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 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

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.

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.
Aug 092017
 
Although there are no big government dams on the James River, Table Rock Dam backs the lower James up almost to Galena. So we covered the genesis of the Table Rock project in our new book, James Fork of the White. There’s no denying that the White River is prone to flooding.  The Army Corps of Engineers originally had no faith that dams were a solution to overflows. That would change and much of the White River has been incorporated into a system of multipurpose dams.
Press photo of Forsythe in the 1927 flood taken from Shadow Rock
Rising in the Boston Mountains and flowing through a narrow valley, the White River would rise quickly and put buildings on low ground underwater. The Corps of Engineers’ solution protected most of Branson and Hollister from flooding but permanently submerged most of the agricultural land along the upper White River. Valuable farmland hundreds of miles downstream was protected from normal rises.
 
As these government dams were premised on flood control (power generation was an option), local advocates like the White River Boosters Association cried out to Congress for relief from floods, supporting the Corps of Engineers’ claims.
 
Felicity to the new patron of dams required a revised chant from the Missouri business community. When Empire District Electric was considering building Table Rock Dam factory creation was the mantra. Local supporters really didn’t care who built the dam, or why. They just wanted a nice lake, a bigger Taneycomo, at no cost to them.
Sample pages from James Fork of the White can be seen on www.beautifulozarks.com. The book will be available by the end of September. Our earlier river book, Damming the Osage, can be at seen www.dammingtheosage.com)
Jul 222017
 

Near where the Branson Entertainment Strip (a.k.a. state highway 76) meets highway 13, in a little town once known as Lakeview (now Branson West), hidden in a deep hollow are the decaying facilities of the Lost Silver Mine Theater, which opened in 1983. Not quite lost to history – yet – the concrete steps/seats are gathering moss, woooden letters occasionally flutter to the ground from creaking signage. In the amphitheater at the bottom of the hollow, remanants of stagecraft are melting into the ground. Here the story of the Lost Silver Mine and the Yocum Dollar played  out summer nights in the early Branson ‘boom’.

The Lost Silver Mine theater was owned, operated and supplied with a creative narrative by Artie Ayres, who like his father, was obsessed by the legend of the Yocum Dollar. Numerous different story lines have described the origins of the fabled coin (no authentic one has ever been found) and the silver mine where its ore was dug. Despite extensive searches and diligent research, no authenticatable specimen has yet been produced.

The legend itself has been around for 150 years or more. The Yocum (Y-o-a-c-h-u-m is an earlier spelling) brothers arrived in the upper White River country sometime after the War of 1812. They traded with the Delaware Indians who, as the legend says, happened to have a silver mine in the area. The details vary in different versions or more elaborate tellings, but tales of lost mines and buried treasure are not uncommon in this region. One rumored location of the lost mine was at the junction of the James and White Rivers, now under 150 feet of water. Artie Ayres, owner of the Lost Silver Mine Theater and author of Traces of Silver about the legend, has most likely had the best return on this silver investment of all the generations of fortune hunters and tellers of tall silver tales.

 

Find more extensive background for this entertainment relic on our new book, James Fork of the White.

 

 

Jun 272017
 

Real photo postcard by Hall. Probably taken in Stone County, Missouri, but Arkansas sounded more primitive. The hog’s board collar is to keep it out of fenced gardens. Cattle and hogs were released in the woods to feed themselves. The destructive rooting of feral pigs was, and still is, an environmental problem.

Though the hillbilly icon didn’t emerge for several decades, the Ozarks has been depicted as a primitive place inhabited by people living a pioneer lifestyle since the early 1800s. This mythos was rejected by progressive Springfieldians, but in Galena, and the White River Hills, it was a component of tourism.

Arkansas was held to be slightly more regressive than southern Missouri but only slightly so.

(Page 72 in the forthcoming book, James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River.)

Apr 182017
 

We’re moving our Lens & Pen Press blog from Blogger to Word Press and will consolidate the two current blogs into one for our books–the Beautiful and Enduring Ozarks, the James Fork of the White (coming 2017), Damming the Osage, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness and See the Ozarks–and many other favorite topics of discussion. The archive of L&P posts is still available at http://lensandpen.blogspot.com/ The posts on our separate Damming the Osage website remain available at http://www.dammingtheosage.com/the-blog/

To bridge this move from one platform to another, below is the most recent (Blogger) post about Table Rock and the pre-dam White River landscape:

TABLE ROCK – BLUFF AND DAM

Shortly after Empire District Electric built Powersite Dam across the White River, creating Lake Taneycomo, the big electric company announced plans to build a 200-foot dam upriver at Table Rock Bluff.

Table Rock Dam will be built across the big sandbar,” reads the handwritten caption.
Real photo postcard, 1920s, by Payne Johnson, Branson, Mo.

Most bluffs along Ozark rivers are named. Table Rock Bluff had a relatively flat top and was accessible by road. A visit to this overlook was on many vacationers’ itinerary.  For decades locals anticipated seeing machinery in the valley below building a huge dam.  That this never occurred frustrated dam supporters and led them to question if the utility really intended to proceed. They didn’t.

The Army Corps would build Table Rock Dam many years later but the Corps didn’t build it at Table Rock. They moved the location two miles upstream to a more stable geological site, but kept the name.  Table Rock Bluff remains a popular scenic overlook, but is now fenced for safety – unlike the past as shown here.



COMING IN 2017: 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