Settlement and Pioneer History (Monograph 34)

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By Westin Arthur Goodspeed

The Early Inhabitants

If numerous mounds all over the valleys of Pulaski County were positive proof of settlement of that ancient people known as Mound Builders within her borders, it could be safely said that her territory was once densely populous.  Mound remains, however, do not always indicate such a condition.  The facts are that these mounds were very thick, and clearly defined as artificial, and also indicated great age, even as early as 1829, when Elisha Christeson and his family came, although most of them are now leveled by a half century of plowing. 

Destruction By The Plow

The settlers opened many of them, accidentally and purposely, and crockery, pipes, rock pictures and letters, bones, etc., were found in fragments.  A rock was found by a Mr. Myers, near Bartlett’s Mill, on which were carved pictures of men and letter characters which he could not interpret.  Cyrus Colley found on his farm an artistically made rock pip-bowl, so well preserved that one of his “hired men” fixed a stem to it and enjoyed a modern weed, smoking in its bowl, as no doubt ancient weed comforted its ancient owner—-Mound Builder or Indian, as he may have been. 

Small, Mysterious Rock Houses

On the cliffs, and generally near or not their edges, were, and are still, found what appear to be the remains of small rock houses.  It is doubtful, however, whether or not they may have been burial enclosures.  Information is given by one gentleman that he examined one of them, and, after removing the wall remains, dug down and found layers of rock of several feet, and under these came upon human bones.  It is a noteworthy fact that the Indians here in 1829, or earlier, looked upon these as foreign remains, and knew nothing whatever of them, except that they had “always been there”.

Chief Muncie

Among the Indians who were the chief frequenters of what is now Pulaski County in the first an second decades of this century were the Kickapoos, Osages, and Delawares, who came through on hunting excursions.  The nearest village was on the Osage river, where “Uncle Jered” Christeson often traded with or gave things to them. He also remembers having often seen Chief Muncie, whose headquarters were at Springfield.  This chief was held in great respect by the settlers on account of his rigid honesty. 

Peaceful Coexistence

The only trail, or “trace”, through the county passed from Little Piney, through Waynesville’s present site, and that of Bartlett’s Mill, past the old “California House,” an old inn, on to Chief Muncie’s headquarters, being what afterward became the “old St. Louis and Springfield road.”  The Indians at no time, so far as known, made any more of an approach to what might be called trouble than to kill a hog occasionally when hunting was not successful.  An Indian legend says that the well-known saltpeter cave (seen on the 1855 Pulaski County Plat), about five miles west of Waynesville, was the scene of an Indian tragedy between the Osages, Shawnees, and Delawares. 

Gunpowder Caves

This cave had been used to manufacture gunpowder, and after its evacuation, about 1817 or 1818, some friendly Indians—five Shawnees and two Delawares—-took possession.  Here they were attacked by a band of 100 Osages, but succeeded in defending themselves until night-fall with the loss of but one of their number, while the Osage loss was very great.  During the night the inmates of the cave blockaded its entrance, and escaped through a passage-way unknown to the Osages, and the latter’s wild attack and destruction of the barricade the next morning was rewarded by a felling of chagrin that their birds had flown.  It is said that the dead Osages were left piled in a heap, and that their bleaching bones were still a visible memorial of that fierce fight even as late as 1875.

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