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Akers Reunion


Photo submitted by Deloris Gray Wood 
Mt. Zion Church, constructed in 1949. The Friends of Mt. Zion Church are accepting donations for the preservation of the church.


Akers Reunion

By Deloris Gray Wood
The Akers, Mo. reunion was everything promised and more. The festivities were held Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19, at the junction of highways K and KK above Akers Ferry.
Scattered across the valley below the NPS Information Center were tents occupied with groups like the Shannon Cannon Museum, Cedar Grove Community, Dent County Historical Society, Akers Community, canoe training, Rick Mansfield, and several tents with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways’ employees.
The most active booth was the Cedar Grove Community booth with Stuart and Clydene Johnson; David and Emma McDonald; Lyal and Jenny Chase; Pete and Janice Howell; and Ruth and Mark Maxwell. Ruth seems to be the most active in collecting its history. My great-great-uncle, John Kell, established Cedar Grove and built a mill. A little village was born and at one time it had two medical doctors.
The crowd started to gather, then the storm arrived and the tables and tents were vacated. The rain was relentless, but the National Park Radio band played on from the porch of the information center. People listened to the band from their vehicles and under the large tent in front of the band. One family, from Cabool and Willow Springs, wanted to make sure that they got across the Current River before the ferry stopped crossing at seven that evening. They crossed the river and parked on the other side to listen to the band.
Photo submitted by Deloris Gray Wood
Marcus Maggard was at the helm operating Akers Ferry across the Current River during the Akers Reunion.
Sunday was a fun filled day and most informative from a historical perspective. Akers Store was the meeting place for joining all the activities and boarding the bus during the day.
Marcus took the group across the Current River on Akers Ferry and picked up a car that wanted to cross the river.
Off to Devil’s Well, what an adventure. I got to walk down with the cutest and brightest little girl, Skyley. Her great-grandfather, Eugene Maggard, drove the tour bus and he and his sister, Judy Maggard Stewart, were our tour guides. Judy heads the Friends of Mt. Zion and is president of the Shannon County Museum. Dave Tobey, NPS Ranger at Round Springs, planned the Saturday activities and Judy and Gene got involved in planning the Sunday activities. They are the children of the late Buck and Loreen Purcell Maggard. Judy and Gene gave the local history, giving their first presentation above the well.   
Then we had a stop at Akers Cemetery. Kevin and Laurie Purcell are the yard keepers and Skyley pointed out an old stone embedded in the soil in the southeast part of the cemetery. It was very hard to read.  Gene and Judy's great-grandparents, grandparents on the Purcell side and Maggard side, Gene's wife, Judy’s son, aunts and cousins are also buried there.
A stop at Mt. Zion was included where we had a Sunday afternoon service, with Gene, and Judy with her daughter Bridget leading the singing. A sharing time was held inside with Ervin Taylor and Judy. Jo Schaper shared about the Ozark Vernacular Architecture on the Mt. Zion building, along with Dave Tobey. Jo explained the different type of rocks included in the stone structure. I was impressed when she explained how the mortar was finished between the rocks. The stone mason method of cutting a metal pipe and using it to make the mortar protrude smooth and half-round beyond the rocks. The method seemed to keep mold down, since the building was built in 1949. I did not see the deterioration like with mortar that is smoothed close to the rocks. The first rock house on the right on Hwy. 19 as you approach Salem from the south has the same detail as Mt. Zion. Jo also explained the rock formation that gave rise to Devil’s Well.
We traveled over Devil’s Backbone on Highway K and turned on the Welch Cave and Spring Road.
We visited the Howell Cabin across the Current River, where Dave Tobey gave a most interesting historical information about the cabin and who lived there. The James Brothers’ visit to the Cabin was an interesting rumor that the group discussed.
Skyley, who lives in Salem, had been to all the places we visited and she was full of detailed information at the Well and at Aker’s Cemetery. Then when we stopped at the Howell Cabin, she asked questions that challenged even Dave Tobey and Marcus Maggard, her grandpa. It was a walk up the hill to the cabin; Skyley adopted me to protect her from the stickers, bushes, brambles and poison ivy and oak as she was wearing her swim suit. On the return, she made it known she wanted us to walk together back down to the canoes that were waiting for the float on the Current River, courtesy of Akers Canoe Rental. Gene and Marcus donated the rental of canoes and kayaks to the Friends of Mt. Zion for the repair of the old church building.
When Skyley and Marcus took off in their canoe, you could tell she was a “river rat” just like her great-aunt, Judy Maggard Stewart, who grew up at Akers, where the Current River was her world. Skyley, a curious kid who seemed to talk nonstop, kept my attention on what she had to share about Akers. Kevin Purcell was the captain of my canoe. The water level of the Current River was up just enough for a smooth ride and no spills.
Judy said it was a beautiful day to see the sights in the Akers community again and learn history from others like Mark and Regina Van Patten; Kenneth Haversick and Jill Land. She said it was a place in which she was blessed to grow up. She said the next Upper Current River community celebration will be at Round Springs on August 3, and the Mt. Zion Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration is set for December 15 at 2 p.m.   
National Park Service’s Upper Current River District Interpreter Dave Tobey said to me, "Thank you for all you do to keep the history of the Upper Current alive." Dave can be located at the Round Spring office at 573-323-8093. Dave and Judy extended an invitation to join them at Round Spring this summer and at Mt. Zion this Christmas on the Upper Current River.

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