MOzarks Moments: Loma Layton

Clockwise from top left: Loma Hilton after graduating high school from the School of the Ozarks in Forsyth. Widow Loma Layton in 1924 with her two young daughters. Loma's second husband, Fred Schupbach, at his garage in 1940. Loma with six of her children. Loma, Christian County Treasurer, in the courthouse with other county officials in 1924.

When life knocks you down, you get back up again and forge ahead. This concept cannot be more truly exemplified than in the life of one MOzarks lady. In many ways she was an ordinary, common, sweet hill country homemaker. But when fate dealt her a terrible blow, she showed the true grit and strength of an Ozarks pioneer woman.

Saloma Hilton was born Aug. 8, 1896, near Spokane in Christian County. A typical Ozarks native of her times, she was born to Samuel Henry Hilton, who had been born in Missouri and served as a county judge in Christian County, and Mary Melvina (Carter) Hilton, who was a native of Tennessee and was a school teacher at the Chestnutridge School.

Known as “Loma,” Hilton grew up in Christian County. A woman of skill and intelligence, she graduated high school at the School of the Ozarks in Forsyth and then completed her first year of college at the State Teachers College in Springfield (now Missouri State University).

Two years before Loma's birth, Ross L. Layton was born in Stone County on May 14, 1894. He was the son of John Foster Layton and Alabama (Sartin) Layton. Both of his parents were born in Missouri.

By the time he was 15, Ross was listed in the 1910 census as working as a clerk in a general store in the small village of Ruth, which was located six miles west of Branson. 

By 1915, he was working at his parents' general store in Day on Bear Creek in Taney County (very near where Rose O'Neill built her Bonniebrook home) and he was appointed postmaster of the Day Post Office on Jan. 13 of that year. He was 21 years old.

Then World War I came around and Layton, who was 24 years of age, either joined or was drafted into the army. A record shows that on June 4, 1918, he boarded a ship in New York City that was to take him to Europe to fight. He was listed as a private in Company K of the 356th Infantry in the 89th Division.

Layton made it home from the war safely and in 1919, Ross and Loma were married and set up house in Day. Loma and Ross Layton had two daughters, Imogene, born Feb. 12, 1920, and Hazel, born Jan. 8, 1921. With a loving husband and two daughters, Loma Layton’s life seemed to be on track. She even took over her husband's duties at the post office, having been appointed postmaster at Day on March 2, 1921.

Then tragedy struck. On Sept. 25, 1922, Ross was working on an automobile at Spokane when the gasoline ignited and the resulting explosion killed him. Loma, a 26-year-old mother of two, suddenly found herself a widow.

It was very difficult in 1922 for a woman to find a job that paid enough to support herself, let alone support two young children. Loma taught in a one-room schoolhouse, but that did not generate enough income to live on, so she moved to the county seat of Ozark, where she hoped to find more and better opportunities for employment.

It was still very rough going for Loma and her daughters. 1924 rolled around and it was an election year. There was an opening for Christian County treasurer. Not a single woman had ever been elected to county office in Christian County, but that didn't stop Loma Layton. She saw an opportunity and she didn't hesitate to go after it.

According to her granddaughter, Layton did much of her campaigning on horseback. She ran on the Republican ticket and in a traditionally Republican county won a tight race in the primary. Then she won in a landslide over her Democratic opponent in the general election. She now had a job that paid enough to support herself and her daughters.

While working at the courthouse, Layton became romantically attached to a bachelor from Chestnutridge, who  ran an automobile repair garage with a couple of his brothers just west of the square in Ozark. It might seem ironic that Layton would fall in love with an auto mechanic after her husband had been killed while working on a car, but she didn't let that faze her.

Fred Schupbach was born at Chestnutridge in Christian County on Feb. 10, 1895. His father was Gottlieb Frederick Schupbach and his mother was Linda Bertha (Glauser) Schupbach. The 1910 and 1920 census listings show that Gottlieb and Linda Schupbach were both born in Switzerland. However, on the 1930 census, it says they were both born in Germany.

Fred was one of at least 14 children born to his parents. The 1920 census, when he was 24, lists him as a laborer on the home farm in Christian County.

Loma and Fred Schupbach were married in Marshfield on June 12, 1925. Loma did not run for reelection. With Loma's two young daughters, the family set up residence together. Fred Schupbach raised the two girls as if they were his own daughters. Loma and Fred also had three sons and two daughters born to their union.

In 1929, they moved to Highlandville, where they purchased the Lone Maple gas station, store and tourist cabins. In addition, Fred worked on cars and trucks.

By the 1940 census, they had sold their businesses in Highlandville and moved their family to the mouth of the Finley River at Jamesville in Taney County. Fred was listed in that census as a “farmer/mechanic.” Eventually they moved back to Highlandville.

Tragedy struck again for the couple in 1951, when their 22-year-old son, Ward, a marine, was killed during the Korean War.

Fred Schupbach passed away on Dec. 6, 1973, in Highlandville at the age of 78. 

Loma died on Feb. 6, 1992. She had lived a long life: 95 years filled with loving children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her life is a testament to the fact that you can't keep a good woman down, especially if she is product of the Ozarks hills.

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