Sampsel Memories

By Lois Owen Ream


This photo of the Sampsel post office and general store was taken about 1919.



Memories of Sampsel have stayed pretty fresh in my mind as we moved there from Arkansas when I was about five years old. Mother and Dad (Bernie and Wilkie Owen), owned a small acreage, with house, just back of the Wabash depot in Sampsel and they rented that house to various people while we lived in Arkansas. Dad had rebuilt that house in 1924 by adding on to a smaller house that was on the property when he and Mother bought it from Mr. Albert Holman (Betty Walker's grandfather) around 1914. Much of the material used for the add-on was from a pool hall that used to stand across the tracks in Sampsel. Dad had it moved over to his property and started to work on the house that I remember.

Questions arose for me, years later, as to why the folks bought in a flood plain. My only answer was that Grandmother Wilson, who lived just north of Sampsel, did not like Mother being in Arkansas; she wanted her as close as possible. (Dad had taken Mom to Arkansas to live after they were first married.) So, here was an acreage on the edge of Sampsel, available, and there was nothing more for my mother and dad to do but buy it and move back to Missouri. The house was small so adding on to it seemed the thing to do with their growing family. No sooner had Dad finished the remodeling job than he and Mom moved back to Arkansas where they first started out. Dad had a mail route out of Conway, Arkansas and his brother was the postmaster. I was born there in 1931.

Their family history holds sad times and difficult times that played a big part in their decisions. In that interim of time they lost three children which left the whole family in a state of shock. After moving back to the farm in 1936 they stayed there until their deaths. Dad was a dreamer of sorts, and continued to search that dream for a better place to live -- out of the flood plain.





Wabash Railroad depot at Sampsel

The home of Wilkie M. Owen and family is in the background.



The sounds of Sampsel that linger with me are easily brought to mind. I hear a Redwing Blackbird and I recall the tall cottonwood trees by the old high school building full of those birds every fall. They seemed to be thick on the branches and their song rang out over the whole town. I walked to school, cutting across between the Allnutt house and the old high school building, so it was hard to ignore them.
The old steam locomotives on the Wabash Railroad that ran through the whole northeast edge of Sampsel always sounded so lonely in the dead of night. I loved the sound of those trains and still thrill to the sights and sounds of steam locomotives when I can find one chugging along on a special excursion.

Charley Walker picked up the outgoing mail from the post office, across the road from the Wabash depot, and wheeled it over to the depot in a two-wheeled cart to dispatch out on one of the late night trains. One train went west to Omaha, another went east to St. Louis in the wee hours of the night. Those trains dropped bags of mail for the Sampsel post office and Charley would pick that up and wheel it to the store building to deposit in a drop box for the post office housed in the general store. Carriers would deliver this mail on their outgoing routes. Local mail was sorted and put into letter boxes for the residents of Sampsel. Our box was number 44. It was a combination box and I could recall the combination for several years, but now there seem to be more important things to recall!

Then we don't want to forget the smells of Sampsel. . .the winter smell of coal and wood burning in the stoves and ranges of each home. All of the garages smelled of motor oil and gasoline. The blacksmith shop had a fragrance all its own. Coals, heated to extreme temperatures on a forge that would heat a piece of steel and ready it for the strike of the smithy's hammer. Nemo Roberts was the smithy and blacksmithing was his love. He worked as a section hand for the Wabash Railroad during the day and plied his blacksmithing skills on evenings and weekends.

Spring brought gardening and the sweet smell of freshly turned soil being readied for the family garden. Onion sets and lettuce seed packets guaranteed that summer was out there somewhere. With summer came the hay season. . .hot days. . .thirst and sore muscles accompanied the hard work in the fields. Was a guy job, for sure!

By the time fall came, men were found cutting firewood for the family heating stove. Dad cut lots of wood along Lake Creek. He worked hard at that job. I watched him notch a tree, put the saw to the trunk and step back to watch it fall. He would trim the branches and cut the trunk into lengths he could haul to his home in Sampsel. He would then hire someone to come and saw it into firewood that he corded along the fence behind the garage.

Winter was a time for ice skating and sledding. Young people never minded the cold or the thoughts of frostbite. My first shoe skates were a gift to me from my Uncle Drury Wilson. Before that it was clamp-on skates that caused my ankles to be sore most all winter. We skated on Lake Creek, south of Sampsel, and sometimes on a lake at Cooley Gravel, east of Sampsel.

Christmas was special as Dad and I would go up to Leo Thompson's place and cut a cedar tree. They were sticky trees and decorating one could be very challenging. But it was such a wonderful time that one hardly noticed. We had an electric train that went around the base of the tree and along with the old glass ornaments, icicles and the one string of lights it made a delightful Christmas tree.





Women and Girls of the Sampsel Community

Front row l-r: Mrs. Ed (Clyta Nothnagle) Raulie, Mrs. Oscar (Clara Nothnagle) Minnick, Mrs. Jeff (Celia Johnson) Walker, Mrs. Harry (Nellie Roberts) Walker, Mrs. Dan (Rose Wilson) Walker.


Back row l-r: Cynthia Ream (daughter of Dale and Lois Ream), Mrs. Ed (Naomi Sexsmith) Lay, Claudia Ream (daughter of Dale and Lois) Ream.

This picture was taken in May 1970 at the Mt. Olive Methodist Church in Sampsel Township.
New Years Eve was celebrated with parties in relative's homes. One year, Uncle Russell and Aunt Peggy Wilson had the party. They served oyster soup to the gang of friends and relatives that gathered. After soup, celery and olives, we all went off to play cards or parlor games. I was introduced to "Spin the Bottle. " Have to admit, there were very few of us young ones to play that game and kissing someone less than desirable was a task! Besides, there were not enough older girls and guys who needed kissing, and who wanted to kiss a kid?

Happy days. . .those were in Sampsel, Missouri USA a long time ago.

Thanks to Linda Whorton Corona of Gladstone, Missouri for sharing the following images. These photos were taken in 1980.

Sampsel Store -- Back View


Sampsel Bank Building


Bill Trammel's House - Back


Billy Dick Walker's House


Former Grade School in Sampsel


Frances Keith's House


The Sampsel home of Everett "Nemo" Roberts and family


Nemo Roberts' Blacksmith Shop


Indian Creek -- All Dried Up


Lake Creek -- All Dried Up


Linda and Gary Whorton at Roberts' House on Lake Creek



Orval D. Roberts (1902 - 1979) in his Lake Creek home





The boy in the back is Arvan Reese III. His grandfather, Arvan Reese Sr., lived in Chillicothe. Grandfather married Ruth Reese and they had five children. Patty Jo Reece, Arvan Reese Jr., Garst Reese, James Robert Reese and Ruthann Reese. The elder Mr. Reese was also known as Colonel Reese because of his service in the U. S. Army during World War II. Colonel Reese made friends with Mr. Roberts.

The girl in the middle is Cheri Jo, a daughter of Patti Jo. Cheri now (2017) lives in Chillicothe with her husband Ed.

The girl sitting on the floor is Arvin III's sister Kathryn. She lives in Idaho where she is a pediatrician.

Orval Roberts had a lot of dogs. They slept on the bed with him. It was an old metal bed with a feather mattress.

During a visit with Mr. Roberts in 1976 he told us about how Lake Creek had flooded that Spring. He showed us a flood line on the wall of his house that was about four feet up. Another flood line, more faint, was about six feet up. That happened when the creek flooded in his childhood. During both floods, he took everything to the upper floor -- furniture, dogs and food.

Mr. Roberts would join my father and grandfather in whichever spirits they brought along for the visit.

I saw that house in the late 1980s. Mr. Roberts was gone, and there wasn't much left of the house, either. I liked him, liked the dogs and I miss that connection to the land of my father and grandfather. -- Arvan Reese III.





Owens House -- Across the Tracks






Railroad Tracks -- First Trestle


Railroad Tracks -- Second Trestle


Orval Roberts House on Lake Creek


Orval Roberts House on Lake Creek


Sampsel Railroad Sign



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