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/

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 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:




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.

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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.


Apr 132016

sc422Natural Bridge Ha Ha Tonka. Real photo postcard, Published by Jas. Bruin, Linn Creek, MO. Unsent.

Missouri has a lot of natural bridges. One of the largest is at Ha Ha Tonka Statte Park, spanning 60 feet and reaching more than 100 feet into the air. The tunnel through it is 70 feet long. It’s not only one of the larger ones in Missouri, it’s definitely the first one pictured. A crude woodcut of this arch appeared in The First and Second Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Missouri, G. C. Swallow, 1855.

The Natural Bridge is a showcase feature of the Ha Ha Tonka Karst Natural Area in the Missouri State Park acreage surrounding  Robert M. Snyder’s once-palatial country estate.  The park webpage notes: “All of these wonders (the karst features in Ha Ha Tonka park) are the result of the collapse of underground caverns in ancient geological times.”

For a sense of scale, note the four people on the slope above the arch.


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)

Mar 152016


View of Linn Creek, Mo., written in white ink. Published by G. A. Moulder, Linn Creek, Mo. This appears to show high water on the Osage River and shows Linn Creek flooded to varying degrees.

Linn Creek was built at the junction of the Niangua and the Osage and was subject to flooding. Its hardy citizens preferred occasional floods to being fifty feet under water. The town resisted the Bagnell Dam project and fought Union Electric tooth and claw. The little county seat of Camden County would go under forty feet of water twenty years after this photo was taken when Lake of the Ozarks pooled behind Bagnell Dam. Many of the houses would be moved, some were torn down, some burned – mostly foundations were left.

Mar 132016


Real photo postcard. No publisher.

“Dr. Moore L. C. Mo.” is written in red ink. L.C. is Linn Creek Unsent. Penciled on back, “Linn Creek, Mo.” There appear to be some political advertisements pasted in the window. Shows a horse-drawn carriage, sans horses, and a farm wagon hitched to two mules.

Someone really wanted others to know that this scene was in Linn Creek. It says so on the back and twice on the front.  Linn Creek, the seat of Camden County, in spite of being subject to periodic inundation was a thriving little burg before Bagnell Dam. Linn Creek and Tuscumbia were the last towns to have regular steamboat service on the Osage.

Does someone know who Dr. Moore was?



“Cemetery Ridge” on the Osage

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Mar 062016

One of the best parts of working on a book is the research – specifically the road trips to locations we’re writing about. Hard to believe that eight years ago Damming the Osage was still just the “Osage River book” and we were still photographing out of the way places that were key sites along its banks. The first week of March 2008, we roamed the north side of what is now Truman Reservoir from Clinton to Warsaw and spots in between.

We struck up a conversation with a man from Monegaw Springs who pronounced it ‘Mon-e-goh.’ He was not happy with the state of the river since Truman Dam closed. The lake near them had become a “willow-nasty-ass bottom.” He told us about “Cemetery Ridge” near Monegaw. We hiked through the woods along the ridge (“if you get to the slough you’ve gone too far”) and found a few tombstones leaning against trees, scattered in the woods. Possibly others were stolen as there appeared to be more receivers for the headstones than there were stones.

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Through the trees we caught a glimpse of the backed up waters of the Osage/Truman. The resident of Monegaw was accurate in his descriptor – mud flats were indistinct edges to the trapped water.  Dead tree trunks, broken branches stuck up from the mud. Lost life stories and the lost river …