(Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the bicentennial celebration, the newspaper plans to publish a series of historical articles about Wayne County. Individuals are encouraged to write and submit articles. If you have an article you would like to submit for publication, email it to [email protected] or drop it off at the newspaper office in Piedmont.)
By David Bollinger
In celebrating the Bicentennial of Wayne County, we realize few things remain that was present at its formation. Generations of our ancestors have passed away; animals, trees and plants by the millions have all decayed; and man made structures have crumbled and fell. One thing that remains is the St. Francis River. Though having changed its course over the years, it is one of few natural lasting staples that can connect us of the present day, to Native Americans who roamed this area hundreds of years before the first white man arrived.
When the early settlers arrived here, and the Spanish land grants were issued by Don Louis Lorimier, the prized Spanish grant was given to William “Thomas” Ring IV (1770-1817). Ring was a native of Virginia, and today the lasting endurance of the surname of this early pioneer is kept alive in the name of “Ring’s Creek” a local stream at Patterson. The 640 acres of land awarded to Ring (recorded as survey 847) laid primarily on the West Bank of the St. Francis River. The land became some of the most admired and coveted farm land in Wayne County. The rich river bottom soil, was perfect for agricultural crops and livestock. What made this Spanish survey even more rewarding was the well fed Clark’s Creek following through the property and emptying into the St. Francis River.
The farm eventually became the property of another Virginia native, Samuel Black, Sr. (1768-1841) and later his son Samuel Black, Jr. (1809-1896). The rows of crops were tended many years during the 19th century by African American slaves, owned by the Black family. In January of 1884 the property was given to Alpha (Black) Carter (1858-1950) and her husband William Carter (1849-1933), as a wedding gift from the father of the bride, Sam Black, Jr.
For the next 35 years the river bottom farm was known as the “Bill Carter place”. It changed hands in 1918 when the Carter’s, getting up in age, sold out and moved to Piedmont. They sold the property to the McLane brothers, Claude and Earl of Lowndes. The McLane brothers evidently had no intentions of keeping the farm, but bought it for the investment. The brothers advertised the property for sale and “Hog Eye” farmer Henry Hinkle passed the word on to a first cousin of his wife on a business trip to Fredericktown.
The cousin of Mrs. Lucy (Wilson) Hinkle jumped at the chance to buy the property. He made the journey from Allbright in Madison County in May of 1920, to the newly conceived Bank of Patterson. There he met the McLane Brothers and Bank Cashier Clacy Kinder. The appearance of the newcomer from Allbright must not have been very “upscale”. Upon leaving the bank the gentleman was met by Bank President J.R. Croy. Pleasantries were exchanged and upon entering the Bank, Croy asked his cashier; “Who was that old bum?”. To which the cashier responded; “That old bum just bought the Bill Carter farm”. This was the first trip to Patterson for the longtime and well loved King Green. This is his story.
He was born King Bolden Green on January 14, 1874 on the banks of the St. Francis River in Madison County. The area was known as the “Green’s Chapel” community, near the present “dug hill” bridge. King was one of eleven children born to William “Alfred” & Prescha “Melvina” (Wilson) Green. A community man, Alfred Green donated the land for the Green’s Chapel School and the Green’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Green was a Union Civil War veteran of CO D of the 47th Missouri Infantry. He died of “dropsy” when King was seven years old.
After the death of the father, three of his four oldest sons, Burton, Harvey and Tom Green, left Fredericktown on a wagon train to Bozeman, Montana. This left King and another brother Henry, alone to care for the mother. Brother Burton would eventually return, but Brothers Harvey and Tom never returned and the family lived in correspondence with them through letters and photographs.
Upon the death of his father, King was willed 230 acres of his father’s land on the St. Francis River. In 1888, at the age of fourteen, he began a 70 year journey as a farmer and stock-buyer. Green was interviewed in May of 1956 by the Mid-Western published Stewart-Harrison-White Livestock Digest. Green reminisced, “I shipped my first load of hogs to Frank Fry at the stockyards, (National Stockyards at East St. Louis, Illinois), and he did such a good selling job for me I just kept coming back. As I recall I got somewhere around three and half and four cents a pound for those hogs in 88”.
In 1892 he shipped his first load of cattle to the National Stockyards. “They brought 1.90 a hundred and I made money on ‘em. At that time though, I only had to pay three to four dollars for a calf. In those days I’d start ‘em off on a little grain then switch ‘em onto straw stack and take ‘em off the grain. I didn’t get rich at those prices, but I made a little money”.
By the age of 18, King Green was already an established livestock buyer/seller with the biggest stockyard dealership in the Mid-west. He had dedicated his early life to his vocation and to the care of his consumptive mother, who succumbed to pneumonia in 1897. By the dawn of the 20th century he entered into the life of a husband and father.
On November 4, 1900 he was united in marriage to Emily Stacy. She was born January 1, 1876 near Saco, a daughter of Caleb & Eliza Jane (Gregory) Stacy. Her father had served the Madison County Confederate Militia during the Civil War. King and Emily were the parents of four children. The oldest, Amon Green (1901-1907) died at age five of typhoid fever. The three others were known Wayne Countians; Ruth (1908-1994, wife of Joe Taylor), Trula (1909-2002, wife of (1) Earl Campbell, (2) Frank Street) and Iva “Bud” (1917–2003, who married Gladys Hovis). Green sold his St. Francis bottom farm in 1914, purchasing one with more acreage on the Castor River at the now extinct Allbright, MO. Green ultimately was not happy with the results of his crops along the Castor, and by 1920 was ready for a change. As stated previously, a chance run in with Henry Hinkle brought the family to Patterson, where they became well known citizens.
Once established at Patterson, Green would plenish the acreage with Cattle, hogs and sheep and row crops of corn, wheat and beans. Iva Green relayed to this writer some years ago; “We always had to have lots of help in the way of hands. Dad would always hire Henry Jones and his sons, Fred and Pinkie to pick corn. They could pick corn faster than any people we ever saw. They’d show up early and as soon as they were payed they were gone”. Many men and young men were employed on the Green farm over the years. Some remembered are; Lysander Kiser, Tom Lutes, Raymond Skidmore, Arlie Lutes and sons Bill & Bob, Bob Booher, Bud Schlater, Donald Schlater, Bill, Dave & Leroy Haggett and no doubt many others. Bob Street of Patterson recalled as a boy working with a group on the farm gathering crops. Street remembered, “Bud asked King, how do we pay the boy? (referring to young Bob). King replied, “He worked like a man, we’ll pay him like a man”. For many years the main farm hands were simply the son, Iva Green and a grandson Pearl Campbell. During World War II, farm deferments kept Iva Green from being drafted. However, the grandson Pearl Campbell enlisted to serve his county. In a letter that survives from Pearl to King, Campbell is quoted; “Grandad, I’d give anything to be back in the fields with you and Bud again, and not cold in this fox hole”. Private William Pearl Campbell died in combat for our country along the Rhine River in Germany on February 7, 1945.
During the 1920’s Green established himself within his community. A dues receipt card dated May 27, 1924 testifies he was a member of the Greenville Lodge No. 682 I.O.O.F., a group that included many of his peers in the farming and stock business. The card was signed by Hal Bennett, Secretary of the local Odd Fellows organization at Greenville. I have been diligently trying find a date when this organization locally dissolved, so far to no avail. Upon investigating I found Green was originally initiated into the fraternity on February 26, 1898 at Madison Lodge No. 172 I.O.O.F. at Fredericktown. The Wayne County school records indicate that Green served on the board of Education of the Cuba School District No. 18 from 1924 to 1928. This was the district in which his children attended, and was located on the east bank of the St. Francis River, near the Holmes Cave.
King Green added to his acreage in 1927 and purchased the Jeremiah Hixson farm down off the “Hog Eye” road at rural Patterson. The same year in January 1927, he had become a charter shareholder in the Wayne County Farmer’s Association of Piedmont, MO., Inc. His stock certificate indicates he owned seven shares of the holdings of the corporation. In researching the organization I have found little about it. The Green certificate was signed by Albert M. Costner, President and John Black, Secretary. The group no doubt became victim of the great depression. The depression played hard on the Green family. In 1932 the St. Louis Post Dispatch made a trip to Wayne County interviewing rural farmers, Green among them. He told the Post writer, “This is just another one of those bad times, things will straighten out, they always do”. This was during the same time period, that after the hauling and commission, Green only received $1.11 for a cow he had shipped to the National Stockyards.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s Green rented land in the Mudlick valley to graze cattle on, from John & Julia (Shearrer) White, who had relocated to Kime. The land today is part of the Sam A. Baker State Park. King Green, his son and grandson, along with a few farm hands would drive the cattle from the Mudlick valley to Fredericktown on horseback, to be hauled by train to the Stockyards at East St. Louis. The late Iva Green indicated to this writer, that the particular route the group took, they crossed the St. Francis River in four different places. Returning home from these cattle drives is the only time Iva remembered his father visiting the graves of his parents, grandmother and three siblings, who rest in the Green-Berry cemetery in Madison County near the “dug hill” bridge.
The King Green hog account Journal from November 1937 to March of 1938 still exists, and is a historical wonder of who Green was buying hogs from locally over 80 years ago. The list of farmers and the number of hogs sold to Green is as follows; Jess Shoemake (7), Samuel White (15), Earl Fulton (23), Grover Kiser (13), Loyd Davis (7), Frank Bennett (10), Belle Kinder (16), Noel Bennett (9), L.H. Holmes (71), Pink Wakefield (3), Josh Nelson (15), Joe Montgomery (4), Carl Richter (15) and Roy Atnip (18). Green hired the John S. Marsh Company of Greenville to ship the hogs. Records indicate the majority were bought by the Swift Packing Company and the Krey Packing Company.
In 1938 the biggest blow of all came to the family. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to build the Wappapello Dam. Green and his neighbors quickly went to work to try and stop the effort. Green himself called on the aid of close neighbors and friends to hire attorney William A. Settle of Greenville to help in the matter. Documents survive of those who approached Attorney Settle. Included in the documents are the signatures of some of the local farmers and their potential acreage lost. The list includes; King Green (580), Iva Green (80), C.E. Cobb (61), Elmer Clark (50), D.M. Evans (205), J.R. McDaniel (135), Lulu Shearrer & son Taylor (169), Fred Berry (272) and Mrs. John R. Woods (167). Green was the heaviest hit. The effort to stop the dam construction, as we all know, was lost. The family would start leasing the land after the purchase by the government. The University of Missouri excavated on the farm in 1938, on the north banks where Clark’s Creek reaches the St. Francis River. There they yielded projectile points, scrapers, hammer stones and pottery fragments of Native Americans.
As he aged, King Green became a local legend of sorts. As he slowly gave the reins of the farming over to his son, he leisurely could be seen walking the highway in his floppy hat, patched covered overalls, gum boots and baggy overcoat. A motorist would stop and ask, “Uncle King, where you headed?”, to which he replied, “Wherever you are son”. He may end up at Fredericktown, Greenville, Piedmont, Poplar Bluff, Marble Hill, or just whatever direction anyone was going. He usually always made it back after dark to his worrisome wife, Emily (who was a dead ringer for “Granny” Clampett on the “Beverly Hillbillies”).
Green became a friend to many sportsmen and hunting clubs, whom he would permit hunting and fishing rites to on the farm. Green himself did not even own a gun, let alone hunt or fish, but he realized the importance of wildlife management when raising crops. Mrs. Green was a friend to the “hobo’s”. The Green porch was always a stop along the hobo trail. Mrs. Green would usually prepare a plate of leftover biscuits and bacon, or anything handedly available. Nobody was turned away.
In their twilight years King and Emily Green particularly enjoyed their grandchildren, great grandchildren and company of all sorts. One grandson, Jerry Taylor, informed me, “Grandad would tweak your cheek and usually slip you a nickel”. A heart attack slowed him down in 1955 but did not hinder him from keeping his hands in the business. At the May 1956 interview with the Stewart-Harrison-White Livestock Digest, Green had just sold a load of 41 Hamps, averaging slightly over 200 pounds, at $14.85, to the Stockyards.
Mrs. Emily Green was a deeply religious Baptist, being the daughter of a Baptist Deacon, and uniting with the Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church in Madison County on August 13, 1894. She, and the majority of the other Baptist family members, stayed concerned for the unimmersed King Green. Even though the old gentleman had made a profession of faith in January 1885, uniting with the Green’s Chapel Methodist Church, the family often sought the council of Baptist ministers to “talk” to their loved one. In a letter from his daughter, Ruth Taylor, from Los Angeles, California in 1958, she concluded at the end, “Dad, listen to Brother Parker”. The minister mentioned was Rev. Orla Parker of Brunot. Green and Rev. Parker had many talks and Brother Parker was assured Old Uncle King was more than ready to meet his maker. Which he did on April 26, 1959, at the age of 85 at the Patterson farm house.
The front page headlines in the “Greenville Sun” reported of his death. Rev. T.L. Nussbaum of Greenville and Rev. J.E. Holden of Patterson, Methodist pastors, ministered to the family at the Patterson Methodist Church. He was buried at Rowland-Woods cemetery. Among his pallbearers were his friends and fellow farmers, Clarence Cobb, Frank Hughes, Roy Meador, Henry Pore, R.L. Wakefield, Raymond Ward and family members, Jerry Taylor and Oran Shearrer. Mrs. Green followed him in death, less than a year later, on March 5, 1960.
When I ask people today, “Do you remember King Green?”, before any other words are exchanged, the statement is usually followed by a big smile from those asked. I asked the question to the late Marion Luna, after I became acquainted with him through the Wayne County Historical Society. His response was, “Who could forget him? There was only one King Green”.
Today the farmhouse is gone; the State Highway 34 is much wider as you motor by; the bean field is grown up in cedar trees; and those that can remember King Green are sixty plus years of age. His two living local granddaughters, Mrs. Jerald Shearrer of Patterson and Mrs. Iva Lee Bollinger of Silva, keep the memory of “Granddad” Green alive within their families.
What I am enjoying the most in writing these Bicentennial articles is the number of people being introduced to many ancestors and places of Wayne County bygone days. Perhaps now as residents cross the Black Bridge at Patterson, they’ll look beyond the briars, thistles and thorns, seen from the highway, and know at one time, one of the most historic and admired farms in our Bicentennial history existed there. From Native American camps hundreds of years ago, to the days of the Spanish ownership, to the early pioneer Thomas Ring, to the Confederate supporting Black family, to the days of Bill Carter at the dawn of the 20th century, to the modernly known McLane surname, to the timeless King Green, and to the Government owned land of today. If the rich St. Francis River bottom soil could talk, everyone would listen.