Mrs. Nancy Jane Dosing of Flat River is, so far as we know, the only woman in the entire community who receives a monthly check from the government as the widow of a soldier in the Civil War. Her late husband, John Dosing, served in the Union Army, Co. G, 49th Reg., Illinois Infantry. He died in 1918. The pension which for many years was $30.00 per month, has gradually been increased until it now affords Mrs. Dosing a comfortable living.
Aunt Nan lives in the house she came to as a bride when she married John Dosing in
1902. He was a widower with three children, Bertha, Martin and James. They later adopted
and reared Mrs. Dosing's niece Alma.
Aunt Nan lives alone--no not exactly alone--she has three canary birds and her dog Prince. Her favorite pet, Poll Parrot, succumbed to old age. And were the neighbors glad! Poll imitated her mistress' voice so perfectly that it was hard to distinguish if Aunt Nan wanted help or if Polly only wanted another cracker real badly. And, too, old Poll's repertoire started too early in the morning to suit the late sleepers. One neighbor went so far as to find a buyer for Poll in another town. But Aunt Nan said, "No, there is no price on Polly." The old bird repeated, "No price on Polly," so the deal was off.
When this lithe little lady goes shopping on Main Street in Flat River, she probably glances occasionally toward the location of an old log house, long since gone, where she lived for a time in her girlhood. The house, known as the Walton house, stood on the lot now occupied by DeLuxe Cabs, just west of National Hotel. It contained two very large rooms and a lean-to. It faced the old Potosi road on which our present Main street developed. At that time, the Dan Coffman house stood just west of the river, the John Coffman house just east of the river, and the John Shannon home farther up the hill in vicinity of Federal Park.
The Walton house was located on the Simms farm which Aunt Nan's father, Geo. Whaley, had rented for cultivation. This farm took in a large part of the present town of Flat River west of the river.
Aunt Nan recalls that the M.R. [&] B.T. railroad ruined some fine corn her father was cultivating when they laid the tracks straight through the middle of his corn patch in the summer of 1889. (This railroad was begun May, 1887, and completed early in 1900).
While Aunt Nan's father and brothers were busy cultivating the farm, their womenfolks began serving noonday meals to some carpenters from Doe Run who were working on the Wigwam, a long frame building erected as sleeping quarters for miners who were being attracted here by the high wages ($1.00 per day). She remembers that some of those carpenters whom they served meals were Henry Rinke, S. Maurer and son, Harry and August Schaffer. The Wigwam stood on present site of the Tucker building on Main street. At that time there was not a good grocery store nearer than Bonne Terre, where the father went on horseback each week for groceries, carrying them in a sack thrown across the saddle. They had their own cows to furnish milk and butter. She recalls that the cow pen where they milked was on the present site of Flat River depot.
When Aunt Nan's family later vacated the Walton house, it was occupied by Mrs. Nave who began serving meals to the miners. One of the young miners who slept in the Wigwam and took meals with Mrs. Nave was Geo. K. Williams. He fell in love and married the lovely daughter of his boarding mistress.
Geo. K. Williams was Flat River's first Post Master and he and his brothers operated the first store here. The Post Office was located in the store.
Memories seemed to crowd in on Aunt Nan, and her dark eyes sparkled behind her glasses as she recalled those early days when there was no Flat River Main street, not even a town and no entertainment of any kind for young people in the community. Occasionally, she says, a crowd of young folks would walk to a little frame church, just east of Esther, to hear Rev. John Shannon preach.
Until recently this old church (called the Frame Church) could be seen from the road. Only remnants of the foundation remain now. But the spring which no doubt attracted the builders, still bubbles its living waters just a pace below the the site of the old church. We are told this building housed Flat River school for a time prior to the first building program incorporated here.
Aunt Nan, despite her 79 summers, moves about her work as nimble as a schoolgirl. She says, "I never have time to set down and get rusty, and I believe a woman should keep busy instead of "going" galavanting into mischief." She cooks meals as she did before soup and sweet potatoes came in tin cans.
Aunt Nan recalls that she was "baby sitter" for the Miller family in Elvins when Louie and Sam Miller were children and their mother wanted to get away from the house for awhile. She says, "I sometimes spanked Louie Miller and I feel like doing so now when I look at my store bill and discover what he has charged me for beefsteak." But she keeps going back to Miller's store, a habit she formed many years ago.
Unlike some old ladies, Aunt Nan doesn't criticize the women of today for smoking. But she wonders why they choose to be bothered with monogrammed cigarette cases and holders, ash trays and matches when a clay pipe (like her own) can so easily be carried in the apron pocket and lighted with a coal of fire raked from the heating stove.
A visitor to Aunt Nan's house any evening would likely find her listening to her favorite radio programs or maybe reading her Bible. Glancing about the room the visitor would notice hanging on a nail the framed picture of a bearded gentleman, true likeness of John Dosing, soldier in the great struggle between the states.
Jesse Doss, who was born and reared next door to Aunt Nan and who lives there now in his modern home with his wife and daughter, Linda, wrote some verse expressing his sentiments toward his old neighbor. Probably some favorite dish of his which Aunt Nan brought in at supper time inspired the poem, or maybe just living by her all his life urged the muse. Anyhow he sat down a few minutes and wrote the following lines which Aunt Nan framed and hung on the wall in her "sittin' room."
Published by THE LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Fri. Feb. 11, 1949.
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