My dear old grandmother had a beautiful name; it was Mercedes Elizabeth Lowe, and she was the school mom before she married my granddad. She was the daughter of Calvin Van Lowe, a plainsman and freighter on the old Santa Fe Trail – at least, before he settled down to farming and raising a family. My grandmother was raised on Crenshaw Road, north of Blue Springs. She grew up in “The Shake Rag Church” and learned her ABC’s at Eureka School.
The Shake Rag Church, known today as the Lobb Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was the anchor of their community, and was founded back in 1834.
Shake Rag was a nickname of course, and legend has it that name grew out of the practice of flying a white rag from the spire of the church to announce church services, but according to one of the early church members, Mary Elizabeth Crump, that legend was wrong.
She insists that the proud ladies of the day were, of course, great seamstresses and wore their finest homemade dresses to church each Sunday. It was because of this practice that the nickname came about.
Their early worship services were held in homes across the neighborhood and the school house for a spell, before the first church building was erected in 1854. After the fire, it was replaced by the present church on Missouri 7 about 1894.
Shortly after Missouri was admitted as the 24th state of the Union, Adam and Letty Fisher and their family arrived in covered wagons. With the Fishers came the Aquilla Lobb family and the A.L.H. Crenshaw family. They were followed by my grandmother’s grandfather, John Lowe, along with Jacob and Agnessa Crow, and the Rev. James Grisby Dalton. They were all from either Kentucky or Virginia.
They first arrived at “Big Spring” (Independence) and continued in a southwesterly direction along the Indian trail, through dense forest, to their anticipated home sites along the banks of the Little Blue River.
Adam Fisher cleared a home site just north of today’s Truman Road and Jones Road (about a half a mile west of the Independence power plant), and that’s where he built an 18-by-18-foot home out of stone with a clapboard roof, along with a grist mill and a blacksmith shop.
Aquilla Lobb chopped out a home site about 4 miles north of Blue Springs, and the Crenshaw’s settled along today’s Crenshaw Road. John Lowe’s homestead was at the east end of Lowe Road, in behind Lobb Cemetery, and his next door neighbor was Aquilla Lobb.
In the fall of 1830, when Jacob and Agnessa Crow arrived, their youngest child, John, was just old enough to toddle about his mother’s heavy homespun skirts as she tended the campfires. The Crow family set up camp about 100 yards from the new Aquilla Lobb home.
Both families worked hard, with timber to cut, fuel to store, and cabins to build. The tang of wood smoke filled the air, with the boiling of hog fat to be rendered into lard. Mrs. Crow left her campfire and walked to the Lobb cabin where her husband was, leaving her baby fast asleep.
In a few minutes a terrified cry was heard that sent the startled parents and Aquilla Lobb running to the campfire. They found that little John had woken up and upset the kettle of boiling fat all over him, causing his death within a few short minutes.
A little grave was dug not far from the immigrant trail, which was the beginning of the present Lobb Cemetery, where you can find the tombstones of little John Crow and many of the other early-day settlers of the Shake Rag neighborhood.
Reference: Maude Borgman, Independence, Missouri.
In cooperation with The Examiner, Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.
-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.