BAGNELL DAM – THE ELECTRIC DREAM©
In 1912, Kansas City attorney Ralph W. Street conceived a plan for building a hydro-electric dam on the Osage River near the village of Bagnell in Miller County, Missouri, but it wasn’t until 1924 that the project began. Street teamed up with Walter Cravens, president of the Kansas City Joint Stock Land Bank, to form the Missouri Hydro-Electric Power Company (MHEPC). Their goal was to generate cheap electricity for Kansas City and create a recreational playground where hunting, fishing and boating opportunities would attract tourists.
After nearly five years of work and millions of dollars in expenditures, which produced the infrastructure needed to build the dam but did not produce the actual dam itself, the MHEPC was deeply in debt and the project came to a halt. Debt and the inability to raise more funds forced MHEPC to sell the project. Union Electric Light & Power Company of St. Louis bought the project and with the help of Stone & Webster Engineering began dam construction in August of 1929. Bagnell Dam’s superstructure was complete by the spring of 1931. By October of 1931 its hydro-electric generators were on line producing electricity.
Completion of the Dam created Lake of the Ozarks. At the time of its creation, the reservoir was the largest artificial lake in North America and was ready to fulfill its purposes – to provide additional electrical power for Union Electric’s vast distribution system, power the mining industry in southeast Missouri, and create a recreational playground in the northern Ozarks. Union Electric Light and Power Company, like its Kansas City predecessor, wanted to stimulate tourism for the northern Ozarks as well as generate power.
To accomplish its tourism goals, it created a subsidiary known as the Union Electric Land and Development Company. This entity proceeded to convert a building on top of the bluff overlooking the dam into a luxury hotel called Holiday House. They next created a nice eating establishment at the west end of the Dam known as the Lakeside Casino Restaurant. Adjacent to the restaurant and Dam they installed the Union Electric Bathing Pavilion and Excursion Boat Dock where fast, powerful, mahogany-trimmed boats gave early visitors a thrilling way to see the Lake. All of this was accomplished within about three years.
The first people to enjoy the electricity produced by Bagnell Dam were the people of St. Louis and southeast Missouri, not the little town of Lake Ozark that sprang up adjacent to the incorporated area around the Dam known as Lakeside and owned by Union Electric. While the Lakeside Casino Restaurant had electricity to light its facility and run its appliances, the cafes, gift shops, service stations, hotels and lodges less than half-a-mile away from the Dam were still using small private generators to produce electricity for their individual businesses a year later. It would be several more years before Union Electric would have lines delivering electricity beyond the west end of the Grand Glaize Bridge in Osage Beach.
In 1936 while touting its success at building the Dam and creating Lake of the Ozarks, the Union Electric Magazine said: “Small wonder that this land developed so rapidly into a popular vacation country. A multitude of resorts have sprung into being – hotels, cabins and cottages, to provide pleasant accommodations for the increasing throngs who have found here in Missouri a vacation land of sport and beauty second to none. But that is not all. Having sprung almost fully grown into existence, the Lake of the Ozarks resorts have been able to take advantage of all new and modern developments in providing guests with the last word in convenience and comfort. . .it is natural that these resorts should have utilized electrical conveniences . . . hot and cold running water, modern electric ranges and hot plates . . . In the hotels and lodges, electric cookery provides appetizing food . . . Go to Lake of the Ozarks where electricity has created an electrical wonderland.”
Well, not quite. It depended on how far you were from the Dam and if you happened to be close to U. S. Highway 54. In the article the company printed six photos depicting resorts that had electricity. One of those was Holiday House in Lakeside. The others -- Pla-Port Resort, Jack Frost’s Cabin Camp, Malibu Beach Resort, Osage Beach Tavern and Golden’s Resort were along or near the highway and not far away. Most were in Osage Beach near the Grand Glaize Bridge. Many other resorts, especially those a greater distance away from Highways 54 and 5 down lengthy winding lake roads would wait several decades before electricity from the Dam reached them. In fact, many of them had to finance the building of their own lake roads from the main highway. It wasn’t until the 1950s following the Great Depression and then World War II rationing that the sprawling tourist industry of Lake of the Ozarks began to truly mature, modernize itself, and attract vacationers and tourists in vast numbers.
The electric dreams of Ralph Street and Walter Cravens finally came true but unfortunately they did not live to see it become the recreational playground that it is today.
For more information about the history of Lake of the Ozarks, see the author’s books on Lake history available at: lakeoftheozarksbooks.com
(Illustrations: Bagnell Dam nearing completion, photographer unknown, circa summer 1931. Note dredging equipment in water below powerhouse and lack of development along distant Lake shoreline; Union Electric Bathing Pavilion and Excursion Boat Dock, photographer unknown, circa 1932; Early street scene along the Bagnell Dam Strip, photography by L. L. Cook, Milwaukee, circa 1930s. )
Ferries, Bridges, the Osage and the Lake
by H. Dwight Weaver
Since the beginning of settlement along the Osage River in the 1830s, travelers have often found the river difficult to get across, not because of deep water or flooding but because of the scarcity of ferries and bridges.
After the 1850s ferries began to make their appearance at strategic points along roads that were the most heavily traveled.
Suspension bridges (swinging bridges) made their appearance in the late 1800s, the first one being built at Warsaw in 1895. Joe Dice, a native of Warsaw, who helped in the construction of that bridge, later achieved local fame by building more than 30 other suspension bridges. Many of them spanned the Osage River. In Miller County, however, Dice built half a dozen bridges across Tavern Creek. Most of those bridges are now gone, replaced in recent years by modern structures.
The coming of Lake of the Ozarks only complicated matters for the natives and tourists in Benton, Camden, Miller and Morgan counties. Several suspension bridges that spanned the Osage were demolished with the coming of the Lake. Linn Creek’s swinging bridge, a toll bridge that carried State Highway 5, fell victim to the Lake. With its demise, the Gov. McClurg Ferry was established because the Lake severed Highway 5 where it crossed the Niangua River and the Osage River. Bridges at those points were not operational until 1937. After their construction the Gov. McClurg Ferry was out of business. The image that accompanies this article shows the Gov. McClurg Ferry, photographer unknown.
Several other ferries continued to operate for a few years at different locations after the Lake was created but eventually closed. Various communities bordering the Lake and its major arms have, at one time or another, agitated for either ferries or bridges at their locations but have not been able to get county or state support for such projects. For the past 60 years it has been possible to boat Lake of the Ozarks from the Hurricane Deck Bridge to Warsaw without encountering a single car ferry or passing beneath a single bridge. It seems rather remarkable to think that a bridge needed so badly for so long to connect the east and west sides of the Lake via Shawnee Bend did not get built until the 1990s. Today, the Community Bridge is that link. One can only wonder if any bridge will ever be built anywhere across the Lake between Hurricane Deck and Warsaw.
While I do not claim to be an expert fisherman (because I am only 12 years old), I do have a few years of experience and I have learned a few things that I think have improved my fishing luck so with the summer season coming up I thought I would share some of them. Hopefully you will have a great fishing summer and land that monster fish we are all looking for!
1. First, make sure you are using the right bait. You should pick the bait based on what kind of fish you are hoping to land. For example if you enjoy catching perch worms are the best bet, but if you are looking to catch a bass, try a shiny lure. For Crappie colorful jigs or minnows work best, but if it’s catfish you want, try using a stink bait or liver.
2. Second, make sure you have a good quality rod and reel. I’m not saying that you need to go out and spend a lot of money on the best of the best, but you do need to inspect it often to make sure that the eyes on the pole are secure and that the pole does not have any cracks or breaks in it. The reel should be sturdy and properly connected to the rod, and always use good string. Your rod and reel are only as good as the string you use. Don’t be skimpy. You don’t want to catch the big one only to have your line break before you get it to the bank. Invest wisely.
3. Next, know how to cast. Casting is an art and it takes practice. You can do this at home even if you don’t have a water source. Just attach a lead weight to your line and start practicing, but make sure you aren’t close to any windows or vehicles!
4. After you have all of this ready, now it’s time to pick your spot. There are many good places to fish in the area including the Lake of the Ozarks. When you pick your spot, make sure you aren’t crowding in on someone else’s turf and that you are not trespassing.
5. And last, make sure you know the rules. The Missouri Department of Conservation strictly enforces the laws on all the waterways and you have to know what the rules are in order to fish there.
I hope this helps and I hope you all land that monster fish!
JEFFERSON CITY’S HOPES FOR BAGNELL DAM IN 1931©
By Dwight Weaver
As the construction of Bagnell Dam neared completion in the spring of 1931, the New York Times newspaper referred to the project as the “Miracle of the Ozarks.” This praise did not go unnoticed by media in Jefferson City. The editor of the Daily Capital News and Jefferson City Post Tribune turned to state and city officials for their take on how the construction of the Dam and the creation of Lake of the Ozarks might benefit the Capital City of Missouri.
“The people of Jefferson City have taken a conservative view of the effect the Bagnell Dam will have on this community. It has created no speculative flurry such as other places have experienced in the wake of great new enterprises . . .” said Hugh Stephens who was President of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce in 1931.
Stevens seemed hesitant about venturing too much speculation on the subject but did suggest that a “miracle” had occurred “almost at the back door of the city” because the Dam had created the “largest artificial lake in the world” in Miller and Camden counties. “It can be assumed without risk that the Bagnell Dam will affect Jefferson City in many definite and important ways” he said.
C.O. Hanes, Secretary of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce was less reserved. “Jefferson City, being the nearest large city to this great development can expect to become the chief beneficiary, especially due to the fact that a major portion of the tourists and visitors will pass through the city,” Hanes said. “All of the commercial and recreational benefits to be derived by this area will contribute to the expansion and growth of the Capital City.”
Every piece of promotional literature produced by the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce during the Dam’s construction period referred to the project. In 1930 the Chamber distributed more than 32,000 such circulars and booklets.
During the construction period Hanes noted that the merchants and professional men of the City received a part of the large construction pay-roll. He noted that the Dam and Lake would be an additional incentive for people to visit the Capital City; he expected the area to see improved highways due to increased travel since most visitors to the Lake would pass through Jefferson City on U. S. Highway 54 and the increased travel would mean greater profits from bridge tolls. The Missouri River bridge at Jefferson City, which carried Highway 54, was a toll bridge and there was strong public sentiment to see it become a “free” bridge. He expected the Lake to increase the length of the tourist season and give industries wanting to locate in the Midwest incentive to locate near Jefferson City because the Dam was a hydroelectric facility and would prove to be a good source for power.
N.R. Beagle, head of the Missouri Power and Light Company in Jefferson City, who compared the new Lake to a “dragon” in its shape, hoped that high-tension lines between the Dam and Jefferson City would eventually be feasible as industries in Jefferson City were expanding and continuing to demand additional power.
James Houchin, a business man in Jefferson City, noted that during the project the city’s hotels had been filled with businessmen and visitors on their way to see the new Dam and Lake. “All lines of business will profit . . . Merchants, hotels and garages will find many extra dollars in their tills and every dollar spent in the community helps every interest in the city . . . From the north, east and west we are the natural gateway . . .”
Townsend Godsey, Director of Public Information for the Missouri Game and Fish Department said “The Lake of the Ozarks promises to become one of the outstanding fishing places in the country. The water is available and conditions appear to provide excellent breeding grounds for the bass, crappie, sunfish, jack salmon, channel catfish, catfish and drum . . .”
Henry C. Asel, mayor of Jefferson City in 1931, called the project “another milestone in the growth and advancement of Jefferson City.” He compared the project to the building of the new Capitol building and the construction of the Missouri Pacific railroad into the City. “The people of Jefferson City are happy to be the key-city to this important new development in this section of Missouri,” Asel said.
And so, while Eldon, Barnett, Versailles, Camdenton and Linn Creek began to promote themselves as “gateways” to the Lake of the Ozarks, the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce began promoting itself as the “Northern Gateway to the Ozarks” and the “Key City of Central Missouri.”
Bagnell Dam and Lake of the Ozarks gave Jefferson City something new to promote by way of U.S. Highway 54. Heretofore Bennett Springs in Laclede County and Ha Ha Tonka in Camden County had been about the only Ozark attractions reasonably close to the city to give tourists and vacationists an incentive to pass through Jefferson City. “The center of interest in the Ozarks has been moved over 100 miles north by this great recreational lake which has become the chief feature of that region,” said Huge Stephens.
(Illustration: Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce ad in the 1932 edition of Where To Go In The Ozarks by Keith McCanse.)
Saint Louis Store is a Treasure
By Lee McCain
Brandon Mroz recently took the silver medal in the Men's Figure Skating in China. Of course it's a gratifying and exciting accomplishment, but for Brandon, he can rest assured that the medal he earned is in fact forged of the highest quality silver. This is because he and his father come from a long line of Saint Louis jewelers who own one of the most famous and revered jewelry stores in America.
Kessler Mroz Jewelry has been in business for over a century, and by all accounts they have earned those bragging rights because of their attentive customer service, a jewelry line that is unlike any other in the nation, and their ability to hand make any piece a customer can imagine.
"We make jewelry for everyone, from sports stars, to film stars, to rappers, and of course the average person who wants the best in jewelry but who might be on a budget," says owner Michael Mroz.
"We can give our clients the very best service because they deal directly with us; there's no middle man, like the corporate jewelry stores have," he adds. "We make and cast jewelry in house, and we don't have to charge for every little thing in the process because we do it all here." This, according to Mroz, is why his firm can eliminate so much of the overhead that would normally be passed on to the customer.
"Plus," he adds, "we love what we do. We really care that the client gets what he or she is looking for."
He illustrates this with a story of a desperate client who was searching for a matching ring for a wedding band that the chain stores said was discontinued.
"He showed it to me and we were able to duplicate it exactly to the specifications of the original piece," Mroz explained. "Needless to say, that was one happy customer." And Mroz, while he would discount it as just an average day of making a client happy, admitted that one of his greatest thrills in the business is being able to provide services like this that, for the most part, ended with the Johnson administration.
Mroz is also happy to keep the history of his store as true as the day it opened in 1904. The Mroz family entered the business when Ed Mroz worked with Al Kessler, the original store owner. Ed's brother, Joseph—who is Michael's father—was trained as an apprentice under Al's expert tutelage. After a timeout doing his country's bidding in WWII, Joseph returned to the Kessler business and eventually became a partner in 1946. This is when the Mroz lineage assumed full-time operation of the store and the many members of the Mroz family made their careers providing the best service and jewelry pieces available anywhere. And at a time when the entire jewelry and precious metals retail industry was changing, the Mroz family decided the best course of action was to maintain their fine standards and ignore what the competition did. That decision has served them well.
Michael Mroz's career path to his present position at Kessler Mroz was as circuitous as the rings he sells.
He first attended Missouri University as a Bio major then transferred to the University of Kansas City's dental school. However, he decided that his true love lie in the jewelry business so he returned to the family store where he and his sons, Jordan and Devin, continue the family tradition. Son Brandon figure skates, and his fourth son, Spencer, attends high school.
A Tradition of Service
Mroz speaks fondly of his store's ability to provide single pieces, "to over 900 custom three dimensional rings and belt buckles that we made for Bi-State (the predecessor to Metro Transit St. Louis), because we make our own rubber molds and of course the client can actually talk face to face with the jeweler who is making the item."
Besides the custom work, Kessler Mroz Jewelers has an excellent line of items in stock ready to buy.
"We have gorgeous Black Diamond necklaces for $29.95," Mroz says. "And this holiday season it's all about Black Diamonds. Folks should stop in and see what we have. This is the perfect time of year to shop for jewelry."
Kessler Mroz Jewelry is located at 777 Olive Street in St. Louis. Readers can reach Michael or his associates at (314) 621-0822 and by e-mail at Michael@kesslermrozjewelry.com.
What is the most expensive car in the world? The 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe was sold for $8,700,000 in 1987. However, that car and many alike will not be included in this list because it is not available on the market today. It is hard to imagine someone would actually spend $8 million dollars on a car instead of using it for something more productive. However, if you have the money and the opportunity, you will definitely spend a small fraction of it to place a few of these supercars in your garage. Here is the 10 most expensive production cars on the market.
1. Bugatti Veyron $1,700,000. This is by far the most expensive street legal car available on the market today. It is the fastest accelerating car reaching 0-60 in 2.6 seconds. It claims to be the fastest car with a top speed of 253 mph+. However, the title for the fastest car goes to the SSC Ultimate Aero which exceed 253 mph pushing this car to 2nd place for the fastest car.
2. Lamborghini Reventon $1,600,000. The most powerful and the most expensive Lamborghini ever built is the second on the list. It takes 3.3 seconds to reach 60 mph and it has a top speed of 211 mph. Its rarity (limited to 20) and slick design are the reasons why it is so expensive and costly to own.
3. McLaren F1 $970,000. In 1994, the McLaren F1 was the fastest and most expensive car. Even though it was built 15 years ago, it has an unbelievable top speed of 240 mph and reaching 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Even as of today, the McLaren F1 is still top on the list and it outperformed many other supercars.
4. Ferrari Enzo $670,000. The most known supercar ever built. The Enzo has a top speed of 217 mph and reaching 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. Only 400 units were produced and it is currently being sold for over $1,000,000 at auctions.
5. Pagani Zonda C12 F $667,321. Produced by a small independent company in Italy, the Pagani Zonda C12 F is the 5th fastest car in the world. It promises to delivery a top speed of 215 mph+ and it can reach 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.
6. SSC Ultimate Aero $654,400. Don't let the price tag fool you, the 6th most expensive car is actually the fastest street legal car in the world with a top speed of 257 mph+ and reaching 0-60 in 2.7 seconds. This baby cost nearly half as much as the Bugatti Veyron, yet has enough power to top the most expensive car in a speed race. It is estimated that only 25 of this exact model will ever be produced.
7. Saleen S7 Twin Turbo $555,000. The first true American production certified supercar, this cowboy is also rank 3rd for the fastest car in the world. It has a top speed of 248 mph+ and it can reach 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. If you are a true American patriot, you can be proud to show off this car.
8. Koenigsegg CCX $545,568. Swedish made, the Koenigsegg is fighting hard to become the fastest car in the world. Currently, it is the 4th fastest car in the world with a top speed of 245 mph+, the car manufacture Koenigsegg is not giving up and will continue to try and produce the fastest car. Good luck with that!
9. Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren Roadster $495,000. A GT supercar, the SLR McLaren is the fastest automatic transmission car in the world with a top speed of 206 mph+ and reaching 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. It is a luxurious convertible with a really powerful engine, which results in outstanding performances and style.
10. Porsche Carrera GT $440,000. A supercar with dynamic stability control and a top speed of 205 mph+ and it can reach 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. The Porsche Carrera GT applies the absolute calibers of a true racing car to offer an unprecedented driving feeling on the road.
MUSCLE CARS AND AMERICAN CULTURE
Speed and power are compelling qualities, so it's no surprise that muscle cars were such a happening back in the 1960s and continue to hold an allure that transcends decades and generations. Indeed, generating a buzz that struck a chord with something uniquely American was a prime reason for creating these fast-and-furious machines in the first place.
It was all about marketing and the bottom line. Most people didn't need, say, a GTO, but the GTO's wild image would compel more than a few to buy a mild-mannered Tempest LeMans with much the same style. That's how muscle cars had such a big market impact even though they didn't sell in big numbers. The GTO, remember, was a marketing man's idea designed to get people talking about Pontiac and to lure them into showrooms. But muscle cars had to keep faith with performance fans, whose opinions often persuade non-enthusiast friends what car to buy. That required credibility in competition. Enthusiasts are demanding, and they won't talk your talk until you walk their walk.
That's why automakers worked hard to make sure their muscle cars not only looked cool but also had a winning reputation. Sometimes, the work was a bit shady. For example, despite Detroit's admonishments to leave demonstrations of speed to the organized confines of NHRA and NASCAR, young hotbloods still raced the public streets and roads in the 1960s. They were
defying the law, but rebellion was hip in those days.
The action was intense, emotions ran high. Fittingly, Detroit's Woodward Avenue was one of the most popular spots for outlaw street racing. And because of that, it became unofficial proving grounds for new manifolds, carburetors, and other speed parts devised by the automakers themselves. Many executives tacitly encouraged such "research" and even participated. After all, everyone else was there, so why not see what you were up against? As for manufacturers who didn't make the street scene...well, that news got around, too.
Such underground support is part of muscle-car lore. So, too, the highly visible new-car dealers that set up "speed shops" to improve on what their factories were doing. Because of their high sales volume, these dealerships were typically the first to sell the latest factory parts, but many also developed their own speed equipment, then built and sponsored race cars to show it off, usually in drag racing. It was just good business to sell performance where performance fans gathered.
"Muscle mania" was also good for the performance "aftermarket" companies that began appearing in the 1940s. Names like Hurst (shifters), Edelbrock (manifolds), Iskenderian (camshafts), and others were well known to gearheads from car magazines and prominent race-car logos. In the '60s, these parts-makers boomed as never before, which prompted even more companies to weigh in.
By the end of the decade, the industry had grown so large that it formed its own trade group, first called the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association, later the Speed Equipment Market Association (SEMA). But there was another side to the muscle car scene--and man, was it groovy. For all their raw power and rumbling machismo, muscle cars had a playful side reflecting the trendy irreverence of the youthful '60s counterculture. It was the era of do-your-own-thing and pop art, of "mod" fashions and Beatle haircuts, folk songs, acid rock and the British invasion. Automakers found creative ways to relate to this market.
Wild colors were in vogue, so American Motors offered bright "Big Bad" hues for 1969-70. Dodge and Plymouth had a "High Impact" palette with wacky names like Tor-Red, Plum Crazy, and Go-Man-Go. Plymouth's Road Runner touched off a minor craze for cartoony model names and logos.
The 1968 Super Bee, for example, inspired the "Scat Pack" line of hot Dodges with available bumblebee tail stripes bearing a helmeted character bee speeding along on dragster-size wheels. Ford borrowed Carroll Shelby's raring-snake mascot for the Torino Cobra and other purposes. The '69 GTO Judge was a knowing nod to "Here Come da Judge," a popular phrase from the hit TV show "Laugh-In."
Commercials and print ads also played to youth culture. Dodge portrayed "White Hat Guys" and a "Dodge Rebellion." British pop singer Petula Clark crooned that you should "Look What Plymouth's Up to Now." Ford pitched some sportier models as "The Lively Ones," and sponsored a like-named TV show to boot. Even Buick wanted to "Light Your Fire."
Chevrolet's Camaro launched as "The Hugger." Pontiac said all its cars "take the fun of driving seriously." A fictitious "Dr. Oldsmobile," white smock and all, was frequently seen working in his lab on hot new numbers for that GM brand. AMC promoted a muscular 1970 hardtop by giving away stickers with the phrase "Up with the Rebel Machine."
Hollywood, never slow to spot a trend, only added to a growing muscle car mystique. Three films in particular still rate high among performance fans for high-powered thrills: "Vanishing Point," "Two-Lane Blacktop," and "Bullitt."
And let's not forget all the hit '60s songs celebrating fast cars and good times. The Beach Boys alone cranked out "409," "Shut Down," and "Fun, Fun, Fun" (when daddy takes the T-Bird away), plus lesser ditties like "Car Crazy Cutie," "Our Car Club," and "No-Go Showboat." Jan and Dean sung about the "Little Old Lady from Pasadena" with a Super/Stock Dodge, plus the dangers of "Dead Man's Curve." Ronnie and the Daytonas had kids boogalooing to little "GTO," with lyrics credited to Pontiac promotions man Jim Wangers himself. Wilson Pickett idolized "Mustang Sally," and we idolized the Mustang that he sang about. By the way, a little-known fact is that the Mustang wasn't named after a wild horse. It was actually name after the P-51 Mustang fighter plane. In an interesting twist, the P-51 was known to the aviators who flew them as "Cadillacs of the Skies!"
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.