Voices of the Ozarks – Howard Royer

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My name is Howard Kenneth Royer.  I was born in October 3, 1929 in Silvermines Missouri. My parents are Audrey Jewel Means and Harmon Howard Royer.

I remember the Depression and how hard it was and I remember how my parents started out on the farm. My grandfather owned the farm and my parents lived there.

Dad grew corn, wheat, oats and barley. He used a team of horses to farm and he owned cattle as well.

In his family he was the oldest. Roy was the second, Shirley was the third, Charles was the fourth. He notes that his parents took a break with kids for awhile but then had Lee Gale, Paul Dean (they called him Buck), Louis who was named after his grandfather, and the last was Linda.


Howard shares some of his memories of life on the farm. He says his father kept bees and he once got stung because he poked them with a stick. His uncle and dad farmed together and he remembers that at a very early age he wanted to go with them and work in the fields with them which he did.

He says they lived a mile from the school and he talks about going  through the neighbors yard barefoot to get to school. Shoes weren’t easy to come by and it was common for kids to go barefoot.

His first memories of working in the fields was around 1935 when his uncle and aunt got married and had left on a trip to Colorado. His dad was putting in corn and needed someone to drive the mules. Howard drove the mules. The mules turned sharply and flipped the Howard and the drag over. His dad stopped them, righted the drag and handed Howard the reigns so he could get back on and continue. Working on the farm and helping with the timber is all he ever wanted to do and it’s what he did. All his siblings helped too. His dad had a job for them to do everyday. Howard looked forward to it. Linda worked in the house with mom.


He says he did not want to go to school and had to be forced. The neighbor girl, Eloise Allen was five years older then him. She would help his mom get him to school. They would push and pull him to get him there. He didn’t want to go to school but he always wanted to work in the fields. He went to school 8 years in grade school and a year and a half in high school. Then he quit to work on the farm. He has been farming his whole life since.

After working for years on his parents farm his grandfather bought an farm that had been neglected. It was overgrown by blackberries and other brush. His dad was managing it and sent Howard and his brothers over there to clean it up and begin farming it. The first year they put out a hundred acres of corn. By that time he was 16 to 17 years old and was also driving so he would truck the corn to where it needed to go.


They were using a new Ford tractor on the farm. His grandpa, dad and uncle James were still using teams, they had three. But Howard and his brothers were using the tractor.

In addition to the corn they were also growing and harvesting hay. Eventually they added wheat, oats and barley. Howard says it’s river bottom land, really good land and he ended up with it.

Eventually he married. He tells the story of his first engagement that did not work out. Then he sells the story of meeting his wife, Norma, when he took a load of 4H kids to the skating rink in Farmington. He was around 17 or 18. He met her there when they started talking. They would meet again again later at a revival in Silvermines. She was leading the singing and they talked again. They started dating after that. She was still in high school and not long after he was went into the army and went to Germany for 17 months. When he came back she was waiting for him. They decided to wait another year to get married which they did on March 26, 1954. Their oldest child is Rodney and his daughter, Sherilyn,  who is present at the interview. She mentions that there were two other boys in the family, her younger brothers, Michael and then nine years later Danny was born.


He’s asked about the Silvermines community and what  was there. He’s says the church was built in 1949 and that there was a post office and school. His dad was a deacon at the church. His daughter talks about how they made a quilt to help raise funds to build the church.

Howard talks a little bit about Silvermines and the dam that was built there. He says he doesn’t know much because it was before his time. He thinks most of the mining was done by the time he was born. The town was originally close to the mine but he says he heard that it had been moved further west out where the school and church were. When the mines were running he thinks there was a store and hotel and mentions that someone named John Allen lived there.


Howard mentions that in Oak Grove someone named Ray Kinkly had a store. His parents and grandparents would buy, sell and trade there. He mentions they would sell cream and other things at Sonderman’s in Fredericktown. Generally all that they did in “town” was in Fredericktown, sometimes Ironton. Silvermines was not functioning as a town at that time.

He mentions that further back, early in the 20s,  his grandparents lived in Barn Hollow which was a bit closer to Ironton.

He’s asked if a train went through Silvermines. He says no, that there was a train to Ironton and one to Fredericktown. He mentions the old rifle range in Arcadia that the military used for the first and second World Wars for practice. He said you could hear them firing. They would come down from Jefferson Barracks to train.

His daughter mentions that there were several communities in the area such as Barn or Barren Hollow which is where his Howard’s grandparents got their start. Howard says that community hand one store up from the Methodist camp.  He thinks there was a post office there too where Mr. Mear was the postmaster for years. They also had a school there which is where his dad went.


He talks about army life and says that he enjoyed being in Europe and traveling. But when his time was up he was ready to come home. He came back and they got married and started a family. The time was the 1950’s and 60’s. He’s asked about what Fredericktown was like then. He says that he was working on the farm and talks about how the family helped one another. He’s asked if they hired help and he says they sometimes did hire local school boys. He mentions that it’s hard now to get boys to work like they did back then.

He’s asked if he had his kids help him the way he helped his father on the farm. He says yes. He says the boys helped in the fields and the daughter chimed in that she worked in the house with her mom and granny.

Howard is asked if they had a tv and if they kept up with world events. His daughter Sherilyn shares that it was around 1962 that they got a tv and she remembers the Kennedy funeral. Howard mentions that the kids were members of the 4H Club. He says he had been too. He mentions that his aunt was involved with running the 4H. His daughter points out that the 4H and church were the center of community activity, especially for the kids.


They’re asked about where they went to school. Sherilyn says that they started in Silvermines but then transferred to Fredericktown. Much of the activity that might have historically taken place in Silvermines was gradually moved over to Fredericktown. But they continued going to the church in Silvermines. She says that when they were young and going to school in Silvermines there first school bus was a woman in the community that would pick them up in her station wagon. The same woman would also take them to town for vaccinations and ice cream cones.


Howard is asked who farms the farm these days. He says the Algiers are farming it now. He mentions that there are fewer and fewer farms these days and says that he thinks farmers don’t have enough of a voice is the passing of laws. He thinks city people have more say in government.

We thank him and he says he’s 90 years old. The interview concludes.