Elmer, Missouri - Early History
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Earl Lemmons – Many Elmerites remember this colorful character. Earl was of the “Greatest Generation”, serving his country during World War II and then returning home to live life his way. He was reportedly a gentle man with a gentle demeanor. No one seems to remember him ever saying a negative word about anyone or anything. The verbiage that follows was submitted primarily by Ruthie (Epperson) Bush with additional contributions from Ione (Hoffman) Baker, Georgia (Peek) Beckhusen, Prentice Elliott, Richard Franks, Charlie Thompson, Johnnie Thompson, Nelba (Thompson) Shockley and Larry Smith.
From Ruthie: The Epperson crew remembers Earl Lemmon (Dec 7, 1905 –March 5, 1981) as a neighbor who lived in the Goodson timber in a small cabin that was more in style with the homes today with a metal roof. The house didn’t have electricity or water and was heated with a wood stove. The road didn’t go all the way to the cabin so to get there you had to walk. It’s told that when Earl got a bottle cap or a tin can he would flatten it out and put it on the outside of the house with a ten penny nail which was his siding. The house sits on 20 acres which was bought by Richard Franks when he sold it and then later sold to a man from Hannibal, Missouri, named Brown who harvested the timber from the land as well as surrounding land.
I don’t remember his Father Homer Earl Lemmon (09-30, 1869 – 1937) but my Dad told me he lived in the house with Earl until his death. Earl’s Mother Martha Cavender Lemmon 1870 – 1914 was a sister to Mrs. Thelma (Willie) Cavender who lived on State Hwy 3, southeast of the junction that went down to Star Store. I remember a story that Earl had his side of the house and his Father had the other side. They cooked on different sides of the stove but my brothers don’t remember that story.
Earl was invited to our home for Christmas Dinner and Sunday dinners several times. I remember one Christmas when I was about 10 years old, Mom (Elizabeth Boyd Epperson) gave me money to pick out the Christmas presents for our family and Earl at Drakes General Store in Elmer. I remember I got Earl a pair of socks and a bag of candy. He must have liked the candy because he ate a piece as soon as he opened it. Earl attended the Chariton Ridge Baptist Church and walked the path that was thru the woods to get there. You could follow his path because of his short stature. He put a railroad spike in the top of the fence post where he crossed to assist him over the fence. His faithful companion a collie dog went with him everywhere unless he was told to stay and the dog obeyed. Earl also came to church with us at the Elmer Assembly of God Church of an evening once in a while and Charlie Thompson said that he sat on the back row.
Earl attended school at the Rock Creek School that is located on State Hwy HH south of where Larry Dean Grisby now lives. My father Herbert Epperson and his brothers and sisters also attended that school. It seems Earl and Dad had a common link as their Mothers passed away when they were 8 years old. My sister Mary and brothers Donald and Vernon also attended there for a little while before there went to the Elmer school.
Earl served his county by serving in the US Army in World War II. His job in the Army was a baker. Earl didn’t go to town on leave but would stay in the barracks and shine his fellow service men’s shoes and was paid for his efforts. When he returned home from the Army he was walking along the highway East of Marceline and was in an accident ran over by a vehicle driven by Bill Peek and was injured. That is the reason when he was walking to town and heard a car coming he would hide in the woods. Our Dad Herb would stop and call out to Earl to ask if he wanted a ride to town or home. Earl stuttered a little and would “Ef Ef Ef Oh pardon me, yes”. Earl wanted to go home the same way that he had walked to town and Dad would humor him and take him home the way he walked to town which would sometimes be a little out of the way but he would have a good time visiting with him. Charles Thompson says that Earl called him “Little Sam” and that Earl told him “Little Sam, I’ll ride with you”.
“Earl would accept a ride if he knew you. However, wherever the spot was where he was picked up at, on the return trip, he would have to get out of the vehicle at that same spot. For example: If he was picked up along the road by Ruby Allen’s, he would get out at Ruby’s on the way home and walk the rest of the way. Charlie said that Earl had names for people and things. He called Charlie “Little Sam”. Charlie said when he would stop for him, Earl would say: “Oh, yes, I’ll ride with you Little Sam.”
Charlie remembers that he attended the Elmer Assembly of God Church sometimes, would sit on the back pew. He thought Earl probably then rode home with the Epperson’s following church but not sure of that.
John also remembers that Earl would ride with one of the locals, but wherever he got into the vehicle, that is where he would get back out on his return. John was at his house more than once, never had a reason to go inside, but would visit with Earl in his yard. Johnnie said Earl just bought the basic food staples when in town.”
Comments from Charlie and Johnnie Thompson, submitted by Nelba (Thompson) Shockley
When he went to town he would walk around the light pole at Drake Store when he went in and went out and always go out the door he came in. We never knew why and no one wanted to offend him by asking: we just accepted him as he was a friend. He always carried a sack over his shoulder to carry his groceries and a can with a lid to keep stuff he picked. I don’t know what else was in the sack but I did see the can like Karo syrup came in back in the day.
“All I remember about Earl, is he always went past our home to go to town. And yes, he always took his shoes off at the light pole by Drakes store and put them in the bag before leaving town. This is where he put them on at the pole to shop and would take them off before leaving town. And yes he always circled the pole 3 times before leaving. We, my brothers and sisters, use to get such a kick out of watching him do this. We would see him do this while waiting in the car when mom and dad were shopping in the Drakes store. Daddy wouldn't let us girls go close to him when he passed by our home because he never fastened the buttons on the sides of his overalls, nor did he have a shirt on. Ha, ha, Daddy was very protective that way Georgia (Peek) Beckhusen
Larry Dean (Grigsby) recalls that he would give him a ride home and he would put the 50 lb bag of dog food that he purchased in the loading shoot at the Carter place and take his groceries to his home and then return and pack the dog food over his shoulder to his home.
Donald (whose nickname is Bud) loves to tell the story of one night when he was coon (raccoon) hunting with Earl and the dogs treed coons in two separate trees. They split up and Earl went to one tree and Donald went to the other tree far enough away that they couldn’t see each other. Earl shot once and Donald shot twice. When they came back together Earl said “Ef Ef Ef Pardon Me Bud, but Herb would have only shot once”. Then Donald showed him two coons in his hunting coat. Another time when Earl, Donald and Howard Burris were hunting one night, they left our house and they had to wait on Earl because he crossed the fence in a different place from where they crossed a few times. They had hunted for quite a long time and Howard shot a big coon and Earl asks him if he could have that coon because there was a lot of good eating meat on that “ole big one”. So Howard gave him the big one. It was nearing midnight and Earl ask Donald, “Bud don’t you think we need to leave some for seed”. Earl went home and Donald got two more coons and Howard got another one on the way home.
Earl was looking for a short cut to go home one night and he went over a cliff and his feet didn’t touch the ground so he crawled back up over the edge. A few days later he went by the same place in the day light and saw that his feet would have only been a few inches off the ground. The moral of his story was you should check out your path before you take it in the dark of night.
Earl got the water he used for drinking and cooking from a pipe that was inserted into the cliff to a natural spring that provided the water for Rock Creek. Rock Creek was the “crick” that ran thru the original home place of Daniel Boone and Melinda Martha Epperson our Great Grandparents who settled in Macon County from Ralls County Missouri. Nelba, it ran thru the Carter place and ran behind the house where you lived between Ira Franks and John Carter homes. Larry Dean told us that Earl also had a barrel buried near that spring where he kept his items that he wanted to keep cool.
Earl did work for neighboring farmers. Larry Dean remembers that he would come up to the shop and sit on a 5 gallon bucket and talk with him. Earl also had names for all of Larry Dean’s pigs and cows. (Example of one: Oscar) When Earl worked for Richard Franks clearing some land Earl wouldn’t cut down a Christmas tree.
“I hired him to help me clean up pasture ground but he would not cut a Christmas tree. He always carried a bag with some of his things in it. Earl died at the VA hospital in Columbia Mo and is buried at Hull cemetery on HH about three miles south of where I live.”
In the early spring Mary Anders who married Donald Epperson came to visit and was at the Epperson home for Sunday Dinner (lunch). Donald said that he thought of taking Mary for a ride down to the creek but time was running short to make it to the LaPlata Depot for her to catch the train back to Iowa so he didn’t. We were sitting in the living room when Herb looked out the front window and ask what is that moving down on the ridge? He and Donald went down to check and it was Earl. On his way to Church at Chariton Ridge he had tripped on a weed that was bent over and fell down on the “Andy Forty” and broke his leg. He had sent his dog home because he didn’t want him to see him suffer. He then had crawled across three creek crossings and up a very long hill under a gate onto the flat ridge at “Herr Gate” to get us to see him. Donald took him to Kirksville Hospital to get his leg fixed. He asked Donald to go check on his dog and to lock his house. Donald took John Carter with him because he knew that the dog wouldn’t let him on the place. They took the dog food but he wouldn’t eat for almost two weeks because it wasn’t Earl who was feeding him. When Earl came home from the hospital he stayed with his sister and they convinced him to move into a home on Highway 3 so he wouldn’t be walking in the woods and fall. On a fine spring day Earl went to Macon with someone and left his dog in the barn at the corner of State Hwy HH and State Hwy 3 that was owned by Gail Novinger. The fine spring day turned nasty and a tornado touched down and hit the barn where Earl’s dog was and continued toward the North East. When Earl got home they found the dog in the barn unhurt but Earl didn’t want to live on the highway where he might get blown away so he moved back to his home in the woods.
Earl’s final home was at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Columbia Missouri. Prentice Elliott remembers going to the VA and getting off on the wrong floor and Earl was sitting there in a wheel chair.
“Yes, I certainly remember Earl. He was quite a character....when my dad had the Shell station in Elmer, Earl would come by to visit or get a gallon of kerosene. He would wear those big tall "gum boots" all year around. This one day he came in and dad was busy and I was there helping pump gas. Earl had a hole in the side of one of his boots. Dad told me to put a tire patch on it....that would take care of the hole. Had to put my hand down in the boot (was a very warm day) so I could buff it so that the patch would hold. My goodness, the odor was not very pleasant.....Dad got a big kick out of that!
Never did know exactly where Earl lived....just south of Elmer. Several years later, I was at the VA Hospital in Columbia taking care of business and got off of the elevator at the wrong floor. It was the floor that was like a nursing home. Didn't know that Earl was a veteran, but there he was sitting in his wheelchair...That's where he lived until his passing. He was a good man and he served his country well, I'm sure.” Prentice Elliott
Earl passed on March 5, 1981 and was buried in the Hull Cemetery in Macon County on State Hwy HH.