Boiling Springs: Pioneer determination (Part One)

                                                                                                                                                                 Photo by Christy Porter
The Big Piney River at Boiling Springs.
By Christy Porter
Managing Editor

The scenery is timeless and ever-changing at Boiling Springs in Lynch Township, just southwest of Licking on the beautiful Big Piney River. The springs have a water flow of ten million gallons a day, and with its unique location it was a part of the booming timber industry in the early 1800s.
In this area, Boiling Springs was known as the “Gateway to the Riverways,” a place of commerce and entertainment. An area having numerous homesteads, caves and springs, Boiling Springs was part of a larger community that included Ellsworth and Raftville.
Reportedly in 1837, Ellsworth was the first town settlement as well as the location of the first post office in Texas County, opened here on Jan. 29, 1846. While not verified, it has been said that the first term of court in Texas County was also held here.
From the “History of Ellsworth” by Nancy Platter Pittman: “The name Ellsworth was selected in honor of an early settler of this area who operated a general store about 1-1/2-mile west of the Boiling Springs, which flows from the west bank of the Big Piney River. Timber work brought trade to this store. Saw-mills were soon operating nearby and new settlers moved in. Tie hacking and rafting gave employment to many people for many years.”
The town was the main community in the local area, located about one mile from Boiling Springs. The community school was located at Ellsworth.
Raftville was a railroad tie yard and the starting point of many log rafts that were floated down the Piney River. The logs were stamped with the owner and pushed into the river loose. They floated down the river with a raft, the rafts’ final destination being St. Louis. The post office opened in 1916 on the west side of Big Piney River, just on top of the hill from Boiling Springs on a gravel road to the left. A store and two large clubhouses were also located at Raftville. Charter families included Bridgewater, Smith, Huskey, and George and Sarah Platter. Upstream from Raftville, in 1906, the Parsons family; father, mother and three small boys were murdered near Vance Pond by Jodie Hamilton.
                                                                                                                                                                Photo by Christy Porter
Boiling Springs Resort, behind the signage is the foundation of the store that was swept away in the 2017 flood.

The area of Boiling Springs is now Boiling Springs Resort, which offers float trip options, cabin and campsite rental, fishing, swimming and the wilderness scenery. One historic structure remains from the 2017 flood and is known as Cabin #4, The Survivor Cabin. Guests are provided the use of free Wi-Fi service, a shower house with hot water and flush toilets, in-ground pool and play area. The resort can also help with fishing or hunting permits. A new store is planned, but they do currently sell ice, firewood, soda, water and beer.
Prior to the new ownership, The Bowkers owned the property from November 2007 – December 2015. Judy Bowker shared an old brochure from the Big M Ranch Resort, circa 1968-1969. Much like today’s resort, the Big M provided cabins, float trips, camping, picnicking, fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, hiking, general sight-seeing and like amenities. During the Bowker’s ownership, archeologists supplied them with an historical document written by Nancy Platter Pittman, a sister to George Platter, one of the early settlers of the area. Judy shared this documentation as well.
The Big M Ranch appears to be the beginning of Boiling Springs as a resort/tourist area in the late 1950s. According to his family’s recounting in The Licking News article dated July 22, 2010, “Sometime after WWII, Maurice Murray, a U.S. Marine, left the Corps and bought the Boiling Springs property, where he built a hunting lodge. The first cabins had no amenities, no electricity, no running water and outhouses. They were intended for hunters. Maurice met Bertha and they married. With a woman’s touch, Boiling Springs transitioned from a sparse hunting lodge to a family vacation spot. The Murray clan continued coming back to Boiling Springs for an annual family event beginning in the summer of the early ‘60s.
                                                                                                                                                                 Photo by Christy Porter
The Boiling Springs Resort entrance, canoeing being a favorite pastime on the Big Piney River.

The area was not originally a resort area, but had its beginnings in the timber industry. Lumbermen began felling trees in 1916 along the Piney (near what became Licking).              
Timbering was already an industry when, in 1924, John A. Benson set up a sawmill. Again from the 1981 “History of Ellsworth” by Nancy Platter Pittman: “John A. Benson, an expert saw-mill man, he had his mill in several different places and really put out a lot of lumber. Mr. Benson’s son, Clarence (C.E.) was also a lumber man, and so are Clarence’s boys, Wilmer and Mack. Clarence’s daughter Gladys (Ward), Mrs. Bill Sells and Mack live in or just west of Licking.”
Gladys Opal (Benson) Ward shared her reminiscences, “I was born Sep. 19, 1920 in Raftville. I grew up in Boiling Springs, the Platter’s had cabins down the hill on the same side. My dad, C.E named me; growing up I went by Sis. I was the middle child, growing up with my Mom, Mae, two brothers; William (Bud), Mack and one sister; Ruth (Benson) Corber, two sisters had died at birth. My great-grandmother was a strong presence in my life, along with my parents. I also had extended family, including aunts, uncles and cousins. My paternal grandfather was John E. Benson who started sawing lumber at the age of 16. My dad was C.E. Benson and he had Benson Lumber Company. We farmed a little bit, mostly to provide food for the family, but also kept cows and hogs for provision. We also fished, trapped and hunted. I was a pretty good shot with a shotgun. At 10-years-old I went hunting with my brothers, the kickback from the gun ‘knocked me flat on my back.’ Later I won my husband a new gun in a raffle. I was told to “Hit Prince Albert (a tobacco can) in the head and you can have the new gun.” I shot him (Prince Albert) in the head.”
Gladys continues, “But my family was mainly lumbermen. My dad produced railroad ties by hand and was very self sufficient. You stood on the log to square it off and turned it until it was squared to make the tie. The men took the lumber to the sawmill in a wagon and later in a 1930s truck. Dad bought a new International truck to haul lumber during the depression. Both of my brothers, Mack and Bud, started their own lumber companies in Success, Mo. I remember Dad would take his lunch in a syrup bucket and carry his crosscut saw.
“The rafters (men who took the ties down the river) lived closer to Raftville. I remember the water ‘boiled’ from the spring into the river, when the spring was cleaned out it went even further into the river. We had ballgames in the summer; the ball field was by Caverness Cemetery. We attended school in Ellsworth in the wintertime. We also went to church in Ellsworth.”
After high school Gladys married at the age of 19. Ed Ward, her husband, worked for her father. Ed also worked in the lumber business in Colorado during the summer. Later Ed went to work at Fort Leonard Wood. They had two children, Lonnie and Mary Edith, who was named after Gladys’ paternal grand-mother. Mary Edith passed away at the age of 19; Lonnie and his wife, Reggia, raised their family in the area.
Submitted by Gladys Ward
A flyer from The Boiling Springs Community Improvement Assn. 
1968 Pioneer Picnic.
Gladys Ward was also the President of the Boiling Springs Association for seven years in the mid 1960s. Sometimes 1,000 people would show up for the annual Pioneer Picnic and events. 1968 was their fifth annual Pioneer Picnic. In keeping with the history of the timber industry they would have contests making railroad ties. There were old fashioned dress and bonnet parades, sack races, foot races, turtle races, balloon blowing contests, ball throwing contests, horse shoe pitching, jigging contests, square dancing, muzzle loader shooting contests at 50 cents a shot, a canoe race upstream, fishing, swimming and a rope swing. Everybody brought food and they grilled hamburgers and hotdogs at the shack. It was a huge event usually held in July. Membership to the association was 25 cents up to $1.00. There were 900 members at one time.
During this time there was the resort and cabins. The people could cross the river on a swinging bridge and there was a boat ramp. Ed Ward liked to go gigging, so they would go down to Cantrell Eddy at night during gigging season. Later in life, Gladys would take the grandkids down to the river and have a dinner there of fried potatoes and fish. Pam (Ward) Ogden, Gladys’ granddaughter, fondly remembers the get-togethers at Boiling Springs.
The story does not end here but will be continued next week.



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