Sunday, April 20, 2008

Daniel Alexander Sreaves

by Rocky Macy

This piece was written for my newspaper genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, to commerate the 100th anniversary of my grandfather, Dan Sreaves. It has now been nearly 120 years since his birth. Of Dan's seven children, only my Uncle Floyd is still with us.

This week's column is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Dan SREAVES, one of the finest people I've ever known. Special thanks are extended to three of his children (Ruth MARBLE, Christine DOBBS, and Floyd SREAVES) for sharing their memories and reflections about Granddad.

Daniel Alexander SREAVES: 28 Oct 1888 - 29 Sep 1970

The Ozarks were ablaze in their flaming fall glory, much as they are today. Grover CLEVELAND was in the White House, but within a couple of weeks he would be defeated for reelection by Benjamin HARRISON. Folks in the cities were discussing the tariff and the huge U.S. Treasury surplus of cash, while their country cousins were more concerned with practical matters, like whether to expect a repeat of the past winter's awful blizzard.

It was near Huntsville, Arkansas, a century ago this week that Alex and Mary Jane SREAVES welcomed their first child into the world. The boy, Dan, would spend twelve years in the hills of Madison County playing, going to school, working on the farm, and developing the self-reliance and strong characted needed to stand him well over the rough trails of life.

Family legend has it that Alex SREAVES had a violent argument with an unstable neighbor in 1901. Whatever the case, Alex did gather his family into two covered wagons and head for Missouri that year. Mary Jane's brother, Tommy ELLIS, drove the second wagon. The small group of adventurers walked, rode, and camped out for three days and nights enroute to their new home in Anderson, Missouri. Before long, however, the family again pulled up stakes and went to an area between Goodman and Seneca, MO, known as Swars Prairie. It was on this prairie that Dan SREAVES spent most of the rest of his life.

Dan married Nancy Jane "Sis" ROARK on 13 March 1912 in McDonald County. This union brought forth seven children: Harold Dean, Mary Ruth (Mrs. Fred MARBLE), Ned Roark (married Gwendolyn WALLACE), Ruby Florine (Mrs. Garland MACY), Virgie Christine (Mrs. A.G. "Bob" DOBBS), Betty Lou (Mrs. Dalton MACY), and Floyd Edgar (married Shirley MEANS). Dan and Sis also raised her nephew, Ivan ROARK.

The SREAVES family attended church and Sunday School regularly. Dan always tithed, even during times when it seem as though the money just wasn't there, and for years he was instrumental in providing the necessary financial support to keep the doors open at the small Swars Prairie Methodist Church. (My mother, Florine, told me on several occasions that there were so many SREAVES in that small church that the hymn Bringing in the Sheeves would often be sung as Bringing in the SREAVES!) Throughout his life, Dan sought counsel in the Bible before making important decisions.

Dan SREAVES was a farmer, and at times he supplemented the modest farm income by hauling milk and driving a school bus. He and his brother, Jess, were also sorghum producers. Dan had a special filtration process that used local red clay to ultimately render a clear, bitterless sorghum. He would load the sorghum into his old Model-T Ford and take it to stores in Joplin and the surrounding area. People always knew that the SREAVES name of sorghum meant quality.

The devotion that Dan SREAVES had toward his wife never wavered. Sis died in 1953, leaving her husband to endure a period of grief and loneliness. But Dan was not destined to live out the remainder of his life in solitude. He eventually married a widow, Martha THOMPSON ROARK, who had been his childhood sweetheart. There are still people in Seneca who remember Dan pushing Martha down the street in a wheelbarrow on their wedding day!

Dan SREAVES made two significant pilgrimages during his later years. Both were life-long dreams. In the early 1960s his daughter, Christine, and her family took him back to Huntsville. It was the only time that he ever returned to his birthplace. After much searching he found his old schoolhouse well hidden in an overgrowth of Arkansas brambles. The little building was being used to store hay. He also was able to locate a childhood friend while on this trip. Dan and his buddy from yesteryear visited in the man's yard until well after dark.

The other important trek was to California. During hard times the family would often say, perhaps only half-jokingly, that they might just sell out and move to California. They never made the move, but in the summer of 1970 Dan, Martha, and his granddaughter, Sharon SREAVES, did fly to Los Angeles to visit his daughter, Ruth, and her family. And what a wonderful time they had! Dan kicked off his shoes to wade in the Pacific Ocean, and he even rode the rides at Disneyland!

Dan SREAVES passed away quietly just a few weeks after returning from the west coast. The crowd that gathered at the little church on Swars Prairie for the services was so immense that loudspeakers had to be set up outside for the ones who were unable to find seating inside. With the same minister who had buried Sis officiating, and grandsons serving as pallbearers, the funeral was a fond and emotional farewell to a wonderful man. It was as if the many kindnesses that Dan had shown to others throughout his lifetime had been summoned forth as mourners.

The SREAVES name still meant quality!

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