Worth County, Missouri

Elihu's Ghost

In the spring of 1877 Richard Baker and wife, Emmy, rented a small farm with a four-room house from GW Miller a few miles due north of Allendale, at the foot of a steep rocky hill near the East Fork of the Grand River. Their son, Fred, was born there the following fall.

Now, Jane Miller, a daughter of GW Miller, was a comely young thing of only 16 when Jim Baker, Richard's brother, first met her. It seems that Jane had relatives in Taylor County, Iowa, near where Jim lived, and Jim had met her there at a social gathering, with both immediately feeling the first pangs of love. Jim was ecstatic when he learned where she lived, and begged long and loud to go visit his brother in Missouri. So in July, 1879, he moved in with Richard. Jim, now 21, stayed until September when he was sent back, post-haste, after it was discovered that his relationship with Miss Jane had became a little too torrid for either family to handle.

Things went rather well for Richard and his growing family until the fall of 1879 when he either injured himself, or fell ill, and his dad, Elihu, and little brother, Abe, came to help with the chores till he got better.

Elihu remained with Richard through most of the winter. Thank goodness it was a milder winter than the year before and that mildness had necessitated fewer trips to the wood lot. Cutting wood was a cold, yet sweaty, job. You harnessed and hitched the team to the wagon, then rode the distance to the timber sitting on an open wooden seat, lurching and bouncing hard as the wagon passed over the frozen ruts. Once there, chopping began, followed by trimming, then loading the heavy timber onto the wagon. Finally, back to the house where every piece had to be cut to short lengths for the stove, and all the chips collected for kindling.

It was a brisk February morning, not long after sun-up, when Richard and his dad hitched the team and headed for the timber. It was cold, but nothing close to the frigid weather they had experienced the past several days, and the trip was a rather enjoyable one. They set to work and Elihu was just finishing trimming his first cut when Richardís tree fell several yards away. It wasnít a terribly large tree but the bushiness of its branches caused it to bounce in Elihuís direction. Richard yelled at his father, and Elihu turned just in time for the end of one of the broken branches to slam into his side and protrude out the other. It didnít take long for Richard to see that there was no way to effectively remove the limb from Elihuís body. Richard had no saw, and chopping the branch from the trunk was unthinkable. Finally, Richard jumped in the wagon and raced the mile or so to a farmhouse for help. Too late. It was alone and in extreme agony that Elihu passed away that cold February morning, lying on the frozen ground, moaning for comfort and release from his pain.

They loaded Elihu onto the wagon and Richard slowly drove the team back to the house. He and the wife sat with the body all night discussing what had happened and what had yet to be done. Come morning, Richard gathered as much timber and brush as he thought he needed, then built a pile perhaps eight feet long and three feet wide. He watched silently as the pile burned, slowly thawing the frozen earth beneath. When it had almost burned out, he scraped away the coals and began to dig. An hour or so later he had an appropriately sized hole about three or three and a half feet deep. It was mid-afternoon now, and the remainder of the family gathered around the grave as Richard and his wife lowered the blanket-wrapped body into the hole, the silence marred only by the sobbing and the sounds of the shovel working the earth.

Not an entire week had passed when a farmer, driving his team within yards of where the accident occurred, heard a manís voice emanating from the timber, plaintively shouting for help. He turned his team toward the sound, then stopped just within the edge of the trees. Again, the momentary groaning of a man in great pain, then a weak scream, coming from a small clearing just ahead of him. He searched the area thoroughly, but found nothing, and heard nothing more. Puzzled, and somewhat spooked, he mentioned the incident the next time he was in Allendale. When told of the accident, and the exact location, the farmer stiffened and the blood drained from his face. Needless to say, he took another route home.

Only in the winter time, the local farmers would say. Nary a sound in the summer. So, during the coldest months that road was one of the least traveled in the county. It was rough-laying ground and, over the next century, very few houses were built along that lane. Now, however, the area is beginning to attract people and it is only a matter of time until some rabbit hunting resident runs ashen-faced into the local pool hall.....

NOTE: Later in the Spring, Richard moved his family back to Taylor County, Iowa. It is uncertain exactly where Richard was living at the time, making the location of Elihuís grave next to impossible to determine. The only clue is that the house was said to have been north of Allendale near a bend of the Grand River, East Fork, and fairly close to a "cemetery on a high hill." On a happier note, not long after Jane turned 21, her dad finally relented and let her marry Jim, and they were able start their years of wedded bliss(?) with a three-year-old daughter to bounce on their knees.


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