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  David Franklin McPherson was the quentessential American pioneer. He was my great-grandfather and a kinder man never lived. His temperament was passed down to his namesake, my Dad, whom he never knew. david2.jpg (11200 bytes)

     Born in Loudoun County, Virginia, on Dec. 8, 1822, he went to Ohio with his parents where he was raised in Knox County. There he married and took his wife to start a family in the rugged timber country of central Michigan.

    Twenty years later, he decided to homestead in Missouri. Always looking West, David turned next to Kansas where the family came of age in 1878.

     His son wrote that David never made very much money but was an excellent father to his eight children. And David and Sarah also raised two grandchildren who remembered them as "saintly" people. David was the oldest of four sons and eight daughters born to Quaker parents, Stephen and Mary Brown McPherson. All of his siblings stayed in Michigan.

     In about 1826, when David was about 4 years old, his home was leveled by a tornado. This was along Goose Creek in Loudoun County, VA. His mother and two older sisters were home when the storm hit about 2 o'clock in the morning. An account of the storm and the McPhersons' experience was recounted in a newspaper published in the small town near their home. The roof came crashing down through the attic, spilling barrels of goods to the outside.

     Mary was in bed with her children. David was asleep on the end of the bed. One large beam missed his head by inches. No one in the family was harmed. A hired hand (or slave) had been sleeping in the attic. He was tossed outside with a broken leg. Stephen had been away on a hunting trip. He arrived home to find his house in shambles. Devout Quakers as they were, they knelt and gave thanks to the Lord for saving them.

     The newspaper account noted that there were two barrels of supplies in the attic when the storm hit. The barrel of vinegar was untouched, but a barrel of whisky was drained dry!

     A year later, the McPhersons drove a wagon over the mountains into the new territory called Ohio, which had become a state in 1803. They rented land in Knox County. When David was eight years old, he was felling a tree for firewood. Somehow he got his right foot caught between two trees growing close together. He screamed for his father, who came with an ax and chopped down one of the trees. The tree had cut deeply into the lad's heel, causing a huge gash that took weeks to heal. Back then there were no miracle drugs and few doctors. The injury healed but the boy walked with a limp. He grew to become a man about 5-foot-7 inches tall. He was not heavy-set, but strong and sinewy. Before his marriage, David and his father were teamsters driving heavy wagons over the roads into Pennsylvania and Virginia. David had many a trip over the mountains. He told of harrowing experiences, but he was never in an accident.

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   Something David acquired before his marriage was a large cherrywood chest put together with pegs. It was a handsome piece of furniture, which the family carried with them in all their moves. It was a dresser, then later on the Kansas prairie, as a receptacle for letters. This dresser is still with the McPherson Family and it will be passed down to the next living heir. When it was handed down to me, my father was said to have slept in one of the drawers!

     David met Sarah Silence Scribner near Fredericktown in Knox County. Sarah was visiting one of her sisters who lived in nearly Morrow County. They may have met at church or a social. David had switched to the Methodist church. Sarah was a Baptist. They married on Jan. 10, 1847. Shortly after, they decided to follow Stephen's family to Clinton County, MI, where the land was $5 an acre. Carving out a living in the woods caused personal losses. First came the death of David's father at age 53, when he became ill after catching pneumonia while building a grist mill. Later,David and Sarah lost their oldest child, Clotilda, 19, to polio.This was just before the family moved to Missouri.

     David's mother lost all of her possessions again in a fire that destroyed her home about 1862. She had sent two sons to the Civil War, one of whom died in Washington,of disease at age 21. The other son was a prisoner of war, came home a hero, then disappeared.

     David and Sarah raised eight children in Michigan. David owned a timber farm and two crop-raising farms before he decided to take a chance on Missouri. It was 1868 when the McPhersons took off by railroad to Chariton County, MO. David never was able to stay at any one situation very long. Like men of his day, he was a skilled horseman, woodsman, farmer and carpenter. He bought and sold land, traded for properties, bought boarding houses, always looking for something better.

     Finally, 10 years later, the McPhersons wound up in Cowley County, Kansas. He farmed for awhile, then became a postmaster until the railroad missed Wilmot. The family was always shifting around. In 1887, tragedy struck when daughter Mary Louise McPherson Heineken died in childbirth with her third offspring. She left two young daughters to her husband, who died later in the year of typhoid fever. David and Sarah adopted their grandchildren and raised them. Years later, Pearl Heineken Hamilton wrote me that her grandparents added them to their brood and never complained. The two girls were 4 and 2 when their parents died. Lafe McPherson recalled that David and Sarah did whatever the young girls wanted, like moving to a bigger town so they could receive "good schooling." Or be close to their friends.

     In 1899, Lafe noted that his father had grown weak of body and that his right foot had commenced to bleed where he had hurt it as a boy. Gangrene set in and in those days there was no cure for that. The boy who survived in the tornado in 1826 and almost lost his foot in 1830 on the Ohio frontier, succumbed as a man of 76 to complications from that old injury.