EARLY TIMES IN ST. CLAIR COUNTY, MO.
(Turnbo Manuscripts Collection)
One of the old timers of St. Clair County, Mo. who lived in that section in the pioneer days is R. J. (Dick) Drake who has lived a number of years near Pro-tem in Taney County. Mr. Drake is a son of Jefferson and Millie (Roberts) Drake and was born in Green County Kentucky March 2, 1837. His parents left Kentucky when Dick was an infant and with five other families including his grand parents on his mothers side crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis and reached St. Clair County in a big ox wagon when he was 9 months old. His father settled on government land on the south side of the Osage River 7 miles below Oceola. His nearest neighbors were 4 and 5 miles apart among them were George Estes, Dan Perrin, Jimmie Cole. The last named lived on Warbleau Creek that runs into the Osage. Cole was a Baptist preacher and moved to Taney County after the end of the Civil War where he died near Pro-tem and is buried on a small grave yard on the Dick Drake place. Mr. Drake says that his father Jefferson Drake died in Henry County, Mo. and lies buried in what was then known as the Breshy Knob Grave Yard. "My grandmother Mrs. Millie Roberts lived to be 87 years old and is buried where my mother is" said Mr. Drake. In referring to the manufacture of wearing apparel Mr. Drake said "My mother and my sister Martha made nearly all of our clothes. We raised flax, pulled it up when it was ripe and let it lay on the ground in bunches until it was rotten enough to be broken which was done on a frame made for the purpose which worked up and down until the flax was thoroughly broken then it was twisted and stems mashed and the rubbish all taken out until there was nothing left but the lint. Then it was made Into threads on a small wheel and the thread was manufactured into pants, shirts, ropes and other articles that could be made out of flax. I have wore shirts made of this stuff called two shirts. I well remember the first school taught in our neighborhood but I disremember the name of the teacher. The citizens including my father got together one day and cut logs and hauled them into the edge of Wableau Prairie and built a small house and cut out a door and wide fire place and In the course of a few days they put a roof on it and built a low chimney. Blocks of wood and benches were used for seats and the ground was used for a floor. The teacher was a very old man. Two young men who attended this school were Bob and Marion Cobe sons of Jimmie Cobe both of these were killed during the war. Also one of Jimmie Coles daughters of the name of Sarah went to this school. Sarah came to Taney County with her father and married a man of the name of John Cobe that was no kin to her. John Starkey son of Jimmie Starkey, Jerry Martin son of Billy Martin attended this same school. Also three children of the widow Poaster Sarah, Jennie and Billy. Mrs. Poaster lived on the Osage River and was a sister of Tom Allin who lived many years near Pro-tem Mo. and died in Kansas in 1903. During my earliest recollections" continued Mr. Drake, "the town of Oceola contained only one store and a liquor shop that was owned by Tom Dosier. I was 9 years old when I put on my first pair of shoes. This was on Christmas day in 1848. My sister Martha was 18 months older than I and my two brothers John and Carter were younger than I. A tanner of leather lived 12 miles from our house and my father pealed a wagon load of tan oak bark and after drying it in the sun he hauled it to the tannery and swapted It for enough leather to make us all shoes when he got back home which was several days before Christmas. Father went to work and made our shoes which were square toed and we put them on Christmas day."