Sunday, November 28, 2010

A little trip back in time.

“For one to know where they are going in life, they must know where they come from.”
-Author Unknown


This past August I had the opportunity to drive to Jefferson City Missouri to the state capitol. You see my wife and I plan, in the future, on moving to south west Missouri and I really needed to be a certified police officer there if I have the need to continue working in Law Enforcement once we move.  So I submitted my reciprocity packet out with Missouri and they accepted it and scheduled me to come to the state Department of Public Safety and take the test that would certify me as a police officer in Missouri.

So like the semi responsible person that I am I began on planning my trip and checking prices on motels and setting the quickest route there and all those plans that I really enjoy making. One of the first web sites I visited of course was Google Maps, and made a general plot from my home to Jefferson City.

Since I am somewhat unfamiliar with that part of Missouri I began to look closer at all the towns and cities I would be driving through. I like to think that I know most of the names of the towns and cities in that area but there was one in particular that stood out in my memory, Decaturville Missouri. Now where had I heard that before? I stopped and thought for a while. Now my parents and I had traveled to Missouri several times when I was young and that town was associated with a memory.

After several minutes of thinking it hit me! Decaturville Missouri was the birthplace of my paternal grandfather Walter McGuire. Now I thought this could be a very potentially awesome little place to visit along the way. Now most of you don’t know but I have been working on the McGuire family tree for years but have not been working on it for some time due to being very busy at work and life etc. Well I instantly thought this could be a great opportunity to stop and take some pictures just so I could say that I visited the birthplace of my grandpa.

Well my plans for the trip continued and the day finally rolled around and I was on my way. Since the trip was about 6 hours I tried to keep myself entertained for the trip by listening to audio books and music on my mp3 player and made the best of it and the trip seemed a lot shorter than it actually was.

One of the little snags in the navigation of my trip was that Decaturville was so old and small and virtually dead that my GPS did not show it, so after I turned north from Lebanon Missouri and drove about 6 miles or so I found a country store. I went inside and inquired about the whereabouts of Decaturville the attendant there was very helpful in getting me there. About 4 more miles and I rolled into Decaturville. Well it was about what I had expected, one closed convenience store a half dozen houses and a church.

I parked at the closed store and looked around and snapped a few pictures and then looked east and noticed the Decaturville Church and then it hit me! There has to be a cemetery somewhere close by.  Now that could be a virtual gold mine of information, so I began driving around the short little streets in town and keep my eyes peeled. Around the corner from the church and EUREKA! There was the Decaturville Cemetery.
I quickly found a safe place to park and stepped out of the car and began a visual survey of the area.
The Cemetery itself was about an acre large and had quite a few gravesites and some of them appeared rather new, relatively speaking.  The first headstone surname I read as I walked up was Caviness and then the memories of my family tree research started flowing back in bits and pieces.  I then knew that we are related to some Caviness’ from this area.

So I began shooting some video with my camcorder to do some quick documentation because my time here was limited. I found some McGuire’s whose names were vaguely familiar and some others and was getting excited about how they fit in to the family tree.  Well it was about then that I decided that I really needed to get back on the road and was walking back to the car when I noticed there was another headstone that I had missed and as I walked up to it my heart about flew out of my chest.

It was John McGuire and his wife Rachel and they both shared the same birthday with different years. Well I remembered these names and dates for sure because John and Rachel are the parents of my great, great grandfather Nathaniel McGuire but I always assumed they were buried in Tennessee.  So I took one last video shot and a quick still with my camera phone and quickly back on my way to Jefferson City.

The drive there was just wonderful, because the countryside it just awesome and beautiful to look at. Before I knew it I was checked into my motel and then I quickly went out and scouted my route to the DPS building and ate some supper and returned to the motel room and began to study for my test the next morning.  After a few hours of study I couldn’t fight the urge any longer and I opened my laptop and connected to the internet and contact my brother Mike and told him what I had found.  You see Mike has been working on the maternal family tree of our family and would appreciate the find that I had made.

Well Mike was just as excited as I was and we both began some initial searches on Google for McGuire’s and cemeteries and like in that area, and then boom! Another memory hit me that there was another church and cemetery in that area called Mt. Horeb. Well I began a frantic search for that church and cemetery and wasn’t having much luck and then took one last look at the Google Map of Decaturville and then noticed a road going west called Mt. Horeb Road, so I thought that must be it.

Well I hardly slept that whole night, between worrying about passing the test and finding the Mt. Horeb cemetery, my mind was racing.

So the next morning came faster than I thought and made my way to the DPS building and after almost an hour of searching found a parking spot and made it in time to start the test and then two short hours later that was behind me. The lady there instructed me to call her after 1:30 p.m. to get my results and so I departed Jefferson City and scurried all the way back to Decaturville.

Once I arrived back in Decaturville I returned to the Decaturville Cemetery and took stills of every headstone and of the overall cemetery so that I would have them for reference. Then I began my search for Mt. Horeb and there on the south edge of town was a small sign that read Mt. Horeb Church and Cemetery 2 miles.  That was good enough for me and I drove two miles west down a long winding dirt road in the middle of the country and there it was with a nice sign that read Mt. Horeb church and cemetery est. 1895.

And to my amazement it was in excellent shape and very well kept. As a matter of fact it was very beautiful and just a very relaxing spot with shade trees out front that provided some much needed shade from the August heat. 

I went straight to work and began photographing all the headstones I could see that seemed pertinent to the family tree and let me tell you, there were quite a few. I was there for about two hours and about passed out a few times from heat exhaustion but I made it through.

As I went from headstone to headstone my mind would speculate how they fit into the family tree and what their lives might have been like. Most of them were pretty old and some not too old and then there were a few that where McGuire’s that are really close to my age and felt a little sad.

There was one in particular was a young lady whose portrait was embossed into the top of her headstone and I just had to have a picture of it but there was a floral arrangement on the top and most of it was covering the picture and I was wondering how I was going to take the picture. My camera phone had to hold very still to get a good picture and I usually require two hands while on one knee to get the picture. Well I attempted the one handed shot and was just reaching out to raise the floral arrangement and a rare and welcome breeze came out of nowhere, because it was a freakishly still HOT day outside, and the breeze raised up the flowers and leaves from the arrangement and gave me a perfectly clear shot of the picture.

I thought was that a coincidence? Was it a little divine assistance? Well the whole little experience was quite emotional and motivated me even more to finish the job.

So after all the time I spent there I noticed that I was very near dehydration because I forgot to bring something to drink and I was getting hungry because I had also skipped lunch in my haste to get back to Decaturville.  So I decided what I had was enough and packed up and started back home.  Well once I was back in the car I remembered that I needed to call the DPS back and check on my test score. I couldn’t believe that I forgot, I looked at my watch and it was 2:30 p.m. I hoped that it wasn’t too late.

I found the number and made the call to the nice lady at Missouri DPS and she gave me my score and I had passed comfortably.  My mind switched gears back to the original reason why I had made the trip and started feeling pretty good about myself. Another personal challenge under my belt and for a few minutes was a little proud. I had been studying for quite a while for that test and then had the cram session the night before and still there were questions on the test that was not in the Missouri Criminal code book but I did well regardless.
After several hours I had made it back home and over the next few weeks I had spent a little time with my brother Mike and shared the information and pictures with him and after a while we came up with a plan. We both figured that there had to be a lot more of information to be gleaned from the area and started making plans to travel there for a weekend and attend church at Mt. Horeb and speak with the parishioners there and surely one of them had to be related to us in some way.

The first thing we needed to do is speak with the pastor of the Mt. Horeb church and see when a good time would be to visit. Well it took a little doing but a few days later I was speaking on the phone with the Pastor Paul Burns and his wife and soon discovered that we were cousins. We also found out that the Pastors son Paul Willard Burns had done the family tree research on Burns and McGuire and other surnames related for many years and suggested that we meet with him and we really couldn’t wait to get there now.  The excitement had now tripled and we began making serious plans for October to get up there and get some good information.

Here once again I had the pleasure of planning another trip and while doing that research I discovered that Camden County had a Historical Society Museum just east of Camdenton in Linn Creek and we planned our trip around their annual Apple Butter day’s event. We figured that it would be a great opportunity to see what information we could find about the McGuire family at the Museum and some homemade Chili and see what the local vendors were selling.

Well the time finally came to make the trip. After much planning between Mike and me we had packed our laptops our scanners, printer’s camcorders and still camera’s. We could not afford to miss anything and then we decided to take a change of clothes along as well, I mean after all we were staying a couple of days we might as well be presentable.  We decided to stay in Lebanon because it was closer to Decaturville and the motel prices were al little better that Camdenton’s and there were more available because of some other event happening in Camden.

We left Sapulpa, Oklahoma around 6:00 a.m. on a Friday and before we knew it we were in Lebanon and checked in to out room. By the time we arrived at Linn Creek it was nearly noon and we jumped right in to everything the Camden County Museum had to offer. It was really cool. That place was full of Camden County history in many ways. The smell of homemade chili filled the air of the inside of the museum and I was finding it hard to concentrate but we pushed on and took several pictures and I purchased a local book telling about the Ha Ha Tonka area and the old castle there.

Before you know it Mike had purchased some of the local apple butter and I had purchased some homemade Elder berry jam and we had taken several pictures and visited most of the museum. But the time had come to eat some of that chili we had been smelling and let me tell you it was good. After lunch we finished our museum tour and did find two pictures of the Mt. Horeb church, the original church built in 1895 and the one that stands today.  We didn’t find the cornucopia of family information we had hoped for but we did find a few references.  It was defiantly worth the visit.

We drove around the area a little and then back to the motel room for supper and more research and preparation for our visit with Paul Willard Burns the next day with all his family tree research.

The next morning came quickly and we had a wonderful breakfast at, of all places, McDonald’s. The service there was awesome the whole town seemed to be there and things moved quickly in the order process and the food was good. But soon after we were on our way to Decaturville and received a call on the way from Paul Willard Burns and he was ready now so we went ahead and met him at the church.

Once at Mt. Horeb church we met with Paul and we all went inside and started comparing information. Let me tell you, that man was prepared. We discovered he had been doing his research for the past 19 years and could back up every piece of information he provided. It was simply awesome. Surprisingly Paul had most of the information committed to memory he was just amazing and accommodating. We soon discovered that we had a common ancestor in Nathaniel Clay McGuire who is my great, great grandfather and that he had donated the land for the Mt. Horeb church and was on the founding board and also helped build the original church. Wow, we had more history there than we even knew.

Well everything after that was fast and furious. Paul helped up correct all the mistakes in our research and Mike would print out pictures we had for Paul and at the same time scan in pictures that Paul provided to us.  It was insanely awesome and it was getting hard to keep up so began taking a lot of notes and making corrections in the family tree database.

The next thing we knew four hours had gone by and Mike and myself was feeling a whole lot of information overload. One of the really amazing moments was when Paul would show me a picture of one of his relatives and in the same picture were my relatives from Oklahoma that I grew up with. Just one of the coolest days I had spent with family in a very long time.

We found out more about our family history that any family member back home had. But to their defense back home a lot of that information about our Missouri relatives they just could not remember or just didn’t know.  Now Mike and I knew that our grandfather Walter McGuire had moved to Oklahoma with his family when he was 11 years old, what we didn’t know was why. The best we can figure is that it was out of necessity.

It was the mid to late twenties when they moved to Oklahoma and it was hard times all over and a long draught and difficult countryside made it hard on a farmer in Missouri so the move to Oklahoma seemed to make sense. Unknown to them at the time that soon after they arrived in Oklahoma the dust bowl days started and made life even harder.

So once my grandpa moved here to Oklahoma he had a few years to grow up some and get married and the next thing you know he and all his siblings move to California for a better life. Grandpa Walter and Grandma Tressie we here and there for a while living in California and Oregon and who knows where else and then they moved back to Oklahoma. When everyone was settled he and his sister Winnie and their families were the only ones to stay in Oklahoma all the rest of their siblings stayed in California. Of course Grandpa Walter’s dad Oscar and wife Rachel and some other cousins and uncle’s stayed in Oklahoma but they had even more relatives that were still in Missouri. It must have taken amazing courage to leave it all behind to start a new life in an unknown land.  It was a difficult era to live in.

After our meeting with Paul Willard Burns we drove on to the Ha Ha Tonka State Park and visited the old castle ruins there on the banks of the Lake of the Ozarks. It was an absolutely beautiful view and a wonderful day to view it. We also went and took some pictures of the Ha Ha Tonka post office and then drove on to Camdenton and ate a late lunch.

We even hit a few more old cemeteries in the area that Paul told us about and collected even more pictures.
Before we knew it Sunday morning was upon us and we were driving into the parking lot of the Mt. Horeb church and almost right away we were chatting with some of the members there and finding more relatives we had never met. We officially met with Pastor Paul Burns the father of Paul Willard Burns and he introduced us to the church members who we are related to and it was almost all of them.

The man that delivered the message that morning in church was also a McGuire and he was just wonderful. Everyone there was friendly and accommodating. Before we knew it the time came to head home.  We really hated to say goodbye but we were told that we could come back anytime and just knowing that made it a little easier to leave. 

We had a great time, met some new family members and I got to spend some real quality time with my big brother. He has been super supportive in this whole endeavor. I love you big brother. So folks this holiday season go out of your way to visit with your family, especially those you have not seen in a long time.  God Bless and Have a very Merry Christmas and remember Jesus is the reason for the season.

Pictures of this trip can been viewed at this link

Missouri Family Trip