Turner Ward Knob at 2,560′ is the highest peak in the San Francisco mountains which along with the Boston mountains define the 47,000 miles between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians known as the Ozarks.
The French cartographers who named the towns of Versailles, Bonne Femme, and Bonne Terre and many others as well as Lake Pomme de Terre and numerous rivers gave the region it’s name “aux arc” being situated at the topmost bend of the Arkansas river. I learned this on Wikipedia after being curious about all the French-named towns I passed driving into the Ozarks. The courthouse in Carthage above looks a lot like a French chateau in the Loire Valley! This is a beautiful area: green, thick stands of trees, valleys and hills and some tall mountains all punctuated by huge lakes and rivers.
I also learned that there are over 6,000 recorded caves in this region. It is an area rich in minerals–lead in particular. My great grandfather James Lenore Sherer was active in several lead drilling partnerships in the early 1890’s. I also learned that many men died early, as he did at the age of 49 from TB, as a result of his work in mining. He moved on to other vocations but the damage to his lungs was done.
The people here that I have encountered are friendly, helpful and polite. They love to talk and seem to be unhurried and willing to engage with you no matter what you may want: “Where is Neosho Boulevard?” or “Would you mind drawing a map for me?” or “Do you think it’s going to rain much more?” or “Where would you recommend I get something to eat?”
People here in Neosho, Newton County, Missouri know that Americans–especially those of us living on the coasts, imagine that everyone here lives like the people portrayed in the recent film “Winter’s Bone.” Yes, there are meth labs, illiteracy and poverty, but those conditions are not unique to people living in the Ozarks. Unemployment here is at 9% which could account for the down-in-the-mouth appearance of the small towns I’ve been visiting. One thing that is flourishing–football: highschool, college, and pro–it’s all good!
Today I spent a lively afernoon with a woman, Bernice, who is a distant relative on the Sherer side, and her husband, Jim, and daughter, Holly. Bernice has lived all her life in Seneca. She and Jim will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this December! I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who could make that boast. They were married just as WWII was about to break out. We had a wonderful time talking about their memories of old Seneca and of their family. It was so nice to be in a home, eat home made food, and visit! This early home is NOT Bernice’s!