Jake's Best


This is the story of one line of descendants of Samuel Painter Sr.


His son Samuel Painter Jr. was born about 1693 in Birmingham Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. To be in the America's in the 1600's must have been an exciting and adventurous time. Samuel Jr. met and married Elizabeth Buxey . They were part of Pennsylvania's Founding Families and are mentioned as such in a book of that same name. They had at least two sons. Their names were Samuel III and John.


John Painter Sr. was born in 1720 in what is now Pennsylvania. He married Barbara about 1740 while they were still living under British rule, in the community of William Penn. John Sr. moved his family to New Jersey by 1745 and to North Carolina by 1754. John died in April of 1788, in Lincoln County, North Carolina. John and Barbara had at least three sons. They named them Joseph, Jacob and John Jr.


John Painter Jr. was born Feburary 2, 1754, in Lincoln County, North Carolina. John moved to Illinois with his first wife and family. Unfortunately, soon after they arrived his first wife died. Then he met and married Rachel Newcom on Feburary 15, 1827, in Greene County, Illinois. They had four children, between 1829 to 1835. But this was his second marriage and he already had six children, between 1770 and 1803. They were: Samuel, James, George, John, Jacob and Susan.


One of these children was Samuel Painter. Samuel was born in 1774, just as the United States was claiming it's independence. Sam learned the trades of gunsmith, silversmith, blacksmith, watchmaker, harness maker, and millwright. He married Elizabeth "Betsy" Briance about 1795 in Burke County, North Carolina. She was the daughter of Henry Briance and was born in 1770 in North Carolina and died in 1854. They had six children; John 1796, Elisha 1806, Jacob 1810, Nathan 1812, Eliza Louisa 1814, and Polly 1816.

All of the children were born in Burke County, North Carolina, near Morgantown, 100 miles northwest of Charlotte. Samuel's ambition was to find a place to set up a shop to bring his skills to the frontier and teach his sons the trades he had learned. He failed to set up any business in North Carolina because of the fighting between the settlers and Indians. About 1818, he moved his family to Lincoln County, Tennessee. Samuel appears in the 1820 census there. He then decided in 1826, to move to Montgomery County, Illinois. The 1830 Census shows Samuel and Betsy Painter living in Montgomery County. Illinois with one son 15 to 20 years old. That son must have been Jacob because Nathan is shown with his wife and two sons under 5, Elisha and wife Mahaley live right next door to John who has seven children and no wife. It appears that the family moved back to Tennessee in late 1830.

One day an Indian told Samuel of a place in southwest Missouri with vast supplies of timber for wood and springs for water. Samuel, with his brothers, George and John, followed Indian trails for two months and finally found the spot they had been hunting for. That spot is the site of the present day town of Springfield. Samuel told his wife that it was a big, flat table with tall trees and grass on it with many springs for water.

The next year, a cholera epidemic hit his Tennessee comunity, so it was now necessary to find a new homeplace. With Samuel in the lead on horseback, the family and several others in ten wagons set out for the Ozarks. They left Lincoln County; Tennessee, December 5, 1831, and arrived in the Springfield area the following March. It took nearly a week for the party to cross the Mississippi River on a ferry near Cape Girardeau. On the earlier trip, Samuel had built a two-room log cabin for his family on a 50-acre tract of land he had purchased for $10 from John Polk Campbell. However in the nearly three years that it took them to return, Mr. Campbell laid out the townsite of Springfield around their property. Now they owned part of the public square.

It was here that Samuel and his sons, John, Elisha and Jacob, established their shop. Mrs. Painter took up housekeeping in the nearby two-room log cabin that Samuel had built. John later decided he preferred farming for his life work, but Jacob became the famous gunsmith of Springfield who made "Jake's Best" weapons carried by western pioneers in the gold rush days. The little shop that Samuel set up provided a wide range of services. It was a place for everything from repairing early day watches to the crafting of iron implements and utensils. Settlers who needed a harness made or repaired, or a wagon wheel built found Samuel Painter to be a good friend. Pay was small in those days and often he worked for nothing.

It seemed evident that Samuel had a big impact on the tiny Springfield settlement. One of his first concerns was to find metal to make iron cooking utensils, plowpoints, cabin door hinges, and numerous other essentials. For two years he worked digging ore in a mine near Jones Spring and smelting the metal in a smelter he had built. With his son, Jake, Samuel built a grist mill at the big spring known as the Natural Well, on what is now Water Street. This was of vast importance to settlers who needed it to grind their grain.

Like most pioneers, Samuel liked to hunt and fish and was an excellent marksman with the guns he and his son so capably constructed. In addition to all this, Samuel was an expert at tanning hides for numerous leather requirements. He also participated in a twice-a-year trip of four loaded wagons which made the long and hazardous journey to St. Louis to exchange hides for such things as sugar, salt, tea, and coffee.

Samuel and his family lived in Springfield only a short while before moving to a beautiful prairie in the north part of the county, near Ebenezer, where they lived for one year. He then sold his farm to Thomas Wilson and moved to what was called the "Mill Bottom" on the James River. Samuel lived there until his death in 1836 at the age of 62, only four years after his arrival in Springfield.


Jacob ("Jake"), the third son of Samuel and Betsy Painter was born in Burke County, North Carolina, in 1810. When he was about eight years old, Jacob and his parents moved to Lincoln County, Tennessee and then to Montgomery County, Illinois, when he was sixeen years old. About four years later, Jacob met and married Mary Elizabeth Compton on June 4, 1830. She was the daughter of Kenneth and Mary Compton. Jacob and Mary appear in the 1830 census in Montgomery County, Illinois. Their first child, Kenneth P., was born on March 25, 1831, in Sangamon County, Illinois. That June they sold their land and moved.

Jake, Mary, and Jake's parents, Samuel and Betsy, moved to Greene County, Missouri in 1831. After Jake's parents moved to Ebenezer he and Mary moved to a place known as "Brashear's Cave" farm (now Galloway), four miles southeast of Springfield.

Jake and Mary's first daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Polly), was born 1832. Their second daughter, Temperance (Tennessee Annie), was born in 1833. Their last child, Elisha was born in 1836.

In 1832, one year after arriving in Greene County, Jacob built one of the first grist mills in the region located at the "Big Spring", five miles southeast of present Springfield. This mill, an overshot type, wherein water is flumed from a hillside spring and falls into cups fixed on the rim of an immense wooden wheel. This propels the revolutions generating power for revolving stone burrs that ground the cornmeal. Jacob built his mill entirely with his own labor. He cut and hewed the timber from the woods nearby and hauled them into place. All of the iron parts were blasted from native ore, in his own crude furnace, and afterwards he forged it into useful shape. Working alone, Jacob fashioned his own mill, placed it into position, and then built a blacksmith shop. He would work in his blacksmith shop after filling the hopper for grinding the grain. People would come from 50 miles around to bring their corn for grinding. The mill could grind four bushels per day. For several years before Jacob sold his claim and specialized as a gunsmith, he drew to him and these first industrial plants of Green County a wide patronage.

The three arts; milling, blacksmithing, and gunsmithing that Jake practiced were essential to the very existence of those pioneers who were unconsciously founding the present extensive community. Corn was brought for long distances to be cracked and pioneers depended on Jake's smithy for the few but urgent needs in home construction; hinges for doors and windows (there was no glass), pots, pans, cranes, ovens, and irons for cooking. Nails occasionally were used but the dowel and peg usually sufficed for construction. For horses and oxen, shoes were needed as were chains and clevis links for bovine.

While living at the Big Spring, cholera broke out. To a man from Tennessee it was worse than a thousand painted Indian warriors. Jacob and his family left the area and lived with his brother in the country for a while. For deserting his claim to being the oldest living pioneer in that county,he had to appear in court and give good reason as to why he left.

In 1835 Jacob sold his mill and blacksmith shop ,at Galloway to buy a lot on the northeast corner of the square where J.C. Penney's now stands. He operated his gunsmith shop, on the square in Springfield, for 23 years.

Jacob had bought the lot, for his gunsmith shop, from Daniel W. Miller for $10 and sold it later for $1000 in what was said to be the fastest real estate deal in the country. Preceding the opening of the Overland Mail Line in 1858, John Butterfield, who operated it under government contract, came to town to obtain a site for his station and stables. The Painter property was part of what he wanted so he approached Jacob with an announcement that he wanted to buy his lot. "What will you give?" asked Jacob. "One thousand dollars," replied Butterfield. "I'll give you the deed tomorrow," was the end of the conversation.

For $200, Jake bought 200 feet on what is now Olive Street, from Mr. Patton. Jake built his gunsmith shop on the corner of Olive and Patton, which was later recorded as 225 West Olive. When Jake left Greene County in 1891, he sold the Olive Street land for $4000.

Jacob's art of constructing and repairing guns soon eclipsed his other trades. Such a demand upon his time arose that he devoted his entire services to outfitting the hunters and pioneers, who were headed West. Especially appreciative of his skills were the '49ers that passed his shop to outfit and push on to the California Gold Rush.

Jacob's gun shop of twenty square feet was built of handpressed brick. His guns were bought in preference to any others. He turned out two pistols a day known as "Jake's Best" for which he charged $10 a pair.

They were a single shot long barrel pistol with the hammer on the underside, known as an understriker. The pistol had the hammer beneath so as to strike upward against the capped nipple. These pistols were most often worn in one's boot. The absence of the hammer on the top, made for a quick smooth draw. The deadly accuracy of the pistol was needed since you only got one shot. It fuels the imagination to realize that these guns were the ones that were pulled to stop claim jumpers, renagade Indians and card cheats in old western saloons. Pioneers, scouts and hunters called upon Jake to create guns of their own invention and to fashion elaborate stocks and grips often mounted in silver.

Jake's rifles were of the "long tom" type, which were cap and ball, single shot, and the long barrel would fire long range with deadly accuracy. Some of his guns were stamped with the letter "JP" on the barrel behind either the front or rear site. All of Jake's guns were sighted and trained before leaving his shop.

No other single industry attracted men and money to Springfield as did Painter's gun shop. Famous scouts and soldiers patronized him as well as noted gamblers and early day sharpshooters who leaned favorably toward Jake's vest-pocket derringers. Wild Bill Hickock was not only a customer but a friend of Jake's.

While Jake was kept busy with his gun shop, his two sons, John and Henry, took over the hard work of blacksmithing and millwrighting. Eventually they acquired a wagon yard on the corner of Olive and Campbell.

The best source of information on Jacob Painter's guns is THE GUNSMITHS OF MISSOURI, by Victor Paul. He notes that in 1850, per the Industrial Census, Jake's shop had 2 males and 1 female working in it. This is one of the very few reported female gunsmiths. Jacob was listed as as gunsmith in 1850, his annual production was listed as 300 pistols valued at $1200, and 12 rifles at $144.

Jake never let his work interfere with his love for hunting and fishing. He would work for weeks until the fever struck him. Then he would either close shop or let his boys run it so he could go hunting and fishing. His favorite hunting spot was on the Kickapoo Prairie, which is now Highway M, or Battlefield Rd. The Kickapoo Indians camped and hunted this area in season. Prairie chicken, turkey, deer and wild pigeons (now extinct) could be seen. everywhere. The wild pigeons would blacken the sky for hours late in the evening as the birds were going home to roost.

Jake's fishing hole was on the James River fifteen miles south of Springfield just north of the highway 14 bridge near the Delaware Church. This was the camping grounds for the Delaware Indians where Jake would camp out for days hunting and fishing. On one of his hunt-ing trips he took the wagon to haul camping supplies and bring back game but the wheels went dry from lack of grease. Therefore, Jake looked around and found a wild bee tree, cut it down and used the honey for grease.

Jake was politically a democrat. He went to church occasionally to hear Reverend Thomas Potter preach. He was by nature, quiet, the fearless advocate of right, never had an enemy - political or personal, and never got excited. It was said that during the Civil War, when southern troops were trying to take Springfield, and cannon balls were falling around Jake's shop, he never looked up or stopped working.

In 1891, Jake sold his shop and land on Olive Street to move to the river bottom farm on the James River in Stone County. Their new farm is 18 miles southwest of Springfield just above the mouth of the Finley River where it empties into the James River. It is the Pruitt Place now and has a small cave where they had built a log house (the foundation and fireplace rocks can still be seen there.)

Mary Elizabeth (Compton) Painter died in 1836. Jake married again on March 2, 1839 to Frances (Fanny) Kimball Freeman who was born in North Carolina in 1809. She was the daughter of William and Mary (Bryan) Freeman. Her father was a scout for George Washington during the American Revolution.

Jake and Fanny had four boys; John in 1841, Lemuel in 1845, Faelden in 1848, and Henry in 1851. John worked as a gunsmith for a while but later became a musician.

Jake and his sons spent most of their time hunting and fishing on the James River until his death on March 26, 1896 at the age of 86. He is buried in the W. H. Herndon cemetery in the southeast corner, Range 22, Township 27, Stone County, Missouri.


Kenneth P. Painter was born on March 25th, 1831, in Springfield, Illinois, to Jacob "Jake" Painter and Mary Elizabeth Compton. He was born in Springfield - land of Abraham Lincoln. When Kenneth was three months old, Jake relocated his family to Greene County, Mo. where he helped found the city of Springfield.

Kenneth grew up in Springfield, which was a busy trading place, then with such famous hunter traveling through as Buffalo Bill Cody and Kit Carson. Kenneth's father taught him the trade of blacksmith and millwright and he also had a deep love for hunting and fishing like his father. He went to school in a log schoolhouse on the corner of Olive and Jefferson Street where he learned the three "r"s. This school only went to the third grade. The people of the town had a square dance every Saturday night and it was one of these Saturday's that Kenneth and the other children played a trick on the adults. They got some black pepper, sprinkled it all over the dance floor then watched through the windows as the adults had a sneezing and crying good time as they danced.

At the time, Missouri was bordered by territories and Indian Land. By 1846, during the War with Mexico, the Santa Fe Trail became the road over which countless thousands of Americans travelled to New Mexico and California. The invasion and conquest of New Mexico occured without a struggle and when California fell to the Americans a short while after, the Santa Fe Trail became the main artery for equipment and stores to the army in the west.

Early in 1847, the Army of the West erected a government depot on the trail equidistant between Leavenworth and Santa Fe. The stockade, which had taken the name Fort Mann, consisted of four flat-roofed houses connected by angles of timber 20 feet high. Two heavy gates a foot thick swung at the entrance on wooden hinges and loopholes were cut for small arms in the connecting walls between the building.

None of the company could venture from the post without a rifle because of the parties of Indians keeping the depot in a virtual state of siege. Although occasionally some sport was had when a buffalo herd came into the vicinity. From time to time fresh meat supplemented the army rations, but this was rare, the game being scared away by the wagons which were continually moving back and forth along the trail and the large parties of Pawnee, Arapahoe and Comanches scowling the area. On the 19 June, the Indian attack which had been feared since the fort was established, occurred. Four hundred warriors amassed to overrun the depot. The men, with surprising coolness for an untrained group, managed to repell several attacks, killing 15 and wounding 30-40 with cannon and rifle fire. After the Indians had withdrawn the troops decided to abandon the depot. Hitching up the cannon and taking it with them, the men left for Santa Fe, leaving Fort Mann to the wolves and Indians. The deserted depot was soon in a dilapidated condition. This fort was the inspiration for "Dances with Wolves."

During the summer of 1847, bands of Kiowas, Apaches, Pawnee and Comanches killed 47 Americans, destroyed 330 wagons and stole 6,500 animals from travellers on the Santa Fe road. To combat the problem, the Indian Battalion Missouri Volunteers was formed in September of the same year, and Lieutenant Colonel William Gilpin appointed as commanding officer. This specially formed but inadequate force was ordered to the upper Arkansas River to restore peace and protect the constant flow of immigrants and traders along the road. The volunteers were also to regarrison rotting Fort Mann, the post to be used as headquarters for operations by them along the river.

It was a huge task but Kenneth Painter knew that his special talents would be needed. So, on September 8, 1847, he enlisted at Calhoon, Missouri. He was sent to Fort Leavenworth and outfitted for the calvary in Company B. The two mounted companies (A&B)lead the two infantry companies (D&E) and an artillery company (C) of the ill-equipped battalion with defective arms, very little medical suppliers and no sabers. It took a thirty day march for the volunteers to reach the deserted Fort Mann. There Gilpin left his two foot companies and artillery to rebuild and enlarge the depot in preparation for its new role. Leutenant Colonel Gilpin with Companies A and B under Captain John C. Griffith and Captain Thomas Jones, continued up the Arkansas to Big Timbers where they spent a cold winter under canvas. Gilpin drawing stores from Bent's Fort and trading with the Indians and Mexicans in order to keep his troops from starving. He was compelled to do this after his rations and forage had been sent to Fort Scott far to the east.

The remaining Companies---C, D and E, which remained at Fort Mann and many of the enlisted men were living in crude shelters or tents throughout the winter. The new commander, Captain Pelzer's, first attempt at handling a situation occurred on the afternoon of Tuesday 16 November when lookouts on the walls reported Indians on the opposite bank of the Arkansas. Within minutes the three companies were mustered and paraded inside the fort. The Indians, meanwhile, had ridden across the river and encamped about a quarter of a mile from the post. After around fifteen or twenty minutes about 65 Indians approached the garrison under a white flag and the assembled troops were dismissed. The Indians were met outside the stockade by Captain Pelzer and a number of other officers, greetings were exchanged and after some confusing dialogue from both parties it was established that the Indians were friendly Pawnees. A peace pipe was produced and the group gathered around one of the cooking fires to smoke. It seems at this point that Pelzer invited the Pawnees to look around inside the fort. After most of the Indians had entered the post Pelzer took their chief to see Gilpin's adjutant, Henry L. Routt who had been left at Fort Mann by his commander due to illness and was at this time very weak and in sick quarters. The pair tried to communicate with signs for a while and then the Indian showed Routt letters he had which claimed that he was friendly towards the whites.

Perhaps because he felt uneasy with 65 armed Pawnees milling around in the courtyard, but Routt doubted the sincerity of the Indian. He advised Pelzer to hold them all prisoners until such time as Lieutenant Colonel Gilpin could return to the post. On reflection Routt later wrote "This advice, however, I should not have given, if I had known he had smoked the pipe of peace with them". A feeble and abortive attempt was made by the volunteers to disarm the Indians who made a sudden rush for the gates. Pelzer at this point gave an order to fire which caused still further chaos. In the fight from the post two Indians were killed in the courtyard and another two shot dead when they were found sheltering in Captain Pelzers quarters. Others were shot while being pursued out on to the plain. Nine Indians died in the incident and two wounded were taken prisoner although many more wounded were carried away by the fleeing Indians. One of these captive Pawnees was held in chains until the middle of the following year, before he was released and sent back to his tribe with an apology for the November treachery. The actions of Pelzer and Routt created ill feeling among the officers and men at the post and distrust of whites became embedded deeper in the Pawnees.

Morale, if it had ever existed among the volunteers, was now very low. All military notions had disappeared by this time at the establishment. Officers were abused and insubordinations were a daily occurrance, all of which went unpunished, Pelzer being incapable of maintaining discipline. In a letter written by Routt, dated 6 December he groans "Fort Mann is certainly the most desolate and uninteresting place upon the face of the earth". Towards the end of December an amusing episode occurred to brighten Routts' winter. One of the privates had drawn attention to himself by trying to desert and an investigation into the reason for the attempt disclosed an amazing fact: Private Bill Newcomb, Company D Missouri Volunteers was pregnant. Back at Leavenworth in September, First Lieutenant Amandus Schnabel had made his own private arrangements for a long campaign on the plains. He had induced a young woman named Caroline Newcomb to dress in men's clothing and enlist as a private in his company, under the name Bill Newcomb. Many of the men within the unit must have been aware of the affair, although the pair went undetected for nearly four months before any officers were made aware of what was happening. The facts only came to light after "Bill" had tried to get back to the states due to her condition. The following year Schanabel was discharged from the service for his part in the affair, Caroline Newcomb having already disappeared by this time joining a caravan and probably going back to St. Louis.

Gilpin meanwhile moved one of the infantry companies up the Arkansas River to Big Timber to join his cavalry, who were preparing for a spring campaign against the Apaches and Comanches. Gilpin took his three companies over Raton Pass on 10 March and down to the settlements at El Moro. After fitting out with provisions and transportation, the command scoured the country east of the Sangre de Cristo mountains along the Canadian River. Here during March and April, he played hide and seek with the Apaches who remained as elusive as ever. No engagements occurred but he did succeed in scattering the tribes into smaller and less agressive bands for the summer.

Gilpin finally returned to Fort Mann on 30 May where he found Arapahoes, Kiowas and Cheyennes waiting for him and wanting to negotiate a peace treaty. Whether this was a direct result of his pursuit of the Comanches and Apaches or a genuine desire to understand and live with the whites is a mater of conjecture. But he did find them camped along the Arkansas and they were friendly. For the second time in a year Fort Mann was deserted and there is little evidence that it was ever used again by the military. Gilpin returned his troops to Independence, Missouri, on Sepetember 28, 1848. In October, Kenneth was honorably discharged from the Army of the West.

Kenneth returned home to Springfield, where he and Polly started their family. Named for his uncle, Greenberry was born in 1849. A second son, James C. Painter was born in December of 1851. Their third son carried the name of both of their fathers, Eli Jacob Painter. Elisha was born in 1856 and Jonathan, the next year. Their only daughter (and my greatgrandmother) Angeline was born in 1860 and their last child, Albert, was born two years later.

The Painter family, was originally from North Carolina, which is the Old South. So, when the Civil War erupted, feelings and loyalties were mixed. However, when Confederate troops captured Ozark, Kenneth ran to Springfield to help stop their advance. During the battle on Jan. 8th, 1863, a cannon blast left him deaf and half blind.

In March of 1877, at age 46, Polly died. Three mopnths later, Kenneth was married a second time. This time to a widow named Agness Allen McCord. They had five boys and a girl between 1878 and 1895.

Due to the injuries he received in the Civil War, Kenneth could not carry on his blacksmith trade. He applied for an invalid pension. He claimed it against his time served in the War with Mexico. However, because his injuries occured during the Civil War he had a lot of trouble getting approved. What resulted was a huge file at the National Archives, in which he describes his involvement in both wars. He states, in these papers, that after the war he lived all over Southwest Missouri before his death at Cape Fair, in Stone County, Mo., on April 7th, 1907.


Angeline Painter was born in 1860. She was working as a house servant along with her brother, over in Polk County, for J.R.Hargrave and his wife Elizabeth. Angeline married Wilson Commodore Wiggins on March 17th, 1881. Justice of the Peace, Sam Wheeler married them in Dade County, where Angeline's parents lived. Their first child, Minta Wiggins was born in Dec. 1882.

Then the family moved to Graham, in the county of Young, in Texas. Their second and third daughters, were born there. Gracie Wiggins was born in Oct. of 1883 and Bura M. Wiggins was born in March of 1887.

The family either moved back to Christian County, Missouri for a short time in or they were just visiting when their son, Rowe Delbert Wiggins (my grandfather) was born on October 25, 1889.

The next year they were back in Texas as their last son, Earl Loran was born in November. There was a pneumonia epidemic in Graham during the Winter and Spring of 1893. It was very bad and many people died in Graham, at that time.

The local paper, the Graham Leader, had the following series of articles:

April 5, 1893, on page 1.
"We understand Mrs. Wiggins is quite low and hardly expected to live."

April 12, 1893, on page 1
"Died April 9th, Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Wigans, who was reported sick last week. She leaves a husband and six very small children.

April 19, 1893
"The motherless children of Mr. Wiggins are now all provided with homes. The good people of Graham always do the proper thing under such circumstances."

Check out more of my webpages with associated families:

The Wiggins Family

The Swearingen Family

The Hyder Family



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Email: BobKing@NorthLink.com

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