Following emancipation, 100 former enslaved Africans homesteaded the Three Creeks area. Aptly named for the intersection of the Bass, Turkey and Bonne Femme Creeks, Three Creeks was characterized by rocky terrain, sharp slopes, and deep caves.
Researcher Frances Jones-Sneed has traced the original African American ownership to John Jones, who purchased 160 acres in 1875 from a son-in-law of Eli Bass, previously the largest “slave” owner in the region. Slavery was not abolished in Missouri until two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Most African Americans who would eventually become landowners, usually started out working for their former enslavers.
Purchasing land was only half the battle, in most cases keeping it was the greater challenge. In 1870, six African Americans owned farms in the Three Creeks area. By 1930, ownership had grown to 100 individuals with holdings covering approximately 4000 acres. By 1950, however, the acreage owned by African Americans had been reduced by fifty percent.
People lost homes and property by unknowingly purchasing deeds already in foreclosure, properties encumbered by overdue taxes, neglecting to leave written wills or voluntarily selling at below market prices just to survive.
Properties were routinely auctioned off for as little as $65 in back taxes and purchased by opportunistic white landowners in the area. The few remaining landmarks of Three Creeks include the Log Providence Baptist Church and the former home of Ida Walker Mitchell.
Established in 1876, Namrash is recognized as the only African American town to have ever existed in Chariton County. Although most of the town was inhabited by blacks, many of the business enterprises were owned by Germans. A 1897 report states that at Riverside School, there were 137 students in attendance, 108 of which were “colored.”