Treasure Hunt

Returning from our East Coast Adventure

For the short time in my life since my retirement and going “full time” in my fifth wheel (The Coach) I have the freedom to treasure hunt and explore places I’ve never been to. It’s exciting to have that freedom after so many years of working, however at times pulling the Coach can be a little nerve-racking. The feeling of dread when you turn down an unknown driveway or dirt road that is not marked well. Is this a dead-end or worse? How will I turn around the Workhorse and Coach in tow? Will I break down with no cell signal? While you could dwell on the “what if’s” fear could stop you from exploring the wonderful places there are to visit and treasures to find along the way.

All that can be said of the Ozark’s Mountain Springs RV Park. While dirt roads inside the park grounds are mostly smooth, the layout in and around the park was a little confusing for this “newbie”. Few signs to direct and apparently no one around to even ask.

Arriving at our next campground I had no clue what I would find on this treasure hunt.

The Treasure Hunt Begins

Arriving at Ozark’s Mountain Springs RV Park I had no clue what I would eventually find on my treasure hunt. My goal was to find my family homestead. The first morning I drove to Topaz, Missouri, about a thirty-minute drive. After finding the Library I parked, leaving Jagger in the Workhorse. The Librarian was very helpful and directed me to use one of the library’s computers to do some research. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for but knew the Topaz area was near the “Wood Township” which had disappeared from most new maps. It used to be on Google years ago, but unless you search specifically, it will not show up. My only clue of where to start was from my Aunt Jean thought it was near Topaz or Mountain View.

Aunt Jean was the only survivor of her generation at the time I traveled to Missouri and since has recently passed away. I didn’t get to visit Aunt Jean much but I tried to each year as I passed through California. I will miss our visits and wish I would have posted this blog earlier.

Family Treasure Hunt
Topaz Missouri 2015 – The Treasure Hunt Begins

When I left the library I was still confused as to the location of the Wood settlement, but I had a list of leads along with some documentation online of a Henry Wood who once settled here. (More documentation I found on Henry William Wood.) The two links here contain articles written by several people and references to several newspaper articles with interesting stories of early pioneer life.

Topaz Grist Mill Referenced in one of the articles as being built by Aaron Freeman, also a relative. (1967 photo courtesy of the Ozark’s Mountaineer)

My next stop was the Senior Center, maybe a few old-timers would be hanging around and have so more leads for me. No luck! The only person there was cleaning up the facility and had no clue of anyone named “Wood”. So off I went, driving the Workhorse on some dirt back roads. Eventually, I was able to find the general area of the original Township near the North Fork River.

It was an eery, but an amazing feeling being on the same ground so many of my ancestors had once lived, worked, and played. I could just feel my Grandpa walking beside me and whispering in my ear as I walked down a dirt trail, looking up at the trees blowing in the wind of this sunny, cool day along the North Fork River.

Second Day of the Treasure Hunt

From the township location, I was on the hunt again to find a cemetery I once saw in a few old black and white photos where my Great-Great-Great Grandfather was laid to rest. Within an hour or two, after visiting numerous cemetery’s I found it!

Nearby the town of Topaz just south of Cabool, I found a small Church named Mount Ararat Missionary Baptist Church.

The church was built in 1850, probably by some of my ancestors. It was rebuilt at some time. The structure and furnishings inside were probably from the 1950-1960 time period.

The cemetery across the road from the church was filled with many graves having headstones with the last name of Wood. There were also Douglas, Freeman, Hood, and Loyd’s in the cemetery. Here rested many of my ancestors going back six generations. My Great-Great-Great Grandfather (1795-1983 103 years old) was one of the early settlers to the area after the government opened Missouri to homesteaders in the early 1800s. He arrived here about 1840 as near as I can find records.

There are still many places I would like to visit in Missouri, but unfortunately, I scheduled myself to tightly and had to move on to Texas after only three productive days. Someday I hope to return and once again walk in my ancestor’s footsteps. Next stop Amarillo, Texas on my fast track to Arizona.

This blog was partially written but never completed back in October 2015. I’ve had so many adventures it was hard to keep up with them, especially the first few years of my Full-time traveling. I wish I could go back and do it slower, but at my age, I never would have covered all the ground that I have.

Safe Travels…Gary and Jagger


Post Note: Thanks, Steve for indirectly encouraging me to blog through your email recently. Reminding me that blogging isn’t only for myself, but to share with those who have an interest in my travels and places I visit.

8 replies

  1. The old mill and store look a lot different today. Uncle Joe ONeal was dedicated to restoring those those buildings and today they continue be lovingly cared for by the O’Neal family. Clarence and Adith O’Neal and their, son Joe Wayne and wife, Billie ONeal moved here in in 1957. The buildings look very much different today!! My husband, Joe Bob ONeal is the grandson of Clarence and Adith. As a child,he spent all his summers at Topaz. Now retired, we have moved to Topaz Mill and continue to care for the mill and old store. We love to entertain touristo with the history of Topaz Mill and the community that once thrived here along the North Fork of the White River. We love picnics and weddings at Topaz!


    • Hi Betsy, Thanks for adding to the information. The history of the Topaz Mill fascinates me, maybe because of my family ancestors connection to the area. I would like to visit the Mill if I’m ever able to get back there again one day. I have also heard stories passed down that one of my family ancestors ran a general store. I wonder if it was the one on your property?


  2. Gary, I love this! Most of all I love Henry Wood’s stone: “Gone to rest”. It is simple and eloquent! Safe travels and adventures!


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