Torreytown and Col. Jay L. Torrey
From its inception around 1909, Fruitville, near Brandsville in Howell County, Missouri has always been part of our family history. Col. Torrey was the owner of ten thousand acres in Howell County, and his plan was to sell individual plots of land to those interested in investing $5000. His vision was to create an idyllic town around which these farms would be located. Much like a planned community of the modern era, he offered the chance for investors to attain their lifelong dream of health and happiness.
Aunt Martha Yates Scott Worked At Fruitville
In my Great Aunt Martha Yates Scott’s journal she recounts what it was like to work in the kitchen at Fruitville. She related how the others that worked there were astounded when she was easily capable of lifting and “toting” 50 pound bags of flour needed for each day’s bread they baked for the other workers on the farm. She didn’t count herself as one of the premier bakers though, and felt that honor should go to my aunt Mirtha, her step-sister. The red arrow in the picture above indicates the woman I believe is my Aunt Martha. As you can see, she was a very big ‘girl’.
Will Yates and Fruitville Farm
My grandfather, Will Yates also lived near to, and worked at Fruitville, and I do think he probably was on a local baseball team for the farm. Will’s father Jim Yates had come to Howell County, Missouri in the 1880’s with his half brother Gideon Morrison as well as his sister Myra Yates. In 1900 Jim Yates purchased 80 acres near Brandsville and began his farm and lumber mill. Jim would reside on that land in the Ozarks until around 1937 when his second wife died and he came here to Washington State to live with his children, including Will Yates who moved here in the 20’s when the drought took its toll on southern Missouri.
In letters I have read that were exchanged by Grandpa and his brother-in-law Richard Dewey Moore, Sr., I think the two of them were initial investors in Col. Torrey’s land scheme, but at some point it fell out of favor with them and they paid Torrey back and sought their fortunes elsewhere.
The Demise Of Fruitville, Torreytown and Col. Torrey
If you read through the whole page about Col. Torrey and his life and times, it is quite fascinating to see how this man came to be a land owner in Missouri, his political history and his sad death in 1920. Make sure you read the excerpt written by Cherie Reavis written in 1979 for the West Plains Quill. I think that many things happened that resulted in the downfall of Fruitville and Torreytown. Soon after Col. Torry began we were at war with Germany and personal lives and incomes were uncertain. Weather patterns changed for a time and new lands and opportunities were opening up in the far west.
Will Yates had already scouted out the west by 1915. As a young man unmarried man of 23 he was a seasoned laborer and had traveled by himself to the Pan Pacific Exposition by train to Oregon and then by boat the rest of the way to San Francisco. He knew the lumber milling industry from his time at home on his father’s farm and when his second son Guy was about two years old in 1924, Will and his wife left Howell County to make their new home eventually in