Thursday, June 23, 2011


Joseph Jeremiah Flanders sat on the front porch of the old family homestead in his rocking chair.  He glanced all around him at the beauty of the southern Missouri landscape that had been in his family for over a hundred years.  The house sat midway up a hill facing down into a valley where Petry creek winded lazily through the small hills towards the bottom of the valley.  The creek now stood as the edge of the property that once held hundreds of acres.  Mighty shade trees dotted the landscape going down towards the creek.  It was along the creek where the trees were clumped together giving shade to the small catfish that lived there.  The catfish had not been leery of worms in the water for several years now.  There was a time when a catfish might go for a snack of worm and end up being dinner on the families dinner table that night.  Those days were gone now it seemed.  The old stories that the catfish use to hand down to generation after generation of the dangers of worms had long since been silence by the lack of members being suddenly pulled from the water never to be seen again.

Joseph had other memories of the creek and had stories passed down through the generations of his own family.  He sat and looked wistfully at all that was around him and realized that the days of the Flanders family were coming to an end.  He began thinking back on the stories told him by his father and grandfather about the family and how they came to be here in this little part of Eden known as Missouri.  It was a long tale that had lasted through the years.  He felt a tear well up in his eye as he brought down upon himself the end of a great story that should not have an end.  Then end was near though and getting closer by the months.

Joseph and Anna Petry
The land was homesteaded in the late eighteen hundreds by Joseph David Petry.  Joe Petry had come from Springfield, Illinois to start a new life for himself.  He had left his wife, Anna, in Illinois promising to come back for her once he got settled in Missouri.  Joseph David had stumbled across the land while looking for water to quench the thirst of his horses.  He marked the land and mapped it then went to Jefferson City to apply for homesteading rights to the land.  After an investigation by the sate found that nobody laid claim to the land, the state agreed to sell two thousand acres to Joseph David at two dollars an acre to be paid over a twenty year period.  Joseph David went immediately to the post office and sent a letter to Anna asking her to join him as soon as possibility.

Anna was a city woman born and raised.  She was a little hesitant about moving onto a spread of land where there would be no neighbors for miles around.  She loved her man though and so she packed up quickly and made her way to join Joseph David on the newly acquired land.  By the time she arrived in Missouri, Joseph David had already built a small two room house next to the creek in a valley surrounded by beautiful hills he had also decided to name his land and it became known as Petry Park Ranch.  Anna liked what she saw even though she knew it would take time to get use to living away from civilization.

Within a year the family began to take shape.  The first child was a son who they named Jonathan David Petry.  During the first year of the child's life the family faced their first major disaster.  The spring rains had come.  It was more than your typical Missouri spring rains.  It poured for 4 straight days never letting up.  The creek in front of the little house began to swell and finally overflowed its banks creeping up towards the dwelling.  Joseph David made a make shift lean to and moved as much of the small families belongings into it along with his wife and child.  There wasn't room under the lean to for Joseph David so he sat just outside holding his wifes hand as the rains continued on for a few more days.

During his time sitting in the rain, Joseph David began making plans for a new home.  It would be a larger home and he could build it a safe distance from the creek so that this would never happen again.  When the rains had finally stopped and the creek had receded back into its banks, Anna began the long hard chore of cleaning up the little house so they could move safely back in.  It took her about a week before she was satisfied that it was clean enough to move belongings back.  It wasn't long before the little family was once again settled in the small two room house they called home.

Meanwhile the garden that Joseph David had started had been washed away so he began the laborious task of replanting the garden so that food would be available during the winter.  The second garden was not as large as the first garden but he had saved back some seeds so that all the basics would be represented in the new garden.  They may not have much but they would have variety.  It was about this time that Anna discovered that she would have another child come winter.  The family made preparations for the child and Joseph David, looking about the two small rooms he had built became more determined then ever to build a bigger and better house further up the hill where the creek could not reach them.

During that summer when he wasn't working the garden, Joseph David was working on felling wood for the new house.  He spent time leveling out a place in the hillside upon which to build the house.  Not a day went by that first summer that he did not work from sunup to sundown until he was practically asleep on his feet by the end of the day.  By the time that the first snows came in late December, he had a fairly large piece of land leveled off in the hill side and had started laying out logs for the general shape of the house.  It would have four rooms on a ground floor and be built such that a second floor could easily be added.  It was the beginning of Petry Place, the center of Petry Park Ranch..

The winter was dark and cold.  The Missouri snow fell with amazing consistency once a week keeping the ground covered.  The cold winds from the north never seemed to let up.  When weather would permit during the winter, Joseph David continued work on the new house up the hill.  By March it was actually taking shape and Anna was beginning to get excited.

The work on the new house would have to be put off until all the farming was done.  Joseph David had decided that he need some cattle on his place and he began working on a plan.  There was a family who had some cattle a few miles down the road.  Their land adjoined The Petry land and so Joseph David decided to visit his neighbor.  The neighbor was a young swede named Orie and they fast became friends.  Soon Joseph David felt comfortable talking to Orie about a business proposition.  Joseph David needed approximately ten head of cattle.  A couple of milk cows and some cattle for breeding to give his family some meat over the winter.  Orie, on the other hand had come from a rather wealthy family and had almost two hundred head of cattle along with sheep and goats to sustain his family.  Joseph David offered Orie ten acres of land for each head of cattle making the offer one hundred acres of land added to Ories estate just by giving up ten head.  Orie thought about this and decided that twenty acres per head would be more to his liking.  Joseph David was not in a position to do a lot of bargaining so a deal was struck.  Three weeks later Orie and Joseph David ran Ten head of cattle over close to the Petry house.  The two families then had a celebration at Ories place that lasted two days.  Two days of eating and drinking.  It was the first meat Joseph David had tasted in over a year and it tasted fine.

The Petry's made it through the summer fairly well.  The crop was good and the cattle were providing milk as well as meat for the winter.  Their second winter in Petry Park Ranch would be milder than the previous one and during the winter, with the help of Orie, Joseph David finished the first floor of the new house. It was two weeks after they moved to the new house in late February that Laura Anna Petry was born.  She was a healthy little girl and Joseph David and Anna felt blessed by God.  The family was growing, the farm and ranch was growing and they had made friends with Orie and his family.  Things were looking very good heading into the summer.

The family moved in during April and suddenly Anna had more room and it was easier to keep clean.  The threat of a spring flood was also gone as the house stood halfway up the hill that overlooked the spring.  Anna stood on the front porch holding Laura and let the beauty of their land soak into her thoughts.  When she had left Illinois, she had never dreamed she would be living in such a wonderful place.

Over the next several years, Joseph David would, with the help of Jonathan David and his four younger brothers would build a complete second story onto the house.  A raised front porch that was covered would also be added.  They would acquire more live stock including horses, pigs and goats and they would not go hungry.  Along with the five boys they had also brought three girls including Laura Anna into the world.  They were a family of ten now and the children were growing fairly fast as Joseph David and Anna began to age.

Jonathan David along with two of his brothers had left to go to Kansas City to take some classes and to prepare themselves for life as adults.  They were gone eight years during which time the health of their parents began to show..  Joseph David was still a strong man even at the age of seventy five but Anna's body was wearing out.  She had worked hard along side her husband for fifty five years.  She had born eight children and now it seemed she was always tired.  When a day came when Anna could not get out of bed, Joseph David sent his two youngest sons to the city to get their brothers and bring them home.

Jonathan David would not see his mother again.  The day before he and his brothers arrived, Anna fell asleep for the last time in Joseph David's arms.  Joseph David did not cry nor did he weep.  He instructed Laura Anna to do what had to be done to properly bury their wife and mother.  The children were devastated.  No one had ever thought of death encroaching upon this happy little family.  But nature has a definite plan and man can not change it.

Late that night after the children were finished whispering among themselves of their mother and had fallen asleep, Joseph David strolled down to the edge of the creek and cried.  They would Bury his beloved Anna on top of the hill behind the house and the family would continue on.  The girls would marry and the boys would go out and settle on parcels of their fathers land where they would raise their own families.  When death came for Joseph David, Jonathan David would move into the old family homestead on the hill overlooking Petry Creek.

The family would be here to stay it would seem for many years to come.

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