Wright, Clarence Boyce, 1877-1953.
Diaries, 1912-1926 - Fifteen volumes.
These are diaries of Clarence Boyce Wright, a native of Tuscumbia, Miller County, Missouri, and an employee of Anchor Milling Company. Wright worked in the mill at Tuscumbia and was clerk aboard the company towboat Ruth. The diary entries note events in Miller County and along the Osage River, weather and river conditions, and the milling company's business.
The first child of Green Lee Wright and Emma Boyce Wright, Clarence Boyce Wright was born on 14 November 1877 on Saline Creek near Tuscumbia, Missouri. He attended the local grade school and completed teachers' institutes at Spring Garden and Columbia, Missouri. He taught school near Bagnell, and then took a position in 1905 with the Anchor Milling Company at Tuscumbia. Beginning in the mill, he went on to become a clerk and pilot of company towboats engaged in freighting on the Osage River. Wright married May Hauenstein in 1905. She was the daughter of Philip F. Hauenstein and May Riggins Hauenstein. Wright's father-in-law was a boat pilot, stockholder, and officer of the Anchor Milling Company. The Wrights' only child, Homer Clay Wright, was born in 1911.
C. B. Wright worked as a building contractor after Anchor Milling sold its boat in 1924. In partnership with D. F. Thompson, he built a brick school at Tuscumbia and the first Miller County Nursing Home. He was quite active in the community, teaching Sunday school, serving on the school board, and promoting the winter lyceum and summer Chautauqua programs. Wright's health failed in 1947, and he spent the remainder of his life confined to his bed. He improved the time by writing about his life on the river and in Miller County. Although he wrote extensively, his work was never published. Homer Clay Wright edited and published excerpts of his father's diaries in series for the Miller County Autogram-Sentinel and the Eldon Advertiser.
Wright's diaries include daily entries beginning on 1 March 1912. Each notation includes meteorological observations and remarks on Osage River stages and conditions. He also remarked on business of the Anchor Miller Company, including numerous trips aboard the towboat Ruth and the construction and launching of the steamboat Homer C. Wright at Tuscumbia in 1919. The boat was named for C. B. Wright's son. Of particular interest are the annual summaries entered on the "Memoranda" pages at the end of each volume. In them, Wright summarized the year's events. He touched on national affairs, natural phenomena, and changes in the Miller County community. Wright's diaries complement records of the Anchor Milling Company at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection's branches in Columbia (collection C3351) and Rolla.
C.B. and T.C. Wright
We are privileged to have the original volumes in our library at the Miller County Historical Society. We recently acquired an additional journal written by C.B. Wright to Homer Clay Wright in May of 1951. It contains extensive genealogical entries about the Green Lee Wright family as well as personal recollections and reflections on other subjects, including the carding mill that was once in operation on the Saline Creek. An excerpt on that subject follows:
This is an unusual spring in that it comes up in the flat creek bottom. The bottom of the spring would be almost as high as the field below the spring and as a source of power it seems one would not select that spring for that one reason and the spring is about 100 yards from the hill and coming up as it does, a dam had to be built around it and that had to be high enough to get as much fall as could from the dammed spring to start with. The water had to be carried to the hill in a wood sluice way, which our folks called a trunk-Think was about 2 feet wide and ten inches deep. When the water reached the hill it had to be carried in what our folks called a race. This was the Head Race-water going to the wheel. The water after passing the wheel was carried in what the folks then and now call the Tail Race.
The spring does not come out of the ground gushing-but it comes up in hundreds of said boils. There are 2 fields of boils separated by mud bar few feet wide. The N. West field is the largest. They lay SE and NW. The water coming through the sand boils is good to look at-tiny bubbles of sand boiling and tumbling-and the bottom of the spring Dad said was hard as a rock. It seems to me that this would have been last place I would have started a power project. The Russell Spring-on farm owned till recently by John Starks (?)-comes out of the hill all in one large stream and while there was not more than half as much water there they had a lot more all. I well remember the old mill building and wheel there which Dad said was 20 ft. diameter. But the Head Race was short and the tail race was still shorter and in the case our spring that meant a lot. The longer Head Race gave more or less leakage and waste while the Tail Race was often _______ with each big rise in the creek, filling the tail race with gravel.
Craw fish and some time a muskrat bored holes in the bank and caused a break through, and it was a right big job to fill the break through. We had no way to drain the water while filling the break, so we had to have something ready and had to work fast to keep ahead of the rising water. Dad was always glad when a big bull frog would take up quarters in the spring. He said they ate craw fish. And I well remember that-Dad got as mad as I ever saw him and when Bill Wells, an uncle of Ralph, killed him and showed to Dad. Bill of course did not know that Dad set so much store by the frog. But they were good friends and don't think Dad said much to Mr. Wells.
As before stated the spring comes up in the flat creek bottom and don't think is any depression to note. The Johnson Spring, which is no flat river bottom and is directly opposite Tuscumbia, is in a depression 5 to 7 feet below the field. One can not see the bottom of the Johnson Spring and don't know the depth of water or how it comes out of the ground. But of couse the bottom is mud. At least the river has been over it so many times that there is sure to be a lot of mud settled there.
Our spring varied some in the volume of water. In long series of wet weather and heavy rain fall the flow would increase some while in low times of dry weather the flow would fall off. Dad thought the peak from high to low might have been 50%.
There was an old heavy log in the spring basin that might have been used by someone in an earlier day to dam up the water. But that washed I ___ saw there to indicate might have been used before the coming of Grand Father Wright old times. But now when we have so much ice water-it don't seem so cold. But mother kept her milk crocks and butter in the race in the warm weather and it was ____ good-butter firm the milk cool.
The Head Race from the spring to the carding machine was dug along the base of the south hill. It was done of course with hand labor-pick and shovel. That is to where they struck solid rock, where they had to drill and blast. The drill marks are there still for all to see. The race or ditch was about same width and depth all the way unless was slightly wider where blasting was done. The rock and blasting was at least ¼ to 1/3 the total length of the race. The width must have been about 4 ft. The flow was even. There was only one or 2 riffles in the race. The water was a steady even flow and it was a sight good to look at.
How long and what the cost of building was, we are sorry there is no record of mouth to indicate what either time the work lasted, who did it and the cost. Grand Father came to the Little Saline in 1856. Five years before the start of the Cdivil War. We have reason to think the carding machine was bought and started after the war. Grand Father was a Lieutenant in Missouri Home Guards. Got a stipend of one hundred dollars per month and he saved this cash to buy the carding machine.
It was a good job engineering the construction of that power project and it must be said was really good; and it would seem that a race along the south hill would have a lot of leakage. Too much gravel would hardly hold water. But it did. There were very few leaks along the race-none of consequence.
When Dad moved the carding machine up to the spring-must have been early 1890. The old race along the hill was allowed to fill up and it is now the road way along the farm.
"The mill will never grind again with the water that is past."
That is time that our mill only can use the water again. But there is nothing to prevent another mill to use that same water. In this case the tail race from the carding machine became the head race for the saw and grist mill nearly a mile below. It seems to me that was a mistake. The water had to be carried so long a distance there was sure to be more or less water lost in seepage and now and then a leak. This race topped the creek but only when the creek was flush. Could much water be had from that source, as the Little Saline don't have much water above the Wright Spring. The cost and ____ that this long race entailed must have been a staggering figure. Leaving the carding machine, the race was deep-was over ten feet. I think lower down the depth was less except along in front of what is now Fritz Kallenback's barn. There it was again deep. The branch coming down by the old place probably accounts for having to go deeper there, and a good portion of the race was through sand that was more or less gravelly. That kind of dirt it seems would absorb, moving less water. From where they topped the brick, the race was much wider. I would guess it was 6 to 8 feet. One reason for that was that when water got too low. This race could hold a lot of water which could fill at nights or other times and to give a much better volume of water to start with. After the water passed the low mill, it was a good jump to the creek where the tail race had to empty-say 300 yards or more.
The water all along was a slow, even flow-no ripples-and like ___ ____ Mary's Home it was good for a boy to see. The race through the field, which is line between Fritz Kallenbach and our old place, was said to have been attractive to wild ducks and many of them were killed there or they were down behind the dam along the race, 4 or five feet below.
The carding machine building was a substantial building of natural oak. The siding was of raw unpainted oak. The roof of shaved clap boards put on shingle fashion. The saw and grist mill was about the same. Carding machine building must have been 24 x 36 or larger rather than smaller. It was 2 stories high with a lot of room in the attic. Downstairs the entrance was at east end or rather lower end. This part of the building was never used in my time. Entrance to the 2nd floor which was the working floor was made from the hill side or north. Plank walkway 4 to 5 feet wide and forty or 50 feet long, along side the trunk which led from the head race to the water wheel.
I helped in a small way, tear the old building down when Dad moved it up to the spring. All the lumber used in the building was cut with an upright saw. Dad called it a sash saw. It was never used in my time but the old saw and fly wheel were around the Uncle Henry Mill for a long time. The saw cut only on the down stroke. It was fully half an inch thick and the fly wheel-might better be called the crank wheel-this wheel was say 4 ft. diameter and 4 or 5 in. thick. The heavy wheel had the saw fixed in it as a crank would be and if the mill had power enough to raise the saw, the heavy weight of wheel made her cut good "cerf" on the down come. The saw marks on the lumber were half an inch wide or more.
The carding machine building was a good job. The frame, even the rafters, were fastened with pins. They had to make their nails and so did not use many.
Grandfather built a blacksmith shop across the road from the carding machine. It was of Hewn log type-same sort of roof as machine shop. Had forge bellows, vise and anvil and small tools where all went to we don't pretend to say. Dad did tear down the building and brought up home for a stable.
Incidentally Geo. Kallenbach and family lived a short time in the old shop-right in front of the shop stood 2 or 3 big black walnut trees. One was the largest black walnut that I ever saw. It was at least 4 ft. diameter and was 12 or 15 ft to first limb. These big trees made a good shade for customers' teams who came to the machine. Many them camped over night, waiting for their rolls.
We do not know how our Grand Dad got interested in the wool carding business. But considering the enormous expense and time involved in the venture, there is no doubt that he meant business-and they had business too. The season would be started by mid May-that is the 15th-and that is in the earlier times. Of course the thing gradually declined and in my time September or early October most of the carding was done.
There were complications about the old machine. It was set in a wood frame say 20 feet long-was made up of a group of wood rolls on which the leather bearing cards were nailed. Dad called 'em breaker cylinders, finishing cylinder, breaker doffer, finishing doffer, breaker fancy, finishing fancy and the workers. The cylinders, doffers and workers were covered by sheet cards say 6 inches wide. While the fancies were covered with strip cards-no spacing. The sheet cards of course were spaced. The main cylinders were about 5 ft. diameter and ran at moderate speed 150 revolutions per minute. The 2 fancies were highest speed of the lot-say 500 per minute. The worker and doffers were slow. The capacity of the machine varied somewhat, according to power available. But 50 pounds per d ay was about all we could do when machines were moved to the spring. But at lower place we could turn out more. The machine was a noisy affair. The comb which combed the finishing doffer had to work from an eccentric. The comb, a steel one, worked up and down, cleaned the carded wool off the finishing doffer and let it fall under a wood roll working in a wood concave and delivered the finished roll. A beautiful roll ¾ in diameter, 2 ft long, rolled out in a wood trough. When the pile was of a certain size, Dad would pick it up carefully, give it a certain twist and then carefully lay it down on the sheet or blanket by which the wool came. No one could ever handle a bundle rolls like Dad-unless it was Uncle Jim.
More about the Rattle Staffs-they ran from an eccentric on the base of frame to the comb and were 4 or 4 ½ ft. long of wood. They ran rather high speed and made quite a lot of noise. We did not have chokes on ordinary wool. Had to keep an eye "pealed" for cockleburs.
And for a time there was a long wool sheep in the country. Think was called cots wool-that is cots not cats. It was long and wiry and hard to manage. Dad had plenty to say about that sort of wool and he had no love for the "Merino" wool. It was short, gray and awful fine. The cots wool was coarse and long and we never had the petty quarrels at the carding machine that we had at the flour mill. There were several birds coming to the flour mill who were continually belly aching about their flour. They did not get enough or it was no good-or other mills gave em more and better. The same gang were most of the time trying to cook up some scheme to gyp the miller and if we outsmarted 'em, they were sore. Not that way at the machine.
Preparing the wool for carding was a right smart job. First it must be sheared from the sheep and it must not go too long before shearing. If new crop of wool started it was fleece grown and machine would not take it.
The gals on the farm had to wash the wool as it was always dirty as come from the sheep. They had to dry and pick -that is get out the gravel or burrs or any foreign matter. Then it came to the machine done up in sheets or blankets for the most part. Then before carding the wool had to be greased and run through the pickers. Had to apply one pound grease to 8 pounds wool. The customer brought the lard along with the wool. Very often it turned out to be some sort of spoiled lard which stank to high places, we have heard mentioned. The grease was applied to keep the wool from going to lint during carding. But at that, we could gather up few pounds "flyings" under the machine every week. And the grease had to be melted for each batch of wool and think the same old black greasy bucket was used as long as the machine. Each bundle wool was poured out on floor in front of pickers. Then Dad rolled up sleeves. Would work it up for a few minutes then sprinkle on the grease. Then work up again and then through the pickier. And the rolls were put up as before started and the wrapping was fastened with common thorns-not exactly common either. Only now and a thorn bush could be found with thorns long enough to pin up the sheets. Most thorns were too short.
A crop of wool would vary from a few pounds a maximum of fifty pounds. Twenty five pound "buns" (?) would give the ordinary girl plenty work for the winter. I wonder what our modern Janes would if they had to do what our mothers did. Solomon said, "They toil not neither do they spin". I remember my mother, when the supper dishes were done, she would go to the spinning wheel and for hour after hour, she would walk back and forth with that old wheel, twisting the wool roll into yarn. The yarn they used for their blankets, "Linsey" and Jeans cloth. The women used the Linsey for their clothes while the Jeans was hard for men and boys. Our mothers knit all our sox and mittens and now and then a comfort-piece of cloth maybe a foot wide and long as was wanted. These were knit with long wood needles and were used to wrap round our necks on cold winter days. Dad could handle a pair of needles like that.
Farmers from various parts of the county came to the machine, year after year. Wiley Finney, Joel Cooper and Fletch Slavens from the Cooper Switch and Mrs. Fred Howser came to the carding mill several years, "hoss back", had 20 pound bag wool tied on behind her. She was old pal of Mom and would stay all night with us. She had no kids and often wondered what she and Fred did with so much wool.
Bill Bunch of Gravois and Alvin Vaughan of Flat Woods, often came to the machine together. They would each have about 50 pounds of wool. They were not to far away that they would stay for their carding. Would come down, bring their wool, leave it and come or send for the rolls.
Anderson Dooley and Harriet-colored
This old couple came to the machine yearly. Dad and Mom thought a lot of them. They-that is Dad and Mother-knew what transpired at that South Carolina port when the gallant major Anderson had to haul down the Betsy Ross emblem. After our rebel friends had fired their cannon for days on his fortress. And the colored folks being the cause of it. Most of our folks felt rather strong on that scrap and no one at that time had ever heard of "The War Between the States" But they knew a lot about the War of the Rebellion.
Anderson was a sawed off old coon. Maybe 5 ft up and down. He wore boots in the summer time and they were very much "run down at the heels". Harriet was somewhat on the squatty order. Soon as they arrived Harriet went to our home and went to work for Mother while Anderson and Dad shot the papa of the herd while their wool was carded. Both of them were ex-slaves and their home was somewhere not so far from Spring Garden. They were real old when I knew them. Anderson might have been 75-the wife younger.
Another pair that came for some years were Tanner Wyrick and Sam Templeton. They were both Democrats. Tanner a Baptist and Sam was of the Christian faith. They were awful jolly. Tanners a lot older than Sam. They and Dad had some heavy arguments. Dad and Sam would agree on religion, but Dad had to defend his political status all by himself. They all the time came to stay the night. They would cook their bacon on the end of a stick. Make 'em some coffee and the other eats they brought along ready to eat. And at all times when the campers wanted to stay inside, they could stay in the mill where there were all the time several bundles of wool to make their beds. A million naps have I taken parked on bundles of soft wool. And sometimes would go from the house and crawl into a pile of loose wool.
Most folks paid cash for their carding, but some would ask tad to take his pay in wool. This he carried upstairs and parked in one corner the building, what was good place to sleep. Never thought about getting mixed up with a snake though we had a few serpents on the outside. Tanner and Sam came from Mt. Pleasant community and customers came from Brumley neighborhood. Think all the old Robinetts-Dan, Sam and High_____. The Robinetts came from the West Virginia Mountain Section and some of 'em were long deggers (?)
The Robinetts were loyal to the Union. Some had been in the army. They had a fife and drum corps. And when I was a youngster attending a GAR encampment I have seen their fife and drum corps coming down the hill at Brumley about 6 abreast and the music they made was thekind quickens the pulse. The revolutionary picture of the fife and drum was done again by that young Robinetts. One of the gang-think was Dan-came to the machine once driving an ox team. The only one I remember doing that, though I think Uncle Henry kept an oxen as long as he owned the saw mill. They were good power on a log wagon bringing logs out of the woods to the saw mill, and the old log wagons at that time were home built. Think some 'em made the wheels from big logs. They would saw them off the thickness wanted, band 'em, make an axle and "butter", they had a log wagon.
The ox yoke the farmers made me think at home and it had to be strong. The yoke around their necks and log chain fastened to it. They could just about move any thing that was loose and about all the old steers were Buck and Berry as all our mules are Pete and Jack…Beck and Kate.
The old gals of that day colored most their cloth using walnut bark as a source of color. It was a nasty color I think and when no other color was used, I have yet to learn. The blankets were never colored. They were left white and all our folks had 'em and the verdict was that the good hair mattress which we all had too made right comfortable sleeping.
And we had lot of customers from all around. Not many from St. Elizabeth but several from Mary's Home. J. M. Hawkins made suit in homespun so Capt. Marshall tells me.
The Big Walnut Tree
Dad sold it a long time back. I was not at home at the time and I don't know what he got for the tree nor who bought it. I began to stray away from home controls in 1893 when first went to school at Spring Garden; might have been 1894.
And while on the big walnut, might mention that not more than one hundred yards away was a big wild cherry tree-the largest one of these ever saw and still in the orchard nearby where grew a fine early harvest apple-the most beloved apple tree in my young life. And across the creek bottom at the foot of the hill was the big buhr oak. Otis sold the big oak just few years ago.
On account Dad had so much trouble keeping the tail race cleaned out the gravel that came in each big rise in the creek. Have seen Dad shovel gravel all day in the tail race bare foot in the cold water. It was not much wonder that he would move the machine. He took Grand Dad in to the consideration and he did not give his hearty OK. Did not think would have enough fall for a wheel large enough. So Dad borrowed an old slip scraper (?) from Grand Dad Boyce-one that I think was used in the building of the Branch Rail Road. He worked good part of the winter which must have been mild, raising the dam around the spring. Grand Dad Wright thought maybe the water would not rise enough-that spring might just stop. So that made Dad more or less panicky. But he made the dam 2 or 3 feet above the first dam. I helped on the scraper (?) job. Think must have been a doing. We had one long leg horse called Old Si. He was a good "hoss" too.
So early in the spring, that is in March or April, we started tearing down the old carding machine building. That was not a before breakfast chore but took a lot of time. Hard work-we got the job done however and the opening was a month late. Some time in June when were ready to open, the old building was as before mentioned, 2 full stories and attic. But the attic was really another story. Was floored and plenty head room unless one wanted to get against the wall. The lower story was left off when moved up to the spring. The wheel was a 14 foot one down below, but most of the time it had too much water under it and never ran free. And that kills the power just too much. The wheel at the upper ______ was only 10 ft. in diameter and Dad never could get the tail race deep enough for that wheel to run free. Must have been at least a foot of water on the bottom of the wheel all the time in which an 8 ft. wheel would have done just as well or better.
We had very little help on that job-not more than one man, don't think-and I think I went bare foot from April to October of that year-which if was 1890, I was 13 years young.
Had to build a wood trunk at the new place too. And a chamber or flume for the wheel too. It was a big job as I see it now and don't know how we did so well. Never had quite as much power at the new site as we had below but enough to get by. That was one good thing about the carding machine-if it ran a little slow, it made no difference and repairs were not necessary either other than to re-bobbit a bearing sometime. New cards were required from time to time and they had to come from a Boston firm. Dad usually took a week each spring of the season to re-grind his cards. This he did using a 4 in. by 4 in. timber on which he would glue coarse emery. This would take the smooth edge off the cards and they would take hold better.
The cards were run at fast speed against the emory and the machine was cleaned once per week. Took half a day for that job.
The wheels were parked in a chamber Dad called a flume, made of hewn logs and the shafts were too large. The ram in wood bearings ten inches or wider, and in the case of the grist mill, that 10 ft. wheel had a 6 inch shaft. I don't think there is any doubt but they lost half their power on the clumsy old shafts. I know that inch and a half shaft would have been plenty strong. They had 2 methods applying the power from water wheel to the machinery. One was using a large wood wheel with belt to upper part of the building. That belt at the card machine ran to a shaft on which was a 6 ft. drum. On the drum ran the belts to the card machine and picker. Tight and loose pulley, made small job change from one machine to the other.
End of Carding Machine
The other method was with heavy gears. Big bevel gear on wheel shaft in which ran a spur gear on an upright shaft to upper shaft with gears. Dad told us Grand Sire made the patterns for his cogs. Took 'em to St. Louis and had the cogs cast from his own pattern. It seemed if the patterns were made at the factory. The cost was high maybe as much as the finished casting.
Grand Dad came out and blessed the building of the new wheel for the machine at the spring site, and think that was the last wheel ever built for the carding machine. Grand Dad was a good carpenter and G. L. said he had some old millwright come to help out of some kind of a snarl one time. The old boy told Grand Dad they would have to hook a 2 in. piece seasoned walnut. Grand Dad said all right, and the next morning they took a joist out the home. That was an actual fact. The old saw, that if nothing else will do will take out a joist and natives called 'em "jistes" for the most part. The carding machine ran year after year, with a steadily declining business till about 1900 and the last run was made using Tom Harrisons steam thrashing engine. The business had got so light that "Pop" did not think worthwhile to keep the water power plant going. The dam at spring had broken out and the "Trunk" had dried out and so ended the operation of Wrights Carding Machine.