A Young Girl’s Story of Growing Up on the Current River
My beautiful mother, Judy Maggard Stewart, was born and raised on the upper current river. The first time she took me down the river in a canoe I was six months old. In addition, Sundays were church and river days. We would stay at the river til dark. As a result, those were glorious family days. She is a huge reason I am the women I am today. Consequently, she has instilled her love of the river in me.
I CAN HEAR CURRENT RIVER CRY
River and Land
My love for the river and land at Akers runs very deep. The land had been passed down through my family for generations since the Civil War in my mother’s family (Loreen Purcell Maggard.) Akers was the trade center for the community for miles around. Members of the Purcell family lived up and down the river from Akers. Beanie Purcell lived down the river across from Cave Springs. They farmed, trapped, fished, logged, and raised hogs and cattle to make a living.
The Country Store
Mt. Zion Church
Mt. Zion Church sat at the top of the hill above Akers. The land where the church house sits was donated by my grandparents and built by the community. My father was very proud of his part in building the church. I remember riding horseback in front of Robert Crosswhite to church on most Sundays while Mt. Zion Church was operating. My family attended many baptisms at the river below the ferryboat. Revivals, singings, community dinners and gatherings were held at Mt. Zion. It is a beautiful rock building.
The Akers Cemetery sits on the hill overlooking Gladden Creek north of where the school sat. Both sets of my grandparents are buried there as well as aunts and cousins. My great- great grandparents on the Purcell side are also buried there. Several graves are marked with cave rock. My parents are not buried there because my mother feared the Park service would let it grow up and be destroyed. Before the national park, she and Dad and other community members took very good care of the cemetery.
Ozark Mountain People
The Story Unfolds
1950 model one and half ton cattle truck to haul floaters to and from the put in and take out points on the river. The people would ride in the back with the cattle panels protecting them. I remember some people enjoyed the ride in the truck almost as much and their boat ride.
Canoeing really became popular. He bought Grumman aluminum canoes, Osage canoes, and various brands over the years. My parents never turned anyone away on reserving a canoe. They went and bought more until they had around 300 canoes before the Ozark National Scenic Riverways bought their land by eminent domain and reduced the amount of canoes they could rent.
Well, one evening when everyone was sitting around the stove telling stories, the marshal came in and joined us. After a while he asked if anyone knew Buck Maggard and one of the local drunks spoke up and said, “There he is!” So the papers were served!!! After the park service came in, I will never forget that feeling of emptiness that I felt when I floated the river and all the neighbors were gone. There was not any one to stop and visit or share goodies like watermelon and pastries as you floated down the river.
Everyone Deserves To Be Able To Enjoy The River
I can hear Current River cry because all the people who grew up, loved and respected the river have had to move away. There is not anyone left to care for the land, the traditions, the culture and the structures (school houses and churches). It is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways responsibility to preserve the history and culture of the area. So far they have shirked their responsibility. It has always left a sour taste in my mouth when park service personnel have asked what a building or place looked like when it was the park service that tore it down.
Seems like, at this time the park is working hard to restore and preserve our rivers and local area. Tourism is a huge part of my life. In addition, the river is a huge part of my life as well. Rather, my family survives off horses and trail riding. However, even though our people come here to trail ride, I believe its because of our beautiful river. It is breathtaking to see and experience. Consequently, I hope everyone does take the time to enjoy it.
In addition, you might want to read some of articles we wrote during the river flood of 2017 and how you can continue to help the river people. If you are are planning to float the rivers, you can check out our canoe rentals too.