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26 April 2006 - Wednesday

By 8:00 am we were back in Vienna looking for breakfast.  The parking lot at Margie’s Café was full of battered pick-up trucks and inside was a dozen or so local farmers.  With a bit of eavesdropping we were able to ascertain that the main topic of conversation was the raising of livestock.  Thus we began to realize that the grazing of cattle was the major occupation in Maries County.  At first glance you are struck with the beauty of the green rolling landscape but upon further examination one realizes that a deep layer of rock starts a mere few inches below the surface limiting the cultivation of planted crops to the few areas of bottom land near the rivers.  We noted that according to 1860-1900 census documents list  grandpa Moreland as a farmer as such we must assume that he probably had a pretty goo piece of land in order to make his living this way.  After our meal we headed up the street to the courthouse in hopes of answering this and other questions about our Moreland and Pinnell ancestors.

After examining deed records for a few hours we were able to ascertain that John P. Moreland had left Maries County during the spring of 1907, and that our great-grandfather Jeremiah Moreland had taken up residence in Woodward County, Oklahoma by 1900.  We were also able to determine that in 1856 John had purchased his first piece of land in Maries County.  Around 11:00 we were ready to get out of the courthouse for a ride into the countryside.   For the next two hours we explored Jefferson Township. Tom guided us out to the small towns of Lanes Prairie and High Gate.  At High Gate we explored the cemetery and located the graves of Jeremiah’s first wife Laura Kinsey and their son Emmett.  Next to Laura is the grave of her sister Josephine wife of Jeremiah’s brother William Robert Moreland.  The story of Laura and Josephine Kinsey is a tragic one.

Jeremiah married Miss Laura A. Kinsey on May 16, 1880 and his brother William married Laura's sister Josephine on April 18th of the same year. Both Jeremiah and William are found in the 1880 census living together with their new wives in Jefferson Township and little more than a year after they were married Jeremiah and Laura's first child, a son named Emmett C., was born on June 2, 1881.  On October 4, 1881, William’s wife Josephine died at age 22 years, 10 months, 11 days.  The day after Christmas 1881 Jeremiah’s six-month-old son Emmett left this earth.   As if that wasn't enough, three months later on March 29, 1882 Laura passed on at the tender age of 21 years!   We believe their deaths were probably a result of spreading sickness of some sort.

After leaving High Gate we decided to search out the location of John Moreland’s farm.  Using a digital image of a plat map, taken at the courthouse Tom easily guided us to the location.  Below are photographs of John’s Maries County property and the life-less section he had purchased in Stevens County, Kansas.  Upon comparison of the following images one must wonder why our 75-year-old John P. Moreland decided to leave Maries County, as well as his emotions upon seeing the land he was to homestead in Kansas?

John P. Moreland’s property in Maries Co., MO

 

John P. Moreland’s homestead in Stevens Co., KS

 

By a little after 1:00 pm we were back in town for a visit to the Maries County Historical Society.  As it is only open on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 pm we were indeed fortunate to have had the opportunity to utilize this fine resource.  As such we spent the remainder of the afternoon picking up interesting tidbits of information with the help of the two volunteers on

duty. We received the impression that researchers made infrequent visits thus it is common for the volunteers to fill their Wednesday afternoons with quiet chats between themselves.  After our arrival things picked up quickly.  They especially enjoyed listening to the story of our Maries County ancestors and were also impressed with our array and use of electronic equipment.  Before departing we left a donation and Tom purchased a throw blanket that depicted various Maries County landmarks.

      Soon thereafter both of us realized that in the excitement of the day’s activities we had not eaten anything since breakfast.  We had eaten twice at Margie’s Café and since the small town of Vienna did not offer much in the way of diversity when it came to eating establishments, we were in a quandary as to where we might find a proper meal.  Remembering a sign advertising a “Moreland’s Restaurant” we decided to try and find it.  Eventually we did locate it down a country road near the Gasconade River.  As it was only about 4:30 pm the place looked deserted but an open sign encouraged us to carry on.  The place was empty save Susan the bartender and Mrs. Moreland the widow of Elmer Moreland founder of this interesting enterprise.  As they had seen our van and New Jersey license plates both were interested in what would bring us out to their place.

 

 

We quickly described how we were tracing our family history and that we were directly descended from the Moreland family of Maries County.  Needless to say our explanation certainly changed their apparent skepticism to open acceptance.  A quick review of the menu showed that catfish was the house specialty.  Susan informed us that Moreland’s had won several local competitions for “best catfish dinner”.  Soon we were served a plate that included three large fillets that had been deep-fried in wonderful cornmeal coating.  It is worth pointing out that the fillets were by no means greasy just a beautiful golden brown.  Potato, three hushpuppies and homemade coleslaw rounded out our meal.  If chicken fried steak was to be considered in Texas what would a trip into America’s heartland be with at least one catfish feast? 

     Soon after finishing our meal we returned to the Scenic 63 RV Park of the previous night.   This would be the only time on our trip that we camped in the same place two nights in a row.  Tom’s guitar, eventually given the moniker of “Jethro”, as mentioned back in the April 15 entry was our “traveling companion”.   By this time in the trip we were both tired of what seemed to be the endless task of lifting, moving, and storing the guitar.  Most of the time Jethro rode in the shower compartment where the constant movement of the van caused him to create ugly black marks on the surface of the walls as well as scratches on the floor and plastic trim.   On countless occasions one of us would have to go to the rear of the van when Jethro would take a tumble and needed to be re-secured out of harms way.   By the end of this day, our 26th on the road, Tom felt the need to seriously discuss our issues with the boy, as seen in the photograph.

 

Jethro & Tom

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