Each Spring and Fall I conduct photography workshops in the Missouri Ozarks. The focus is on the Ozark National Scenic Riverway and the mills, springs and rivers in the vicinity of Shannon, County Missouri. During my fall pre-workshop scouting, I came across a small cemetery at Akers, MO. Noticing it was established in 1861, I had to stop and explore a little further. I believe many photographers are drawn to old cemeteries, much like they are to old barn structures and abandoned buildings. There is something about the mystery of the history associated with these things that we find intriguing as photographers. As we click our camera shutters we contemplate what stories these places could tell us. Years ago, when I was a young officer in the military, my commander would tell me how he always explored the history of a new place he visited. He wanted to have a feeling for why streets or small towns had certain names. Sometimes what was discovered was quite interesting. Made for some nice trivia, if nothing else.
I explored the Akers Cemetery in part because it was established the year the American Civil War broke out. Or as some southern boys would call it, “the war of Northern aggression”. As expected I found one
gravestone of the era, that of 2nd Lt John Calvin Welch of the 9th Mo Infantry, CSA (Confederate States of America). There were small fresh confederate battle flags placed at each side of the gravestone and some rather fresh looking, albeit artificial, flowers at its base. It was clear current day family still visits his grave site and honors his service and sacrifice for what some post war writers would call “the lost cause”.
With a small bit of research I found that John Calvin (“Jack”) Welch was the father of 7 children. He enlisted in 1861 with Freeman’s Company, Missouri state militia for six months, after which the union forces captured and took him to Alton Illinois, where he was held prisoner until September 1862. Later he enlisted as a First Sargent in Co. FM, 9th Mo. Infantry. After fighting in the Battle at Pleasant Hill, LA, in 1864, he was promoted to 2nd Lt. He served under the command of Gen J. Shelby who surrendered to union forces at Shreveport, LA in June of 1865. After the war he returned to Missouri and farmed and was later elected County Collector. He died at the age of 74.
The image here of Klepzig Mill in Shannon County, MO also has an interesting history, which I will highlight in later blog. Having photographed this area for a number of years now, I have come to meet some very interesting and friendly locals. Several Klepzig ancestors have contacted me over the months and have talked of the mill and earlier times when the Klepzigs lived in the area and worked the mill. More to come on that in the future.
Next time you venture out into new areas, do a little research. What you find might not only be interesting but might offer some good leads on subject matter.