomeranian named Elizabeth and a gorgeous pure white German Shepherd called Crystal. Sure as anything they'll be coming or going from Richard's Relic Shack, a museum quality high-end collectibles establishment that has been in business for over a quarter of a century.
"Every day my customers tell me I should charge admission to see all of the fine merchandise we carry," the affable septuagenarian said during our interview. "We carry an extremely diversified inventory ranging from swords, knives, fighting weapons, Native American tribal relics, and of course guns and other valuables of interest to the collector."
Brown also deals in precious metals, high quality coins and currencies, "and finer things like antique glassware; basically, we have something for everybody here."
A REMARKABLE HISTORY
Richard Brown enjoyed a career as a civil service employee working in defense, and in 1960 he began attending gun and collectible shows where he dealt and traded on weekends and other down time he had away from his day job. Brown and his wife, Marilyn (who passed away a few years ago) parlayed that success into the retail store he has operated out of for the past twenty-five years. In addition to the collectibles side of the business, the Brown's embarked on one of the oldest and most respected businesses in the world: Pawn brokering.
"We've been pawnbrokers for many years," Brown related, "and while it's always been a good and steady business, I've never seen it quite like it has been during the recent economic times we've seen."
Pawn brokering at its core is a very straightforward exchange. A person in need of some immediate cash can bring something of value to the broker, who will offer up a loan based upon the value of the object. The broker holds the item in pawn until the owner pays off the loan plus interest, and then the owner reclaims the possession that was held in pawn.
"Pawn brokering provides an honest, reliable service and helps people who would otherwise have no means to secure a short term loan," Brown says. He is also quick to add that the interest rates are much lower than what a bank would charge on a typical credit card. "Way lower!" Brown also notes that since the debut of the A&E network's Pawn Stars television series, the public's perception of what pawn brokers do has gained favor. "We provide our customers with fairness, honesty, and integrity at the highest level," Brown says, "and that's what our customers tell us every day."
Brown is especially proud of the coins, currencies, and precious metals part of the business. "Again, we carry museum quality coins which are a sight to behold, and we also deal in scrap precious metals as well."
Richard's Relic Shack is offering something that Brown and Tammy Greer, his store manager for the past decade, believes the public is going to be very excited about. In fact, it's worth a phone call to Brown or Greer so they can explain all of the details, but in a nutshell customers can bring their precious metals or coins to the store and obtain a determined value for the item against the market price for the precious metal. "Then," according to Brown, "we'll hold the coin or the metal for 90 days. The customer can retrieve the item if they like with adjustments for the value of the piece, plus a small fee. We think, with the holidays approaching, this will really be something our customers will appreciate."
Brown says that he can even negotiate extensions past the 90 days should the customer need the extra time. "We like to do everything we can to let our customers know that we're on their side and that we value them above all else."
To visit Richard's Relic Shack you'll need to get yourself down to 1192 Bagnell Dam Boulevard in Lake Ozark. There's no Web site, e-mail, Facebook page, or cell phone. "I don't even have a computer," Brown chuckles. "I've managed for 75 years without one, and I figure I can go a little longer without all those gadgets."
Oh, he does answer the telephone at (573) 365-6062. And when you talk to him you'll quickly realize that the truest value at this unique and amazing store is Richard Brown himself.
Visit the Bagnell Dam Strip today and say hello to Richard
THE MIRACLE CITY OF THE OZARKS – LINN CREEK©
By Dwight Weaver
Less than one mile northeast of Camdenton on U. S. Highway 54 is the town of Linn Creek, a community called “The Miracle City of the Ozarks” or “New Linn Creek” in the 1930s and 40s.
The Linn Creek of today is not the original Linn Creek but a re-birth of Old Linn Creek that once sat one mile upstream in Linn Creek valley from the creek’s confluence with the Osage River. The town is three miles from that confluence and the waters of Lake of the Ozarks fill most of the valley’s lower three miles. The original site of Old Linn Creek is now beneath 40 feet of water.
Old Linn Creek was first settled about 1841 by Benjamin R. Abbott, who operated the first store. Before that, Aaron Crain operated a ferry at the mouth of Linn Creek. A second confluence nearby was that of the Niangua River. Crain ferried passengers across both the Niangua and the Osage rivers. By the early 1850s, Joseph W. MClurg had settled at this location. After the Civil War, Joseph McClurg briefly became governor of Missouri. He was Linn Creek and Camden County’s most distinguished citizen of the late nineteenth century. By the time Bagnell Dam was built and Lake of the Ozarks formed in 1931, Old Linn Creek had a population of approximately 500.
The people of Old Linn Creek had the choice of selling their house and property to Union Electric, who built the dam and formed the Lake, or they could sell their land and have their house moved to a new location. Many of the people chose to sell out and build a new home elsewhere or in the new town of Camdenton. A few actually had their houses moved to Camdenton while others had their houses moved a couple of miles up Linn Creek valley to the location of New Linn Creek. There are today more than a dozen occupied houses in Linn Creek that were originally in Old Linn Creek.
“Mounting their residences on rollers and skids, wrecking and re-building other structures, moving stocks of merchandise and places of business, Linn Creek was transplanted . . . up the valley out of the reach of the rising waters,” said The Daily Capital News and Post Tribune newspaper in Jefferson City in 1931. “This was done virtually overnight. New values, new ideals, new visions were created, and thus the new Linn Creek gained the appellation of “The Miracle City of the Ozarks.” (See a partial view of downtown New Linn Creek in the early 1930s, photo by an unknown photographer.)
Linn Creek Cove, its shores not burdened by towering bluffs and precipitously sloping hillsides, was conducive to development and hosted several of the Lake’s earliest fishing camps and resorts such as Art Luck’s Fishing and Hunting Resort. Art’s place was located right up the hill above the former site of Old Linn Creek. His guests could boast of fishing in the waters over Old Linn Creek, thus it was that fanciful myths and legends were born, stories often believed by people unfamiliar with the history of the moving of Old Linn Creek. It was said you could see the buildings of Old Linn Creek beneath the water and that when the Lake was low a church steeple jutted above the surface and the steeple’s bell could be heard ringing on dark, windy nights. The stories were completely untrue but added a lot of spark around the campfires that fishermen built at night.
Among the first merchants in New Linn Creek was J. H. Bruin, J. W. Garrison, Lon King, O. H. Evers, Thomas Moulder, J. A. Bunch, J. R. Neal, R. F. Houser and E. C. Shifflett.
J. A. Bruin, who opened the Bear Den Grocery, is said to have carried on his back, piece-by-piece, all the lumber used in the building of the grocery store from a lumberyard in Old Linn Creek up to his New Linn Creek location.
J. W. Garrison opened the Green Lantern Café while Lon King, merchant, farmer and realtor, operated a jewelry store and served as the town’s undertaker.
O. H. Evers opened the Linn Creek Hotel, which was described as “a quaint little all-stone structure” with a mantle over the dining room fireplace that was 100 years old. It was made from walnut that was formerly in the Methodist parsonage in Old Linn Creek. Evers also built separate tourist cottages. The old hotel building still stands and is now a private residence. (See this stone building in photo taken by the author in 2002.)
The Moulder family operated a drug store and general dry goods firm; J. A. Bunch operated the Camden Motor Company, which sold Ford products; J. R. Neal operated a lumberyard; R. F. Houser had the Lakeside Barber Shop; and E. F. Shifflett had Fat’s Bar-B-Q.
The First National Bank of New Linn Creek had a capital surplus of $50,000 and deposits of $450,000. The bank was organized in Old Linn Creek in 1905 and John M. Farmer was cashier when New Linn Creek was established.
These merchants and their businesses are long gone but some of their buildings survive. Houses in Linn Creek’s older residential areas are showing their age, but southeast of U. S. Highway 54 along the banks of the North Fork of Linn Creek the commercial landscape has a newer look in the town’s industrial area.
A Boy and His Frog
By Richard C Brown
Publisher, Deal Maker Merchant
Dedicated To My Aunt Sophie
During the course of pursuing big fat yellow grasshoppers on my uncle's farm to use as fish bait in the nearby Gasconade River for the lurking goggleyes I knew were there, I chanced upon a new adventure that would eternally sparkle forever in any young boy's life. Let the story begin!
A wonder of nature I didn't yet understand in my young age, he was big and he was green. I was fascinated. With a beautiful hue of deep grass green fading into a pleasant shade of yellow on his undersides, and with a dazzling white belly that most good Missouri bull frogs tend to exhibit, he was the most beautiful frog I had ever seen. I wanted to be his friend! But apparently he didn't like my intrusion into his solitary life.
The closer I got, the more intense his fixed stare became, showing signs of unmistakable resentment. "Too close," I thought as he grubbily hopped from his convenient warm, big, flat rock into the clear, cold, tiny spring pool. I heard a quiet, whispering voice sing, "Don't go. I just want to be your friend." All to no avail, as he disappeared into the small crevice of the limestone cave where the spring water gurgled. I realized that small voice was my own, subdued by wonderment and filled with hope.
"I'll be back! I called to my new friend. "I can't catch flies but I can catch grasshoppers for you. You'll see!"
As I picked my way through the tall grass to my Aunts house, I remembered that it was almost July hay harvest time. It was also close to suppertime. The huge platter of fried taters and goggleye and bass that I had caught quickly disappeared.
The next day I went back. I still wanted to go fishing again as I collected a few grasshoppers on my way to the spring. My love for animals always seemed to trump common sense. This day even the grasshoppers seemed to elude my stealthy approach as they were few and far between. But I caught some; enough to go to the river later on.
"I'll just wait," I lamented. "He'll be back soon and I can see him again."
I waited and waited. And I waited, not even noticing the grasshoppers escaping from the tin pipe tobacco can grandpa Bartlett had given me to keep them in. Even the one with the missing hind legs was missing. No goggleye or perch and bass today. No bait. Also, no frog!
Earlier my Uncle Junior told me I could find grasshoppers down by the spring. So I decided this would be sort of like a combination baptism and swim party. Back then everyone went to the creek or river--depending on the depth)--to be baptized 'cause weren't no place else' back then. So why not a swimming party afterwards, too? Made sense to me! I'd see my new friend, catch some grasshoppers down by the spring, go fishing, and later return to real people I knew loved me! What a wonderful day for a seven-year-old.
So I waited and I waited and you guessed it... No frog!
I knew he was there, but perhaps something had spooked him away that day. Again, no frog!
The afternoon gave way to failing daylight and I realized my aunt Sophie may be wondering of my whereabouts. I'd been gone a long time for a little guy so I decided I'd best get back to the house. Since I'd only had corn flakes and kool-aid for breakfast and had skipped 'dinner' I was starved. I then remembered Aunt Sophie had promised fried chicken and potatoes for supper. The year was 1944 and most city folk didn't fare as well as us 'raise it yourself' farm folk. When it came to food, boy did I hate corn flakes. And kool-aid too as it refused to fizz, sizzle, gurgle and bubble like the soda pops and Ne-Hi's I occasionally got if Grandpa stopped at the filling station for some (sigh) fifteen-cents-a-gallon gasoline.
Sometimes I managed to sneak an extra spoonful of sugar or even honey. I can remember honey when available was cheaper than sugar and it wasn't rationed during the war. This helped, but it didn't change the fact I had to eat corn flakes! A box of corn flakes was cheap, too, and readily available during the wartime.
The huge pile of fried chicken was disappearing rapidly as I related my frog adventures to my uncle's family.
"You can get 'em tomorrow," my Uncle Junior muttered as he speared the last chicken leg I'd been eyeing. "He'll be back."
I ended up with a wing.
Sure enough, he was. I could hear him singing long before I could see him. I knew he was there. A deep BOW-ROCK-BOW-ROCK was what I heard in the best bull frog-style voice. I decided to try a different approach. Dropping to my knees and then to my belly I crawled through the briars and brambles, quietly and slowly stealing my way to his song. I was sure glad I'd had bacon and eggs that morning; no corn flakes today.
I wished I could live on a farm forever. Food, Family, and Frogs! What else could a young lad ask for? My cousin, Carl was spending the day at the Weber place, some friends who lived nearby. And little Kathleen was too young to leave the yard.
I had the whole day to myself to further explore and carry on my frog quest. These reflections soon subsided as I (painfully) crawled over the sharp rocks and coarse grass, gradually inching toward my new amphibian friend. I was totally unaware of the ticks and chiggers sneaking onto and accumulating all over my body. I thought myself smarter than the frog. Not so! Plop! Again, into the spring pool. As I came into his view, he was still as beautiful and eloquent as ever. I waited. And waited.
But I did notice a slight burning sensation on my legs and ankles. I scratched them a little. Then I scratched them a lot! Constant itch ! Constant scratch! Smarter than the frog, eh? Then I scratched all over. I would tell you where the worst itching emanated from, but the editor of this paper won't let me. But you are free to use your imagination.
Have you ever been treated with chigger bites with nail polish? Don't try it! That was the recommended remedy in the 1940's. Aunt Sophie liked to kill me with that stuff that night.
Also, due to the editor's restrictions and this being a family paper, and all, we just won't go into the ticks. Again, imagination is the order of the day.
"When I grow up I'm going to tell the whole world about the evils and indignities of a seven-year-old wearing bib overalls," I hollered. My Uncle carried his tobacco and pipe in his, but I don't have either! So why did I need bib overalls? Besides, it didn't make much sense to stuff a bunch of dried leaves into a pipe and set it afire!
Back to the frog! Yep! Still there! I'll just circle around and KERPLOOP! He went into the water and disappeared into his little dark cave. But this time he didn't (BLEEP) as he jumped to save some of my dignity (I think). After all, I now considered him an enchanted frog. This was Saturday, my last day at Uncle Junior's farm! Church tomorrow morning and then I gotta go home.
I secretly reveled in the fact that the frog was still free, still able to pursue the bugs, flies and other frog things as frogs do. I knew his life would be happy and prosperous. He would sit regal and proud on his big fat rock next to the spring!
But that's not the end of this adventure.
Naturally, I was older the next year, only this time I was a proud eight-year-old. I was invited to spend another week on the farm with my Uncle Junior and Aunt Sophie, and tormented by my cousins Carl and Kathleen. My other cousin, Tim, wasn't born yet.
The fourth of July was a big event for my family. The Brown's, Anderson's and Tinsley's gathered at the Bartlell's for a huge pig out of chicken, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon. It was truly a Utopia for a third-grader like myself, or so I thought. Monday morning my uncle announced that "today we are going to work in the hay field. And you, Richard, are old enough to help. We'll even pay you."
As he hitched up the horses to his mowing machine, my first thought was the frog by the stream. Was he still there? It was a hot July day and it was always cool down by the spring. I loved my uncle but was anxious to see 'my frog'.
When I awoke the next morning a brand new pair of stiff blue bib overalls lay before me. I grudgingly donned them and thought to myself I'll bet there's corn flakes for breakfast, too.
Sure enough! Only this time they had natural honey in them and lots of Bartlett-raised eggs and bacon. I still hate corn flakes! "Why not help with the hay?" I thought. "I'll help with the hay and I can stalk the frog this afternoon before supper."
We made huge mistakes, typical of most farms in the 1940's and 1950's.
First the hay was cut, allowed to cure, then pitch-forked into small shocks. As the horse drawn wagon passed by, we frantically tossed the shocks into the wagon. When the wagon was full we went to a designated place to build the hay stack. This gave the horses the chance to chomp on the missed hay while they waited. For them it was a reward from heaven. I remember in particular 'Ole Mac' Avery's gentle, big chestnut. He loved to have his ears scratched. He also loved to have the ticks pulled from his (BLEEP—Sorry… Editors again).
Finally, after receiving my 50-cents for the day (it was heavy in my pocket), I got to check for the frog.
After outwitting the briars and the brambles (but alas, not the ticks or the chiggers--again!) I saw him. Bigger than before, and greener than green and as proud, and more beautiful than ever.
"A critter such as this should not be handled," I thought to myself. So I just admired and watched as he captured and swallowed a yellow meadow cricket.
He didn't jump and this time seemed to tolerate my presence. I didn't try to get any closer and soon left as the day waned. Next day... Guess where I was? At the spring, looking for the frog. He was there. But this day, after being doused by about a gallon of turpentine (a chigger preventative in the 40's) I had defeated the chiggers (so I thought) and while scratching my way along I saw him. I froze and quietly watched as he captured a loan crawfish in the spring pool. Thrilled, I quietly watched him as he expertly climbed back onto his favorite flat rock and finished relishing the rest of his crawfish.
"I'm gonna get that frog!" I thought to myself, as I worked my way forward, discretely untangling the briars caught in those blasted bib overalls. Of course I collected a new dose of chiggers and ticks for my trouble.
"Boy, do I hate Bib Overalls!" My torment was exacerbated by the turpentine I was wearing on that hot July day.
The following day was a scorcher: ninety-five degrees, PLUS. The hay was twice as heavy and Grandpa Bartlett was twice as grumpy. Even Uncle Junior seemed was a little harried with the stress of the day. To my delight he called off work early but I still got my 50-cents. Now I had earned a dollar to take home.
I had told my Aunt Sophie about the frog and she seemed understanding and very wise.
"Why don't you be quieter and tell the frog you mean him no harm?" she suggested. "But tell him in a soft, gentle voice so as to not startle him. Talk to him very quietly."
To my amazement, the soft words seemed to assure him of his safety. For the first time, he didn't jump. I found myself within three or four feet of him and I waited without moving. He stared at me in a solid, fixed frog stare; no sign of panic this time as I softly uttered made up words I had never heard before or since.
I reached for him slowly but withdrew my hand when I felt him tense up. My heart pounded as he accepted the green grasshopper I captured just above his head. No tension now; he had accepted me as a new but strange friend. Minutes passed before my confidence allowed me to attempt to pick him up.
To my amazement such was so. I placed him on my thigh, captured another grasshopper, and offered it to my new friend. ACCEPTED!
His eyes closed momentarily as he swallowed his food gift: this time a yellow grasshopper. He slowly entered the spring pool and leisurely swam a few feet, then stopped. He turned around and gave me the old 'now familiar' frog stare, this time with a subdued but apparent frog smile. It was the best frog smile I had ever seen, even to this day. And I'm now 75 years young.
SIDEBAR: POEM / VERSE TO ACCOMPANY STORY
For My Young Friend
Dear Friend, the kindness you have shown me
Your offerings of fare
I'll never forget that you were there.
Now leave me alone,
My destiny to seek.
Grasshoppers from the edge, for a while I can still tweak.
Grow up and be strong,
A man you will soon be
Stay kind and be true
I'm only a frog
But I love you too!
I never returned.