ROCK HOUSE-OSAGE INDIANS
By Peggy Smith Hake
The Osage Indians, who dwelt in the land of Miller County long before it became a county, were the tallest race of men in North America. Few stood under 6 foot and some reached 7 foot in height. The most famous member of the Osage tribe to live within the boundaries of Miller County was Jim Henry. He and his family lived in a unique cave which has been called 'the rock house' over the generations. His legend lives on in our county because his name remains as a township, a creek, and a school.
Many years ago, before the white man arrived, Miller County was inhabited by the Osage Indian tribes. They lived mainly along the basin of the Big Tavern Creek, which was rich in vast forests and was plentiful with game and wildlife. It has been recorded that in 1822 an Indian village was located near the Barren Fork of the Big Tavern Creek. Evidently there were members of the Osage tribe who also settled north of the Osage River and lived close to the creeks and tributaries of the mighty Osage.
The Rock House
The Osage were the tallest tribe of Indians in North America, often reaching a height of 7 feet. Their proper name was Waszhazhe, but the French traders derived the name Osage from their original pronunciation and it has remained Osage for over 2 centuries. Perhaps the most famous of the Osage Indians in the Miller County area was a man named Jim Henry. I am assuming he had a tribal name of the Osage language, but was dubbed Jim Henry by his white friends who homesteaded in the new frontier of Missouri territory. He was probably the last of the Osage tribe to live in Miller County and he was so popular that his name remains today in our county's history; a township, creek, church, and a school were named for him.
The Rock House Inside
Jim Henry, his wife, and children lived in a remarkable, natural stone house built by Mother Nature. Today it still stands on a hillside, in Jim Henry Township, overlooking a beautiful green meadow and Highway 17 can be seen about one-half mile to the west. I visited this old stone cave a few years ago and was astounded at my first glimpse of this rock home, which is nothing more than an enormous, freak rock formation sitting atop the hillside. The residents of Jim Henry Township refer to it simply as "The Rock House". It is approximately 60 feet in length, is circular in shape and is approximately 25 feet high. With animal skins stretched over poles and used as walls to hold out the winter's cold, I could easily see how this Indian family lived comfortably in their 'rock house'.
What happened to Jim Henry and his family is unknown. They disappeared from Miller County sometime in the time era of the late 1830s or early 1840s and were never heard from again. In 1854, a man named Samuel Greenup patented the land on which the 'Rock House' was located and since that year, various families have owned the land including the families of Martin, Fowler, Winters, Tellman, Johnston, Albertson, and for the past few years has been the home of the Schulte family. As I left the hillside, where stands that unique, beautiful "House of Stone", my one thought was simply this," Oh, if only those ancient walls could talk!"