Sunday, December 15, 2013


The last of three bridges designed by Svedrup and Parcel dynamited and replaced by new span.

December 8, 2014 – Missouri’s highways and transportation commissioner pushed the plunger, detonating dynamite on a 740 foot section of the Hurricane Deck bridge that once carried Highway 5 over the Osage River arm of Lake of the Ozarks.  According to the website, the 1936 bridge was ‘structurally deficient’ and clearly the highway department agreed. The steel will be pulled out of the lake and the rest of the bridge will be taken down in additional demolitions in coming weeks.

Video from Springfield TV station, KOLR-10, shows the demolition blasts and collapse of the first spans to be dropped into the lake.

Early in the development of the Lake, Sverdrup and Parcel, a St. Louis firm, was engaged to design and construct bridges to connect communities in Morgan and Camden counties that were now cut off from each other.  When Damming the Osage was published (2012), the 1936 Hurricane Deck bridge – which was named the most beautiful bridge in its class that year by the American Institute of Steel Construction – was the last remaining span over the lake by that firm. Additional information is available at

399Leif Sverdrup, a Norwegian immigrant, with his college engineering teacher, John Parcel, founded the company in 1928. During World War II, General Sverdrup became chief engineer for General Douglas MacArthur.


Among many distinctive spans, the firm also designed the graceful twin bridges that cross the Missouri River at Jefferson City.

Sverdrup and Parcel also designed the pair of steel-through-arch bridges crossing the Missouri River at Jefferson City  (Cole County, Missouri) in  1955. These spans still carry traffic on the multi-lane freeway of US 54/63.

(click on image to enlarge)


Saturday, December 14, 2013

"A MOCKERY OF SUBLIME ANTICIPATIONS" - John Joseph Hogan's first glimpse of America

It was 1848 - 165 years ago today that John Joseph Hogan, an eager, 19-year-old Irishman, first set eyes on America. Having gone as far as he could in his studies in Ireland, Hogan had decided he would go to America - St. Louis specifically - to study for the priesthood. Unlike most Irish emigrants, Hogan bypassed the East Coast, instead sailing from Liverpool aboard the clipper ship Berlin bound for New Orleans. 

December 14, 1848 was a Thursday – and foggy.  Young John Hogan, from the deck of the clipper ship, scanned the horizon eagerly for his first sight of America – his destined place. Anchored in the Gulf, waiting for tugboat escorts, they were greeted by the sediment load the Mississippi River carried to the Gulf. “Shrouded in fog banks, we anchored in muddy water that as far as the eye could reach, had befouled the color of the sea.” 

After five weeks and a day at sea, they had reached the mouth of the Mississippi. Hogan’s eager expectations were dashed at the sight of the muddy mingling of Gulf and river.
To a person from the British Isles, the United States, as seen at the mouths of the Mississippi, is a mockery of sublime anticipations. No bold headlands; no high, rocky bluffs; no cities on hills; no hills at all; no heathery uplands or daisied fields leading down to the sea; no murmuring sea, for there was no ebbing or flowing tide, not enough rise of tide to cover a croaking frog; no belt of strand to mark the boundary between land and water, for land and water seemed interlocked and of the amphibious kind—an impenetrable jungle of swamps and bushes, infested with sharks, snakes, and alligators. There was water enough, of the kind it was, but who dare drink of it? Ha! That from the marshes smelt of toads and reptiles; that from the Mississippi suggested a fish trap, for, besides mud, it may have a young alligator in it. And this is America—America indeed. Alas! No help for me now; I am on the Mississippi, and must go it. This ship I am on won't stop until I get to New Orleans; and if I throw myself overboard and attempt to swim ashore, maybe the alligators or the buzzards will get me. See the miserable, muddy banks, not high enough above water for a drowning rat to dry himself on.
From Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir by John Joseph Hogan. 

Undeterred by the impenetrable jungle that made a "mockery of sublime anticipations," Hogan pressed on, arriving in New Orleans the evening of December 15.   

The entire text of Hogan's memoir, Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir,  is contained in On the Mission in Missouri & Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir. On the Mission is his own account of his years as a pioneer priest in northwest and southeast Missouri (including his founding of the Irish Wilderness), spanning the Civil War and its immediate aftermath (1857-1868).  Both memoirs are included in one volume as well as extensive biographical information gleaned in our years of research.

Postscript:  Hogan was ordained in the Archdiocese of St.Louis in 1852. He later became the first bishop of St. Joseph, Missouri (1868); and in 1880, the first bishop of Kansas City, Missouri. He died in 1913.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The title of Harry Styron’s blog – Ozarks Law and Economy: How People, Businesses and Nature Compete – doesn’t fully cover the wide range of topics and interests he shares with his readers. Not a dry law and economy blog – Harry (a Branson attorney) writes of the Ozarks he knows and reflects on its image in movies and literature, the history of land and people and the legal and political issues that affect them all in a lively style with erudite insights.

We were very pleased that last week he posted a penetrating review of our new book, Damming the Osage.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


November, 1858: For more than a year, John Joseph Hogan with surveyors and friends had scouted  Missouri's southeastern Ozarks for arable land, filed claims for plots through the land agents of Cape Girardeau and found immigrant Irish who would settle the land and work a farm. Near the end of November 1858 – 155 years ago – Hogan again set out for his southern colony.  This fourth trip would be his longest (11 months) sojourn in the Ozarks and the most active months of development of the settlement he envisioned.

Interestingly – and a fact not noted in most official and unofficial histories of his settlement – Hogan did not prefer the deeper Ozarks.  In 1857, on his first reconnaissance trip, he had claimed land in the area around Ellsinore and along the Little Black River (“480 acres in a body on Ten Mile Creek”) finding it more suitable for agriculture and with “improved land enough” that they would not be starting from scratch.  However when he returned in the late fall of 1858, he found his plans had been dramatically changed.
Arrived at the settlement, I found a difficulty existing. In the district of country where I had bought land the year previous, intending to make the place the center of the proposed settlement, I found that all the government land, fit for cultivation, had in the meantime been bought by parties not Catholics, so that there was no longer a possibility of owning sufficient ground there to form a colony such as I had contemplated. There was improved land enough in the neighborhood that could be bought at a reasonable price and on easy conditions. But the cry was for government land and at government price.

Westward then, though very much against my will, I had to move about forty miles, to a region of country where there was yet much vacant government land, on the confines of Ripley and Oregon counties, along the tributaries of the Current and Eleven Point rivers, about twenty miles north of the state of Arkansas.
Colton's Missouri Map of 1875 clearly locates the central point of Father Hogan's colony on the Oregon/Ripley county line about 20 miles north of Arkansas and a few miles east of the Eleven Point River.  Locations lingered on printed maps sometimes well after their demise. 

From that point on, Hogan and arriving Irish immigrants were busy shaping this growing community.  In Hogan’s classic memoir, On the Mission in Missouri, he compresses the building activities of many months into a short paragraph:

Improvements went on apace; cutting down trees, splitting, rails, burning brushwood, making fences, grubbing roots and stumps, building houses, digging wells, opening roads, breaking and ploughing land, and sowing crops. Already in the spring of 1859, there were about forty families on the newly acquired government lands, or on improved farms purchased, east and west of Current River, in the counties of Ripley and Oregon; and many more were coming …

He mentions the log chapel built on "ground bought and donated by Reverend James Fox of Old Mines, Missouri: a one story log house forty feet square … partitioned into two apartments, one for the chapel and the other for the priest’s residence."  Perhaps the chapel was built while paperwork on the tract of land was in the works. In searching land records, we found that Reverend Fox was issued a land patent on September 1, 1859 (near the end of Hogan’s sojourn in the Ozarks) for 320 acres on Oregon County, which he donated to the flourishing colony. 

In the archives of the St. Louis Archdiocese is a small account book that Father Hogan kept during his time in the Ozarks. In it we found his enumeration of the cost of his log church in the pines: $85.31 (page 48, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness)
Hogan traveled back to Chillicothe at the end of October, 1859, ending his full time presence and oversight of the colony. One more brief trip – November 17 to mid-December 1859 – to southeast Missouri was his last. Soon the Civil War made travel perilous. Demands of his expanding missionary parish in northwest Missouri increased. Hogan remained in the north, but still recalled with affection and concern the settlers he had led to area.

Postscript: Long after the settlement had been scattered by the vagaries of war, another land record tells a sad story of the Irish settlement.  On May 17, 1879, the property Father Fox had donated to the colony for the log church was sold for back taxes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Chronology of Development on the Osage River and Tributaries

For our presentations this month for the Greenway Network at River Soundings and for the Big Muddy Speaker Series in St. Charles, we created this chronology of development on the Osage River.


A Chronology of Development on the Osage River and Tributaries

• 1813 – The Osages and Chouteaus reluctantly agreed to locate the trading post on the Missouri River instead of on the Osage, near their home, acknowledging that the Osage was too shallow for year round transportation.

• 1821 – Harmony Mission attempted a water mill on the Marais des Cygnes (then called the Osage River) but it washed out.

• 19th century – numerous pioneer mills on tributaries throughout the 1800s

• Circa 1840s – Caplinger Mills – successful grist mill on the Sac River. In 1917 this became the first hydroelectric project on the Osage system

• 1895 – Lock & Dam No. 1 construction started because of agitation for river improvement for steamboats. Designed by Hiram Chittenden, built by Army Corps of Engineers.

• 1906 Bates County Ditch, an ill-conceived channelization of the Marais des Cygnes

• Late 1920s – run-of-the-river hydroelectric dam at Osceola built by Ozark Utility Company

• 1931 Bagnell Dam closed. Financed by Union Electric of St. Louis, but started by Walter Cravens and Ralph Street of Kansas City.

• 1932 – Corps of Engineers delivers 308 Report on “Osage River, Mo. And Kans.”

Corps of Engineers Dams completed 1961-1982

• 1961 – POMME DE TERRE, on the Pomme de Terre River – multipurpose pool of 7,820 acres

• 1963 – POMONA, KANSAS, on Dragoon and One Hundred Ten Mile creeks – 4,060 acres

• 1969 – STOCKTON DAM, MISSOURI, on Sac River – 24,900 acres. Stockton is larger than the first two projects and is the only one, besides Truman, to have hydropower generation

• 1975 – MELVERN LAKE, KANSAS, on the Marais des Cygnes – 6,930 acres

• 1979 – TRUMAN DAM, WARSAW MISSOURI on the Osage River – 55,600 acre power pool

• 1982 – HILLSDALE, KANSAS, on Big Bull Creek – 4,580 acres

• ? – Removal of Lock & Dam No. 1. Originally unjustified and an environmental disaster today

More information is available in DAMMING THE OSAGE: The Conflicted Story of Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Reservoir. Retail $35, it is available from our website for $25 postage paid.

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A Chronology of Development on the Osage River and Tributaries

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir – A Case History of Problems in Fish and Wildlife Coordination, Rollin D. Sparrowe

Click on this link to read the entire paper: Truman-Dam-Case-History-Sparrowe-v2

Reprinted from: Transaction of the 42nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, 1977. Published by the Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, DC

This is an excellent summary of the hazards to wildlife that were anticipated for the Harry S. Truman Dam & Reservoir. Dr. Sparrowe also touches on the project’s impact on archaeological and paleontological sites, the controversial pump-storage unit and the ridiculous exaggeration of recreational benefits that accompanied the replacement of 248 miles of free flowing stream with a flat water reservoir. Dr. Sparrowe laments the long standing disregard the Army Corps of Engineers has had for regulations and laws that mandate consideration of and mitigation for fish, wildlife and cultural losses from dam projects. The lawsuit by EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) did produce a massive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which ultimately had no effect on the construction or operation of Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir. As Sparrowe said:

Even under duress of litigation, with repeated careful inputs from agency experts and other citizens, all the years of planning have had little effect on the project, or on prospects for significant mitigation. In a 1973 letter responding to the Final EIS, MDC (Missouri Department of Conservation) acknowledged the so-far unsuccessful attempts to solve the paddlefish and Schell-Osage problems, but concluded that the EIS presents a “lack of commitment to proceed with the evaluation and implementation of procedures and measures necessary to adequately mitigate other fish and wildlife losses.” Likewise, the FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service) review of the 1973 Final EIS concluded that lengthy, extensive efforts at coordination between conservation agencies and the Corps of Engineers to reduce adverse environmental effects of the project have been “essentially a fruitless exercise.”

It clearly appears that agency interactions regarding the HST project under the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act have been unsuccessful in providing equal consideration of fish and wildlife values. After 17 years of attempts at coordination and detailed NEPA review, no modifications have been made in plans for project implementation in order to alleviate potential impacts on fish and wildlife resources.



Rollie Sparrowe, PhD, was employed by the Wildlife Research Unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the University of Missouri/Columbia during the time of the Truman Dam lawsuit.  He was active in the Missouri chapter of the Wildlife Society, an organization that was a plaintiff in the EDF lawsuit challenging Truman Dam. (Leland Payton photograph, 1972)

Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir – A Case History of Problems in Fish and Wildlife Coordination, Rollin D. Sparrowe

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

John Jospeh Hogan and the cost to build a log church in the Irish Wilderness

One of the revealing documents we found in our search for information on the Irish Wilderness was a small, pocket-size account book belonging to John Hogan. He kept records in this little notebook of expenses incurred and work accomplished in 1858 and 1859, the years of the building of the settlement in the Ozarks. The telling details of daily transactions - hiring a settler to cut timber, buying supplies at the store (coffee, tea and ague medicine), the cost of a yoke of oxen ($40) - these bring life and breath to the image of life on that pre-Civil War Ozarks frontier. (pages 48 and 49 in Mystery of the Irish Wilderness)

Paid for Church
100 feet plank                        $17.00
2000 boards at 62 per hun       12.40
1000 D_lost by five                   6.20
hauling lumber 4 day at 2          8.00
hauling Shingles 1 day              2.00
D logs for floor 1                       2.00
D logs for buildings 3                6.00
4 days notching 126 1/2             5.06
1/2 day hewing                             .65
Man roofing 4 days                    4.00
400 feet plank                             4.00
hauling same                               2.00
Building fireplace                       3.50
Nails & hardware                        5.00
Calicos Candlestick & _______ 5.50
Altar linens                                 2.00
We think the little log church was built in area near these two trees in Oregon County.

So - the cost of a log church in the pre-Civil War Ozarks was $85.31.  But how to pay for it? Another page details accounts "Rec'd for the Church" which add up to $75.45, leaving a deficit of just $9.86 - a sum many clergy might envy when it comes to church building.

Hogan built more churches during his career:  the little church at Chillicothe, whose stained glass windows were shattered by anti-Catholic night riders - "gentlemen of grips and signs" - who "belabored with sticks and guns the artistic little gems..."; a cathedral for St. Joseph, Missouri, more lavish than he wanted by urging of his most influential parishioner; and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City (first services in 1883) with its now-gold-plated dome. 

In On the Mission in Missouri, Hogan mentions other churches he helped build across north Missouri, but often he doesn't mention their names. One small church built in 1865, however, he does describe:  St. Bridget's church at Peabody (later called Lingo), Missouri, "a small neat, convenient frame church was built, at a cost of about eight hundred dollars, which was subscribed and paid without delay. ... I loved the little building for its name, its devotional seclusion, and the piety of the people who attended it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Artesian White Sulphur Spring Well Park, Clinton, Missouri

Artesian Spring

Cabinet card, circa 1890

Established in 1887, in the era when spring water was associated with health, the Artesian Spring Well on the western edge of Clinton was a lively place. The Artesian Hotel catered to visiting spa enthusiasts. A race track was built and for several years the county fair was  held here. Excursion trains, public buggies, carriages, and trolleys brought visitors to sample the curative, but malodorous, waters with their purgative effect on those who drank it.  Besides the spring, which shot a fountain of water nearly 12 feet high, and lake, entertainments included a dance hall, county fairgrounds and horse racing.

The Encyclopedia of Missouri – Towns and Counties (1901) described the park:

One and one-half miles southwest of Clinton, at the terminus of a horse-car line, are the beautiful grounds of the Artesian Park, containing a spacious lake, with hotel of three stories, basement, and attic, equipped with all modern conveniences, including dancing hall, billiard rooms and bowling alley, a pavilion, and boat and bath houses. The artesian well on the grounds discharges a palatable water, possessing known medicinal qualities, containing the chlorides of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium,, the carbonates of magnesium and calcium,, sulphate of calcium, and sulhydric gas. The park is a favorite resort, and attracts visitors from considerable distances.

The fountain spray subsided. Rumors circulated that a couple of local wags had dropped bowling balls into it, but more likely that the spring just lost pressure and thus its artesian effect.

The original site comprised 40 acres. The bottomland area of the park became part of the Harry S. Truman Dam project.  Today the site of the former artesian spring is overgrown. Elsewhere on the remaining grounds are playgrounds, tennis courts, and the Artesian Amphitheater, built in 2002 by Hilton Hotels Random Acts of Service.

Artesian White Sulphur Spring Well Park, Clinton, Missouri

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mystery Priest on Missouri Highway 19

The story of a "mystery priest" who prayed with an accident victim on Missouri Highway 19 hit the wires Friday (8/9). CNN, USA Today and myriad news outlets carried the account of a priest who appeared at the scene of a terrible accident, prayed with and anointed the accident victim, assured the first responders that their equipment would now be able to cut her free and then disappeared.  He didn't show up in the 70 or so photographs of the accident scene. Most likely it was a case of being in the right place at the right time, and then going on his way.  On the other hand - they say he had an Irish accent and north Missouri was the main missionary territory of Father John Hogan 150 years ago ... before he founded the settlement in the area now called Irish Wilderness......hmmmmm....

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DAMMING THE OSAGE wins in two categories of ForeWord Reviews’ 15th annual Book of the Year Awards

ForeWord Reviews’ 15th annual Book of the Year Awards, judged by a select group of librarians and booksellers from around the country, were announced at the American Libraries Association Annual conference.

Damming the Osage: The Conflicted Story of Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Reservoir received two awards: silver in Regional Non-Fiction and bronze in the Ecology and the Environment category.foreword-award-large

With 1,300 entries from more than 600 publishers, 248 winners were selected in 62 categories.

Damming the Osage also won a silver medal in the Independent Publishers Books Awards (IPPY), Best Regional Non Fiction category.   Lens & Pen’s Crystal Payton received the award in New York City. The title continues to pull in positive reviews and comments on blogs and Web sites.

ForeWord Reviews, a quarterly print journal dedicated to reviewing independently published books, was established in 1998 to provide booksellers, librarians, agents, and publishing professionals with reviews of the best titles from small, alternative, and academic presses.

DAMMING THE OSAGE wins in two categories of ForeWord Reviews’ 15th annual Book of the Year Awards

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review of Damming the Osage in St. Louis Post Dispatch


This weekend the St. Louis Post Dispatch published a review of Damming the Osage. Written by Steve Weigenstein, author of Slant of Light, a historical novel set in the Civil War,  “Tangled History of Osage River” (find it here) is a concise, but encompassing, description.  When the reviewer really ‘gets’ what we are trying to do and the way we did it – it is rewarding!  I especially liked his final paragraph:

Like the Osage itself, this book meanders. Those desiring a more compact, straightforward narrative — a channelized book, so to speak — will be disappointed. But those willing to follow its twists and turns will find, like a river floater, surprises and pleasures around every bend.

After the review was published orders came in to and they sold out of stock.  We’re hoping they reorder soon.  Of course, it’s still available through our Web site!


Review of Damming the Osage in St. Louis Post Dispatch

Friday, June 7, 2013

DAMMING THE OSAGE receives medal at 17th IPPY awards in New York


It was a warm, humid late spring evening in New York City for the 17th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards. A festive crowd gathered for the ceremony, emceed by Jim Barnes. Crystal Payton, co-author of Damming the Osage represented Lens & Pen Press, picking up the silver medal for regional non-fiction, Mid-West.


Crystal Payton with IPPY spokesperson Trey Gerrald

Award winning books covered a broad range of topics from the Royal Cavalry of Oman to poetry and pop-up books to – of course – the story of a prairie stream and the people who live on and with it. University presses, independent publishers, e-book producers and photographers brought a rich assortment of interests and entertainments to the event. Entries came from every U. S. state and several countries. This year the IPB received more than 5,300 entries, of which 382 received medals.

While not all medalists were able to attend the ceremony, all three winners in the non-fiction, Midwest region were there.


Crystal Payton/Damming the Osage; Noppadol Paothong, photographer/Save the Last Dance (written by Joel Vance);

and Glen Ediger/Leave No Threshing Stone Unturned

DAMMING THE OSAGE receives medal at 17th IPPY awards in New York

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Lens & Pen Press’s newest title is their third book to receive IPPY recognition

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.Damming the Osage: The Conflicted Story of Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Reservoir, by Leland and Crystal Payton, has won a silver medal in Best Regional Non-Fiction Mid-West (which includes eight states) in the 2013 Independent Publishers Book Awards. Lens & Pen Press’s newest title is their third book to receive such recognition. Mystery of the Irish Wilderness in 2009 received a gold medal; See the Ozarks: The Touristic Image was an IPPY award finalist in 2004.

This respected competition is open to independent book producers, university presses, and divisions of major publishers that release 50 or fewer books a year. Chosen from a total of 5,300 entries, the 382 medalists represent 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, five Canadian provinces, and eight countries overseas. Co-author Crystal Payton will receive the award at a ceremony on May 29th, in New York City.

Damming the Osage chronicles the untold story of crime, duplicity and deception in the conversion of a free flowing prairie stream into reservoirs.  Rising in Kansas’s Flint Hills, after gathering tributaries through prairie country, the Marais des Cygnes River enters Missouri and soon after becomes the Osage River. It cuts a meandering course through the northern Ozarks, before dumping into the Missouri River. It’s a big, turbid river with a turbulent history. Changes caused by massive water resource development have rarely been examined with a sharper focus and never better illustrated.

Reviews have focused on the exhaustive research (“stupendous” one reviewer called it and “impressive”) and remarkable capturing of the history of a river and the people who live with and on it. Outdoor writer Joel Vance called Damming the Osage a “first-class recital of the river’s history and the story of the two dams that swallowed most of it…a triumph of research and reporting.”

Damming The Osage (ISBN: 978-0-9673925-8-5) retails for $35. Available at many Barnes & Noble bookstores or through Copies can also be ordered from the publisher, postage paid, at

Downloadable images of the book cover and author photos are available at

For more information on this and other Lens & Pen books visit or email .

Information on the 2013 IPPY awards can be found at:


Thursday, May 16, 2013


Henley RR bridge construction

Although long out of service,  the Henley railroad bridge is still an imposing iron bridge across the Osage in Miller County, not far from St. Elizabeth. It is hard to get to as the right of way is grown up and interested bridge hunters have to walk in. Tangled, grown up brush makes the walk difficult – easier in winter than summer.

It was built in 1903 for the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad to span the Osage River. The main span is a pin-connected, 14-panel Pennsylvania through truss. With the bankruptcy of the railroad in 1980, ownership of the line was transferred through many hands until the Union Pacific Railroad sold it to Ameren Corp, a St. Louis-based utility.  The majority of the line (including the Henley Bridge) has not been used since 1979. is a valuable resource for those fascinated by old bridges.’s inventory of bridges and bridges lost on the Osage River:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BRICE SPRING - now Bennett Spring State Park on the Niangua River

Brice - log dam

Real photo postcard – Mill Dam at Brice Mo, 1914

Given an abundant water source, like a spring-fed Ozark stream, one of the first things pioneers often did was build a water mill. The dams began as crude wood obstructions like the one seen here at Brice Springs – now called Bennett Springs, a Missouri state park. Once established and powering mills, owners then began to add stone and concrete to strengthen the small dams.

Among the first settlers on this branch flowing into the Niangua River was James Brice, who established his mill in 1846. Although several other mills were built here at different times, the most successful mill was operated by Peter Bennett, Brice’s son-in-law. Eventually, Bennett became the namesake for the spring, and later, the park.

The spring valley became a popular camping ground for farmers while waiting for their grain to be ground at the Bennett mill. To pass time, campers would fish, hunt and visit with local residents..

By the turn of the century, recreation was gaining in importance. Already a favorite spot among fishermen, in 1900 the Missouri Fish Commissioner introduced 40,000 mountain trout into the spring. A privately owned fish hatchery was built in 1923. In 1924, the state purchased the spring and part of the surrounding area to create one of the first state parks. The park is now owned and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the Missouri Department of Conservation operates the trout hatchery.

While there is nothing left of the Brice Spring era, the park was extensively remodeled by WPA workers in the Adirondacks style in the 1930s. Today, Bennett Spring, which has a daily average flow of more than 100 million gallons, is one of Missouri’s most popular state parks.


Every week we post an unpublished image that relates to the Osage River, its ecology, history and development. None of these have been used in Damming the Osage, but they relate to the themes of the book. A brief caption identifies the location and our thoughts on its significance and meaning. Feel free to use these images for personal use if you credit “Collection of Leland and Crystal Payton.”  For commercial use, email us for details and a modest fee for a higher resolution image. We have thousands of historic photographs and brochures as well as our own contemporary photos.

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BRICE SPRING - now Bennett Spring State Park on the Niangua River

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Schematic LnDNo.1

Local plans for improvements to the Osage River to make it a commercially navigable stream projected a series of locks and dams.  Work by the Corps of Engineers on the first one began in September 1895 at Shipley Shoals, then seven miles from the mouth of the Osage. A key feature of the project was the “Chittenden Drum Wicket”  (or the Chanoine wicket), the half-round section shown in this diagram. Designed by Army Corps Captain Hiram Martin Chittenden to regulate the flow of the river, the retractable 375-foot long iron mechanism was installed on top of a 9-foot concrete dam.  It was prone to being jammed by mud and clogged by drift and was eventually scrapped.

Soon after its completion in 1906 a 30-foot section of the dam collapsed.  That was rebuilt and for more than a century the lone lock and dam has served more as an impediment to river travel than as an improvement.

Capt. Chittenden redeemed himself with the Chittenden locks in Seattle, a complex of locks at the west end of Salmon Bay, part of Seattle‘s Lake Washington Ship Canal.  Chittenden became the Seattle District Engineer for the Corps soon after completion of Lock and Dam No. 1. Seattle’s locks include working fish ladders for salmon. They were formally opened in 1917 and are still in operation. Chittenden retired as a general.

Possibly he erred in his calculations for Lock and Dam No.1 because he was absorbed in the writing of multi-volume books on the fur trade in the West and on steamboating on the Missouri River. Remarkably, unlike other histories written in that era, these are still in print, and even available in e-book format. His guidebook to Yellowstone is also still in print.

Today there is growing interest in getting rid of Lock & Dam No.1. The sad, crumbling state of the structure was painfully exposed during the drought of 2012.  We have added a section to the Web site pulling together information on the current controversy surrounding Lock and Dam No. 1

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Save the Last Dance: an extraordinary book in all aspects

Save the Last Dance

Save the Last Dance: The Story of North American Grassland Grouse

Photographs by Noppadol Paothong

Written by Joel M. Vance

There are no wild buffalo grazing the tall grass prairie region of the Osage River watershed. There are, however, relic populations of prairie chickens  - quite a few in the Flint Hills where the Osage begins, fewer in western Missouri. A new book, Save the Last Dance: The Story of North American Grassland Grouse, depicts half a dozen varieties of grassland grouse and the heroic efforts made by government agencies and private organizations to preserve this intriguing species.

As I looked through Save the Last Dance, a substantial all color book photographed by Noppadol Paothong and written by Joel Vance, I flashed back to my own stab at taking pictures of prairie chickens.  Several decades back my girlfriend (and now wife Crystal) and I sat in a blind on a small western Missouri prairie judiciously (for obvious reasons) drinking coffee and waiting for the sun to rise. Right at daylight we were serenaded by the haunting love songs of the male grassland grouse. It was poetic but unproductive. Even with the telephoto lens, a Hasselblad was a poor choice to photograph distant birds. The tape recordings and 16mm film footage were better.

Jim Brandenburg, a National Geographic stringer and photographer of ten volumes to hard-to-shoot wildlife like wolves, was also humbled by Paothong’s work. Said the famous nature photographer: “Indeed, it is refreshing these days to see a book that I may have attempted but then concluded I could not have done it as well.”

To be sure professional digital cameras and $13,000 telephoto lenses help, but Paothong displays a grasp of both his subject and their environment.  A monograph like this can – well, become monotonous  no matter how good each image is. But that is not the case with Save the Last Dance. There are half a dozen varieties of these prairie dwelling birds and all perform an operatic mating ballet in the spring. The photographer didn’t just choose a book full of his best single shots.  The sequences display an extraordinary variety of compositions and a high art awareness of space.

Joel Vance is such a fluid writer that he can dash off a readable story about buying minnows on the way to the lake. But when something really interests him he will commit to diligent research. He has not only absorbed a mountain of historical and scientific literature, he has traveled to many locations to capture the ambiance and interview the experts.

Joel and Nappadol have both decorated many pages of the Missouri Conservationist magazine – Vance, some years back, Paothong today. As competent as their work is in that well thought of Department of Conservation publication, it is of necessity edited and cropped for obvious reasons. Save the Last Dance gives these two professionals adequate room to display their capabilities.

Though some of these varieties of grassland grouse are threatened by development, the book recognizes the heroic efforts that are being made government and private conservation organizations. Not only will the scientific and nature communities enjoy and learn much from this volume, photographers will benefit. Paothong has gone into detail about how he acquired these stellar images.  However, I’m not sure how many shutterbugs, even if they had the equipment and the tips, have the dedication to spend 11 years, as Paothong did, to travel all over the United States to accomplish this extraordinary work.

The book is available through its Web site: as well as amazon.  If you order through the Web site, a portion of your order will be donated to the organization of your choice. The six possible recipient organizations are Missouri Prairie Foundation; Friends of Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge; Sisk-a-dee; George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center; Society of Tympanuchus Cupido Pinnatus, Ltd. (STCP); and North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP)



Save the Last Dance: an extraordinary book in all aspects

Thursday, April 25, 2013



Drawing from Scientific American (19th century)

Living paddlefish are somewhat hard to draw and preserved paddlefish are even harder.  Their physical representation has been poorly illustrated.  They’re not only hard to draw, they are near impossible to mount. Their habits are even harder to observe. A large fish in muddy water is a difficult subject for accurate scientific description. Their spawning was first observed and described in the section of the Osage now under Truman Reservoir.

“It wasn’t until 1961 that anyone actually observed paddlefish spawning when Charles Purkett, a fisheries biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, saw them release eggs and milk over flood gravel bars on the upper Osage. “

(page 204, Damming the Osage)

662-osage-old-paper-paddlefish cover

(Above) A tract from an anti-evolutionary organization, Does God Exist September /October, 2002.  In this issue, they discuss the impossibility of the paddlefish being a product of Darwinian adaptation. Cover art does not bear out their conclusion that “God shows us His wisdom and engineering ability in such beautiful creatures as this one.”