Arkansas Chapter MFTHBA


Elmer Fox and the Role He Played in the

"Legacy of the Missouri Foxtrotter"

Author’s Note: There are many versions of the "Old Fox" entry into the Missouri Ozarks and into the Ellis Kissee family. This story contains only one version and it is not meant to create controversy about the "Old Fox" history. Indeed, we will always be eternally grateful to Ellis Kissee and his sons and brother, Knial, for the rolls they have played in the Missouri Fox Trotter history. The author wishes for the reader to focus on the, so far, untold story of Elmer Fox.

 Written By Virginia Glossip Combs

The Story Begins….

My father, Ernest S. Glossip, was born July 15, 1899. He spent most of his life living in Ponce de Leon, Missouri. In the early 1920's he owned a truck and hauled livestock to the Union Stock Yards in Springfield, Missouri, and groceries back to a store he owned in Abesville, Missouri. In the early 1930's he became a cattle salesman for the Union Stock Yards and retired after 40 years of working for various commission firms. From the mid 1920's, until his death in 1977, he broke and trained Missouri Fox Trotting Horses. My father knew and was friends with Elmer Fox all his life. He and my mother were also friends with the Kissee families.

On Sunday afternoons you could always find my father sitting in his favorite lawn chair, under a shade tree in the front yard of his home, at the edge of a dirt street that ran through Ponce de Leon. One of his Fox Trotters would be grazing in the yard, and he would be holding his transistor radio listening to his favorite ball team - the St. Louis Cardinals.

One Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1976, I joined Dad in his front yard. I asked him if he would tell me all he knew about the history of the Missouri Fox Trotter before the ball game started. I was amazed at his knowledge of those early years. Most of all, I was surprised at the involvement of a very close neighbor, Elmer Fox, the father of my childhood friends.

My father was a great believer in research and getting facts correct. He ended his story by telling me to research what he had told me, write about it, and then let him read it. Little did we know that he would pass away the following spring of 1977. I have spent many years researching this information, and now I would like to tell "The Elmer Fox" story as my father and others remember it.

Elmer Fox was born October 29, 1899, near Highlandville, Missouri. His parents, John and Margaret Fox, called him George Elmer, but he always went by Elmer G. Fox. In April of 1920 he married Myrtle Wells. On the second day of April the following year, their first child, Clara Belle (Fox) Keithley, was born. Clara Belle is currently living near Reeds Spring, Missouri, and she contributed to this story. Their second child, Jesse Marie, was born in December, 1922. They were living in Highlandville, Missouri, at this time.

Elmer moved his family to Ponce de Leon, Missouri, in 1923 while Jesse Marie was still a baby. He later built a new house there, on a hill across the road from Mr. Edwards' grocery store. A rock retaining wall held back the hill and separated his property from the dirt street.

Elmer owned a "big" truck, and he depended on it to make a living for his young family. He would haul live stock into the Union Stock Yards in Springfield, Missouri. On his return trip home, he would haul groceries and dry goods to Mr. Edwards’ store in Ponce de Leon.

“Ponce” as it was called by the locals, was a thriving town at this time. The credit for its boom went to several large springs that were said to have healing mineral waters. There were several grocery stores, a dry goods store, a drug store, three hotels, two doctors’ offices, a post office, a bank, a dance pavilion, churches, several bath houses, a grade school, and one of the first high schools in the area. The population was nearly 2000 people. The populated areas of Abesville, Spokane, Highlandville, Galena, Nixa, Ozark, Sparta, and many rural farms were all within horseback riding or wagon driving distance to Ponce.


This photo of the main street of Ponce de Leon, circa 1900 was sent to us by Woody Franklin.  The men in the wagon are J.T. King (left) and Edward P. Gilmore.   Woody would like to know who J.T. King is, and would also like information on both the lodge and the bank in the picture. Please contact Woody Franklin if you can help.

Elmer was a trader and a business man, and he formed a plan. He would make trips to the plains of Kansas and Oklahoma and bring back horses to sell in the Springfield, Missouri, area. Horses were a good commodity at that time, and he could make a living trading or selling them. The automobile had been invented, but it would be many years before most families in the Ozarks would be able to afford this type of transportation. There was a need for good riding horses.

Elmer had an eye for good horses. In Ernest Glossip's words, "he knew good horse flesh." He talked to horsemen like the Kissee and the Glossip brothers and others he met at the Union Stock Yards in Springfield, Missouri, until he felt comfortable that he could find and sell the type of horse that would be needed in the Missouri Ozarks. In the 1920's and early 1930's, that horse would need to be gaited and an easy rider. One gentle enough for kids to ride to school but strong enough to stand up to long rides across country.

Elmer found a "sweet spot" of just the right kind of gaited trotting horse, and he wasn't going to tell anyone where he was getting them for fear of competition in the trotting horse market. My theory, after years of research, is that Elmer traveled south to the Neosho, Missouri, area because of a family connection and then west along the Oklahoma/Kansas borders. I don't believe he would have traveled very far from home, so I think most of the horses came from the Missouri-Kansas-Oklahoma corner. The fact that he later moved to Bristow, Oklahoma, may be an indication that at some point he had become familiar with that area.

Ellis Kissee - Elmer Fox Connection….

Ellis Kissee was born December 2, 1898. He lived East of Ozark, Missouri and West of Sparta, Missouri, on or near a mail route that ran from Sparta to Ponce. Ellis would be the future owner of "Old Fox".

Old Fox was in one of the first loads of horses Elmer Fox brought in, and he sold him to Ellis Kissee. According to my dad, he was called "Fox" after the man Ellis bought him from. Dad said, "Ellis Kissee bought Old Fox from Elmer Fox right down here. (Not sure if he was referring to where Elmer Fox lived or where the horse was purchased.) Elmer found the type horse he was looking for and began hauling them back to this part of the country."

They were trotters, and right away there was a demand for the Fox horses. I asked my Dad where they came from, and he said Elmer Fox would never tell except to say that Old Fox was not a wild horse when he bought him. He said he came off a farm near Neosho, Missouri. Later, I would ask my Uncle, Herbert Glossip, who was friends with Ellis Kissee, the same question. Uncle Herbert said, "Ellis Kissee bought Old Fox from a load of horses that Elmer Fox brought in. Old Fox wasn't wild, and he came from near Neosho, Missouri." I told him that in my research, I had found out that the Kissee family thought Ellis Kissee bought Old Fox north of Springfield, Missouri. Uncle Herbert said it was more likely that he either bought him at Ponce during "Horse Trading Day" when Elmer arrived with a truck load of horses, or at the Union Stock Yards in Springfield. Elmer Fox hauled horses to both places. However, Bill Kissee told me his grandfather, Ellis's brother, said Ellis was on a cattle buying trip when he found Old Fox, and he was out in the country somewhere riding horseback. Jim Kissee, Ellis’ son, told me his dad bought Old Fox in Bolivar. Jim wonders if his dad was the second buyer after Elmer Fox brought him into this part of the country. Jim would have been about six years old at that time.

Everyone looked forward with excitement to horse trading day when Elmer Fox would arrive in Ponce with a load of horses. Early in the morning people began arriving. Some would be "horse traders" hoping to swap or sell their own stock. Many others were there to buy the horses he brought in. The women and young girls would be sitting or standing on the elevated grocery store porch, across the dirt street from the rock retaining wall. Men and boys would gather around the blacksmith's shop, located on Elmer's property, where noted smith, Holland Dennis, worked shoeing the horses.

On the grassy hillside above that rock retaining wall and across from Edwards' store, small children were playing. Among them was Clara Belle Fox and her little sister, Jesse Marie. The children were being watched by their mother, Myrtle. All these people were waiting for Elmer Fox to arrive with his load of horses.

Suddenly a large truck roars into sight. This truck looks huge to the little kids. The bed is constructed of wooden cattle panels. The truck bed is filled with horses. Each horse is tied to a side panel, and they are tied alternating from side to side, head to tail. Each horse has a rope halter and its own tie rope. Elmer stops the truck right there in the dirt street, and a young wrangler quickly removes the tail gate. He climbs into the back of the truck and unties the first frightened horse, flinging the long tether to Elmer who is on the dirt street. The wild eyed horse jumps from the back of the truck with mane flying, and Elmer circles the horse around him. At this point buyers are watching closely. Even though very small at the time, Clara Belle, remembers these horse trading days well.

The crowd gathers around the horses, and men start picking out their favorites. It is not known how many loads of trotting horses Elmer Fox brought into this area. The evidence indicates that Old Fox was on one of the first truck loads.

Elmer's Life Continued….

In 1933, six months after the birth of their son Ray Dean, Myrtle Fox passed away. Elmer then went to work for R. L. Jones. He took his three children and moved to Bristow, Oklahoma.

R. L. Jones operated "Caraway Camp," a summer camp for kids, located on James River in the Galena, Missouri, area. Elmer again used his "big truck" to haul supplies and horses from Bristow, Oklahoma, to the camp. He would often take his three children along with him on these trips. One of his younger daughters, Betty Fox, says, "My dad hauled horses to the camp for the young campers to ride and learn horseback riding skills." Elmer stayed in Bristow for about one year before returning to Ponce.

Later he met and married Viola Johnston Andoe. Viola had two children, Billy and Dorothy Lee. They moved their five children into the house in Ponce. Viola and Elmer had three children together, Ethlyn Jean, Betty Gale and the youngest, Ruth Ann. These three were my childhood friends. All of the children grew up in Ponce. They prospered and were/are outstanding citizens. When Ruth Ann was about two or three, her father became ill with Tuberculosis. "He was one of the hardest working men you could ever meet until he got sick,” she said.

When you saw Elmer Fox you would never think of him as being a horse person. He seldom rode a horse unless he had to, although he could ride. When I was a young girl, I personally saw Elmer riding a Walking horse bareback in his overalls. Even to me it was plain to see that he knew what he was doing horseback. However, I never knew him to break, show, train, or shoe horses.

Elmer Fox, Ellis Kissee, and Ernest Glossip were born within ten months of each other. They were friends whose paths would cross many times through the years until their deaths.

Story and research by Virginia Glossip Combs

Editor Karyn Vaughan