Elizabeth Denny Sheek of Leesville, Missouri

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The following is an account of the life of Mother Sheek (Elizabeth Denny Sheek] , daughter of James T. and Caroline [ Briggs ] Denny, and wife of Isaac Sheek. This story appeared in The Clinton Democrat Eye in April, 1932. This basically is the story of her life but much is said about both she and Isaac. What life was like in her time, and events in and around Leesville Missouri, during the Civil war, and the shooting of Asa Higdon are all touched upon. Surnames include Sheek, Denny, Higdon, Briggs, Ashley, Randall, Evans, Putnam, Hall, Carlton, Moore, Green, Hopkins, McQueen.


Born in Henry County, Missouri, Eighty-Two Years Ago

Interested in schools, Politics, and faithful to her God, her church and her friends---

Her life reflects Christianity

Mother Sheek of the Shady Grove community in Leesville Township is one of Henry County's oldest Pioneers who is native born. Eighty two years ago Elizabeth Frances Denny was born to James and Caroline Denny. The ruins of her birthplace, an old log house built by her father nearly a century ago are still standing near the home of T.G. Ashley on the road to Tebo church. James Denny came to Missouri from Kentucky and Caroline Denny from South Carolina.

Mrs Sheek's mother died when she was seven years old. The father married a widow. Counting children, step children, half brothers and sisters there were 17 children in all.

There were no lamps, newspapers, stoves or carpets. The Denny father tanned leather and made shoes for his brood, even the pegs. The mother made clothing, bread, everything necessary to life, as there were no stores for years. The hickory wood ashes were saved in a great wooden hopper. Water was poured over this and the drippings were saved as lye to combine with grease and meat scraps for soap. For light they had some candles and wicks in pans of lard and of course the fire place.

Elizabeth Denny was next to the champion weaver in her community. She wove 4 3/4 yards of jeans in one day. Susan Wright, older and larger was first with five yards. She lived in the place known as the Bram McQueen farm. They walked to church at Tebo the night after the contest.

One Saturday afternoon Elizabeth Denny walked with other young folks to the Singing School at Tebo, conducted by Grandfather Jesse Sheek. She had on a pretty new green and white dress. New dresses were rare. She knew she was looking her best but was always modest. Isaac Sheek, the fine young union soldier took his place by her side and said by way of requesting her company, "I'm walking with the new dress." Though ten years her senior, Elizabeth was more than pleased with his attention and they were married.

The public school life of Elizabeth consisted of three weeks at a subscription school in a private house. With the aid of her McGuffy speller, she learned to spell and read at her churning or other household duties. Writing, she taught herself. When a stray news paper or a circus bill was found it was treasured and worn out by handling. Grandfather Jesse Sheek taught singing school at Tebo, and Elizabeth with all the young folks attended that. Twice has Mother Sheek read the Bible through. She reads the Bible, daily newspapers and good books daily.

Mrs Sheek was 11 years old when the civil war began. The Denny family was never hungry but always in fear during those dark years. Grandfather Denny and Sheek slept in the woods constantly, fearing to be caught at home by bushwhackers. One night a giant of a raider came to the Denny house and demanded supper and a bed. Mrs Denny complied with his request, then walked the woods until she found her men to warn them not to come in until the bad man was gone.

Once they feared robbery and the mother tied the little hoard of $170.00 in an old bonnet up in a small peach tree. In the night the cattle broke out and trod down the tree and scattered the money. However Elizabeth and her brothers and sisters hunted until they found the last dollar of it.

A union man (Ace Higdon) living where Uncle Daniel Briggs now resides was killed on his way to Leesville and his stallion stolen. In retaliation, union troopers killed four of his confederate neighbors. Putnam, Evans and Hall were shot at sunrise at the place where Garland McQueen now lives. A fourth, Randall was shot on his horse which carried him home to die on his own doorstep. The Denny Children heard the shots and cries from their home. They helped prepare the bodies for burial. Mother Sheek shakes her head sadly for both sides and says without bitterness "They ought not to have done it."

When six bushwhackers surrounded the Denny home, the old father gathered his children in a circle around him and prepared to die. One man knew Mr. Denny and said, "you shall not be harmed, we only want your gun." They took it and one more family was left defenseless.

Isaac W. Sheek joined the Union army at the age of 20. After the war he returned to his father's farm and gained a reputation for honesty and industry. On August 8, 1870, he took the girl of his choice on horseback to his father's home where a Baptist preacher, Rev. James Briggs united them in marriage. The girl, Elizabeth Denny wore a long, brown worsted skirt and a white waist. She was tall, slender and pretty.

The first Isaac Sheek home was where Daniel Briggs now lives. Later they kept store in Leesville many years. They next moved to their home near Shady Grove where their home and little store building still stands. Here Isaac Sheek died after years of suffering.

The children of Isaac and Elizabeth Sheek were Morris and Eddie, deceased in young manhood; two infants deceased; Allie and Robert of nearby farms; Mrs Minnie Carlton of Sedalia and William and Laura of the home. There are 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild. Of the Denny family there survives a brother, Dan Denny, of Arkansas; one sister, Mrs R. C. Moore of Garnett, Kans.; three half sisters, Laura Higdon, Tulsa, Okla.; Talitha Green, Montana, and Nora Hopkins, near Leesville.

Their golden wedding was celebrated very quietly on account of Mr. Sheek's poor health. Isaac Sheek died October 5, 1920.

Erect and serene she goes about the daily work in her son William's pleasant home. None can outdo Mother Sheek and Laura in Hospitality. Even when in severe pain, Mrs. Sheek will think of the comfort of those helping her and will tell a relative not to leave until she is able to talk with him

For her daughter, Laura, she has just pieced an intricate Cottage Tulip quilt.

Loyal in politics, interested in good schools, faithful to God and her church, a good neighbor, she can truly say she has no enemy.

When asked for advice for the present generation she said, "Live a good Christian life, do all the good you can, love everybody and be ready to meet Jesus face to face any day.

It is the custom of the Sheek tribe to gather in the William Sheek home to be with Mother Sheek holidays, her birthday and Sundays after church. The members of this family reflect the character and training of their mother and forbearers. The first generation of Sheeks, Dennys and Briggs in Leesville Township were charter members of the Tebo Baptist church.

**Written by Mrs. L. I. Mickey, friend and neighbor of Mother Sheek.

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