Dec 052013

720722 721








These were likely taken in the American South – perhaps Mississippi or Louisiana.  The man in the boat is holding an unbaited trot line. Paddlefish swim the waters with their mouths agape as they filter-feed on zooplankton.  They sometimes are caught on bare, set hooks. Passive or accidental snagging was never a reliable fishing method and the fact that these photos were taken shows he thought the catch was worthy of recording.

Sport fishing with treble hooks (trolling or snagging for paddlefish) probably doesn’t pre-date the 1950s. Paddlefish were a common food fish in the Mississippi/Missouri river systems and were obtained by nets before that.

As we noted in Damming the Osage, adult paddlefish can survive, even thrive, in a variety of modified riverine situations, including reservoirs.  But the construction of reservoirs destroyed paddlefish spawning grounds, which means they no longer regularly reproduce in the wild. In Missouri, populations are maintained through artificial reproduction at Blind Pony Hatchery.

Continue reading »

Dec 022013

clinton-mo-badgeCommemorative Coin celebrating the sesquicentennial (1836-1986) of Clinton Missouri.

We recently acquired this gem of history – a commemorative coin mounted on walnut celebrating the 150th year of Clinton Missouri in 1986.  Interesting that they take as their theme the “Artesian Princess of the Prairie”.  The spa-era destination spring with spouting fountain that once attracted visitors to the city faded from use when the fountain ceased spraying in the early 1900s. It is now overgrown. The original site comprised 40 acres. Today, on the remaining grounds there are playgrounds, tennis courts, and the Artesian Amphitheater, built in 2002 by Hilton Hotels Random Acts of Service. See our previous posting on Vintage Image of the Week, for more information on Clinton’s Artesian Spring Park.

Incidentally, the Henry County Museum  located on the square one of the best local history efforts we’ve seen. It is housed in the handsome Anheuser-Busch building, which is on the National Register. The museum is strongly supported by the community, with donations of land, buildings, and artifacts; exhibits change frequently and staff are helpful. Most importantly the museum is open regular hours so if you are in town during those times you can likely get in to see it.

Continue reading »

Nov 272013


Real Photo Postcard, 1917

Written in ink on the back: “Genva McQuain. Lewis Redeagle, Willie Bigheart. Osage Indians. Friends of mine at O.I.S. 1917” These handsome young scholars attended O.I.S. (the Osage Indian Government School (1912-1953) in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The first federal government sponsored school to educate and civilize the Osages was Harmony Mission in Bates County Missouri, 1821 – established at the request of the tribe and implemented by Protestant missionaries. During its existence the school did not make many Christians or turn warriors into agriculturists, but even the old buffalo hunting Osages were interested in having their children educated.

Continue reading »

Nov 222013

719By Richard Gear Hobbs, PhD, copyright 1944.

This is a rather scarce but not particularly valuable example of the kind of soporific writing Mark Twain loved to satirize. His ridicule of James Fenimore Cooper (see “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” – ) sadly did not eradicate unrealistic and hyperbolic prose. This curious little book we have illustrates the survival of schmaltzy writing.

When Romanticism, the literary style given to excess, is applied to the wilder geography of the Ozarks or to the wilder inhabitants of that geography, it doesn’t leap out at you.  Indeed, American outlaw history was born in the lurid pages of pulp fiction, so there is some historical justification for the author’s colorful description of Alf Bolin and the Baldknobbers.  Ditto for purple prose passages on the springs, rivers and forested hills.  The Hudson River School of painters and the Transcendentalists can be given credit for installing an admirable respect for natural beauty in our populace, even if their literature and art seems to be dated today.

But alas, Dr. Hobbs – who apparently was a college professor in Manhattan, Kansas – believes that hydroelectric dams and their reservoirs are equally deserving of his overwrought prose. To set the stage, Professor Hobbs describes “How the Ozarks Happened”:

One day God made a continent. Its heart was a level plain so wide it measured two thousand miles from side to side.
The plain was beautiful with wild prairie grasses, a green carpet for millions of wandering feet. It was lovely with a wilderness of flowers aglow with all the shades and colors of the rainbow.

The level stretches of the plain were embroidered everywhere with silver – the shining brooks, and creeks, and rivers running down to the sea. It was bedecked with the trees only God can make. Across it were scattered a million lakes and pools, mirrors for the sun, and moon, and stars.

When God looked down at it in all its glory he said: “It lacks something. It is too flat.”

So the mighty artificer in rocks, and clays, and fertile soils, heaved up some mountains in the very middle of the wide-spreading plain to give it greater beauty, not harsh and bare and forbidding, but friendly mountains, with green slopes, inviting glens, cools shadows, and summits not too high for all to reach with unwearied feet, and scattered everywhere among them springs crystal clear and ceaseless in their flowings.

Those mountains are so kind and friendly that people like to have them for their neighbors, and those who live among them, call them the Ozarks.

For your consideration, we offer here ( glamorland ) 12 pages of glowing descriptive prose on “An Amazing Lake” (Lake of the Ozarks) and “What Glamorland owes to the Bagnell Dam.”

NOTE: We didn’t use any of this in Damming the Osage, but did try to point out the problem of schmaltzy writing and its contribution to unwise resource development.

Continue reading »

Oct 242013

Click on this link to read the entire paper: Truman-Dam-Case-History-Sparrowe-v2

Reprinted from: Transaction of the 42nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, 1977. Published by the Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, DC

This is an excellent summary of the hazards to wildlife that were anticipated for the Harry S. Truman Dam & Reservoir. Dr. Sparrowe also touches on the project’s impact on archaeological and paleontological sites, the controversial pump-storage unit and the ridiculous exaggeration of recreational benefits that accompanied the replacement of 248 miles of free flowing stream with a flat water reservoir. Dr. Sparrowe laments the long standing disregard the Army Corps of Engineers has had for regulations and laws that mandate consideration of and mitigation for fish, wildlife and cultural losses from dam projects. The lawsuit by EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) did produce a massive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which ultimately had no effect on the construction or operation of Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir. As Sparrowe said:

Even under duress of litigation, with repeated careful inputs from agency experts and other citizens, all the years of planning have had little effect on the project, or on prospects for significant mitigation. In a 1973 letter responding to the Final EIS, MDC (Missouri Department of Conservation) acknowledged the so-far unsuccessful attempts to solve the paddlefish and Schell-Osage problems, but concluded that the EIS presents a “lack of commitment to proceed with the evaluation and implementation of procedures and measures necessary to adequately mitigate other fish and wildlife losses.” Likewise, the FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service) review of the 1973 Final EIS concluded that lengthy, extensive efforts at coordination between conservation agencies and the Corps of Engineers to reduce adverse environmental effects of the project have been “essentially a fruitless exercise.”

It clearly appears that agency interactions regarding the HST project under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act have been unsuccessful in providing equal consideration of fish and wildlife values. After 17 years of attempts at coordination and detailed NEPA review, no modifications have been made in plans for project implementation in order to alleviate potential impacts on fish and wildlife resources.



Rollie Sparrowe, PhD, was employed by the Wildlife Research Unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the University of Missouri/Columbia during the time of the Truman Dam lawsuit.  He was active in the Missouri chapter of the Wildlife Society, an organization that was a plaintiff in the EDF lawsuit challenging Truman Dam. (Leland Payton photograph, 1972)

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Jul 242013

ForeWord Reviews’ 15th annual Book of the Year Awards, judged by a select group of librarians and booksellers from around the country, were announced at the American Libraries Association Annual conference.

Damming the Osage: The Conflicted Story of Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Reservoir received two awards: silver in Regional Non-Fiction and bronze in the Ecology and the Environment category.foreword-award-large

With 1,300 entries from more than 600 publishers, 248 winners were selected in 62 categories.

Damming the Osage also won a silver medal in the Independent Publishers Books Awards (IPPY), Best Regional Non Fiction category.   Lens & Pen’s Crystal Payton received the award in New York City. The title continues to pull in positive reviews and comments on blogs and Web sites.

ForeWord Reviews, a quarterly print journal dedicated to reviewing independently published books, was established in 1998 to provide booksellers, librarians, agents, and publishing professionals with reviews of the best titles from small, alternative, and academic presses.

Jul 082013
This weekend the St. Louis Post Dispatch published a review of Damming the Osage. Written by Steve Weigenstein, author of Slant of Light, a historical novel set in the Civil War,  “Tangled History of Osage River” (find it here) is a concise, but encompassing, description.  When the reviewer really ‘gets’ what we are trying to do and the way we did it – it is rewarding!  I especially liked his final paragraph:

Like the Osage itself, this book meanders. Those desiring a more compact, straightforward narrative — a channelized book, so to speak — will be disappointed. But those willing to follow its twists and turns will find, like a river floater, surprises and pleasures around every bend.

After the review was published orders came in to and they sold out of stock.  We’re hoping they reorder soon.  Of course, it’s still available through our Web site!
May 162013

Henley RR bridge construction

Although long out of service,  the Henley railroad bridge is still an imposing iron bridge across the Osage in Miller County, not far from St. Elizabeth. It is hard to get to as the right of way is grown up and interested bridge hunters have to walk in. Tangled, grown up brush makes the walk difficult – easier in winter than summer.

It was built in 1903 for the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad to span the Osage River. The main span is a pin-connected, 14-panel Pennsylvania through truss. With the bankruptcy of the railroad in 1980, ownership of the line was transferred through many hands until the Union Pacific Railroad sold it to Ameren Corp, a St. Louis-based utility.  The majority of the line (including the Henley Bridge) has not been used since 1979. is a valuable resource for those fascinated by old bridges.’s inventory of bridges and bridges lost on the Osage River:

Continue reading »

May 152013

Brice - log dam

Real photo postcard – Mill Dam at Brice Mo, 1914

Given an abundant water source, like a spring-fed Ozark stream, one of the first things pioneers often did was build a water mill. The dams began as crude wood obstructions like the one seen here at Brice Springs – now called Bennett Springs, a Missouri state park. Once established and powering mills, owners then began to add stone and concrete to strengthen the small dams.

Among the first settlers on this branch flowing into the Niangua River was James Brice, who established his mill in 1846. Although several other mills were built here at different times, the most successful mill was operated by Peter Bennett, Brice’s son-in-law. Eventually, Bennett became the namesake for the spring, and later, the park.

The spring valley became a popular camping ground for farmers while waiting for their grain to be ground at the Bennett mill. To pass time, campers would fish, hunt and visit with local residents..

By the turn of the century, recreation was gaining in importance. Already a favorite spot among fishermen, in 1900 the Missouri Fish Commissioner introduced 40,000 mountain trout into the spring. A privately owned fish hatchery was built in 1923. In 1924, the state purchased the spring and part of the surrounding area to create one of the first state parks. The park is now owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the Missouri Department of Conservation operates the trout hatchery.

While there is nothing left of the Brice Spring era, the park was extensively remodeled by WPA workers in the Adirondacks style in the 1930s. Today, Bennett Spring, which has a daily average flow of more than 100 million gallons, is one of Missouri’s most popular state parks.


Continue reading »

May 092013

Schematic LnDNo.1

Local plans for improvements to the Osage River to make it a commercially navigable stream projected a series of locks and dams.  Work by the Corps of Engineers on the first one began in September 1895 at Shipley Shoals, then seven miles from the mouth of the Osage. A key feature of the project was the “Chittenden Drum Wicket”  (or the Chanoine wicket), the half-round section shown in this diagram. Designed by Army Corps Captain Hiram Martin Chittenden to regulate the flow of the river, the retractable 375-foot long iron mechanism was installed on top of a 9-foot concrete dam.  It was prone to being jammed by mud and clogged by drift and was eventually scrapped.

Soon after its completion in 1906 a 30-foot section of the dam collapsed.  That was rebuilt and for more than a century the lone lock and dam has served more as an impediment to river travel than as an improvement.

Capt. Chittenden redeemed himself with the Chittenden locks in Seattle, a complex of locks at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle‘s Lake Washington Ship Canal.  Chittenden became the Seattle District Engineer for the Corps soon after completion of Lock and Dam No. 1. Seattle’s locks include working fish ladders for salmon. They were formally opened in 1917 and are still in operation. Chittenden retired as a general.

Possibly he erred in his calculations for Lock and Dam No.1 because he was absorbed in the writing of multi-volume books on the fur trade in the West and on steamboating on the Missouri River. Remarkably, unlike other histories written in that era, these are still in print, and even available in e-book format. His guidebook to Yellowstone is also still in print.

Today there is growing interest in getting rid of Lock & Dam No.1. The sad, crumbling state of the structure was painfully exposed during the drought of 2012.  We have added a section to the Web site pulling together information on the current controversy surrounding Lock and Dam No. 1

Continue reading »