Property History

 
 

 

The Camden County Historical Society collected the following information when they researched the cemetery located at  Bull Run Bluff Campground on Lake Road 54-82.

 

Hidden by weeds, brush and trees, this cemetery was once cared for and protected by a fence surrounding four sides. Approximately ten or twelve unlettered field stones mark some of the graves; others are not marked. Cornerstones about four feet high are still in place, but the fencing has disappeared.

 

Not too far from the cemetery, a fireplace chimney stands . bull run bluff campground, lake of the ozarks campground, rv park lake of the ozarks, hiking lake of the ozarks, Between the cemetery and the chimney, a field stone path leads down to a walled-in spring from which a trickle of water flows downhill to form a pond.

 

The early history of this area is remembered by very few people. The story begins in the year 1888 when Tommy Witten, a crippled man, purchased a large tract of land from John W. and Emily C. Jackson. This area, referred to as Isle of the Lake , or Isle of the Ozarks, was known by old timers as “the Backbone.”

 

Around the turn of the century, there were two houses located on this farm. One, the lower house, now covered by the Lake of the Ozarks, was home to Tommy Witten, his mother and their former slave, Josephine Witten.

 

The upper house, of which only the fireplace chimney survives, was home to the David and Docie Bunch Family. They farmed this land for the Wittens.

 

When Tommy’s mother died, he was cared for by the by servant Josephine Witten.

 

The 1900 census report lists Tommy as being born in Missouri in 1836 and Josephine born in 1850. When Josephine died, Tommy was cared for by the Dave Bunch family.

 

On many occasions Dave asked Tommy if he would sell him the farm, but Tommy always said, “I think I’ll hold onto it for awhile.” During the year 1908, when Tommy was 72 years of age, a lawyer, Pleasant King, from the county seat, paid the Bunch family and Tommy a visit.

 

When he left he invited Tommy to visit with him in his home in Linn Creek. The offer was accepted and before long another offer was made to Tommy. “If Mr. Witten would sign his farm over to him, he could live with the King Family and be taken care of for the rest of his life.”

 

December 24, 1908, a quit claim deed was made out to Pleasant King.

 

Tommy Witten became a resident of the Williams Poor Farm and was later buried in a  paupers grave in the Hugo Cemetery.

 

The Dave Bunch Family moved to a farm owned by their relatives, the Hanks family.

 

Tommy’s land changed hands several times until 1946 when a group of out of state investors became the last owners.

 

Glen Welder from Nebraska made a new road around the outside of the property. This is now Lake Road 54-82. At that time the house on the hill was gone. According to Tom Capps, the house was still there in 1940.

 

Eunice Lortcher, daughter of Dave Bunch, was able to name several of the people buried in the cemetery:

Eunice’s grandmother Judy Isabel Ziglar; Judy’s daughter Ann Bledsoe, and Ann’s baby. Several other children are buried there, as well as Josephine Witten.

 

Perhaps Tommy’s mother is buried there, but this in only a guess. There has been some rumor that Indians are buried there, but this may be “just rumor”.

  

On first seeing Moses Witten (also spelled Whitten) in about 1820, his owner, Isaac M. Witten, must have been disappointed at his new investment. The baby was a dwarf and had several severe deformities, including a hunch-back condition. The master chose to keep the grotesquely  formed child, a decision that would prove fortuitous to his family many years later.

 

Moses grew into a genteel and kind adult and was the special friend of the children who quickly forgave his appearance.  Possessing surprising strength for his size, he could do his share of the work on his master’s farm. Moses was responsible to his assigned duties and was trusted by the white Wittens. The Witten family moved to Camden County from Kentucky shortly before 1850 and, of course, brought their slaves with them.

 

After moving to the Linn Creek area, Moses’ services were evidently rented out to Murphy, McClurg and Company before the Civil War. He became known for hundreds of miles around as he delivered merchandise from Linn Creek to the various stores in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

 

In about 1858, Moses married Rosa who was born in 1840 in Kentucky. The had seven children, six of whom were still alive in 1900. All of their children were born in Missouri. The children were John, born circa 1859, Mary E. born circa 1862, Francie E. born circa 1866, Cara Belle, born circa 1869, George, born circa 1872, Isaac, born circa 1875 and Jake, born circa 1877.

 

Moses and Rosa opened their home to David and Josephine Witten who were apparently brother and sister and were a nephew and niece of Moses. David worked on his uncle’s farm and Josephine helped her aunt with the housework. Both became highly respected people in the Linn Creek area.

 

In 1880, Moses owned forty acres of land, seven acres of which were tilled. The land, buildings and fences were valued at $200 and his livestock was valued at $100. He owned two horses, two mules, one cattle and twenty hogs. The two dozen barnyard poultry produced 160 dozen eggs in 1879. That year, he produced 200 bushels of corn on his seven tilled acres and forty gallons of molasses on one-half acre of sorghum.

 

The Moses Witten family had changed very little at emancipation. They remained closely allied to the Isaac M. Witten family, their former masters, and continued to serve their needs. This was particularly true when Isaac died. Moses and his family helped to care for Isaac’s widow, Nancy, and his invalid son, Thomas. By 1880, Josephine Witten had moved into the home of Nancy and Thomas to take care of them and in 1900, she was listed as servant to the sixty-three year old Thomas, the then only surviving member of the family. Josephine served out of loyalty and love for the Wittens as her former mistress had been swindled out of her savings and there was not money to pay for Thomas’ care. Josephine died at the age of 59 on April 22, 1909. At the time of her death, she was still caring for the invalid, Thomas.

 

Moses Witten died in 1892. The April 7 issue of “The Refeille” stated, “Moses Witten, the oldest and best known negro in Camden county, died last Friday, and was buried the following day, among his former masters and mistresses, in Old Erie cemetery. He was a hunch back, hideously deformed in many ways, but with a kindly heart…”

 

David Witten, Moses’ nephew, never married and continued to live with his Aunt Rosa and her orphaned children and grandchildren, supporting them by working the family farm. Davis was found dead in his corn crib on April 18, 1906, evidently brought down by a heart attack. The editor at “The Reveille” indicated that, “He was an honest, hard-working man, with no bad habits or serious faults.”

 

Moses’ youngest child was known as “Little Jake” and may have been a dwarf like his father. Jake had died in 1911 and probably before 1900. Rosa, Moses’ widow, had passed away by 1910. Moses’ sons, John and George, lived at Osage City for a time and probably worked on the steamboats plyng the Missouri and Osage rivers. Another son, Isaac, lived at Jefferson City.

 

 

   

~ Bull Run Bluff Campground and RV Park ~
~ just outside Camdenton, Missouri ~
~ Lake of the Ozarks ~

 

 

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Bull Run Bluff Campground
Lake Road 54-82
17 Bull Run Bluff Circle
Camdenton, MO 65020