South Arkansas Historical Journal
South Arkansas Historical Society Links: South Arkansas Historical Society Home PageContentsArticles, Vol. 1-4 (2001-2004)
Articles, Vol. 5-7 (2005-2007)MembershipHistory in South Arkansas Journal:
South Arkansas Historical Journal
VOLUME 8 FALL 2008
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
John G. Ragsdale
John B. Abbott
Rev. Phil Pinckard
Chris Elia Printing
South Arkansas Community College
South Arkansas Historical Foundation
South Arkansas Historical Society
P. O. Box 10201
El Dorado, Arkansas 71730-0201
South Arkansas Historical Journal
VOLUME 8 FALL 2008
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
From the Editors:
Volume 8 of the South Arkansas Historical Journal continues to expand the history of the architecture, lives, and events of the ongoing history of South Arkansas. The “stories” of South Arkansas continue to inspire each successive generation. This issue of the Journal is pleased to offer histories of architecture, education, and long-lost personalities relating to South Arkansas.
The lead article by renowned architect John B. Abbott is his third and final article on the history of architecture in Union County. His fascinating article surveys local architecture from World War II to the present. Included is his rendition of a proposed municipal auditorium as well as his account of building Memorial Stadium.
Gene Mueller and Robert Greene have submitted an account of events at Henderson College during the Second World War. Of further interest to many former students and colleagues is an excellent account of the teaching career of Jo McCall by Natalie Culbreth.
The Rev. Phil Pinckard has provided an excellent collection of “historic hauntings,” a series of oral presentations if numerous early residents of Union County from the nineteenth century.
See the South Arkansas Historical Society website at: http://www.southark.edu/class-information/dynpage.asp?pageID=1909.
The South Arkansas Historical Journal, established in 2001, is an annual publication of the South Arkansas Historical Society made possible through the generous support of members and the South Arkansas Historical Foundation.
South Arkansas Historical Journal
VOLUME 8 FALL 2008
Editors’ Note …………………………………………………….…..….………2
A Historical Survey of Architecture on Union County from the Beginning
of World War II to 2008
By John B. Abbott…………………………………..….………………...4
Henderson: The War Years
By Gene Mueller and Robert Greene……………..….……….………..16
By Natalie Culbreth……………………………….……..…….……….22
By Rev. Phil Pinckard……………………………….….….…….….…25
South Arkansas History Notes………………………………..…….…….…..36
South Arkansas Historical Society Membership Roster……...….….…….…42
South Arkansas Historical Society…………………………….……….….…43
A HISTORICAL SURVEY OF ARCHITECTURE IN UNION COUNTY FROM THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR TWO TO 2008
By John B. Abbott
(Editor's Note: This is the last of three parts in a series covering the history of architecture in Union County by celebrated local architect, John B. Abbott).
BODENHAMER PARK. The officers and members of the Roy V. Kinard Post of the American Legion had a dream -- They wanted to do something that would be lasting to honor their own, R. L. Bodenhamer of El Dorado, National Commander of the American Legion. They decided to purchase land in El Dorado for a park and name it in his honor, Bodenhamer Park.
They raised the money and bought the land bounded by Fifth Street, North West Avenue, Eighth Street, and Jefferson Street, except for a strip about 150 feet east and west, on the west side of Jefferson Street.
PROPOSED MUNICIPAL AUDITORIUM AND CONVENTION CENTER. Their plan: construct a two story building facing Fifth Street. The ground floor would have office space for the Legion, together with small game and activity rooms. Most of that floor was to be a large space with a level floor. It was to be used by the community for conventions, similar meetings, banquets, and so forth. There would be no fixed seating. Movable chairs and tales were to be used as necessary. The top floor was to be a 2000-square foot sloping floor auditorium with permanent seats, stage, and other facilities as necessary. Preliminary plans and estimates were prepared. An application was made to the WPA (Works Progress Administration) for funds to build the building. Oren Harris was our congressman at the time, and he was helping with following the application in Washington. I (John B. Abbott) received a letter from Oren, who advised that the WPA program had been halted due to preparations for possible war.
So ended the first convention center effort for El Dorado. Almost seventy years have passed, and we still do not have a convention center.
We did get a Municipal Auditorium. A Texas architect was brought in for this project which was built on Eighth Street, just north of Bodenhamer Park. This project, however, has never lived up to the expectations of the local promoters.
WORLD WAR II
Structural steel was hard to get for projects not related to the war effort, so many projects had to be put on hold. Reinforcing steel bars were not as badly affected. A large percentage of these bars were made by re-rolling salvaged rail steel. World War II kept structural steel supplies tight in the late 1940s. The war changed many social and economic situations. There were more single mother/father homes, more families with both parents working, more cars and trucks, the growth of the commercial air traffic, all of which made for a faster and more mobile society.
THE PORTLAND CEMENT ASSOCIATION began promoting the use of architectural concrete by building forms with shapes and designs in reverse so as to show an artistic design in the concrete when the forms were stripped.
At least four structures of architectural concrete were built in Union County in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They were the Administration Building at Goodwin Field, just west of El Dorado, the America Legion Building (now known as the TAC House) at Bodenhammer Park, Memorial Stadium, also at Bodenhamer Park, and the Royal Crown Cola Bottling Plant in El Dorado, a half block south of Main Street on Madison Street. John B. Abbott, Architect, of El Dorado, designed all four of these structures.
ADMINISTRATION BUILDING - GOODWIN FIELD. This building was designed to fit 1940 guidelines of the Federal Aviation Administration for airports of the size of Goodwin Field. It has three floors. The lower floor serves the public with ticket counters, restrooms, a waiting area, and provisions for a restaurant if needed. The second floor has offices for the operating personnel as well as access to an open-air observation deck on the roof over part of the first floor. The third level is a control tower. The walls and roof are made of poured concrete.
AMERICAN LEGION BUILDING. Now known as the TAC (Teen Age Club) House, the money for the erection of the American Legion Building was raised by the Roy V. Kinard post of the American Legion. It was built in Bodenhammer Park which and presented to the City of El Dorado to be used for recreational and educational purposes. It was not completed as originally planned due to a shortage of finds. However, it was finished to the extent that it could be used for its original purpose to provide space on the lower floor for American Legion offices, recreation rooms, and other group activities. The upper floor could be used for larger activities such as dances, large meetings, and various types of shows and exhibits. The upper floor was to be used by the general public The exterior was finished as planned except the flag pole shown as attached to the building, a planter box attached to the concrete horizontal sun shade projecting about three feet from the face of the wall, and a planter box at the front entrance tied into the same horizontal shade which wraps around three sides of the building.
The American Legion soon decided that the building did not suit their needs, so they built a new building just out of town on the Junction City Highway. They gave title to the building to the City of El Dorado.
Soon, a group known as the TAC (Teen Age Club), an organization of local parents with assistance from the local school system, leased the building for their operations. They had been using the large meeting room at the Randolph Hotel for their activities.
MEMORIAL STADIUM. The following is taken from an article from El Dorado
News-Times, dated Sunday, Feb. 24, 1946:
"When the Wildcat quarterback calls the signals for next season's football games, chances are that ardent sports fans will cheer him from comfortable seats in one the South's finest and most modern stadiums. That is the picture that El Doradoans are looking forward to when the leaves begin to turn and the pigskin parade gets underway. . . . Nor will the stadium represent luxury at play alone, for it will stand through the years as an impressive memorial to the thousands who answered their country's call to service in the war, . . . .
125 El Dorado businessmen met at dinner the night of November 23 and launched the movement that is expected to result in the new stadium, the city's first important postwar construction. . . . The evening's discussion left its participants so imbued with the desire to erect a lasting memorial to the service men of whom they are so justly proud that within a matter of weeks, a successful campaign fundraiser was staged here under the direction of John E. Shatford.
In a recent report released by chairman E. C. Collum, the site committee recommended that the new athletic plant he located at Bodenhamer Memorial Park. The choice met instant approbation from various quarters, including Roy V. Kinard Post of the American Legion, owner of the tract, which passed a resolution pledging full cooperation and recommending and inviting "the citizens of this community to build and erect the memorial stadium upon the 0. L. Bodenhammer Memorial Park, feeling that it will be a fitting tribute to the veterans of Union County, Arkansas, to place said stadium in the memorial park, which was purchased by outstanding citizens of this community.”
In discussing the current status of the stadium, Mr. Gilliam said, "The school board still plans to complete the protect in 1946."
Thus it would appear that football fans may expect with optimism to view coming games in comfort instead of on a come-an-hour-early to-get-a-seat basis."
A committee headed by R. T. Colquette was formed to handle the construction work. They engaged the services of John Cramer, a local contractor and builder to be construction manager. Mr. Cramer was in charge of hiring the workmen and directing their work duties.
The design centered around a sixty-foot wide typical seating section. Five of these sections are side beside on each side of the field providing viewing from goal line to goal line. The middle section on each was modified at the top to provide a press box and the bottom was modified to provide a dugout for the team and access to the locker rooms beneath the seats. The sections between the middle section and the end sections were the basic design.
Each section will seat approximately 500 persons.
The concrete columns, girders, beans, seat slabs and related wells were designed to make an architectural statement rather than being just another engineering project.
The outside columns support the sloping girders which support the seating beams. These girders cantilever over the outside columns several feet. The juncture of the outside face of these columns with the underside of the girders, instead of being a sharp angle, flow together in a graceful curve. The face of the columns is fluted with triangular flutes about ¾ inches wide. The flutes continue from the top of the columns along the curved junction of the columns and the sloping girders to the end of the cantilevered overhang of the sloping girders. There is a concrete bam deeper and wider than the scat beams extending between the tops of the exterior columns and the sloping girders. This beam cantilevers several feet over the sloping girders at each end of the sixty-foot sections. This beam is several inches deeper at the columns than at their middle, which adds to the interest of the design. The space between the seat risers is twenty-four inches, which makes for more legroom and comfortable seating.
A typical sixty foot section has a three foot high concrete wall at the top. There is also a similar wall at the floor line of the first floor seat beam. This wall extends below the level of the seat floor to the ground.
The center sections are modified by extending the safety wall at the top to make a wall for the press box and to provide a space for the words “MEMORIAL STADIUM” to be cast in the concrete. Most of the wall at the front wall to the ground has been eliminated to provide for the dug out which recesses under the first row seat floor.
The seats were originally three treated two by fours bolted to cast aluminum brackets fastened to the face of the seat beams with large lag screws. The metal anchors for the screws were cast into the beams as the concrete was poured. Thomas Williamson of Williamson Tool & Die Shop of El Dorado made the brackets. Tom made a steel split form of the brackets and cast them using melted down aluminum from old car pistons and other aluminum scrap. The top of the brackets have a curved profile which makes a curved seat area instead of a straight flat board (Note: The seat boards were replaced about 2001 more or less with aluminum single seat planks with a curved surface to fit the aluminum brackets).
The exposed areas of the concrete were rubbed with a carborundum stone and a fine cement and sand mortar mix to erase form marks and other minor defects.
The space under the center section is used as a concession stand and a gathering space at halftime, etc.
Space under the other sections is used for locker and shower rooms, public restrooms, storage, etc.
The concrete was mixed on the job using a one cubic yard portable mixer. Most of the concrete was placed in the forms by placing a small part of the mixers capacity into a "Georgia Buggy," a two wheel rubber-tired dump cart pushed by two men up ramps to the desired place and there dumped in to the form and welded into place.
The reinforcing steel for the job was bought in straight standard lengths. Steel workers set up forming gigs and cut and bent the steel to the desired shape. They then placed and secured the steel in its proper place in the forms. After all other boils arid inserts were placed in the forms, the concrete was placed.
The Volunteer Building Committee completed the five sections on the west side of the field. They had spent quite a bit of time away from their businesses in so doing this project. So, when Mr. I. L. Pesses, a local business man who was involved in the steel and construction business, offered to build three sections on the east side for a fixed amount of money, they were interested. A deal was made with Mr. Pesses to turn over to his company all forms and materials already on hand or purchased together with money still in the constriction fund. These funds were not enough to cover the entire cost to the construction, so additional money was raised to finish the job.
The project was still under the general supervision of the building committee, but they were relieved of the day-to-day operations.
The three east sections together with the five west sections provide a stadium with a seating capacity of approximately 4000 people, more or less.
The playing field consists of a regulation football field and running track around the football field. The track has semi-circular ends. This work was done at the same time as the west sections were being built. Mr. Frank Goolsby, a local civil engineer, was in charge under the direction of the building committee. The field was graded to rough dimensions, allowing space for top-soil and sod. After that, a system of drain tile buried in pea gravel was placed about 18 inches deep below the proposed finish surface under the entire field with discharge into the drainage ditch to the west of the stadium. After the drainage system was installed, the top soil and sod were placed on the field arid the tract was built. Bermuda sod was cut and brought where the Junction City Highway crosses the creek from Louter Creek bottoms.
The track is built around the playing field. It has semi-circular ends attached to three hundred yard straight sections paralleling the stands. The track surface consists of two or three layers of graded cinders, rolled, and compacted into place.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB. The club was housed in some small wooden buildings that were used by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression to house their workers. They were located on the old Fair grounds. The Medical Center of South Arkansas now occupies the site.
The Club Board decided to raise funds and build a more adequate and larger facility. They selected a site in Bodenhammer Park, north of the Legion Building and west of the stadium. Sam Clippard, a young architect from Little Rock, after his military service, moved to El Dorado. He was selected to design the facility.
The original buff brick building is one story with a tall gymnasium behind. The front contains offices, game rooms, reading, and other activity moms. Ball fields were developed between the building and Eighth Street. The programs and attendance grew — so another gymnasium, compatible with the original building, was added to the east. It was designed by Abbott.
When the Boys Club changed to the Boys and Girls Club, more space was needed. To accommodate the new members, a larger gymnasium, more locker rooms and more shower rooms were added. The older part of the building was completely remodeled. The windows were replaced with plastic frames and insulating glass. The public entrance was redesigned to make it more of a focal point of the design. CADM of El Dorado designed this work.
The building faces south. It is on the north side of the wide paved space from North West Avenue to the west stadium stands. This space provides access to the stadium and parking for the various events in Bodenhamer Park.
SOUTH ARKANSAS ARTS CENTER
The Arkansas National Guard Headquarters were in a building on the south end of the strip of land between Bodenhammer Park and Jefferson (see Bodenhamer Park above). The building was of brick construction. It consisted of a two-story section housing offices, lecture and class rooms. To the back and attached to the two story building was a large drill hail. The ceiling in the hall was two stories high.
After the war, the guard found that they needed more room. They built a new building in the Industrial Park area of eastern El Dorado. The state deeded the old building to the Fine Arts Association. Money was raised to convert the old Armory to a Fine Arts Center.
John B. Abbott was engaged to design the facility. The entrance to the two story part of the building was on the south (longitudinal) side. The first floor of the two story portion was remodeled to provide a long, wide lobby extending the length of the building. This lobby is adjacent to the drill ball. Entrance to this lobby was provided by glass doors and side lights at both the east and west ends. The balance of the ground floor includes rest rooms, a large art gallery and stairs to the second floor. The second floor was remodeled to provide office and various art classrooms, etc.
The drill hall was remodeled to provide a sloping floor theater with stage. The seating is continental style, with only two aisles, one down each side. Entrance is from the lobby.
Due to shortage of fluids, minimum stage lighting and sound equipment was installed. This has been periodically added to, upgraded, and replaced until it is unusual for a theater of its size.
A few years later, Mrs. Rowland donated a substantial amount of money to help build an addition on the east side of the theater out to Jefferson Street. This addition contains a room where Mrs. Rowland donated articles of interest she had accumulated could be displayed. The balance of the addition has a large room originally designed for dancing instruction, including ballet. Brick finish exterior matches the brick on the two story portion.
Another major addition was made about 1985. The two-story gallery and work room portion was extended south about 25 feet toward Fifth Street. This provided another large gallery and additional work rooms. The outside was finished with brick to match.
A large metal building was added back of the stage and connected thereto. Volunteers spent many hours there building various stage props as required for the play or event that is in production.
The South Arkansas Arts Center is one of, if not the most, successful ventures of its type in South Arkansas. There is something going on there almost constantly. This activity involves many volunteers, children, teen agers, young adults, plain adults and elderly in both the play productions and the art classes.
During the late 1940s and 1950s, many churches made additions to their buildings to get more space. In the 1950s, due to the changing life styles (single parent homes, both working parents, etc.), many churches began adding space or building buildings on their property with a large game/banquet room. These spaces are designed primarily to house new youth activity programs. Most of them provide day-care for working mothers.
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. Soon after the war, the First United Methodist Church added to their building, providing a small chapel and additional office and classroom space. A pre-school nursery was provided. The building is of Greek Revival architecture to match the original brick building. A few years later, they added a large prefabricated steel building for a youth center. It is also used for large dinners and other gatherings. This building is known as the Hanna Building. The money for the building was donated by the Hanna Estate. Soon, due to the growth of the congregation, a new church was formed, named St. Paul United Methodist Church.
ST. PAUL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. They built a building on North College Street. John B. Abbott was selected to design the building which consisted of an octagon auditorium with a one story classroom building attached to the rear. The building has a moderate pitched roof. The walls are block and buff brick. They soon added a play ground area for a child care program. Several years later in the late 1960s, they built a larger auditorium in front of and attached to the old auditorium. It was of modern design, somewhat matching the original building. Andrew Clyde designed this auditorium.
About 2000, they had a prefabricated steel building erected to the west of the original classrooms for an all-purpose room for youth activities and other events.
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH. Soon after World War II, they added a three-story brick addition to the classroom portion of their building. This building matches the Greek Revival character of the original building. Some time later, I think probably in the 1990s, they built a large addition on property west and across North West Avenue. This houses a dining area with kitchen and other smaller meeting rooms and classrooms. A few years ago, they bought a building across Main Street in front of their sanctuary (252 Building) and converted it into the home of their youth program.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Soon after the war, they added a chapel and some office and classroom space. The chapel is parallel to the sanctuary. It is between the sanctuary and Jefferson Street. It connects to the new classroom addition which connects to the original two-story classroom. The architecture matches the original building and is done in a modified Gothic style. They have not built any special buildings for the youth program.
HILLSBORO STREET CHURCH OF CHRIST. This building is on West Hillsboro Street. It faces South. It was built soon after the war. The walls are of concrete block with a brown brick facing. It consists of a sanctuary, the roof of which is supported by three hinged, laminated wood arches and beams. Typical office and classrooms are at the rear of the sanctuary. Several years later, they also followed the trend by building a multi-purpose building attached to the original building. This provided more space for youth programs and other large group gatherings. The original building was designed by John B. Abbott and the
addition by Connelly, Abbott, Dunn and Monroe.
OTHERS. There were many other churches, too many to mention in this paper, who built new buildings, most of them smaller. However, there are at least two more in Union County who built and then later added a youth facility, Immanuel Baptist Church and College Avenue Church of Christ.
Before the war, most of the banks in Union County were family owned or were owned by mostly local stock holders with local officers and employees running them. Most everyone knew personally who was taking care of their money. The banking business changed. Large regional banking companies began buying up many of these small, local banks to form a larger regional bank.
THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK was bought by BANKCORPSOUTH of Tupelo, Mississippi. They remodeled the old four-story building on the corner of Main and Washington Streets. New insulating glass windows ware installed. The exterior surfaces were covered with limestone and stucco. The ground floor and a few offices above arc used y the Bank. A new limestone faced two-story building was attached to the south side of the old building, extending to Cedar Street. This included a two floor parking deck to the west of the new building. This work made it necessary to remove the historic Garrett Hotel.
They removed the buildings, including the historic Randolph Hotel, on the block south and across Cedar Street from the bank property to make a parking lot.
THE EXCHANGE BANK was bought by REGIONS BANK of Birmingham, Alabama. They built a new limestone faced four-floor building on the north side of Peach Street between Washington Street and Jefferson Street. It has off-street parking as well as rental office space.
THE NATIONAL BANK OF COMMERCE was bought by SIMMONS BANK of
Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They built a new four-story buff-colored brick building on the north side of West Grove Street between Washington and Arkansas Streets. It provides banking space, including drive-through banking as well as rental office space.
FIRST FINANCIAL BANK. They remain mostly under local control. The Exchange Bank Building was bought by them. They moved their main offices there. The block north of the building was cleared and made into a parking lot. The historic B. W. Reeves home was on this site and was lost.
SMACKOVER STATE BANK. This bank is mostly locally-owned. They built a brick bank in El Dorado located on the south side of Fifth Street across from the Stadium.
TIMBERLAND BANK. This is a new bank formed several years ago by local people. They took over a portion of the old Arkansas Power and Light (Entergy) building at North West and 19th Streets. They remodeled the interior of a portion of the building and built a drive-in banking facility to match the AP&L Building.
HOUSING. The changing family patterns and life styles brought about by the war and the economy caused changing in the design of floor plans and exterior of housing, starting gradually at the end of the war and continuing today. Not many families gather at home for three meals a day together at the dining room table. Most of the meals are informal buffet style. The kitchen and breakfast room are usually one room with the breakfast room in one end. There may be a bar with stools separating the kitchen form the Breakfast room. A rather large everyday living room is usually off from the kitchen and breakfast room area, separated by a large cased opening — no doors. When possible, a pass-through opening above a kitchen cabinet is opened in the wall between the kitchen and this room. The food, plates, and silverware are spread out in the kitchen area and each person serves his or her self and sits down to eat anywhere in these rooms. This idea can be arranged in many different ways, but you get the idea -- the space is open. A formal living room and dining room, if any, is usually smaller than pre-war houses. The ceilings in these rooms are many times of varying heights, some even being two stories high.
The exterior of the house usually has high gables, steep pitched roofs, and a double garage. They have brick, stone, wood and combinations of these materials for the exterior finish.
The sub division being developed at the west end of Main Street in El Dorado has a number of such houses finished and others under construction.
All of the school districts in the state have been affected by the growth of air
conditioning, better lighting, more cars and trucks, more emphasis on safety, and a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that the funding of the Arkansas school system was unconstitutional. The Arkansas Department of Education prepared standards that the buildings must meet. They hired a firm from the Chicago area, to survey every public school building in each school district in the state listing deficiencies, what needed to be done to correct these deficiencies, cost, and a number of other statistics. By some formula, the state will pick up a certain percent of the cost to correct the problems or build a new building, as the case may be.
AIR CONDTIONING AND LIGHTING. Many of the older buildings in the county were not air conditioned or had obsolete lighting equipment. They depended on fans for cooling and large areas of windows for natural light. These buildings added air conditioning, closed up the biggest part of the large window space with a small window or two and filled the rest of the space with insulated wall materials. They replaced the outside light with modern fluorescent lights.
CARS AND BUSES. The increase in earn, both driven by students and teachers, and more buses demands more paved space close to the buildings.
SAFETY. In the 1920s, most school buildings were two or more stories high. In the
1930s, they were changing mostly to a one story spread-out style. During the past several years, there have been several cased of school violence by students and in some cases by adults. One such case was in our own state at Jonesboro in 1998. There is also the threat of terrorism. These developments will probably lead to more multi-story compact school buildings. Parking spaces will be more secure with fencing, limited access, and trained personnel. All schools will probably have the whole campus under fence so the safety personnel, in an emergency, can jock down the campus in short order.
Abbott is a local architect who was born in El Dorado and spent almost 50 years designing local buildings. His father was superintendant of El Dorado schools for five years before moving his family to Camden in 1914 and later to Paragould and then to Little Rock, where Mr. Abbott finished his public education as part of the first graduating class of Central High School in 1927. He received his training in architecture at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and them returned to El Dorado in 1936 to start his own architectural firm with an office in the Lion Oil Building downtown. During his career, he designed or re-designed almost every school building in Union County. He still owns an interest in CADM Architects in El Dorado but has not worked full-time with the firm since 1980.
HENDERSON: THE WAR YEARS
By Gene Mueller and Robert Greene
Henderson State University has been through a number of dramatic changes during its first 100 years. Founded in 1890 as Arkadelphia Methodist College, it continued under that name until 1904 when it was renamed Henderson College after its Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Captain C.C. Henderson. From 1911 to 1929, the school hyphenated and used the name Henderson-Brown College. In 1929, title was transferred to the State of Arkansas because the Methodist Church in Arkansas cut back on its educational expenditures. At this point, renamed Henderson State Teachers’ College, it became a teacher training institution. As the 1930s drew to a close, rumors of war came to southwest Arkansas.
Through the 1920s and 1930s, Henderson’s student body grew slowly though very steadily from a little over 300 in the late 1920s to a high of 584 in February, 1941. It was quite parochial, with a little over 500 coming from the twenty-two counties surrounding Arkadelphia, and only twenty-one students having matriculated from out of state.
Even so, the college’s young men, well aware of the nation’s impending military needs, were doing their part in providing for them. Since 1936 an R.O.T.C. unit had been at Henderson. Male students who were not excused for disability were required to take two years of Military Science for graduation. In order to be commissioned, a student had to complete another two years of course work plus a six-week summer camp. Between ten and twenty percent of those who participated in R.O.T.C. during the war years obtained commissions.
In the spring of 1941, 133 cadets took part in the program. The number, not unexpectedly, fell steadily during World War II, reaching a low of twenty-three in the spring of 1945. As the number of male students rebounded at war’s end, however, so did the number of cadets, more than tripling by the end of 1946.
Even before Pearl Harbor, prospective American involvement in hostilities took its toll on Henderson as enrollment slumped to 441 in September of 1941. Most of the loss was male upperclassmen. This level of enrollment held steady until the autumn of 1943, when the draft emptied the sophomore, junior and senior classes. Out of a regular enrollment of 219 that September, sixty-seven were males and fifty of them were freshmen.
The void was quickly filled as the College began a cooperative training program with the Army Air Corps in late autumn, 1941. For the duration of the war, Henderson hosted an Air Crew Training School, the 66th College Training Detachment. At its height the Air Crew Training School would have 500 cadets. The Training School graduated groups of fifty, moving them through a twenty-two month program. Coeds were delighted with the increased male enrollment, as was the College Business Manager.
The advent of war changed the College in many ways other than enrollment. Early on, Japanese aggression had significant meaning for Henderson, when the College received news that Charles Parker (a member of HSTC football team in 1938 and 1939) had been wounded at Pearl Harbor.
Academic life also changed. Within a month of Pearl Harbor, officials from all of the state-supported colleges in Arkansas met in Little Rock to consider ways in which calendars and credits might be adjusted so that a Bachelor’s degree could be completed in three years, thus releasing more officer material for the war effort. As a result of this meeting, Henderson’s Curriculum Committee approved a three-year Bachelors degree by allowing heavier course loads during the regular semesters and in summer school.
That same year, Henderson’s administration started a special honor roll, named the gold star list, to commemorate the young Henderson men who lost their lives in the service of their country. A Purple Heart roll was also begun, listing those former Henderson students who received combat wounds. For example, Private Leroy M. Gattin, 1942-43, went to rescue one of his buddies under heavy fire in New Guinea. While on the mission he killed eleven Japanese and received a wound himself. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Medal.
The college also recognized those former students who distinguished themselves in serving their country in combat. For instance, Ralph James, a former Henderson athlete, was honored by the Henderson Schoolmasters Club for receiving the Silver Star. Furthermore, the college newspaper, the Henderson Oracle and the local Arkadelphia paper, Southern Standard, attempted to keep everyone informed regarding the exploits of Henderson alumni serving in the armed forces. First Lt. James G. Allen, for example, received press on October 1, 1943, for being awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross for action against the Japanese.
Two of the more colorful stories about the exploits of former Henderson students were of Sergeant Joseph E. Hartman and Major Nick Lund.
Sergeant Hartman, who received his training with the 66th College Training Detachment at Henderson, was shot down behind enemy lines over the Solomon Islands in December 1942. He traveled for sixty-seven days, mostly at night to avoid capture, and, much of the time, in a native canoe which he paddled for some 225 miles! Sergeant Hartman was finally rescued by a Navy PT Boat. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
Major Nick Lund, who graduated in 1939 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, experienced two close calls in the Pacific Theater. Early in 1943, while serving as a co-pilot on a bomber (Liberator) over Funafuti, a tiny island in the Ellice Islands group (approximately twenty degrees east of the Solomons), Major Lund’s plane suffered a mid-air explosion. He survived the disaster and served as a co-pilot on another bomber as part of an air group raid on the Japanese held island of Tarawa. The trip back from Tarawa, however, proved nerve-wracking. There were several tears in the plane’s right wing, and, worse yet, the right tire was flat. That evening the pilot and co-pilot brought the plane down while the crew braced themselves in the rear section of the plane fearing a nose-over crash.
The Liberator touched the runway; brakes smoked; the tire on the left side screamed and the right wheel thudded irregularly along the coral. The plane lurched but remained upright, turned only partly around as it came abreast its own revetment, home safely.
Major Lund, thankfully, climbed out of the plane and set his feet down safely on the ground.
Another heroic story, with an unfortunate ending, was the exploits of Captain William Earl Tatom. William Tatum entered Henderson in the fall of 1934 and received the Bachelor of Arts Degree in May 1940. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant in February, 1942. Lieutenant Tatum was with the first contingent of Marines in the invasion of Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942. Wounded in the right thigh, he continued fighting for forty hours until a burst of shrapnel in the wounded leg took him out of the battle. Tatum was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and the Silver Star for his action on Guadalcanal. Promoted to Captain later that year, Captain Tatum and his company were to be part of the invasion force that would eventually take the Gilbert Islands. During the battle to take Tarawa, he was killed by machine gun fire while getting out of a landing boat on November 20, 1943.
Henderson faculty were determined to expose students to the rationality of the war. Two new courses, proposed by a faculty “Committee on Morale”, were approved. The first was a course on democracy; it outlined the development of democratic traditions and philosophy and provided for discussion of its conflict with totalitarianism. The other course was on the geography of war. This was heady stuff; and in those early days of the struggle, it made everybody feel part of the team. There were also many more serious contributions which could be made through a college curriculum.
In February 1942, the war department authorized Henderson to add an advanced course in aviation to its curriculum. The course could be taken by regular upperclassmen as well as the Training Corps cadets. By January 1943 the courses had become so popular that a pre-flight aviation course had to be created which was open to men in the freshman and sophomore classes. Not all cadets were able to move through the curriculum in traditional fashion; some were called to service before the end of their senior year. The College Curriculum Committee, however, allowed the seniors to receive full credit for their courses if they passed a “special” test. All the seniors called up early passed the test and graduated two months early.
While male enrollment declined during the war years, campus social life continued as before. Early in 1942, the annual King and Queen of Hearts dance (sponsored by the yearbook staff) was announced in the February 5 edition of the Oracle. At the same time the war affected the humorous Kollege Klippings column with the following two-liner:
First Girl: Is there much graft in the Army?
Second Girl: Oh, sure; even the bayonets are fixed.
Everyone enjoyed the King and Queen of Hearts Dance, and most also attended the annual Military Ball on February 28, 1942. The advanced R.O.T.C. Officers performed the Saber March, while members of the advanced corps and “outstanding” military visitors and other members of the unit “joined in the Grand March.”
During that same semester, the Choral Club gave a concert, and the Masquers presented a three act comedy by A.A. Milne. Perhaps the most unique event of 1942 was the French Apache banquet sponsored by the French Club, “with girls wearing short tight skirts, jangling bracelets, spike-heeled pumps, French berets, and boys garbed in dirty trousers, turtle necked sweaters, scarves and billed caps the guests came as underworld characters.”
A major change took place on the Henderson campus the following year. On February 25, U.S. Army Air Force trainees began arriving to enter the flight training school established at Henderson by the federal government. Dormitory space was provided by consolidating the two girl’s dormitories into one, and by the boys moving out of their dormitory. In addition, the college went to a six day class schedule.
Campus coeds decided to demonstrate their commitment to defending their country and accordingly they organized a Women’s Volunteer Training Corps. The girls drilled, had uniforms made, and set up a rifle range. Lila Sullenberger Thompson recalled that they were taught to shoot the Springfield rifle. The rifle “took half of the side of your shoulder off when you fired it.” Lila believed the young ladies were “well prepared” to defend their country. They also wanted to show the newly arrived trainees that young women were capable of defending their country.
The Henderson community welcomed the trainees, and campus organizations sponsored several social events. Furthermore, the Henderson State Teachers College Collegian Band, undermanned prior to the trainees arrival, was able to continue to play after seven air cadets joined the band. News of former Henderson students in uniform, however, kept everyone well aware of the raging global conflict.
During the year 1943-44, many reminders appeared in the campus paper, as well as local papers, of Henderson men in service of their country. The Southern Standard reported in October, 1943, for example, that graduate Lt. James G. Allen was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the distinguished flying cross; and in November, 1943, the Oracle told its readers that Private Joe Herbert was reported missing in action.
Still, Henderson continued its academic schedule, and students and trainees participated in the social events offered on campus. Several Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas were performed in 1943 and the major social event was the King and Queen of Hearts Ball. However, instead of the usual one royal court, there were two in 1944, one elected by the students and one elected by the trainees.
Social gaiety was tempered, however, by news of the war and the growing list of American casualties. The Henderson community received the sad news that Ensign Alvin Lycester Vernado, B.A. 1940, was killed when his navy fighter plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Guadalcanal in late April, 1943. Henderson President Dr. Matt Locke Ellis wrote the following sympathetic letter to Ensign Varnado’s parents:
December 1, 1943
Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Varnado
All of us at Henderson were made sad to learn that it is now definitely known that your son, Lycester, reported missing in action last spring, has made the full sacrifice in his country’s cause. While I was not here when “Varney” was a student at Henderson, I have heard many of his friends praise him highly. He was a young man whom I would have enjoyed knowing.
Mrs. Ellis and I extend to you and to all who grieve with you in this time of sorrow our deepest sympathy.
Matt L. Ellis
President Ellis would write forty letters to families who lost their sons in the war.
Through the 1944-45 school year, the nation’s manpower demands continued to diminish the male segment of the school’s regular student body. By January of 1945, it had shrunk to fifty-seven, thirty-nine of whom were freshmen. This dearth of males had affected the school in several areas, especially in athletics. In 1942, the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, following the lead of the state’s secondary schools, placed a ban on intercollegiate competition for the duration of the war in order to conserve gasoline and other resources necessary to the war effort. Consequently, until the fall of 1945, the only athletic competitions students engaged in were intramural sports.
The final year of the war, 1944-45, saw the closing of the air trainee program and the beginning of a return to normalcy. Henderson paid one final tribute to those young men who had served their country by planting six holly trees in memory of those Henderson graduates who had lost their lives in the war. The trees were dedicated by the college to six gold star Henderson boys. A special memorial service for the six boys was held on April 5, 1945. Dr. Matt Ellis invited the families of all six boys to attend the service.
In time, forty trees would be planted to honor those Henderson boys who lost their lives while in uniform during World War Two.
Henderson State Teacher’s College welcomed the many veterans who enrolled during the 1945-1946 academic year. World War Two had both directly affected young men who attended Henderson, as well as the routine of campus life.
College personnel could certainly point with pride to the service record of former Henderson students, some of whom gave their lives for their country. Mrs. Aileen Arnett, secretary to President Matt Ellis, kept up active correspondence with each young man in uniform, and President Ellis sent a personal letter to the family of every young man who died while in active duty.
In addition to the service rendered to their country by Henderson’s men in uniform, the Henderson campus adjusted to the conditions imposed on it by the war. While class schedules were altered, intercollegiate sports postponed, and some social events canceled, both faculty and students maintained a patriotic spirit and enthusiastically participated in activities at Henderson State Teacher’s College during the years of World War Two.
Mueller is a professor of history at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. He has written extensively on military history and World War II, including the book Hitler’s Commanders with Samuel Mitcham. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon and a doctorate from the University of Idaho. Dr. Mueller previously taught at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, and Henderson State University.
Greene served as a European history professor at Henderson State University and also as Henderson’s first archivist, from 1975 until his death in 2001. In 2006, the university established the J. Robert Greene University Archives Room at the university’s Huie Library in his honor.
By Natalie Culbreth
Named after her grandmother, Josephine Ricketts McCall was born in Ear,
Arkansas, in 1914 to a music teacher and the Head of Commissionaire at a local lumber mill. When World War I broke out, her father, thinking he would soon be drafted, moved his wife, 4 year old daughter, and 4 month old son to Clifton, Tennessee, where her grandfather lived. In the end, he never had to go to war. Jo McCall lived in Clifton until she graduated from Frank Hughs High School in 1932.
During high school, Jo enjoyed spending time with her friends at a local ice cream parlor where they could buy an ice cream cone for five cents. They also enjoyed dancing to music played from a jukebox. Her mother often held parties at their house for all her friends. Some would think that this would have made her popular but fear of her mother kept most young gentleman callers away.
Growing up, she loved reading novels and fictional stories. One story she relished reading was Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, which her mom forbade her to read because it was considered racy at the time. But, as any teenager would, she went behind her mother's back and read it anyway. Growing up, Jo’s grandfather was the oldest family member in her life. After his father had died in the Civil War, he was raised by his older sisters who spoiled him. He went into the mercantile business like his father before him and enjoyed writing poetry in his free time.
By the time Jo graduated from high school, the Great Depression had hit. Her college fund went to pay off family debts, so she turned to family for aid. Her mother's brother was the Dean of the El Dorado Junior College in El Dorado, so she made the trip to Arkansas to attend college there. But she found no happiness in El Dorado and after a year she left and applied for a teaching job, but was rejected because she was “too small and too young to handle a one room school.” Faced with rejection, she found a job as a Rehabilitation Clerk for Franklin Roosevelt's program that gave land to the needy.
Finally, Jo received a teaching position at a one room school call Cheatham in Wayne County, Tennessee. While at Cheatham, Jo stayed with the Southerns family which consisted of father William, mother Virgie, son James, and daughter Anna. Here, she got her first taste of real back country living as there was no privy, only an old potbelly stove to provide heat in the winter, and the trek to school was several miles for most students. Her chalkboard was just a painted black wall.
After only a week, Jo returned home in tears thinking that she had chosen the wrong profession. But her mother would have none of that and sent her back the next Monday. Looking back, the school that almost broke her would be the start of a long and fulfilling teaching career.
After a year at Cheatham, Jo was transferred to another one room school in Rayburn Creek. This time her boarding house was half a mile from the school, meaning she would have to walk home in the heat everyday. This led to many swimming trips to a nearby creek which soon became the talk of the locals. Unfortunately, she did not stay at this school long because it did not meet the required attendance of fifteen students and was therefore sent to at another school replace a teacher who had become pregnant.
Her new post was at a two-room school in Darnell where she taught the lower grades.
She was also expected to coach the girl's basketball team, a sport she knew nothing about but learned to enjoy. After teaching in Darnell, she taught in McCrory for about a month before accepting a job in Union County, Arkansas. She got this job from another family member, her step-grandmother's husband, the School Superintendent at Mt. Holly, Arkansas.
During her interview, when asked what church she attended she answered Presbyterian and was immediately hired. While in Mt. Holly, she lived in a teacher's boarding house, a step up from the rural farm houses she was used to. During her years at Mt. Holly, she taught grades from second to eighth. At one point, she was asked to ride the bus to and from school to keep order and though it meant she would have to move out of the nice boarding house, the thirteen extra dollars was enough incentive for her.
After three years at Mt. Holly, Jo was given the opportunity by another family member, her uncle, to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Here she received her Bachelors in English and Education in 1942. While in college, World War II broke out and Jo took a job as typist/clerk at the Procurement Treasury, earning more money than she ever had teaching. While working in the capital, Jo volunteered at the U.S.O and the Red Cross.
After the war was over, an old sweetheart, Tip McCall, returned from the battlefront and they were married in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1945. In 1946, they returned to Arkansas where Jo once again taught English and business classes at Mt. Holly.
In 1949, Jo retired temporarily to have her daughter Carol. She enjoyed spending time with her daughter, teaching her how to read at an early age. It was important to Jo that their relationship was not just that of mother and daughter but of friends, which they were even though they went through some rough spots as Carol grew up in the sixties.
After her daughter started school, Jo accepted a teaching position at Yocum Elementary in El Dorado. While teaching, she gained her masters from Peabody Teachers College in Nashville, Tennessee. From Yocum, she started teaching at El Dorado Junior High, which is now Barton Junior High. From there, she taught English at the high school, teaching regular and accelerated English for the rest of her career there.
In 1967, she was asked to be the Reading Coordinator for the El Dorado school system and she worked at this job for twelve years until she retired at age 65. When she went to turn in her retirement, her superior asked what it would take for her to stay.
She replied "$45,000."
He replied in turn, "I don't even get that much."
Needless to say, she went ahead and retired.
In retirement, she started the Literacy Council and began tutoring. In 1990, her husband of 45 years passed away and though she always missed him, it didn't stop her from leading a full life. To this day, she enjoys taking Mystery Tours around the USA.
She even traveled to Kenya and enjoyed a safari. She still enjoys reading new books and is a member of a book club and loves playing bridge with her friends. And she still finds time to teach by tutoring four adults every week and teaching Sunday school at the First Presbyterian church. At age 94, Miss Jo McCall has seen sixteen presidents in office, lived through five wars, and the Great Depression which she described as not
being as bad as it sounds because "everyone was in the same boat so you didn't realize how bad off you were."
She has gone from pot belly stoves to central heat and air and seen technology give birth to CDs, DVDs, and the Internet. But the invention she considers the most valuable is the refrigerator because it saves so much food from spoiling and allows food to be kept longer.
As she looks back on her life she remembers a quote posted on the wall of her third grade classroom, "Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you," a creed she continues to live by to this very day.
Culbreth is a graduate of El Dorado High School and is currently attending the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
By Rev. Phil Pinckard
Editor’s Note: These following passages are dramatizations performed by members of the South Arkansas Historical Foundation in El Dorado’s historic Presbyterian Cemetery south of downtown each October at Halloween as part of the “Historic Hauntings Cemetery Walk.” Each re-enactor, dressed in period costume, tells something about the life of some of the early settlers of El Dorado now buried there. Compiled by Rev. Pinckard, these were performed on October 31, 2007.
JAMES WILLIAM ADAMS
Born July 15, 1823
Died May 30, 1859
Portrayed by Wes Mangum
My name is James William Adams. I was born July 15, 1823 and departed this world on May 30, 1859.
I was 13 years old when Arkansas was admitted as the 25th state. Union County was still a raw, untamed wilderness then. It was the 18th county created in the Arkansas Territory and it was the biggest! It was so large that later on it was divided into 4 separate counties, as well as giving land to 6 other counties and it is still the largest county in Arkansas to this day.
There weren’t many roads in Union County in the early years, and what roads we did have were really just Indian trails, with only a few being large enough to accommodate a wagon. In 1830 the census of the whole county was between 600 and 700 people. Not really a whole lot of people considering that the county took up about ¼ of the whole state of Arkansas. With all that wilderness, we also had an abundance of wild animals. There were wild hogs, huge herds of deer, black bear, panthers and wildcats. In the fall, the sky would grow dark with the flocks of geese and duck. Mostly, the abundance of wildlife was a blessing, but at times it was a trial. The bears would grow so bold that at times you would need to bolt the doors and windows to keep them out of the cabins.
The ferry keeper in Camden, John Nunn, had a run in with a bear. It seems he and his family had reason to be away from their homestead for a few days and the latch on the house hadn’t been properly put in place. While they were away, a bear came along the river, looking for a comfortable place to spend the winter. So, finding the door ajar, he decided that the corner behind the sofa in John’s living room would do just fine. That bear was all settled in when the family returned and disturbed his slumber. The bear was most put out by the intrusion! Of the two, John was more put out than the bear and the family enjoyed bear steaks that winter and a nice warm bearskin rug in front of the fire.
I was 26 years old when I met Mary Jane Langford. She was the cutest thing I had ever seen and I was smitten. We married on Jan. 21, 1851, and settled in the El Dorado area. We were blessed with a son in November of that year. We named him William Walter Adams.
He wasn’t a strong baby, but we had hopes. It was a harsh winter and he grew sicker with each passing day. We buried him here in March of 1852 with the Rev. Banks from the Presbyterian Church presiding. It had been a hard birth for my Mary Jane and we were never able to have other children. We filled our lives with the other children in my wife’s family. There was always a child around to be cherished and nurtured so our life was full.
On May 30, 1859, I departed this life and was laid to rest beside my infant son.
EVA LEE CRAIG ARMSTRONG
Born March 21, 1869
Died January 16, 1896
My name is Eva Lee Craig Armstrong. I’m the oldest daughter born to Peter Gamble and Martha Ann “Annie” Craig. I was born a few weeks before the golden spike was driven that completed the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah. El Dorado was quickly becoming a city of pride and progress. Papa was the druggist in town and many came for remedies from all sorts of illnesses.
I remember playing hide and seek behind the counters of the drugstore with my sisters Annie May, Arralee, and my brother John David. The four of us were born within six years. What fun we had growing up on and around the Square in El Dorado. Though the streets were only gravel and the sidewalks yellow pine, it was an exciting time. Mama and Papa ran the drugstore while we children tried to stay out from underfoot.
I recall dressing in our Sunday best to go to Worship and church school. In those early years before we had a First Presbyterian Church building, we gathered in each other’s homes. Our minister would preach long sermons [at least they seemed long to me, my sisters and brothers]. Sometimes we’d fall asleep in our parent’s laps. But we all learned the Ten commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes.
Just after I was born, Papa bought a lot and donated it as a site for the First Presbyterian Church. In the summer of 1872, the new building was dedicated. Annie May, Arralee, and John David were all baptized at the handmade baptismal font in the new church building.
My tenth spring was a very sad time. Papa took ill right after New Years and died a few weeks after my birthday. Mama was very sad. She struggled to keep the drugstore going. We helped as best we could, but children can only do so much. Being the oldest of four children, I had to grow up fast and learned to look after my sisters and brother. We children often visited our grandparents farm in Calhoun County.
Mamaw and Papaw had moved from North Carolina to the rich farmland of Calhoun County. They both died many years before I was born. My Uncle Wiley and Aunt Laura lived on the Bunn family farm. Papa and Mama were married in the parlor of Aunt Laura and Uncle Wiley Bunn’s family farmhouse.
I remember when J. W. Armstrong first came to call. He was tall and muscular, with a shank of brown hair that covered his forehead. He had a playful spirit and usually whistled a merry tune. I often wished that he and Papa could have met. I think Papa would have liked him! J. W. and I went on long buggy rides into the countryside around Union County. We were married in my twenty-first spring, and in the fall of 1891, I gave birth to our only son, Carl Craig Armstrong. Carl wasn’t a healthy baby. He had several medical problems. Despite our best efforts, little Carl died in July before his second birthday.
It’s hard to bury your only child before he really has a chance to live! J. W. and I held each other and wept as the minister prayed over the gravesite. Earlier that spring, we had stood with J. W.’s brother David and his wife as they buried their infant son, David Hamilton. Now it was our turn to grieve.
All was not sadness though. David, along with W. W. Byrd, P. P. Byrd and J. B. Speer, established Armstrong and Co. Later J. W. and David organized as Armstrong and Brother. Our store on the square reminded me of happier days when I played in Papa’s drugstore as girl. We turned our attention and poured our energies into retail sales. People came from around the county to purchase our goods. Though we prospered, we still grieved over our children. My energies and health began to fade.
On January 11, 1896, I joined my papa, Peter, our son, Carl and my nephew David, here at the Presbyterian Cemetery. Three years later, just before decoration day in 1899, at the turn of the 20th century, my husband J. W. joined us.
JULIA ELIZABETH BUSSEY
Born October 11, 1806
Died January 13, 1879
If Matthew Rainey could be considered the father of El Dorado, I might be considered one of the mothers of El Dorado. Not because of any relationship to Mr. Rainey, heavens no! But because many of my descendents became important citizens in their own rights. Most of my life was lived in Meriwether Co., Georgia. In 1832, Benjamin and I were blessed with the birth of the first of five daughters—Frances. Four more daughters followed: Elizabeth, a year later, Julia, born in 1836, the year Arkansas became a state, Mary, in 1838 and lastly, Virginia, born in 1840.
Frances married Judge Clayton Prothro. Their union produced my granddaughter and namesake, Julia Elizabeth Prothro in 1848. I was a grandmother at 42! Two years later, Frances and Clayton would have another daughter, Sarah Lavinia. Benjamin and I felted blessed to have two healthy, handsome granddaughters.
In 1856, at fifty, Benjamin and Judge Clayton decided our families would move to El Dorado, Arkansas. I’m not entirely sure why they chose South Arkansas over Georgia, but choose they did, and move, we did! With four daughters, our oldest daughter Frances, husband Judge Clayton Prothro and their four children, we moved to El Dorado. Frances and Judge Clayton’s first two daughters Julia and Sarah grew, were schooled and began a-courting brothers, William and Jack Marrable. Little did we know then, that the Marrable family would become a prominent part of life in Union county, even having a large section east of El Dorado named for them: Marrable Hill!
Within a few years, the shadows of war grew dark and more menacing. Benjamin left me for worlds eternal in 1859. Our daughters were now adults. I relied on Frances and Judge Clayton for help as I entered the last quarter of my life.
Our southern way of life was being threatened. In April 1860, the State Democratic Convention met in Little Rock. Discussion resulted in adoption of resolutions counseling conservatism and opposing secession. Union County seemed to have difficulty in settling in on a Democratic candidate. Three political flags were raised on poles at the county seat. No pole was less than 135 feet high. “One for Douglas, one for Bell one hundred and forty-seven feet high with a small bell at the top, and the last one for Breckenridge.” All to no avail, for Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States!
Frances and Judge Clayton’s third and fourth children were Mary Abbie and William Henry. Mary would marry Robert R. Van Hook and William Henry’s daughter, Mary Frances, would marry Julius Leonard Kinard. Both the Van Hook family and the Kinard family would come to prominence in El Dorado during the 20th century.
Both Frances and Judge Clayton died in September 1874. I outlived them by almost five years. It was a joy to celebrate the 100th birthday of our great nation in 1876, yet my heart was saddened that Frances and Judge Clayton didn’t live to see it with me!
PETER GAMBLE CRAIG
Born March 17, 1828
Died April 15, 1879
I was born in Dervock County, Antrim, Ireland, in 1828. My native country struggled through a serious famine before my 20th year. I immigrated to the United States to find a better life. As a youth I developed an interest in herbs, remedies and healing potions, so it was almost inevitable that I would become a physic or druggist. By 1858 at age 30, I opened my first drugstore in the town of El Dorado.
In the 1850s, Union County and El Dorado were beginning to grow. In 1854, we elected Albert Rust as the first man from Union County as representative to the 34th United States Congress. Representative Rust spoke eloquently against abolition and in “defense of the Southern interpretation of the Constitution.” This stance brought him national prominence, but came dearly at the price of ridicule and criticism. Horace Greeley, a reporter for the New York Tribune, described Congressman Rust’s ardent pleas for the South as “an exhibition of human degradation.” Once, reporter Greeley and Congressman Rust met in the lobby of a Washington Hotel. They exchanged words and a fistfight followed. The more agile Congressman bested the newspaperman. When news of this encounter reached El Dorado, several of us gathered at Chandler’s tavern, chipped in to buy our friend a gold-headed cane. By way of congratulation it was engraved “Hit him again, Rust.”
Being able-bodied and a fair shot with a rifle, I closed my drug store in the summer of 1861 and was mustered into the 3rd Arkansas Regiment. Congressman Albert Rust was commissioned Colonel in command of the Arkansas Third. He led over 1000 of his neighbors with endurance, remarkable intellect and reckless bravery. By March, 1862 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. The Arkansas Third served with Longstreet and under the command of General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. Only about 300 of us would survive to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Those were the most difficult years of our lives as we valiantly fought “the war of Northern Aggression.”
For the most part, Southern Arkansas had escaped the ravages of the war. But prosperity was not easily within our grasp. Most of us struggled to rebuild our lives after the war. During those strenuous, unsettled days of Reconstruction, trade slowly returned. Thomas Marrable opened a store selling printed cloth at 75 cents a yard. Within a few months, other merchants followed. I reopened my drugstore not far from this spot, on the town square.
Businesses, schools and newspapers were picking up the broken threads of pre-war enterprise. Churches also began to reassemble their congregations and build for the future. My fortieth spring was quite eventful—the Reverend G. E. Eagleston of Mt. Holly and Mr. Boyd of El Dorado, asked me to host a meeting for the purpose of re-organizing the First Presbyterian Church which had been dissolved during the war. In fact, by order of the Presbytery, the bell that had once called us to worship, was given to the Confederacy to be melted and molded into bullets.
The reorganization was perfected with the following members: N. G. Hammond, Mrs. Mary Hammond and Mrs. Mary Williamson, all of Alabama and Mrs. Sallie C. Sewell from the Lapile Church; Mrs. Mary L. Thompson, W. Eldridge Lacy, Sterling Lacy, Miss Fanny Lacy and, though raised Catholic in my native Ireland, myself. We were duly examined by the Reverend Mr. Eagleston. N. G. Hammond and I were elected elders and the Reverend G. E. Eagleston became Stated Supply of our new congregation.
It was some time before a church could be built. Like the first century church, worship and meetings of the session were held in members’ homes. Our Minister taught us frequently from the book of Acts. I remember a sermon from Acts 4 challenging us, not to equal giving, but to equal sacrifice—
“the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…there
was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land
or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay
them at the apostles’ feet… and Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who
was also called Barnabas by the apostles…owned a tract of land, sold it
and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Acts 4:23, 34-36
Moved by the example of Barnabas and the Reverend’s words, I bought a lot on the corner of West Main and Hill, and presented it to our congregation for a building site for the second home of the First Presbyterian Church.
David and Elizabeth Bunn from nearby Calhoun County, often traded in my drugstore, seeking remedies for themselves and their children. The Bunn family owned 160 acres of rich farmland in Calhoun County. Their daughter Martha Ann, caught my eye on more than one occasion. She had long auburn hair and sparkling brown eyes. Her smile seemed to light up the drugstore and her laugh echoed in my heart.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 1868, I made “Annie” my own. Almost a year to the day, God blessed us with a beautiful daughter, Eva Lee, born just ten days after my forty-first birthday. Two more daughters would follow, Annie May, three springs later, on 28 April 1872, and then, Arralee Elizabeth, on 22 August 1874. We honored Annie’s mother, Elizabeth, who died in 1863, during “the recent unpleasantness” by naming our third daughter after her. Later, along with the centennial of my adopted land, we celebrated the birth of John David, on 13 August, 1876. John David was named after Annie’s late father, David. In the spring of my 51st year, my body was laid to rest here in the Presbyterian Cemetery.
Eva Lee would marry J. W. Armstrong and settle in El Dorado. D. E. Armstrong with partners W. W. Byrd, P. P. Byrd and J. B. Speer, established Armstrong & Co. Later brothers D. E. and J. W. would organize as Armstrong and Brother, becoming prominent merchants on the square.
Before the end of the century, my infant grandson, Carl Craig, his mother, Eva Lee, my firstborn, and her husband, J. W., would join me here in eternal rest. So ends the saga of Peter Gamble Craig – of famine, physic and freedom; of fighting, faith and family!
Born March 26, 1824
November 8, 1851
My name is Marion Hardy. I am the wife of Robert M. Hardy. My husband was a lawyer and county circuit clerk in 1843 when El Dorado was incorporated and became the Union County seat. I was so proud of him. We married in 1845, when I was 21. At that time, El Dorado was just a small village really. There was only one store, run by Mr. Matthew Rainey and only a few hundred citizens. That didn’t last long. The first church to be established was the First Baptist Church in the winter of 1845, followed quickly by the Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal churches. The first public school was opened by Dr. Lacy, the minister of the Presbyterian Church, and his wife Julia. He taught the boys and she taught the girls. In 1846 the first newspaper was printed in El Dorado. It was called the El Dorado Union, and had a county wide circulation.
By 1850, El Dorado had grown into a prosperous town boasting a first class school, 2 hotels, 5 mercantile, 4 doctors, a dentist, 6 churches and no less than 5 legal firms. We were really the business and cultural center of Union County.
In the spring of 1850 the women from the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church joined forces and organized a fair and supper to raise funds to help build both churches. There were handmade goods, baked pies and cakes of all descriptions and a wonderful dinner. We raised over $300.00 that day. Along with baked goods, I had donated a beautiful knit baby layette. Robert and I had always hoped for a large family, but that was not to be.
In the fall of 1850, the county commissioners decided to enclose the public square and pave around the court house to improve the beauty of El Dorado. Work began early in 1851, but I never got to see it completed. I died from pneumonia in November of 1851.
FANNIE MILDRED HOLCOMBE
Born December 1, 1842
Died August 29, 1863
I’m Fannie Mildred Holcombe, the first wife of James Moseley Holcombe. My husband and I moved to El Dorado from Ripley, Mississippi, believing that our future and our fortune lay just west of the Mississippi River in Arkansas, the land of opportunity. We arrived a few months before the outbreak of the war of Northern Aggression. Shortly after our arrival, I gave birth to our only son, Gene, in 1861. Though J. M. wanted to serve with others from Union County, he remained behind to protect our homes and families.
The war was half over when, in late summer 1863, I gave birth to a daughter, Fannie. Sadly, I died giving birth to my child. J. M. survived me and knowing that children need a mother, he married again in 1865 at the end of the war.
Rhidonia Alabama Hearin was five years younger than J. M. She gave him three more daughters and a son. Irene Stokes was born in 1866 in El Dorado. By 1868, the family had relocated to Pine Bluff in Jefferson County where Antoinette, Annie, and James Bradshaw were born in 1868, 1870, and 1872, respectively.
J. M. lived eight more years, dying on May 4, 1880 surrounded by his wife and children.
Born October 11, 1861
Died March 18, 1887
Children: Frank, died February 22, 1887
Mattie, died March 2, 1887
Portrayed by Brianna Holder
My name is Ella Miles. I was born at the outbreak of the Civil War on October 11, 1861. My family came to the El Dorado area in the early 1870s. My father was a lumber man and worked at one of the many sawmills in the area. The timber industry had been an overlooked goldmine in Union County. With the advent of steam powered mills and a growing foreign market the lumber industry became one of the county’s greatest industrial assets.
Life flourished in El Dorado. One aspect that was always looked forward to with great enthusiasm was the Fourth of July celebrations. The first recorded Independence Day celebration was in 1847. Every community around here had their own celebration and many prominent families in the area hosted parties. One I was able to attend in 1878 was at George Shaw’s, about 5 miles outside of town. He sent hacks and wagons into town to pick up guests that morning for the fun. At precisely noon the feast started – there was mutton, ribs, beef, fried chicken. Chicken pot pie, baked turkey, pies, cakes, sauces, apples, peaches and coffee. Later that afternoon some of our local politicians gave speeches as we sat in the shade and sipped iced lemonade. Then that evening there was a dance. We were so tired when we arrived back home that night. It had been a glorious day.
Portrayed by John Dillard
My name is Frank Miles and what I remember about the Fourth of July celebrations was trying to catch a greased piglet and win a whole dollar. I never did catch that pig, but I had a lot of fun. At the age of 8, on February 22, 1887, I died from a chest cold that turned into pneumonia.
Just one week after Frank’s funeral, my daughter Mattie died of the same illness on March 2, 1887. She was only 1 year old. I followed my children into the afterlife two weeks later on March 18, 1887. I was 25 years old.
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS RAINEY
Born August 3, 1824
Died January 3, 1854
My name is Christopher Columbus Rainey. It is fitting that my namesake would be the founder of the new world, for like him, I too found a new world in El Dorado. My father, Mathew F. Rainey and I had traveled from New Orleans with provisions for our own use. Between El Dorado and the bayou of Smackover, our wagon broke down. Sensing a good business opportunity, my father put up a rough shelter and began selling our provisions. We met with no small success and decided to stay in the mercantile business in Union County.
Within the year, we had a thriving business. In 1844 it was said: “There was but one building and that a very small pole cabin with a dirt floor. The inmate was a grocery keeper. He had a barrel in his pen and piece of old broken gourd which was used for drinking water and whiskey.” This was the beginning of El Dorado and of our industries.
The town of El Dorado was legally incorporated on June 14, 1845. A governing board consisted of a first alderman and several councilmen. The following spring, March 7, 1846, to be exact, the village of El Dorado established the first post office, myself being the postmaster. This post office served a large territory. The El Dorado Post Office holds the distinction of being the only pioneer post office in the county that has never, for any reason, been discontinued, nor has it’s name been changed ever since it received its charter.
People began rapidly to immigrate to El Dorado from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia in a westward expansion. William A. King settled several miles east of El Dorado on the road to Champagnolle. Writing to his brother in Alabama in 1845, Mr. King notes “I have put up a split log house 18 ft by 18 ft, and got into it the day before Christmas. The following July, 1846, Mr. King wrote to his brother again saying: “El Dorado is quite a town. Some fine houses with fine brick chimneys, four or five dry goods stores with the exception of groceries and a printing office. We have a paper printed here which they call El Dorado Union.
I expect there are five times the provisions here that you ever saw in the country in which you live… The scarcest thing in this country now is bacon. Our bacon is as good as gone and none to buy if there was plenty of money. The consequence is that venison must supply the place.” Coincidentally, Union County consistently has the highest annual deer kill in Arkansas!
In the 1850s, Union County and El Dorado were beginning to grow. My mother, Polly Baker Hobson, had died a number of years earlier. Father had decided to marry again quite unexpectedly. His bride, Rebecca Williamson, visited her son, Col. E. P. Tatum, one Sunday in late summer. She returned from church with two middle-aged gentlemen. For Ms. Tatum that simply meant two extra guests for dinner. She greeted them and left the room to give instructions to the cook. When she returned, the found her mother-in-law, Mrs. Rebecca Williamson and one of her escorts, my father, Mathew F. Rainey, standing in the middle of the parlor, being married by the other escort, the Rev. Mr. Hunter, who was performing the ceremony. There had been no warning, no preparations for a wedding, but the short union proved to be a happy one.
Father died on September 4, 1853, just one month after his election to the state legislature. I lived the balance of my life in El Dorado and died within her first decade. I was buried here on January 3, 1854.
Born March 3, 1800
Died September 5, 1853
Performed by Bill Odom
Greetings friends. Let me introduce myself and thank you for coming here to let me share a few words. My name is Matthew F. Rainey. Folks have referred to me as the first citizen of El Dorado. I don’t know that I deserve such a title, but I am mighty proud of the role I did play in the beginnings of our beloved El Dorado.
First, though, I ought to mention that I wasn’t from Arkansas to begin with. No, you might say it was kind of a winding river that brought me here. I was born in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the year 1800. What a place it was, still fresh with all the flavor of our country’s origins, home to so many giants of our founding fathers.
Yet, as you know, a young man’s feet grow restless. The western frontier was calling. They said the land was rich and the woods full. So at the age of 20, my young bride and I loaded the wagon and found our way to Green County, Alabama. Those proved to be good years for us, a good move that led to a small business of retail goods an d of course some farming. I loved working the land. Also loved folks. Spending hours at my little store, selling goods and helping folks. My, those were good days.
They say grow where you are planted! So the Lord allowed me to give to the community in different ways. Believe it or not, I was elected as Green County Sheriff for a time. I also served in the state legislature as a rep. and was President of Alabama’s first Agricultural Society.
A time of bounty and blessings? You bet it was. But … the tide of life changes. I failed to heed the wisdom of the Good Book. Several of my good friends had gotten themselves into a financial mess. Well, good ole Matthew put up security debts for them, and we wound up losing our money, our property, and our home.
Talk about a whirlwind! Well, what do you do? I figured that maybe heading west again would be the thing to do. So, after 20 years in Alabama, we packed up what little we had left, including our pride, and made our way through thick forests down to the coast, and on to New Orleans. The Lord had blessed us with a son by then. Since I fancied myself a sort of adventurer in this new nation of ours, I named our boy Christopher Columbus Rainey.
Well friends, I’ll tell you – New Orleans was a big place and whatever you can imagine it to be it probably was! But it was a good place to stay awhile and try to rebuild. I managed to set up a small store near the river and made a good bit of money – enough to pull together some goods and supplies for one more journey. Yep, I had heard about this territory north of us called Arkansas. They said it was full of nears, thick woods, and good black dirt. That sounded like an opportunity to me!
My dear wife had passed on, so son Christopher and I loaded up our goods on a boat, came up the Ouachita, and made out way to Scarborough’s Landing, about 12 miles east of here (El Dorado) on the river.
This area was mostly a wilderness. But there were folks here, trying to farm and finding good land. I knew south Arkansas was going to grow. So we built a little pine pole cabin, just a dirt floor. I sold grocery goods, supplies, and whiskey. I had a big ole barrel of it on the front, along side a barrel of water. We kept a gourd there so folks could dip out. Some said I sold more whiskey than groceries. Well, times were hard and men tended to fortify themselves a bit!
The Lord must have smiled on me because things really took a good turn. In June of 1843 the citizens of Union County petitioned the County Court to move the county seat from Scarborough’s Landing west to a more central location. The selected a place pretty near the middle of Union County, a nice area, up on a ridge. Those 160 acres just happened to belong to yours truly! We made a deal on the land and they gave me good terms, including 4 acres right next to the county seat acreage. So that’s where I built a cabin and ran my store. I’ll admit it was a good trade. The County Commissioners decided to name the new township El Dorado, the “gilded one”. It sure worked out that way for me!
Time passed and I felt real settled in these parts. In 1852, I remarried – a lovely lady who brought me much happiness in the short time we had together. Rebecca Williams was her name.
I feel strongly about the adage of growing where you are planted. I was proud to preside over the Democratic State Convention in 1851, and was pleased to be elected to our Arkansas State Senate in 1853. Those were exciting days of building our future as a town and as a new state.
You know, in this life we just don’t know how the rivers are going to run. In August of 1853, I pledged $5000.00 to help build a railroad from Camden, through El Dorado, and on down to the state line.
I was hoping to see how that project would come along, and help build up the town and the people of our beloved south Arkansas. But, the good Lord called me home on September 5, 1853. I was glad to have been called an exemplary member of the Methodist Church, and I did rely on the help of our Lord in the full and adventurous life he was so good to give me.
JUDGE CLAYTON PROTHRO
Born December 12, 1825
Died June 11, 1874
Portrayed by Rev. Phil Pinckard
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I appreciate your coming this evening. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Clayton Prothro . . . Judge Clayton Prothro. I was born December 12, 1825, and passed from this life on June 11, 1874. Most of my adult life, and my legal career, were spent here in Union County, Arkansas.
With all modesty, I will tell you that I excelled in school. I loved books and could memorize most anything I read. My school master urged my parents to continue my education and then go to law school. My father was hesitant, but my mother prevailed upon him. One thing I knew for sure, I did not want to make my way in this world as a farmer!
So off to Memphis, Tennessee I went. They had a fine school, with a sound school of law. To keep up with expenses I clerked in the law office of a local firm. I learned about the various kinds of laws and legal work they dealt with, and I loved all of it. My inclination was to stay in Tennessee and practice law, but fate or providence, as you would choose, intervened. My mother had sent me a letter describing the events and circumstances of Union County. El Dorado had become an official city in 1843, shortly before I graduated from law school. It was a small, but prosperous area and the future looked promising. There was an opening in a local law firm so I applied for the post. The interview went well and I found myself to be a real lawyer. For several years I worked cases and learned a great deal about the intricate matters of law and of human nature.
By the mid-1850s, El Dorado was a bustling town of over 2000. We kept hearing rumblings from far off about discontent in the South. Many believed that one day our nation would have to face off on terms of economics and states rights. But at the time we down here in El Dorado were mostly happy. We had a fine city, a proud state and a future.
I suppose I had better tell you about one of the brightest lights that shone in my life! In 1850 I was fortunate enough to win the hand and heart of Miss Frances Bussey. Her family owned land west of El Dorado. We courted, and knew that life wouldn’t be complete except for us to wed. Upon receiving her father’s permission, we were married in the First Presbyterian Church. For 24 years, we were blessed to live in matrimonial happiness as we raised our 5 children. The legal profession is not an easy one. Frances endured long hours and late nights, never begrudging my profession. I made my dear Frances so proud when I was appointed as District Judge for southern Arkansas.
As it turned out, those rumblings over the years proved prophetic, and in 1861 our southern states formed a confederation and seceded from the Union. That action changed our whole way of life. As you can imagine, life became very hard. Young men left for war, wives were left with children. Jobs were unattended, businesses closed, and farming became difficult due to a lack of goods.
Somehow, by God’s grace, we endured. I presided over mostly civil cases of property disputes, land grant matters and so forth. After the war, life slowly came back together for El Dorado and Union County. I was proud and privileged to have served as a community leader in those dark days.
During the course of my career I made the acquaintance of a gentleman named Isaac Parker; the Honorable Isaac Parker, Federal Judge. He was a man of conviction and principle like few I had ever met. I was enamored with his grasp of and reverence for the law. You may have heard somewhat of Judge Parker. Not too long after our meeting he was appointed Federal Judge over the Indian Territories and Western Arkansas in Fort Smith. I often wondered how his stern adherence to the law played out in that wild territory.
Well, such was my life on this earth. I was blessed with a saintly wife, five children, a rewarding career in the honorable profession of the law, and 49 years of life, most of it lived in this fine city among fine people in a land of promise.
On June 11, 1874, the Lord called me home and so I was laid to rest in this Presbyterian cemetery.
Rev. Pinckard is an El Dorado resident and Chaplaincy Director for the SHARE Foundation.
South Arkansas Historical Notes
El Dorado Named “Preserve America” City
El Dorado was named a “Preserve America” community for its efforts to preserve historic buildings and landmarks in the city. The designation was announced by the White House on April 1. The Preserve America program is headed by First Lady Laura Bush and has cited more than 600 communities, large and small, in all 50 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands for their efforts to preserve their historic buildings and neighborhoods.
El Dorado was cited for its impressive combination of Art Deco and Classical Revival architecture in addition to having six buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Besides El Dorado, there are currently eight other Arkansas communities who have won this designation: Blytheville, Dumas, Eureka Springs, Fort Smith, Helena, Little Rock, Osceola, and Van Buren.
According to Preserve America, the program is designed to encourage local efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of their communities through education, local pride, and the preservation and restoration of local landmarks and artifacts.
More information on the “Preserve America” program can be found at: www.preserveamerica.gov.
Centuries-Old Arkansas Cemetery added to National Register
The Mound Cemetery near Arkansas City was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in January. It is one of the few mound cemeteries built by Pre-Columbian Native Americans in Arkansas still intact out of more than one thousand believed to have been built across the state, constructed in a style similar to other mound cemeteries across the Mississippi River Valley. It was constructed several centuries ago near the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers in Desha County. By the mid-1830s, all the remaining tribes had been forced to leave Arkansas. The land surrounding the Mound Cemetery would later be converted to a plantation, and as early as 1866, settlers in the area started burying members of their own families at the Native American cemetery. For the next century, the Mound Cemetery was a site for numerous other burials of Desha County residents, including veterans of the Civil War, World War I, and World War II.
Compiled from Associated Press wire reports
SAHF Unveils John B. Abbott Award for Historic Preservation
The South Arkansas Historical Foundation has announced that it is establishing the John B. Abbott Award for Historic Preservation to honor the local architect for his many years of invaluable service as an architect and as a historical preservationist. Diane Alderson, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors said, “This award will be given to individuals in our area who have shown the high level of excellence and dedication to historical preservation that Mr. Abbott has shown over the years.”
John B. Abbott was born in El Dorado on May 16, 1912, the son of El Dorado’s superintendent of schools. In 1914, the family moved to Camden and ultimately to Little Rock some years afterward, where Mr. Abbott finished his public education as part of the first graduating class at Central High School in 1927. Mr. Abbott received his training in architecture at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana before returning to El Dorado in 1936 to start his own architectural firm. CADM Architects has since become a nationally respected design firm.
He married Alice Priscilla Grayson on December 3, 1935, and remained married for 69 years until her death in 2005. The couple had one son, John Clayton Abbott, in addition to two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
During his nearly fifty years of designing buildings, he designed or re-designed almost every school building in Union County in addition to numerous churches across South Arkansas. His other architectural achievements include design of the WPA Gymnasium at what is now the campus of South Arkansas Community College in 1940 and the design of Memorial Stadium in 1946. In his later career in the 1970s, he worked closely with the South Arkansas Historical Foundation in the preservation and restoration of the historic John Newton House. The Newton House, constructed in 1848, is the oldest surviving house in El Dorado. Dr. Ken Bridges, foundation board member and SouthArk history professor, noted, “With Mr. Abbott’s dedication and expertise, many of the details and perhaps the entire property itself may have been lost to the ravages of time. He has not only created many of our local landmarks but ensured that they and others will be preserved for the future.”
At the age of 97, Mr. Abbott still actively writes and advises historic preservation efforts across the community as part of a career that has now in its eighth decade.
The Foundation announced in November that it chose El Dorado resident Theodosia Nolan to receive the first John B. Abbott Award in recognition for her efforts to restore the Cherokee Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The plantation was built around 1839, but indications point to a construction date as early as 1820. It was one of the few homes in the area to survive the Civil War and is one of the few examples of early Creole architecture and lifestyles available in the area. Cherokee has received national preservation awards and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Mrs. Nolan, touched by the award, noted that she was “proud to have anything with John Abbott’s name on it.”
Mr. Abbott received a special lifetime achievement award for his preservation efforts.
JOHN B. ABBOTT AWARD FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION
The South Arkansas Historical Foundation is calling for nominations for the first recipient for the John B. Abbott Award for Historic Preservation. The award is given in recognition of those in the community, either as individuals, businesses, or as organizations, who have made significant achievements in the field of historic preservation through restoration, advocacy, craftsmanship, or a lifetime achievement of preservation.
Any individual, organization, business, or public agency is eligible for the nomination. Nominators may submit their own projects or nominate others. Unsuccessful nominations may be revised and resubmitted at future dates.
Entries must be accompanied by a letter of nomination. For a nomination to be considered, the following must be provided:
1. A written narrative, no more than 750 words, describing the preservation project, program, organization, or individual being nominated. The narrative must address how the nominees fulfill the criteria for the Abbott Award.
2. A minimum of six digital images. The images are necessary for both the selection process and for use during the awards ceremony. Images of construction projects must depict the condition of the project before and after the work, both interior and exterior. Images of other types of projects must illustrate the project and/or the person(s) involved.
3. Any other items (such as newspaper clippings, letters of support) which will also support the nomination.
All nomination materials submitted will belong to the South Arkansas Historical Foundation unless return is requested and a self-addressed, stamped envelope is supplied. The foundation reserves the rights to use any digital images, slides, photos, or other submitted materials for publicity purposes.
Submit all nominations to:
South Arkansas Historical Foundation
510 N. Jackson
El Dorado, Arkansas 71730
El Dorado Works of John B. Abbott, Architect
Charles Cameron, a draftsman for CADM Architects in El Dorado for decades, compiled this list of the more than four dozen El Dorado buildings designed in whole or in part of John B. Abbott throughout his career in El Dorado since he founded the CADM firm in 1936. This is not including the works he designed in other parts of South Arkansas, including the First Baptist Church of Magnolia and the First Baptist Church of Smackover.
1. Memorial Stadium (1946)
2. American Legion (TAC House)
3. Masonic Building downtown (remodel)
4.McWilliams Furniture Co. Warehouse
5. Marrable Hill Church (addition)
6. Michigan Chemical Co. Office Building
7. Social Security Building, Main Street
8. Westminister Presbyterian Church
9. Union County Shop
10. Dr. Dorothy Sample Clinic
11. South Arkansas Mental Health Center
12. John Newton House Restoration (1980)
13. Samples Electrical City (1945)
14. Rump Mortuary (remodel)
15. Hudson Memorial Nursing Home (1958)
16. Marks-James Building (remodel)
17. El Dorado Racquet Club
18. Lion Oil Refinery Office Building
19. Hurley Printing Building
20. Liberty Bell Monument (Union County Court House lawn, 1976)
21. Hurley Printing Building
22. South Arkansas Arts Center
23. City County Health Center
24. Holiday Inn of El Dorado (addition)
25. Alphin Building and Store (Firestone)
26. Royal Crown Bottling Co.
27. Brown Dowling Building
28. First Assembly of God Church
29. Star Clothing House
30. Lion Oil Super Service Station (Hillsboro and South West Ave.)
31. Goodwin Field Airport Terminal (1946)
32. Oil Belt Vocational School (present-day SouthArk East Campus)
33. Cooper Industrial Products
34. Cooper Service Center
35. Hillsboro Street Church of Christ
36. Dr. Charles Cyphers Clinic
37. St. Paul United Methodist Church
38. Dr. Ernest Hartman Clinic, The Berry Lee Moore Clinic
39. Kroger Store (El Dorado)
1. Carver Elementary School
2. Morning Star Elementary School
3. Watson Elementary School
4. Fairview Elementary School
5. Rock Island Elementary School
6. Murmil Elementary School
7. Hugh Goodwin Elementary School (1958)
8. West Woods Elementary School
9. El Dorado High School Gymnasium (1939, the “WPA Gymnasium” at SouthArk)
10. El Dorado High School (1975 addition)
Brave Hired as SAHF Executive Director
Rebecca Larsen Brave has been named the first Executive Director for the South Arkansas Historical Foundation, concluding a national search. The position was created In an effort to expand the reach of the foundation’s historic education and preservation work. Brave’s extensive previous work includes curator of the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma, curator for the Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, curator at the George Peabody House Museum in Peabody, Massachusetts, field work as an archaeologist, as well as work as a technician for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. Brave holds a bachelor of science degree in anthropology from Bridgewater State College in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She is joined by her husband, artist Joe Don Brave.
Ballard Elevated to Dean of Liberal Arts Division at SouthArk
Phillip Ballard, a longtime professor of English at South Arkansas Community College, was promoted to Dean of the Liberal Arts and Business Division in July. The position came open after the previous dean, Dr. Thomas Young, accepted a teaching position at a college in Georgia.
The LAB division currently has 20 full-time instructors and 18 part-time instructors teaching 20 different disciplines, ranging from accounting to history to psychology.
Ballard, a Hope native and an El Dorado resident, has taught in Arkansas schools since 1972. He also previously served as a dean for the college. He has served as an English instructor at SouthArk since 1987 and has been on the editorial board for the South Arkansas Historical Journal since its founding in 2001.
W. H. Allen Descendants Attend “Cousin Camp”
Young descendants of Della Smith and Walter Howard Allen gathered at the W.H. Allen Homeplace in Spotsville, Arkansas on June 11-15 for a “Cousin Camp” to find out what it was like to live in south Arkansas between 1850 and 1950. They will also honor ancestors buried in surrounding cemeteries: Bethel, Bethlehem, Ebenezer and Marysville.
“The purpose of Cousin Camp is to encourage our younger generation to keep the family history going, and to create memories and a feeling of respect and honor for the 1873 Allen Homeplace,” said Emma Jean Allen Hendrick of Village, who grew up in the house.
The camp will function in the era between 1850 and 1950. “This mean no TV, no electronic devices, no computer or video games, and no air conditioning,” said Hendrick. Time will allow for outdoor games of the era as well as hearing stories about ancestors. Campers will help prepare their meals from old family recipes that include chicken and dumplings, chicken pie, peas and cornbread, biscuits and ribbon cane syrup, squirrel, venison, fish (if the campers can catch them), homemade ice cream and a variety of pies and cakes – primarily the food the Allens really ate in the good old days.
Cousin Campers are expected from north Arkansas, California, Florida, Minnesota and Texas.
Emma Jean Allen Hendrick and her nieces are coordinating the effort, with support from parents and grandparents. Emma Jean is building a two-seater outhouse and restoring a chicken coop, and has been hard at work getting the old homeplace and outbuildings ready for the campers. The second of two surviving Allen siblings, Doris Allen Roberson of the Atlanta community will also be involved in telling family stories to the children.
Cousin Camp activities included making grave rubbings and cleaning headstones at the cemeteries, listening to stories about ancestors on tape and film and in person, fishing in the pond, hunting (with cameras), and doing farm chores like shelling peas, washing clothes in a washpot, churning butter, hauling water from a well, and cooking on a wood stove. Cousins slept in the old homeplace and learn about feather beds, slop jars and plowing with mules. There will also be time to play games like wheels and guiders, dominoes, hopscotch, jacks and marbles.
The W.H. Allen House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
P. Sue Allen
South Arkansas Historical Society
Peter G. Buletza
Maylon T. Rice
Lance L. Larey
Worth O. Camp
Barton Library, El Dorado
Warren Branch Library
Clark County Historical Association
Ouachita Baptist University History Department
Magale Library, Southern Arkansas University
Mr. and Mrs. John G. Ragsdale
El Dorado Historic District Commission
See the South Arkansas Historical Society website at: http://www.southark.edu/class-information/dynpage.asp?pageID=1909.
A special thanks to our members and the South Arkansas Historical Foundation for their support in preserving the history of South Arkansas.
South Arkansas Historical Society
Founded in 2000, the purpose of the South Arkansas Historical Society is to preserve and celebrate the history of South Arkansas. This Journal will seek to encourage the writing and publication of articles related to the history of our region. Membership in the society entitles members to copies of the Journal and to participate in the functions of the Society.
Please feel free to join the Society by completing this membership form and mailing it with appropriate annual membership fee to the address noted below. Thank you for your support of the SAHS.
Member Category Annual Member Fee
Institutional Member $25
Supporting Member $50
Contributing Member $100
South Arkansas Historical Society
P. O. Box 10201
El Dorado, Arkansas 71730-0201
The South Arkansas Historical Journal is published once each year, usually in the fall. The editors, Ken Bridges and Bart Reed, accept manuscripts all year. The editors seek nonfiction articles that explore some aspect of South Arkansas history, including but not limited to the Native American, pioneer, Civil War, and modern eras. Articles should focus on notable historic figures, institutions, organizations, buildings, and technological advances; accounts of important events; descriptions of everyday life based on oral history; and local manifestations of or reactions to national events or trends. The editors welcome well documented and clearly labeled photographs, postcards, old newspaper clippings, and facsimiles of documents that illustrate and corroborate the material contained in the manuscript. Book reviews are also welcome if they pertain to recent titles relevant to South Arkansas history. The editors will also consider well written literary interpretations of historic persons or events (e.g. Dan Ford’s “Court of Inquiry” in the Fall 2002 Volume) presented as drama, poetry, or short stories. All literary interpretations of past events should be well rooted in the historic record.
Authors whose manuscripts are accepted for publication are given a byline and will receive three copies of the journal. Additional copies may be purchased for $5.00 each. Back issues may be ordered for $7.00 each. The Journal requires First North American Serial Rights, and the editors appreciate being informed of simultaneous submissions of the manuscript to other publications.
For additional information about the MLA documentation guidelines, see the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, or see the style section of the MLA web site: http://www.mla.org. If a manuscript is otherwise publishable but the documentation style does not conform to these guidelines, the editors will work with the author to make sure the documentation fits the MLA style. For additional information about the Turabian style (also known as the Chicago style), consult the guidelines posted at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org. To submit an article by mail, contact the Journal at:
South Arkansas Historical Journal
P.O. Box 10201
El Dorado, Arkansas 71730-0201