Dan Shipman Howell County Pioneer Minister

Among the stellar pioneers of Howell County, Daniel George Shipman shines at the top of the list. The Reverend "Uncle Dan" was spoken of with admiration and reverence a half-century after his death here and in several communities of Southeast Missouri. Though he died in 1926, the Missouri Secretary of State planted a tulip poplar tree in his honor in 1940 in the Hutton Valley Cemetery in Howell County.
As often is the case of great men, more than one community claims their nativity. Because of his life's work and relationship with a myriad of people, he was claimed by the citizens of Butler, Wayne, and Howell County, Missouri.
Born in a log cabin in what is today Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Dan Shipman was celebrated as a baby, the first white child born there, in a hunter's camp on October 28, 1832. Native Americans still lived nearby and traded with the white newcomers, and the country surrounding was a trackless wilderness.
Dan's parents came to Southeast Missouri around the War of 1812, and during the latter part of the great New Madrid Earthquakes still shaking the region. Dan grew to manhood, living an authentic pioneer experience among elk, bear, mountain lions, and wolves. He was baptized in 1853, at the age of twenty, in the Black River. His conversion defined the remainder of his long life.
According to the West Plains Journal Gazette, "In 1855, Mr. Shipman moved to Howell County (Then still Oregon County-Howell County was created two years later) and located near Hutton Valley. In September 1861, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and preached to the people of several counties. He often rode fifty miles on his horse with his Bible in his saddlebags to fill an appointment for a neighboring congregation."
"Reverend Shipman had the distinction of serving on the first grand jury in Howell County in 1858. He came from Hutton Valley to West Plains and boarded with Josiah Howell. The court was held in a log schoolhouse."
In 1859 he purchased 160 acres from the United States government land office in Ironton by cash entry. His farm was located west of today's community of Trask, south of Highway 60. His brother Issac owned an equivalent amount of land two miles to the east on the other side of Trask. Dan would later relocate and homestead another 160 acres near the Lost Camp community in 1894.
Shipman was a charter member of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Hutton Valley, Howell County's oldest church organized in June 1857, still meeting today. Dan hewed the logs for the building. Upon his ordination as a minister at Mount Pisgah, he became the first minister to be ordained in Howell County. Next to the Hutton Valley Cemetery, the original church was burned in the Civil War strife of March 1863, and the congregation scattered until the war's end.
The Journal Gazette reported in Shipman's obituary some of his experiences during the Civil War, writing, "Several times Reverend Shipman was taken prisoner and brought to West Plains. There was a large blockhouse at that time built of logs near the town spring. It was used as a fort and was the headquarters of Colonel Livingston, who commanded a regiment of Nebraska Cavalry stationed here at that time. Reverend Shipman always convinced the commanding officer that he was a peaceful citizen engaged in preaching the Gospel and always secured his release."
"During the second year of the Civil War, Reverend Shipman went to Springfield to get Eph Buford, brother of M.J. Buford. Eph had joined the army and became sick. His father wanted Eph back home and sent Reverend Shipman after him. Riding one horse and leading another for Eph, Reverend Shipman made the 125-mile journey through a country filled with the armies of both contending forces and countless numbers of bushwhackers. He had many thrilling adventures and finally reached Springfield to learn that Eph had recovered and was on his way to his home in Howell County. Reverend Shipman rode back home, leading the other horse riderless all the way."
"In 1864, he was taken prisoner near his home by Federal troops. They didn't know him, didn't care who he was. He was taken to Rolla with some other prisoners, being forced to walk the entire distance of 70 miles. At that time, his family was making their home in Shannon County with relatives. To the commander of the post at Rolla, Reverend Shipman said he was a harmless Baptist preacher. He explained that one party of Federal soldiers going one way would pass through the country, and the next time a lot of rebel soldiers would come along going the other way, and it got so he didn't know which way to jump."
"The General was kind to Reverend Shipman. He said he wanted to help him. So he gave the minister a pass through the lines to Illinois, where his brother-in-law lived. Reverend Shipman sent for his wife and children. They put their belongings in an old wagon drawn by a span of oxen and drove to Rolla. Here the oxen and wagon were sold, and Mrs. Shipman and children took the train for Illinois."
In 1865 Dan Shipman became a Master Mason.
According to friend and neighbor Ella Lilly Horak, Dan stayed with his family in Illinois until the war was over. There, his only daughter died, and Horak also wrote, "He used to tell us how beautifully she could sing. Uncle Dan returned to Howell County in the 1870s. He went to his homestead about three miles east of Hutton Valley and started anew. He told how he and Mrs. Shipman spent the first winter in a pole shed for shelter. The shed had three sides, and the front was open where a fire was kept burning to frighten wild animals away and for cooking food. He built a good log cabin of hand-hewn logs that winter. The cabin had one small window and an attic room. In later years a lean-to room was built on to make a kitchen. The kitchen was heated with a Franklin wood-burning heating stove instead of the traditional fireplace of most pioneer homes."
"The exposure of the first winter was too much for his frail wife. She died in 1888, leaving Dan with two mentally disabled children. He could not care for them, and he had to place them in the home then called the 'Poor Farm' east of West Plains. How long they lived, we do not know, and they were buried on the farm home."
Only one of Dan's children survived into adulthood. Son George came to live with him at the homestead home. An additional cabin was built that was used as a kitchen. There George and his wife raised a family of their own. George took his family to Colorado at the turn of the twentieth century. Dan went along but soon returned to Missouri and took up residence in the region of his childhood in Southeast Missouri. 
Throughout these sojourns, Shipman continued to preach the Gospel and focused on planting Missionary Baptist churches upon his return to Missouri. He regularly returned as a guest of honor to preach at Howell County churches and attend regional Baptist conventions. His funds were meager, having never recovered from the losses of the war and tragedies of loss. Dan Shipman went legally blind in 1915 but did not slow down. Friends accompanied him on horseback or automobile to preaching appointments.|
He took a stand in support of women's suffrage in 1916, speaking on behalf of the cause in a public debate held at Poplar Bluff before a hostile crowd. The Poplar Bluff Republican wrote, "'Uncle' Dan Shipman, a beloved old man of 84, has a heart as big as all outdoors and a mind of his own which was for the women's rights at the polls. If he lived 84 years longer, he would see the women vote, then referred to what he had seen in Colorado where women have equal privileges, illustrating with a story of how one man drove a party of women 30 miles so they might exercise their privilege to vote for new and better schools. The idea of good women staying at home was unthinkable to him, as God recognizes her as well as man. He once had the honor of voting for one woman as commissioner of schools in Howell County and never was sorry for it. 'I am for woman suffrage first, last and all the time.'" Though the debate judges voted in favor of the opposite position, Shipman was unfazed.
In 1919 he was interviewed by the West Plains Journal Gazette about his early days traveling the wilds of Howell County. He said, "I never killed a bear, but I ran across many in the woods when I first began preaching in this country. The bears, especially young cubs, frequently would cross the narrow trails that passed through forests and connected the settlements of the county. 'See that finger?' and Reverend Shipman held up the first finger on his right hand. Hunters call it the trigger finger. Well, a bear did that many years ago. During the war, Jack Thomas, the greatest bear hunter the Ozarks ever knew, lived near Mountain View. He asked me to go to Houston with him in a wagon drawn by two oxen. Jack took with him a young pet bear, fastened to the wagon box with a chain. Every once in a while, the bear would jump out of the wagon while we were traveling, and after being dragged along the road at the end of the chain, he was glad to get back in the box again. One day I went to fooling with the bear and was petting him, and I thought he wanted to lick my finger, and it is crooked and drawn up to this day."
In 1925 author of  History of Butler County, Bruce Deems, interviewed Shipman for his biography. He wrote, "Just to preach the Gospel was his life-work. He is now too old for active work but never neglects to exhort the sinners to repentance. He is very bright and intelligent for a man of his advanced years. Sitting on the porch of another old pioneer, this venerable old preacher and pioneer, long past ninety years of age, related the manners and customs of the early pioneer days. His eyes kindled with the fires of long ago when relating his experiences. Quaintly he related how he had been called to preach to a congregation thirty miles from his home. How for twenty-two months he regularly served them as their minister, traveling as he estimated it, 1,700 miles during the time. He baptized into the Church 22 converts and received a grand total compensation of twenty-two dollars. But no complaint fell from his lips, as his was a service of love. He is an optimist and views the new order and conditions hopefully. He does not regard the new conditions as bad but thinks this generation should be thankful for the many comforts of civilization, which were denied the people of the early day."
In September 1925, Dan was reported to be 'capering' about town where he "called on T.L. Moore and purchased his monument, which is being lettered and will be shipped out to Hutton Valley for erection. Uncle Dan will go there next week and personally supervise the erection of the stone where he expects to be buried. Uncle Dan says he wants to get his affairs straightened up so they will not cause his friends or relatives any trouble after he dies. 'There is one thing I want to do before I die,' he said. 'and that is to ride in an airplane. I hope to ride in one here during the fair and set a record for youngsters of my age" Accounts differ. Ella Horak wrote that the plane to give him a ride did not show up, but the Mountain View Standard reported he took one. I hope so.
Five years earlier, Shipman had heard that he was being reported dead. He told the local papers, "I doubted it very much. In fact, I knew it was a mistake as soon as I heard it."
Dan did pass into eternity peacefully in his bed in the town of his birth on March 17, 1926. Services were held in Poplar Bluff, and his body was shipped to Hutton Valley, where he was interred in the Hutton Valley Cemetery following graveside services. He rests by the side of his wife, Zilpha. It appears to me the original monument Dan bought before his death is not the one in the Hutton Valley Cemetery today. Perhaps the 1926 monument was damaged and replaced by one made of pink marble, and the tulip poplar tree planted in his memory in 1940 is no longer there. Yet the memory of Daniel G. Shipman remains.
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