'V' - Biographies from Miller County People

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By the Vaughan Children, 1981

Wesley C. Vaughan, son of Albert Vaughan and Minnie Thacker Vaughn, was born April 8, 1901, in Pocahontas, Arkansas. Prior to his first birthday he had traveled by wagon with his family to settle in Miller County a few miles southwest of Eldon, Missouri. Desdia Ellen Watts, daughter of John Boone Watts and Emily Alice Sappenfield Watts, was born near Russellville, Missouri in Cole County, arriving October 14, 1904. The Watts' first home in Miller County was located in the Walnut Grove school district and Desdia attended classes there. The family later moved to the Cooper School District a few miles south of West Aurora, Missouri. The original route of Highway 54 and the Missouri Pacific railroad spur line from Eldon to Bagnell ran parallel as they passed the Watts' residence. Some three miles south the railroad ran through the Albert Vaughan property, boyhood home of Wesley.

Wesley and Desdia were married in 1920. They bought acreage adjoining the Mt. Carmel Church. The relocation of Highway 54 during construction of Bgnell Dam cut through the edge of that parcel. In the mid-twenties a tornado tore away the second story of the house as the progress of the storm was watched from the first floor. Some 400 yards below and to the right of the house a towering haystack vanished as though it had never existed. As the wind moved toward the house the barn was completely demolished. The communities of Eldon and Olean were hard hit that night.

As a young man Wesley was involved in the moving of railroad ties made from a bountiful supply of oak trees in the area, to be distributed to many parts of the country for use in the railway system. He joined the ranks of those employed on construction of the dam and served as a Pinkerton guard at Bagnell Dam during World War II. The young couple shared a fondness for working with the land and small scale farming was always part of the family picture.

In the years when wheat was grown the arrival of the steam threshing machine, owned and operated by Sam Buckner, was an occasion of note. Seems the sound of the whistle announcing its arrival as it moved from farm to farm still echoes about those hills and valleys. On the days the threshing machine was at your farm the ladies prepared a bountiful noon-day meal for the entire crew. Meals considered proper for that event leaves pause to ponder that there was no siesta following the repast.

The towns of Eldon and Bagnell were busy trade centers but Bagnell held a special fascination as you could observe the railroad locomotives being turned around at the end of the line. And from there continue to travel Highway 54 South by crossing the Osage River on the Bagnell Ferry. Farmers on the others side of the river crossed the ferry with their hogs and cattle to be shipped to market by rail. If the farmer traveled from a distance this meant an overnight trip and the herd and attendants were usually welcomed by a farm family along the route.

Wesley and Desdia became the parents of seven sons, Henry, who died October 11, 1928 at age 5; Harold; Cecil; Bobby; Gaithel; Charles and Terry; five daughters, Pauline, Neta, Mary, Norma and Joyce. At the end of a 3 1/4 mile hike the older Vaughan children reached Cooper School. That district was consolidated into the Osage System. All attended high school at School of the Osage.

Wesley retired from the L.E. Meyers Construction Company in the mid-sixties. He died July 15, 1973. Desdia lives today (1981) on the farm that was Wesley's boyhood home. She is in to quilt making as a hobby. Sons and grandsons as well as daughters and granddaughters keep the requests pouring in.


By Thomas E. Lake, 1981

Jeremiah Vernon, born in Kentucky in 1805 married there to Betsy Stark. They came from Tennessee to Missouri in an ox wagon, homesteaded near Olean, Mo. and had sixteen children. Betsy Vernon, born 1890, died 1880, Miller County, Mo. In 1850, Jeremiah Vernon started to the gold field, died and is buried on Little Plateau, at the foot of Sierra Nevada Mountains in an unmarked grave. This history was recalled in the "Eldon, Mo. Advertiser, P. 1, Col. 3, August 14, 1930" at the Vernon Annual reunion, at that time Vernons had been in the area over one hundred years, as they were listed in Cole County, Mo. Census in 1830, before Miller County was organized.

Son Wilburn Vernon was the first white child born in the area, December 21, 1827, died April 11, 1904, at age 76; his wife, Sarah Henderson, born May 29, 1828, died January 13, 1892. They had lived on a farm near Mt. Pleasant, and gave land for the Allen Cemetery in Miller County.

Grandson Isaac Thomas Vernon (December 6, 1855-December 9, 1922) was married to Martha Jane White (October 14, 1860-December 25, 1947), both buried in Allen Cemetery.

Great-granddaughter "Pearl" May Vernon, born January 7, 1885, Eldon, Mo., died April 7, 1949, Bosworth, Mo. Pearl married Thomas Ewing Lake II, born August 5, 1881, Lone Jack, Missouri, died December 23, 1960, buried Wharten Cemetery, Bosworth, Mo.

Great-great-grandson, Leslie T. Lake, born June 29, 1903, Eldon, Mo. died February 13, 1979, buried Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery, Marvin, Mo. His wife, Eva (Brown) Lake, was born February 13, 1903, Rea, Mo., daughter of Willis Edward and Rachel O. Ables Brown. Mrs. Leslie T. Lake lives near her son on rural route, Barnett, Mo.

Great-great-great-great-grandchildren of Jeremiah Vernon are: Miss Lora Lee Lake, school librarian at Lucas, Kansas and Luray, Kansas, and her brother James Edward Lake, who works for the State Department in Jefferson City, MO. They are the children of Thomas "Edward" Lake and the late Gladys (Pugh) Lake and they spend weekends and vacations with their father who resides north of Versailles, Mo. on a farm.

Lora Lee Lake and her brother James Edward Lake are seventh generation descendants of Jeremiah Vernon, early pioneer of Miller County, Missouri.

DR. WILLIAM A. VON GREMP- Daughter Reminisces

One of the childhood memories of my Dad was riding in the buggy with him as he made a medical call in the "Rabbit-Head" school district area.

Many will recall the times his team and buggy were seen flying by as he made his way on one of the more urgent trips to help an accident victim, see a dangerously ill pneumonia patient, deliver a baby or perhaps relieve someone with a serious heart problem.

During those winter months when the roads were at their worst, he used a 'spare' team. His faithful driver, Bent Whitaker, was responsible for harnessing and driving.

My mother usually was there with his foot-warmer, lap robes, black fur hat and warm long overcoat.

During the months when roads improved he made these same trips and others in his Model T Ford with my brother4 Bluford at the wheel.

During an influenza epidemic he would sometimes be gone for as long as two days as he made his way from one home to another.

William A. Von Gremp was born near Vienna, Mo., June 6, 1869 and died July 5, 1933 in Iberia, Mo.

© 2007 - Miller County Historical Society
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