Howell County Pioneer Newt Bond
Thu, 06/16/2022 - 3:37pm admin
Associated with much of the early history and development of Howell County, the surname Bond isn't as well known as some others of the period. In fact, the Bond name to me more elicits a location in West Plains rather than a person. Some important historical events happened in the Bond Block, located on Washington Avenue on the east side of the street.
In 1926 West Plains experienced its first plane crash into the southern half of the Bond Building, also known as the West Plains or Renfrow Transfer Company. Two barnstorming pilots were performing in town when a resident talked them into taking him for a ride. Shortly after they were airborne, the rudder cable on the Curtis biplane broke, sending the plane plummeting and through the roof of the Bond Building (later Butler Furniture), where it hung in the rafters. The pilot and his passenger suffered minor injuries.
On Friday the 13th, 1928, the town of West Plains suffered its greatest catastrophe when an enormous explosion below lifted the second floor of the Bond Hall, the upper floor of what was then known as the Ward Building. The room's occupants were thrown in the air, and the building collapsed, trapping over fifty people who had moments before been dancing, trapping them in burning debris.
So the Bond Block, Bond Building, and Bond Hall are well known in local lore, but the man who built them, not so much. William Newton "Newt" Bond doesn't seem to have generated as much attention as some other pioneers of the early settlement period. My knowledge of him first came during research during the edit of William Monks' book, "A History of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas." There Monks included Newton Bond among "the names of some of the loyal men who resided in Howell County in 1861, at the commencement of the Civil War, who stood for the Union in the dark hours when patriotism and loyalty to the country were tested."
The most information in print I have found attesting to Newton Bond's life was in his obituary when he died almost one hundred years ago this coming week. The Howell County Gazette and editor Will Zorn memorialized him as such: "Newton Bond, one of the oldest residents of Howell County, died at his home in West Plains Saturday morning (June 17, 1922) from lung trouble, with which he had been afflicted for a number of years. He was 87 years old and had resided in Howell County for 64 years.
"'Uncle Newt' Bond was born in Morgan County in 1835 and, when 23 years old, moved to Howell County. He came here with a yoke of oxen and, the first year, worked on clearing with his oxen and, in the fall, gathered corn. The next year he located on a farm on South Fork ten miles southwest of West Plains. This farm was in the valley, and after Mr. Bond cleared up the land and put it in crops and grass, it became one of the best farms in Howell County. The old house where Mr. Bond resided for many years still stands, a mute testimonial to his energy and enterprise in building up the county."
Bond was wildly successful in farming. When the 1860 census taker came to his door, he found Newt possessing a ninety-acre farm with thirty acres in cultivation. He owned two horses, a cow, and four working oxen. He had seven sheep and seventeen hogs, and his small farm was typical of those operating under pre-war conditions. His land and livestock holdings would significantly increase in the years to come. On the census sheet, we find neighbors who joined the rebellion early and immediately persecuted their former friends if they supported the Union. Newton and his family were forced to leave.
The Gazette article continues, "When the Civil War broke out, Mr. Bond left the country and went to Rolla, the nearest Union military post. The Confederate sympathizers were in the majority here at that time, and orders had been given to every man of fighting age to come in and enlist, leave the country, or hang from a limb. Mr. Bond left. One of his brothers, Riley Bond, joined the Union Army."
I could find no record of Newton Bond serving during the Civil War. He was likely utilized at Rolla as a teamster or found employment for the Army during his time there. He was twenty-six years old when the war started.
"After the war was over, Mr. Bond came back. He disposed of his farm on South Fork and located on Gunter's Valley. Here he had a big farm that produced bounteous crops. He engaged extensively in the livestock business and acquired a small fortune. Later he bought the Blackman Thomas farm adjoining West Plains on the northeast, which was 600 acres of the finest valley land. He retired from the farm and moved to town, residing here since that time."
"Mr. Bond constructed the large Bond Block on the east side of Washington Avenue. Financial reverses cause him to lose much of his wealth, but he still owned the Washington Avenue property at the time of his death."
Newton was married to Lietta "Letty" Gumm in 1858 when he arrived here. They had six children. Letty passed away in 1907, and she and Newt are buried in the Oak Lawn Cemetery in West Plains.
Following Newton's death, his grandson William H. Bond challenged his will. A suit was filed in Howell County, and the venue changed to Ozark County. The case drug on through the appellate levels until it finally landed in the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the terms of the original will.