|Poosey | A Place Called Poosey | The Kingdom of Poosey ||
A Place Called Poosey
by Anna Dockery Burgess
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Dockery Burgess was, as she says, "born in 1906 in a log cabin and raised in the heart of "Poosey" The only child of John "Ling" Dockery and Ida Morris Dockery, her home was on the Livingston side of the Livingston-Grundy County line in Section 3, Township 59, Range 25 of that county.
The name Dockery is a familiar one in Livingston County. There are several families of these pioneers and one member of the Dockery family, Alexander Dockery, was both a congressman and governor of the state about the turn of the century.
Poosey was not a mythical land that lay "just over the hill", but a real community with real people, but no certain boundary lines. It was generally conceded to be a community of small farms that lay on either side of the Livingston-Grundy County line with the center somewhere between what is now State Highway P and Shearwood Station.
The following is the account of life in Poosey as related by Mrs. Burgess.
FIRST SETTLERS IN POOSEY
The first settlers to the north part of Livingston County came before 1838, before the land was eligible for entry, in wagon trains pulled by oxen. Very few were fortunate enough to own a horse. However, most wagon trains had at least two men on horseback who served as outriders or trailblazers. Trailblazers marked or "blazed" the trees to mark the easiest trail.
Among the earliest settlers to this area was a group from Garrard County, Kentucky. The families of Dockery, Harris, Arbuckle, Embry, and Woolridge were attracted to this land because of the abundance of the good timber, flowing water and springs along what was later to be the South Fork of Gees Creek. The land along the county line reminded them of the community in Kentucky they had left behind, a place called "Poosey"
This name, "Poosey", was derived from a tribe of Indians who lived in that part of Kentucky. This new settlement along the county line was the new "Poosey" and was named in remembrance of the land they left behind.
To the early settlers wood and water were necessities. Running water was a must since there were no wells. Springs which came from the hillsides were greatly prized. Timber was used to build houses, barns and fences as well as fuel. Later on when the railroads came through, the sale of railroad ties and cordwood was a source of income.
The prairie lands, although rich, had some drawbacks. The tough prairie sod was difficult to work and its products had, in the beginning, no ready cash market. This changed in a few years.
The timber land produced at least two products for which cash could be obtained, furs and beeswax. The land abounded in game of various kinds and the fur could be sold at trading posts such as Springhill. Beeswax, obtained from the numerous bee trees was used in the making of candles and also had a cash value.
Other families coming here about this time were John, Henry and Nathaniel Gee, Greenbury Harris, L. D. Thompson, Edward Smith, Nathaniel Maxey, George Elijah, Isaac Embry, Green and Presley Boon, B. F. Gibbs, James Blackburn, James Livingston, J. W. Moore, George Trout, William Ashbrook, Zella Conkling, George Dockery, W. P. Robison, George and Mart Goodrich, Menton House, J. L. Prothero and William Woolridge.
NEWLYWEDS IN PIONEER DAYS
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Gee were my husband's great grand parents. Gees Creek is named after this family. Henry Gee and Anna Dockery, who was the younger daughter of George and Matilda Dockery, were married sometime before 1840. Henry Gee was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Gee who settled in Grundy County. William was a veteran of the War of 1812 and first settled in this country where the Trenton water tower now stands. Henry Gee was one of their eleven children.
After the wedding of Henry and Anna, the first step was to establish a home. First there must be an application to the government for a patent or purchase of the land which was to be theirs. This application, one of the first in this locality, was made in 1839. In the meantime, to accumulate money, Henry Gee walked 2 1/2 miles to a place called Craig's Bluff on the Thompson River where he was employed as a butcher.
The location of Craig's Bluff was in Section 4 Town ship 59, Range 24. For a days work he received 50 cents. Other workers, perhaps less skillful, received 25 cents per day. With money saved from this employment he paid the government $1.25 per acre for 40 acres. After the money was saved it was necessary to travel to the land office for the final details. This land office was on the Missouri River, either at Lexington or Brunswick.
The rivers served as the highways of that day. This country was a true wilderness then with no roads, only trails. Travel through forests was somewhat like going through a tunnel. Mr. Gee would spend two nights sleeping out on a round trip to the patent Office. In order to get an early start and leave before sunrise in the morning, he would take off his shoes and point them in the direction he wished to go the next day. This was a precaution to avoid being disoriented as to direction. After the sun came up he had all the compass he needed.
After the Gees made the purchase of their land the next step was to build a house. They sawed and hewed the materials out of the finest oak and black walnut trees and at the same time clearing a small opening for their new home. The original log house had three rooms with a fireplace in each end of the house and one room above the living room.
After the house was built the land had to be cleared of brush and timber in order to have fields to produce crops. Large trees could be girdled and killed, but brush had to be chopped or grubbed away. Fields were small, but the ground was fertile and relatively free of weeds. Crops grown were corn, hemp, flax, wheat and of course, garden products. The wheat, when harvested, was cut by hand, tied in bundles with a band of straw around each little bundle. When the wheat was sufficiently cured it was threshed by stamping over the grain.
Biscuits were enjoyed once a week usually on Sunday. Other days they had corn pone. The old-timers say wheat flour was dark rather than white as we know it. To grind corn or wheat it was generally taken to a grinding mill. These mills would be powered by water or sometimes by horses. The principle of grinding was that the grain was ground between two large stones, generally granite. The mills took a portion of the grain in pay for their work.
Another more primitive way of grinding grain was in a hole in a stump which had been burned out to make a basin. The grain, thus contained, was pounded into flour or meal with a mallet.
Bee trees provided honey for sweetening. The men would get together in the fall with wagons containing barrels and other vessels and take in their winter supply of honey.
For the making of clothing they used flax, hemp, and of course woolen fleeces. Flax was an important crop in the early days. Estimates of flax grown in Township 59, Range 25 in 1880 is 1,000 acres as compared to the same number of acres for wheat.
There was much work and much of it tedious in making cloth, but the settlers were able to make sheets, pillow slips, bed ticks, towels and summer clothing. For their winter clothing they used wool. It had to be sheared from the sheep, then carded and spun. Bark from certain trees would be used to dye the wool to make colored shirts for the men and tiny checked woolens for the ladies' dresses.
I have a lovely old wool coverlet that was made in the early, early days by the Gee family.
Henry Gee and his wife lived out their lives on a farm not far from the Livingston-Grundy County line. They raised a family of 4 girls and 1 boy. One of the girls will be mentioned in another story.
The early settlers, such as the Gees, worked hard, overcame hardships and prospered to a degree. But in 1861 came another obstacle to progress and orderly life. This was the Civil War. The following are some stories from that time.
STORIES OF THE CIVIL WAR
The community of Poosey, like much of the rest of the country, was torn apart by the Civil War. Differences of opinions and loyalties divided communities and even families. Some of the stories are grim but some have a touch of humor when viewed from this point in time. To the people who lived through it though, it was a time of great trauma.
Carl Morrell, who was a grandson of Willis Dockery, related to me some of the
stories Willis had told him.
Henry and Alex "Mink" Dockery were two of the sons of Bob Dockery. In the early part of the war, if one did not wish to go to the military, he could hire a substitute to go in his place. "Mink" deeded his brother, Henry, a tract of land to go in his stead. For added safety he built himself a refuge in "Sol Holler" which was a small cave in the hillside. With batching stuff and a feather bed he proceeded to spend at least part of the war in relative safety. The entrance was small enough that he crawled in and out on his knees.
Another brother named Merrill was also a soldier, probably in the local militia. One dark night Merrill came in riding a spirited white horse with good equipment, fine saddle, shiny boots and silver spurs. Not long after he was sleeping in the loft bedroom and was awakened by strange "cultured" voices outside in the dark. Merrill made a quick exit through the gable window and joined his brother Mink in his hide out.
It turned out a captain's horse and belongings had suddenly disappeared along with soldier, Merrill. Apparently the army never caught up with Merrill because the horse lived out his life in Poosey. A horse or a man was difficult to find in the many hills and valleys. All three brothers survived the var.
There is another story slightly humorous of one Poosey man who didn't want to go to war. He had a wife named Sophrenia called "Phene" by everyone. This man laid his finger across the chopping block, handed his wife the hatchet and said, "Hack'er Phene." She refused and he had to give up the entire scheme. From that time on he was referred to by the community as "Hack'er Phene". He did, however, go to war and served out his time with honor.
Henry Gee had a daughter who had a suitor who was in the army. On leave he came to visit his girlfriend. A band of men referred to as "Guerilla" surrounded the house and demanded his surrender. He retreated to the upstairs room the one referred to in another part of this history. The men entered the house and proceeded to shove bayonets into the floor of the upstairs room in an effort to persuade him to surrender. When this failed they went upstairs, seized him, and threw him out the window to the rest of the band waiting below. They left with him and he was never heard of again. Nancy was the girl's name and she later married a man named Smith. She was buried at the Dockery Cemetery and her body was later moved to Shelburn. What became of Smith is not known.
William Clark and his brother, name unknown, fought in the war under General Sterling Price. They were in the battle of Pea Ridge. After they were mustered out they came through Missouri on their way home to Ohio. Why they came this round about way is not known, but possibly they were looking over available homestead land. Veterans were entitled to certain privileges in homesteading.
William fell in love with a Poosey girl named Sciothe Dockery and they were
married. Their married life was short since Sciothe became ill and died, leaving
a small daughter named Lizzie.
After Lizzie was grown she married George Morris.
Next William started courting another Poosey girl named Mary Krouse. Her folks opposed any marriage because he already had a child.
Mary made herself a pretty "town" dress and William came to see her on Sunday afternoon. The couple took a walk down the county line road. A short way from the house they met Squire Harris, Justice of the Peace. and they were duly married. No license or blood test was needed in those days. No doubt the meeting with Squire Harris was pre-arranged. Mary died young in childbirth. Both wives are buried in Dockery Cemetery.
William was married for the third time to a girl named Nancy Morris. They
raised a large family.
William's brother went back to Ohio.
LIVING OFF THE LAND
The sorghum cane, which grew about 10 feet tall when mature, was stripped of its leaves while still standing in the field. Then it was cut and hauled on a wagon to a sorghum mill. The mill was powered by a horse which went around in a circle and the cane was fed into the rollers which pressed out the juice and it was deposited into a covered vat or barrel. This was then dipped out by hand and poured into a vat and cooked. The result was sorghum molasses, a standard sweet food for the pioneers.
Sorghum was kept generally in gallon containers or barrels. The most desirable sorghum was a golden honey color. Generally the darker in color the less desirable sorghum was thought to be.
My grandfather also had several beehives and had a good supply of honey all the time.
My father had a good grove of maple trees from which he made maple syrup. In the spring when the sap began to rise in the trees, holes were bored in the trunks of the trees. Hollow plugs or spouts were placed tightly in these holes and the sap would then run into buckets placed under the spouts. The sap was then boiled until it reached the consistency for syrup. If they wanted to make maple sugar they would boil the syrup a little longer then pour it into small pans to get hard.
In 1916 a cyclone went through the maple grove. That was a day I will not forget. I was about 10 years old and I had never heard of a cyclone before. When I first saw it the appearance was like a big cloud full of trees and debris. We just stood and watched it since we had no storm cellar and it was a half mile away. It went through our "sugar camp" and uprooted every tree and spun them around like toys. This was the end of the maple sugar making.
Apples and peaches were harvested, cut into small slices and then placed on the roof tops in trays with netting over the top. When the fruit was thoroughly dry it could be sacked and kept through the winter.
The cellars were not large enough to store all their provisions. Fresh apples and cabbage were often gathered in the fall and buried for use in the spring. My grandfather would dig a hole, line it with grass, put his apples and cabbage in the hole and cover them with dirt. In the spring he would go out and dig them out. When they were cooked while still frozen they had such a sweet flavor.
My grandfather would always plant one field of corn for meal and hominy. He would always "snap" the white corn rather than remove the husk because this kept the corn clean and relatively free of insects. "Snapping" corn was the process by which the ear, husk and all, would be broken from the stalk. When the husk was removed and then only the ear broken off the corn had been "husked"
Another product made from corn was a form of bread. In the early fall when corn was just out of the milk stage they would grate it on a homemade grater made from a piece of heavy tin full of nail holes and nailed to a board. The grated corn was then used in making the bread.
The early settlers made lye for making soap and hominy in the following manner. A section of hollow log was cut off and this was placed on a wooden stand. In the winter time the wood ashes from the fireplace were dumped in this "gum" as it was called. The following spring, a bucket full or two of water would be poured in this gum everyday. Eventually a liquid would drip out the bottom and this would be caught in wooden containers. This liquid was lye. When it reached a certain stage it was ready to be used.
To make soap, the proper proportions of lye, water, and fat were combined in a large iron kettle and heated over a fire outside. To test the mixture for the correct amount of lye, a feather was dipped in the kettle and drawn across the container. If at this time the feathers would strip from the quill when run between the fingers one time, then the proper amount of lye had been used. The results were a "soft" soap to be used for laundering clothing, washing dishes, bathing, etc.
To make hominy, shelled corn, lye and water were put in the iron kettle and cooked until the hard outside covering of the corn would slip off. It was then rinsed several times in clear water and all the hard coverings discarded. The results were hominy which was often stored where it would freeze. The freezing helped to make the hominy more tender.
Butchering day was another big event in the year. The first person in the neighborhood to butcher would send a mess of fresh meat to his neighbors. The next to butcher would do likewise. My grandfather would butcher eight or nine hogs for the two families. He would get several neighbors to help and I always was allowed to miss school that day. This provided us with enough cured meat to do for a year. The hams would be smoked with hickory wood in the curing process. Side meat would be placed in salty brine for a preservative. When the salty brine was strong enough to float an egg it was of the proper strength.
We bought virtually no meat from the store. Sometimes we would purchase a few slices of bologna and that was on rare occasions.
CHURCHES IN POOSEY
One of the early churches in Poosey was the Free Will Baptist Church. It was located on the county line just across from Livingston County. This little church produced some of the best singers from miles around.
Some of the local roughnecks took a delight in disturbing worship services. Instances happened such as horses being ridden into the church during services, shooting out lights and so forth. The situation got so bad that the sheriff from Trenton, along with some strong deputies, rounded up sixteen of the wrong-doers and placed them in jail. This quieted things down. The church did not last too many years. It burned down and was not replaced.
Bethel Methodist Church South was organized in 1867 and the church building was erected in 1872. It was a frame building and stood on the southeast one quarter of Section 10, Township 59, Range 25. The total cost of construction was $1,300.
Some of the first members were J. B. Anderson, Andrew Anderson, John Hursey, J. S. Frith, Bob Lauderdale. William Rains, William Kennedy, John Davidson, E. M. Ware, and A. Ramsey.
Nell Parker, who is now 93 years of age and lives in Trenton, relates that she lived nearby when a little girl and often attended. This church was attended by both blacks and whites. One night one lady got "happy" and began to shout. Nell relates that she became frightened and crawled under the seat.
Then there was the Campbellite Church located in Grundy County.
One man who had a great influence in the religious life of Poosey was Jess Harris, who was a Baptist minister. Schoolhouses, churches or anywhere he preached he was sure to have an attentive group of people present. When Jess Harris started to build Calvary Church, located north of the county line, he was told he would never see it finished because of opposition from the rougher element in the neighborhood. What he started he generally finished and this was no exception. It was finished and still stands today, but is badly in need of repairs. I like to stop once in a while when I go past there and look around. It has a lot of memories for me because I went there when a child and my husband's and my memberships were there for several years. His parents were also members of Calvary Church.
It was said that John Mays would take a club to church and place it under his seat. Mays was a man ready to keep trouble down if the occasion demanded.
Two other churches that I can think of were attended by Poosey residents, but were not located in Poosey according to my reckoning. Dockery Chapel, north of Hickory on Highway "W", was named for Willis Dockery, the father of the governor. Willis Dockery was a Methodist minister and is not to be confused with the Willis Dockery who lived west of the Prothero School.
Shelburn Church, also on highway "W", is just north of where I now live. Ever since I can remember the second Sunday in June a basket dinner has been held and is a tradition at Shelburn Church. Back in olden days it was the "Easter Parade" of the year. Every child and lady wanted a new dress and hat and it was a sight to behold as they marched down the aisle to their places. In the days of horse and buggy much care was shown on teams and buggies. I especially remember the celluloid rings on the harness and how it would shine and the horses and buggies looked like new. Shelburn and Dockery Chapel are still there and flourishing, but many of the rest of the churches are just memories.
TRADING POSTS AND TRADE CENTERS
About 1910 my uncle Joe Dockery and his wife Malissa operated a general store on the county line over in Grundy County. Joe operated a huckster wagon on a regular route. He traveled this route once a week buying produce and delivering groceries to the Poosey families. This was greatly appreciated by the families living in the hills.
He bought chickens, eggs and butter from his customers and carried a line of groceries and some dry goods. I remember when $1.00 would buy enough cotton material to make a dress. Joe also ran a switchboard and people could call in their orders. He died when I was quite young, but his family continued to run the store and the switchboard for many years.
In later years Alonzo Coy had a store in Poosey. He would go to Jamesport or Trenton for his supplies. He used a team and wagon. I remember my mother sending me to Coy's store on horseback with a bucket of eggs over my arm. My arm would be numb from holding the pail over my arm. I worked in the Coy store and home for awhile at $3.00 per week.
This was good pay at that time. Job opportunities were not great in Poosey.
Punkin Center was a large two room log house south of the county line. The Wingo brothers operated a blacksmith shop here in the early days. Later on Alex Irvin got his start in the mercantile business there. At that time Poosey boys would gather and match their strength at boxing and wrestling at this place.
Muddy Lane Post Office was where some of the Poosey people got their mail. This was located near the Bethel Church and north and west of the Lilly Grove Church.
Down through the years Hickory probably was the most important little town or trading center for the people of Poosey. In an early day from stories handed down, Hickory was a "wild and wooly" town. One of the stories concerned a so galled "gallon house" which was located in the center of the village. This was a one room log house with benches around the wall and a barrel of whiskey in the center and with available tin cups. Whiskey was purchased by the drink or by the gallon at 25 cents per gallon.
Several years ago one of the old timers was queried about this time. He said his brother ran the place until they got so hot on him and he left and went to Arizona. He then took his brother's place. He said the women of the village ganged up and burned the place. He, the proprietor, went out through the window.
The Rock Island railroad came through Hickory in 1871 and did much for the community for several decades. The railroad surveyor hired one of the old Embrys as a guide through the hills and hollows. In recognition for his services he received a lifetime pass to ride the trains. He rode one train from Hickory to Jamesport, walked back home and never rode a train from then on.
In my time the village of Hickory was a lively little place. The "noon train", number 29, came by at 12:00 noon bound for Trenton. On Saturday the depot platform was jammed with people waiting to go to Trenton. Another train left Trenton at 4:00 P. M.. bound for Hickory. Before we had good roads, Trenton seemed to be quite a distance away. One conductor said there was more business between Hickory and Trenton than any place between Kansas City and Chicago.
SCHOOLS IN POOSEY
At a meeting of the qualified voters of District Number 1 it was determined that the site of the school should be financed out of the school fund. School funds were likely taken out of the sale of land since Section 16 of each township was known as a School Section and proceeds from the sale of these sections financed schools in an early day. The cost of the land site was five dollars ($5.00) and we assume went to a man by the name of Freel who owned the land.
The contract to erect the building was awarded to Robert Dockery. The amount of the bid was $100.00. The following are the specifications of the contract: The school was to be as near the center of District Number 1 as possible. The building was to be of hewed logs and to be 18 feet by 20 feet. It was to have plank floors and doors, two windows and a stove chimney and was to be chinked. The school house was to be completed by November 15, 1854.
The following are the names of the qualified taxpayers and voters: Alex Dockery, Charles Rosson, Bill Rosson, Sr., Jake Rosson, Enox Rosson, Harve Rosson, Al Morris, Dr. Moore, Robert Dockery, L. S. Maddox, George Dockery, John Bugle, Tine Brigle, Alex Dockery, Jr., John Dockery, Bill Ward, Adam Sharp, John Sharp, Alexander House, Daniel Seins, Mort Goodrich, Jerome Rill, John Poe, Henry Gee, Squire Gee, John Rosson, P.W. Martin, Taylor Prothero, George Maddox, George Arbuckle, J. A. Davidson, Box Humphrey.
Names of widows who were taxpayers were listed separately. These were: Bertha Rosson, Sarah Campbell and Mrs. Prouse. The reason they are listed separately was that they were taxpayers, but were not eligible to vote, since women did not have voting rights in those days.
C. W. Burgess the first, taught the school in 1870 for $40.00 per month for 4 months. This seems to be a large salary for those days, but it was just after the war and perhaps inflation had some effect.
A few words about C. W. Burgess who was my husband's grandfather. He had the same name as my husband. The Burgess family came from the state of Maine about 1868. After teaching school here he went to near Bethany, Mo. and engaged in farming. Later on he studied and became a doctor.
This school was used but a few years. It was sold and another school was built about one mile north. This was the Prothero School which was the school in Livingston County that Poosey children were most likely to attend. My father attended this school when he was young, but I never did.
Blackburn School to the southwest of where I lived was one place I attended. It was a long way off or so it seemed to me for part of the way was woods and hills. I used to come home with the Snidow children part way, this was all nearly level prairie ground and good walking. From then on it was through the woods and I did considerable looking back over my shoulder. When there was heavy rains I had one creek to cross, which had a log footbridge. This was quite close to my home and I would sometimes cry until my mother came to meet me.
Part of the time I attended Center School in Grundy County when the school was not too crowded. In those days pupils attended country schools until they were nearly grown. An eighth grade education was all you could get. But some taught school with only an eighth grade education by passing a teacher's examination. Very few people who lived along the county line ever attended high school in those days.
CHARACTERS OF POOSEY
There was a lady I shall call Mary, who lived not too far from my home. Mary had several ventures into Matrimony. The first such venture left her with an invalid daughter upon whom Mary lavished loving care and attention for the remainder of her life.
The next was a gentleman called "Bluebeard" by the neighbors. What his real name was or where he came from or where he departed to is unknown. I don't know whether he was called "Bluebeard" after the character in the story or because of his complexion. But the fact was, the neighbors did not like Bluebeard and decided to do something about it. They gathered on a hill overlooking Mary's shack one night with their guns and started a bombardment. By shooting over the house and knocking the bark off a nearby hickory tree they did try to express their displeasure. During the height of this bombardment, Mary came out long enough to yell at her father who lived close by, "Pap, come down and bring Joe." Joe was a grown boy who had a fearsome reputation. Anyway, Bluebeard got the message and left the community. Like I said, no one seemed to know where he came from or where he went.
Mary's last man came by the marriage club, or love lorn club, as it was then called. This one was considerably more successful. One day when I was about 10 years old I saw this outfit coming down the road from the west or the Jamesport road, as we called it. Four good horses abreast, which was an unusual sight, good harness and a good wagon. The man, we later learned, was named Service and he was accompanied by his son. They were looking for Mary's place which was a log hut with a tin roof and an adjoining room. The log part was one of the original log houses, I think, but I don't know who built it.
Anyway, they went on down the road and eventually found Mary's humble abode. What his first thoughts were no one knows. The son went back to Kansas from where they came. Service stayed more than twenty years, until Mary's death, in fact. The horses and wagon were sold before long. How they lived from 1916 to the late thirties I will now tell.
Later on after the horses and wagon were gone, they had a team of mules and still later one horse and a spring wagon. Service would drive and Mary would sit in the back with her daughter. They would go to Jamesport, Trenton, and sometimes Chillicothe and simply collect anything and everything people would give them. Mary had a hard luck story and their appearance would prove this point. What they collected they would eat, wear or sell.
Mary had a little room attached to the log hut where she would exhibit her wares. There was always someone coming by our house to buy from Mary or just to look. In the teens and twenties and early thirties you would see them out on the road with their spring wagon and one bow with a tarp for bad weather, I suppose. By 1930, what with gravel roads and automobiles, they presented quite a contrast to everyone else.
Mary would also tell fortunes and predict the future, but I doubt she received much income from this line.
By the time welfare came along they had gotten older, but welfare no doubt made life easier.
It all came to an end in the late 1930's. First of all their shack burned down. One day they went to get the mail and when they came back everything was gone, burned down. They moved into a neighboring house belonging to Herman Morris. Sometime after that Mary took sick and soon died. She is buried at the Dockery Cemetery. Service was taken back to
Kansas by some of his relatives. The invalid daughter was taken to an institution and lived only a short time. A quick ending to a rather unusual story.
Buck was another character. I won't call his last name. He just came to Poosey one day. No one knew anything about his past history. He married one of the Poosey girls.
He loved to fox hunt and rode a little white mule with his feet almost dragging the ground. He owned several fox hounds and had a horn he used to call these dogs in. You could hear him ever so far. He would go to dances and take care of the little children and they all seemed to love him. He was a big rough man with whiskers all over his face.
On his death bed he called for the Rev. Homer Harris and said he wanted to confess his true identity. He was from a family well known in the east and when the family estate was settled he felt he had been cheated. So he became bitter, grew a beard, changed his name and just disappeared.
Another couple lived in one of the most secluded spots in Poosey. They lived in a little cabin with only a path to it. John and his wife got very sick. I think perhaps the flu epidemic in 1918. John, a man with fixed ideas, said he would not die in bed. He then got down on the floor and lived out his last hours. A neighbor boy found them three days later. The wife recovered.
Most all the early settlers came from the southern states with Kentucky and Tennessee providing the most numbers. There was one family of blacks named Estes who had 40 acres given to them by the Hutchison family after the Civil War. They built a house on it and raised a large family. They attended Bethel Church sometimes and were noted for their singing. Many of the southern expressions held on in Poosey. A paper sack was a "poke", a drink of water might be called a "swig", "fetch it" would likely be said rather than bring it. Their greeting would be "howdy."
ENTERTAINMENT IN POOSEY AND COMMUNITY
Their interests were mutual and their family back grounds were similar. A sick or needy neighbor was of concern to everyone. No one needed an invitation out to dinner nor did you arrive when the meal was on the table. The host was not shocked to see a whole family show up unannounced at nine in the morning. The women folks would assist in peeling the potatoes or even go to the patch and dig a mess if necessary. The children would run down and catch a frying chicken. If you were at church you were sure to receive an invitation to go home with some one for dinner.
Poosey was outstanding, I believe, in musical talent. As I said before a high percentage played some instrument, I have heard the old people tell how Grandpa Arbuckle would sing folk songs brought here from Kentucky. The Clark family were all good singers. Then later on were the Dockery boys, Shorty Steel who lived with his grandfather, White Dockery, and the Irvin boys. Frank Irvin played the banjo and put on quite a show with a loose-legged jig dance. Little John Breigel, my grandmother's brother, was a left handed fiddler. Milt Campbell played an old time dulcimer. Sam Crawford played the banjo. These boys would play at birthday celebrations and at homes on other occasions. These get togethers were called musicals. How well I remember the musicals that May and Allie Davidson would have. The house would be full and May and Allie would serve oyster soup to everyone. May played the fiddle and Allie and the girls would sing. Davidson's were good singers and would sing at funerals and birthday gatherings.
My father, John (Ling) Dockery, played the fiddle and I played the banjo and the mandolin.
The Dockery boys, Milt Campbell and Frank Irvin used to entertain at school house box suppers and other gatherings. Roy Dockery, Milt Campbell and I went to Shenandoah, Iowa and broadcast over the radio several times. This was along about 1930 and later. The radio station was operated by Henry Field, famous as a mail order seed company.
Another thrill for me was the Old Settlers Picnic held at the Jamesport Park.
This gathering lasted at least two days and was a time to renew old
acquaintances. To me and other children who seldom went to town this was a
The following is a newspaper account of a birthday celebration in 1880. The newspaper and the reporter are unknown. "One of the pleasant events of the season was the surprise birthday celebration of Mrs. S. E. Davidson of Jackson township on July 4. Her many friends came with well filled baskets of good things of which north Jackson abounds. And such a jollification possibly has not occurred since the Declaration of Independence. About noon the dinner was prepared in the shade of a large maple tree and the sight which greeted our eyes, with the cool breeze flowing, caused us to exclaim within ourselves that it was good for us to be here.
All did justice to the good things set before us, especially the writer who has hardly gotten back to her normal size yet. Eighty-one persons ate dinner and yet the victuals were slightly missed. Some excellent music both vocal and instrumental, was rendered by some of the fair maidens and Mesdames.
A short discourse and prayer was offered by Rev. Joe Harvey just before the crowd dispersed. Mrs Davidson was the recipient of many presents from her friends who, after spending a pleasant day, returned to their homes wishing her many happy returns."
LIST OF PRESENTS Water pitcher Mr. and Mrs. Riley
Floral cross Mr. and Mrs. Rice Dress pattern Mrs. F. Hicklin Floral offering
Maggie and Katie Preserve stand Mrs. C. Embry Apron Mrs. John Woolridge Plush
toilet case Mrs. Jno H, House Silk handkerchief Morris Stein Cut glass dish A.
M. Dockery, Jr. Butter dish Mrs. Lucy Prothero Cookie dish Mr. and Mrs. S. M..
Gee Ring Jenny and Lula Hicklin Cut glass berry dish Mrs. Jno E. ________ Bonnet
Mrs. Nancy Dockery Hanging lamp J. D. Davidson Berry dish Mrs. Mary Scott Chromo
W. M. Davidson Bible Nell Gee Cake plate Mrs. H. Coy 50 cents F. Hicklin
25 cents J. Grubb 25 cents Uncle Henry Coy Cake dish Mrs. Bob Dockery Cake plate Mrs. M. C. Prothero Cup and saucer Mrs. Becky Smith Butter dish Mrs. D. House Preserve stand Allie Woolridge Comb case Glen Boyles Pipe and tobacco Fanny Harvey Comb Lena Neff Sauce dish Mrs. J. Coy Ribbons Uncle John Arbuckle
The Sarah Davidson mentioned above was the wife of John Davidson and a sister to Willis Dockery, the Methodist Minister, who was the father of the governor. LEGENDARY PLACES OF POOSEY
I always heard of a hide out in the early days in Poosey called "Feather Valley". This was near the "Big Cut" in the Rock Island Railroad. It was a place where some of the men of Poosey would meet to drink and gamble. They often remained until their food supply ran out and would raid neighboring chicken roosts for more provender. As a result chicken feathers became so plentiful it was referred to as "Feather Valley".
Another place was "Happy Holler", not to be confused with the one in Red Brush to the southeast of Poosey. This was so called because the early Clark family lived there and were all good musicians and singers. Young people would gather there and have musicals for which Poosey was famous, therefore the name "Happy Holler"
Prothero Holler was a township road that ran south of the Prothero school and eventually came out upon the prairie land. It was an exceedingly rocky road and was also known as "Rocky Holler". It seems to be the dividing line between Poosey and Red Brush. Clifton Prothero ran a post office on this road in the early days. It was known as Wilner Post Offfce.
Just south of where I live is the Poe Hill. This was a long steep hill when the road used to go that way. There was an Indian burying ground on this hill. My son, Clifford Burgess, found a skull which was in several pieces. On this hill and alone the creek on my farm, known as the Squire Gee farm in an early time, numerous artifacts have been found.
The "Big Cut" where the Rock Island Railroad made its way from Trenton toward the southwest was through limestone bluffs. This was where Poosey boys would hop a freight and ride to Jamesport or Gallatin. Some of the braver ones would go to St. Joseph.
The "Panther Den" is another legendary spot. This is a sandstone outcropping on what used to be my Grandfather Ashford Morris' place. The outcropping was even larger in early days. My grandfather had a horse run off this ledge and was crippled so badly the horse had to be destroyed. They then took some dynamite and blasted off a portion of the outcropping. Names have been carved on this ledge over the past hundred years.
LEGENDARY TALES OF POOSEY
Poosey has some stories passed down from one gener ation to another. Here are some of them.
The much talked about "panther den" received its name in the following manner. The early pioneers told how a small child was playing near a vacant house and was attacked and killed by a panther. The animal was tracked to this cave and killed and was buried in the cave. As a child I was around the cave many times since it was on my Grandfather Morris' place. I was always afraid to go back in the small opening.
The story of the petrified woman is as follows. In 1912 a body was to be moved from the Davidson Cemetery to another location. They found the body in the same condition as when it was placed there eighteen years before. The personal features, the lace cap and pleated shroud were in perfect condition. They found that they could not lift the casket and were obliged to employ a man who had a derrick. To the onlookers it appeared the body had petrified or turned to stone. No scientific explanation was ever given.
My father told me of two events that impressed him. One of them was the sight of foxfire. Coming from Bethel Church one night what appeared to be a ball of fire on the road was keeping just ahead of him. Fox fire is common in some places, of course, but not here.
Another time a mysterious thing happened on his way home from a musical at May Davidson's. It was in the big hollow we called "Windmill Hollow". According to my father a ball of fire the size of a washtub was floating overhead from one hill to another. It soon disappeared, meanwhile making a buzzing noise.
DEATHS FUNERALS GRAVEYARDS
Back in the pioneer days, before embalming became a general practice, funerals were held as soon as possible. Generally neighbors prepared the body for burial, then placed it in a cool room on boards. Caskets were made in the home in the early days, but later on they were purchased out of Jamesport. On the day of the funeral the body was taken to the cemetery in a wagon with the finest team of horses and trappings available. The funeral was held at the cemetery with graveside services.
John Sharp was one of the men who officiated at funerals. He had a good team and all that went with it. Bill Arbuckle often served as the minister.
Most of the funerals I remember when I was young were at the Dockery Cemetery located in Section 14, Township 59, Range 25 in Livingston County. Generally there were graveside services. Dockery Cemetery holds many memories for me. Many of my direct ancestors are buried there besides friends and relatives. My great, great grandparents, George and Patsy Embry Dockery, great grandparents, George, Jr. and Matilda House Dockery, grandparents, John "White" and Eliza Breigel are buried in this place. On my mother's side, great grandparents, Oliver and Elizabeth Masten Morris are here. Old Rob Dockery and his three wives are in this cemetery. One, the mother of Willis Dockery, was named Penelope Pullion, but I have forgotten the names of the others. Willis Dockery and his wife, Alex "Mink" Dockery and his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Mary are also buried at the Dockery Cemetery. Old man Freel, the one the first school was named after, was one of the first, if not the first that was buried here. The date of his death is unknown. Freel has no headstone, but has the distinction of having a very large slab of stone across his grave.
This stone is a nice place to sit and meditate. Once a rattlesnake crawled out from under this rock when someone was sitting on it.
There are numerous other markers here of people that I know and of course, many graves are unmarked.
Several Poosey people are buried in the Matt Green Cemetery located in Grundy County near the county line. My Grandfather Dockery's brother, Tim Dockery, is buried there. Tim Dockery was a preacher who apparently could not read. His memory was so good that when someone read to him from the Bible he would never forget. At the time of his death he lived alone. He was found near the spring where he had gone for water. Another cemetery on the R. M. Keys farm located south of Hickory Creek, is named the Embry Cemetery. It is a very old cemetery. I have a great grandmother buried there. She was killed when a team of horses ran off with her on a load of logs. My grandmother was a little girl 3 years old at that time.
However, most of the early settlers of Poosey are buried in the Dockery Cemetery. The community of Poosey is just memories now. There are only a few of us left who hold memories of this place.
The community of Poosey is just memories now. It was a victim of the very qualities that made it enchanting. It was secluded, rough and hilly and progress, such as good roads and electricity, never came to Poosey. It was a long way from Trenton or Chillicothe or even Jamesport. The land did not lend itself to big farming or big machinery.
Probably the high tide of population was about the turn of the century as it was in most rural communities. From that time a slow decline in population began which accelerated during World War I and the twenties. This trend slowed down during the depression of the thirties and picked up again about World War II. It was simply a matter of young people leaving to seek opportunities elsewhere and when the old passed away no one replaced them. Many young people went to California during the twenties and the thirties. Some of them returned to either Grundy or Livingston County, but many of them did not return. McCloud, California, a lumber camp, had a relatively high percentage of workers who came from the vicinity of the county line.
Sometime after 1940 a man named Shumacher started purchasing small farms on the Livingston County side in order to make a bigger acreage. Several landowners along the county line sold out to Shumacher. After passing through several owners, the Bob Daugherty's sold 824 acres to the Missouri Conservation Service. It is named the "Poosey State Forest" and is all in Livingston County. I am proud and happy that the name "Poosey" will be preserved in this area. Further east of the state forest the Pike family owns some of the land that I have written about.
Time has changed some things but not all things. The hills and trees and the streams are still there and the landscape is beautiful most of the year. The old houses, barns and fences are mostly gone. Not much is left of a community that lasted a hundred years.
All my life everything has gotten better for everyone, materially, that is. I
am grateful for this especially for my children and grandchildren. But I believe
we have lost something, too.
I remember the old times along the county line when I was growing up and I think people had a certain peace and tranquility that is missing now. I remember with happiness and a lot of sorrow, too, because it is gone. All the old times, the musicals, the Sunday dinners, the birthdays and just the everyday living. We were a kind of big happy family with everyone having a sense of belonging.
I have always been a contented sort of person. I have been happy with my family, where I lived, my church and life in general. I believe I am fortunate to have this gift of contentment. I believe it came from the people I grew up with and the place where I grew up, a place called Poosey.
a a a
All communities have their own history and all are interesting. In my own opinion Poosey was the most interesting, the most talked about, and consequently the most likely to be the subject or wild tales and myths.
The story was written to be factual and the portions listed as legends are stories passed down from early days and are passed on to the reader as they were told.
I consider Mrs. Burgess the best remaining authority on Poosey, and, perhaps, the best authority of all time. A portion of the history of Poosey she knew first hand and the rest she heard from her parents and relatives.
I appreciate the efforts of Mrs. Burgess in preserving the history of a very
interesting part of Livingston County. I hope readers of this in the future will
feel the same.
Roy C. Hicklin THE MYSTICAL KINGDOM POOSEY POOSEY
Livingston County has the distinction of having a neighborhood which no one can definitely locate. the kingdom of Poosey, which is always referred to as "JUST OVER THE HILL."
Among early settlers, George and Patsy Dockery moved to Missouri from Poosey, Kentucky in 1835. they named this place Poosey in remembrance of Poosey, Kentucky, and the location of their land coincides with what many local historians have decided is Poosey. However, there is nothing definite as anyone asking the exact location of Poosey, in that neighborhood, will get the reply, that it is "JUST OVER THE HILL." Old residents say it never will be decided. Owing to this vague location, the neighborhood of Poosey consists of a great deal of territory. They do admit that it is bounded by Red Brush, Hogskin Hollow (pronounced, Holler) and Possum Trot.
A visit to Red Brush in the fall with the woods a blaze of color, is something to remember, and it derives it's name from the brilliant scarlet coloring of the hard maples.
Hogskin Holler, in the neighborhood of the old Scott Miller place received it's name from the myth that a man stole a hog and butchered him there -- leaving only the skin.
Another area of Poosey, according to Flick Girdner, is "Hell's Half Acre", on the outskirts of Red Brush. There was a big argument the location of a school building which was moved back and forth so often, that folks started calling it -- "Hell's Half Acre."
It is agreed that the kingdom of Poosey is in both this county, and over the
Grundy County line.
One farm, now known as Harris Heights Farm, 12 miles SW of Trenton, was traced to Jesse and Mary Harris, who came from Kentucky in 1830, and purchased 600 acres from the government. But a tribe of Indians resided so close that the Harris' had to wait some three years in a more settled community before building their home. One of their sons, James Parker Harris, born July 22, 1839, was said to be the first white child born in the township.
Across the road from the Harris place, Loranzo and Nancy Thompson settled 114 years ago. They also came from Kentucky and descendents still live on the land. On the Thompson land, is an old buffalo wallow, and a deer point lick.
In the early days, the woods were full of wild turkey, deer and bear. For sweetening, pioneers tapped the hard Maple trees, and they also found honey plentiful in the hollow trees. If you still have questions regarding Poosey's boundary, you have the sympathy of the Federal government. Two government soil surveyors in 1948 spent two weeks in the area and at each inquiry were told that it lay "JUST OVER THE HILL."
A trip to Poosey now, is like going back to another day. So many of the old homes still stand and are lived in by the descendents of the original settlers. Driving through this country on a beautiful fall day, with wood smoke in the air and a brilliant display of foliage, gives the true feeling of Missouri and of course not knowing exactly where you are, adds zest to the excursion.