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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Redings Mill, Missouri

Yesterday I went to the home of my great-great-great grandfather John Shelton Reding (1816-1892).

He built this home, inspired by the design of Spanish missions, in what was then known as Shoalsburg Township in Newton County, Missouri, close to Joplin.

In the 1930s the family made it the site of a resort and restaurant. It was damaged during the terrible tornado that hit the Joplin area last year, and thankfully it is still standing. You can see some of the damage next to the left arch. Most of the damage is at the back of the structure.

It's still owned by the family. When I was last there, about 10 years ago with my late mother, we had lunch there and cousins gave us a tour of the upstairs areas where historic photos graced the walls. My mom took photos of the photos, but sadly she lost her valise of documents and photos before we returned home.

I was hoping to do the same thing this trip, but since the building is closed for restoration I missed the golden opportunity.

I also wanted to learn more about Reding's Mill, which John Shelton Reding built in the 1832 and which served the needs of residents in a 50-mile radius that encompassed portions of Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.

But I was at a dead end.

Then I met reference librarian Mary Rountree in the genealogy room at the Newton County Library in Neosho, Missouri.

Don't you just love librarians? Mary had a file on Reding's Mill and John Shelton Reding but no photos.

I copied the articles and other information and was preparing to leave when Mary said, "You might want to drive over to the Redings Mill Fire Department. They have historic photos of Reding's Mill there."


I didn't know there was a fire department in the area or that the town was now called Redings Mill.

So off I went on my next big adventure.

Someone left off the apostrophe when the new town was founded.

Sure enough, the Redings Mill Fire Department is just up the road from the Reding home-turned-restaurant:

It's an all volunteer fire department, which means they work short shifts, get all of the training and none of the pay. But in talking to the five firefighters on duty, theirs clearly is a labor of love.

Fire Captain Ed Powell was very kind and introduced me to everyone. They were all thrilled to meet a descendent of John Shelton Reding and treated me like royalty!

They even gave me my own Redings Mill Fire Protection District patch, showing Reding's Mill burning and a firefighter trying to extinguish the flames:

Captain Powell told me that when the mill burned in the 1930s, there was no fire department nearby. The Joplin Fire Department chose not to respond and the next nearest fire department was across the Kansas state line. That department responded but it was too late. So the volunteer fire department was created.

Here's Captain Powell next to some of the framed photos of Reding's Mill:

He was kind enough to take them off the wall and hold them so I could take photos of the photos but when I started to post them here I noticed my reflection in the glass of each and every one!

So I went to the Internet, with new knowledge of the dropped apostrophe, and found these:

Here's some of the information that was in the file provided by librarian Mary Rountree:

When John S. Reding settled in Newton County, Indians outnumbered white men. His first grist mill, built on Shoal Creek in 1832, provided a social center as well as a place for homesteaders to grind their grain. Reding founded Shoalsburg, a small village that failed to grow into the city the founder envisioned. As Reding prospered, he replaced the small mill with a larger one in 1854.

Then the Civil War hit, and the area suffered devastating raids by both armies. Reding's sympathies lay with the South. Union officers sent soldiers to destroy the mill; however, they were confused about the location and burned the mill at Grand Falls instead. To their horror, the Union soldiers discovered that the Grand Falls mill was owned by Union sympathizers. Reding's Mill had to be spared because it was the only mill left in the area at which grain could be ground for townspeople and Union troops.

In 1868, Reding erected the picturesque mill that became one of the most photographed structures in southwest Missouri...

...The Dalton Gang stopped at the mill on their way to Coffeyville, Kansas. It is not known how it happened, but Jake Reding, son of John S. Reding, in some manner obtained a large Bowie knife from one of the Daltons. The Daltons then proceeded to Coffeyville, where they were all killed while attempting to rob the Coffeyville Bank. The Bowie knife is still in the possession of the Reding family...

...Reding's Mill burned to the ground in 1936. All that remains are a few pieces of the solid foundation which still breaks the flowing waters of Shoal Creek."

Monday, April 23, 2012

War Eagle, Arkansas

Finally (finally!) I'm putting my first real post on my new blog.
The photo above shows the historic house at War Eagle Mills Farm as seen from the steel span bridge that crosses over the War Eagle River from the mill on the other side here in the spectacular Ozark Mountains.

The mill:

On March 30 I retired as the public information officer (PIO) for the City of Pasadena and since April 9 I've been traveling in the Midwest, visiting family and having great fun doing genealogy research. I'll be back on April 27, just in time to serve as grand marshal of the Doo Dah Parade on the 28th!

I've been to northwest Arkansas, southwest Missouri, Wichita, Kansas, and a little corner of Oklahoma. More on all those adventures later.

For the past two days I've been back in northwest Arkansas, staying with my sister Charlou and brother-in-law Bill at their home in Bella Vista.

Our mother Alice Elliott Easley was raised in nearby Bentonville, our grandma Charlotte Jackson Elliott was born in Bentonville, my great-grandparents Edwin Jackson and Mae Craig Jackson were born in Bentonville, their parents were...well, you get the picture. 

For this branch of the family tree, there's a whole lot of local history in Bentonville and other nearby towns.

Let's start with War Eagle, about 20 miles from Bella Vista via back country roads, which Charlou and I visited yesterday.

In 1843, nearly 20 years before the Civil War began, the house at War Eagle was built by slaves for Sylvanus and Catherine Blackburn.

The entire property, which covers 100 acres, is called War Eagle Mills Farm.

Confederate troops bivouacked here after retreating from Pea Ridge.

The last time I was at War Eagle was four years ago when Charlou, Bill and I came for dinner with our late cousin Shirley, who owned and lived on the property (it's still in the family, passed down to cousins Fred and Bonnie).

Generations ago, my Great-Uncle Lester Elliott and Great-Aunt Blanche bought the property and in 1954 founded the Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, which continues to this day every October where the property continues across the road.

Here are Aunt Blanche and Uncle Lester greeting fair exhibitors:

I have many happy memories visiting Aunt Blanche and Uncle Lester as a child and young adult. The last time I stayed at the property when they were alive, my daughter Becky was 3 and Jessica was 6 months old. Becky remembers certain details of that visit, which is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday cousin Bonnie was going to let Charlou and me into the house for one last look around. (Sadly, the house and 20 acres have been put on the market.) But she was staying with cousin Judy in Springdale and had a plane to catch and she ran out of time.

So Charlou and I stayed outside and had a great visit anyway! That's me sitting on the porch swing at the house.

Here's the view from the front porch, with the War Eagle River rolling along on the left:

Me in front of the barn:

Charlou where the fair takes place every year:

You can learn even more about the fair on the official website.

Right outside the kitchen door:

Some descendents of Uncle Lester's beloved cattle taking a rest:

One of the fishing cabins along the river's edge. They're constantly rented out in spring, summer and fall.

We went down a private gravel road on the farm to visit the War Eagle Cemetery, which dates back to the Civil War period:

The main entrance to the cemetery:

We entered from the back gate, closer to where some of our family members are laid to rest.

Next we went across the bridge to the mill, which is still in operation after nearly 170 years. Confederate soldiers took it over during the war to grind grain for food, then burned it to the ground. Thankfully it was rebuilt soon after and resumed normal operations.

The mill is powered by a paddlewheel that slowly and constantly turns. It's what's called an undershot wheel, which is powered by the wheel passing over the water below instead of the more common method of water passing over the top of a wheel.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but the mill wheel is spinning very fast! The mill produces organic stone-ground meals, flours and mixes.

Before heading back to Bella Vista, we took a quick trip to charming and historic Eureka Springs about 20 miles away.

The famous Crescent Hotel:

Charlou on one of the hotel balconies overlooking the Ozark Mountains:

I'll post about other adventures soon. For now, so long!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

This is a test -- I'll start blogging from this new site very soon!