Jul 052016


The Ruth in Linn Creek Mo
Real photo postcard. J. W. Farmer. Linn Creek. MO.

LOVE this photograph!  You can sense the excitement of a boat’s arrival in river towns:  “Steamboat’s a-comin’! Steamboat’s a-comin’!”  Everyone in Linn Creek headed to the docks to see The Ruth tied up at the landing. They perch on the fence and fill the decks of the steamer to pose for the camera. Look close – a group of girls is gathered on the deck. Perhaps a school excursion?

The Miller County Historical Society reprinted an article from The Waterways Journal (Feb. 25, 1984) titled, “The Osage Is An Important Missouri River,” by James V. Swift. In it, Mr. Swift recounts the histories of a number of steamboats that plied the Osage. This one, The Ruth, built at Tuscumbia in 1908, was 52.5 by 12.2 by three feet and had 25 hp. Her registered tonnage was 13 gross and 8 net, and she had a crew of two. As can be seen in the picture, The Ruth towed a barge just as her sister steamboats had done. The Ruth is shown (in Historical Society records) as being abandoned in 1925.”

Other steamboats on the Osage during this era were the J. R. Wells (of which we’ve posted several pictures), Frederick, Homer C. Wright. Mr. Swift’s article has a great deal more information on the steamboats on the Osage. To read the full article go the Historical Society’s website: http://www.millercountymuseum.org/archives/120109.html )

Note the roof used as advertising canvas. “Feed Stable” on one. And “You can buy as cheap as a (illegible) at The Linn Creek Mercantile Co. Merchandise.” Roadside (or in this case streamside) roofs and barn sides continued as advertising media for generations.

In Damming the Osage, we covered the Corps of Engineers’ efforts to enhance steamboat traffic on the Osage with the construction of Lock and Dam No. 1. We have a whole separate section concerning Lock and Dam No. 1 on our website: http://www.dammingtheosage.com/lock-and-dam-no-1-on-the-osage-river/

Jul 032016


Flashlight Scene at Camp Yocum, James River, Galena, Mo.
Real Photo postcard. #626 Hall Photo Co.
(Note – by ‘flashlight,’ Hall means he used a flash bulb)

George Hall was among the most talented producers of real photo postcards in American history. His images are not only well composed and well exposed but beautifully developed and printed. Where he acquired his technical proficiency, we don’t know. He was just a natural as far as understanding lighting and how to frame landscapes, architecture and – as in this shot – people. Since there’s a gun in the scene, we’re guessing they may have been out frogging. This was probably taken in the early 1920s.

Tom Yocum ran a fishing camp a couple of miles above Galena on the James River in the early 1900s. He was a renowned float trip guide. Clear into the 1950s, Yocum guided for Jim Owen. He was in a LIFE magazine feature in the 1940s.

Our next book, James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark Watershed, has taken us down some intriguing research paths. One whole chapter is devoted to the legendary Galena-to-Branson float, a highly successful commercial endeavor of the early decades of the 1900s.  You can see sample pages of the book at our website: http://www.beautifulozarks.com

Jun 202016


All Busy in Camp on White River, Real photo postcard, by George E. Hall. 385 Hall Photo Co.

We think this uncommon George Hall postcard shows a portrait of Hall (on the left) holding a very fine postcard camera. Most of his river photographs were of the James River around Galena. But he did obviously make the classic float from Galena on the James to Branson on the White.

We may use this image in our upcoming book on the James River (coming out next year).

This image is reproduced, but not credited to Hall, in a 1920 Ozark Playgrounds Association Annual. The Playgrounds Association was organized in Joplin in 1919, so the issue is either the first or second annual edition they put out. That makes it one of the earliest publications of the tourism cooperative that promoted the region as a vacation destination. Their motto, “Land of a Million Smiles,” was ‘borrowed’ by numerous businesses and civic organizations.

George Hall’s photographs are an invaluable record of life in the Branson-Galena area during the early decades of the 1900s. In an article on the Hall Photo Collection for the Winter 1995 White River Valley Historical Quarterly, historians Linda Myers-Phinney and Lynn Morrow said of Hall: “… photographer George Edward Hall created perhaps the single most important body of historic images documenting the beginnings of southwest Missouri’s commercial tourism.”

Read the full article here: http://thelibrary.org/lochist/periodicals/wrv/v34/n3/w95g.html George hall photo collection

Jun 132016

#AmericanRivers and #Riverkeepers celebrate the removal of a rusty, abandoned dam on Wynants Kill near Albany, NY. Already they see the flash of silver as herring swarm upstream to spawn.

” ‘Every dam should have an existential crisis,’ ” said John Waldman, a biology professor at Queens College, tells The Associated Press.” In Missouri, time for that crisis has come for one of those aging, inoperable and dangerous structures. We have an extensive discussion of the issues surrounding Lock and Dam No. 1, a monstrous relic, more than 100 years old, of Corps of Engineers river mismanagement on our website: (click here) Lock and Dam no. 1 on the Osage River.


This was taken during the 2012 drought. The river is full now and its waters barely cover the tops of the crumbling old concrete, barely held together with rusting iron and rotten wood. More than 100 years old now, Lock and Dam No. 1 serves no useful purpose for navigation or flood control, and it blocks the migration of paddlefish and endangered pallid sturgeon.

Removing Lock and Dam No. 1 would open those 80 miles of Osage River from Bagnell Dam to its junction with the Missouri River to possible spawning of both paddlefish and the endangered pallid sturgeon. Major spawning grounds of the paddlefish were destroyed by construction of Truman Dam. Per Wikipedia, the endangered pallid sturgeon, related to the sturgeon, another ancient fish (Cretaceous period), is endemic to the waters of the Missouri River system and the lower Mississippi. Like the paddlefish, its spawning grounds have been greatly diminished by river channelization and dams.  Both species are now sustained by hatcheries. The gravel bars of that last section of the wide, slow Osage River could provide both species an environment for natural spawning.

May 312016


Real photo postcard. Written in red ink, “Hotel Ha Ha tonk a MO”. Published by Jas. Bruin Linn Creek, MO. Unsent.

There’s a long and largely unsuccessful history of trying to develop Ha Ha Tonka as a tourist attraction. We’re not sure exactly where this frame hotel was located or who operated it. After Robert Snyder Sr. was killed in a 1906 automobile accident in Kansas City, his sons struggled to justify finishing the castle, which burned in 1942. Look closely at the car … this is an early one! Does anyone have more information on this hostelry? We’d love to hear it.


May 232016

Recently Rod Cameron, of Raytown, messaged us on Facebook after reading Damming the Osage. Rod lived along the Osage River in the 1970s. He shared with us a poem he had written as he watched Truman Dam being built. It is a poignant and moving meditation, so evocative of the river we knew. Wish we had known about this poem when we were working on the book. We would have asked permission to include it. He has given us permission to publish it here on our blog. We asked Rod too if he would write some of his memories of life in Benton County.  He recalls “County Road KK: the recluse and the river.”

Dam Site (Kaysinger)

From the white summit of the bluff,
I look down on backs of vultures
Sliding along the trees like
Time-lapse movies of cloud shadows,
Working against the green
Of soybean fields and rising hills.

The Osage
Sweeps across the valley floor
Tonguing thoughts
And swallowing sorrow
Thrown its way in glances.
Yet, someone decides:
Stop this river here.

So, lazily it will wallow and get fat,
Roll slowly in the breeze; it will eat old
Boat docks and rub softly the hills,
It will be as great as a padded room.


Rod is a 65-year-old, recently retired, high school English teacher.  A native of Missouri, he grew up in Kansas City but spent a great deal of time on the Osage River near Warsaw, Missouri. He holds degrees in English from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, and the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. After teaching for five years in Marshall, Rod moved to Iowa for the remainder of his 37-year career.  Currently, Rod and his wife Sally live in Raytown, Missouri, along with their two rescue dogs, Lucky and Lady.



County Road KK: the recluse and the river

At the end of County Road KK in Benton County, Missouri, the road turns to gravel. Another mile, and there once was a place called Sundown Acres. In the early 1960’s, my parents built a small lake cabin on eight acres next to a house owned by a man named Kraft. My teen years were spent wandering up and down that gravel road, fishing in nearby ponds, and throwing rocks off nearby bluffs into the Osage River. I would hunt squirrels and deer, and our family spent many days on the sandbar that reached out from an island that split the river nearby. Our real home was in Kansas City, but it is the memories of living by the Osage that remain from my youth.

We thought about getting horses to ride during our weekend visits to Sundown. But we needed a place to board them. I went with Dad to the fenced property of a mysterious recluse a mile or so back up the paved portion of KK. I stayed in the car, parked just off the pavement, while dad entered the wire gate and walked through knee-high grass and weeds to a small log structure sitting far back on the property. Because of a rise in the ground, the structure was hidden partly because it sat on a slight downward slope near the back, the part overlooking the river. I could see a wooden split log fence and some kind of ramp I thought may have been for loading cattle. Dad came back to the car and shook his head “no.” That was the end of our horse venture.

But the experience had captured my imagination. Every time we passed by the “hermit’s cabin,” as we had come to call the place, I strained to see if he was visible. He never was. When I was 16 or so, news of “Kaysinger Dam” swept through all the conversations in Warsaw and the surrounding area. My father was excited by the prospect of witnessing such a structure being built, especially since he had worked in construction his entire life. Soon he had other reasons for excitement. Word came that the Corps of Engineers would be buying up land in the basin, which included several hundred feet back from full reservoir. The effect was to take thousands of acres of flat or gradually sloping land and preventing private ownership and development near the lake once it came in. The buy included our eight acres, our fishing ponds, our island and its sandbar. It also included the little log house in which the recluse lived.

As chance would have it, 75 acres came up for sale about the same time. Along the east side, the property was lined for a half a mile by a high rock bluff overlooking the Osage and the farm fields on the other side. It was and is one of the very few places that offers a close view of Truman Lake because the buffer footage is almost straight up rather than gradually sloping back. The line came to the top of the bluff, providing possibly the best of view north, south, east, and west, of the Osage Valley near Warsaw. We moved there in 1968, and my parents lived there until their deaths. Just to the south, on an adjoining property, just a few feet lower in elevation, sits the rock foundation and deteriorating livestock ramp of the recluse. Today Shenandoah Valley subdivision sits on the north end of a bluff, providing spectacular sunrises to all who have built their houses along it. To the south, across a small inlet, sits a silent and empty homestead of a harmless recluse who was forced from his property.

These are before-and-after photos of the Osage River-become-reservoir taken by Rod Cameron in the late 1970s from Cobb’s Bluff:




May 192016


“Linn Creek, Mo. Looking N. W. 1909” written in red ink. Real photo postcard, published by G. A. Moulder, Linn Creek, Mo. Unsent.

Linn Creek, seat of Camden County, here seen nestled in its valley near the Osage, seems to have been an idyllic place, especially in memory. Years later, Nellie Moulder wrote of the town drowned by Bagnell Dam in her journal:

Perhaps more than the ‘scenes’, it is the people one remembers, John McGowan, commercial fisherman of early Linn Creek, giving away more fish than he sold; E.M. Kirkham, who organized parades, programs, and picnics and became the orator when need arose; the banker’s wife, proud, haughty, often arrogant, but ever aware of children in the creek, warning them of inherent dangers; jovial Fred Moulder, who loved children, chipping and sharing slivers of ice to waiting children as he came to the ice house for needed ice in his meat counter display. D.P. Moore who loved his dog; dressed “Frank” in a little boy suit to bury him and deeded “Frank” and an acre of land as his own cemetery with a headstone for identification.

Damming the Osage, page 106

The Moulder  family was prominent in Camden County. Young (26 years old) Morgan Moore Moulder was the county’s prosecuting attorney and sought an injunction from the courts to stop construction of Bagnell Dam in the late 1920s.

May 132016

Entitled “Trout Glen” and written in red ink “Ha ha ton ka,”  this real photo postcard was published by Jas. Bruin, Linn Creek, MO. Unsent.


Before Bagnell Dam, this spring outlet fed into the Niangua River. Springs throughout the Ozarks were stocked with several varieties of trout beginning in the late 1800s. Trout and even salmon were also dumped into streams that were too warm for their survival. Rainbows from the McCloud River in California proved to be the hardiest. In very few of these environments will they reproduce.

Robert McClure Snyder put in a small dam and a mill on this spring branch, creating a cool pool for trout. The pond was swamped by the warm muddy waters of the Osage as it backed up and spread out when Bagnell Dam closed. The loss of the trout pond was one justification for the Snyder family’s lawsuit against Union Electric.

The millstone is embedded in the concrete today as a decorative element along the path.


Apr 222016

Last week the Kansas Department of Transportation announced a grant to the Fort Scott/Bourbon County Riverfront Authority to help pay for moving the 1902 Long Shoals metal truss bridge from the Little Osage River to the Marmaton River at the Riverfront Park in Fort Scott. The Ft. Scott Tribune carries the full story: http://www.fstribune.com/story/2296125.html

Several years ago, field research for Damming the Osage took us deep into Kansas as we traced the river’s course and the migration of the Osage tribe westward. My “Trip Notes” for one day recorded that we turned east on K-31 “to search for overgrown iron bridge over the Little Osage River, near Kansas-Missouri state line.” We found it. Right next to the uninteresting, but safer, new concrete bridge that replaced it.

My notes continue: “found bridge which is almost completely obscured by trees, vines, foliage. Took many photos but need to come back in winter.” Lesson learned – best iron bridge visuals are when the leaves are off the trees.

IMG_5497-v2 IMG_5499-v2 IMG_5503-v2

For more and clearer images and technical and historical information on the Long Shoals iron bridge see http://bridgehunter.com/ks/bourbon/long-shoals/

One day, this now-abandoned bridge will grace a park in Fort Scott!  A far better fate than the one that befell the Schell Cty Bridge over the Osage in Missouri – not far from Fort Scott.


Mar 182016


Real photo postcard, published by G. A. Moulder, Linn Creek, MO. Unsent. “Hahatonka, MO” pencilled on back.

We’ve gone back and forth on whether these are ruins or some natural rock formations. Obviously, the castle didn’t burn until much later than when this card was published, which we estimate to be the 19-teens or ‘20s. Does anybody know what this represents?

The Moulder family was  prominent in Linn Creek. While I haven’t precisely identified G.A. Moulder, his family had been in Camden County for decades before this photo was published. Morgan M. Moulder was the prosecuting attorney for Camden County when the dam on the Osage was under construction. He, with other town leaders, tried to stop the dam that would drown their community. The family also owned a hotel in town that, ironically, hosted corporate representatives who came to oversee construction. I

In Nellie Moulder’s memoirs of the town before the dam, she  recalled: “jovial Fred Moulder, who loved children, chipping and sharing slivers of ice to waiting children as he came to the ice house for needed ice in in his meat counter display.” (page 106, Damming the Osage)