Monday, July 26, 2010

Studying The Irish Wilderness

The deep of summer is proving to be great reading time just like the heart of winter is in January. However, even with reading for a few hours daily, I can’t get through all the stacks of great reads waiting for me. Wins from Donna’s blog ( contributed to my stack. I just finished a mystery, Without Mercy by Lisa Jackson, that I won there a couple of months ago. Mysteries are not my usual reading material only because too many other things come first. But I enjoyed reading this one, a nice change of pace with a snowy setting in the Pacific Northwest. I have also been working through a story a day in The 2005 Cuivre Anthology that I also won from Donna’s site. Fantastic little stories here…and so many great Missouri writers are among the writers showcased in the pages.

Always looking for the unusual and wanting to support local writers, I ordered Mystery of the Irish Wilderness by Leland and Crystal Payton. We have passed the Irish Wilderness turn off a few times on our way to Cape Girardeau, and DH has done a two day fishing trip years ago on the Eleven Point River that he would love to repeat. I had heard that Irish folks disappeared from that area in the 1860s, and the whole area seemed sinister to me when I passed by; I never felt the urge to venture down the road at the turn off. So I was glad to finally get a book that might unravel mysteries of this region.

In the mid 1800’s, Father John Joseph Hogan helped the poor Irish immigrants find a place to land in Missouri. They were escaping Ireland’s famine, but the people were unable to find work here. Father Hogan thought if they had farm ground, they could provide for themselves from the earth. Land in the northern parts of Missouri were too expensive so Father Hogan found land in the heavily wood areas of southern Missouri near the Current and Eleven Point rivers. The settlers had not been there long before the Civil War erupted. Anti-Catholic feelings, bushwhackers, and armies on the move caused most of the Irish settlers to disappear from the area. The myths and mysteries as to what happened to the Irish people and where they disappeared to created many questions about the Irish Wilderness.

While the Payton book does not answer all the questions about the Irish Wilderness, it is a good overview of the times when Missouri was being settled and when the state was an arena of war battles. The book does have many details about Father Hogan and how he helped the Irish come to colonize the area. There are also many good pictures of beautiful Ozark land, and later chapters detail how the Irish Wilderness was set aside for preservation, a 16,500 acre tract in the Mark Twain National Forrest.

Leland and Crystal Payton are from Springfield, Missouri and are owners of Lens and Pens Press, publishers of materials about the Ozarks and the Midwest regions. Readers can visit them at

1 comment:

Linda O'Connell said...

I too have a stack of books. Just got Anne Lamott's, Grace Eventually and am also about a quarter way through Without Mercy. I'm glad you didn't give any of the plot away as I was reading your post. I should read the Irish book as my husband is Irish. Hope you're staying cool.