Bob Mitchell: Roaring Riverís 183 years

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Although Roaring River hasnít been a park all those years, the spring, river and hollow have been a popular place for something around 183 years.

History tells us the waters that flow out of the spring opening were ideal for mill sites for the most early of settlers, with the first recorded facility being built in 1836.

Even before this time, there were a number of Native American tribes known to have utilized the spring and water, plus the surrounding area for their subsistence.

Early arrivals

Those first to arrive on the scene found the need for milling grain and carding cotton and wool. The first millers, and there were a number of them in succession, found the flow of water out of the large spring more than adequate for their needs.

Some of the more inquisitive in their group even sought to discover the depth of the spring. Their efforts, using long ropes and whatever weights that might be handy, failed to reach the bottom in the clear-flowing water.

Tourism realized

In the early 1900s, the Bannister, and later, the Frank Bruner interests realized the potential of the spring and river as a mecca for tourism, as people started to move around in their own mode of transportation.

Mill facilities that had been used for that purpose before those people came into the picture and converted it into accommodations, complete with dining services. There were even a number of cabins constructed on the hillside across from what is the Twin Falls area of the park.

Some of these later became private homes, owned mostly by interests out of the Kansas City area.

Sold at courthouse

Bruner never was one known for keeping his finances in very good condition. As a result, his property of Roaring River went on the block on the Barry County Courthouse steps for just under $100,000. This was during the early days of the Great Depression.

As a result of finances in those days, it was understood the sale of the property would be cash only.

One of Brunerís favorite moves around youngsters was to drop coins out of his pocket and instead of picking them up, he would direct a youngster to the site to retrieve the money. It was handy to be around him at the Corner Store at times.

On the sale date there was a man in the audience who was unknown to anyone in the community that was actively bidding for the property. When the auctioneer closed the bidding it was Thomas Sayman from St. Louis that pulled a roll of bills off his person and made the sale complete.

The community was then to discover the buyer to be Dr. Thomas Sayman of the becoming famous Sayman Soap Company. Never officially awarded a doctorís title, he had been a soap maker, tonic provider and eliker hawker for several years. His eventual occupation was in the manufacture of soap.

Sayman Soap was a stock item in many homes in those days. In the Ray home for several years there could have been a bar of his soap to be found in the house, since he was known to have been quite liberal with supplying the item to some of his friends in the community.

Didnít last long

Saymanís ownership of Roaring River didnít last long as he soon learned the fish in what was an upper lake had been included in an additional mortgage taken out by Bruner.

The soap man became so irate with the situation that he immediately departed for Jefferson City where he made arrangements to present the property to the State of Missouri at no cost to the government.

On Dec. 8, 1928, the transaction was completed and Missouri owned Roaring River and its spread of 2,400 acres.

Sayman story lingered

Sayman wasnít departing entirely from Cassville. Itís even told as one story that he and Bruner had at least one encounter after the sale and after the buyer learned of the fish situation. At this encounter a weapon was supposedly displayed and Sayman retreated to the courthouse where he was locked in a vault until danger passed.

The soap maker wanted to leave his mark on the community, agreeing to construct a porch and covered area on the front of the old Community Building (Hall Theater). During the unveiling, it was obvious the name Sayman Soap was highly visible on the signed front, which brought the ire down from local residents.

This inscription was quickly removed by county officials at that time.

Benefitted community

Saymanís misfortune in dealing for Roaring River was a disaster that obviously benefitted anyone who wanted to get near water, fish or just be in the out-of-doors in an area which has become the jewel of the stateís park system.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State Universityís Regional Media Hall of Fame.