|Poosey | A Place Called Poosey | The Kingdom of Poosey ||
The Kingdom of Poosey
by Max C. Hamilton
published in the Missouri Conservationist, February 1952 with pictures by the author
Editor's note: Max Hamilton is an outdoor writer, has a sportsmen's
program on KCHI, is an BEA publicist and a native of Chillicothe. His parents
live near the Poosey area - wherever Poosey really is. Like most such regions,
it can never be truly defined.
North Missouri has its hills and hollows, just like the Ozark region. The hills may not be quite as high, nor cover as much territory, but they are here. Many of them were once covered with heavy stands of virgin timber, mostly hardwood, but have long since been cleared and put into cultivation - with the exception of "Poosey."
This vicinity has become as legendary, if not as well-known, as the Irish Wilderness in south Missouri, for like the wilderness it exists to most people as a name that tickles the fancy and stimulates the imagination. It, too, is a state of mind; it's boundaries are where one chooses to say they are. Actually the area is surrounded by other similar places bearing different names and so the boundaries of each has become strictly legendary. Many oldtimers, though, will tell you exactly where each community lies and often become resentful if you refer to them as being from the wrong community.
Such is the Kingdom of Poosey, often referred to as being "just a mile on down the road" or "over the next hill." If you ask directions, to find it, everyone has a different answer, but some of the oldest history of north Missouri can be traced back to the time when Poosey was first settled by white men. Early pioneers coming from Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee were attracted to this area because of its bountiful supply of wild game, plenty of water and virgin timber .
Among the first settlers to come to this part of the country were George Dockery and his wife, Patsy Embry Dockery. They came by horseback from Garrett county, Kentucky, in 1835, bringing very little furnishings with them and living on wild game from day to day. Many hardships were endured during their trip, one of which was fording all the creeks and rivers they encountered. The countryside around where the Dockery family built their log cabin resembled their native land so much that they named it "Poosey" after Poosey, Kentucky. This name has hung on to this day and is highly honored by the true Pooseyites, the only ones who will admit they live in Poosey and can tell you where to find it.
Another early settler, William Gee, soon settled in the same neighborhood and
the community has grown from that start but still is not heavily populated. The
first time the settlers knew they had new neighbors was by hearing the sound of
chopping, which sounded different from the sounds made by Indians cutting wood.
Missouri's late Governor Alexander Dockery was a descendant of the first "Poosey"
Westward across the east fork of Grand river rises Indian hill
and the slopes that lead into the Kingdom of Poosey, a high plateau in north
Missouri that is isolated by rough riverbreaks on four sides. The highway bridge
in the valley replaced the old Graham mill covered bridge (see next page).
Unlike most of Missouri, this little community remains very-much as it existed over a century ago, when first settled. The timber has 'been saved, most of the land remains in grass and wise farming practices are used to preserve the soil. In fact, it is a true picture of conservation methods. Perhaps the natural topography of the land has preserved it more than anything else. The rough, timbered hills and deep, narrow valleys offer little opportunity for crop production and the people on the land, realizing this, have left it pretty much as Nature intended it to be. It is a sad state of affairs that more places like "Poosey" don't exist in the state today, to leave a few refuges for man. People are like wild creatures, they must be able to find their spots for seclusion and recreation.
Actually the country around Poosey lies in the northwest corner of Jackson township in Livingston county and the southwest edge of Grundy county in Jefferson township. Poosey has become so well known that all major aerial maps show and label it as such. Most of the airlines use its boundaries as a fixed navigation landmark.
A small part of the land in the center of Poosey is very level and one of the highest points of elevation in north Missouri, nearly 1000 feet above sea level. On all four sides of this plateau the terrain of the land drops off sharply and the water shed flows in four different directions, the source of creeks which flow on into the Grand river at their respective points. On the west, Clear creek starts; south flows Indian creek; and on the east and north, the east and north forks of Gee's creek have their origin.
Like the flow of its water and the sharp drop in altitude, Poosey is
surrounded by four communities, all old physically and historically. West of
center lie the James-port prairies and the town of Jamesport. North of the area
is a tiny hamlet called Hickory creek, only a few miles south of Trenton. Red
Brush is the name of the country east and south of Poosey, containing one of the
first trading centers in the entire region, Spring Hill. All the territory south
of Poosey clear to the west fork of Grand river is known by the pioneers as
Indian creek township.
An old postcard is the only available picture remaining of
Graham mill and bridge, and this picture was copied from it by the author.
Across this covered span was a major trail leading into Poosey.
Many other legendary names exist, such as Hog Skin Holler, a school house in Bed Brush; Devil's Backbone, a high ridge south of Poosey; Dog Town, a cluster of houses to the north, and Panther Cave to the west.
Much land in the area is underlain with stratified rocks of the "coal measure" age and covered with a mantle of clay, sand, gravel and boulders, deposited during the glacial period. The thickness of these deposits varies from a few feet to much greater depth where channels have been eroded or scoured out by glaciers and filled with glacial debris. A type of drift clay found here forms the basis of the rich, black, loamy soil which justifies the claim that the northern central states supply the world's granaries. The Bethany Falls system of lime-stones are also found here and have supplied an inexhaustible supply of stone for building purposes and gravel. Many deep-seated springs supply water throughout the area, though these flows are small by giant Ozark standards.
The hill slopes are covered with a heavy stand of grass and it has been said that the blue grass of this region has made it as famous, locally, as Kentucky. Much of this same grass was originally started by seed brought from Kentucky by an early settler, Thomas Hutchinson, who lived to be a centenarian.
All of this particular country lies between the forks of Grand river. As early as 1800, Daniel Boone was reported to have traveled up the Grand to a point about where Poosey is now located. He spent the winter trapping for beaver and otter, living off of the abundant supply of game present, such as elk, deer, wild turkey, prairie chicken and other species. Unfriendly Indians caused him to beat a hasty retreat down Grand as soon as the spring thaws permitted.
Several tribes of Indians, some from the Iowa clan, and other roving bands including Chippewas, Sacs, Foxes, and a tribe known as the "Missouris," were located Long the several streams at that time. Indications of their camps can still be found around Poosey and Spring Hill.
Many graves have been found and collections made of the various pieces. One grave on Indian creek produced both a flint ax and a steel tomahawk. An old Indian cemetery is located right in the heart of Poosey.
Joseph Robidoux, a noted early fur trader, also was known to have frequented
this area, then a veritable hunter's paradise, surrounded by dense woods. Many
trees were hollow and loaded with honey, which could even be found in the
grasses on the prairie to the west and north.
A snowy day in Poosey. Typical of the area are steep, timbered
hills and narrow valleys. The trees are mainly oaks, with a sprinkling of native
red cedar. Deer have come back rapidly in this region in the last four years.
After the first settlements had been made in Poosey, other pioneers and their families came quite rapidly and by 1836 there were perhaps 50 families scattered between the forks of Grand river. Trappers who came here and returned to their native states back southeast spread the word of this rich land, not yet settled and free for the taking. A majority of the settlers had originally come to Missouri from Kentucky, but many had first settled in the lower river counties. Attracted by favorable reports from the Grand river country, they pushed into the wilderness as far as they dared Log cabins and small clearings were soon made and in 1836 Jesse Nave established the first store in this country. The settlement was first called Navestown and later renamed Springhill, deriving the name from numerous springs at the foot of a hill near the edge of town. A fine mineral spring still flows there, called the Moss Agate spring.
During the Civil War, a fort consisting of a block house and stockade was built here and called Fort Lump-kin. Minor engagements between Confederate and Union troops took place in the Poosey area. Most of the people were of Confederate sympathy and bushwhackers were very active at that time.
One of the oldest churches in the community is the Lilly Grove Christian church. It is made of hand-hewn walnut lumber throughout, even to the pews. The first school house constructed was a one-room log cabin, 18 by 20 feet, built at a cost of one hundred dollars.
In the early days all streams were crossed by fording. A main ford crossing
Grand river from the east and leading to Poosey was Indian Trail, located about
four miles north of where, in later years, the covered Graham mill bridge stood.
The ford is still there but Graham mill and covered bridge has long been gone.
The Spring Hill store is the oldest trading past in this
region; it stocks everything vital to the area. Pictured here, left to right,
are: Donna Saale, Sterl Lamp (an employee), Dianne Greever and Janice Jones.
Such rural stores are fast fading from the Missouri scene.
Lilly Grove church (the spelling of the first name seems
constant in old references) is more than a century old; is built of handhewn
walnut. The tombstone against the sky marks the grave of Thomas Hutchinson,
first man to bring blue grass seed to Missouri, according to local tradition.
Poosey has become famous in north Missouri for its early history, its people, and most of all the country itself. Where else in this region of high-producing land can you find such a retreat from modern farming? Generally fields are plowed right up to the fence posts, all timber removed and the land put into production of crops, with every ditch filled to make the land produce more. And this is important to realize. Contrary to the thinking of most people, Poosey is not a land of erosion, poor soil and vacated homes. It just hasn't been exploited.
To the person who likes to explore and seek out early pioneer history, or search for Indian relics, Poosey is paradise. For instance, there is Panther cave, located in the solid rock walls of a deep ravine. Legends have it that in early days panthers did roam the forests here and in this cave one was killed, with the name hanging on since. On the solid rock ledges around the cave hundreds of names have been carved and dates that still show go back over a century. Most of them are covered with a layer of moss clinging to the rocks; scrape away the moss and the carvings are easily observed. In the valley below the cave are the remains of an old sugar maple syrup plant.
Then there is another valley called Mushroom Gap named for the large quantities of sponge mushrooms which can be picked there in the spring, as they have been picked for a century.
Although to really appreciate Poosey it is necessary to leave the roads and take off on foot, the country is becoming modern and now all-weather roads are being built to most farms. The majority of farms have electricity now, which has helped them become modern in every way. Although the central portions of many of the houses are of log construction, they are still well preserved. Additions have been built onto the earlier structures and covered with new boards.
Even today there is a good supply of game present, but steps have been taken to increase that supply. A deer refuge is now located in the area and the whitetail population is building up rapidly. Some of the largest bucks in the state may be found in the heart of Poosey, and an open season may not be too far in the future.
The wild turkey once dwelt here, too, and there are hopes this species might be re-established on what was once native range for them.
In the spring and fall Poosey really becomes a land for north Missouri's nature lovers. Springtime brings forth many wild flowers, redbuds and dogwood, all blending together with the fresh green landscape to make a long-remembered picture. The entire country becomes a peaceful display of Nature's work of art. Throughout the summer months one can stop by any stream and hear the sound of spring water running in the brooks, flowing over the rocks and falls. On every side things seem to be at peace with the world. When fall rolls around and Jack Frost has painted his autumn colors, the hills are aflame with color. This is how the community of Red Brush got its name, from the bright colors of the leaves on the oak trees and brush after the first frost.
Every country has its Poosey, I suppose, maybe not as well preserved or as outstanding, but as close to its residents' hearts. There should be one everywhere, even if it be in the land of myth. But there is a definite community called Poosey and the people here are proud of it. It is often said that anyone here who has sickness or hardships will be. taken care of by their neighbors. Everybody is deemed to be honest until found to be otherwise.
Is it really like that today? Perhaps not; perhaps it never was; but there's a spirit still here. The oldtimers from Poosey have recently established a Club Guild, named in honor of their beloved community. And to join, one must either live in Poosey now or have come from there originally. The Guild meets once a month and helps keep social activities alive.
Many people will tell you where to find Poosey, but generally you will end up driving in a circle unless you stop and ask a native Pooseyite. Most other people will tell you it is just a few miles in one direction or the other from where you are.
In one sense, Poosey is just over the hill or across the holler. You may have to use your imagination to find it - but it's a beautiful countryside to visit.
Charles Volk's farm is on Indian hill, near Spring Hill, and he has been
gathering Indian relics for many years without ever leaving the farm. Apparently
a tribal encampment or village stood on his place once. Many unusual pieces have
turned up, including some that would indicate a far-away origin. Mr. Volk's
doesn't pretend to be an authority on Indians, but a lot of people stop by to
see his relics. (The cigar store brave on the showcase is his private joke.)