Early on July 1, 1890 a surprise birthday party was held in honor of Samuel Calvin McCullah's 52nd birthday. Relatives and friends came to his home, two miles west of Marionville, Mo., with well-filled baskets and many presents for the honoree. Among those present were Mr. & Mrs. James A. McCullah, Mr. & Mrs. Rufus Asbury McCullah, Dr. & Mrs. Wesley B. Wasson, J.D. Parks, James Wasson, and mother, William Francis McCullah & family, John A. McCullah and family, Mrs. Clara Allen, Mrs. Wesely Farris, Nellie Fulbright and family, Mr. Spangler and family, Mrs. W. P. Norman, J. Q. Hemphill and family, Mrs. A. J. Ragsdale and family, Mr. & Mrs. H. Smith, William Neill, Miss Simmons, J. H. Yoachum, Dr. J. A. Butler and family, Grandma Terry, James McCullah and John Short of Springfield. This was the first and beginning of the McCullah-Wasson Family Reunions.
The first reunions were a one day affair held at the homes of relatives, later extended to two or three days over a weekend, and finally to a week. After seventeen years of annual reunions, it was decided that a permanent place be selected for the reunion. A campsite was chosen on the old homestead of John and Caroline (McCullah) Wasson on the Finley River south of Nixa, MO. This campground, known as the Hawkins farm, is now owned by relatives of the original couple. A provision was made for it to be used for this purpose as long as the reunions are held. The time is the first Sunday to the second sunday in August each year. The first reunion encampment down in the Finley River was held in the year 1908. All families traveled by horse-drawn wagons and buggies or by horseback. For those who lived ten and twenty miles away, it took an entire day to reach the campsite. At that time, there wasn't a bridge so they all had to ford the Finley River. Each family took provisions to last the entire week. Chickens were transported in crates and then turned loose to roam the river banks. Milk, butter, eggs, home cured hams and bacon were plenty. When chickens were wanted for mealtime, the boys were told to catch them, which they did, as it was a sporting event. The milk, butter, and eggs were placed in a large square crate, the sides covered with a cloth and hung in a tree. Cool water was poured over the cloth to keep the contents cool and frest. Most families had tents in which to sleep and take shelter during rainstorms. Some of those who did not have tents, slept in their wagons or under them during rainy times.
A few years later the campsite was moved up the river about one hundred yards, where more level ground was available. Throughout the many years, several improvements have been made on the campground, which included a deep well and a covered pavilion with a fifty-foot table, floor, and a large grill for cooking. The pavilion was built in 1946 at a cost of $1,106.00.
The camp now owns refrigerators, stoves with ovens, cooking equipment, tableware and chairs. All of the camp owned equipment is stored in a small building, that was built on the farm of James and Mary Jane Pollard in 1975. After the method of cooling food items, by hanging them in the trees with a wet cloth over them, was abandoned, the pit method was used. A pit was dug, and the food along with a 300 lb. block of ice was placed in the pit and convered to hold in a compartment in the top of them and the food in the bottom. The men would have to go to Nixa every morning or two to bring down a new block of ice. Finally, some refrigerators were donated and purchased.
Meals, for many years, were prepared completely on the large grill at the west end of the pavilion. Finally some old stoves were acquired. Then in 1988, 3 new gas stoves were purchased along with a new propane tank. A near tragedy, occurred during the clean up at the end of camp 1987, prompted the purchase of the new stoves and tank. For many years the tableware consisted of tin plates and cups. Then paper plates were developed and used, and finally today, styrofoam plates and cups. The campground is lighted by electricity. For many years, the only lights in camp were in the pavilion and everyone used flashlights. Then, little by little everyone began to get lights in their tents and campers, putting a strain on the available power to the pavilion, which caused a lot of blown fuses. In 1985, new electric lines were run to the pavilion and new boxes and outlets were added to handle the additional use of the electricity. In 1988, ceiling fans were purchased, to provide air circulation and aid in keeping the flies off of the food. For many, many years old army tarpaulins have been hung along the outside edges of the pavilion, during rain storms, to keep out the wet.
The sleeping arrangements today are much the same as they were in early years, with families bringing their own tents, campers, and trailers. During the 1940's someone brought a large tent and many of the children slept in it. After that, there was a time many of the children slept in the pavilion on cots. Today as always, the meals are enjoyed by all together. A hired cook prepares the meat and a few side dishes, but the majority of the meal is provided by each family bringing a dish or two. All the meals are served in covered dish fashion. The drinks are also provided. Many family members have enjoyed bringing their favorite recipes and sharing them. In 1982, a cookbook was compiled of favorite recipes contributed by family members. It was published and sold, with the proceeds going toward the purchase of a new refrigerator.
Written By: Jane Staiger
Put a old family picture, maybe from the first family reunion.