Voices of the Ozarks – Della Rhodes

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My name is Della Jean Starkey. I was a Rhodes. I was born in 11/1 of 1935 just below Marquand across from the Whitener cemetery. I was born in a two story house in the upstairs bedroom. I don’t remember the doctor’s name.

Our house was on DD HWY but back then it was called Castor River Road.


My First memories are living a mile down below that where my grandparents lived. My dad built a house there. My grandparents were “truck” farmers. They hauled a lot of lime, farmer supplies and logs.

Truck farming is large fields of product such as corn, beans, and potatoes which are sold. We moved from there when I was 10. My dad bought a 325 acre farm about a mile below that. At the time my dad worked at the mines here in Fredericktown at National Lead.

We had no electricity at the time. When they did bring electricity to the area my dad and brothers installed it for us and other locals. He did that during his off-time. He worked a lot and I’d often go a whole week without seeing him.

I went to the Marquand school all but one year. That year I went to the little one room schoolhouse. I loved school. Math was my favorite topic.

While she was an A student Della later had severe allergies and had difficulties with attending school. She didn’t graduate but loved school and. To this day she loves math and continues reading.

Her sister would often read all night long. She’d have to turn the light off when their dad got home but would turn it back on later after he’d gone to bed.

There were ten siblings all together. Della was the oldest.

As kids they swam a lot in the Castor River. Of course that was important as they didn’t have electricity. The house was never flooded but there was no bridge so sometimes it was tricky getting out.

The original school was destroyed when they built the new. She mentions the requirements of being a teacher back in those days. They were very strict. Her dad began teaching straight out of high school.


Della describes there home and farm. They all shared rooms. Her dad put in a well and put a concrete top on it and a pump to keep the kids from falling in.

They raised their food and had a plow and horses. Later her dad got a tractor. Her mom did have a gas stove and a gas or kerosene powered refrigerator. She comments that those were nice luxuries that not everyone had. They heated their water in big kettles. She mentions that they also had a gasoline powered Maytag wash machine.

She and her siblings helped with the garden all the time and also with general chores. Much of the produce was for their consumption but they also sold some. They would take corn, potatoes and a few other things to a local store to sell. They also raised and butchered hogs. They raised chickens too. When they butchered the hogs they would salt the meat or fried it up and then canned it.

At Christmas they always had gifts. It may not always be a lot but there was always something. Easter was a big holiday and they always got new clothes.

For Thanksgiving they rarely had turkey. It was usually chicken, beef or pork. Often something special like a beef roast. She tells a story about a chicken that they brought into the house that was intended to be eaten but they couldn’t kill it because it was living inside and they started treating it like a pet. That also happened with a couple of hogs.

They had horses that they used for farming and sometimes they would take them as transportation to town. Otherwise they often walked to town which was 2 to 3 miles away.


Her mom didn’t work outside the home until the kids were grown and she worked then for a time at Angelica Uniform. But when they were young she stayed at home and managed the household which was a full-time job with 10 kids. She always served three meals a day. The kitchen was mopped everyday, every bed was made everyday. All ten of the kids were born within 13 years so they were pretty tightly grouped in terms of age.

They were fortunate enough to have regular baths and had their own rather than having to share. When they did hair washing they would line up and do it all at the same time but they all had their own, fresh water. They did a lot of sponge baths. They didn’t have indoor plumbing. They had an outhouse. Inside they had a tub of water and the bath tub was usually in the kitchen because it would be warmer. In the summer they would have river baths.

They had a pet deer but never had any problems with anything. They did have a lot of copperheads. Her dad got pigs to help with that problem. Apparently having a few pigs around helps to moderate the snake population. They never had one in the house but her younger sister JoAnn did get bit by a copperhead. They took her to the doctor and she was fine.

All ten of them were born at home. Other doctoring would often happen at the house. Later on house visits became less common and they would go to see the doctor as needed.

She does not recall using home remedies or anything like that. Medicine is discussed and specifically the lack of antibiotics in that time. She hand pneumonia several times. There wasn’t much treatment aside from rest. She had it five times before antibiotics became available. Whooping cough was sometimes a problem too. And of course measles and chicken pox and other stuff. No one ever got critically sick.

Once vaccinations became available they always got those. She mentions Polio and that several in the area got it. She and her siblings were vaccinated for that as soon as it was available. She mentions that one of those kids is still there in Marquand today and still wears braces from having had Polio.

Because their weren’t antibiotics earaches would often go untreated. Her brother had a bad earache once that resulted in a trip to doctor though during the trip the abscess broke and they returned home.


They discuss discipline. Her mom did that because her dad was usually at worked. She rarely paddled the kids. Usually it was just time-out in a chair.

As kids they played games and listened to the radio a lot. There was no tv but they had a battery powered radio. Her favorite was country music. They had a tree swing. She remembers her dad teaching school at the Crossroads School. Her dad made $95 a month.

She was very close to her grandparents. Her grandmother taught her quilting and canning. She still has a quilt that she and her grandmother made together. She mentions that it’s on her bed right now. Most of her grandmother’s life was farming and gardening. Her grandparents were born and raised in the area. Her one grandmother Starkey was an orphan and was raised by a local woman. Both of them worked at the church. Most of the family attended Baptist or Methodist church. There weren’t that many differences between them. The kids often attend church with the grandparents.


They did have a car for getting around but telephones were rare so communication was nothing like today. Marquand had around 350 then. It was a very well kept town and the schools were nice. Grades were grouped: 1 and 2, then 3,4 and 5, then 6,7 and 8. Each group had one teacher.

Most living in Marquand were farmers and loggers. A few also worked the mines in Fredericktown. They also had the train coming through. There was a big tie yard where ties would be loaded onto trains. The engineer of the train was one of her cousins who lived in Bismarck.

The town was pretty self sufficient and had several stores and restaurants. Homan store had clothing, material, shoes and everything.

And of course there was the two story hotel run by the Regan family that took care of any train travelers that needed accommodation. Denny Ward lives there now and it can be visited. Denny Ward is her first cousin.


Della talks about the schools and that there were several different schools. She mentions Buckhorn and a couple others.

She’s asked about interesting community characters and she mentions a few in the community such as the Homan’s that ran several local businesses. She says that her grandfather had a saw mill and that just generally it was a nice, self-sufficient community.

She was too young to remember the Great Depression but says that she thinks that the community did seem to come together to help one another. She mentions that there was a vibrant church community.

She’s asked about her extended family and talks about some of those details.


She describes the 4th of July and a few other community events. She mentions playing bingo and certain treats such as ice cream which was rare. Then she discusses her grandmother’s restaurant where they had electric. They had a a jukebox and pinball machine. This was during the 1940s. She would sometimes help out at the restaurant. She points out that it was all cooked from scratched often using ingredients grown by the family.

She’s asked about other community goings on. Specifically activities for kids. She says dancing was a no-no. A big NO-NO.

She talks a bit about her father and his time at college as well as his various jobs and businesses from working in the mines to running a tax office.
He worked in the summer in the sawmills and went to school in the winter.


She’s asked about crime in the community and says that there wasn’t much. Some incidents of petty theft. Often things like chickens or other life necessities. She talks about a young boy that had been abandoned. Her dad and mother unofficially adopted him and raised him. He stayed close with the family after growing up and passed away around 15 years ago. He’d moved to St. Louis and had a family and a business. Later he and his family would visit Della’s parents. They remained close.

She says that her parents often fed kids from school. They’d come home for lunch during the school day and her mom always had extra.

She’s asked a few sort of random life questions. When did she learn to drive?
Della learned to drive when she was around 25.

She’s asked about highlights, fond memories of growing up. She says a big Christmas gathering was something they did and did up until recent years. When she last hosted it a few years ago they had 100+ show up.


She discusses growing up today versus when she grew up. She suggests that kids today have to face much more today. Her time was much safer and more simple.


She says she got married when she was 16 and her husband was 19. They stayed in Fredericktown. He went to work for Missouri Natural Gas. He worked there until he passed away. They moved to Farmington and then Annapolis as his work required. They stayed in Annapolis for 21 years. That’s where their kids went to school. She lost her girl when she was just 16 years old. She was killed in a car wreck when she went with some friends to go shopping at Walmart. She has two sons both of them stayed in this area until just recently. One is still living here the other moved to Tennessee.


She talks about working at various banks as a teller. First Annapolis and then Ironton and finally in Fredericktown. Then she worked for Hallmark for awhile managing the stock at the local Walmart. They really liked living in Annapolis. She also really liked living in Farmington. After her husband died she moved back to Cherokee Pass. She lived with her parents for awhile and took care of them. She and her husband traveled a lot with her parents. They would go every year and she says the saw the whole country with the exception of the northeast part of the country.

The interview concludes.

Voices of the Ozarks – Norman Boland

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Norman Boland, born in Desloge, Missouri in 1930. Before that, in Desloge, they lived about a half mile from the chat dump. Before Norman was born his dad worked at the National mine mill. He was laid off around 1930 and worked at the WPA a few days a week but was otherwise unemployed for awhile. Norman eventually had seven siblings.

During their time in Desloge they didn’t have much. They would get out of date food from the dumpster and salvage food that was still good.  He talks about being six years old and going out to play for the day. He’d take off with cornbread in his pocket and pick fruit from trees and bushes.  Norman describes the house they lived in and tells the story of that house burning and getting rebuilt.


When the lead mines in Mine LaMotte were restarted in 1937 Norman’s father  started working there. They moved to Fredericktown  in 1941 where they lived on a small farm, around 18 acres, near Village Creek. They fixed it up and rented there a few years and then it was sold out from under them.

At that point they moved into what was called “String Town” which was on the north side of town on Village Creek Rd. His parents bought a house from Doc Barron for $500 which needed a lot of work. They fixed it up and lived there for many years.

During that time, at age 11, Norman worked as a farmhand. They raised a calf and cow which Norman took care of and milked. They had pigs, free range chickens and a garden. When he was 12 he started working on the thrash machine crew that would make the rounds. Many of the men during that time were in the surface which freed up some jobs so Norman, who was big for his age, got a position. He did that a few months every year for awhile.


Norman talks about walking to and attending Village Creek School. It was a small school and they would alternate grades so sometimes things would get out of order. 8th grade might come before 7th. He started reading when he was 6 and read the newspaper everyday. He was up on current events and mentions that when WWII was brewing he took an interest in the events happening in Europe. He read the news everyday and said that eventually he could predict what was going to happen as Hitler advanced across the continent.

He talks about not having electricity in the Desloge house but did have it in Fredericktown.


Norman begins to talk about early adulthood. He quit school in the 10th grade and went to work. He got his Social Security card  and started a bank account. Same account that he has today at New Era bank. His first job was at the shoe factory in 1946 when he was 16. He describes some of the things he did while working there.

During this time he and his wife bought and built their first house.  They added onto it and dug a basement by hand. They lived in that house until the late 60s. He paid on it 17 years. He’d put $1,000 down that he saved while working at Union Station in St. Louis. That job came after the shoe factory work and he was there a couple years. He loaded mail 7 days a week, 14 hours a day for about a year after flooding in Kansas City.  When asked why he got a job in St. Louis he answered that he just wanted to get out of Fredericktown.

He mentions the detail that he’d gotten married in 1948 when he was 18 and his wife was 17. He and his wife lived in St. Louis for about 2 or 3 years. His first job in the city was at Continental Can but didn’t last long.


They moved back to Fredericktown around 1951 and he took a job at the mines. His first position was walking the slime line which was the line from the mine at Mine LaMotte to the Slime Pond. He’d walk that a couple of times every shift to check for leaks. Rain, snow or shine, he walked that line.  He mentions wading through water and an incident of getting hit in the chest by an owl one night.

After walking the line he’d stay out at the Slime Pond where they were working on building the dam up higher as the Slime Pond was being made bigger. He talks about the perceptions of lead in the environment and the safety of mining. Eventually the Slime Pond became a place for local recreation as it is currently used today. Before it became a popular place he went out there for years and fished.

He describes a bit about how the dam was raised higher and also about a concrete overflow tunnel.  He  also briefly discusses the reservoir across the road that he often fished from and which was at one time sabotaged which drained it to nearly empty.


He discusses doing all the various positions at the mine and also describes the location of the mine off of Copper Mines Road, just south of Mine LaMotte Lake, now called Lake Harmony. The remains of the concrete mill can still be seen there.  He mentions various shafts that were dug later when there was concern about colbalt supplies but they were never used.


He worked in the mill until around 1953 when he bid to begin working underground.  It paid well. There were wages and then there was a bonus.

When asked about what a mill is he describes the processing machinery. The first crushing was underground, a primary crusher and then the material was pulled above ground on belts which would pass the material to secondary crushers that would process it further. The rollers would gradually reduce the size of the materials.


Norm describes the differences in the rock being mined in the region. The rock centered in Mine LaMotte, sandstone and granite, was the hardest. As you moved further away it became much softer and easier to work.

He worked until he was 54 after working for the mines for 34 years. His last job was driving a truck, above ground, in 1984. He worked underground for nearly 30 years.

When he started underground he was working with the column machine which could be difficult as it was a heavy, 100 lb machine.  After that he worked with a machine called a jack-leg which was lighter weight but harder to use at first as it required more skill.


Norm talks about working with explosives which was often fertilizer mixed with fuel oil which was just as powerful as dynamite.


Norm discusses some of the details about how supplies were paid for out of your bonus but that there were also regular wages. The bonus  was used against supplies that were “bought” from the company.


We discuss the economic cycles of Fredericktown in relationship to the mines.  They employed so many people and when they were running more people lived here and there were more businesses.


Norm talks about working with underground pillars that could be as high as 30 ft. He describes the mines getting bigger to accommodate larger equipment such as the Jumbo which had 3 arms and could reach up to about 20 ft. He bid and got a job on a 3 person crew. Two ran the Jumbo and one ran the transloader that came behind and cleaned the “drift”.


Norm is asked about the brick houses over by the elementary school. Were they miner’s houses specifically and when were they built? He says no, they were just houses built like any other, he thinks they were built in the 1950s.

He’s asked if there was a company store in Mine LaMotte and he says no, it was up in Flat River or Desloge. They’d go up there sometimes to get supplies. The building is still there.


Norm is asked about getting injured on the job. He describes several incidents but says he was never injured seriously.


Norm has a brochure for a historic mine exhibit and talks about it’s location up along Flat River. He discusses the various underground train tracks that were used. Towards the end of his time working up there he used a hand-car by himself. He was one of the last ones working up there. He discusses how the hand-car worked. It was powered by electric like a trolly.  He describes some parts of it as a small underground city. The walls were white-washed and there were different shops there such as a machine shop, fabrication shop, electrical shop.  Today it  is operated as a historic site and can be toured by the public.

In addition to using electric they also used mules to pull the cars.

The interview is concluded describing how others in Norm’s extended family worked in the mines as well.