An Ozark journey: The tapestry of Ozarks History
The history of Ozark County is a wonderful tapestry of adventure, survival, courage, growth and human interaction on virtually every plane. Whether it was in the 19th century’s westward expansion of settlers or in our own day and age, those who have come here to live have, without exception, become part of that tapestry.
The Ozark Journey we each experience is unlike any other in the history of this great land, and that is largely a result of the fine weaving of life that developed over the centuries of habitation here. As we explore some of the elements of this tapestry, we begin to see an intricate and very tightly woven story. One might almost think of it as a novel – if we didn’t know how real it was.
In our journey along the Old Salt Road we learned of Piland’s Store, founded at the end of the Civil War, and the closely entwined Davis and Piland families. The footsteps of time that led us from there to the Sallee family were embedded in the wartime service of Captains James Henry Sallee and William James Piland, as well as Pvt. William Davis. Both Sallee and Piland commanded Union Army auxiliary units late in the war. Earlier, all three had served together as privates in Capt. Thomas Stone’s Company A of the Missouri Home Guard. William Davis, at the age of 38, also served as a private in Company I of the 46th Missouri Infantry commanded by Captain Piland. The intricacies of military organization in Ozark County at that time could boggle one’s mind.
James Sallee came to Ozark County with his parents about 1846 at the age of 13 or so. The Sallees initially settled on land between Thornfield and Hammond. The precise spot is uncertain but probably was part of, or very close to, the spot on which Piland Cemetery now rests. It overlooks the Little North Fork of the White River and the Old Salt Road. By 1851, at the tender age of 18, Sallee had already become a popular Methodist preacher traveling to remote communities in Ozark, Taney and Douglas counties. In 1859, he married Emily Maritt, and they had a son named John Wesley two years later.
When the war broke out, life became especially hard for James. In addition to the demands of his own military and family commitments, he had a host of traumatic episodes to contend with. His father, Aranaus Sallee, died of camp fever following the Battle of Pea Ridge (Arkansas) in 1862, and Thomas Sallee, James’ brother, was also a casualty at Pea Ridge. His first wife’s father, Samuel Maritt, died of wounds in the same battle. Another brother, Hen-derson, was killed by bushwhackers at Pond Fork. Then, in February 1866, Emily died in childbirth, along with the child she bore. With the infant John Wesley to care for and post-war chaos raging around him, James married the widow Emerine Martin Nave and started a new life, eventually with children of their own.
The war was devastating for Ozark County in many ways, not the least of which was the breakdown of civilized society. The issues that polarized Union and Con-federate sympathizers created local pockets of dissension and direct conflict beyond the typical battles of one army against another. It’s hard today to understand the intensity of this divide, but the county government literally shut down as law and order completely disappeared. Much of the county was depopulated as settlers moved away to avoid the increasing dangers and trepidations of a conflict that was anything but civil.
After four long years, when the war finally came to an end, the period of Reconstruction was very difficult. Some of the repercussions of a lawless era lasted for decades. From a social perspective, it was like starting again from the beginning. This was a time when leadership was crucial, and the Davis, Piland and Sallee families were up to that task. They each provided important services and helped rebuild their local communities as well as the county government.
It is probably not any coincidence that all three had strong religious convictions. The Davises had a long history of Presbyterian and Congregationalist ministry. The Pilands were co-founders with Thomas Norris of the first General Baptist Church west of the Mississippi. James Sallee’s service to Ozark County as a minister, public servant and Justice of the Peace lasted many years and never wavered.
It’s hard for us to imagine this sort of inner strength, but it certainly is a testament to the resilient human spirit. James H. Sallee died from complications of bronchitis on April 14, 1916, and is buried at Igo/Sallee Cemetery near Pond Fork. His death certificate was signed by Dr. James R. Davis, a descendant of the same pioneer Davis family at Noble that established Davis’ Mill. The doctor was the son of William and Mary Jane (Piland) Davis. Mary Jane was the sister of Capt. William J. Piland.
So the circle goes ’round and ’round as the stories of past Ozark Journeys weave a tapestry for the ages.