5th annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 22-24
WEST PLAINS, Mo. – “Internal Conflict and Civil Wars: 1861-2011” is the theme of the fifth annual Ozarks Studies Symposium set for Sept. 22-24 at the West Plains Civic Center.
The event celebrates the unique culture of the Ozarks by providing presentations and performances by representatives of the academic world and the public sector that address various aspects of life in the Ozarks. It is being sponsored by the Missouri State University-West Plains academic affairs office and the West Plains Council on the Arts. The event is made possible with generous funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Missouri Humanities Council; and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Admission is free and open to all.
Dr. Ed McKinney, professor of history at Missouri State-West Plains and one of the event organizers, said this year’s theme was chosen for several reasons. “The Civil War left an indelible impression on the Ozark region, and had and continues to have an impact on story, world view, heritage, and the arts, from Civil War memorabilia to historical recreations. Presentations will encompass overlapping and multiple topics that reflect on the general theme from social, economic, environmental and religious perspectives.”
The symposium will begin with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Magnolia Room at the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis Street. Sponsored by the West Plains Council on the Arts, the reception will feature guest speaker Steve Yates, author of the 2010 novel Morkan’s Quarry. The novel is set in 1861, during which the Civil War severs Michael Morkan from everything he loves and all that defines him – from his son, Leighton, from his love, Cora Slade, and from the quarry he owns in Springfield, Mo. Copies of will be available for purchase.
The keynote address will be given at 3:50 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, by Dr. David Benac, a history professor at Southeastern Louisiana University. McKinney said Dr. Benac’s keynote will be a synopsis of the major points in his recent book calledConflict in the Ozarks: Hill Folk, Industrialists, and Government in the Missouri’s Courtois Hills. At the end of the nineteenth century, the rugged landscape of the Courtois Hills in the Missouri Ozarks was host to an isolated society of tenacious inhabitants, who subsisted almost entirely on the resources of its rich forests. It was this same valuable timber that drew the Missouri Lumber and Mining Company to the area, and sparked an enduring cultural and environmental struggle. Benac examines the struggle between residents and outsiders through government documents, company records, local newspapers, and oral histories. He reviews more than sixty years of major social and economic changes for the hill folk and for the forest itself. In less than a century, the Courtois Hills saw the end of a near hunter-gatherer existence, the rise and fall of the profitable, but devastating timber industry, and the beginning of a new era of conservation and environmental awareness.
Several other scheduled presentations may be of particular interest to area residents, McKinney said. They include the following:
• “Unlike Mountains: Ozark Strange in Kevin C. Stewart’s Margot” by Dr. Craig Albin, professor of English at Missouri State-West Plains. In 1999, Appalachian-born author Kevin C. Stewart won the Texas Review Novella Prize with a spare, fast-paced narrative entitled Margot. The book is set in the northwest Arkansas hamlet of Jasper, and its characters include, among others, a man who vents his outrage at “the government” by killing elk transplanted from the Rockies, an ex-con and meth-cook who spends his days re-modeling cabins along the Buffalo River, a lone, laconic woman who may or may not be running from the law, and a neighborhood watchman who names his horses after characters in John Wayne movies. Through protagonist Frank Powell’s interactions with such characters, Stewart offers a portrait of an Ozark population uneasy with change and wrestling with conflicting attempts at preservation.
• “Hand-to-Mouth Fishing in the Missouri Ozarks: Culture or Crime?” by Dr. Mark Morgan, department of parks, recreation and tourism, University of Missouri. Noodling is the hand capture of large catfish, primarily flatheads, in turbid waters across many mid-western and southern states. The object is to locate and forcibly remove one from its den without using any modern equipment. This presentation examines the motives and internal conflict associated with hand fishing in Missouri.
•“Pre and Post Civil War Jewish Migration to the Ozarks” by Rachel Gholson, associate professor of English at Missouri State University, and Mara Cohen-Ionnides, senior instructor at Missouri State University. This presentation will examine the history of Jewish migration to the Ozarks just before the Civil War. Key characteristics of the community’s migration include mercantile founding and expansion by single men. A small contingent of the first founders of mercantiles were not previous residents, but rather Civil War veterans or their sons who came to explore the opportunities available in the growing, rural region. The presentation reveals the ties between large Jewish mercantile communities and key Ozarks mercantile families like the Cohns, the Marxs and the Levys, who resided in several Ozark communities. It will cover the early history of these merchants and their families, the impact of these merchants on the communities and what happened to them in the long term.
•“William Monks” by John Bradbury, manuscript curator and historian at the State Historical Society of Missouri’s Research Center-Rolla (formerly the University of Missouri Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Rolla), and Lou Wehmer, retired chief telecommunications engineer, having served 33 years in the Missouri Highway Patrol at Troop G, Willow Springs, Mo. Wehmer is Chairman of the South Central Missouri-North Central Arkansas Civil War Roundtable headquartered in West Plains, Mo. The presentation will exam the life of William Monks, author of A History of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. A turbulent man in a violent time and chaotic place, Monks was a man to be reckoned with in the central Ozarks for two decades, beginning with the Civil War. As a result of editing Monks’ 1907 reminiscent memoir for re-publication, Bradbury and Wehmer looked into local, state and national sources looking for both sides of the story of conflict in south-central Missouri, wherein Monks was a central figure to create a biographical sketch of the man. They found that folks either loved or hated Monks, a local legend in Howell County, Mo. Monks was a staunch Unionist, a refugee, a federal scout, and anti-guerilla fighter, a county official, a state representative, and an officer in both Missouri and Arkansas post-war militias. Utilizing guerrilla-style tactics, Monks’ activities in his heyday led Bradbury and Wehmer to classify him as a “Unionist Guerrilla,” and they found feelings of support or distain remain strong for or against Monks to this day. His story is representative of the war and aftermath in south-central Missouri and north-central Arkansas. It is not a tale of marching armies, or set piece battles and clearly established lines of fair conduct in battle. It is a tale of ambush from the brush, arson and vengeance that had its impact upon and has conflicted every inhabitant of the region for generations.
Other presentations include:
•“Civil War in Howell County and the Battle of West Plains” by Dorotha Reavis, Civil War historian from West Plains. According to Reavis, “Today, there is no better place to live than in Howell County, Missouri; however, during the four long years between 1861 and 1865, Howell County was totally devastated by the Civil War. The public buildings and dwelling places were destroyed and most of the residents were forced to leave the county, join the Confederate Army or be killed. The history of the Civil War in Howell is composed of stories about the hardships experienced and endured due to hunger, danger, loss of family, friends and personal property.”
•“Why I Participate in Civil War Reenacting” by Lieutenant Mike White, Houston, Mo.
•“In Search of General Nathaniel Lyon” by Alex Primm, historian from Mountain View, Mo.
•“Marmaduke’s Hornpipe and the Battle of Boonville” by Dr. Howard Marshall, professor emeritus, art history, University of Missouri
•“Oral Tradition Narratives of the Civil War in the Missouri Ozarks as Indicators of Historical Memory and Cultural Identity” by Marideth Sisco and Kathleen Morrissey, community scholars, West Plains, Mo.
•“Bob Holt and His Impact on Ozark Cultural and Musical Tradition” by Julie Henigan, folklorist and traditional musician, Springfield, Mo.
•“Ozark Towns as Tribes: The Impact of Cultural and Geographic Isolation on Regional Conflicts and Boundaries” by Dr. Christopher Dyer, dean of academic affairs, Missouri State-West Plains
•“The Illinois Ozarks? Some Folkloric and Musical Perspectives” by Matt Meacham, folklorist, adjunct instructor, Missouri State -West Plains
•“Twenty-first Century Problems, Nineteenth Century Strategies: How Steve Yates’ Morkan’s Quarry offers Counsel Today” by Jeff Smithpeters, assistant professor department of language and literature, Delta State University, Cleveland, Ms.
•“Civil War in the Ozarks” by Matt McNair, PhD student, University of Oklahoma
•“Why We Belong to This Band: The Appeal of Sacred Harp Singers to Ozarkers” by Matt Shomaker, Missouri State University graduate, 2011
In addition to the presentations, there will be a panel discussion about Civil War art and artifacts found in the region and a “story circle” where local folks are invited to come and share their own family and community stories about the symposium theme.
For more information about the symposium, including a full schedule of presentations, visit the website, http://ozarksymposium.wp.missouristate.edu/.
The Ozarks Studies Symposium is made possible by a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council.