THE OLD LOG HOUSE ON MUDDY SHAWNEE CREEK
By Lars Meredith Stevenson
I have tried to locate the eleven families that settled around the old log house that was home for the Stevenson families for over one hundred years. I’ve heard my Grandpa say that his dad, Alexander K. helped build the house. When his uncle, Robert McFarland got the Illinois fever, Alexander bought the place from him.
In March 1974 my Dad made a condensed copy of the deeds of which I am going to copy now.
Condensed Copies of Deeds
by H.R. Stevenson March 1974
Mitchel & Jane Fleming nee Stevenson – in consideration of a Bond to us given by Robert S. McFarland do remise, release and forever quit claim unto the said Robert S. McFarland a certain tract or parcel of land lying in the W ½ of SE ¼ of Section 8, Twp, 33 N of Range 13E in the District of Cape Girardeau, Mo. – 80 acres more or less.
We hereunto set our hands and seals this day 2-13-1833.
Signed: Mitchel Fleming [Seal]
Signed: Jane X Fleming [Seal]
When Mitchell Fleming deeded this 80 acres to R. S. McFarland, he was living with his second wife, Jane Stevenson. My dad H.R. Stevenson always said she was James Stevenson’s sister.
This indenture made this 20th day of May 1826. Thomas Wilson and Elizabetn his wife, for the sum of $30 to them paid, so grant, bargain and sell to Robert S. McFarland a certain tract or parcel of land lying in the E ½ of SW ¼ of Section 8 in Twp. 33N Range 13 E. in the District of Cape Girardeau, Mo. – containing 10 acres, more or less.
Signed: John Wallace [Seal]
Signed: Elizabeth X Wallace [Seal]
This is the land the old log house was built on.
Know ye all men that I Robert S. McFarland and wife Agness, in consideration of the Sum of $700 to us in hand paid by Alsexander K. Stevenson, do by these presents remise, release and forever quit clain unto the said A.K.S. his heirs and assigns a certain tract or parcel of land lying in the W ½ of SE ¼ of Sec 8 Twp. 33N. Range 13E in the district of Cape Girardeau, Mo., containing 80 acres be the same more or less.
Also a second tract of land, purchased from Thomas Wilson the 20th day of May 1826 containing 10 acres.
Also a third tract or parcel of land lying and being in the NW ¼ of Sec. 17 Twp. 33N, Range 13E containg 25 acres more or less.
We set our hands and seal this 15th day of Sept. 1837.
Signed: Robert S. McFarland [Seal]
Signed: Agnes McFarland [Seal]
This is how these parcels of land got into the Stevenson family. There were other transactions, these were the first. I have the original deed for the 80 acres to Mitchel Fleming signed by President James Monroe. I have deeds for other parcels of land signed by other Presidents they are all signed by someone else.
September 1837 Alexander K. Stevenson became the owner of the house and land that Robert McFarland started, There were three children born there by 1844. Julia, Linley, and Mary Jane who died in infancy. Alexander’s wife Margaret died about this time.
Then he married Elizabeth Clodfelter 4 Dec 1845. They had seven children, five boys and two girls. These children all went to the Old Shawnee School that was located on the property line that was between my granddad’s place and his Uncle Lynn Clodfelter’s place. It must have been started in the 1840s.
When I was a little kid, great-grandma Boren used to walk over to the old house quite often to visit my mother. They were grinding horseradish in the kitchen one morning, Great-Grandma said, when she was a little girl she went to school in that old kitchen. That would be in the 1830s. The kitchen was very likely built by Bob McFarland in the 1820s; to live in while the big log house was being built. It sat away from the log house three or four feet. When my Dad bought the place he had it built onto the house.
Around 1880 District #3 built a new school house on the road between New Wells and Shawneetown. When the districts were consolidated, the new school was sold and is now a blacksmith shop. The old Shawnee School was done away with immediately. The land that it occupied would go back to the land owners. Granddad figured half of the building was on his land, Uncle Lynn figured it was all on his land. As the story goes there was a little fist fight there, I don’t think there were any referees around. It was the custom on a line fence, you built half and your neighbor built half. Grand-dad started the fence from his corner, and the last post was set in the middle of the school property. Uncle Lynn started from his corner and his last post took all of the school property. Until this day you can go there and see the jog in the fence right where the old school house set.
The new school was where my dad and his brothers, and “we boys” went to school. I remember Uncle Amos was visiting us from Farmington. Mom was fixing the lunch boxes for us to take to school. Uncle Amos said when he was a boy in that same house his mother had one big basket. She put the lunch in for all of them it took two to carry it to school. There was always an argument as to who was going to carry it home.
All of Alexander’s children got their start in school in the Old Shawnee School. Some of them got more schooling a Oak Ridge and Fruitland. Hugh was the only one that made teaching his career. I don’t think Lowery and Amos ever taught school.
When the Civil War was over Amos and John Trickey went to Kansas to homestead land around Winfield, 1869 to 1870. My granddad and Theodore helped them move. My grand-dad rode a horse, Theodore drove a wagon. This was just the time that Jesse James was starting his career, I asked granddad if he carried a pistol. He said one of his friend offered the loan of his pistol but he didn’t take it, he carried a shotgun.
Theodore married Julia Hinkle 15 August 1871. He taught school for a couple of years. Then in the Spring of 1875 he decided to go to Kansas and be with his brother, Amos, close to Winfield, Kansas.
As A.C. Stevenson’s Book (diary) as he called it, he bid Miss M.J. (as he called Julia Margaret) adeau. Monday morning the 5th day of April 1875 he climbed into the wagon with Theodore and his wife and stared for Kansas. His diary speaks for its self about the trip. He didn’t stay in Kansas very long, he took a train from Wichita to Denver for his health. Wyatt Earp was the Marshal of Wichita in 1875.
He stayed in Denver until the first of November then he took the train back to St. Louis, visited his uncle, Harvey Stevenson and other friends. Left St. Louis 5 Nov 1875, on the Belle of Memphis for Wittenberg, arrived there 12 noon on the 6th. Mr. Ude was there with the freight wagon from New Wells store, he gave him a ride home.
Granddad left Missouri a 90 pound weakling. He weighed 105 pounds when he came back but he still complained, The 6th January 1876, he and Miss Julia Boren were married. There was no more complaining in his dairy. They went to parties, danced and had a good time. He quit writing in his book 29 Oct, 1876.
Alexander had the farm all to him self the boys were all gone but A.C. They divided the farm, A/C. took the north half of the 80 acres in the bottom, bought more ridge land and started digging a cistern, where his house was going to be built. It was a good quarter of a mile north of the old log house. Before he got it finished, he took the postmaster job at Neelys Landing.
I’ve heard my grandma say, when they drove up to that big house on the bank of the river, she couldn’t hardly make herself get out of the wagon. She didn’t like it there. She said at nite you could hear big chunks of the bank falling into the river. They didn’t stay there but about a year.
They moved to Pocahontas and stayed there a couple of years. They lived in the same house that they bought back in 1921 to live out their retirement years from 1923 til 1942 in Pocahontas.
By 1880 Amos and Theodore were in Kansas, Hugh was away teaching school. Lowery had gone to Illinois. Philip Clodfelter had come to the old log house to spend his last years with his daughter Elizabeth. She got 10 acres of his bottom land for this service. Philip was a care to take care of. Elizabeth had her two girls to help but Alexander had no one to help with the farm, and he was in poor health.
Grand-dad moved back to the house he had started when he got married. He would be close to the old folks and could help on the farm.
Lowery had married Lulu Jones in Illinois. He came back about this time to help run the farm. He didn’t move in with the old folks. He built a little bungalow about fifty yards west of the old log house.
Philip Clodfelter died 11 March 1881 and Alexander K. died of cancer 16 Dec. 1881. This left the running of the farm up to Lowery. He was crippled, born with a deformed foot, didn’t look like he could do much work. Grandad said he really put that old farm in shape. Besides raising good crops, he had good stock. He split rails and built fences. There was no stock law, the country was open range. He fenced his fields to keep his stock in, instead of keeping stock out. I saw him one time, in the Spring of 1917 he came up from Texas on a visit. My dad had just bought a Moline tractor. We kids walked around the place with him. He told us lots of thing about the place, a lot I can’t remember.
He went back to Texas and a year later, March 1918 he was standing on the back step of his mail hack when the horse bolted, it jerked him off he fell hit his head on the sidewalk and died in Galveston, Texas.
He ran the farm until Jamima Jane (Aunt Jennie) married John T. McNeely and moved to Leemon. My dad said he remembered his Aunt Jennie’s wedding, the year 1889. They were married in the log house. Dad said he remembered playing with Lowery’s boy, Guy, on the floor while the wedding was going on.
Lowery could see that after Jennie left that it wasn’t going to be too many more years until his mother was going to have to have more care than he could provide.
He and Amos agreed to swap places. He went to Kansas and Amos came back to the old home place. My dad said that this swap wasn’t with wagons through the Ozarks but by boat to St. Louis and train to Wichita, Kansas.
Amos had three girls and a boy: Eura, Daisy, Bessie and Carl. They moved into the bungalow that Lowery vacated. They lived there until Rosa died, then they moved into the log house to take care of grandma. There was a mother and three girls to take care of one old lady. There was some one to do the cooking, some one to do the house cleaning, the garden, taking care of the chickens, milking the cows, everything. All that grandma had to do was, sit down and take it easy. For an old lady that had done everything for herself for seventy or more years, to sit down and watch some one else do the work was just impossible.
I’ve heard my dad say that she never just walked casually, she went she had a given amount of time to get there. When I was with my dad the last few years of his life, we sat at the table in his mobile home and looked across the yard to his granddaughter’s house. When Katherine came out of the house to get the mail or go to the little store across the road, dad would say there is grandma. They both walked like they had been sent for.
Grandma just couldn’t adjust to so many young girls that were willing to do all the work. It wasn’t but just a little while after Amos moved into the log house, that she went to Leemon to live with her daughter Jamima Jane McNeely. She died there 28 Nov, 1910.
Mr. Sadler was teaching Shawneetown School that year. He wanted to go to Indian Creek that weekend. Dad took him down in the buggy. When he came back over Knee Bo Hill, Uncle John [McNeely] was out at his mailbox, Dad said he told him that grandma was very low. The next day she died and was buried in Apple Creek Cemetery, Pocahontas, Mo.
This brings things up to the turn of the century. The old folks were all gone,
their children were all out on their own. Amos on the old home place with three girls and a boy. My grandad, Alpheus C. on his place with three boys and a girl. This generation was growing up in the same area that two generations had grown up before them. These children all went to the public school at Shawneetown. There were no automobiles or telephones in this part of the county yet.
The Germans that settled at Wittenberg in 1839 were spreading out fast. They were all Lutherans, a church was built in New Wells about the time of the Civil War. One at Shawneetown right after the turn of the century, then on to Pocahontas. The Methodists built Epworth Church west of Shawneetown about the same time. The Presbyterian Church at old Apple Creek was losing members, its days were numbered. Epworth lasted about ten or fifteen years.
In 1902 Roy, my dad, and John McNeely, a neighbor boy, decided to go to the Normal (Teachers College) at Cape Girardeau. Amos’ boy Carl was a year older than my dad. He went to a Methodist college to be a preacher.
After a couple of years of college Roy got a teachers permit. This gave him a chance to make a little money so he could go back to school for another year or to to summer school. The World’s Fair was in St. Louis in 1904 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. That was a big event. The students got a special rate on the Frisco railroad. It had just been completed from St. Louis to Memphis, Tenn.
Dad taught his first school at Wittenberg the winter of 1904 & 1905. That summer he stayed home and helped his dad build a new house. The kitchen of the old house was moved around a little and lived in the while the old house was torn down and the new house put in the same place.
Caleb Meyer, from Altenburg, was the carpenter that built the house. My dad heard the story about Theodore Mitchel’s bet from Caleb. I have it on tape but will tell it here.
Wilkerson Mill was a water mill on the Perry County side of Apple Creek, on the road from New Wells to Altenburg. It was a place where men went on business and to get the latest news around the country. When a man took a load of wheat or corn to the mill he wasn’t expected to get home too early.
Cleveland and Harrison were running for President the year 1892. A political argument was the easiest thing to get started at the Mill that year. Zisky was the miller, he was all for Cleveland for President. Theodore Mitchel was for Harrison fro President. One day in a heated argument, Theodore told Zisky that if Cleveland won he would push him up to Walters store on the main road and back to the mill in a wheelbarrow. If Harrison won Zisky would push him. That was a bet, the nite was agreed on to settle the bet.
Zisky made plans for a big celebration that nite. He had the band from Altenburg and Frona, the beer wagon was there from Wittenberg with plenty of beer. He was going to have a celebration win or loose.
When the election was over Cleveland won. The nite the bet was to be paid off Theodore didn’t show up. The party went on at the mill, it wasn’t what it would have been had all parties shone up.
The Christmas program at the Grange Hall in Shawneetown there was a little red wheelbarrow on the Christmas tree for Theodore Mitchel. When Santa Claus gave it to him he took it out in front of the hall, set a match to it and burned it up.
A. C. Stevenson’s house was finished the summer of 1905. Amos was still living in the old log house, but the time was coming for a new generation to occupy it.