Taney County’s Bagley Cabin was built in the late 1800s.
CEDARCREEK – Family long called the Bagley Cabin home. Nowadays, the 1800s abode calls them home instead.
On Saturday, around 30 Bagley descendants made a trek to the Taney County family homestead in the form of a family reunion. For many of the visitors, it was the first time they’d crossed the creaky floorboards where their ancestors reared 19 children.
“This is the biggest family group we know of coming here,” says Vince Moss, great-grandson of the cabin’s builders. “A lot of these people didn’t know this existed (a few years ago).”
It was a discovery made after a conversation with a recently-found family member, who mentioned the cabin while getting acquainted.
“We were like, ‘What cabin?'” recalls Moss, who hails from Texas. “She’s like, ‘The one on the album!'”
Yes, the album. Because while the cabin is connected to the Bagley family, it’s also known to others through the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
In the 1970s, the Ozarks-based rock group introduced thousands to the hidden hideaway when it graced the cover of “It’ll Shine When It Shines.” Single “Jackie Blue” spent 21 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, and peaked at number 3.
It meant that the world likely saw the cabin every time they placed the record on a turntable.
Even though Daredevils sang in the background during Saturday’s gathering via recording, the cabin’s famous connection wasn’t necessarily why family members were there. For them, it was simply visiting an old — yet new — piece of their story.
The cabin’s story
Allen and Sarah Bagley with some of their youngest children. (Courtesy of Freddie Lewis)
The tiny, tree-concealed hideaway goes back to the late 1800s. It was built by Allen and Sarah Bagley, who both were transplants to the Missouri Ozarks.
Allen Bagley grew up in Arkansas, and it’s thought he may have moved north to keep out of the Civil War after a brother was killed in battle. His future wife moved to Arkansas from Texas — which, at the time, was its own republic.
The couple met in Texas in their young years while Allen was working on a horse ranch owned by Sarah’s family. After her move to Arkansas, they eventually made the Missouri Ozarks their home.
Records show that the a patent for the land was granted by the General Land Office on Aug. 10, 1888 to Allen Bagley and “his heirs and assigns forever.” Homestead Certificate 5361, honorarily issued by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, gave Allen Bagley and his descendants rights to 160 acres of fertile bottomland.
The farm and family were sustained by a right-out-back rushing creek, and two dramatic waterfalls. Things are different these days: Water doesn’t cascade over the stair-like stone falls when it’s dry, likely because there are far more trees than when the Bagleys took up residence.
“Osage and Otoe (Native American tribes) had burned out a lot of the trees because they didn’t want settlers,” says Missy Beaird, a great-great granddaughter who serves as one of the family’s historians. “The stream would have flowed year round for them to live and farm here.”
In addition to family meals, justice was also served at the Bagley homestead. Allen Bagley was a county judge — similar to a county commissioner today — and justice of the peace, as well as a minister. Disregarding formality, practicality led court sessions to convene on a grassy patch just a few feet from the cabin.
The sessions, dubbed “Kangaroo Court in Bagley Holler,” brought justice for local folks convicted of crimes. Today, a stump reminds of the tree said to have hanged those sentenced to die.
“They said when one drove in the driveway, they knew it was over,” says Beaird. “If you were coming to Bagley Holler to be tried, you knew you were guilty.”
The Bagley family continued living in the cabin for the next two generations. However, things changed when Allen Bagley, while in Texas on a church planting trip in Texas, contracted smallpox and died.
Sarah Bagley continued on the Ozarks homestead for several years longer, but eventually sold the property around 1925. Her health had deteriorated, and made living at the cabin impractical.
After the Bagleys left the cabin, it was sold to the Gray family. It wasn’t long, however, before the Great Depression hit. Overwhelmed by bills at the local general store, the family signed the property over to the storekeeper, a Mr. Persinger.
Today, the cabin remains in the Persinger family.
No one has lived in the cabin for decades. It represents a different way of life, without modern convenience such as running water. Today, time has obviously torn its well-built exterior. However, even when photographer Jim Mayfield found the cabin in the 1970s, it was vacant and showing its age.
That character led him to photograph it, and the Daredevils to choose the image for their upcoming cover. Another of Mayfield’s photos — of local woman Lydia Bonham, who prepared meals for the band while recording the album — adorned the cover’s front.
Looking back, Mayfield says the didn’t initially feel the magnitude of the album’s success, especially since he’d known several of the group’s members for years. “It didn’t seem like such a big deal until I got my check from A&M,” says Mayfield.
Then and now: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ album, “It’ll Shine When it Shines,” featured a photo of the Bagley Cabin.
In the years since, the cabin has mainly sat quietly watching seasons of time go by. It’s only inhabitants are country critters who break and enter, as well as hunters who are allowed to occasionally use the space.
Family members have come to visit once in a while, too. While most at Saturdays’ reunion were first-timers, Beaird, one of the builders’ great-great granddaughters, was making a return trip. Her first visit was such an emotional experience that she knew she had to come back.
“I could just close my eyes and see Sarah on the front porch,” she says. “I could see the kids running. I could hear the work going on in the back.”
Beaird speaks of the hands that made the cabin come to be, and of the stonework. Two chimneys, one on each side of the structure, reflect Allen Bagley’s reported status as a mason. “(That may) be why it’s still standing, because of his mason work,” she says, noting that he also built an outdoor kitchen on the east end of the home’s chimney so Sarah could cook meals outside on hot summer days.
Even the logs built a connection in her mind.
“It took a whole day to make a square log (with hand tools),” she says. “Look how many days (the cabin) took.”
That initial visit impacted Beaird so greatly that she wanted to help others visit, prompting the 2017 reunion’s destination.
“I had to bring them and show that this is where our roots began,” she says.
On Saturday, those visitors came from a little bit of all over. Numerous folks came from Texas, while others traveled from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In Missouri, locals visited from Cassville, Rogersville and Rolla.
After arrival, most stood and looked at the cabin; all with their eyes, and most with their cameras. Remains of outbuildings were explored. After the cabin’s front door was unlocked, folks crossed the threshold into their past. Later, the visitors, who ranged in age from teenage to the ultra wise, gathered on the lawn for lunch.
One of the guests was 84-year-old Glennis Bagley Moss, who sported a tiara reflecting her status as the reunion’s “homecoming queen.” She was the only one of Sarah and Allen Bagley’s grandchildren to attend the reunion — and only one of two left alive today that the family knows of.
Glennis Moss and son Vince Moss dance to a fiddle tune during the reunion, and other sights of the site.
Moss never came to the cabin as a child, but she has heard stories of parties held there; of times when they’d take furniture outside for get-togethers filled with music. “And they’d dance on the floor inside the place,” she says, noting that her grandfather would play the fiddle while they danced.
That fact made the day especially moving when her daughter, Valerie Moss Greene, pulled out her fiddle and started playing on the porch.
“So now his great-granddaughter is here to play music in the same place,” says Moss.
Valerie Moss Greene plays the fiddle on the cabin’s front porch.
The day, starting with gray skies before smiling with sunshine, wouldn’t have been complete without a photo. It was a chance to capture faces, but also memories for future history books.
For that commemoration, the photographer was an easy choice: Jim Mayfield, the one who took the cabin’s portrait and gave it widespread fame.
“For me, there’s that connection from the past to now,” says Vince Moss.
Jim Mayfield, right, came back to photograph the Bagley reunion.
For the photo, the family crowded together. Many hold photos of their ancestors, frozen for a moment that likely will never come again. A moment that won’t stop time, but makes one pause. A moment that has brought the cabin’s significance full circle.
The cabin has called them back, even though it’s place most had never been before. Their lives are linked to the cabin, just as they are to the long-ago faces peering from photos. People who would help them live, but never know them.
“This is Allen and Sarah’s homecoming,” Beaird says. “That’s how we look at this. All of their children’s children are coming home.”