Sunday, May 20, 2007
One of the historical subjects which interest me is the music which evolves along with the culture of a group of people over a couple of centuries of time. I am most interested in those elements of the musical culture which remains pure and free of significant outside influence. For that reason I enjoy listening and participating in musical activities which have their origins in the hill country of the Ozarks region. So it was that today I spent some time with Clifford and Pat Hill at their home in Eldon.
Clifford and Pat Hill
Clifford was raised on a very picturesque farm located in the valley of the old Tuscumbia Versailles road about a mile or so north of the Osage River. In fact, his house was almost due west of my house which was built on top of the hill along highway 52. I used to walk through the woods through the Arthur Edwards farm to visit the Hills as a child. Their home was so warm and loving because of the goodness and special gifts of Sophie Hill, Clilfford's mother. She was a poet, song writer, musician and singer who was gifted with great wisdom as well. Clifford and his siblings were taught the old literature and the old music which Sophie knew and loved. It was only natural that Clifford would in time learn to play the fiddle and the old time music which were played in homes and gatherings throughout the hills of Miller County over the last two hundred years and even today in some places. So this afternoon Clifford played some of the old time music on his fiddle while I "seconded" on the guitar. Clifford has played semi professionally with local groups, most frequently with Harold Rowden's blue grass band; but he has played for square dances and loves to play the old waltzes. He knows his fiddle intimately having disassembled it and reworked it until the sound was just right. He even took advantage of modern techniques using an electronic device to measure the tonal frequency difference between the backboard and the face of the fiddle to have the perfect balance between the two sides. Clifford is one of those gifted musicians who can bring his instrument to life and make music that absolutely cannot be imitated by digitalization from a computer. His early local influences included fiddlers such as Lyman Enloe, Henry Thompson, Junior Marriott, and Travis Inman.
The extended Hill family has always had some who had musical talent. A cousin of Clifford's, Charles Hill, who unfortunately recently passed away, even played in Ray Price's band at one time.
Clifford's roots in Miller County originated well before the beginning of the last century on both his mother as well as his father's side. His paternal great grandfather, Robert Field Hill, who had three wives (he was a widower three times) and fourteen children, came from Tennessee to Spring Garden, Miller County Missouri in the mid 1800's and fought in the Civil War for the North. His burial was in Spring Garden. Jesse Lafayette Hill, the son of Robert, located on a farm one mile west of the Skinner Vault on highway 52. Clifford's father, John, was born in a log cabin on this farm which is where Clifford was born as well.
Robert Field Hill
Thomas Benton Wilson M.D
Sophie, Clifford's mother, was the granddaughter of a physician, Thomas Benton Wilson M.D. who came to Missouri from Indiana to practice medicine in Aurora Springs during the time it was considered to possess one of the world's few healing springs. He built a new home there in 1882 which stood until fifteen years ago when unfortunately it was destroyed by fire. Dr. Wilson moved to Kansas after the public's fascination with Aurora Springs abated. His son, and Sophie's father, Ralph Wilson, lived in several areas in Kansas and Oklahoma and Sophie herself lived the early part of her life in the "Indian Nation" of Oklahoma. She wrote an autobiographical book about her life including many interesting stories about her early days in Oklahoma. Eventually, Ralph Wilson moved to a farm near Riley's Bluff on the Osage River when Sophie was seven years of age. She attended Harmony School of the Flatwoods area which is where she met John Hill, Clifford's father.
These days Clifford, who is semi retired, often can be found caring for and manicuring his home farm near Tuscumbia where he was born. When you pass by it, you will notice the picturesque gated entrance through which an attractively landscaped winding road leads to the original Hill home which is beautifully maintained. If you would like to hear Clifford play his fiddle, you often can find him playing with the musical group which entertains each Thursday at noon at the Senior Citizen's Center in Eldon.
Friday, May 18, 2007
This morning I gave an interview to Ravae Edwards from the Jefferson City Tribune. The interview will be published next Sunday and Monday. The first part will cover my background and the second will give information about the fund drive. Ravae first lived in Iberia with her mother, then after about the third grade moved to Eldon. She has been working for the Jefferson City paper for eight years. Recently, she completed an article about the old Miller County town of Faith. She has done other Miller County articles, two of which have made their way to nationally syndicated papers including USA Today. We covered a wide variety of topics today, some about me personally but most about the museum and its expansion plans. I also had the opportunity to talk quite a bit with her about Miller County history.
Later today, I talked with Joyce (Barron) McDaniel (see photo), daughter of George Barron (brother to Dorsey Barron who bought Hauenstein's store back in the late forties). She and her family had lived on a farm on the old Tuscumbia Versailles road a few miles from town. After graduation from high school in 1952 she went to Kansas City to live. However, she comes back once in awhile for high school class reunions which was the reason for her trip this week. Today was the day she chose to visit the museum. We had a nice conversation about old Tuscumbia happenings. Joyce enjoyed touring the cabins on the museum site as guided by Wanda Wright, one of our volunteer guides.
Judy (wife), Elva (mother-in-law) and I went to eat at the Red Oak Café in Tuscumbia. I saw Ted Fry there who is head of the University Extension office here in town. He had been one of the attendees at the presentation Sharon Holder and I gave to the Eldon Lions Club last Tuesday.
This afternoon I went to Gaylord Strange's house near Eldon to talk about Old Bagnell and Mead's flat. Gaylord (see photo) has collected thousands of articles from the Advertiser going back to 1900 and before. He has a number of old photos which I scanned. Also, he has recorded the names of thousands of names from all the Miller County cemeteries as well as listing by year all the marriages in the county. I plan on writing a full summary of my interview with Gaylord which we will download to the website at a later date.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Construction on the new addition has progressed; we now have all the ceiling joists in for the lower floor and have begun to lay the second floor plywood. (See photo). If we continue to progress at this rate we may have a building by the end of July. Finishing touches inside may take a while longer for the project to reach completion, but we are very excited about the speed with which things are moving.
This afternoon I accompanied my mother Susie Pryor, mother-in-law Elva Steen, wife Judy and sister-in-law Sharon Holder to the Mother/Daughter tea on the porch at the museum hosted by Sharon Cogdill. We enjoyed a multiplicity of delectable delights Sharon had prepared including sesame and rice stick appetizers, followed by a choice of asparagus spears with roasted garlic wrapped in proscuitto, or a chicken salad sandwich. Mixed vegetables accompanied the meal. Dessert consisted of fruits and an assortment of various sweets. Beverages included iced or hot tea. Guests present during the time we were there (see photos) were Midge Brown and her daughter Diane Berkbigler, Helen Schulte, Beth Deffenbaugh and her daughter Olivia. Beth is director of special education at the Tuscumbia school system. This event will be repeated tomorrow (Sunday, May 20) 1-3 p.m. The cost is only five dollars which goes toward the building fund.
Tea, Elva, Judy & Sharon
Susie, Diane, Helen & Midge
Beth & Olivia