Jan 232018

Since mid-December, the Springfield News Leader has followed the discovery and monitoring of a recently opened up “swallow hole” on the James River, near the Greenway Trail in southwest Springfield.

A dramatic sucking sound accompanies the whirling vortex as hundreds of gallons of the stream’s water disappears down the dark hole. It’s a graphic auditory and visual illustration of the porous nature of the karst typography we live on.

Loring Bullard, author of Jordan Creek: Story of an Urban Stream and past president of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, was one of those who found the swallow hole. He described the whirlpool as “a crack in the creek bed . . . sucking hundreds of gallons of water into a subterranean channel that likely exited more than a mile downstream at Rader Spring.”

Our research for James Fork of the White led us to Rader Spring as well. An unspectacular outpouring in a field near Wilson Creek, the spring did not historically attract the leisure class for picnics and dalliances. Still, it is instructive of our landscape. Of Rader Spring, we wrote:

The spring only a hydrologist could love pumps around six or eight million gallons a day into the now-cleaned-up Wilson Creek – a third as much as Missouri’s twentieth biggest spring. Still, it’s a lot of water, but size is not what endears it to geologists. The Association of Missouri Geologists took a field trip here and Kenneth C. Thompson wrote, “Perhaps the most unusual characteristic of Rader Spring and its supply system are the reversible sinkholes or estavellas that occur in the Wilson Creek valley. These curious karst features accept water in drier seasons and discharge water as springs during rainy seasons.” (p. 53)

The mysterious movement of water under the surface of our earth has been studied and pondered by generations of geologists, hydrologists, landowners as well as recreationalists who observe the outcomes of that movement. Dry creeks and sinking streams, which have intermittent water supplies, also prove that, although we may not see it, water courses through a complex subsurface system that does not necessarily copy the channels we see from a low water bridge. Pouring dye into one water source and waiting to see where it resurfaces is the most common method of tracking that movement.

Rader Spring is a textbook example of how leaky the Springfield Plateau is. Fluorescent dye introduced into creeks and sinks from as far away as I-44 have been detected in Rader’s waters. From a dry branch of Nichols Creek six miles away dye was injected that reached the spring in six days. Rader is only 1.3 miles from Springfield’s Southwest Waste Water Treatment Plant. (p. 53)

Fluorescent dyes have been introduced into some dry streambeds and sinkholes along Flat Creek a few miles from Cassville and emerged in the great spring at Roaring River. That twenty-six-million gallon-a-day frigid water source for a state trout park is not in the James River basin. Subsurface water movement does not always follow present-day surface stream configurations. (p. 94)

James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River is available on this website, on amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

Jan 212018

If you turn west from Highway 13 on Joe Bald Road, you’ll pass the entrance to Joseph Philibert Cemetery. Named for the first white settler in Stone County, this hilltop cemetery is where the graves of twenty small graveyards in the Table Rock Lake basin were relocated.

Among the markers are those for William Carol “Tipton” Gore and his second wife, Nancy “Granny” Gore, “Cherokee Doctor.” Nancy Gore was born in Tennessee about 1820, married William Gore and they moved to Arkansas, then to Stone County about 1848. They settled near the confluence of the James and White rivers. Their neighbors were the Joseph Philibert (1812-1884) and William Gillis families who had a trading post where they bought furs from the Indians. The Philibert family graveyard was near the site of the trading post. Twenty-two graves were in the old cemetery when Table Rock Lake began to fill. Among those were the Gores.

Headstones were modest, and many burials were only marked with rocks to indicate a grave. A new marker was made for Granny Gore, a Cherokee medicine woman and wife of pioneer William Tipton Gore. Small family cemeteries in the basin of Table Rock Reservoir were moved to higher ground before the lake filled. Headstones and remains of twenty graveyards, such as they were, were dug up and relocated in the new Joseph Philibert Cemetery just north of Kimberling City.
                                                                  James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River

Granny Gore’s Ozark Folk Medicine by Sherman Lee Pompey:

And finally in the words of Granny herself, “You see, the good Lord made herbs an’ roots for the purpose of medicines. A lot of medicines that we used in the early hills was nothing more than the same thing or the artificial substitute of these things used today by modern medical science.”

Jan 152018

Harnessing the power of moving water for profit and community betterment has been an impulse for many an entrepreneur. On the White River, the first dam to close the flow was #Powersite, a small, almost run-of-the-river, dam that held back enough water to ‘fatten up’ the river without drastically affecting the flow or habitat.

Financial overruns caused the initial backers to withdraw their support for building Powersite. Enter New York banker Henry #Doherty who was ‘collecting’ small power companies in southwest Missouri and consolidating them into what became Empire District Electric. He financed the construction of Powersite.

The dam closed in 1913 but White River waters remained warm allowing for fishing and swimming and water sports. The newly formed riverine lake was called #Taneycomo – some said it was a nod to beautiful Lake Como in northern Italy, but the accepted explanation is a mash up of Taney County Missouri. More than forty years later a much bigger dam, Table Rock, was built upstream bringing drastic changes to the #WhiteRiver, Lake Taneycomo and the James Fork of the White.

Like Bagnell Dam, Powersite Dam was started by men who soon encountered financial difficulties and sold out to bigger concerns. The St. Louis investors who organized the Ozark Power and Water Company engaged the Ambursen Hydraulic Construction Company of Boston to build it. Nils Ambursen, a Norwegian immigrant engineer, had designed a hollow cement slab and buttress structure used successfully elsewhere. Replacing the original backers was Wall Street accumulator of energy companies, Henry Latham Doherty. Doherty had already acquired a handful of small utility companies in southwest Missouri that were branded Empire District Electric Company. The White River operation kept its original name until being folded into the Empire group in 1927.

Cutline for this 1933 press photo reads “Col. And Mrs. Doherty watched happily a Christmas party which the Dohertys gave at Coral FLA.”

The next year Doherty organized the National Committee for Birthday Balls, which sponsored dances across the country to raise money for Franklin Roosevelt’s Warm Springs Foundation to treat victims of polio. The president had been paralyzed from the waist down himself with the disease since 1921.

Henry L. Doherty built his holding company Cities Service into a gigantic combination of all three sources of energy–gas, oil, and electricity. His charm and friendship with FDR kept him from many of the problems capitalists had during the New Deal.

From James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River

Dec 292017

In the pre-Christmas countdown days, we dropped by our local Barnes & Noble to see the offerings in their regional section. Prominently displayed were four of our titles: just-released James Fork of the White; our previous “river book,” Damming the Osage; perennial favorite, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness; and our early foray into Ozarks tourism, See The Ozarks.

For a small publisher this is a big win!  When our distributor closed its doors last spring, we found ourselves in the same situation many others are in – books with an audience but no avenue to get them on the retail shelves. Unlike amazon.com, major retail outlets are reluctant to set up accounts for small individual publishers. Using regional or national distributors, (like Partners, our former distributor) they can set up one account per distributor and order multiple titles from multiple publishers.  But this was no longer an option for us.

With the publication of our new book, James Fork of the White, and its potentially large audience in our region, Renee Hunt, Community Business Development Manager, at our local  (Springfield, Missouri) B&N helped us contact their main office and we were able to establish Lens & Pen Press as a vendor for Barnes & Noble. The obvious, happy outcome was the sight of four of our titles on the regional shelves during the busy pre-Christmas days.

Happy New Year!

Dec 052017

For an author, it’s deeply gratifying when a reader really understands what you’re doing and why. Steve Wiegenstein’s review of JAMES FORK OF THE WHITE: Transformation of an Ozarks River is that kind of review. Steve understands the subject and our own non-linear style of treating our topics.  Most importantly, he understand the Ozarks, the land, the streams, the people. Steve is the author of a series of historical novels set in a mid-nineteenth century Utopian community named Daybreak in a valley of the St. Francis River in Madison County.  The third in this series, just-published The Language of Trees, has earned high praise.

James Fork of the White is available on our website, www.beautifulozarks.com, at Barnes & Noble and on amazon.com

Dec 032017

Last week Steve Pokin, the Springfield News Leader‘s columnist of the unique and sometimes quirky aspects of Springfield, interviewed Leland about our new book, JAMES FORK OF THE WHITE: Transformation of an Ozark River.

In his columns, “Pokin Around” and “Answer Man,” Steve answers readers’ curious queries, investigates puzzles and reveals many of Springfield’s little known facts and interesting personalities. One of In his columns on the (eutrophic) small lakes of Southern Hills subdivision provided needed background information for us as we discussed Galloway Creek and other small tributaries flowing into the James.

We’re gratified that he concluded, “Interested in the James River? This is the book for you.

Available from our website, www.beautifulozarks.com (postage paid), Barnes & Noble and at amazon.com.

Nov 202017

We were pleased to see Harry Styron’s write up of our new book, James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River, on his blog, Ozarks Law and Economy.  We spent five years exploring our own James River, once the preeminent float stream of the Ozarks. Harry understood the depth of the research we put into this book:

Combining these graphics with a penetrating verbal narrative, the Paytons have given us what we all want and need to know about the White River’s largest Missouri tributary.

Thank you, Harry Styron!


Available now at Barnes & Noble in Springfield, on amazon.com, and from our website, postage paid.

Nov 102017
Congressman Dewey Short and unidentified colleagues looking at potential White River dam site in 1941.
On the back of this Townsend Godsey photograph is written, “Table Rock Dam site 9-14-41”
Dewey appears to be pointing out the location where the long-delayed dam would be built. Only a month earlier President Franklin Roosevelt had signed the Flood Control Act of 1941, which authorized civil engineering projects such as dams, levees, dikes, and other flood control measures and which included both Table Rock and Bull Shoals dam projects. Headline of the October 11, 1952 Kansas City Times announced: “Start A Big Dam Barbecue And Music At Launching of 76-Million-Dollar Reservoir.” Mayor Claude Binkley of Branson remarked he had ‘hurried to the Ozarks twenty-six years ago’ to be here for the construction start.”
Oct 102017

 Photo from Table Rock Bluff, 1940s.  Still no dam.

Soon after the completion of Powersite Dam (1913) creating Lake Taneycomo, Empire District Electric announced that they would build a larger dam more than twenty miles upstream at Table Rock. However, Table Rock Dam was not built at Table Rock, but about two miles farther upstream on the White River. It was not built by Empire District Electric, but by the Army Corps of Engineers, at a site Corps engineers thought would be better from an engineering standpoint.
The federal government ultimately took dam building away from private companies in the late 1930s. World War II and then Korea delayed construction of many projects. Again, local dam advocates became nervous that the feds would repeat the stalling tactics of Empire District Electric. Construction finally kicked off in the early 1950s.
Sep 162017
Hollister flood, 1943
The major Corps of Engineers dam-building era was a combination of dubious hydrologic theory propelled by the desire to create jobs during the Depression. Because our ancestors had foolishly developed the floodplains, there was much community support for flood control dams.
Springfield lawyer and land speculator William H. Johnson started building a Tudor-style complex by the train station in 1909 to accommodate tourists. As the faux half-timbered buildings were in the floodplain they were periodically immersed when Lake Taneycomo overflowed.
Table Rock Dam has kept the historic district, as it is now called, dry. Still some Hollister and Branson properties have suffered flooding, necessitating government buyouts. Believing the dam would afford complete protection, some people built even closer to the river, ignoring the Corps’ warning.