Sep 132017

In a recent post, we promised more details on Lake of the Ozarks’ own Lover’s Leap and one account of the legend that gave it its name

J.W. Vincent, owner, editor and publisher of the Linn Creek Reveille, published the story of Lover’s Leap more than once in his newspaper. It was a popular tale—one he reprinted in his newspaper twice – “in 1879 and again, by oft repeated request in 1886.” His author’s note to his booklet, Tales of the Ozarks (1913) his tone is almost apologetic:

It was written on a regular assignment in the course of the author’s early newspaper work and bears many marks of the writer’s youth, which fortunately for himself if not for his readers, he has never entirely outgrown. The migration of the Delaware Indians and their subsequent contact with the Osages and other tribes is historical though little known—the local incidents are mainly fictitious.

This particular Lover’s Leap legend strayed somewhat from the standard issue tale of an overbearing patriarch preventing the marriage of a beautiful daughter to the handsome brave she loved. In J. W. Vincent’s tale, the maiden herself rejected a powerful suitor for her own true love. No father is mentioned. The unwelcome suitor is a friend of her brother.

In the picturesque and salubrious valley, where “dwelt a powerful branch of the Osages, one of the great nations of the aboriginal inhabitants of our country,” came a band of weary Lenapes, or Delaware, who had been forced westward from their home on the eastern seaboard. The Osages welcomed them and the two groups lived as congenial neighbors in the valley of Linn Creek.

The Chief of the Osage, Okema, was young and handsome, giant in stature. He and the Lenape chief, Marabo, were close friends—and Marabo had a beautiful sister, Winona. Unfortunately for Okema, Winona’s heart belonged to another, Minetas. The players are named; the stage is set.

The denouement takes place at night on the high bluff above the valley, overlooking the junction of the Osage and Niangua rivers far below. Winona leapt from the cliff to escape Okema. An intense fight ensued between the contending suitors and Okema’s braves. Both braves went over the cliff, as well as another of Okema’s braves. It was a dolorous end to unrequited love, but the dramatic tale has left its mark on the spot.

Netflix’s Marty Byrde undoubtedly did not understand the hallowed and bloody ground on which he stood as he launched his own desperate enterprise in Ozark. He should know, though, the fall today mercifully is forty feet less and ends in water.

Sep 022017

With great anticipation we began to binge watch Netflix’s 10-part series titled, Ozark. The promos for this turgid story of money laundering and murder set at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks set the scene: “A financial adviser drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder $500 million to appease a drug boss.” (Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz).

A few establishing shots were grabbed at Lake of the Ozarks, but the series itself was filmed in Georgia thanks to that state’s generous tax credits for filmmakers. The first episode, set primarily in Chicago, made us ambivalent – not fully engaged. Should we finish the episode? Should we even go on to Episode 2? To our utter amazement, the last scene of that first episode showed Marty Byrde’s (Jason Bateman) first sight of the Lake at a spot we recognized as Lover’s Leap, a precipitous bluff near the drowned town of Linn Creek.

In Damming the Osage, we used a vivid linen postcard of that scene. Chrome sunset colors aside, some changes to the landscape have occurred since this 1940s image was printed. The distinctive rock has lost one upright piece; a small tree is growing through the cracks; and the tree where the postcard model leaned is gone, the grounds charred by a recent campfire. A modern condo building marks the confluence of the Osage (straight ahead) and the Niangua rivers (coming in from the left). Run your jet ski up the Niangua arm of the Lake and you’ll find the remains of Ha Ha Tonka’s trout lake at the base of the bluff where the ruins of the castle are.

Neither of us had ever been to Lover’s Leap (it is not easy to find and is on private land), but this seemed an opportune time to plan a road trip and seek it out – especially since we were headed to Jefferson City to participate in the total solar eclipse and Lake of the Ozarks is right on the way.

Next post will be extensive passages from J. W. Vincent’s Lover’s Leap Legend in Tales of the Ozarks. Vincent was the owner and editor of the Linn Creek Reveille newspaper from 1880 to 1933. Bagnell Dam was built during his tenure and his opposition to the dam is well documented in his paper. Before that controversy, he published a modest booklet of stories that included one account of how the precipice Marty Byrde stood on got its name.