Today’s soon-to-be parents research names for the next scion of the family from lists of trendy baby names, popular fiction, rock/pop stars or the hottest chick flick of the season. “Apollinaris” hasn’t made any of these lists for a long time. But in the mid-nineteenth century, naming sources were more limited. Family Bibles, occasionally Shakespeare’s characters, or – in this case – the early saints names were tapped. Today, July 20, on the Catholic calendar is the feast day of Apollinaris, a Syrian saint of the second century, named bishop of Ravenna, Italy by St. Peter himself. He was the first of several Appollinarises who achieved sainthood over the early centuries of Christianity. An auspicious lineage for the name of a miller on clear stream in the mid-nineteenth century Ozarks
In the fall of 1857, John Joseph Hogan made his first exploratory trip to the Ozarks in search of “land for people of small means” (poor Irish immigrants). He and a surveyor explored from Greenville to west of the Eleven Point River and back. Near the Current River they came across a mill, owned by one Appollanaris Tucker:
Traveling by way of Brunswick, Jefferson City, St. Louis, Old Mines, Potosi, Iron Mountain and Frederick Town, I halted at Greenville, in Wayne County, where I hired a surveyor familiar with the country. I examined the lands on the head waters of Little Black River, Cane Creek, Brushy Creek, in Ripley (now Carter) County, and entered four hundred and eighty acres in a body on Ten Mile Creek, making arrangements at once to put men thereon, opening and cultivating it.
With the surveyor I rode westward, across the Current River, by Van Buren, up Pike Creek, thence southward over the great divide east of Eleven Points River as far as the head waters of Buffalo Creek, thence eastward along Buffalo Creek and its tributaries to a ford on Current River. At this place there was a mill and homestead owned and occupied by a man named Appollinaris Tucker; he and his family were the only Catholics known to be residing at that time in that district. At the time of my arrival, Mrs. Tucker was in the last stages of her mortal illness, in which it seemed God’s Holy Will that she should linger until her longings could be gratified to receive the last Sacraments; and, as it happened, from the hands, of the first priest known to have come into that region of country. After Mrs. Tucker’s death, I returned homewards, by way of Iron Mountain, St. Louis, and Hannibal, to Chillicothe.
We tracked in our Jeep the areas that Hogan covered on horseback when we were working on Mystery of the Irish Wilderness. We did find record of the Tuckers’ land purchases, but little else. One of the largest springs in Missouri is Tucker Bay Spring in Ripley County. Its average flow is 24 million gallons a day. Jo Schaper notes that “very little is known about this spring, either geologically or historically. The spring is a boggy, low area (locally known in the Ozarks as a ‘bay’).”
“Appollinaris and Ellen Tucker purchased government land in 1854 and 1856 in Ripley County. . . . There is no record of the mill after the Civil War or what became of Appollinaris. Tucker Bay Spring, large … but curiously unstudied, flows into the Current River.”
Mystery of the Irish Wilderness, caption, page 25
When working on our new book, James Fork of the White, we were struck by the continuity of sporting activities from a century ago to today.
On opposite pages we put a circa 1910 George Hall real photo postcard of giggers on the James River at Camp Yocum with a recent photograph of the Nixa Sucker Day festival. One difference—the gent in the center of the boat in Hall’s “flashlight” photo is wearing a necktie and coat. I doubt if today’s giggers dress so formally.
Nixa has a celebration based on an unprogressive method of catching an Ozark bottom-dwelling fish. Sucker Day has been held in the spring since 1957 when Finis Gold, barber, one-time mayor, and American Legion commander, invented the event. Suckers are rarely caught on hook and line. When they ascend creeks to spawn they can be snagged. They are also gigged in the winter when the rivers are clear and stockpiled in freezers. Though boney, sucker are delicious when scored and deep fried. The event has grown from a novel fish fry to include talent competitions, a Little Miss Sucker Day pageant, pie-eating and bubblegum-blowing contests, numerous craft booths and musical entertainment by bluegrass groups.
James Fork of the White, page 110
COMING This Fall: JAMES FORK OF THE WHITE: Transformation of an Ozark River.
Sample pages from this new book can be seen at www.beautifulozarks.com
Our earlier ‘river book,’ DAMMING THE OSAGE, can be seen at www.dammingtheosage.com
In 2012 we published a 304-page book about the transformation of a big, muddy river that rises in the tall grass Kansas prairie then cuts into the northern flank of the Ozark uplift before emptying into the even muddier Missouri River. Damming the Osage is a history of engineering interventions justified by questionable hydrologic theories. Human cupidity orchestrated many of these unharmonious projects.
This October, we will publish our second “river book”: James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River. In this we look at the watershed of the river that rises in Webster County near Marshfield, wends its way to Springfield, running along its eastern edge and then drains south to Table Rock. The James – unlike the Osage – feels the effects of a major metropolitan area on its watershed. The James was a storied Ozark float stream; the Osage, a prairie-born, rich but unspectacular stream, home to a prehistoric fish.
The James is definitely a different river and this is a different book. More pages (352), more illustrations (because we have more pages!) to examine, discuss and showcase that different river and the people who live and recreate along its course.
Look for it this fall!
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