Homesteading in the Ozarks of Missouri

Family homesteads on 40 rough acres in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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I am 92 years old and have lived most of my life in Kansas, but as a child I spent three years on an Ozark homestead.

When I was about 10 years old, my parents decided to go to southern Missouri. Mother's brother, who had gone down there, said it was a good place for a poor man. Well, I guess it was, for we went down poor and we came back poorer.

We left Kansas in February and were nearly three weeks on the road which was often bad with mud or deep ruts. Sometimes creeks and rivers were high and we would camp and wait two or three days for the stream to run down so we could ford it. We would stop early in the evening near a stream or spring where we could get wood for a fire and water. Father would often kill rabbits or squirrels along the road, and we had fresh meat to cook over the campfire. We never traveled on Sunday as Father said the horses needed a day's rest. Sometimes the traveling was miserable; other days it was fun-at least for us children.

My parents settled on a raw 40 acres of rough timberland south of Forsythe, Missouri. We lived in a rented house. There was plenty of timber, with walnut and white oak for good straight logs. When Father had the logs ready, neighbors from all around came and put up the logs for walls. They built one large room with an upstairs and a lean-to kitchen. Father split shingles out of burr-oak blocks.

Back of the house was a cedar glade, with beautiful trees and a good spring. We toted all our water, and when it was warm, Mother took the washing to the spring, carrying the tub, boiler, washboard, and clothes.

In the timber there were wild animals and game, and we found wild berries, plums, and grapes for jellies and jams. Father hunted for bee trees and cut them, claiming the good pure honey. Our little garden on the ridge never did much good even though we worked hard in it.

One evening Father came in from farm work, tired and weary, and said, "If I could sell this place for enough to get back to Kansas, we would go." He did sell, and we started back in June.

The coming back wasn't so long and tiresome as we older children would walk behind the wagon, gathering flowers and wild blackberries. Only one incident stands out in my memory. Near Springfield, Miisouri, we were caught in a bad storm, and Father tied the wagon to the ground with a long rope to keep it from blowing over. We went to a nearby barn and slept in the haymow.

The Ozarks is beautiful country, with the dams, lakes, beautiful drives and resorts now. I have been back on vacations and I enjoyed it much more than when I lived there.

Mrs. Anna Atkinson
Longton, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.