Early Days in Sevier County
by W. S. Ray
The Arkansas Historical Association
JOHN HUGH REYNOLDS, Secretary
CONWAY, ARKANSAS 1917
Submitted by Dena Whitesell
| pg 170
EARLY DAYS IN SEVIER COUNTY - By W. S. Ray
Foreword.—Some years ago Capt. John G. McKean agreed to write some reminiscences of the early days of Sevier County, Arkansas. No man was better qualified for the task than he, having been born at Ultima Thule and having spent all of his days at or near that place, except the four years of the war between the States, which time he served in the Confederate army, but owing to ill health and disabilities of age, this task was never finished, and with his death passed away the possibilities of some interesting history of the early days of Sevier County, especially the western part of it.
I have been importuned by some of my old friends, as well as the editor of the DeQueen Bee, to give the public my recollections of this part of the country, dating from the close of the war until a more recent date. After this agreement with the editor, and reflecting over the matter, I have concluded that I have agreed to do something overreaching my abilities. However, as I have made this agreement, I will proceed and do the best I can, hoping that I may not be criticised too severely, for I propose to give out nothing but the facts as they came under my observation, or have been related to me by some old-timer long since gone to his reward.
As to how I came to be in Arkansas at that early date does not figure in or belong to this sketch, but as some of my most vivid recollections of Arkansas carry me back east of Sevier County, I will commence this sketch on Markham street, Little Rock.
One very hot July afternoon in 1865 I could have been seen walking up Markham street, carrying all my earthly possessions, consisting of an old oilcloth satchel containing a very limited wardrobe, an old pocketbook in my pocket, containing considerably less than five dollars in cash, and a parole from a Federal officer, stating that I had been a soldier in the Confederate army and in rebellion against the United States Government, and promising not to violate this parole until lawfully exchanged, which up to this time has never been done, and if I was ever out of the Union (as we were all accused) I am still out, for so far I have never done anything to get back, or if any one did anything to put me back I am not aware of it.
Walking up Markham street, reflecting upon the sins of rebellion and the vastness of the Yankee army, I met another one of the vanquished army of Tennessee trying to make his way back to his home and mother in Texas, where he had left when a boy, four years ago, and had not seen his home since, which place he swore, if he ever reached, he would never leave again. While we were talking, and he was insisting that I go with him to his Texas home, we were joined by two young men from Louisiana trying to make their way home. We were soon joined by two more of the vanquished from Arkansas. After consulting an old citizen and getting the desired information as to the route we should travel, we soon left the city of Little Rock in our rear, I having concluded to go home with the Texas boy, as at that time I had no place in view to go, and one place seemed as inviting to me as another. The afternoon sun shone very warm, and we walked very fast for a while. I wore a pair of new boots that soon had my feet blistered. We could get nothing to eat, so we soon found a patch of blackberries and made our evening meal, and under some bushes on a soft bed of leaves we slept till morning's soft sun rays touched our weary brows and reminded us that another day's travel was awaiting us. About 12 o'clock that day a good old Southern lady gave us a good dinner of boiled cabbage, bacon and cornbread.
That evening the Texas boy and the two Louisianians left us, as on account of my blistered feet I had backed out from going to Texas with the boy, and concluded to go home with one of the Arkansas boys named Sanders. The next morning one of the Arkansas boys left for his home, leaving Sanders and me alone. We were now getting to where Sanders was somewhat acquainted and stopped for dinner with one of his acquaintances. While there he told us of the wolves catching all of his pigs and calves and that it was getting really dangerous for a person to be out at night afoot. He also told us that the cotton factory on the Little Missouri River was being rebuilt and enlarged and that they were wanting to hire men to help.do the work. After a hearty dinner of bread and milk (the only thing they had in the way of provisions) I bade Sanders and our host goodbye. I intended to go to the factory and try to get a job of work. There were very few people living on the road at that time. In fact, there were but very few people living anywhere in that part of the country. My feet were still sore from the blisters made on our first day's walk from Little Rock, and after leaving Sanders and starting off alone in this strange land of tangled wildwood and mountains I was seized with a feeling of loneliness that I had never felt before, not even on some lonely picket post at night, so I concluded to try and get lodging at the first house I came to.
I passed one or two houses that evening but they had been abandoned and wore a look of loneliness that did anything but cheer my weary soul. It was getting dark and a slow drizzly rain had set in, when I met a man who told me he lived at the next house, a half mile further on, but that none of his family would be at home that night, as they would be with a neighbor off the road whom they were expecting to die that night. I asked him the privilege of going to the house and sleeping that night, but I, being a stranger, he refused me this favor, as I expected he would do, but gave me the cheering information that there was a house four or five miles further on where I could get to stay.
In this strange, rough country there were but few people living, and most of them were Union people who had been, some in the Union army and some staying at Little Rock for protection from the rebel Guerillas, where they found it easier to draw provisions from Uncle Sam's commissary than to hustle for a living at home. My spirits had ceased to droop but had taken a sudden fall to somewhere about the lowest degree. I paid no more attention to my sore feet, but started at a lively gait to measure off that four or five miles, but when I reached this place and hallooed, a woman's voice answered me across the road at what seemed to be a cow lot; so I went over and asked her if I could get to stay all night, telling her that I was a stranger, tired, footsore and weary. She said it was a bad chance, as she was not prepared to take in strangers; that her husband was not at home and she was alone with her little children. I told her that that would make no difference, as I considered myself a gentleman, and she need not fear anything from my presence, and from her talk I began to feel sure that I was going to get to stay all night. She asked me where I came from and I told her from east of the Mississippi River, and she asked me if I had been in the army and I told her I had. She then asked me what army. I told her "Johnson's," to which she replied, "He was a Rebel, was he not?" I told her, "Yes, he was." Then,, with an oath, she told me if I had been in the Rebel army she had no use for me; that on her way to Little Rock to her husband, who was in the Union army, they had taken the best horse she had and left an old broken-down one in its stead and refused to pay her any difference, and had taken a good beef steer from her and wouldn't pay her a cent for it, and finished by wishing all rebels in a hot country or place where I hope I never go.
I told her that I had never wronged or harmed her, and she ought not to blame me for what others had done; to which she replied in no style of modern Sunday school language, if I had not wronged her I belonged to the set that did, and I could not sleep under her roof. So I asked her what was in the old house in the cow lot and she said nothing but some straw. I asked her if I could go in there and sleep.
She said no, I could not stay on her place. I persisted in talking kindly to her until I found I could not get to stay all night and that it was four miles to the next house and no fork in the road that would put me out. During my four years' service in the army I had heard some very rough language used, and that woman had a sample of it all, and I will say that I got some new lessons from her that night. After this dialogue had continued for some time I began to think that her husband might be lying around, and hearing our racket might slip up and slip a bullet into me, so I very unceremoniously left her to finish the debate.
I had gone less than a hundred yards when I came to some water. In the inky darkness I could not tell how much, how wide or how deep, so I pulled off my boots and a part of my clothes and waded in, but found it shallow and waded across all right, sat down on the rocks and dressed myself and started on again. I had not gone more than twenty yards until I came to more water, so I put into it with all my clothes on and found I was in a considerably deep stream and had gotten above the ford into deep water, then got on to some slick rocks and fell down and got my old greasy satchel full of water. After some delay and trouble, I found the way to get out and left the Caddo River behind me. Some time in the night I came to the house I had been told of, and finished the night. How long it took the fumes of sulphur to clear away from the house across the river I never knew.
The next night I reached the cotton factory but found no job, and two days later I was stopping on Rolling Fork River with a man whom I once met in the army. I had my few coarse clothes and fifty cents in cash, which I soon invested in that popular old army game called "poker." Imagine my condition, if you can; many hundred miles from acquaintances of boyhood days and friends of long ago, among strangers, stranded, without a job, penniless and no bright prospects for the future. There were but few people in the western half of Sevier County, and at that time there were but four families living on the road just north of where Grannis now is to Ultima Thule, and only ten families living on Rolling Fork from head to mouth. Game of all kinds was plentiful, and a man could take his gun and go out to a deer-lick any morning and kill a deer. Bear was not so plentiful, but bear meat in the fall of the year was common, after they had become fat on the mast, which at that time was never known to be a complete failure, as it has been since so much timbered land has been cleared. I have ploughed in the field when the deer would be feeding in the same field. I have sat in my house and seen the deer feeding in a twenty-acre field that surrounded my house.
The range was fine for all kinds of stock. Fattening a hog on corn at that time was a thing unheard of. Cattle went the year round without feed and would get very fat in the summer and fall. Beef cattle were bought up by cattle men and driven to Little Rock and Shreveport and shipped by boat to New Orleans, Memphis and other river markets. A good five-year-old beef steer was considered currency at $20. Cows with calves usually sold at $8 and $10. Beeves were killed the year round; when a beef was killed in the summer, when the weather was hot, the few people in the neighborhood divided it, then the next time some other one of the neighbors would kill, and so on all around. No one ever entertained the thought of weighing out beef to a neighbor, and if a stranger happened to be sojourning in the country he shared the same as any others, but if he should forget himself and show the cloven foot he had better move on.
At that time there was more charity, good feelings and accommodations among the people than I have ever seen since. It was nothing uncommon for people to go visiting twenty miles away, using oxen and the old tar hub wagon for conveyance. If a family wanted to leave home for a week or more's visit they could always find some one to go and keep house for them until their return; or if they had nothing that would need attention during their absence they went away not fearing that anything would be molested during their absence, and if any person was from home he was always welcome to stay with any family he came to if night overtook him, and if he found a house and no one at home he went in and cooked a meal of anything he found and made himself at home with no fear of giving offense. Dances and quiltings were the common entertainment during the winter season, and I have known young women to ride horseback twenty miles to a quilting and dance.
In the summer after the crops were laid by the barbecue season came in for its share of patronage and consideration. I have known the dance attending the Rolling Fork barbecues to last a good part of the next day. People knew or cared little for style in those days, and but little distinction was made between people if they were honest and respectable. A girl that had a new print dress to wear to any kind of an entertainment was supposed to be well enough fixed, but with a new calico dress and a pair of store shoes she was the center of attraction.
It may not be too much of a breach of etiquette to mention here some of the old-time slaves that figured prominently in some of the past times I have heretofore mentioned. First, I will mention Bill White, formerly owned by William White, one of the first settlers of Rolling Fork. Bill was known far and near for his culinary abilities at a barbecue, and bore about the same relationship to a barbecue that Napoleon Bonaparte bore to a battle. His two trusted lieutenants as helpers were Lit McKean and Jake Nelson, both ex-slaves. Lit was an ex-slave of the McKean family while Jake had been the trusted slave of the Nelson family, who had first settled the old Doctor Hammond place on Rolling Fork. Lit and Jake were both fiddlers, and no barbecue, with the attendant dance, was complete without Jake and Lit to furnish the music. I once heard a person say that they would not dance after music made by a negro. Had such persons lived in Southwest Arkansas at that time they would have been left out when it came to dancing, for the most aristocratic people of Southwest Arkansas have tripped the light fantastic toe to the lively strains of music furnished by a negro fiddler.
Another faithful slave that deserves mention was Sam Dillahunty. Sam went through our late war with his master, as cook in the Confederate army, but in action Sam always stayed with his master's company to take care of any one that might get wounded, and in performing these voluntary acts he was twice wounded himself. The Confederate pension board of Sevier County once put Sam's name on the Confederate pension roll in consequence of his having been wounded in the Confederate army. The pension law did not sustain this act and the State Board of Pensions turned it down. The county board then applied to the State Legislature, and by recommendation of Hal L. Norwood, who was at that time Attorney General of the State, a special act was passed putting Sam on the Confederate pension roll,an act endorsed by all ex-Confederate soldiers who were acquainted with the circumstances. These faithful old slaves have all passed away with the full knowledge that they had the confidence and friendship of all the white people who knew them.
At the time of which I am writing there were but two stores in our side of the county—one at Norwoodville and the other at Ultima Thule—and I still remember some of the prices, which I will give you: Calico, 25 cents per yard; low-quarter brogan shoes, $4 per pair; a No. 8 Avery cast plow selling for $10. I once paid $2 each for four eight-inch shovel plow blades and $10 for a sack of salt; $2.50 for an ordinary pole-axe; $1.25 for an old-fashioned eye hoe. The young woman or girl that could afford to pay fifty cents for a yard of ribbon to wear around her neck and hair was looked on as putting on style, and the man who nailed the boards on the roof of his house was lucky if he paid no more than twelve and a half cents per pound for the old-fashioned cut nails.
Those were the balmy days of Southwestern Arkansas. We sold our cotton at from five to five and a half cents per pound in the seed. For a while there were but two cotton gins in the country—one owned by the McEeans and the other by Ben Norwood, Sr., of Norwoodville. But later, when the country had become more advanced, the McEeans put up another one at Ultima Thule, the first one being on their farm on the Rolling Fork.
In the spring of the year our merchants, the McEeans and Norwoods, and those at Paraclifta, Mineral Springs, Center Point and other inland towns, would take what cotton they had already had and could get to Hood's landing, and when the river would get high enough (which it sometimes failed to do) for a steamboat to come up, they would
take their cotton and go to New Orleans to buy goods for the coming year's sales. Sometimes, on account of low water, these goods would have to be hauled overland from Shreveport. This afforded a rich harvest for the professional bull-puncher, who made his living hauling for the public. His team usually consisted of three or four yoke of cattle. His feed for his team cost him nothing, as he fed them on the range, for at that time grass was good anywhere. The merchant who failed to get his cotton off, and his goods up in the early spring while the rivers were up, had to depend on getting his goods by long-horn conveyance from Little Rock, the teamsters usually going in gangs of two or three teams to as high as five or six. They would usually have a pony along to be used in herding their cattle and getting them together when fixing to break camp. Each puncher knew where the best grazing places were, sometimes going a mile off the main road, and the length of the drive depended on the grass. From our part of the country one of these drives usually took from thirty-five to forty days. He would usually take, when the roads were good, about eight bales of cotton and bring back about four thousand pounds of freight, receiving three dollars per hundred each way. Hunting and fishing was indulged in at the different camping places. Venison and turkey furnished the punchers a good part of their supplies. The man who has never been on one of these trips has missed a chance to enjoy life which will return no more forever.
In speaking of the amusements of the early days in Sevier County, I neglected to mention horse-racing and shooting matches. At any gathering of men the horse race was always first to come up. A dollar was generally the amount bet on a quarter race, but the amount would reach as high as $10, or even more. There is something fascinating about a horse race that has a tendency to pull a man into it. I never witnessed a horse race that I did not have a preference and I hardly think any one else ever did.
The shooting matches were most always for a beef. The distance was usually about forty yards off-hand or sixty with a rest, lying down and shooting off a log or chunk, the old flint-lock rifle always being the most popular gun in use. What has become of it? Has it passed away like its former owner? There were always five quarters to a beef, the hide and tallow was considered a quarter. The sixth best shot got the lead that had been used by the marksman. Sometimes a match would be shot for money, each one putting in an equal amount and shooting for it, the best shot getting the purse.
We had a post office at Ultima Thule at that time and one on lower Bear Creek at the home of R. D. Wright, called Netta Boc (an Indian name meaning Bear Creek). Our mail usually came in once a week from Paraclifta, provided there was no high water and it suited the pleasure of the carrier. Part of the time it was carried by an Indian on a pony and like most of the government help he did just about as he pleased about it. After many years a petition was circulated at Ultima Thule to have the route made a semi-weekly route. One old citizen refused to sign it, giving as his reason for not signing it that once a week was often enough for people to get their mail and it would not be right to put the government to such a useless expense.
Our country was short on doctors immediately after the war. Dr. Norwood of Norwoodville was drowned in Old river and our next nearest doctor was Dr. Bizzell of Paraclifta. He was kept so busy waiting on patients that it was almost useless for the people in our part of the country to send for him. In bad cases of pneumonia, fever, or broken bones, Mrs. Lucy M'Kean (or "Grandma" as she was called), was most always called in, and as she had had considerable experience in nursing slaves, of which the family had owned a goodly number, she was very successful and no one was ever more ready or willing to care for the distressed than was Grandma M'Kean.
It may be a little interesting to some of your readers to mention a mineral spring that existed at that time, not over three miles from the present site of DeQueen. Just what mineral this water contained, I am unable to say. If I have ever heard, I have forgotten, and I have also forgotten the name of the spring. At the close of the war people from many miles away would come to this spring and camp for weeks at a time, for health, and many sick people were brought here to be healed. I have known people to carry water for twenty miles from this spring. It was claimed to be an antidote for malaria and kindred diseases. During my long siege of chills, which I have already spoken of, I used some of this water, but whether it was the water or the various kinds of teas used that restored me to health, I cannot say. With the coming of a doctor into our midst, this spring fell into disuse. There are but very few people now living in Sevier County that can tell you anything of this spring. There was some talk at one time of opening it up as a health resort as an auxiliary boost for DeQueen, but the death of one of DeQueen's enterprising citizens put a stop to this venture. Who now owns the land on which this spring existed I do not know, but I do know that such a spring existed at one time and if it was worth anything as a health restorer at that time, why should it not be now, when two and one-half miles of good road from DeQueen will reach it?
About the last month of 1868, or the first part of 1869, Dr. J. W. Hammonds from Tennessee, settled on the Rolling Ford and commenced the practice of medicine, which he continued to do until he died at Chapel Hill, near which place he had spent a large portion of his life attending the sick and dispensing charity with a lavish hand.
The worst source of annoyance in those early days was the professional horse thief. Just after the war horse stealing became so common that the citizens commenced to take the matter in their own hands with the implacable Judge Lynch at their head, and dealt out quick justice to several, which had quite a salutary effect for a while at least, no less than six of them having seen daylight for the last time near where DeQueen now is. I will give one instance of quick justice, all names withheld, that happened near where DeQueen now stands.
A man with his family had moved into the neighborhood and he seemed to be the head of a very nice, intelligent family, and every one accorded him and his family a warm welcome, and he could soon have become one of the leading men of this section had not fate interfered and warped his future. He had followed farming and merchandising before coming to this country and had enjoyed the confidence of all his neighbors and came to Sevier County bringing with him good recommendations from all his old neighbors. With him came a son-in-law and two sons. After they had been here a while horse stealing took a decided spurt, and several of the best horses of the country were missing. For a time all efforts to follow these stolen horses failed. Some horses had been stolen near the present site of DeQueen. After several days' search a camp was found in Red river bottom where these horses had been kept for several days waiting for Red river to go down so they could cross over. After crossing Red river it was an easier matter to follow them, and they were found where they had been sold in Western Texas by our new neighbors. Other horses from Sevier County were found and identified. They had been bought from this same man.
Horses had been stolen in Texas and brought to Sevier County and sold. Some of the Texas parties who had lost horses returned with our Sevier County men, and our newcomer, his two sons and son-in-law were arrested. About all the Texas horses were found. Nearly all the people living between Norwoodville and Ultima Thule were notified, and met about two miles below where DeQueen now is. These parties were put on trial, Judge Lynch presiding. They were allowed to introduce any evidence they wished to. After all the evidence from both sides was given, a vote was taken on each one separately. The old man and his two sons received the death sentence; his son-in-law having proved an alibi, was acquitted. The boys had but little to say, but admitted their guilt. An old Confederate soldier who was present asked leave to have a private talk with the old man before he was executed. This request was granted, a guard being posted to preclude the possibility of escape. This talk lasted about twenty or thirty minutes. After it was over the three who had been declared guilty were left hanging by their necks to a low limb of a large white oak tree in the Bear Creek bottom. Parties buried the three dead men the next day and the family moved away to parts unknown.
About thirty years after this event had taken place I met this same old Confederate soldier at McAlester, I. T. He stated that he told this old man in his private talk that he could do nothing to save him and that he was bound to hang. After the old man saw there was no hope, he made a confession to this old soldier, and told him he had been following this business for more than forty years and that this was the first time his character had ever been questioned, and his only regret seemed to be that he had been the cause of his two sons coming to their untimely death.
Now let me tell you something, and if you have lived in Arkansas you won't laugh. The limb to which these men were hanged never leafed out again. I have in my life seen several limbs and trees that men had been hanged to and I never saw one that lived after. The limb would die, if not the whole tree. You may ask what the cause of this is. I cannot tell. I have only given you the facts; you can do your own guessing. If you doubt this statement take some one out that ought to be hanged and leave him hanging to a limb and be convinced.
In 1881 a simple-minded man named Hall was passing through the country. The Rolling Fork was full to swimming. There was no way to cross it. Three negroes met this imbecile at the river, and after torturing him to their satisfaction to have a little fun, as they expressed it, they knocked him into the river and he was drowned. They were all three hung by order of Judge Lynch; one to a limb of a large red oak. The limb died. One was hung to a haw bush. It died also. One was hung to a dogwood, and it died. All died within a year. Later another negro was hung near Chapel Hill for the murder of an old colored man, Charley Hankins. He was hung that night to a dogwood tree. It died within a year. The reader may wonder and ask: "How many more died by violent hands in this country?" Just wait a moment until I can count them. Well, I have finished the count. From Ultima Thule to Bear Creek twenty-seven men died either by assault or from mob violence, enough to fill quite a large lot in a cemetery.
That calls to mind the mysterious graveyard, as it has been called by the old settlers. Do you know where it is? Cross the bridge at Johnson Ford on Rolling Fork river. When you get off the bridge at the west end you are in this graveyard, most of it lying to your left, with the old road passing over it. I first saw this quiet little graveyard in 1865. Stones were at the head and foot of nearly all the graves. It was then covered with briars and small trees. I was told at that time by some of the oldest citizens of the country that no one knew who had been buried there—that it had been there as far back as memory reached and no one could tell anything about it. Judge Sam Dollarhide, who died many years ago at Rocky Comfort, said it was there and unknown in 1803; hence the name "Unknown." But it is stated on good authority that a Mrs. Clark, whose husband was one of the pioneer settlers of the country, was buried there. After the death of Mrs. Clark, Clark moved to the Spanish territory of Texas and his descendants became the founders of Clarksville, Texas.
Another old burying ground is found about one-half mile west of the mysterious graveyard. It had furnished a place of burial for the people of this section for many years before our late war, and was used for many years after the war. A little log church had been built, called Chapel Hill, and the place of burial was moved to this churchyard. But the little church has long since rotted and crumbled away, but most people living at DeQueen know where the. old Chapel Hill graveyard is located. The other one just mentioned has grown over with briars and trees and a wagon road passes through it, but many of the graves can yet be pointed out. This place of burial was once outside, but is now in a field. A few family lots were once enclosed with stone walls. Some of these have fallen down, but enough of them still remain to show where some of the old pioneer families are sleeping their last sleep. To those who take an interest in the past and the people of long ago, a visit to these old silent cities of the dead would be interesting.
Another old burial place not known to many of the citizens of DeQueen, that was used for years before the war
and up to a time not long before the Kansas City Southern railroad was built, is within the city limits and is located in the southern part of town. A very few trees are or were standing there a year or two ago. The only means by which this burial place can be located is a few sunken graves. A few houses occupied by colored people with the attendant outhouses seem to have been built there to desecrate this hallowed spot. Why the townsite company would lay out lots and sell them to be used, as these have been, is puzzling
Years ago I was shown a canebrake on the Rolling Fork, below the old salt works, where it was said that a gang of counterfeiters made their headquarters and made counterfeit money as well. This gang had members, so told, that reached from Tennessee through Arkansas and into Texas, some of the so-called members belonging to some well-to-do and respected families of these three states. The Bible teaches us that the sins of the fathers will be visited on their posterity even to the fourth generation. We have no right to dispute it, but here is evidence that causes us to believe this is true in more than one way. A granddaughter of one of these old families, accused of this counterfeiting business, many years ago married and was living on her grandfather's place. Her grandfather was supposed to have some gold buried when he died. It was never found. In a very secluded and secret spot, her husband found quite a goodly lot of gold. Thinking it was the grandfather's gold, to which they had a perfect right, this man used some of it in making purchases for his family. That tall chin-whiskered old man with the starry hat and striped breeches claimed that he had never made any such money, and that it was counterfeit, and that the man spending this money owed and should pay him two years hard labor at one of his workhouses maintained for the benefit of the unwary, notwithstanding he claimed and proved he found it. A part of this money was wrapped in a newspaper announcing that James K. Polk was a candidate for President of the United States. It had been kept very dry and was supposed to have been spurious coin hidden away by the woman's grandfather.
Arkansas has produced some wonderful things but one of its most unique productions was a man named Jackman. He was here years before the war and remained several years after. I never knew where he was from and never saw a man that did. In evading an answer to a question he was a scientist pure and simple; also in many other things. You could hardly name a place or country but what Jackman had been there. He was a man of sense and education, and could give information about most anything that he was asked. His going was like his coming, something of a mystery. One of his hobbies was mining. He was a good mechanic and blacksmith and could fix a clock or put a watch in order, mend jewelry or do most anything he might be called upon to do. He would come down into the settlement and work a while, get a small store of provisions, then away to the hills of north Sevier and prospect for mineral, believing that he would strike something rich in the near future. When his first store of provisions would become exhausted he would return, go to work again and would soon be back in the hills again. He was very confident that h$ would some day strike mineral that would make him immensely rich. Then he was going to perfect an electric motor that he had in mind, next to his mining business. I never cared to listen to this talk, for like most all others, I thought he was somewhat off balance and cranky, considerably flighty, and talked of things that I thought were unreasonable and could never be accomplished. I came upon him one day at his work. It was very hot and he asked me to sit down and rest. I did so. He was soon telling me what could be done with electricity and what he could accomplish if he had as much as five hundred dollars in cash. After giving me some ideas of how his motor could be constructed, he then proceeded to tell me what it could and would do in the future. As I was very tired I thought I would hear him through for once. He told me among other things that if I lived fifty years I would see boats running, and railroad cars running by electricity, and that the time was not far off when vehicles would be running the roads without horses. I told him I didn't think that would ever be done. He then went on and told me of Morse and his telegraph, how people had doubted him at first; then told me of his success, that put him on the wires, and finally he told me that if I lived my allotted time I would hear people talking over telegraph wires.
He seemed to become vexed and indignant when I told him it could not and never would be done and that he was wearing out his brains studying on things impossible. I asked him how much it would cost to bring out these things. He said that with five hundred dollars he could bring out his electric motor; that would then get him all the money he would need to bring out his other things.
I asked a man with some means a short time after this why he didn't put up five hundred dollars on Jackman and let him experiment with his motor. He replied that Jackman was an unusually smart man, and an educated man, and a man of much scientific knowledge, but when he got on his electric railroad car and went to talking over his talking telegraph wires he became excited and flighty and his mind ran into the infinite. I was young at that time, 1868, and was not competent to criticise Jackman, but I have lived to see all that he predicted verified, and if he had had the backing what might have been accomplished will never be known.
But that which brought about greater expectations, more talk and less money than any other thing in Sevier County, was its mining booms. I knew one man, and only one, that made something out of these mines during the big boom of '74. A poor squatter of the hills found and located a claim. He soon sold this claim for a new wagon and a good pair of mules and four hundred dollars in cash. He started back to Missouri with his family and newly-acquired wealth, leaving his victim a more sorrowful but wiser man with the knowledge that all is not silver that is found in Arkansas mines. The first of these mines was discovered by John Bellah, who was a prosperous farmer living on the old line road between Ultima Thule and what is now known as Gillham. He found something on his place which he thought was silver, sunk a shaft perhaps ten or twenty feet deep, but found nothing of value during the Confederate administration. This mine was worked for lead by the Confederate government. New shafts were sunk. When the war closed these mines closed also, without ever getting enough lead to make a buckshot. Yet I have been told by men who knew nothing about it that the Confederate government obtained ammunition for their western army from these, the Bellah mines. I have seldom if ever corrected one of these wise men, for I have learned by experience that there is glory in ignorance.
In 1874 a big boom was raised over the mines and it was common to see men from St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York, and other places prospecting and buying mineral claims. Uncle Sam Davis, as he was commonly called, located a claim that now goes by the name of the Davis mines; did some little work on it and had an offer of thirty thousand dollars for it by a Philadelphia firm. This he refused, saying if it was worth thirty thousand dollars it was worth a million. He never realized a dollar from this mine and died a poor man some years after.
In 75 or 76 Captain C. K. Holman and Bert Kinsworthy spent some money developing the Davis mine. It proved to be a Jonah on their hands, and they gave it up with a good lot of experience as dividends. During the big boom of 1874 a company from Joplin, Mo., brought in a large amount of machinery and went to work at the old Bellah mines. This gave the mining business an impetus that perhaps it will never know again, notwithstanding there is another boom on at the present time. After furnishing the country with quite a lot of cash, enough almost to equal the coming cash payment to the Indians, they, like the Arabs, folded their tents and quietly stole away, leaving only a memory and a hole in the ground. But the mining business in Sevier and North Howard, like the troubled sea, was to have no rest, and along in the 80's the fever broke out again, and engines were running at several different mines and all was hustle and activity again. When two men would meet, after the usual compliments were passed, one would take from his pocket some blue, black or gray looking rocks. These were called specimens, and after examining each other's find, they would separate, each one in the full belief that they had struck it rich. All this machinery was soon moved away and the natives of the hills were left to repose in quiet, for a while at least. Later it became known to all that it was the lack of railroad facilities that had caused all these failures. Why this had never been thought of before I cannot say. But with the building of the Kansas City Southern railroad, another company, either with or without a name, went to work at the old Bellah, did considerable building and put up extensive machinery, and after shipping a few wagon loads of ground rock to Kansas City or St. Louis, they converted this great system of machinery into a one-horse saw mill and I suppose are now dwelling under the shade of the woodbine far away.
Those who doubt the statement of these last mining ventures consult the early files of the DeQueen Bee. I forgot to mention another company that was organized to work the old mythical Spanish mines on the Rolling Fork. They changed their organization into a piscatorial company and caught suckers.
But I am getting too near the present date line, so I will drop back about my starting point in Sevier County, where I had just invested my all, a fifty-cent greenback shin-plaster in a game of poker. I think I hear some modern society belle say: "I will read no more of this stuff for he is nothing but an old gambler." I will admit that along in the 60's and 70's I was right handy with the spotted pasteboards, but the custom was common in those days. So I will drop this subject and go back to work at Rolling Fork salt works on a hire for a peck of salt per day and my board, which consisted of fresh beef and corn bread for each of the three meals per day. There were three furnaces at the old works, one of them having twenty-five cast iron kettles cast at and hauled by wagon from Jefferson, Texas. Some of them can be seen scattered over the country now. The other two furnaces were supplied with 27 kettles each.
The modus operandi for making salt at these salt wells was about this way: Wood was first cut in about four foot lengths and allowed to season for a while, and I will say here that these furnaces were kept rented and running all the time; never allowed to cool down if it could be avoided; consequently there were always two sets of hands, a day shift and a night shift. A big, wide furnace was built of rock and dirt, perhaps .12 feet wide. In the center of this furnace were two rows of kettles, the top of them a little above the level of the furnace. These kettles held from 50 to 150 gallons each. The largest being placed at the front of the furnace, the smaller ones at the rear, diminishing in size from front to rear. The Water was drawn from wells with buckets and sweep.
Why some one never made a pump and put in these wells is a mystery, as the water would stand several feet deep in these wells, the surface water coming in all the time, and the salt being the heavier always stayed on the bottom; the bucket only brought up a weak solution of salt water from the surface, when pumping the pure salt water from the bottom would have taken less boiling. As before mentioned the water was drawn from the wells and poured into the first kettle near the mouth of the furnace and was dipped back from kettle to kettle with a wooden bucket with a long handle attached to it similar to a hoe handle. In the last and smallest kettles it commenced to grain and as it thickened it very much resembled thick mush. It was then dipped up, put in troughs, with one end raised higher than the other, that all water might drip out. When it became drained and dry we had the genuine Arkansas production of salt, which was readily sold at four dollars per bushel. One peck of this salt I was to get for a day's work, but as I was then taking the initatory degree of Arkansas customs and ways and citizenship, I had a first-class case of chills served out to me, which stuck to me like a brother till Christmas. Chill tonics were not known at the time and quinine was out of the question. So for about four months I shook and drank teas of every conceivable kind. Among them I remember holly, mouse ear, sassafras, dogwood, wild cherry and ash bark. The chills gradually became lighter and weaker and so did I. The last one, a day or two before Christmas, was barely perceptible, and if tramping had been half as common then as it is now and I had
known half as much about it as I do now, I would have sought my mother's home east of the great Mississippi River and she could have exacted any kind of promise or oath from me never to leave it again. But dear old Arkansas, what a tale I would have told on you, and I would gladly have taken an oath to never set foot on your soil again no more forever.
I made a deal with an old farmer to make a crop with his son. He said he would board me and do what was right about my part of the prospective crop, and on Christmas day, 1865, with an old wornout pole axe, I mounted an old pine log to chop it up to get it out of the way for the coming crop. It seemed to me I had never before seen so many logs on a ten-acre field. I would stand on a log and strike a few licks with my old axe and I would be out of breath, then I would look around at the logs, count them and figure in my mind how long it would take to get them ready to pile and burn and wonder what sins I had committed to merit such terrible punishment. Time is a great healer of all ills and I was soon able to cut an ordinary log half off without stopping, and I soon found that my log job was not half as bad as I expected. Our stock of tools for the two of us consisted of one worn-out, home-made, diamond-wing plow, the old axe I have described, and a grubbing hoe, worn-out perhaps before I was born; one weeding hoe, made by cutting an old blade from an old eye hoe and riveting it to the blade of another. Our team consisted of a large yoke of oxen used for breaking our land and one old bay horse that like both of us, had been in the service of the Confederate army. With this outfit and ten or twelve bushels of corn and plenty of grass to graze on, we made about five hundred bushels of corn, and fifteen thousand pounds of cotton. The cotton sold for five and a half cents per pound in the seed, and what corn was sold brought one dollar and a half per bushel. By the time this crop was made and gathered I had become reconciled to Arkansas and within her borders I have spent most of my life.
After this first year, farming was not such an up-hill business, for I bought two Hall & Spear cast plows for ten dollars each and two brand new eye hoes for another dollar and fifty cents each. Our crops were cultivated entirely with our turning plow. Our cotton was planted on a ridge or bed made with a turning plow and opened with a wooden opener made for the purpose and covered with a wooden home-made harrow. Our cotton—owing to the lack of proper plows, required a great deal of hoeing, which for a peck of corn per day we could hire Indians to do—they boarding themselves. They usually did good honest work, but were slow, and were not being paid to hurry. When the time came to gather the crops the Indians usually did all our cotton picking, some of them being experts at the business. I well remember the first one of them that tried to play a trick on me. He came to my house late one evening claiming to be very hungry, and looked like he had been in company with bad luck for some time. My wife gave him a full square meal of bread, cold meat and cold sweet potatoes and after his meal he wanted a job of work making rails, and as some of them were good rail makers I hired him to make me some rails at one dollar per hundred. I gave him an axe, an iron wedge and a skillet; let him have a piece of meat and a peck of meal to be paid for out of his wages. I went with him and showed him the timber I wanted worked up, and as it was about night he said he would camp and go to work the next morning. For some days I heard nothing from my Indian, so one evening I went to see what had become of him. The axe, skillet and wedge were on a stump but the meat, meal and the Indian were gone. The next summer some Indians came to me for a job of hoeing cotton. I told the spokesman that I would hire them and the trade was made, one of them keeping well in the background. I called him up and asked him if he wanted to work, too. He said he did. I then recognized him as being the one who failed to make the rails for me. I asked him why he took my meal and meat and made no rails. He remarked in his broken English: "That way white man do" I saw he was right about it and said no more to him about his trick.
The Indian, like the negro, liked company and it was seldom that one would come over in the State and work by himself. They would go in gangs. When they were hunting, cotton hoeing or picking, and usually after camping out and working for a week or more, one or two would carry off the price of all their labors. They had a game peculiar to themselves, similar to our old game at school called thimble. In our language their game would be called bullet. A bullet, when it could be had, was used in the game, the players sitting in a circle around a blanket spread on the ground. Each one of them had a hat, handkerchief or something of the kind to hide the bullet under. When hidden all would guess where it was hidden, the guesser pointing a finger at where he thought the bullet was hidden. After all had guessed, the one hiding the bullet would point to where it was hidden. Each one would hold in his hand a bunch of small sticks or straws.
With these they kept count of their game. After each guess there would be a general exchange of sticks. I have watched this game for hours and never could understand it and never saw a white man that did, but any Indian would stake his all on this game of chance. While it was being played not a word was being spoken but each player would be giving out a peculiar droning, humming sound, heard nowhere, only at a bullet game. A stranger hearing this noise for the first time at a little distance would think he was entering the realms of lost souls.
Another interesting Indian game was their old-time ball game which is not played any more on account of creating too many fights and even bloodshed and death.
In the long ago it was not uncommon for a crowd of white men to ride fifty miles to see a ball game. A well matched, well played game of baseball, is a very tame affair when compared to an Indian game of the olden times with fifty or more players on. each side. The games were always played on a prairie; the players wearing nothing but a breech-cloth and a look of determination for his side to win. Each player was well decorated with paint applied in the most hideous fashion imaginable but always with some peculiarity about it to show which side he belonged to. Usually one tribe played another. The ball was always handled with their ball sticks, butting, kicking and striking each other with their fists was admissible in the game, but to strike another with a stick lost to his side one point in the game, which was always ten. When the game was over one side usually carried off most of the wealth of the other. Their money was always bet first, then came beads, handkerchiefs, ribbons and such with the women, for they would bet the same as the men. The men would bet ponies, guns and anything they had, for it was considered a case of disloyalty not to bet on your own side. . I have seen men going home after a ball play wearing nothing but a breech-cloth, having lost all their clothing on the game, yet jolly and full of life, regarding their misfortune as a huge joke. I never heard or knew of one trying to avoid paying anything he had lost on the game, but I have seen them hunting for the one that had won to give up what he had lost. There is where hope plays a strong hand. I never saw an Indian, if he expressed himself at all, but what expected to get even and ahead at the next game.
Whether civilizing the Indian up, or down, as the case may be, to the present standard of civilization is for his betterment is an oft-discussed but a non-decided question. In his half-civilized condition or less, as I first knew him, his word was considered binding, his dress scant, his food of the most common kind, his wants were few, and he was content and happy. His ball games and different kinds of dances at the different seasons of the year furnished him his amusements. The game and his little patch of corn furnished him most of his subsistence. If he needed more he would get a small crowd together, cross into Arkansas or Texas, and work it out. In the making of cane baskets most of the women were experts. If an Indian was tried and found guilty of a crime in one of their courts and the death penalty was affixed against him, the day was fixed for his execution and he was turned loose to go and do as he pleased till the day set for his execution, when he was always on hand ready to receive the execution of his sentence. Whether this was a matter of honor or bravado I do not know, but I do know it is not an article of faith on the white man's calendar.
Our early day mills for grinding corn were of very rude construction and were run by water mostly. Aunt Betsy McLendon was once the owner of one which stood near where the depot at DeQueen now stands, on Little Bear Creek, but as there was seldom water enough to run it, it was changed into what was called a horse mill; that is, it was run by horse power, provided the customer furnished the horse. This mill soon proved to be more of a nuisance than a benefit to the community and was soon out of use. Another one built lower down on Bear Creek proved a failure and followed the fate of Aunt Betsy's venture in the mill business. The failure of these two enterprises threw us back on the old-time steel mill, and we had to grind our corn by hand. These old steel mills were made of steel after the fashion of a large coffee mill, with a handle on each side, by which it was turned. It was bolted to a post securely placed in the ground. The hopper for this mill was like a large funnel and would hold something more than a gallon. In selecting corn to grind in these mills we would select the softest ears, grind a bucket full rather coarse, sift out the finer meal, screw up the mill a little tighter, grind and sift again till the corn was converted into meal. This was rather a slow process, but cost us nothing only hard labor and perspiration.
Most of our floors were called puncheon floors. These were flat slabs split from pine trees and hewn and joined together, and I have seen some very good floors made from these puncheon, but no comparison to the floors of today. Our next best were made from lumber sawed with the old two-man whip saw. The log was rolled upon a low scaffold. After having it squared it was lined off with a blacking line to the desired thickness. One of the operators stood on top of the log and the other in the ditch underneath the scaffold, the lower end of the saw having a cross handle; the man on top of the scaffold guiding the saw to follow his lines and pulling it down. In this way two good sawyers could turn out two hundred feet of passable inch boards per day.
About the year 1869 a man named Thomas Abbott brought a steam saw and grist mill into the country and put it down a short distance north of Rolling Fork salt works. This mill solved the problem of meal and lumber. I have known men to bring corn to this mill a distance of 25 miles in ox wagons.
It was not to be many years before both saw and grist mills became more plentiful. During this scarcity of mills Ben Norwood, Sr., of Norwoodville, built a little overshot mill near Norwoodville that supplied that neighborhood with meal.
Immediately after the war, Arkansas, like all other Southern States, was overrun with carpet-baggers from the north. These carpet-baggers received their names from being a class of people without means of support, seeking office by soliciting the vote of the newly enfranchised negro, and managing to make his living off of the negroes' hard earnings, and fostering a prejudice between the negro and his former owner, and when he failed to succeed in one place he packed his worldly possessions in his carpet bag and moved to pastures new. Powell Clayton, a man who had served in the Union army in a Kansas regiment, had the support of this class of people who controlled the negro vote and as the negro looked on the Northern man as being his Moses they easily controlled his vote by making him false promises, such as giving him forty acres of land and a mule and giving him a fat office in the future. They organized secret societies among the negroes, never allowing a member to go unpledged to vote for them when they asked for office. The negro was taught to look upon his former owner as his natural enemy. This caused much friction and race trouble, and as the negro had the backing of the carpet-bagger's party, from the governor down to the constable, supported by the State Militia, the rough element of the negroes and carpet-baggers had their own way till the organization known as the Ku-Klux, organized in 1866 in Tennessee, which organization soon spread all over the Southern States, and was an offset to the carpet-bagger.
It has been said of the Ku-Klux that they were an organized mass of men of lawless character, guilty of murder, arson and all other violations of law. Such is not the case, as it was organized and controlled by as responsible men as there were in the South and as one who has the right to know something of the Ku-Klux, I will state that among their pledges the following are a few: "We pledge ourselves to protect the weak and innocent and defenseless from wrongs and outrages and indignities of the lawless and violent and brutal. To relieve the injured and oppressed, to succor the suffering and distressed, especially the widows and orphans of the Confederate soldier. To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and all laws passed in conformity thereto, and to protect the United States and people from all invasions from any source whatsoever ; to aid and assist in the executing of all laws, and to protect the people from unlawful seizure and from trial except by their peers, in conformity to the laws of the land.
This organization was disbanded in 1869, after accomplishing the purpose for which it was organized. Only the Republicans, so far, had been allowed to vote after the commencement of the carpet-bag rule and the polls at the election precincts were usually guarded by armed negroes, and I have known white men to be marched off to jail by negro guards for the offense of hallooing for a Democratic president candidate.
There was another class of people that came from the North to the South just after the war that must not be classed with the carpet-bagger element. They were honest, industrious people of different professions and callings. They settled among us and made good citizens as there are in the South, and their fathers were as much opposed to the carpet-baggers as were the people of the South, and I have known some of them that were connected with the Ku-Klux Klan in an official way. The days of reconstruction in Arkansas with its carpet-bag Governor Powell Clayton, his carpet-bag followers, his maurauding militia will always be remembered with horror by the people of southwest Arkansas, unless it be the few who took part in this reign of terror and feasted at the carpet-bag pie counter.
There are a few descendants of one of the old families of Sevier County now living around DeQueen who can trace their relationship to one of the most noted families of the United States. I mean the Todds. James Todd, a pioneer settler of Sevier County, was a brother to the father of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. His son, Wm. Todd (Uncle Billy), an own cousin of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, once lived at DeQueen and will be remembered by many of DeQueen's earliest settlers.
Another person that should not be forgotten is a granddaughter of one of America's noted generals, who now fills a pauper's grave in Sevier County. I met her in the last years of the seventies at the country home at Lockesburg, and she recited to me the history of her adventurous life. She told me she was the granddaughter of General Nathaniel Greene of Revolutionary fame, and that she had a brother somewhere in the United States, she did not know where. I think she said his name was George, named for George Washington. She told me where she was born, where she had lived, and how she came to be in Arkansas, and that she was about 90 years old and had never been married, and had lost all trace of her family connections. I have always regretted that I did not make a note of the story of her life, but I did not and her history is lost. At the same time I met her, perhaps in 79, she was in possession of all her mental faculties and was well informed, eloquently defending the cause of the Southern States—in fact, I considered her a living encyclopedia of general knowledge. How she came to be in the county home I do not remember. Mr. H. A. Wofford, who was superintending the county home at that time, informs me that he remembers her as a very old lady and that she died in 1880 or 1881, and that is all he can remember of her. I have often thought of her, as I have the man without a country, and thought that his last request would fitly apply to her, and ask if some one will not erect a stone to her memory and say on it: "She loved her country more but received less from its hands than any other woman." I have wondered if someone, some society or. church, the D. A. R's. or the U. D. C's. would not some day take this matter up and rescue her grave from the potter's field and oblivion.
I chanced to be at Guilford court house on Saturday, July 3, 1915. I was at that place where General Greene, the grandfather of this woman, commanded the American forces and fought Lord Cornwallis at the battle of his name in the war for American Independence. There was a large gathering of people there from all parts of the State. Several noted speakers from other States were there and many able, patriotic speeches were made and a fine monument was unveiled to the memory of General Greene, and I thought of the difference that was shown between him and his granddaughter who was then sleeping in a pauper's grave in a distant State, without a friend or relative to drop a tear or flower on her lonely and forsaken grave.
For now she sleeps in a lonely grave, Where the wild flower nods its head; Where the wild birds come and the wild bees hum Above her lonely head.
During these days of high prices the writer paid ten dollars for one ounce of quinine and considered himself lucky to get it at all. After the removal of the tariff, and quinine dropped to three dollars an ounce, people almost considered it a newly-acquired privilege to have chills. I remember when it was first proposed in Congress to remove the tariff from quinine. The few newspapers we would get gave accounts of the fight that Powers and Weightman, manufacturing chemists of Philadelphia, were putting up against it. They claimed that it would drive them out of business, and their plant would become useless. It was not long after this measure was passed till the papers gave it out that Powers & Weightman were increasing their capacity, and that old firm is still doing business at the same old stand. Newspapers were higher then than now, by fifty per cent, and the subscriber had to pay the postage, which was, on a small paper, 26 cents a year in advance. Letter postage was three cents for each half ounce or fraction, prepaid with stamps after the present style. I remember one of our enterprising postmasters with an eye to business. For a while after the war he charged five cents for a three-cent stamped envelope, giving as his reason that the postoffice was un-remunerative, and that he had to have pay from some source for serving the people. Later Uncle Sam let him off by him promising to be good.
Along about this time there lived in the country a negro named Peter Norwood, and as he was an aspirant for greatness, we dubbed him "Peter the Great." Peter had, before the edicts of the war had made him a gubernatorial possibility under the reconstruction rules, been the property of Ben Norwood, Sr., founder of Norwoodville, but who never spoke of Peter as being one of those good old antebellum negroes, noted for their faithfulness to old Master and their kindness to old Miss and the chilluns. Peter was not built that way, and refused to be an humble-ex-slave and follow a plow and mule as in the olden days. When he was receiving so much encouragement from men who said they had fought and risked their lives that he might be a free man and equal to the white race, to become a man among men, and all they asked in return from Peter was his vote whenever they might demand the goods. Peter became to be very insulting and overbearing to his old-time white neighbors, and was holding secret meetings at night among the negroes, and it could easily be seen that these meetings boded no good for the whites. Two young men "strangers" dropped into the country from somewhere. They were soon intimate with Peter, attended the secret meetings with Peter, an honor accorded no other white man. They dined with Peter, wined him with white mule liker, and they three became the most prominent men on Rolling Fork. And why not? For Peter has been appointed a J. P. by the great carpet-bag governor of Arkansas, and his plans for the future governorship of Monroe township at least were laid before and approved by Peter's two chums and allies.
Among Peter's declaration of future rules of government to his two chums were, that no white man need sue or enter into a lawsuit with a negro in his court, and a white woman refusing to marry a negro when proposed to would receive the condemnation of Peter's iron-handed law. Other threats of Peter I could mention, but these two are enough to show how the people were ruled in the days of the carpetbag government.
I will leave Peter for a short while, with his two allies, to hold the reins of government on Rolling Fork, while the reader accompanies me to Paraclifta, the county seat of Sevier County. A man named Ballard, a carpet-bagger, had been appointed head of the negro bureau of Sevier County and stationed at Paraclifta, and had a company of Irish soldiers given him to guard him and enforce his law, as he was in full control of everything pertaining to the negro, and like the laws of the Medes and Persians, from his edicts there were no appeals. His Irish soldiers, like most Irishmen were clever and generous-hearted men and wholly unsuited for Ballard's use. So Ballard had them removed and a company of negro soldiers sent to Paraclifta in their stead. Any contract whatever made with a negro had to be endorsed by Ballard. If a negro had any complaint to make against his white employer he went to Ballard and as the negro's statement was always taken in preference to the white man's, the white man always came out worsted, and Ballard never failed to charge the white man for settling a dispute or acknowledging a contract. So Ballard and the negroes had everything coming their way. An old farmer, one of the best in the country, noted for his long-headedness, knowing that without relief farming with colored labor was a dead issue, and knowing Ballard's duplicity, soon made a warm friend of Ballard and bargained with him to give Ballard each fiftieth bale of cotton grown by negro labor, to let him manage and control his negro laborers as he chose. Other farmers were soon put "next," and the negro soon learned that it was useless to carry his woes to Ballard and Ballard was soon receiving a snug income from negro labor.
But there was a transient, loafing class of negroes that couldn't be controlled, and wouldn't work, and like the proverbial stray dog had neither home nor master, and something must be done to make them law-abiding and self-supporting. When the Confederate government went under, General Shelby, of Missouri, with his men went to Mexico. In a year or two they had become tired of their long stay from home and were passing through the country on their way to their homes in Arkansas and Missouri. Unknown white people commenced to handle this last-named class of negroes as they thought best, telling them that they were Shelby's men. Ballard became indignant at this; what he called outrages, offered rewards and threatened dire vengeance against the Shelby men, and promised to make an example of the first one he could lay hands on. He hadn't long to wait. One morning a boy of perhaps twenty years of age rode into the town and inquired for Mr. Ballard. He was pointed out to the boy as he walked across the street. He rode up to him and told Mr. Ballard he was one of Shelby's men, and proceeded to read Mr. Ballard the riot act at the point of a Colt's .44. Mr. Ballard never advertised for any more of Shelby's men. This boy is now old and gray, but a respected citizen of one of your Arkansas towns, and if called on in the same old way, would be ready again to play the part of a Shelby man.
We will now leave Mr. Ballard and his negro guard and go back to Rolling Fork and see about Peter and his two white friends. During our absence they have been holding secret conference with an old Confederate friend of theirs, that had known them all through the war; had known of negro soldiers killing the father of one of them. They were now ready to leave the country, and as they passed the home of Peter, not far from Ultima Thule, they took him down the road a little way. Some shots were heard and Peter the Great had passed to his reward. I have given a lengthy detail of these facts that the unsophisticated might know what the days of reconstruction meant to those who lived in Arkansas.
As I have before stated, everything in this country at that time was in what might be called a crude state, and our schools, as well as churches, were no exception to the rule. An old log cabin with a board roof, with split pine puncheon seats had been built before the war at what is now known as Chapel Hill graveyard, and used as a schoolhouse and church whenever a teacher could be procured or a preacher would drop around. Another house with the same conditions existed on lower Bear Creek, near our postoffice, Netta Boc, of which I have told you. Don't raise your eyes and look up in horror and amazement when I tell you that I have seen children ten years old that had never slept on a bed and had never heard a sermon preached, or been inside a church or schoolhouse. Yet when it comes to riding a wild range pony or horse, driving cattle, tracking stock on the range, or throwing a lariat, or riding yearlings, these boys had learned their lessons well, and the smart Alec from back East had better not try to teach them any of Hoyle's games or the art of swapping horses, if he didn't expect to experience a financial crash on a small scale.
I might say I am only speaking of what was then Monroe township and not of all Southwest Arkansas. Monroe township then extended from Polk County on the north to Little Rock on the south, and from the Indian Territory line to somewhere east of where DeQueen now is, perhaps only to the range line. At that time all of Little River County, Center Point and Mineral Springs were in Sevier County.
I must get back to the schools or the boys I have been speaking about that wore leather breeches and slept on bear skins will think their education is being sadly neglected. A short time after the war an old gentleman came into the country and made up a small subscription school as he was too old to do any hard labor. He was a very quiet, moral man, and tried to teach morality and Christianity as well as literature. After a time his precepts and moral persistency had a very salutary effect. Among his ventures was to get a Sunday school started. It was not of the present day style, or I wouldn't mention it; but it suited the country and the times, and that was sufficient. The meetings were held each Sunday alternately at the two houses mentioned. After select Bible readings, any one was at liberty to ask any scriptural question he chose, while the smaller ones
were given verbal instructions from those supposed to be competent. Fortunately for this school, a good singer had dropped into the country from somewhere, and after the Bible lessons singing followed till the noon hour, when dinner was served on the ground. After the dinner recess, some two present would choose up for a spelling match. Our old school teacher and R. D. Wright, another ex-teacher, would superintend these matches, and the old blue back speller was never more in evidence.
These Sunday schools became very popular, and there were but few men of families but what were always in attendance. I don't think I ever knew of a Sunday school that wielded the influence for the general good that this school did. I have known people to come ten miles to these schools.
MURDER OF THE WRIGHT FAMILY—RECOLLECTIONS - By J. F. Bates
(Born May 4, 1831, in Washington County, Arkansas. Educated at Cane Hill College; teachers T. G. McCullough, S. Doak Lowry and Robert M. King. Commenced teaching school in 1852 near the home of the Wicliffs on Spavinaw, Okla. Taught off and on in said State forty-eight terms. Taught also twenty-two terms in my native State, making in all seventy terms in life. Spent two years sectionizing for the United States Government in the State of Kansas in partnership with Col. James Mitchell of Little Rock. We sectionized the township in which John Brown lived. Quit teaching in 1902 and at present own and run a hotel in Westville, Okla.)
On the 15th of June in the year 1839, William Wright, a prosperous and highly respected farmer, Mahla Wright, his daughter, and his infant child were brutally murdered, and Jacob Wright, his son, was struck over the head with some heavy instrument which fractured his skull so as to cause the loss of a portion of his brain. Mrs. Wright escaped through a back window and Mary Wright, a daughter, escaped through the door while they were murdering her father. The murderers set fire to the house, thinking that all its inmates were slain, but two little boys, Willis Wright and Maurice Wright, aged about ten and twelve, were sleeping in a trundle bed under a larger bed; they escaped the notice of the assassins. The smoke from the burning building awakened them. The little boys first moved their wounded brother to a safe distance. (Jacob Wright, though badly wounded, finally recovered.). They next moved their dead father and sister a short distance from the burning building. Mrs. Wright and Mary, her daughter, hid in a nearby wheat field until next morning and then notified neighbors of the sad affair. It seemed that the murderers wanted to make the impression on the public mind that it was Indians that committed the crime, but that idea, after a short time, prevailed only to a limited extent. The amount of .money taken was perhaps between three and four hundred dollars and that belonged to Mr. James Shelley. William Wright a few days previous took nearly all his money to his brother, Maurice Wright, a merchant on Cane Hill.
The writer was on the premises the following morning after the murder while the heavy timbers of the building were still burning. The bodies of the slain were lying just as the murderers had left them, except their removal by the little boys the night before. William Wright and Mahala Wright, his daughter, were lying a short distance from the building but close enough to cause the heat to color their faces dark brown.
The charred remains of the infant was still in the edge of the building. I remember some one took a plank and ran under the frame of the child and moved it away from the fire. The crime caused intense excitement throughout the entire country. As the courts at that time had been exceedingly slack in executing the laws, a mass meeting was held at Cane Hill and thirty-six men of the most reliable character were chosen as a committee to take the law into their own hands and ferret out and punish the perpetrators of the crime. In a short time suspicion fell upon John Richmond, James Barnes, Jack Turner and William Bailey, who were arrested. Bailey was flogged quite severely to compel him to make a confession, but he persistently denied guilt. The others, together with Bailey, were turned loose, evidence at that time not deemed sufficient to hold them longer. Bailey immediately left the country.
Not long after they were released John Richmond and Asbury Richmond, his brother, had a difficulty over some personal matters, John Richmond accusing Asbury of some misdemeanor; Asbury replied by charging John with assisting in the murder of the Wright family. These charges were overheard by Ambrose Harnage, who lived near by the home of the Richmonds, and he (Harnage) reported the affair to the committee on Cane Hill. John Richmond was rearrested soon afterwards. He was not long in custody when he made an effort to escape but failed; when caught he told his captors to take him back to the committee and he would make a clean breast of the whole affair. He gave the names of James Barnes, Jack Turner, William Bailey, Jack Nicholson, himself and one other man whose name he did not know, as being the parties who committed the murder. Barnes and Turner were rearrested soon after Richmond's confession. Nicholson never was arrested, having left the country.
On the 31st day of July following the murder John Richmond, James Barnes and Jack Turner were hung, Barnes and Turner denying guilt.
Richmond admitted guilt and called upon Barnes and Turner to confess at the last moment but they refused to do so. The committee having heard that William Bailey was down in southern Arkansas, sent Charles Spencer and a Mr. Poore after him, and when found he denied his identity. Spencer and Poore insisted he was the man wanted, and, to prove that they were right, to examine his back and they would find marks on same from effects of the flogging received a few months previously. Upon examination such was the case. He was taken back and hung about five months after first hanging on same gallows. While a great majority of the people were satisfied as to the guilt of the parties executed, there were a few who doubted the guilt of all; especially of Barnes. Prominent among those who had misgivings in regard to the matter were Rev. Jacob Sexton, Rev. George Morrow, Rev. Thomas Tennant (a minister at that time) and Judge John Thompson Adair, all men of excellent standing in the community in which they lived.
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