• Dennis McCaslin

Stone Gardens: The Legend of John "Slowtrap" Meyers -1801-1855

In a remote location inside a 50'x51' fenced -in area on a National Forest Service Road just off County Road 307 in Mountain Township in rural Yell County lies the final resting place of three individuals who lived and died in a simpler time.

Buried within the perimeters of this forgotten Stone Garden are two individuals who--other than their names, date of birth and date of death--have basically been lost to history.

Stephen Abbott (1845-1919) and Matilda Martin McMullen (1806-1882) by happenstance are both buried along side the NFS road that cuts through the canopy of trees that cover the dirt logging road an=bo9ty two and a miles northeast of Havana.

The third, a noted frontiersman, who lived in a cabin with his family near the Fourche

le Fave River, a few miles South of the village of Rover about 27 miles to the south of his final resting place would probably have suffered the same inglorious fate if not for the writings of a a German traveler, hunter and accidental and novelist..

Friedrich Gerstäcker

In 1837, at the age of 20, Friedrich Gerstäcker, inspired by the tales of Robinson Crusoe and with a taste for adventure, went to America and wandered over a large part of the United States, supporting himself by whatever work came to hand.

He became fireman on a steamboat, deck hand, farmer, silversmith, and merchant. After wandering through most of the then recognized United States, spending some time as a hunter and trapper in the Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, returned to Germany six adventurous years later in 1843.

To his great surprise, he found himself famous as an author when he arrived back in der Rhineland. His mother had shown his diary, which he regularly sent home, and which contained descriptions of his adventures in the New World, to the editor of the Rosen, who published them in that periodical. These sketches having found favor with the public, Gerstäcker then issued them in book form 1854 under the title "Wild Sports in the Far West."

One of the numerous frontiersmen he encountered along the way was hardy mountain man he identified as "Slowtrap", a North Carolina-born woodsman who had found himself transplanted into the Arkansas River Valley, While Gerstäcker had lived with a German family along the Fource Le Fave as early as 1839 and was previously acquainted with "Slowtrap, most of the the mentions of this backwoods pioneer were from portions of the book written detailing adventures in 1941 and beyond.

It has been historically proven that "Slowtrap" was, in fact, John England Myers, who would have been approximately 40 year sold at the time of their interactions. Myers was the son-in-law of another prominent character in Gerstäcker's tome. a man by the name of John McKinney.

McKinney had been born in 1981 in the vicinity of Tom's Creek in Surry, County, North Carolina. More is known about his early life than is known about the life of Myers, who apparently was married to Jane Kendrick McKinney and migrated west as the entire McKinney/Myers clan took a circuitous route through Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri before finally settling in the wilds of Arkansas.

Daniel Boone

For what it's worth. McKinney (and by association "Slowtrap" Myers) lived a cutting edge life that included " the theft of their horses by Indians, the death of a brother and uncle, and the killing of three Indians whose bodies were left to wolves their murdered relative's grave." the men are said to have fought Indians alongside Daniel Boone during their time in Kentucky.

In Gerstäcker's 1854 book he described his first significant encounter with Myers as such:

"He was an old backwoodsman who showed so much kindness and good feeling that I became quite attached to him. My old friend cut a glorious figure as he rode beside me. He was about six feet high and large boned as a fine figure would allow. A pair of thoroughly honest eyes look out of a good humored, weather beaten face, and were in constant motion, giving a great animation to the massive figure." Nobody had ever seen him laugh, but those who are well acquainted with him say, that a little widening twitch of the mouth and a slight closing of the corner of the left eye, are certain evidence of good humor; neither had anybody ever seen him go faster than at a quick walk – he seemed to consider it beneath his dignity to run.

A well worn black coast, with large pockets and flaps, was thrown over his shoulders and notwithstanding the rough weather his legs were cased in a pair of thin, light colored trousers, which rumpled up high enough to show a muscular calf above a short sock; a pair of shoes of his own making covered his feet; while a hat of any shape but the original, and that had been black, covered his head."

At the time that Gerstäcker actually lived with the Myers family, they had three children; a boy aged ten, a girl aged four and an infant son. According to the writer Myers showed a "distant reserve" for his wife and children, which he described by saying one time after they had been gone on a three week hunt returning to the homestead and greeting his family with a mere" "how do you do, all of you?" but not until the horse had been unsaddled and bedded down.

Myers relegated Gerstäcker with tales of his time in Kentucky saying "it was at that time a wilderness, when my father, my uncle, and myself arrived near the dwelling of Daniel Boone, to look about for a spot that would suit us; for Carolina, where we then lived, began to be populous, and a man, who wanted to shoot a turkey or partridge was tired before he had walked half an hour, from the fences he was obliged to climb over."

Gerstäcker wrote almost two chapters detailing the interactions with Myers, McKinney and the other citizens of Yell County, including tails of forays deeper into the Ozark Mountains for spirited bear hunts and other adventures, but most information about both men and their offspring seems to have lived, and died, in history when the German adventurer pulled up stakes and went to Louisiana before returning home in 1843.

"Slowtrap" died in 1855 and may or may not have been buried near where other family members eventually were laid to rest, but as far as history goes, Stephen Abbott and Matilda Martin McMullen are his nearest neighbors in repose in the quiet countryside 0f Yell County.

There is no record of the final resting places for his wife, children or father.

But on a lonely road that few people travel in the wilds of the Natural State, a comepelling part of local folklore remains alive.

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