South Arkansas Historical Journal
Established 2001, Volumes 1-4 (2001-2004)
South Arkansas Historical Journal
Volume 1, Fall 2001
Dr. Joyce Adams
Dr. Susan Chappell
Dr. Ben F. Johnson
John G. Ragsdale
El Dorado Printing
El Dorado News-Times
South Arkansas Historical Foundation
Mary Jo Williams
El Dorado’s Two-Year Colleges
By Dr. Ben Whitfield
Shuler Drilling Company
By John G. Ragsdale
By John G. Ragsdale
By Don Lambert
By Hazel Sample Guyol
In the Footsteps of Ed Bearss
By Phillip Arndt
El Dorado’s Two-Year Colleges
By Dr. Ben Whitfield
Communities throughout Arkansas can boast of having or having had a publicly supported two-year college. Some can claim two, but El Dorado can claim four - El Dorado Junior College; Southern Arkansas University - El Dorado Branch; Oil Belt Technical College; and South Arkansas Community College.
EL DORADO JUNIOR COLLEGE
In Arkansas, three two-year colleges were established as extensions of public schools - Little Rock Junior College in 1927 (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and, in 1928, Fort Smith Junior College (Now Westark College) and El Dorado Junior College. The curriculum consisted of those classes usually offered in the freshman and sophomore years of four-year colleges. The new (1925) El Dorado High School science laboratories served both the high school and the college, but the majority of the lecture classes were held in the older (1905) El Dorado School building. El Dorado School Board minutes often refer to the 1905 building as the Junior College Building, though that was never its official name. The high school administrators also served as administrative officers of the college and the El Dorado School Board served as the Board for the college. The majority of the college's faculty was specifically recruited to teach in the college, but some college and high school faculty members served in both institutions. Apparently, no student enrollment data exist, but recollections of students who attended the college would indicate that the largest enrollment was probably less than 250 students.
The college operated until the beginning of the Second World War. The minutes of the El Dorado School Board do not reflect exactly when the college closed; however, in August, 1942, Superintendent McClerkin’s reporting to the Board that all equipment had been returned from the Junior College to the High School would indicate that the college no longer existed.
Modern Community Colleges - In 1965, the modern community college era began in Arkansas. The Arkansas Constitution was amended to allow the establishment of state-supported community or junior colleges. Elections were held in Phillips and Sebastian Counties to establish colleges. The Phillips County election was held a week before the Sebastian County election; however, since the Sebastian County election converted the private Fort Smith Junior College into the state-supported Westark Junior College, the first Junior College classes in the modern era were held in Fort Smith. The 1973 Session of the Arkansas General Assembly liberalized the statutory requirements for establishing community colleges and colleges were established in Blytheville, Forrest City, Harrison, and Hot Springs.
A committee of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, with Perrin Jones serving as Chair and LeRoy Beasley as Vice-Chair, started working toward the establishment of a community college in Union County. They completed the state-mandated application process and appeared before the State Board of Higher Education in its fourth quarterly meeting of 1974. The Board approved the application and authorized an election to be held in Union County for the purpose of establishing a community college and providing a millage to construct buildings for the college. The election was not held as anticipated.
Since Southern State College (now Southern Arkansas University) had more students from Union County than any county except Columbia, the administration of Southern State College was concerned about a possible loss of students. The State Board of Education operated the Southwest Technical Institute in Camden but a number of people in the Camden area wanted to have more control over the institution. Representative Julian Streett, of Camden, and ten other South Arkansas members of the House of Representatives introduced legislation to transfer the Southwest Technical Institute from the State Board of Education to Southern State College and to establish a "community college branch" of Southern State College in El Dorado. Representative Streett and Representative Auby Rowe of Magnolia handled the bill (H.B. 481) in the House of Representatives and Senator Dooley Womack of Camden handled the bill in the Senate with the assistance of Senator Clarence Bell of Parkin, the legislative "father" of community colleges in Arkansas. The legislation was signed by Governor David Pryor and became Act 171 of 1975.
SOUTHERN STATE COLLEGE - EL DORADO BRANCH
Thus, Southern State College - El Dorado Branch came into being on July 1, 1975, with a $121,000 appropriation for operations during its first year and no capital funds for facilities or equipment. Carolyn Langston and Bettie Ann Mahony were actually employed by Southern State College prior to the official establishment of the El Dorado Branch and Mrs. Langston began work with the promise that she would be paid after the college was established. Mrs. Langston was employed as a Business Instructor and advisor, and Mrs. Mahony as an English Instructor. Dr. Ben Whitfield was employed as Chancellor on July 1, 1975, Dr. Kermit Parks was employed as Director of Community Services in August and Mary Jo Thomas (now Williams) was employed in July as secretary for the institution. Four of the five are still employed by the college.
Warner Brown Hospital allowed the college to utilize a portion of the hospital that had been abandoned (and has since been demolished) for classroom and office space, student chairs were borrowed from the hospital's defunct nursing program, and from discarded furniture at Southern State College. Discarded blackboards were also salvaged from Southern State. The staff of the Area Health Education Center Library of the University of Arkansas' Medical Sciences Campus allowed the college to use its copier on a limited basis but most instructional materials were prepared on a borrowed typewriter and duplicated on a ditto machine. Business functions of the college were handled by the Southern State College Business Office. The college started classes on August 28, 1975 - 59 days after it came into existence - with 225 credit students enrolled. The Warner Brown facilities were provided without cost to the college.
Characteristics of a Community College - A commonly accepted definition of a community college is that it is a low-cost, open-door, locally supported and controlled institution that provides 1) the first two years of a traditional baccalaureate degree or the transfer curriculum, 2) occupational programs of various lengths and levels of difficulty that are designed to prepare students for immediate employment to support local business and industry, 3) non-credit or community service classes which may or may not be of collegiate level, and 4) student support services. The open-door admission policy also requires remedial or developmental classes.
The El Dorado Branch was designated in its enabling legislation as a "community college branch", but when it opened it lacked many of the characteristics of a community college. The tuition, the same as Southern State Colleges' tuition, was 67% higher than other community colleges in the state, the control was vested in the Board of Trustees of Southern State College even though there was a local advisory committee with no real authority, the transfer curriculum was very limited, no occupational programs existed, and very limited student services were provided. There had been no local election so no local support had been generated.
Transfer Curriculum - The credit curriculum in the Fall of 1975 consisted of first and second year courses that could be taught without instructional or laboratory equipment. The two full-time instructors were supplemented by part-time instructors from Southern State College, local high school teachers, and persons from the Mental Health Center in El Dorado.
The state appropriation for the college was nearly tripled during its second year of operation. Rogers Junior High School moved from its South West Avenue location to its present location in the old Washington High School Building, and the El Dorado School Board leased the old Rogers site to the college for ten dollars per year. New instructors were added during the 1976-77 school year in Mathematics, History, Physical Education, Psychology and Sociology, and Biology.
The addition of these faculty members allowed the college to offer most of the general education courses usually offered in the first two years of a four-year college, thereby fleshing out the transfer function. In the following year a chief academic officer was named.
Community Service Classes - In order to develop the community service or non-credit area, Dr. Kermit Parks was employed as Director and a variety of non-credit courses were organized using instructors from the community with expertise in areas such as arts and crafts and business related areas. During the first semester of the college's existence, 422 people enrolled in non-credit classes. During the Spring Semester in cooperation with the Public Schools of the area, a "Children's College" program was implemented to provide a variety of enrichment activities for children in elementary school. The Children's College program still exists.
Occupational Programs - In November 1976, the Board of Trustees of Southern State College, upon the recommendation of Dr. Harold Brinson, the newly named president of Southern State College, and Dr. Ben Whitfield, the Southern State College - El Dorado Branch chancellor, approved a Baccalaureate level program in Nursing for the Magnolia campus and an Associate Degree Nursing Program for the El Dorado Branch. Both would prepare students to take licensure examinations to become Registered Nurses. The Associate Degree Nursing Programs are the most widespread occupational programs in community colleges in Arkansas and throughout the nation. The Magnolia campus, though a four-year institution, operated a two-year Associate Degree Nursing Program that utilized the hospitals in El Dorado for a large portion of the students' clinical experiences. The nursing faculty in Magnolia opposed the establishment of a nursing program in El Dorado since there would be competition for students to enroll in the programs and for clinical space in the El Dorado hospitals. The Magnolia faculty also opposed the baccalaureate program in Magnolia since they did not hold the credentials to offer an accredited program at the BSN level. With the opposition of the Magnolia faculty, the State Board of Nursing did not approve either program.
Since the El Dorado Branch was denied the most commonly offered and popular occupational program in community colleges and since Oil Belt Vocational School offered a one-year program that led to licensure as a practical nurse, the college was unable to move into the nursing area.
A Health Advisory Committee was established and identified the need for dental assistants, radiologic technologists, clinical laboratory technicians, and emergency medical technicians. These health-related programs were started during the 1978-79 school year. All classroom instruction was given on campus and all clinical experience was provided through the cooperation of local hospitals, dental offices, the Associated Pathology Laboratory, the local police and fire departments, and other health related facilities in surrounding communities. All of these programs, except dental assisting, still exist.
In addition to the health-related occupational programs, the college, on the advice of local advisory committees, also established a Law Enforcement Program and a Chemical Technology Program. The college was unable to attract enough students to justify the existence of a Chemical Technology Program so it was later phased out. During this era, the college also offered an Introduction to Computers course and some computer language courses even though the college did not have a single computer. Part-time instructors, whose full-time employment was in the computer departments of Murphy Oil and ConAgra Poultry, taught the computer classes. Field trips to the businesses provided the only opportunity for students to see computers. The instructors ran the student's programs on the company's computers and returned them during the next class period. The college purchased some Radio Shack computers at a later date; however, it had so few that students often had to double up.
The college was finally able to enter the computer age in 1985 when it received a $600,000 federal Title III grant. The grant provided hardware and software for instructional programs as well as equipment and hardware to place all financial and student records on the computer. Two student labs were constructed and equipped with the latest models of personal computers.
Student Services Programs - Since a community college is an open-door institution, its students often need a broader array of student support services than in other institutions. In its second year of operation, the college employed a counselor who also served as an advisor on course work, registrar, financial aid officer, veterans' certification officer, as well as providing other student support services. In later years, a Financial Aid Officer was employed but a Chief Student Life Officer was not employed until 1990.
The college sought and received a federal grant which allowed the college to employ a counselor and reading, mathematics, and science tutors. Students participating in this program had to meet certain income guidelines; however, a large portion of the student body qualified and those who did not were assisted by regular college staff members. Remedial or developmental instructors were also employed to help students develop the basic skills necessary to be successful in college work. The Student Support grants have been successfully renewed since their beginning.
Other Early Development - The college, in 1976, also hired its first Business Manager, a Librarian, and a Counselor. The additional staff plus a person added at mid-term during the first year brought the total full-time instructional/administrative staff to 14 persons for the second year of operation. The college also began its first institutionally supported academic scholarships by making awards to five valedictorians and salutatorians from Union County and to five other outstanding students.
With the broader curriculum, the college's enrollment increased 42% during the Fall Semester, 1976, over the Fall Semester of 1975, and the number of student semester credit hours produced was nearly twice the previous fall's production.
Federal Financial Aid - The new college needed to immediately become eligible for Federal Student Aid Programs. The U. S. Office of Education allowed it to temporarily use funds allocated for Southern State College but stated that Southern State College - El Dorado Branch must become eligible for Federal Student Aid Programs as a free-standing institution. At that time, a college could do so by having three fully accredited institutions agree to accept transfer work from the institution or by establishing a relationship with the regional accrediting agency, The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Three state-supported four-year colleges agreed to accept students' credits since the college was a state-supported institution. The NCA ruled that the college could not be accredited under the aegis of Southern State College, so it made application to the NCA to begin its accreditation process. A team of three out-of-state NCA examiners came during the spring semester of 1976 and recommended that the college be granted candidacy status. This was granted strictly on the future promise of the institution as indicated by future state support and was not based on what the team observed in work being done at that time or on the basis of the college's facilities. The Veterans Administration Approval Agency visited the college prior to its opening and granted approval for veterans to enroll and utilize Veterans Administration programs such as the Vietnam era GI Bill.
Facilities - The college moved to the South West Avenue site in 1976. Since the El Dorado School District did not plan to use the facilities for instructional purposes after Rogers Junior High moved, it had not kept up day-to-day maintenance. Several temporary self-contained classrooms and a surplus World War II Quonset hut, which contained the school's Industrial Arts Shop, were placed around the building. A chain link fence intertwined with honeysuckle surrounded the playground on the East side of the facilities and there were 171 broken window panes in the Gym, the JC Building, and the old High School. About one-third of the toilets were non-operable and paint was flaking from the walls and ceilings, especially in the High School Building. The college moved into the facilities in mid-August with classes scheduled to begin in late August. The El Dorado Jaycees volunteered many hours of free labor scraping flaking paint and several of the newly hired faculty members joined in the effort to paint and refurbish the facilities. Classes began as scheduled.
The original Community College Act and the 1973 revision required the local community college to provide initial equipment and facilities for the colleges. Since an election was not held in Union County, the State Board of Higher Education felt that the people in Union County were trying to shirk their responsibility for providing facilities and equipment for the college. Even though Representative Jodie K. Mahony and Perrin Jones appeared before the State Board on behalf of the college, the Board would not recommend funding to the General Assembly. In 1980, Representative Mahony arranged for Governor Bill Clinton to visit the campus and review its facilities. He visited on a cold, rainy day that made the facilities look even more dismal and foreboding than usual. He pledged that he would help in the 1981 session of the General Assembly to secure adequate facilities for the college. Frank White was elected governor and did not help during the 1981 session.
When it became evident that the college would be in the Rogers facilities for some time, the administration began trying to adapt the facilities for collegiate use. Since the college had no funding source for repairs, the college had to, in essence, rob its budget for instructors, administrators, and support personnel in order to refurbish facilities. A chiller and fan coil units were installed to air condition parts of the High School Building. Three classrooms were built in the old high school recreation room, the lunchroom was converted into a Student Center, several walls were removed in order to combine locker spaces, some classrooms and hallways into an area large enough to house the library. Laboratory furniture and equipment was purchased and installed for Biology and Chemistry. Faculty offices were cramped for space and most were not air-conditioned. A ramp was constructed at the only entrance to the High School that would allow a ramp that met Americans with Disabilities Act standards but it only provided handicapped access to three rooms in the High School.
The El Dorado Manufacturing Corporation plant in the Industrial Park closed and through the efforts of Mr. LeRoy Beasley, donated 487 sheets of 4' x 8' x 3/4" particle board to the college. Most pieces had a dark woodgrain plastic veneer on one side. A local trucking company hauled the material to the college at no cost to the institution. This material was used in partitions to construct faculty and administrative offices and to build desks, book shelves, counters, and even file boxes in renovating the first floor of the "Junior College" Building. Wooden battens were used to cover the cracks in the partitions. The tan battens and dark woodgrain particle board gave a dark, monotonous unappealing sameness to the offices. Years later, sheetrock was installed over the particle board and the offices presented a brighter appearance.
During each session of the General Assembly, Representative Mahony introduced an appropriation bill to provide for facilities for the college; however, the funding was not placed in a high enough priority to be funded until 1985. The college requested four million dollars, the appropriation was for three million, but only two million dollars were released. The college employed an architectural firm and considered its options - none of which was ideal.
The El Dorado Industrial Corporation owned some 17 acres located by the Oil Belt Vocational School which it had set aside for the eventual use of the college. The two million dollars released would not be sufficient to construct a building to house the functions contained in the old High School Building as well as the "Junior College" Building and the Gymnasium. The architect also estimated that there was not enough money to refurbish the High School Building even if the work could be accomplished while classes were underway in the same building. Financially, the only viable alternative was to build the classroom building on South West Avenue and then demolish the high school building to build a parking lot on the west side of the campus.
This approach embroiled the college in controversy. Generations of El Dorado students remembered the high school building with a fond nostalgia. The South Arkansas Historical Foundation and others mounted a campaign, which eventually reached the governor's office, to save the high school building. The governor wrote the Southern Arkansas University Trustees and requested that the auditorium be left standing for at least one year to allow the South Arkansas Historical Foundation to raise funds to refurbish it. The Board agreed, but the Foundation did not make an effort to raise funds to save the auditorium. The college took its only economically viable path and built the classroom building and demolished the high school building. In March, 1988, the new classroom building was dedicated by Governor Clinton. The college was finally, in its 13th year of operation, housed in decent facilities designed specifically for collegiate work. It had its first new student tablet arm chairs and "store-bought" faculty desks and bookcases. The era of the raggedy step-child in hand-me-down facilities was finally passing. The college's facilities were beginning to match the quality of its instructional program. New facilities brought an immediate increase in enrollment.
OIL BELT TECHNICAL COLLEGE
Act 1244 of the 1991 session of the General Assembly allowed the vo-tech schools operated by the Department of Education to choose whether they would become technical colleges and be placed under the State Board of Higher Education or to become technical institutes or life-long learning centers and remain under the Board of Education. The law also provided a procedure by which institutions could be merged. Mr. Billy McGehee, the Director of Oil Belt Vocational-Technical School, chose to become a technical college. So on July 1, 1991, Oil Belt Technical College was established and placed under the administrative control of the State Board of Higher Education. Even though its name was changed to a technical college, it had not had collegiate programs approved by the State Department of Higher Education, was not accredited by the division of North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that deals with higher education, and did not have the general education and library resources that would be required of an accredited technical college. The Governor did not appoint a local board and governance of the institution remained under the Department of Higher Education.
From the beginning of OBTC, the leadership of the college expected to merge with SAUEDB to establish a free-standing community college. In order for the institutions to merge, the Board of Trustees of Southern Arkansas University had to agree to release the El Dorado Branch from its control and an election had to be held in Union County to establish the community college district and levy a 1/2 mill local ad volorem tax to support the new college.
A committee composed of the administrative heads of the two colleges, Representative Mahony, and a number of interested citizens was formed to collect signatures to authorize the election and to build public support for the passage of the proposal. Mr. Charles Thomas served as Chair of the committee. The voters of Union County, on March 31, 1992, with over 60 percent voting in the affirmative, established SACC to be composed of the former OBTC and SAUEDB. The new college officially came into being on July 1, 1992, thus ending OBTC and SAUEDB. The election in 1992 to establish a community college in Union County was held 18 years after an election was first authorized to establish a community college.
SOUTH ARKANSAS COMMUNITY COLLEGE
All of the elements of a community college were in place when Governor Clinton appointed the original Board for SACC, but the college was far from being a cohesive, fully developed community college. The original Board for SACC was composed of Mr. Charles Thomas who had served as the Chair of the committee to pass the election, Mr. Corbit White, from the original Advisory Committee for SAUEDB and seven other community leaders. Board members drew for terms and elections were to be held at the expiration of each term for future board members of the college. In 1995, the first election was held and Mr. Joffre Long and Mr. Charles Thomas were re-elected and Dr. J. C. Callaway was elected to the Board. This turned out to be the only election ever held for Board members. The 1995 session of the General Assembly changed the state community college law to allow Boards who chose to do so to be appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate rather than continuing as an elected board. The Board, against the advice of the President of the college, chose to become an appointed , rather than an elected Board. So, subsequently, all Board members were and will be appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate.
After the colleges were merged, the most immediate task was preparing the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1992. Though SAUEDB and OBTC were both state supported colleges, administrative and faculty salaries were not comparable. Since the merger legislation had built in job protection for five years, an administrative structure was fashioned to utilize the skills and competencies of administrators on both campuses.
Faculty compensation was a much more complex issue. Since the qualifications of some occupational instructors was based on non-collegiate education, work skills, and experience and the college parallel instructors' salaries were based more on degrees and experience, a system needed to be devised to equitably compensate faculty members. A faculty salary schedule developed by the State Department of Higher Education for technical colleges, the state classified compensation system which was used by Oil Belt Vocational School prior to its becoming a technical college, the SAUEDB salary schedule, and the salary schedule from Westark Community College in Fort Smith, the flagship community college, were used in the process. Both institutions' individual faculty members were placed on all four schedules and were given the most advantageous compensation. The following year, all faculty members were then merged into a common salary schedule. Faculty work loads also varied widely and had to be reconciled. Time spent in lecture or carefully structured labs required a great deal more preparation time than time spent in "project" type labs.
The biggest problem after the merger, however, was how to ascertain that the college's programs in the occupational areas were meeting the needs of local businesses and industries. A large overall advisory committee and smaller committees related to health occupations, business occupations, and industrially related occupations, were formed. With the advice of these committees, the college restructured many of its occupational programs to be more responsive to local business and industry. The college also developed cooperative arrangements with Union County Schools to provide occupational or vocational courses for high school credit or for high school and college credit in those cases where the instruction was at collegiate level.
The voters of Arkansas approved a bond issue for construction of higher education facilities within the state. For the first time, all institutions, including community colleges, received state funds for construction of physical facilities, but the college was again embroiled in controversy concerning its facilities. Some wished to add to the classroom building on South West Avenue, others wished to add a building on the East Campus (the former OBTC campus) and others wanted enhanced space for the institution's library. A school plant building construction consultant was employed and all options were explored. The Board finally approved a plan to construct the library on Summit Street, to refurbish the old library space in the classroom building on South West Avenue to house the college's health occupation programs, and to upgrade laboratory and instructional space on the East Campus. The College Savings Bond Funds were supplemented by the ad volorem taxes paid to support the college from Union County. Governor Mike Huckabee dedicated the new library on September 24, 1996. The college also received funds from state appropriations to build the Computer Technology Building and in one of the last Board meetings before the author's retirement, an architectural firm was employed to begin planning for the building.
Unfortunately, the funding mechanisms for institutions of higher education in Arkansas do not ensure that all institutions are funded equitably. SAUEDB was always among the institutions with the lowest per student expenditures from state funds. After the merger, SouthArk Community College, by combining the budgets of both OBTC and SAUEDB, started receiving a higher level of state dollars per student than any other community college, but still lower than the technical colleges. This newly found relative affluence allowed the college to more adequately meet many of its staffing needs. The 1997 session of the General Assembly increased the funding of two-year colleges by the highest percentage of increase ever recorded in the state.
E very historical sketch has a beginning and ending time and this sketch ends with the retirement in September, 1997, of the author. It was an ideal time to retire. The institution had recently been reaccredited for the maximum ten-year span allowed, money was in the bank for construction and the architects had been employed for the new Computer Technology Building, and the institution had over one million dollars in uncommitted operating funds. Though the era this article ends in 1997, it is the author's hope that the influence of the people who built this institution will never end.
Dr. Whitfield is president of South Arkansas Community College
Shuler Drilling Company: Making Hole for About a Half Century
By John G. Ragsdale, PE
Oil was first discovered in Arkansas in 1921, about two miles west of El Dorado in Union County. Thousands of people moved to the area as oil reservoirs at about 2,000 feet subsurface were developed in the boom time that followed.
Then in 1922, about twelve miles north of El Dorado, the large Smackover Field was discovered near the community of Smackover. Development of this Field at about 2,000 feet surface in Ouachita and Union Counties continued for several years.
By 1925 the oil production in the state has peaked and the rate of production declined each year until 1937. This was the year that the Shuler Field was discovered in western Union County with multiple reservoirs at greater depths. Extensive development was accomplished there until about 1940.
This Field was named for a small community near-by which had a Post Office until about 1920, when better roads and Transportation led to the elimination of this Post Office. The primary producing zones in the development of the Shuler Field were the Morgan Sand at about 5,500 feet, the Jones Sand at about 7,200 feet, and the Reynolds Limestone at about 7,500 feet.
In 1941 most reservoirs in the Shuler Field were unitized by all operating and royalty interests being pooled and one operator selected to operate these reservoirs for the benefit of all interests. This worked well and allowed for gas recovery and re-injection to maintain reservoir pressure and recovery of larger portions of the oil from the Jones Sand Reservoir.
In 1950 the operator began a program to examine multiple reservoirs at depths above the Jones Sand which might be productive, but which had not been thoroughly tested when the Field had been drilled during the development boom to reach the Jones Sand and the Reynolds Limestone, which were the main reservoirs for initial development.
In the 1950 to 1954 period, wells were recompleted or drilled to produce the Pettet, La Grone, Mayfield, Tuscaloosa, and Hill zones. This activity in the extreme east portion of the Shuler Unit area caused other mineral owners adjacent or near the Shuler Unit boundary to consider drilling and developing their own leases. Additional wells were drilled east of the Shuler Field extension to the east. Additional production was established in the area.
In 1956 several persons who were acquainted with the Shuler Unit and other producing wells in the Schuler Field decided to form a drilling company and join in the exploration in this area of South Arkansas. They selected the name Shuler Drilling Company for their venture.
These people were Wilson H. Sewell, Rodney R. Landes, J. T. Bachtel, Horace P. Sewell, J. C. Landes, Sr., P. D. Burton, Jr., Alvis Fuller, and W. H. Wood. A few years later Wilson H. Sewell purchased the interests of Horace P. Sewell and J. T. Bachtel. Subsequently Rodney R. Landes acquired the interests of J. C. Landes, Sr., P. D. Burton Jr., and Alvis Fuller. Later Wilson H. Sewell purchased the Landes interests and by 1969 had total ownership of the Shuler Drilling Company.
Shuler Drilling Company secured a warehouse and storage yard on Highway 82 about four miles west of El Dorado. This facility previously had been the site for the Zach Brooks Drilling Company and later the Rainbow Drilling Company. Both of these companies were well known in the South Arkansas oil development.
Drilling operations began in 1956 after the Shuler Drilling group purchased a used drilling rig from the J. B. Downs Drilling Company in Magnolia. After the first well was drilled, operations continued at a steady pace. Additional drilling rigs were purchased to allow adequate coverage of various depths and requirements of Clients. At one time, there were seven rigs available for use in the areas of demand.
After starting drilling in Arkansas, as business increased, wells were drilled in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama.
Economic conditions were such that Schuler Drilling Company decided in 2000 to cease contract drilling. The Company continues to operate producing leases that had been acquired or developed during previous operations.
Shuler Drilling Company sought to be a reputable drilling operator with maintained equipment, good supervision, and attention to the needs of the Clients. As a result, it met these goals and was able to make hole for almost a half of a century.
Ragsdale, an El Dorado resident, is a retired petroleum engineer.
MAYHAW JELLY: A Treasure of the South
by John G. Ragsdale
Since the mid 1800s mayhaw fruit has been treasured for culinary use in the kitchens of the South. Through the years, the fruit was used in homes for jelly, conserves, and butters. The fruit often has been used for wine.
Before 1940, many local people gathered the berries for sale. Sales were from roadside vendors or in door-to-door vending. Family members welcomed the cash for gathering a local wild product.
The mayhaw tree grows in low, wet arrears near lakes, sloughs, or river bottoms. The usual places we travel to for the berries are in these areas.
The trees will grow in well drained, slightly acid soil with a pH of 6-6.5.
In the past 20 to 30 years, much effort has been made in selecting superior trees, then grafting or rooting trees for sale as orchard stock. This has worked well and many mayhaw enthusiasts today have trees planted to provide the berries.
In the last few years extensive research has been done on mayhaw trees. Seed growth, grafting, fertilization, mechanical harvesting, diseases, and commercial developments have been investigated.
The wild trees reproduce, grow, and fruit under nature’s variations. It is fascinating to investigate the blooms in the February to March time, seek the mature fruit in May, and gather the berries. Then the historic preparation of the jelly is the lovely chore to provide for the family and friends.
Mayhaw trees may grow to a height of 25 feet or more and may be about that wide. The shape of a tree, undisturbed by adjoining trees, will usually have a rounded shape. In the early spring when the tree is in bloom, you can easily detect the tree. As you may travel by boat on a lake or stream, you can see the tell-tale shape of a rounded, blooming mayhaw tree.
In our area of South Arkansas the mayhaw trees will usually bloom from early February to mid March. The flowers of 5 white petals, sometimes 6, very similar to apple blossoms, bloom before the leaves appear. Blooms can generally survive a freeze of 32 degrees but not much lower. Occasionally, a warm spell of a few days in February will cause the blooms to flourish and a subsequent freeze of a few days later will damage the blooms; a tragedy for the mayhaw jelly maker that year.
The berries usually ripen in early May, hence the name mayhaw for the tree. The size of the berries will be about ½ inch in diameter, about the size of some cranberries. The color will mimic some apple fruit with a color from yellow to bright red. Mature fruit is usually more red, but the colors of fruit on a tree can vary. The red fruit is fragrant, very tart, and juicy.
People travel to the location of the wild tree area to gather the berries. A favorite way to gather the berries is to place a light tarpaulin of cloth or plastic sheeting on the ground, under the fruited tree; shake the limbs to cause the ripe or almost ripe fruit to fall on the tarpaulin. Beware the usual fierce, stiff thorns on the limbs of the tree, more numerous on the older wood of the tree. A long-handled tool with a crook on the end will greatly assist in shaking the tree limbs, with minimal scraping damage to the limbs. Sometimes vegetation under the tree will need to be trimmed to avoid puncturing the tarpaulin.
If the mayhaw tree extends over the water surface of a lake or stream, then ripe berries that have fallen will be floating in the water. This can allow you to scoop the berries from the water. This can be done from a boat or by wading in the edge of the water. Some of the berries in the water will be fresh fallen and some will have been too long exposed by too many days in the water. The older berries can be discarded. When gathering berries in the water, you can also shake the tree limbs to get the ripe berries to fall.
Another gathering method is to sit on a protective pad or low stool to pick ripe berries from the ground under to tree. This method is very time sensitive, but you can select only the well formed berries, avoid twigs and leaves, and have a relatively clean batch of berries. Again, in this method, shake the tree limbs before gathering the berries. Some people prefer this method of gathering the berries. Some people prefer this method of gathering because you get a high percentage of ripe, well formed berries.
After the berries are gathered, they need washing and cleaning of any leaves, twigs, or foreign matter. The berries can be stored in a freezer for future use. I would suggest storing the berries in bags of one gallon size. These stored batches later can be removed for cooking.
An article in a May 1989 National Gardening Magazine indicates the extensive range of native mayhaw trees from North Carolina south and west to south Arkansas and east Texas. This is shown in Figure 1. The general area of Arkansas that harbor native trees is shown in Figure 2.
To make mayhaw jelly, put a gallon of clean mayhaw berries in a large pan (about 8 quart capacity). Cover the fruit with water to about an inch over the top of the fruit. Do not put a lid on the pan. Bring the water to a boil; then adjust the heat to maintain a low rolling boil. After about 30 minutes, mash the fruit to salvage as much juice as possible. Continue cooking until you have thoroughly mashed the mayhaws.
Pour the fruit and juice through a cloth bag, collecting the juice in a large container, taking care not to burn yourself. When you can squeeze no more juice from the bag, discard the skins, pulp, and seeds.
When you are ready to cook the jelly, begin the process of sterilizing the jars and lids. Invert the jars on a rack in a large pan of water about three-fourths as deep as the jars are tall. (I prefer half-pint jars). Bring the water to a boil and keep it at the boiling point while the jelly cooks. Put the flat lids in a small pan; cover the lids with water and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to just below the boiling point.
To cook the jelly, pour 2 cups of juice and ½ cups of sugar into a 3 or 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Watch it closely so that it does not boil over. As the mixture thickens, stir it often. Test the consistency of the mixture by dipping a spoonful of the mixture and then turning the spoon so that the contents flow back into the pan. When the mixture comes off the spoon in two large viscous drops or else slides off in a thin sheet, it is ready. Remove the pan from the heat, and when the boiling subside, skim off the foam before you pour the jelly into the sterilized jars.
You will need three utensils: a jar funnel, special tongs to lift the jars from the boiling water, and tongs to lift the flat lids from the very hot water.
Remove a jar from the boiling water and pour the jelly into the jar to ¼ inch from the top. (A canning funnel makes this process more efficient). Wipe the rim. Place a hot flat lid on the jar; then screw the metal ring on firmly. Continue filling and sealing other jars with the remainder of your batch of jelly.
Place the hot, sealed jars on a flat surface to cool. As the jars cool, the sealing lids will snap shut with the reduced pressure inside the jars. These snapped lids confirm the protective sealing of the jars.
When the jars are cool, place labels on them, naming the content and date.
Although you may be tempted to cook in larger amounts, it is much easier to maintain control of a two cup batch. The cooled juice can be stored in a freezer until a later cooking time if desired.
Beware of numerous road-side signs for sale of Mayhaw Jelly. The reputation and legend of this wonderful, distinctive jelly flavor have been widely shared. Some people find that more artificial pectin and more water and added color to their batch will provide more jars of jelly for sale. However, in my opinion, these additions weaken the flavor and quality of the jelly. Of course, our jelly made of only berry juice and sugar, provides less quantity but high quality of mayhaw jelly.
Try some of this delicious jelly on some home-made hot biscuits, fresh toasted whole wheat bread, or even a batch of hot corn bread. The flavor is excellent!
By Don Lambert
The Constantin well provided the impetus for a future oil boom although it became a fiery inferno that claimed the lives of five sightseers. To some there was little doubt that oil lay beneath the surface in Union County. All of the tell-tale signs were in place. A tremendous flow of natural gas and a showing of oil. The quest for black gold became the biggest show in town as the buying, selling, and trading of leased land reached a frenzied pace.
Although it was only one of many land deals being made at the time, the 350 acres leased from David Armstrong served as the catalyst for one of the most exciting oil booms in petroleum history. The buyers were David Mattox and Harley Hinton who were destined to become millionaires. To spread the risk, they assigned a share of an eighty acre tact to Dr. J.G. Mattocks and W.R. Bonham of Homer, Louisiana. The deal contained the agreement that the Mitchell and Bonham Drilling Company would start immediately and drill a wildcat well on the smaller tract.
It was an ill-fated venture from the beginning or so it seemed. The well was spudded in early May, 1920 and reached a depths of 1,000 feet before ruining the hole. The derrick was skidded a short distance and drilling began anew. This time, at only 900 feet, drilling was halted due to lost tools in the hole. Again, the derrick was skidded and drilling began for the third time. The Mitchell-Bonham enterprise had spent over $30,000 and, by the time the drill bit reached 1,200 feet the budget was shot.
Drilling ceased. Initial efforts to sell shares in the ill-fated proved fruitless.
Dr. Samuel T. Busey was to become a legendary figure in the chronicle of Arkansas' petroleum history. He was a physician turned geologist and a world traveler and adventurer. He rarely practiced medicine but discovered two oil fields...one in Mexico and another in Bolivia.
There are numerous stories about how Dr. and Mrs. Busey came to arrive in El Dorado but it is a fact that they arrived the day after the Constantin blew in. Ten days later, Busey purchased the Arcade Hotel on El Dorado's courthouse square.
"My Dad was acquainted with Dr. Busey and thought he was a charmer and loved to hear his tales of oil wells he had brought in all those different placed throughout the world."
Pauline Dykes Buchner
With the Mitchell-Bonham enterprise at a standstill, Busey agreed to finish the job - one way or another. He would pay $1,000 up front and an additional $2,000 when casing was set when drilling had reached 2,000 feet. He agreed to pay an additional $3,000 if oil was available in commercial quantity. Dr. Busey also consented to assume all expenses towards the well's completion. For this, he received a 51 percent interest in the 80 acre lease.
The agreement was signed on November 15, 1920 and drilling resumed.
Busey was a shrewd businessman and quickly spread his risk. He sold shares of his 51 percent interest to investors from El Dorado, Camden, Calion and Strong.
"My dad felt so strongly about the prospects of oil that he supported Dr. Busey with $1,000 for himself and the same for my mother." Pauline Dykes Buchner
The sound of drilling activity on the Armstrong farm just a mile west of El Dorado could be heard clearly throughout the town and quickly became the "talk of the town."
Dr. and Mrs. Busey ate most of their meals at Mrs. Nannie Winchester's boarding house in the 300 black of North Washington street. At noon on Monday, January 10, 1921, Dr. Busey mentioned to Mrs. Winchester that, "this is the day." He suggested that she drive out to the well site if she wanted to see some excitement.
Accompanied by a boarder, Nannie drove her "tin lizzie" along the rutted Middle Magnolia Road towards the Armstrong farm. By the time she reached the well's location, swabbing had started and the bailer was completing its third trip. She waited a while and decided she needed to return home and prepare for supper.
Two-way traffic was difficult and Mrs. Winchester had barely reached the El Dorado town limits when the bailer lifted in its sixth trip out of the hole. A deep rumbling was detected . The crew stepped away and moved a safe distance, stopped and listened. Dr. Busey watched "with an air of expectancy." The rumbling grew louder, shaking the ground as if an earthquake was at hand. Suddenly, a thick column of gas and oil blasted to the surface, shot through the derrick's sheaves in a gigantic black cloud framed against the dreary January sky.
"School had just turned out and a bunch of us boys were down on our knees shooting marbles in the middle of First Street. I raised up and looked west and saw what I thought was black smoke rising up into the air. I said, 'Look a yonder! That well's on fire!' Another kid looked up and said, 'Fire, hell! That's oil!' We took off and didn't even pick up the marbles or nothing." Roy Anderson
"My dad went by the school on Northwest Avenue and picked up my brother and told him they were going to see the well come in. In the same group was Miss Hattie Waters and Pierce Matheney. They all stood by the fence and watched the oil come out and overflow."
Pauline Dykes Buchner
"That day was cold and misty and I rode my bicycle home from school and told my
mother about seeing the well blow from the second floor of the schoolhouse. I rode my bicycle and momma and my little brother walked out to the location. There were wagons, buggies, cars and horses everywhere and people were streaming in from every direction."
Mrs. M.F. Gathright had just put her wash on the line when her husband drove up and urged her to accompany him to see the well "blow in." She joined other late-stayers in rejoicing over the discovery, but her joy was tempered when she arrived home. Her wash was splattered with oil. This was a story repeated by women all over town.
As oil and water rained earthward the moment was captured in delirious frames of slow motion. The driller, Chal Daniels grabbed Dr. Busey in a bear hug as the toppled over into the growing pool of fresh oil.
"Dr. Busey called his wife up to the derrick floor to have her picture made. I remember she was a tall lady and had on a long voile dress with y\tassels hanging down and had on a little hat and he pulled her up there. He said, 'Come on, hon, I'm going to out you up here on the second rung of this ladder so we can take your picture.' The wind changed suddenly and just sprayed that lady and she got saturated with oil!" Robert Vernon
"It was getting late and the wind changed. It was blowing east. We had just painted our
house. Instead of being a white house, the est side was brown and I mean brown!"
The wind continued its eastward pace as sprays of oil sprinkled the landscape. Sheep on Miles Murphy's farm were blackened while the winter coats of mules and cows glistened and dripped with oil.
"El Dorado was a quiet as you please when I went to a meeting at the First Baptist Church that Monday afternoon but it was like a circus day when I came out." Ethyl Keys Pirtle
"When the Busey blowed in, my uncle stopped his mules right there in the field and pulled the harness off them, turned them out and retired them. He was through with farming. He owned around two hundred acres where Goodwin Heights is today. There were lots of wells on his land."
As for Mrs. Winchester? She never got to see it. There was no need to fix supper that
night. Everybody was out celebrating.
"It was something that day! The whole town turned out." Robert Vernon
The word was out. "They've hit oil!" was the cry and El Dorado would never be the same.
(Quotes are from the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources oral history archives.)
Lambert is the director of the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover and the mayor of Smackover.
Roaring Twenties brought booms and frivolous pursuits
By Hazel Sample Guyol
They were called the Roaring Twenties and the decade was especially lively in El Dorado because of the oil boom which had started in January 1921. I was 10 years old in 1920, so I spent my teenage years in this rule-breaking era.
Historians say that, in the euphoria after the end of World War I (1918), along with the new joie de vivre came the crumbling of moral and social restraints. British historian Paul Johnson wrote that the 20’s were probably the most enjoyable decade in American history” when “people took to partying on a scale never seen before.”
This exuberance showed itself in a tangible way in El Dorado with a record breaking building boom. The great influx after the discovery of oil meant that schools, churches and other groups were overcrowded.
New construction was urgent, and many fly-by-night shanties went up, as well as slightly more durable temporary building like our high school. I spent the first two years of high school (a four-year period) 1923-25 in a drafty, frame building which was demolished after our imposing new brick high school was finished.
Along with the swelling school population, church memberships grew enormously. The three major churches: Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian-also built grand new edifices. And the building boom extended to an impressive array of public buildings like the new municipal building, new banks, hotels, etc. There was also a great increase in the construction of private homes for the city’s millionaires, like the H.C. McKinney and Charles Murphy residences.
But the “roar” in the Roaring Twenties refers to more frivolous pursuits like the revolt against old styles and traditional customs and morals.
Changes in styles happen often, but few changes in our history were as drastic or as pervasive as the changes of the Twenties. It is hard for people nowadays to see why bobbed hair caused such a to-do. Before this era, it was almost written in stone that a girl had to let her hair grow before she started first grade. By the time she was 6, my older sister had long hair which had to be combed and braided before school every morning. Her combings were not kept, but, strange as it seems, some people had “hair receivers” as part of the dresser set and combings were dept in this decorative china receptacle.
All grown women had long hair. Mamma’s hair was so long it reached down to her waist. One Sunday when she was brushing it, the ends caught in the electric fan. Luckily Daddie was home and close by. He caught the fan as it fell and turned it off, so that Mamma’s hair could be disentangled. Combing, brushing and pinning up long hair in a bun or coil was no small task, sometimes taking 30 minutes or more.
A hair style for younger adults was that of puffs over the ears. I loved watching Aunt Ruth, all of 17 years old, prepare her puffs. She used rats to stuff inside the puff of hair over each ear.
Then she pulled a strand of hair over the top of the puff to anchor it. Scoffing young men called these puffs “cootie garages.” “Cootie,” a World War I word, meant lice.
In the early Twenties before central heating, we wore long johns which we called union suit at the ankle and tuck it into the cotton stockings in such a way as to create the smallest possible bulge. This unsightly bulge showed when we wore low-quarter shoes – which followed the high-top style. Some of these high-top shoes were fastened with buttons, and some were lace-ups. I still have a shoe-button hook with a silver handle which was used 80 years ago.
Long hair was swept away with the coming of the Jazz Age. Even Mamma eventually had her hair bobbed. It was certainly easier to handle. The flapper, icon of the age bobbed her hair, wore short skirts, an flaunted a free, uninhibited spirit. She danced the Charleston an she did the shimmy, a vigorous shaking of the hips, which some of the hips, which some adults considered vulgar.
In El Dorado High School, the quintessential flapper was a cute girl named J. Nell Webb who enacted to music a piece about the flapper. “You must flap to be a flapper. You must frivol, you must flirt, and do the things that other girls don’t dare.”
Among the “other girls” were the wallflowers, old-fashioned girls. There was even a song about them, assuring them that the flapper was “Only a toy to enjoy for awhile. For when men settle down,” the song said, “they always get an old-fashioned smile.” I don’t know what an old-fashioned smile was, but it was my observation that the men married the girls they had been dating, even those girls who were fast, “the red hot mammas.”
In the world outside El Dorado, the flapper ideal was Zelda Sayre who married F. Scott Fitzgerald, the preeminent writer about the wild parties of the period. On the screen, Clara Bow and Colleen Moore were the perfect flappers. In fact, Colleen Moore starred in the movie, The Perfect Flapper.
It was advertised as “a coming attraction” for several weeks before it came to town in the mid-1920’s. I recall this clearly because my best friend, quite a flapper herself, confided to me that she planned to see it, twice if necessary, and pick up pointers from it.
Many movies reflected this prodigal spirit. The titles tell the story. In addition to The Perfect Flapper, Colleen Moore starred in Flaming Youth, We Moderns, Her Wild Oat, and Naughty but Nice. Joan Crawford, a dazzling dancer of the Charleston, also made Twenties movies, including Our Dancing Daughters, Our Modern Maidens, and Untamed.
Like the movie stars, we teenagers in El Dorado danced the Charleston. At the many small private parties, we danced mostly to the music of Victrola records. However, the Purifoys gave a big summer dance at which live musicians played. There were many public parties too, but I did not attend them. It was said that a great deal of drinking went on at these. This was the Prohibition era, but, as someone observed, nobody noticed that booze was illegal.
Personally I did not see a lot of social drinking. Undoubtedly, I did not go to the right places. There were wild parties, but in El Dorado there was also a tamer group to which I belonged. However, I wasn’t totally sheltered. I certainly knew about corn liquor, “white lightning,” and I heard about the secret stills and drinking places called “blind pigs,” and “blind tigers.”
At one time, I even saw a whole case of corn liquor, bottled in quart fruit jars. And a high school classmates injured himself permanently when he jumped out a second-floor window during a drinking binge. He was hospitalized for months.
Groups of us visited him from time to time. His case was a painful reminder of the excesses of the age.
I graduated from high school in 1927. Our graduation festivities were dampened by the disastrous tornado at Strong, a town only 20 miles from El Dorado. The tragedy struck our family.
My uncle and cousin were killed, along with 30-35 others. For months, El Dorado hospital were full of tornado victims.
As the Twenties wound down. I went off to college in Arkadelphia in 1928. We traveled by train and did not return home until Christmas vacation. It seems strange now, but we took trunks – not steamer trunks, but big, full-sized ones because we had to take complete bedding along with a full wardrobe of summer and fall clothes. Clothes were much more important then than now when nearly everything is casual wear.
It was a dressy period, and we packed at least two formal gowns which we wore to the evening lawn parties. It may sound boring now, but all we did was converse, but if anyone spiked the punch, I didn’t know it. Many romances started at these parties.
The Jazz Age played itself out, and the exuberance ended in 1929 when the stock market collapsed and ushered in the Depression of the Thirties, just in time for my graduation in 1931 and subsequent job hunt. I did get a job, and I was one of the lucky ones, even though I was paid only $60 a month.
Hazel Sample Guyol is a resident of Arkadelphia who writes historical commentary for the Sunday News.
South Arkansas Sunday News – April 8, 2001
In The Footsteps Of Ed Bearss
Steele’s Retreat From South Arkansas
By Phillip Arndt
Ed Bearss’s Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry is an account of one part, the Arkansas phase, of the larger Red River campaign; an ill conceived, and a vainglorious attempt to wrest control of North Louisiana, and Southern Arkansas from the Confederacy, and bring Texas and its cotton under Federal control. General Nathaniel Banks, a political general who had been shunted off to the Trans-Mississippi after a series of defeats in the Shenandoah Valley, foresaw political as well as economic rewards in a swift and victorious campaign.
The plan called for an amphibious force under Banks and Rear Admiral David D. Porter to move up the Red River toward Shreveport, Louisiana, while a second force commanded by a reluctant Major General Frederick Steele moved south west from Little Rock toward Shreveport. The combination of these three forces would be vastly superior to anything the Confederates could field.
However, Confederate General in overall command of the Trans-Mississippi, E. Kirby Smith, was able to move more swiftly than his Union counterparts, and he effectively ended the Banks/Porter campaign with a series of dynamic Southern victories in Louisiana.
After ordering Brigadier General John Thayer to set out from Fort Smith with a command of 3,600 effectives and rendezvous with the main column near Arkadelphia, Steele left Little Rock with 6800 soldiers, including two brigades of cavalry, on March 21, 1864, “a clear, beautiful day”. Despite the auspicious beginning, Steele was unconvinced that the plan had merit. Most of the roads in central and southern Arkansas were underwater because of spring rains, numerous guerilla bands operated in the area, and the land had been swept clean of food and forage. Confederate cavalry almost immediately began to harass Steele’s rearguard and flanks. Facing a shortage of supplies, Steele drew up short of Washington to strike east toward Camden, where he easily brushed aside token resistance and entered the city on April 15.
While he was now safe behind Confederate built fortifications his army was still starving. To help remedy this, Steele ordered out a wagon train to forage on the east side of the Ouachita River. Unfortunately, for Steele, a large Confederate force under Brigadier General Maxey routed the Union foragers at the Battle of Poison Spring on April 18. The capture of another Union supply train by Brigadier General Fagan at the bloody battle of Marks Mills on April 25, left Steele with no real options other than to retreat back to Little Rock.
After destroying everything they could not take with them, Steele stole across the Ouachita, and soon had gained a full day’s lead on Smith who intended to cut Steele off from his destination. Smith was operating under the false impression that Fagan had destroyed Steele’s supplies at Little Rock and Pine Bluff and was in position to block the Union retreat.
After skirmishing with Steele’s rearguard, Smith finally caught up with Steele near Jenkins’ Ferry. It was only after a hard fought battle of several hours in the Saline bottom swamps and in a nearly continuous rainstorm that Steele, using an inflatable pontoon bridge of India rubber, was able to extract most of his army from the mire, and make it to the safety of Pine Bluff and later to Little Rock.
Over the years I’ve visited many of the war’s battlefields. I’ve stood as the first traces of dawn broke the darkness, and watched a solitary duck wing through the gray mist rising over the Tennessee River and understood implicitly the optimism of Grant on the second day of Shiloh. I’ve stood knee deep in reverence and felt the carnage of the nearly impregnable Sunken Road at Antietiem. Then there is the place on Little Round Top, at Gettysburg, close to where the 16th Michigan held, and then began to break, on July 2, 1863, where in the summer a purple wild flower grows and where I first heard the guns.
Perhaps, it is as it should be, that the monuments, plaques, and statues remain mostly out east where the war was more orderly, because as it moved west, it became less ordered, and in Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Northern Louisiana it became more chaotic, and more vulgar. Today there are only a few plaques at Poison Spring and Jenkins’ Ferry.
On a recent visit to Poison Spring, we carried several maps of the field, but it was still largely guesswork where specific events took place, where Krumbhaar had placed his cannon, or where the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry made their stand. But there are traces of the battle. One road still visible was no doubt where Gunter, and the 21st Texas cavalry (dismounted) straddled one side, while along the other side of the trace Walker’s graybacks made their combined assault on the 18th Iowa that began the rout of Colonel John Williams’ command. Crossing the road, where two hundred wagons stood over one and a quarter centuries ago, and moving into the tangled network of ravines and hills, it is easy to become confused, and fatigued even on a peaceful weekend day. Gazing into the thickets beyond Smith Creek, one can imagine the horror of the 1st Kansas. A few of the men had managed to escape the slaughter and had taken refuge among the briars, where some were bitten by rattlesnakes before making their escape to Camden horribly swollen from the venom.
At Jenkins Ferry, it is easy to see what “probably” was the crossing used by Steele’s command. The Military Road is merely a trace now, a scar in the ground a few feet deep that leads into the Saline River and reemerges on the other side.
Lincoln made us understand that a few bronze plaques, or monuments cannot consecrate, or hallow a ground where brave men struggled, and gave the last full measure of their devotion to a cause, right or wrong, in which they believed. While these lands need to be protected for future generations, it is fitting that in the Trans-Mississippi we not erect stone monuments in a vain attempt to consecrate an already hallowed ground.
Arndt served as the Director of the South Arkansas Community College Library from 1994 to 2001 and is now the Chair of the Learning Resource Center, Lincolnland Community College, Springfield, Illinois.
Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat From Camden and The Battle Jenkins’ Ferry.
Arkansas Civil War Centennial Commission and Pioneer Press, Little Rock,
Arkansas by Arrangement with the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Sheridan, Arkansas, 1995.
Castel, Albert E. General Sterling Price and The Civil War in the West,
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1968.
Johnson, Ludwell H. Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War. Kent
State University Press, Kent, OH, 1993.
South Arkansas Historical Journal
Volume 2, Fall 2002
Published by the
South Arkansas Historical Society
Dr. Susan Chappell
John G. Ragsdale
Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources
Dr. Joyce Adams
For further information on the
South Arkansas Historical Society, please write to:
P.O. BOX 10201
El Dorado, AR. 71730-0201
Contents For Volume 2
Movie Theaters in El Dorado
By Richard Mason . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 1
From Honduras to Smackover: The Cynthia Cooper Tate Dees Story
By Jeanne Clements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 4
Those Cotton Picking Shoes
By Marzell Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 8
The Sparta Aquifer in Union County
By Robert Reynolds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 12
Court of Inquiry
Adapted by Daniel G. Ford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 17
Health Sciences Education in South Arkansas
By Jacob P. Ellis, M.D. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 27
The Choctaw and Cherokee in Union County
By Worth Camp, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 31
Reflections of the Past . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 42
MOVIE THEATERS IN EL DORADO
RICHARD H. MASON
In 1917, E. C. Robertson, a Texan, moved to El Dorado and opened El Dorado’s first movie theater, the Mission Theater, at 109 East Main Street. In the spring of 1921, the McWilliams family opened the Rialto Theater. The Rialto was extensively remodeled in the fall of 1925, and in 1928, the old theater was demolished, and the present theater was constructed on the site of the old Rialto. Based on old photographs the east wall of the old theater was incorporated into the new theater. The new Rialto opened in September of 1929.
The following material is from the El Dorado Daily News, October 28, 1971:
In the fall of 1925 the company remodeled the Rialto Theater, even though it had been constructed only four years previously and installed more modern equipment, total costs of the improvements on the former Rialto being approximately $20,000.
State-wide influence and prominence came to the El Dorado company in September, 1926, when its theaters in this city were merged with the Malco Amusement Co., thus becoming an important union in a chain of theaters located in El Dorado, Camden, Smackover, Hope, Little Rock, and North Little Rock. This led to the formation of a still larger company that became the Arkansas Amusement Enterprises, Inc.
Stockholders in the Arkansas Amusement Enterprises, Inc., were W. F. McWilliams, L. B. Clark, M. A. Lightman, M. S. McCord and M. J. Pruniski. With the merger of the two companies, D. R. McDonald sold his interest in the El Dorado properties leaving only Clark and McWilliams of the former triple partnership owners in the new and larger company.
Two more El Dorado theaters, the Dillingham and the Star Theaters were acquired making five local theaters added to the 32 theaters in the chain.
El Dorado was growing rapidly and the need for a new and more modern theater to keep pace with the progress of times was felt, and so the stockholders of Arkansas Amusements Enterprises, Inc. decided in the summer of 1928 to construct a modern theater for the production of the most metropolitan pictures in a luxurious artistic environment.
The Rialto building had only been standing some seven years, but the owners decided to demolish it and use the site to build a larger and finer Rialto Theater, which held its grand opening in September of 1929.
Employing the latest in acoustical technology, the new $250,000 Rialto Theater opened as one of the most modern sound-perfect playhouses in the Southwest. W. B. Smith was the contractor of the new building.
The new building seated 1,400 people in its main floor auditorium and two balconies. The first floor held some 900 while the balconies held some 500 occupants. Velour draperies were used throughout the theater to deaden any sound that would tend to distort the presentation of talking pictures. Underlying the draperies covering each large wall was a layer of Azite, a padding that was said to prevent reverberation of sound. The walls were hung with draperies, and folds of velour surrounded the screen set.
The stage -32 feet deep and 60 feet wide - provided room for the presentation of larger road shows. A $12,000 Mohler pipe organ was installed, and short organ presentations were often presented.
A washed-air ventilating system was used to cool the theater, which at the time was the latest thing out, and the price of such a luxury was $6,500. The heating system of the building was located in the basement of the building, which also included dressing rooms and the theater’s separate power transformer and switchboard. The transformer was provided to insure a steady supply of current when the electric power was off on the regular line.
Two large electric signs were installed at the front and side of the building using 15,000 light bulbs. The latest in talking picture equipment, two large projection machines using Western Electric systems, were used upon opening. The machines would handle both Movietone and Vitaphone films and were valued at $15,000.
Kolben, Hunter, and Boyd were the architects for the building, and King Studios of Dallas supervised the hanging of the draperies and other acoustical features of the new theater.
A major event in the development of the theater business in El Dorado came when McWilliams and L. B. Clark acquired sole ownership and control of the five El Dorado theaters from Arkansas Amusement Enterprises, Inc. At the same time, they disposed of their stock in the incorporated company to reorganize a purely local company under the firm name of Clark and McWilliams Theater Co., with Clark as active manager of the group of theaters.
Backing the theater all the way financially was the McWilliams family. They were individually represented by W. F. McWilliams, Wallace McWilliams, J. H. McWilliams, Sam McWilliams, Mrs. Ira Hidden, and last but far from least, their father, J. S. McWilliams, the then stockholder of Arkansas Amusement Enterprises, Inc.
The very first movie shown at the Rialto was Street Girl, a musical drama, which was declared an outstanding hit for the season at that time. The film presented Betty Compson and her violin in a delightful story of a street waif who wins her way to fame as a member of a small band of musicians.
Some other famed films showing after the grand opening were The Cock-Eyed World, Frozen Justice, The Coconuts, Hit The Deck, No! No! Nannette, The Vagabond Lover, On With The Show, and many, many more famous shows of that time.
It was noted that in 1939 Gone With The Wind had a premier showing. This theater was the first to show this picture in this part of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. It played for an unprecedented 19 days at the extravagant price of $1 per ticket.
Between the time of construction of the old Rialto in 1921 and 1924, seven additional theaters opened in Downtown El Dorado. In the 1924 Pages City Directory nine theaters are listed:
1) The Dillingham Theater, 213 East Cedar Street;
2) The Fairview Theater, 545 East E and B Street;
3) The Majestic Theater, 212 South Washington Street;
4) The Manhattan Theater, 210 North Washington Street;
5) The Mission Theater, 109 East Main Street;
6) The Rex Theater, 418 South Washington Street;
7) The Rialto Theater, 111 East Cedar Street;
8) The St. Louis Theater, 424 North West Avenue;
9) The Star Theater, 123 West Hillsboro Street.
By 1927 several theaters were closed, but a number of new theaters opened to give Downtown El Dorado an all time high of ten theaters. The new theaters were:
1) Arkansas Amusement, 116 Petroleum Building;
2) The Plaza Theater, 231 Liberty Street;
3) The Princess Theater, 209 North Jefferson Street.
In the 1949 Polk’s City Directory, the list had shrunk to five theaters with additions that included the Ritz Theater at 217 East Main Street and the Savoy Theater located at 624 North West Avenue.
The list continued to shrink and by 1966 only four theaters were listed. The Majestic and the Rialto were still open downtown, but all of the other downtown theaters had closed. However, a new style of theater had emerged, the drive-in. The 1966 City Directory listed the 7 Drive-In at 3117 North West Avenue and the Sky-Vue Drive-In Theater at 1720 Junction City Road, which, by the way, is the scene of my first date with my wife, Vertis. Later the Gay Drive-In Theater would open giving El Dorado more drive-in theaters than conventional theaters.
The First National Bank demolished the Majestic Theater to build a parking lot in the early 1970s. The Sky-Vue Drive-In and the Gay Drive-In were also closed. In 1971 only the 7 Drive-In and the Rialto Theater were operating. The Rialto was closed from 1983 until December of 1987. El Dorado Cinemas opened in Northwest Village in the mid 1970s. Between 1983 and 1987, El Dorado Cinemas was the only theater in the city.
In December of 1987, the Rialto Theater reopened after extensive remodeling which included dividing the balcony into two auditoriums and leaving the large downstairs auditorium intact. In 2001, the Stars Theater opened, giving El Dorado three theaters once again. The movie theater business in El Dorado has gone from the ten-theater boom in the 1920s to the two-theater bust in the 1980s. Today El Dorado has three theaters, but with fourteen screens, today the city has more movies showing than at the peak of ten theaters back in the 1920s.
In the future digital movies and holographic projection promise new and exciting dimensions in movie going. One thing is for sure, if the past is any indication, the movie business in El Dorado will certainly change in the next decade.
(Richard Mason is President of Gibralter Energy Company, an El Dorado based company involved in oil and natural gas exploration and production. Richard and his wife Vertis have been instrumental in the revitalization of El Dorado’s downtown area.)
FROM HONDURAS TO SMACKOVER:
THE CYNTHIA COOPER TATE DEES STORY
JEANNE WELLS CLEMENTS
Mention the oil fields and one automatically thinks of the rough life of the roustabouts and the roughnecks; and their exciting lives and dangerous work they did. There is a counterpart to this aspect of south Arkansas history—the women who followed them and made homes in the shotgun houses, tents, and boarding houses scattered throughout the oil fields. This story is about one of those women who traveled a long distance to wind up in the piney hills near Smackover.
Cynthia Cooper was born August 30, 1905, on the island of Utilla in Spanish Honduras in Central America. Her father, Edmon Cooper, owned another island, Morat, that he had inherited from his uncle. Mr. Cooper was a well-educated man, having studied at UCLA, and was used to a life of leisure. As Cynthia said, “My father was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”
The family had an idyllic life. Her mother, Gertis, had a maid; and her father had Negro hands to help around their home. Their father educated Cynthia, her sisters, and her brothers. She and her siblings went through books, not grades. Entertainment consisted of swimming, boating, fishing, and playing on the beautiful seven-square-mile island inhabited only by her family and their servants.
In 1917, when Cynthia was twelve, her father decided to move his family from this island paradise to New Orleans. He took all of their money, invested it unwisely and lost everything.
Never having had to work, he was not prepared for life in the big city. Her family moved to the Homer, Louisiana, oil fields in 1918 after the oil boom came in there. Cynthia and her sister, Elouise, were left with other families where they worked for room and board. Cynthia lived with a family also named Cooper, who lived near Homer.
The Busey Well blew in in 1921 in El Dorado, and along with countless others, her father moved his family to the south Arkansas oil fields to find work. Cynthia made the journey with them. After a short time she began working as a nanny for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith, who had a new baby. Mr. Smith worked for the Atlantic Oil Company. Cynthia remembers that they did not pay her much, but they were good to her and furnished her clothes. During this time her mother took all of her children except Cynthia back to Utilla, and Cynthia didn’t see her mother again for thirty years. Her father returned to the oil fields in Homer, leaving Cynthia to take care of herself. She was abandoned at the age of sixteen.
While she was working for the Smith family, she met and soon married her first husband, Dewey G. Tate, the shop foreman and welder for Standard Oil Company. They lived in a tent in the South Field on property belonging to the Lacys and the Woods. Cynthia said, “I had a cook stove and I had a small table and I had a bed. I fixed me up a curtain-thing over my clothes. We lived in that for I don’t know how long. Then we got a little shotgun house, just two rooms, just straight through and we lived in that.”
Sometimes life was exciting in the oil fields. Cynthia said, “When we lived out in the South Field, there was a place they called Shotgun Valley. It’s on the other side of where Lion Oil is. Then there was a place on the Magnolia Highway they called Pistol Hill. Pistol Hill was worse than Shotgun Valley and that’s saying a lot. When we’d come to town, we had to walk down that railroad track. One night we were coming in from town. We were with the Walter Lillys, friends of ours that lived in Camden who had a baby. She and I were in the back, and Louie and Dewey were in the front. We got to the railroad crossing, and we had to stop because of awful bad ruts. When we slowed down, these two guys hit the floorboard and said, ‘Stick ‘em up.’ They had guns. They said, ‘Let’s have your money.’ They sure got it because we had just got our paydays, both of us. It frightened the child. She was asleep, and she woke up screaming so they jumped off and said, ‘That’s all right! Go on!’ It’s a wonder we didn’t get killed. God was just good to us.”
The Standard Oil Company transferred Dewey to Snow Hill in 1923. Cynthia said, “We came up here on the ‘Roughneck Special’ and got off the train in Kenova. He rode that thing back and forth every day, and I’d stay out in the field. We had a house. Oh, that was wonderful! Transported from a tent to a three-room house! The Standard Oil Company owned these houses and we got them rent-free. There were two houses. Marshall and Bessie Summerlin lived in the other house. He was a gang pusher for Standard Oil Company on that lease.” One reason the women in the community liked Mr. Summerlin so much is because the day before a well was due to blow in or they were to blow oil into the open pits, he would go through the neighborhood and warn the women not to wash and hang their clothes on the line so everything would not get covered with oil.
Taking care of clothing was always a problem, especially clothes soaked in oil. Washing was done in the wash pot. Cynthia said, “We had a deep well of water right there in the yard that was about seventy-five feet deep. It was just as cold as it could be. I used an old flat iron we had to heat by the fire. I used to iron on a table. We didn’t know what electricity was.”
According to Cynthia, her husband was very particular about how his clothes looked. She said, “My husband was kind of fanatical. Oil field work is dirty, very much so. He worked in the shop. He worked in that oil field. He would fix boilers. When anything got the matter in the boilers, he had to go in those boilers and fix them. He dressed bits, cable tool bits, fishtail bits for the Standard Oil Company to drill and it was dirty. Well, he wanted those clothes ironed. I had to iron those clothes, put a little starch in them. Now everything was starched them days. I ironed from morning till night up the next day. My neighbor, Mrs. Ed Moore, her husband was a gang pusher over the gasoline plant. She came to my house one day and my husband was fussing about his clothes weren’t pressed like he wanted them pressed. When Dewey left, she folded up his clothes and put them under the mattress. She said, ‘Now this is how I do Ed’s.’ When I took them out, you’d be surprised how nicely they were pressed. He had to have a crease right in the middle of them.”
Luckily, buying groceries in the oil field was not as difficult as washing clothes. Someone from a nearby grocery store in Snow Hill went to the oil field homes early each morning and took orders for delivery and delivered the groceries that same morning. The store was only about half a mile away, but the roads were so muddy and bad that walking there was virtually impossible.
While living at Snow Hill, Cynthia attended a small church there where she went to Sunday school and services. Many of the little country churches were nondenominational and also served as part of the social life. Lay people or circuit riding preachers held services on Sundays, and weeklong revivals were common. The women attended the revivals during the day while the men were working, and the men and women went at night. Sunday school was sometimes held at night so the men could attend.
The Tates lived at the Standard Camp in Snow Hill for a long time. The woods were thickly settled with people, and Cynthia had neighbors all around her. Their first child, Lucille, was born
while they lived there, but the infant was premature and did not live but a short time. The death of this child haunted Cynthia all her life.
From the Standard Camp they moved to Standard Umsted into another shotgun house with two bedrooms and a kitchen. By then they had gaslights with little mantles but still no indoor plumbing. Cynthia remembers, “There in this place we had a little house outside and he built us a shower. He built an outfit that had coils that went round and round. It was gas, gas coils. This water would come off that coil and it’d be hot. You’d light that when you’d go in and you had to turn it off because it’d blow up. We had a shower there and from then on, everywhere we moved he’d have us a place to shower. That’s where I had another child, Lois.”
Cynthia remembers walking on a five-inch board over a hot pipeline across the creek so she could go to the store in Standard Umsted. One day as she passed by an oil well while walking to the store, she heard something out of the ordinary. She said, “I heard somebody holler and I looked up and a man was falling out of that derrick. I closed my eyes before he hit the ground. I’ll always remember him hollering. It took me a long time to get over that.”
Still working for Standard Oil, the Tates moved to the Humble Camp. She said, “We had a nice place there, a nicer house. Both Mary Alice and Elo Ann, my daughters, and Dewey, Jr., were born there. Now you didn’t go to hospitals to have babies because you couldn’t get to town. You were doing well to have a doctor get to your house. Old Dr. Newton, bless his heart, he gave his life to Smackover. I’m not joking. When I lived on the Murphy Lease, that man came to my house. Dewey, Jr. and I was laying there dying with pneumonia and he came to my house. It took him all day long to come to my house and get back home. He treated us with mustard plasters on my back. They’ll blister you, too.”
During this period of time, Cynthia’s sisters, Elouise and Beebee, came from Utilla to El Dorado to see her but were unable to find her. They thought that it would be easy to find someone. They stayed in El Dorado for a week while they tried to find someone to help them locate Cynthia and her family. They did not realize that the woods in south Arkansas were full of people, most without addresses other than General Delivery at the nearest post office. In Smackover alone, twenty-five to thirty thousand people lived in houses and tents. They returned home without finding Cynthia.
Several years later her sister Beebee married a man who worked for United Fruit Company, a big steamship line out of New Orleans. He was able to locate Cynthia’s address and contacted her. Cynthia said, “I wrote them. I still lived in that same place where I did when she came the first time. When she came, I didn’t know she was coming.” Cynthia was outside giving her oldest child, Lois, a bath. Her mother-in-law answered the door and called Cynthia to tell her that she had company. Cynthia exclaimed, “I ran in there and saw her and my other sister. I liked to have died! It was a terrible reunion. I think we laughed and cried.” Finally, she had news from the rest of the family.
Years later Standard Oil Company transferred them to the camp in Rodessa, Louisiana, where he was still the shop foreman and a welder. Cynthia said, “We had a nice house there, two bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen together but they were kind of big rooms. That’s where he took the payoff. He worked for Standard Oil for twenty-one years and took the payoff. They couldn’t lay him off, you see. He wanted to quit and go to work for defense. They had to pay him to lay him off. I never did like it down there. You couldn’t even feel air hardly there were so many torches, so much heat. I was always afraid of any of it.”
In 1943, the Tates returned to Arkansas where they lived in Kenova near Smackover. Her husband took a job working nearby at the Cross Refinery, and they made their home there until he died in 1974. In 1951, Cynthia was finally able to make a trip back to Utilla to visit her mother and other relatives. Her mother had remarried, and Cynthia had many family members she had never seen.
Cynthia’s life was far from over. In 1978, she married Ruben Dees, another man who moved to south Arkansas during the oil boom. Ruben and Cynthia had led parallel lives. He, too, had been married and lived in a tent and worked in the oil fields. Happily married for seventeen years prior to his death in 1997, the two enjoyed telling stories about their experiences during the oil boom, he finishing her sentences and she his.
(This article is taken from Cynthia Cooper Tate Dees’ Oral History Interview that is on file at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources and from an interview with her daughter, Elo Ann Tate Jones. Jeanne Wells Clements is Director of Education and Research at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources.)
THOSE COTTON PICKING SHOES
Growing up in El Dorado was a wonderful experience. We could get to school in three minutes or even sooner if we heard that big, brass bell ringing. Mr. Harmon Hill, our principal, would ring it loudly enough for everyone in the community to hear. If anyone started out late, he could get there in time to get in line before marching in. We didn’t get home as quickly, but Mama was keeping time. Occasionally we would slow down for a fight, but we kept our distance because we did not want to be called into the principal’s office the next morning to testify.
The school was nearby, but the church was even closer. I have heard so many people talk about the number of miles they had to walk to school and church. It was almost unbelievable. Our home was close to Daddy’s workplace, and we often got home for lunch about the same time.
Everything we needed on a daily basis was close by – grocery stores on every corner, confectioneries, barbers, hairdressers, seamstresses, cleaners, repairmen, icemen, and others. We could stop at one store for pickles, “oily wieners,” crackers, candy, gum, or fruit. There was always a relative or neighbor who would give us nickels or dimes for running an errand or doing some small chore. Sometimes they just gave us change because they knew kids like to buy things going to and coming from school.
Mama’s family had moved from Three Creeks to El Dorado when she was ten. She didn’t know what a banana was until she visited an aunt in El Dorado before moving here. In fact, she was afraid to eat one. Daddy’s plight was probably worse. He never talked about his childhood. He was born in Lisbon, Louisiana, and I imagine it was too painful to mention.
We could pick a banana from a big bunch hanging in Mr. O.G. Smith’s store just around the corner. Sometimes Mama would buy grapes in a long woven basket with a top and a wire handle. They bought peaches by the bushel, and my grandfather picked blackberries and several other kinds of fruit for us.
Our parents were Christian family people who sat around with us at night telling stories about the past, which included the early years of their marriage, events about Daddy’s army life during World War I, the “Boom Days,” and other exciting stories. Daddy didn’t talk about his early life too much, but he liked to play games with us and give us riddles to solve. He would get pieces of cord or string and make crow’s feet, Jacob’s ladders, and other images with his hands. He enjoyed teaching us to do mathematics in our minds. He said whenever he went into a store to make a purchase that he knew what the total was and the amount of change due. He would let the sales clerk count it out on the counter, and he didn’t pick it up unless it was correct.
The church played an important role in our lives. There was something for us to do and dedicated people to teach us. When we were ready for Christmas or Easter celebrations, we went directly from school to the church. Some of the same teachers at school accompanied us there while others met us there. For weeks we would have daily rehearsals. For the younger children who could not write, the teachers had to write their poems and other speaking parts by hand. There were no typewriters or copiers, but our teachers did not complain. The musicians repeated the words and played the piano until everyone was ready for the big presentation before a church filled with parents and others. This was a happy time in our lives.
Life is a mosaic of faces and times, of emotions and circumstances, of dreams and disappointments, of successes and failures, and of patience and endurance. At that time I did not know how the pieces of that mosaic would affect my life in the years ahead.
The tempo seemed to be slowing. We heard words like crash, food lines, and the Depression. Little did we know what all of this would mean to mean to us soon. Finally, it hit home. Daddy was laid-off from his job as a machinist helper at the Missouri-Pacific roundhouse. He had lost his job! Because of his seniority, there were other places he could go to work. How could he leave his family?
My father was a very wise man. He went to the bank and withdrew his meager savings. He searched around and found a little mule. He bought a wagon and decided to sell wood. Most people had given up gas and fuel because they couldn’t afford it. He sold wood in amounts of ten cents and up. Those who bought as much as twenty-five cents worth could have it delivered. A lesser amount would have to be picked up in a tub or a wheelbarrow. The little mule would work all day – sometimes until dusk.
For every positive there is a negative. The mule was a lifesaver for us, but also an embarrassment. It seems that his timer was set to go off with a big “hee-haw” just as the children would pass by after school. It was comical to them. We were hurt. Mama cried.
The tempo continued to slow and the wrinkles on brows became deeper when we would hear our parents say such things as, “They foreclosed them; they lost their house; the poor woman is sick, and all those children!” I think my parents vowed that this would not happen to us. Mama would always find a way to supplement the income for both family and church. She made pies, sewed aprons, roasted peanuts, and bought a house for $25.00 to place in the back for rental income. Sometimes, people did not need as much wood because of warmer temperatures. During those times Daddy and the boys would plow, haul trash, move furniture, and do other odd jobs. Things were very slow at times. The boys would have to get the wood and get back in time for school. Sometimes they would have to deliver a load of wood or fertilizer before school.
No matter how hard times were, Daddy would have the El Dorado Daily News and sometimes the Evening Times delivered daily. He kept up with what was going on in the world. He only had a second grade education, but he taught himself and was a very intelligent man. He got a kick out of what the Longs were doing in Louisiana, his birth state. Mama had a sixth grade education and enjoyed reading, but she had other reading interest than the daily newspapers. And anyway, we all knew Daddy was going to talk about the news.
Time is a healer. All of the pain we suffered from having the mule was gone. People were coming to Daddy for favors when they did not have cash money for the wood. Children who passed by did not find the mule such a novelty anymore. Daddy qualified for work with the W.P.A. I think the salary was a dollar a day. He would leave early in the morning to go to Calion with some other men who were working on the Calion Dump. My brothers would get up to help him with making fires and to pick up a load of wood at the mill. I assisted with the biscuit making and the frying of salt pork. Some of this was cooked for Daddy’s lunch. I can see him now with his biscuit sandwiches in a little brown bag, tucking them into his jumper pocket. I felt sorry for him. He was so faithful to us.
While reading the newspaper one day, Daddy saw that the World War I veterans were going to receive a bonus. We were jubilant. He finally got the confirmation through the mail that he was eligible. He would be getting six hundred dollars! That was like becoming rich overnight! Mama was like a little girl shopping from a catalogue. She always had lofty ideas. Her major goal was to remodel the house and buy my oldest brother, Albert, a suit and some minor things for all of us.
We were happy that we were going to get a painted house and another room. The whole top would be torn off and a modern roof would replace the shed-like top that covered the long front porch. That summer was a long hot one and more than weather wise. We were getting beautiful front doors with panes at the top. The windows were changed. The old floors with wide boards were replaced with new flooring, and French doors separated a living room from a dining room. The bathroom that contained only a toilet bowl and a barrel hamper was outside at the end of the back porch. Now enclosed, it opened to a small hall that led to three rooms. The house that had never been painted was now gleaming white with a porch ceiling painted blue, a new bedroom, and a small screened back porch. The summer was long, as we sometimes slept beneath the stars until our house was completed. I’m sure Mama didn’t do all she wanted to do; but at last the work ended as well as the money.
We had a house and Albert had his suit. Mama was so carried away that the time passed without her making my clothes for school as she usually did. Things had been so hectic! I was going to Washington High School for the first time and didn’t have anything to wear. What were we going to do? I would have had shoes to start school in, but my creative mind had told me that those pretty white sandals would be more beautiful if they were painted with the blue paint used for the porch ceiling. Of course, this was my idea and I didn’t consult Mama. It was hot and everyone was outside. I went into the kitchen and lighted the oven. After finding a brush and making the sandals the pretty blue color, I put the shoes into the oven. I could hardly wait for them to dry.
When I went to check the shoes, what did I see? The leather had hardened, and the shoes had shrunk about two or three sizes. What a dilemma! School was starting on Monday. My brothers came up with a plan. A truck passed by every morning taking people to pick cotton. We would ride the truck on Monday and Tuesday and enter school on Wednesday. Mama felt that she was guilty of neglect. We knew better because, even through her illness, she had always sacrificed for her children. When I didn’t have dress shoes, she let me wear her one pair.
We got on the truck on Monday morning and headed towards our destination with a group of adults who were obviously veteran cotton pickers. Mama didn’t like the idea but we insisted. I know Mama cried, especially about my going. She didn’t think a girl should work away from home. She was teaching me to sew, wash, iron, cook, crochet, and play the piano. We arrived at someplace – I don’t know where and were given cotton sacks. We tried to do as the other pickers were doing. All we could see were fields of cotton waiting to be harvested. I was moving very slowly because my hands were pricked each time I reached for a boll of cotton. At the end of the day my work netted me eighteen or nineteen cents. I was going back on Tuesday!
We went back determined to do our best on Tuesday. My brothers fared much better than I. This time I collected twenty-three cents. When we put it all together I was able to buy a pair of cheap brown oxfords.
I got shoes – you got shoes
All of God’s children got shoes.
When we get to Heaven
I’m gonna’ put on my shoes
I’m gonna’ walk all over God’s Heaven.
Mama had made me a new dress from some ten-cent-per-yard fabric. On the way to school that day, I stopped by Sterling Department Store and bought the cardboard shoes and some socks to match my dress. Mama got busy, as only she could. A nice young white woman who lived up the street was about my size. She had some dresses in her wardrobe that she wasn’t going to wear anymore and offered them to Mama in exchange for me doing some ironing for her after school. These dresses were a blessing to me that year. They were all kept and laundered and looked new. Those girls from other parts of town who were going to Washington did not meet a slob when they met me.
That same year, Daddy’s seniority permitted him to take a job in North Little Rock. We were coming out of the slump! He came home every weekend. After working six days, he would get on the train Saturday evening and arrive in El Dorado early Sunday morning. He would get back on the train Sunday afternoon and arrive in North Little Rock in time for work. Although he didn’t like being away from home, he was tired of his family not having him around – tired of picking peas on halves and tired of not knowing where the next dollar was coming from. His seniority gave him jobs in other parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana.
When the economy improved, he was given back his former job at home where he worked until he retired. They both lived to see seven children graduate from high school; six attended college and three graduated with advanced degrees and further study.
Everybody had shoes!
(Marzell Wilbert Smith received the Master of Education degree from the University of Arkansas and the Bachelor of Arts degree from AM &N (UAPB). She was an Arkansas public school teacher for thirty-six years.)
THE SPARTA AQUIFER IN UNION COUNTY
Union County was blessed with the Sparta fresh water aquifer that originally served as the beach system of the ancient Gulf of Mexico about fifty million years ago as a part of the Cenozoic Era, Tertiary System, Eocence Series, Claiborne Group Formation. Continuous uplifting of the Ouachita Mountains and simultaneous sinking of the Upper Gulf Coastal Plain tilted the Sparta (and other formations) up toward the Ouachita Mountains northwest of Union County and down toward the Gulf of Mexico south of Union County.
As a result, the Sparta “outcrops” or comes out on top of the present land surface in Ouachita and Nevada Counties, where it has received rainfall that displaced the ocean water and now provides Union County with an abundant natural resource of high quality, cool, fresh water. The Sparta is the only viable underground source of fresh water in Union County, supplying ninety-nine percent of County residents and businesses.
Above the Sparta Formation are lesser aquifers in the Cook Mountain and Cockfield Formations, but these sources often contain iron and other objectionable minerals. The volume of these shallower aquifers is usually only enough for a few homes or chicken houses, but not enough for a town, rural water association, or industry. Below the Sparta lie the Cane River and Wilcox Group Formations, prolific sands full of briny water, the chloride concentration of which exceeds 10,000 milligrams per liter, rendering it unfit for human, animal, or industrial consumption.
Near the center of Union County, the top of the Sparta Formation is found around 300 feet beneath the surface and the base is around 600 feet deep. Most of this 300-foot interval of sediments consists of clay and fine sand, but where coarse sand was deposited, sometimes 100 feet thick, the aquifer yields copious quantities of high quality fresh water, as much as 1.5 million gallons per day from a single well. In some places in the County there is no productive sand. As a beach system, the sand is not uniform or “blanket,” there being many areas filled with clay where streams once entered the ancient ocean, where ancient storms washed away beach sand, or where ocean currents carried away beach sand during subsequent submergence.
The Sparta was given its name after a small community in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, where an outcrop of the formation is prominent. This area east of Lake Bistineau is another recharge area where the Sparta receives rainwater. Further south in central Louisiana, the down-dip Sparta Formation produces natural gas, crude oil, and saltwater from depths below 2000 feet.
The fresh water Sparta Formation covers a broad area, roughly the southern and easternmost third of Arkansas, the northern third of Louisiana, the western row of counties in north Mississippi, and reaching as far north as the boot heel of Missouri, the western end of Tennessee, and the southern tip of Illinois. At Memphis, the Sparta contains several hundred feet of productive sand and supplies the Memphis metropolitan area.
Production of water from the Sparta in Union County began in the 1920s with the oil boom, the thirty-fold increase in population, and the advent of modern industry. The four largest users of Sparta water today are: petroleum refining, bromine production, ammonium nitrate production, and poultry processing. These four industries account for about sixty percent of Sparta usage in the County, the remainder being domestic and small business use. The largest industrial water users are also the largest employers in the County. Other large users, the medical center and school system, would not be nearly so large were it not for the industrial users.
High volume pumping from the Sparta began in earnest in 1943 with the completion of the Ozark Ordinance Works, a large ammonium nitrate explosives plant built under the auspices of the War Department. The plant was designed to produce explosives from the locally available cheap natural gas. Although ammonium nitrate production decreased substantially after World War II, there were four petroleum refiners operating in the County at the same time.
By the 1950s, knowledgeable geologists noted that the water level in the Sparta Aquifer was declining at a rapid rate. Two petroleum refiners went out of business as the local oilfields depleted, but the development of poultry processing in the late 1950s and bromine extraction in the late 1960s, combined with municipal, small business, and domestic demand, maintained continual usage of the Sparta at a rate in excess of that which the Aquifer can naturally recharge itself. This, in a nutshell, is the problem faced by Union County.
We have an aquifer capable of replenishing itself naturally, but for many years we have been using the water at a faster pace than it is being replaced from rainfall and surface accumulations. The problem is not—will we run out of water—but that we will run out of good water, as the aquifer begins to give up the briny dregs of the ancient Gulf of Mexico. For over forty years, the salt content of water pumped from the Sparta has increased every year in every part of the County. Likewise, the water table has continuously declined over the same period, removing fresh water from the top of the aquifer, which holds back the salty water from rising out of the bottom of the aquifer.
In the central part of the County where aquifer withdrawals have been greatest and which now has the most depressed water table, four Sparta wells have been ruined by intrusion of saltwater from the lower part of the aquifer. Despite being shut down for an extended period of time, these wells have not healed themselves and will still produce only salt water. The warning is clear and it is convincing!
In 1982, the far-sighted citizens of Columbia County took a significant step toward relieving their overstressed Sparta Aquifer by building Lake Columbia as an alternative water source.
In 1998, community leaders in Union County began a series of town hall meetings to develop a sense of public sentiment about the Sparta Aquifer. Three themes came from these meetings:
1) If something has to be done, it has to be fair and apply to everyone equally.
2) If there has to be a tax, it should contain a sunset clause and expire when the problem has been corrected.
3) We do not want to drink river water.
Public awareness was increased and people began to conserve water in their homes, yards, gardens, flowerbeds, and driveways. Wasteful practices were curtailed, and the newly developed habits of conservation were taken to the workplace. Ultimately, the initiative of private citizens reduced Sparta pumpage by ten percent across the County.
The City of El Dorado built a “gray water” system to pump outfall from a sewage treatment plant to two local golf courses. By using biologically safe but esthetically unpleasing waste water that would otherwise be dumped into a creek, but that is treated up to drinking water standards before release, the County saved one million gallons per day (about four percent of total county-wide consumption) during the peak periods of high water demand.
In 1999, the County’s legislative delegation introduced legislation that allowed Union County to form a Water Conservation Board with unprecedented authority to save the Sparta Aquifer. Also local industry went to work. Encouraged by state income tax incentives to reduce aquifer usage, the Lion Oil Company and Great Lakes Chemical Corporation built a water-sharing facility between their two plants. By virtue of being only a mile apart, they were able to construct a water pipeline and pumping station that allows one to use water for cooling towers that the other company is no longer able to use in its system. This project resulted in savings of 2.3 million gallons per day, about ten percent of countywide consumption.
Meanwhile, the Union County Water Conservation Board was established through a legislative mandated citizen petition process. The Circuit Judge appointed eleven members to the Union County Water Conservation Board (UCWCB). The board adopted as its mission statement:
The guiding purpose and primary objective of the Union County Water Conservation Board is to conserve, protect, and maintain the Sparta Formation Aquifer as a continuing source of high quality, potable water for current and future consumers by providing affordable, alternate sources of fresh water, pursuant to the authority and responsibility granted by the State of Arkansas.
The UCWCB sought a method to finance an engineering study, and twenty-five cents per thousand-gallon water conservation fee was assessed on all Sparta withdrawals in the County. There are no exceptions, exemptions, or volume discounts to the conservation fee.
A review of the engineer’s study resulted in a simple assessment of the problem. We in Union County are pumping water out of the Sparta at a faster rate than the aquifer can naturally replace. The UCWCB identified alternatives that included feasibility, cost, timing, effectiveness, and other considerations. Among those identified alternatives were:
1) Do nothing and allow the Sparta to continue to decline.
2) Build a lake or other surface reservoir. Five feasible sites were identified within the County. It was determined that the yield of the largest possible lake would provide half of the water volume needed and it would require ten years to build at a cost of $50 million. This was by far the most expensive alternative and was rejected.
3) Produce drinking water from the Ouachita River. This would be the second most costly solution. Additionally, there would be a freshness problem producing water at one location and piping it to the far reaches of the geographically largest county in the state. The water would be stale by the time it reached some destinations.
4) Injecting river water into the Sparta as a recharge mechanism. The federal EPA would require the river water to be made into drinking water before being injected, at a tremendous cost to the County. Artificial aquifer recharge is possible and can be a quick way to relieve the aquifer; construction cost and operating cost would make this alternative unattractive.
5) Recycling municipal wastewater. Wastewater effluent can be further treated to render it fit for human consumption. Once again, cost and public acceptance did not bode well for this alternative. The volume of wastewater available would not be sufficient to relieve the aquifer because the EPA would not allow the utility to completely cut off the stream flow that a utility has created by the release of wastewater. Municipal wastewater also has a high nitrogen content that makes the water unsuitable for industrial steam boilers.
The list of “why not” alternatives was lengthy, but it became apparent that the cheapest and quickest thing the County could do to save the Sparta would be to produce commercial quality water from the Ouachita River at one-third the cost of producing drinking water and simultaneously replace the largest segment of demand on the aquifer.
This reduction of fifty percent of aquifer pumpage, on top of the ten percent conservation by private citizens and ten percent from the industrial water sharing project, would put the County in line with the Geological Survey recommendation of seventy-two percent cutback in order for the aquifer to avoid irreparable damage and be restored to a healthy state.
The County received a welcome boost from Panda Energy International, Inc. of Dallas, which began construction of an electric generating station near Calion in the year 2000. Panda had planned to use Ouachita River water to power the plant. Panda management was aware of the County’s water dilemma and offered to build a water plant with twice the capacity for its own needs. This agreement calls for the County to pay only for the “incremental cost” of doubling the capacity of the water intake structure, pumping station, clarification system, and the first five miles of pipeline to the Union Power Station.
In addition to receiving a bargain through the good graces of Panda, the County was given the basic water supply facility at no cost by Panda. This arrangement gave the County an opportunity to relieve the Sparta at a substantially lower cost and much more quickly than could have been accomplished without Panda, saving the County several million dollars and gaining valuable time in the race to save the aquifer.
The UCWCB received a total of $4.8 million in grants from the Economic Development of Arkansas Fund Commission ($2.5 million) and Federal appropriations ($2.3 million). After the tragic attack of September 11, 2002, it became clear that a new national priority would reduce Federal funds available, no matter how worthy. It was estimated that an additional $23 million would be needed to extend the industrial water system being constructed by Panda to serve the three largest industrial water users: El Dorado Chemical Company, Lion Oil Company, and Great Lakes Chemical Corporation who collectively use half the Sparta water in the County.
The Quorum Court set a special election to vote on a temporary one-cent sales tax to pay for construction of the extended industrial water supply system. On February 19, 2002, sixty percent of Union County voters approved the tax that will expire on the earliest of three events: 1) Collection of $23 million; 2) Repayment of the industrial water system’s debt; or 3) June 30, 2009.
The temporary sales tax became effective on April 1, 2002, and the County finalized a bond financing on June 10, 2002 to borrow $23 million. It is projected that industrial water will be replacing present Sparta water use by August 2003, thereby relieving and saving the Sparta Aquifer in Union County.
Special mention should be made of two people who advanced the water conservation project and assured its ultimate success. Charlie Thomas of Calion Lumber Company donated the land to the UCWCB for the pumping station and pipeline. Sherrel F. Johnson of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce blazed the trail with open, transparent leadership to galvanize the greater Union County community, to organize the citizen efforts, and to spearhead the fund-raising.
(Robert Reynolds is president of Shuler Drilling Company and a member of the Union County Water Conservation Board.)
COURT OF INQUIRY
Adapted for Reenactment From the Record Published in the Washington Telegraph Newspaper, Washington, Arkansas, June 29, 1864. See Hewett, Janel B., et al, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1996, Vol. I, Part 6, No. 6, pages 399-421. The female characters and their dialogue are imaginary and some of the male characters are composites. Time has been abbreviated and consolidated. Though the spirit of the actual proceedings is preserved there has been some dramatic fictionalizing of what was actually said in the court.
DANIEL G. FORD
Male Characters: Female Characters:
Major General Sterling Price (major role) Mrs. Mark White
General Dockery Mrs. John Blevins
Colonel Dan Jones (major role) Leela Jones (slave)
Lt. Gillespie (major role)
Pvt. Tom Jones
(Two white women in spring attire are arranging flowers on the judge’s desk in front center of the courtroom. They are having a heated discussion that, at first, is whispered and inaudible. Leela Jones, in house slave attire, is busily dusting, sweeping, and cleaning, in general readying the courtroom for the impending inquiry. She is obviously listening in with keen but sly interest on the conversation of the two white women. At an appropriate moment, after the audience is assembled and settled, Mrs. White speaks in a loud voice for all to hear.)
Mrs. Mark White: And so, you are pretty sure Dan Jones ran at Marks Mill? That’s not quite what I heard.
Mrs. John Blevins: My husband said Col. Jones ran and hid. Was scared to death. So scared he told his regiment to turn and run, but my husband didn’t run. In fact, he’s a sergeant and he led the men on forward in spite of Colonel Jones’s behavior!
Mrs. White: Well, I heard Colonel Jones was injured and had to be taken to the field hospital. Are you sure he wasn’t shot or something?
Mrs. Blevins: Naw. Pure coward.
Leela Jones: Humph!
Mrs. Blevins: Did you say something Leela?
Leela Jones: Nom’e. I just cleared my throat like this; humph. I was just listening to what y’all said about Colonel Danny, though, and it don’t sound right.
Mrs. Blevins: None of your business anyway. (Pause, curious look at Leela Jones) What don’t sound right about it?
Leela Jones: I raised that boy. He ain’t no coward. A little while back, he got shot over yonder in Mississippi. He wasn’t well from that when he was fighting at Marks’ Mill. He was just wore out and that old wound was bothering him. He didn’t run at all – he just gave out. It’s been mighty hot this spring. The day of that battle it was just like August.
Mrs. Blevins: You hush, Leela. He ran like a scared rabbit. I didn’t hear anything about a wound or any kind of injury.
Mrs. White: Hush, y’all, here comes General Price and them.
(Enter General Price and General Dockery, who sit side by side at the judge’s bench. Colonel Jones, who sits in the witness stand, and Colonel Crockett, Lieutenant Gillespie, Private Tom Jones, and Sergeant Blevins, who sit in the jury box. Mrs. Blevins tries to get the attention of her husband by waving, wanting everyone in the room to know of her connection to the witness.)
Price: (Pounding gavel) I am noting in the official record that we are beginning this inquiry at ten o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1864. General Dockery, will you rise and be sworn? (Dockery rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth during this inquiry?
Dockery: I swear.
Price: Sir, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864?
Dockery: I was.
Price: Did you see Colonel Dan Jones there that day?
Dockery: I did, at the time the brigade was first ordered into action.
Price: Did you send an order to Col. Jones to fall back?
Dockery: I did not.
Price: Did you see Col. Jones during the action there that day, and what his conduct was?
(During Dockery’s response, Col. Dan Jones remains stone-faced and calm.)
Dockery: I did see Col. Jones, as I said, at about the time the brigade was ordered into action. Some time after I had been pressing the enemy with the whole of my command, when the enemy’s fire was at its heaviest, one of my staff officers brought me information that the regiments on the left of my brigade were giving way. Being on the right of my brigade, I couldn’t see the whole line, so I immediately rode to the left until I met Col. Jones’ regiment; it seemed to be in some confusion and had fallen back. I demanded of the officers and men who gathered around me to know the cause of the confusion. They said Col. Jones had ordered them to fall back. I asked where Col. Jones was. Several said he couldn’t be found, or was absent, or to that effect. With the help of the officers, we rallied the regiment, and I conducted it in person to the right of the brigade. About that time, Col. Jones’ orderly came up and told me that Col. Jones wanted me to know that he had given out – had become exhausted from fatigue. I didn’t see or hear from Col. Jones any more on the field that day.
Price: Col. Jones, you may ask questions of Gen. Dockery.
Dan Jones: (Rising and facing the bench) General, do you not remember seeing me after the left wing fell back, moving towards the right wing with a portion of my regiment and the flag of it, together with Col. Crockett’s and Col. Witt’s regiments?
Dockery: (Kindly and meditatively) I have no recollection of seeing you with that portion of the regiment I met.
Dan Jones: Was that portion of my regiment with Col. Witt’s and Col. Crockett’s regiments?
Dockery: I don’t think so. Your regiment was rallied before I sent orders for Col. Crockett to move to the right of the brigade.
Price: Who commanded the regiment after the fight passed to the right?
Dockery: Col. Crockett.
Price: General Dockery, were you in command of the brigade which Col. Jones’ regiment composed a part at the battle of Marks’ Mills, on April 25, 1864?
Dockery: I was.
Price: Col. Crockett, please rise and swear to this oath. (Col. Crockett remains in the jury box, rises, raises his right hand.) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth at this inquiry?
Crockett: I swear.
(Crockett, as will all witnesses, remains standing for the questioning.)
Dan Jones: Col. Crockett, were you present at the battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864?
Crockett: I was.
Dan Jones: What was your position in line of battle at Marks’ Mills, in General Dockery’s brigade, at the time of the fight?
Crockett: On the extreme left.
Dan Jones: Did you see me during the battle at Marks’ Mills?
Dockery: I did.
Dan Jones: Please state what you know of my conduct during the action.
Crockett: During the charge, of course I had no time to notice the conduct of others. My command required all my attention. I first noticed Col. Jones when we reached the wagons and after the order had been given to fall back. I do not know who first gave the order, owing to my deafness and noise from the discharge of small arms. The men had fallen back in compliance with the order – I mean the men of Col. Jones’, Col. Witt’s and my regiment. I asked Col. Jones what he intended to do. I did not understand his reply, nor can I say whether he heard me. Finding that the men had given way or fallen back, I thought it prudent to follow suit and did so. Col. Jones, Col. Witt, and myself rallied and formed our men some forty to fifty steps from the train. About the same time, Col. Jones, using every exertion to get his men in line, and successfully, Col. Witt assumed command and ordered us to move by right flank across the road. Just at that moment General Dockery rode up, and I think Col. Jones said, “There is General Dockery; let us follow him.” General Dockery led us across the road and formed us in rear, and to support Col. Hill’s regiment. When we were ordered to charge, Col. Jones said to me, “Col. Crockett, I am exhausted; I cannot go any further.” I saw General Dockery at a short distance from us and replied, “Report to General Dockery, Colonel.” From all I saw, I can say that Col. Jones seemed to be doing his duty and was in his proper place and using his best efforts to carry on his regiment through the fight to the best of his ability. It may not be amiss to say that, owing to the fact of being for a long time on horseback, the want of pedestrian exercise, and the excessive heat, I was nearly exhausted myself and could not have held out much longer. I have, therefore, no doubt but that Col. Jones was really incapable of proceeding further.
Price: You may be seated. Lt. James Gillespie, please rise and swear to this oath. (Crockett is seated. Gillespie rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth at this inquiry?
Gillespie: I swear.
Dan Jones: Lt. Gillespie, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills?
Gillespie: I was not at the beginning of the battle but joined the fight as it was going on.
Dan Jones: Did you hear any member of my regiment speaking of my conduct there?
Gillespie: I did.
Dan Jones: What was his name?
Gillespie: It was Sgt. John Blevins.
(Mrs. Blevins, seated in a conspicuous place near the front of the assembly, flourishes and smiles proudly.)
Dan Jones: What did he say of my conduct there?
Gillespie: He said you ran or acted disgracefully.
Dan Jones: Did he say that he knew this from his own knowledge?
Gillespie: I asked him that – if he knew it first hand – and he said he did know it.
Dan Jones: From your position, did you see any stragglers from my regiment?
Gillespie: I saw several.
Dan Jones: Can you name those you saw? Who were they?
Gillespie: I saw Sgt. John Blevins.
(Again, Mrs. Blevins reacts with pride.)
Dan Jones: What was he doing when you saw him?
Gillespie: He was leaning against a large pine tree, not behind it from the enemy, but on the left of it.
Dan Jones: Was the fight going on at that time?
Gillespie: It was raging fiercely.
Dan Jones: Did you speak to him, and what was his answer?
Gillespie: I asked him how things were going on in front. His answer was, “Oh, hell! Things are not going on right,” or something like that.
Dan Jones: Did you move forward and join the fight after that?
Gillespie: Yes, sir, I did move up to support the right of the brigade. That was part of the battle strategy, for me to hang back and add support.
Dan Jones: Did you see me after this move was made, and under what circumstances?
Gillespie: It was during this move that I saw you.
Dan Jones: What was I doing?
Gillespie: As Capt. Meeks’s command was moving to the support of the right of the brigade, I saw your regiment coming up, and you were some six or eight paces in advance and motioning with both hands to your men, I supposed, to keep them in line, and they were in good time.
Dan Jones: Did you see any more of Sgt. Blevins?
Gillespie: I did, twice.
Dan Jones: Where was he, and what was he doing?
Gillespie: He was right in the rear of the brigade. I suppose about 300 to 400 yards out of sight of the brigade and near Blocher’s Battery.
Dan Jones: State what you know of his conduct, and any conversation you may have had with him at this time.
(Mrs. Blevins is progressively more crestfallen during the report, and Leela, dusting more or less inconspicuously in the corner, glares and smirks.)
Gillespie: The first time I saw him there he was standing on the ground looking at some wounded men, none of whom, in my opinion, belonged to Col. Jones’ detachment, and I asked him where Col. Jones’ detachment was, and he said it was on the right of the brigade. Then I left him and started to the regiment and captured a prisoner and carried him to the rear and turned it over to a guard and came back to where I saw Sgt. Blevins, near Blocher’s Battery, being about a half hour from the time I first saw him there. He was then on his horse, and I asked
him to go with me to the regiment, and he did not go, but told me to ride on, he would overtake me. I rode a hundred yards and looked back and he was still there. I rode on and left him.
Price: Did you see Col. Jones during the fight?
Gillespie: I did not.
Dan Jones: Did you see me after the fight, and, if so, where and under what condition?
Gillespie: I did: I saw you when you were brought to the hospital. I helped take you off your horse and carry you to the house. After we got in the house, Dr. Holcomb came and examined you and told me to go and get some toddy. You drank it and commenced to vomiting very soon afterwards. I left you at that time and came back late that evening, and you were lying in the position that I left you.
Price: At this point, I shall read a statement from Capt. Banks, which I know to be in his hand:
In the first charge we made, we moved forward until we came under crossfire. Some of the men commenced falling back. The Colonel, seeing them, asked why they were falling back, the men replying that they were under a crossfire, which caused the regiment to divide. A part of them turned to the right; those that turned to the right went with Capt. Stuart until we returned to the horses, the remainder going at left oblique with Col. Jones until we came up with the wagon train. There we halted. Col. Witt, then being senior officer, ordered his command back with his own and Col. Crockett’s regiment. I did not see Col. Jones as we turned back. The men, some of them, seemed to be scared and commenced breaking line and falling back. Then Col. Jones came up and told them they must keep in line and fall back in good order. After, we fell back until we came in a line with the remainder of the brigade on our right. General Dockery came and ordered us forward. We moved forward about 300 yards, after which I did not see Col. Jones anymore during the fight. General Dockery asked for Col. Jones. Some of the men replied he had given out. Some of the men said there was no officer to command the regiment. Seeing that he was absent, I assumed command myself, being senior officer. Shortly afterwards the firing ceased. I was very nearly exhausted myself, for the sun was so hot, and we had been mounted for some time.
Price: Pvt. Tom Jones, please rise and swear to this oath: (Pvt. Jones rises, raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth during this inquiry?
Pvt.: I swear.
Dan Jones: Where was your position in the fight?
Pvt.: I was ordered by you to remain with the horses as guard.
Dan Jones: Did I mention to you my reasons for leaving you with the horses?
Pvt.: You did, as I had no ammunition that would fit my gun; it being a small or light cavalry gun. The cartridges I had were too large.
Dan Jones: Did you see me during the day, and if so, under what circumstances?
Pvt.: I did not see you during the fight, but I was notified by a courier as I was going into where the wagons were that you were wounded, and I must go after you. I went back to where the horses had been tied and found a man hunting for me, and afterwards another with your horse, and we went into where you were lying. I found you lying on your back insensible and apparently paralyzed. I unbuttoned your coat and pants, and threw your breast and stomach as bare as possible, and sent after some water, and knowing that you had a small phial of whiskey in your pocket, I took it and endeavored to make you swallow some if it, but you could not drink it. I poured water on your face, heart and stomach, which seemed to revive you somewhat, after which, I succeeded in getting you to swallow a small draught of whiskey. You raised up with my help but was not able to sit up. We then put you on your horse, one leading and the others holding you on. We carried you to the hospital and placed you in charge of Doctor Holcomb. He gave you some toddy, which you vomited immediately. He then relieved you in some manner, and you lay in exactly the same position until nearly night, unable to move.
Price: This seems the appropriate point for me to read a statement from Doctor J. M. Holcomb, Surgeon of Dockery’s Brigade:
I saw Col. Daniel W. Jones at the close of the fight at Marks’ Mills. He was brought to the hospital and I found him in a condition of exhaustion, for which I prescribed stimulants. I knew that he had received a serious wound at Corinth. Because of that and the exhaustion, I gave him a certificate of disability for ten or fifteen days on the night after the battle.
Price: (Sternly and with lifted brow) Sgt. John Blevins, rise and raise your right hand to be sworn. (Blevins rises and raises his right hand) Do you swear, God being your helper, to tell the truth in the inquiry?
(Mrs. Blevins is extremely attentive, trying by her demeanor to let the audience know that she is the wife of the witness.)
Blevins: (Desultorily) I swear.
Price: Mr. Blevins, were you at the battle of Marks’ Mills?
Blevins: I was.
Price: What do you know of Col. Jones’ conduct there.
Blevins: I saw Col. Jones at the fight. I was on the right of the regiment, and the last I saw of Col. Jones was just before we went up to the wagons and he was near the center of the regiment, and I never saw Col. Jones any more during the fight. The colors moved to the left, and I moved to the right, Col. Jones with the colors.
Price: Were you with that portion of the regiment that moved to the right under Capt. Stuart, and joined Col. Reynolds’ command?
Blevins: I was with Capt. Stuart until there were some prisoners taken and went with them past the hospital.
Price: Col. Jones, will you question the witness?
Dan Jones: (With controlled anger) Sir, I shall not enter into any conversation whatsoever with this witness.
Price: This seems, then, to be an appropriate moment to read one final affidavit, this one from Assistant Surgeon M.M. Marcus, 20th Arkansas Volunteers:
I was with the 20th until 10 minutes after the firing on April 25 commenced. At that time Col. Jones commanded ‘halt,’ in consequence of the 20th being a little ahead of the immediate regiment on our right. At that time, or a few minutes later, my attention was called to a wounded man. I saw nothing more of Col. Jones or the regiment until they had fallen back after which time I was again with them about 15 minutes, and Col. Jones was then with his regiment. Afterwards, my attention was then required by the wounded, after which I saw nothing more of Col. Jones until I saw him at the hospital. During the time I was with his regiment, I saw nothing improper in his conduct, and at the time I was at the hospital, I did not examine him and know nothing of the character of his injury.
(Dockery leaves briefly and returns to hand documents to Price at this point and whisper to him – concurrently, Mrs. Blevins and Leela clandestinely glare at each other, Leela with a sardonic grin, anticipating the outcome of the inquiry. At length, Price calls for order.)
Price: Col. Jones will you rise, sir, and face the bench? The court is of the opinion, from the evidence adduced, that Col. Daniel W. Jones’ conduct at the Battle of Marks’ Mills on April 25, 1864, was honorable and soldier-like, and we respectively submit the evidence and opinion to the Major-General Commanding.
Leela: (Too loud to be in good decorum) Hallelujah!
Price: Order! Order until the court is cleared.
(All parties file out, leaving Leela and Mrs. Blevins glaring at each other.)
Leela: (More or less to herself as she straightens and dusts the bench) I think I know who the coward is.
Mrs. Blevins: (Unrestrained) I’ll have you whipped, Leela Jones! Shut your impudent mouth!
(Daniel G. Ford's Ph. D. from Auburn is in English. He has had a long and varied career in higher education and has published widely. He now makes his home in El Dorado and teaches at SouthArk.)
HEALTH SCIENCES EDUCATION IN SOUTH ARKANSAS:
AN IMPRECISE REVIEW OF ITS DEVELOPMENT TO 2002
JACOB P. ELLIS, M. D.
Whenever I use the term “health sciences education” in this article, I do so mainly to refer to the academic and clinical preparation of candidates for professional status or for clinical worker status in some aspect of formal “healthcare.” By “healthcare” I will mean the actual provision of professional health services. I will use “health education” to refer to instructional programs that are designed mainly to facilitate popular education on subjects that may be called human hygiene, human health, mental health, wellness enhancement, first-aid, and so on.
To my knowledge health sciences education is not standardized currently, whether in South Arkansas or elsewhere in the United States. Nor has it been consistent throughout large regions during any phase of civilization. Similarly, healthcare is not and has not ever been standardized. In the more populous cities of the United States, however, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, health sciences education and healthcare were, as they are now, interlinked. Notwithstanding that interlinking, each of numerous ideologies concerning human health and disease has historically devised its own educational and therapeutic criteria and applied them to particular groups of people, for as long as those people saw themselves as beneficiaries of the criteria.
The most prominent of the medical ideologies that have prevailed in the United States within the past two or so centuries are classifiable as allopathic, osteopathic, naturopathic, homeopathic, chiropractic, and eclectic. Each of those ideologies is defined classically in ways that overlap considerably, but only the allopathic and eclectic purportedly have incorporated all scientific theories and other information that credibly contribute to medical effectiveness. Only allopathic practitioners and teachers, however, succeeded, during the latter decades of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, in becoming linked to the formal Arts and Sciences of American academia. Eclectic medicine declined in popularity during that period, probably because its practitioners did not promote themselves academically.
The allopathic thought gained dominance in Arkansas in 1879, when the Arkansas General Assembly authorized establishment, by the Arkansas Industrial University, of the medical school that has remained in existence continuously since then and is now the College of Medicine of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. The University of Pennsylvania and other northeastern state and private universities had established medical schools of the allopathic variety during the preceding one hundred years.
Medical schools, including the University of Arkansas’, formed accreditation councils that standardized the curricula of allopathic medicine throughout the United States. From the latter part of the nineteenth century through the early decades of the twentieth century, approximately four hundred medical schools could not meet the allopathic educational criteria and failed to survive. Currently, approximately one hundred twenty-five nationally accredited allopathic medical schools
and four nationally accredited osteopathic schools are operative in the United States. Osteopathic institutions, however, implement allopathic curricula, as do the nation’s schools of optometry, dentistry, and veterinary medicine.
Throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and on into the early twentieth century, no documented data refers to formal health science education in this region. I am also unaware of any documented information concerning details of healthcare in South Arkansas during that era. I consider it relevant to mention that I am a life-long resident of this area and can recall stories indicating that, prior to circa 1920, South Arkansas had been medically served by a small number of medical practitioners in ratio of one to four thousand people. A few of these practitioners were allopathic physicians. A larger, but nevertheless small, number of practitioners were either of un-identified medical genre or ostensibly had received education ranging from only weeks to a few months duration, in naturopathy, homeopathy, osteopathy, or eclectic medicine. Individuals known as “folk medicine” practitioners served extensively as a medical resource during this period.
It was apparently not uncommon for affluent persons of South Arkansas to travel long distances to major population centers for treatment of serious disorders. Significant medical specialization would not occur until after World War II.
During the early decades of the twentieth century, the Arkansas General Assembly gradually legislated the establishment of examining boards with the mission to develop medical licensing requirements for physicians with an emphasis on allopathic practitioners. Other boards were subsequently mandated for non-allopathic physicians. Those practitioners who were unable to exhibit adequate documentation of the allopathic or other state board’s educational requirements were “grandfathered-in” for licensing purposes.
Clinics and spas with three to six beds available for various surgical procedures or treatment were operated by some of those South Arkansas practitioners. I will comment later concerning the evolution of the region’s education related to nursing, pharmacy, psychology, and diverse medical technologies.
Formal health sciences education began in South Arkansas in 1927 with the establishment of Warner Brown Hospital and the Warner Brown School of Nursing. Earlier in 1927, the City of El Dorado, to which the hospital had been donated by the Warner Brown Estate and, perhaps, by a coalition of other philanthropic organizations, had deeded through a reversible trust arrangement, the hospital to the Roman Catholic order, The Sisters of Mercy. Through the formation of a three-year academic and clinical nursing curriculum, the nursing school graduated more than four hundred students over a forty-five to fifty year period.
The Warner Brown School of Nursing had no college or university affiliation although the majority of the nation’s nursing organizations advocated education that qualified students for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S. N.). The school’s junior year students were assigned to John’s Hospital in St. Louis for intensive training in obstetrics, pediatrics, and psychiatry that was unavailable in El Dorado.
The El Dorado school was phased out during the 1960s when Southern Arkansas University instituted a two-year Associate Degree nursing program. Completion of that program enabled a student to take the Arkansas Registered Nurse examination. During that same time frame, several state vocational technical schools trained hundreds of South Arkansas students who have qualified for the Licensed Practical Nurse status.
During the 1970-1980s, Henderson State University, the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) initiated B.S.N. programs and, currently, a Master’s Degree in Nursing can be earned at Southern Arkansas University. South Arkansas Community College also offers qualification training for paramedics, medical laboratory, and radiology technicians. Hospitals in Crossett, El Dorado, Fordyce, Magnolia and Warren operate their own “in-service” clinical and clerical educational programs for their employees.
During the past thirty years, UAMS has operated its statewide Area Health Education Centers AHEC) program. This constitutes a network of outreach multidisciplinary teaching facilities. One of six of these centers, AHEC South Arkansas, currently educates a proportioned number of UAMS medical and nursing students in a variety of medical and nursing specialties. Since 1980, AHEC South Arkansas has also operated a nationally accredited Family Practice Residency. To supplement their academic education, resident physicians perform faculty-supervised outpatient clinical services in AHEC South Arkansas’ Family Medicine Clinic, in the various in-patient-care components of MCSA, and in both out and in-patient services of the South Arkansas Regional Health Center, a comprehensive mental health complex in El Dorado. The AHEC Family Medicine Clinic also provides services to veterans who are eligible for Veterans Administration medical benefits. Veterans were previously required to travel to Little Rock for their in and outpatient services.
In addition to AHEC faculty members who hold UAMS full-time faculty positions, many area health professionals serve as teachers of students and resident physicians at AHEC South Arkansas. Other UAMS faculty members as well as teachers based in other major health science institutions throughout the United States conduct educational programs two or more times weekly at AHEC El Dorado.
The interlinking throughout the past seventy-five years of health science education and healthcare in South Arkansas have made a positive impact to the spectrum of specialized healthcare offerings throughout this region. Family practices have been structured and improved. Patient education has also improved considerably, and there is evidence of increased efficiency in the referral of patients with cataclysmic illnesses to locales with the relevant technology or clinical specialty.
Professional healthcare is divisible into primary, secondary, and tertiary types. No one of the three necessarily require levels of medical judgments or skills that are of a higher order than the others. A physician in primary care practice before assuming that the medical problem is run-of-the-mill, is obliged to rule out some of the problems that may be life threatening. The same physician may also be required to act with dispatch and skill to prevent great disability or even death. The same can be said for the physician in secondary care practice who is likely to limit the practice to a single specialty. The tertiary type of healthcare generally requires continuously available teams of specialists and sub-specialists, each of whom, if working alone, would be classified as a secondary care practitioner.
Tertiary care centers are typically in large cities. One item of equipment in a tertiary center may have cost more than an entire rural or semi-urban hospital. Maintenance of tertiary centers is justified by the statistical evidence that complication and death rates associated with “invasive” surgical procedures are typically lower in hospitals with a high volume of procedures than in lower volume hospitals. The higher volume procedures are considered by many medical oversight committees to foster the preservation and enhancement of physician and ancillary personnel’s procedural skills.
Despite the fact that South Arkansas is not densely populated and is relatively remote from large cities, the region is favored by primary and secondary healthcare and related health sciences education of real excellence. Conventional wisdom would suggest that a truly comprehensive, economically viable tertiary care system could evolve in South Arkansas only if a relatively massive increase in population occurred. Systematic developments of higher levels of health sciences education than are currently offered might serve to attract tertiary specialists who would practice in the region because of its capability to train specialized ancillary personnel. The rapid conversion, following World War II, of the region’s relatively primitive system of healthcare to a sophisticated one may well have occurred mainly as a consequence of the depth and breadth of the region’s health sciences education programs.
(Jacob P. Ellis, M.D. graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1951. He was the Director of the Area Health Education Center – South Arkansas 1977- 1989 and Assistant Professor, Medicine UAMS 1974-1989. He retired from UAMS in 1990.)
THE CHOCTAW AND CHEROKEE IN UNION COUNTY:
Before and After the Removal of the 1830s- and Today
Worth Camp, Jr.
Arkansas, the Land of the South Wind, was a part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson made deals with France and Napoleon Bonaparte that was probably the best real estate deal in our nation’s history. At that time, the upper area of the Wishita (Ouachita) River Basin, was a wilderness of bear, beaver, buffalo, cougar, deer, fish, wild berries, and honey. Prior to the Louisiana Purchase, groups of the Choctaw Indian Nation, with Christian names, began arriving in this area during the 1790s. During this same period, Cherokee Indians also began arriving in north Arkansas, some near the Arkansas River while others later (1800s) migrated south into Union County. Still others arrived in this region during the 1920s oil boom.
Choctaw and Cherokee descendants are a substantial silent presence in the original Union County today, probably touching thirty percent of the county’s population. They are our teachers, mayors, sheriffs, judges, lawyers, museum directors, chemical workers, oil dealers, timber contractors, African Americans, and many others who make valuable contributions to the present
counties of Union, Ouachita, Columbia, Ashley, Bradley, and Calhoun. These six counties and parts of others were the old Union County, created in 1829.
What was the old Union County like in 1829?
The area trading post and communities included Monroe and Natchitoches, Louisiana, Pigeon Hill (Moro Bay), Ecore Fabre (Camden), Clark’s Mill (Hope), and Washington, Arkansas. Calhoun and Lamartine in today’s Columbia County were soon to follow. Fulton, just west of Washington in Hempstead County, was a river town located on the Southwest Trail at the crossing of the Red River.
There were various routes available for land and water transportation. Newcomers, including Indians, used the Southwest Trail that ran from St. Louis, through Little Rock, Rockport on the Wishita River, Caddo Valley, Washington, and Fulton, Arkansas on the way to Nacogdoches, Texas and Mexico. By 1833, Fulton had the first post office in southwest Arkansas getting mail up the Red River. It also had a ferry crossing. Union County had several post office locations, prior to and after Fulton, at or near Ecore Fabre. The Union Courthouse post office was listed in 1837 at Scarborough (Champanolle) Landing.
Sometime before 1835, Burk’s ferry was operating at Pigeon Hill (Moro Bay). One could travel north to Warren, east to Fountain Hill, and north of today’s Hamburg. From Warren, a person could travel east on the Choctaw Trace (and later the Military Road) to Point Chico (Lake Village), north towards Marks Mill and Pine Bluff, or west to Ecore Fabre.
Another Ouachita River ferry, operated by John Nunn, was immediately below the bluff at Ecore Fabre (Camden). Nunn was also the local trader and Baron Bastrop licensed him to navigate the Ouachita to Monroe for trade goods. The Baron had an extensive land grant from France extending north of Monroe to the Arkansas Territory. Nunn later died and his wife Elizabeth remarried and continued operation through her new husband, William Bradley.
From Ecore Fabre, one could travel the trails south to Pigeon Hill (Moro Bay) and on to Monroe, east to Warren, northeast to Pine Bluff, and north towards Little Rock. Travelers could go west to Clarks’ Mill (Hope), southwest to Calhoun or Lamartine, and join with the Natchitoches Indian Trail from Natchitoches to Washington. This trail went through Haynesville, Louisiana, thereby, crossing today's Columbia County and passing near or through Emerson, Calhoun, Magnolia, Waldo, and Lamartine (north of Waldo). At Washington, one could travel to Fort Smith, that served as the early military route from Natchitoches.
From Ecore Fabre, southwest to the Corinth Settlement (Silver Hill Loop near Mt.Holly), one could travel south through today’s Lisbon towards the soon-to-be communities of New Hope, Scotland, and Blanchard Springs, and on into Louisiana. From Corinth or near Lisbon, there was a dim trail southwest to Calhoun connecting with the Natchitoches Trail. The Natchitoches Trail and the trail from Lamartine to Ecore Fabre would soon be adopted in substantial part as military roads, as was the Choctaw Trail from Lake Village through Ecore Fabre, Washington, and on to Fort Towson, Oklahoma.
One last road needs to be mentioned because of its influence on the development of Columbia County. There was a trail (and road-to-be) that came from Vicksburg through north Louisiana turning north near today’s Summerfield, or Colquitt, passing through New Hope into present day Columbia County. It joined the Natchitoches Trail at Calhoun. This may have been a road that served travelers on their way to participate in the Texas Revolution of 1834-1836. Militia soldiers traveling to and from the Mexican War liked what they saw in today’s Columbia County area and some became settlers.
By 1838, two ferries were licensed to individuals to operate on Smackover (Creek) Bayou. These probably served the road from Ecore Fabre to Scarbrough/Champanolle Landing, the road from Ecore Fabre to the Lisbon/Mount Holly region and south into Louisiana.
In 1829, the first Union County Seat was designated at Ecore Fabre and was situated in John Nunn’s cabin. The primary complaint of the settlers at the first 1830 organization meeting of the Union County Court was for the judge to appoint commissioners to mark the best trails to Monroe and Washington. These trails were typically the width of the horse and rider, or an ox and its two-wheel cart. Travelers either walked or rode in single file, and trails were difficult to follow. It could perhaps take all day to ride from one cabin or farm plot to the next. It was an all day ride to the County Court. To remedy the problem, county courts were later required to be within a day’s wagon ride.
As the population grew, the popular river location of Scarbrough Landing was selected for the new old Union County Seat in 1837. It was renamed Champanolle Landing in 1839. El Dorado was later selected for the Union County Seat in 1844 with Camden, Warren, Hamburg, Magnolia, and Hampton following as new county seats when old Union County was re-divided.
North Louisiana was a primary corridor of passage for arriving Choctaw Indian clans, trappers, frontiersmen, and early settlers. The Mississippi Delta flood plains were difficult to impossible to cross in winter and spring since the river itself could be 8 to 40 miles wide at flood stage. The Saline River and Bayou Bartholomew were part of the Ouachita River Basin that could be three to four miles wide in places. The Choctaw, settlers, and French trappers could get to the hill country of the Saline and the Ouachita Rivers by canoes or keel boats up the Big Fork (Wishita/Ouachita) and Red Rivers. Steamboats, introduced in New Orleans about 1812, were operating on the rivers by the 1820s.
The Choctaw could cross South Arkansas and North Louisiana by land trails in the dry season. They crossed at several Mississippi River locations from Vicksburg, to Point Chico (Lake Village), including Lake Providence, Louisiana. Chico (Lake Village area), a French word for stump, possibly refers to cypress knees that were sticking up out of the riverbed or a cut-off lake at Point Chico.
Who says the Choctaw remained here?
The Choctaw began crossing the Mississippi River in 1790 after a Treaty with the Spanish Governor of the New Orleans District (Louisiana Territory). The Treaty allowed Choctaw hunters into the Wishita River Basin for deer and other fur bearing animals to sell to the Spanish Trading Post. With the hunters came Mississippi Choctaw clans who were being pressured to move westward by white settlers.
At the 1830 session of County Court at Ecore Fabre, Jonathan Black was selected as County Judge and his son, Jonathan Black, Jr., was elected sheriff. Sheriff Black packed his saddlebags with camping equipment and supplies, sufficient for two weeks at a time, for his first trips around the old original Union County. He collected $177.20 in taxes, paid in gold or silver and half cents. For the 1830 Census, he found six hundred to seven hundred men, women, and children, including 130 slaves, plus a good number of Indians living in the county.
This writer has spent the past thirty-five years as a country lawyer in the area of old Union County. The past six years numerous interviews with Choctaw and Cherokee descendants from all of these counties have been conducted. I learned that my wife, Janis, has some Cherokee relatives from the Marysville (Union County) Community, and her cousin from Village (Columbia County) sufficient Choctaw blood to qualify for minority preference for an industrial development contract, and another cousin’s wife has Cherokee ties from the Strong (Union County) Community. Three out of ten Strong High School graduates, attending a 2001 Class Reunion for the Classes from 1920 to 1945, had Choctaw grandmothers who raised children that attended the schools in or near Strong, Arkansas and Marion, Louisiana.
Mom and pop country stores served as the center of a community’s information network. Stories are toldof an Indian presence in various county communities. Some of these stories claime there were as many as 3000 Indians living south of El Dorado along the banks of Bayou de Loutre (Loutre Creek), and the Swilley Family in the Lisbon Community had an ancestor who was an Indian Agent or trader with the Choctaws in the Caledonia area. On cold nights it was told the Indians would quietly come up to the settlers’ cabins, sleep standing against the clay “waddle and daub” chimneys, and disappear at dawn. People tell of a trail along the 100’(elevation) mark along the Ouachita River wide enough for four wagons because so many Indians and settlers were coming and going on the trail from Marion through Lapile and New London and on to Pigeon Hill, Champanolle Landing, and Camden.
Similar stories were told at Darden’s Store at Lisbon (Est. 1898-1970). Aylmer Darden and his wife, Minnie, operated the business started by Darden’s father, George Washington Darden. Stories are told about the trail coming from the north and west through Lisbon, crossing Camp Creek to Marysville, Shuler, and on through New Hope towards Haynesville, Summerfield, and Farmerville. They told of Indians, gypsies, muleskinners, and people of all descriptions traveling back and forth with wagons, horses and mules, or walking and camping overnight along the creek. They brought their sick and camped on the creek until Dr. John Aaron Moore, who lived on the hill across from the store, could get them well.
Choctaw and Cherokee Indians arrived in south Arkansas as early as 1790 with many dressed in European type clothes similar to the settlers. They had flintlock guns, English ceramic dishware made from 1780 to 1820, and European bone cutlery and utensils, examples of which were recovered in a Cherokee site excavation on the Red River in Miller County in 1991. The Arkansas and Louisiana Archaeological Societies made a dig there and another dig near Tyler, Texas, under the supervision of the Southern Arkansas University Archaeological Department. The survey team dated the arrival of an estimated sixty (Chickamauga) Cherokee families in Arkansas from 1790 to 1800. They first settled north of the Arkansas River. However, after an inter-tribal rivalry, they moved to the Red River on the “Lost Prairie,” six miles northwest of Garland City.
Their leader was Chief Bowles, whose Indian name was Chief Duwala. His father was Scottish and his mother was Cherokee. They were driven out of the Arkansas Territory in 1819 in a one-sided gun battle with two companies (about four hundred men) of the Arkansas Militia. The group eventually settled near Tyler, Texas, where the Texas Militia in 1839, at the Battle of the Neches River, drove the Cherokee and other plains Indians into Oklahoma.
Who were the Choctaw?
The Choctaw Nation inhabited southern Mississippi and Alabama. They were a peaceful Nation and had a long history of farming, trade, and prosperity with the French and Spanish. This was before the Mississippi Valley was considered territory for expansion of the early Thirteen Colonies. The Choctaw hunted and had ties with small tribes west of the Mississippi River. They were referred to as the Western Choctaws. They were successful and lived in log cabins similar to the settlers.
Many Choctaw had sufficient money to relocate west of the Mississippi and had become dependent upon the trade goods of guns, tools, blankets, cloth, utensils, and colorful dishes made in England, France, Spain, and the Colonies. They and the Cherokees considered themselves the rightful owners of the lands upon which they lived, farmed, and hunted because of the continuing treaties permitting them to be in Arkansas and Louisiana.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was intended to solve the growing Indian problem as the settlers moved west. The national policy proposed to move all Indians west of the Mississippi River, except those that chose to live among the pioneers under the authority of the particular state’s laws. The British, in the War of 1812, interrupted this policy when they attempted to capture New Orleans. However, the effort was successfully defended by General Andrew Jackson, but not without the assistance of his long time friends, the Choctaw tribal chiefs of southern Mississippi. After the war ended in 1814, the United States continued to depend upon the Choctaw Nation who assisted in the Creek Indian Wars and the capture of Pensacola, which led to the cession of Florida to the United States in 1819.
The United States began its Removal Policy with the Treaty of Doaks Stand in 1820. In this treaty, the Choctaw were given all lands west of the Mississippi River lying north of the Red River and south of the Arkansas River as far as those rivers shall run. There was a second modification in 1825 after the Arkansas Territorial Legislature became upset with the incoming Choctaws. The 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek followed when President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) made the final and very favorable treaty of removal with his friends.
President Jackson would depend upon the Choctaw to peacefully show the way for the other four civilized tribes. His selling point was that the United States could no longer protect them from the advancing, land-hungry settlers (with their divine destiny). They must go or abide by strict state laws that outlawed their leadership and ceremonies. However, under the treaty, the remaining tribes that chose to leave Mississippi could not settle in Arkansas or Louisiana. They had to continue to southeast Oklahoma under the domain of the U.S. Army. They could keep the rights to claim land in Arkansas but would have to sell those rights to raise money for resettlement in Oklahoma.
The treaty modifications from 1820 to 1830 were necessary because the Choctaw arriving in Arkansas after the 1820 treaty found too many settlers already on the land. The government had to move either the Arkansas settlers or move the boundaries west. Arkansas Congressmen put pressure on Washington, and the boundaries were adjusted not once, but twice.
The Choctaw who stayed in Union County agreed to abide by state and county laws. These Indians were generally of mixed blood and had motivation to be assimilated into society under whatever laws would follow.
There was a Chaffie Creek Band of Choctaws who, since the early 1800s, had been living southwest of Ecore Fabre where the Creek crosses Cash Road in present day Camden. In 1836, the same year Arkansas was admitted into the Union, this band chose to move on to Oklahoma. Their farms were located on and near the Tate Farm on Chaffie Trail just north of Fairview Road. Today the Ralph Hale family has a collection of ca. 1800 settler cabins visible on the north side of Fairview Road.
Chief Cheffo, the Creeks’ namesake, led the Chaffie Band. The band was associated with a larger group living southwest of Monroe. Some Chaffie Band members had married slaves in the area and remained behind in Union County.
The state and Sheriff were not inclined to worry about the assimilating friendly Indians. They were likely good help, good neighbors, kinfolks of friends, and a source of survival knowledge. It is generally told that Choctaw Indians helped Lawson Smith build the first cabin in the Lawson community east of today’s El Dorado and near the old Hillsboro Road into north Louisiana. (The Hillsboro Road, later to come out of Calhoun County crossing near Miller’s Bluff through Norphlet and El Dorado, may be the early connecting link to the “Arkansas Road,” (now LA State 15, south of Farmerville and Lake D’Arbonne into West Monroe.)
It is interesting to note that General Matthew Arbuckle at Fort Smith was only ordered to remove all Indians north of the Arkansas River to Oklahoma, which included the Cherokee. This was completed by 1828. Neither before nor after the Army’s removal of the Choctaw during 1831-1833 has there been any evidence of further removal or official requests for removal of the Choctaw from old Union County. Some Cherokee may have come south because it was common knowledge that the government was not trying to remove the Choctaw Indians from South Arkansas or North Louisiana.
The Choctaw Survey
After the Choctaw removals, the United States required the army to change the removal procedures. The Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles were removed along the Military Road from Memphis to Fort Smith, or by steamboat from Florida up the Arkansas River to Fort Smith. These tribes had little opportunity, except the Creeks, to assimilate into the Arkansas population.
Numerous South Arkansas and Union County land titles originate from the survey required after the 1820 treaty and from warrants issued after the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. After the 1820 Treaty of Doak’s Stand, the United States began the official Survey of Arkansas Lands near today’s Arkansas City. The Initial Point of the “Choctaw Survey” became the Base Line of the Fifth Principal Meridian from which all lands in Arkansas, Missouri, and several other states continue to be surveyed. Purchased land could not be recorded accurately until the Government Survey Maps were recorded in each county of these states. The base line passing through south Little Rock is known as Base Line Road.
After the 1830 Treaty, the Choctaw Chiefs, acting through trustees, sold and delivered the warrants of claim land to settlers, politicians, and possibly some mixed blood Choctaw and Cherokee Indians in south Arkansas using their Christian names. A total of five hundred Certificates were issued for warrants recorded at the Washington and Champanolle Land Offices.
Dr. Berry Lee Moore remembers the story that his great-great-grandfather Alexander Moore (c.1700s-1860s) entered Union County from Louisiana (possibly using the Vicksburg Trail) into the Three Creeks area on State Highway 15 West. He made a trip over the trails of the day to Hot Springs to purchase warrants from Choctaw Chiefs to claim the land on which he started his large farm. Much of that land is still owned by his descendants today.
Why are there Cherokee in Union County?
This answer is not easy. Until 1803 the French and Spanish had a long history of trading posts and forts in the New Orleans District (Louisiana Territory) to accommodate the trappers and traders
with the Indian Nations. These included Fort Miro (Monroe) on the Ouachita River and the Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River.
The Natchitoches fort and the St. Louis des Caddoches (Caddo) post were on the Red River. Caddo Post was near the boundary of what would become the Arkansas Territory. The Caddo Indians were the dominant tribe in north Louisiana, east Texas, and southwest Arkansas. The Caddo, Tunica, and Quapaw had been the principal Historical Tribes (1700-1835) in South Arkansas. There were interconnecting trails/roads between Ft. Miro and the Arkansas Post.
Fort Saint Louis was near the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the principal arteries of travel for frontier America. France and Spain used Fort St.Louis and the Arkansas Post for communication and trade with the Quapaw and Osage Indians across Southern Missouri. The Osage hunted and lived for extended periods in North Arkansas. They wanted the convenient trade with the closer Arkansas Post, but were denied that right.
The Spanish Governor in New Orleans favored the taxes paid by the more prosperous St. Louis traders. He denied the Arkansas Post’s traders the right to trade with the Osage. The Osage blamed the Quapaw and fighting broke out between the two tribes and a small contingent of five or so troops at the Arkansas Post. The settlers and trappers were reduced to great poverty, and their lives were at great risk caught between the two tribes. Settlers were warned to stay away from Arkansas. The Quapaw Nation was reduced in number by sickness; and into this void or weakness of the Quapaw, the Cherokee began arriving north of the Arkansas River as early as the 1780s. Chief Bowles, the Scot half-breed, led a clan of Cherokees from east Tennessee to the St. Francis River (northeast Arkansas) area in 1794.
Between 1808 and 1810, the United States Government entered into a treaty with all Cherokee wishing to leave the east Tennessee area to be relocated between the White River and the Arkansas River. This group was called the Cherokee West and included the educated Chief Sequoyah who lived and set up a printing press near Dardanelle. This was twenty-eight years before the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears through north Arkansas in l838-1839.
However, no one received permission from the Osage for the Cherokee to have the Osage lands. They became a warring enemy with the Cherokee, but the Cherokee brought more and better guns when they came to Arkansas. They were aggressive. Villages would be wiped out. The Army had to be called in from Fort Smith to maintain peace. By 1828, General Matthew Arbuckle of Fort Smith succeeded in obtaining a treaty of removal to Oklahoma with the remaining Cherokee, Osage, Shawnee, as well as other clans, north of the Arkansas River. This writer concludes that the Cherokee in Union County arrived as small family groups moving into south Arkansas before and after the Civil War.
In the 1920s, they came (many on foot) to the notorious El Dorado-Smackover oil boom for work. The roads were so dangerous that they often hid in the woods if they heard other travelers ahead or behind. They also came from north Alabama and Oklahoma. Mrs. Arnold of Norphlet says her grandfather, with another family member, walked from Mount Ida to Smackover. When they earned enough money, they returned for their families.
What was the Choctaw Trail of Tears?
The Choctaw began to move in response to the 1820 Treaty of Doaks Stand (named after a trading post). The Choctaw, favored by General Jackson, were given the lands north of the Red River and south of the Arkansas River, which is south Arkansas and north Louisiana. The Choctaw Nation recognized the government policy and accepted the trade goods given with the deal, but they never got around to making the move. However, under the pressure of the Mississippi State Legislature, some clans and families began to move. As early as 1821, the Doaks family moved their trading post to southeast Oklahoma between Broken Bow and Hugo. They established their group on a hill above and north of a fresh water spring flowing three million gallons per day. By 1830, Fort Towson was built on the hill south of the spring. Today, Doaksville and Fort Towson have disappeared, but the spring still supplies municipal water to nearby towns in southeast Oklahoma.
Fort Towson was the registration destination of all Choctaws arriving in Oklahoma during and after the U.S. Army supervised the Choctaw Trail of Tears out of Mississippi from 1831 through l833. An estimated 15,000 people arrived in Oklahoma by 1836.
During the first phase of the removal, the army collected 3,000 Choctaws in Memphis and another 3,000 in Vicksburg. The Vicksburg group was transported by steamboat from Vicksburg down the Mississippi past Natchez and up the Red, Black, and Ouachita Rivers to Camden. The Choctaws walked from Camden through Clarks Mill (Hope area), Washington, and passed south of today’s DeQueen to the territorial boundary, a place called Ultima Thule, “the jumping off place,” then on to Fort Towson for registration. The army supplied wagons for supplies and to transport the feeblest. An estimated 1,000 died of each group of 3,000. There were 3,000 Choctaws escorted in 1832 by the Army from Memphis to Little Rock, through the Hot Springs area, passing just north of today’s DeQueen, and on to Fort Towson. An estimated 1,000 died. A monument just north of DeQueen on US 70 commemorates this Trail of Tears today.
In 1833, the Army escorted 1,000 Choctaws from Memphis to Little Rock, and then on foot on the recently completed Military Road aligned with US 64 near the north bank of the Arkansas River to Fort Smith.
The Vicksburg group in 1831 are the only Choctaws officially recorded as having traveled through south Arkansas or Louisiana on what is now described as the Choctaw Trail of Tears. No Cherokees are recognized as traveling on foot into or through South Arkansas or North Louisiana. This writer believes some Cherokee clans or families came through with Choctaw families. Some of the mixed breeds may have had brothers or sisters who had cross-tribe relatives.
The writer’s inquiry at the Hugo City Library and the Choctaw Nation Administrative Headquarters in Durant, Oklahoma, found no reference to any other Choctaw history across South Arkansas or North Louisiana except the 3,000 boated up the Ouachita River to Camden. Additional research at the various museums and libraries in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Monroe, Louisiana found no other references. The writer in researching Internet sites found no references, to date, of any Choctaw remaining in South Arkansas. There may be a cultural bias within the Choctaw Nations of Mississippi and Oklahoma. It may be easier to ignore mention of descendants living in Arkansas or Louisiana who did not choose to join either group. The stronger argument is made that the assimilating Choctaw deliberately did not talk to others, to their children, or to outsiders about their new life or identity. Most of the descendants interviewed in South Arkansas emphasize that their parents and grand parents did not talk about it.
Why write this story?
This article is written to draw attention to the need for more information from readers who are challenged to look back into their own family history for any information that can document the Choctaw and Cherokee presence in south Arkansas, how that person or family came into south Arkansas or north Louisiana, when and where did the ancestor come from, or go, if they left the area at a later date.
There are over 20,000 Choctaw who left Mississippi who either did not want to become part of the reservations in Oklahoma or found safety living and farming in the wilderness of South Arkansas and North Louisiana. It is estimated that there were no more than fifty settler families living in all of old Union County in the1820s. Since the Indians were not counted in the early censuses, it is impossible to know how many settled here or the number of Choctaw women that stayed in the area as wives and mothers of the expanding population of trappers, pioneers, settlers, and slaves. What is meaningful about this silent and unrecognized history is the large number of South Arkansans who are descendants of Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors who once lived in South Arkansas or North Louisiana.
(Worth Camp, Jr. is a native of El Dorado, an Attorney at Law and a former Arkansas State Representative.)
Arnold, Morris S. Colonial Arkansas 1686-1804: A Social and Cultural History. Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas P. 1991.
Bolton, Charles S. Arkansas 1800-1860: Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas P. 1998.
“Choctaw Commemorate 490-mile Forced Walk.” Daily Oklahoman, 31 July 2000.
Cordell, Anna Harmon. Dates and Data of Union County, Arkansas 1541-1948. Monroe, LA: Century Printing and Publishing, 1984.
Debo, Angie. The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic. 1934. Norman: U. of Oklahoma P. 1961.
Ingenthron, Elmo. Indians of the Ozark Plateau. Point Lookout, MO: School of the Ozarks P. 1970.
Kidwell, Clara Sue. “Beguilement and Guile: The Removal of the Choctaw Indians to the West.” Trail of Tears Symposium. North Little Rock, Arkansas. 17-18 Apr. 1996. Little Rock, AR: Dept. of Arkansas Heritage, n.p., 25-36.
Kilgore, Nettie Hicks. History of Columbia County. ms. Reported by Dora L. Aldridge in her article about the history of Waldo (Lamartine), 1980s.
McCrocklin, Claude. “Lost Prairie Cherokee Presentation.” South Arkansas Chapter of the Arkansas Archeology Society. Arkansas Archeological Survey. Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia. 14 May 2002.
McGimsey, Charles R. Indians of Arkansas. Popular Ser.1. Fayetteville: AR. Arkansas Archeological Survey, 1969.
Sabo, George. Paths of Our Children: Historic Indians of Arkansas. Popular Ser.3. Fayetteville: AR. Arkansas Archeological Survey, 1992.
Whayne, Jeannie. Cultural Encounters in the Early South. Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas P. 1995.
South Arkansas Historical Journal
VOLUME 3 FALL 2003
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
Dr. Susan Chappell
John G. Ragsdale
P. Sue Allen
Dr. Sara Teague
Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources
Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission
Nevada County Depot and Museum
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 3 FALL 2003
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
From the Editors:
The geographical area of South Arkansas has been inhabited continuously for centuries by peoples descended from Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, and numerous others. This journal hopes to tell the continuing stories of the great, the mighty, the strong, and the weak who have lived here either by choice or by chance. Family and occupational history can help the reader understand the great chain of events that has built our region though the recounting of old stories and reexamining past documents.
This third issue of the journal covers only a small part of the history of southern Arkansas. Witnesses to past events write of their experiences, hopes, and tragedies on the South Arkansas march through time. In recognition of the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, El Dorado writer Sara Teague reports on the French administration of Arkansas in the years prior to its annexation to the United States. John G. Ragsdale writes on the development of oil in the region, events which completely transformed the economy and society of the area. Three other Union County writers have added tender reminiscences of loved ones in their struggles to build a life for their families and communities in the early 1900s. Enjoy this journey of “historical imagination” of the world our predecessors built and whose memories and monuments we preserve for the future.
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 3 FALL 2003
On Parlait Francais Ici: French Affairs in Louisiana Before the
By Sara Teague………………………………………………………4
El Dorado’s Vision for Education, 1909
By Bart Reed……………………………………………....……….…9
Oil Development in South Arkansas, 1921-2001
By John G. Ragsdale………...………………………………….......18
The Governor of Mount Holly: Thomas Chipman McRae
By Ken Bridges…...…………………………………………………25
The W. H. Allen Homeplace, Spotville, Arkansas
By P. Sue Allen……………………………………………………...31
As recalled by Eva Goza……………………………………...…….33
By Susan Whatley……………………………………………..……35
On Parlait Francais Ici: FRENCH AFFAIRS IN THE LOUISIANA TERRIOTRY BEFORE THE PURCHASE
By Sara Teague
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the passion blazing through Europe was the proven New World, a magical vision beyond the previously considered “Land’s End.” Stories of this far-away place were loaded with fantasy and fable, enticing all to come and experience the splendors available. Among the Old World countries on the verge of being carried away by this excitement, France was interested in setting forth her rights to the foreign country. French explorers Rene de LaSalle and Henri de Tonti had staked claims for the empire in the preceding century, and many more potential explorers were anxious to make a mark. France’s participation in the development and governance of the Louisiana Territory from 1699 to 1803 will reveal her impact upon the civilization of the Territory, including southern Arkansas.
For most countries, colonization was a luxury hardly affordable, a symbol of prestige. More prosperous countries incurred great expense sending, establishing, and supporting a colony unimaginably distant from the crown.
Yet this risk could prove quite profitable, as Spain’s quest into Mexico had been. The idea of being paid in pure gold for one’s trouble served to mock feasibility. Adventurers sought their share, their appetites whetted by rumors of gold, silver, and boulder-sized jewels.
As with most promises of something for almost nothing, the stories of gold-filled streams were soon discredited, even though many wanted to
believe them still. The third governor of the territory, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, was forced to return to Paris because of his flat denial of the rumors. He firmly stated “The mines of Arkansas are a dream!” (Heinrich 5). Pearls from mussel shells along the Red River abounded, but were meaningless to those hungry for gold. Those adventurers hot in pursuit of “yellow iron” (Bossu 26) soon had to settle for a more stable means of existence: productivity.
The French government claimed their primary goal in America was to establish trade. In 1714, Governor Cadillac sent explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis up the Red River to establish a trading post (Faye 649). The French at home, somewhat disillusioned after expecting great returns on their investments, hoped that colonization of the region would provide a successful trade pattern. However, interest in the New World waned. The government shoved the colonies and their potential productivity off on the private sector of France.
Louis XIV had given citizen Antoine Crozat a fifteen year monopoly on internal territory trade in 1713, providing Crozat the opportunity to plant, trade, establish slavery, and collect any treasure found (one-fifth of which would go to the royal treasury). Crozat supplied slaves and set up homesteads, but his tremendous expenditures brought no recompense. In 1717 (after Louis XIV’s death), the contract was terminated at Crozat’s request.
That same year in France, a Scot named John Law instituted a national bank which circulated paper money. Very soon Law found his bank in great distress. The
French economy sagged under spiraling inflation, due mainly to the depletion of funds in the royal treasury by Louis XIV, but also in part due to the enormous expense of colonization. To bolster his ailing institution, the French government granted Law concessions on the colony of Louisiana. He consolidated many slave companies into the India Company, and immediately set up the Mississippi Bubble. Law promised free transportation, seed and flour for one year, and ownership of any gold, silver, or jewels found, to interested adventurers (Heinrich 5). Twelve to sixteen thousand people, most of which were German, assembled in Lorient, France, from which they were to sail, to take advantage of the Mississippi Bubble. Law also bought three hundred Negroes and shipped them to Louisiana.
Just as the fantasies of riches in gold in the New World never found proof, Law’s scheme, like Crozat’s, faced an unfortunate reality. The India company went bankrupt, and Law left France in humiliation. Semi-starvation and disease abounded at Lorient, where many remained in a refugee-like state, anxiously awaiting passage. The Mississippi Bubble had burst.
With the abandonment of Crozat, Law, and the French government, the colonists were left to fend for themselves, and often faced dire poverty. At times their only fare was acorns, roots, or tender buds. Those who were more innovative took actions to create other culinary resources. The French missionary Father du Poisson described the use of turtle eggs for omelets (Falconer 352).
Despite meager beginnings, the area seemed promising for trade on several fronts: 1) stable existing posts, such as Natchitoches on the Red River, founded by St. Denis in
1714, 2) positive relations with the Indians, and 3) a workable agreement for the majority of the time with the Spanish, as neither salvation of savages nor military goals topped the priority list of the French.
Because of France’s continued ambivalence toward her colony, colonists’ relations with the Indians and Spaniards were crucial. Explorers wrote long accounts of the Indians, in their ignorance of other cultures, staring in amazement at the white faces, long beards, and restricting clothing, in comparison to their own swarthy complexion, bare jaw, braided hair, and animal skins. Language also proved a frustration. The explorer Jacques Marquette recalled of an encounter, “I spoke to them in six Indian languages, none of which they knew” (43).
The explorers learned how the Indians adored receiving gifts, and that to disappoint them could bring serious consequences. The explorers’ generosity lasted as long as their supply of pickaxes, liquor, kettles, pipes, baubles, mirrors, and other trinkets held out. When supplying the Indians with presents became too expensive, a Frenchman would avoid confrontation by declining the offer to share the calumet, or peace pipe (Falconer 43). Doing so kept the Frenchman from being obligated to the Indian.
Father du Poisson complained “Gratitude is a virtue of which the Indians have no conception” (Falconer). They repeatedly expected more from the frontiersmen. But the policy of the Indian was to always share whatever he had, regardless of what had been transacted before. Therefore the Indians, with the unwritten rule of consistent giving, never kept a record and felt the Frenchmen should also give over and over again, as they undoubtedly would.
The different objectives of the French and Spanish colonists explain the Indian’s preference for the French:
The Spanish settlers offer salvation, the French people offer brandy and knives. The Spanish try to make the carefree Indians settle in one place, the French follow the Indians around, roaming in the same nomadic fashion. The Spanish attempt to civilize the Indians, while the French adapt to the red man’s lifestyle. (Jackson SP)
When an Indian shot off the head of a rattlesnake threatening to bite a Frenchman, he was given a bottle of taffia (rum) to celebrate (Bossu 36). How many Indians would prefer prayer to that? The Frenchman’s rum enabled him to get along with the Spanish inhabitants of the territory as well. Despite former land disagreements and property disputes, the French lived fairly peaceably alongside the Spanish. All three parties, French, Spanish, and Indian, needed each other in one way or another, and therefore had to subsist together. For instance, when the Natchez Indians attacked Natchitoches, the Spaniards of nearby Los Adaes came to the aid of the French.
Trade between the French and Spanish existed on an entirely different order: a healthy smuggling association was beneficial to both sides. The Spanish missionaries, led by a dishonest friar named Grappe`, desired the material comforts offered by the French, and the French needed the hard money the Spaniards offered—pesos were gladly accepted. This bartering system kept the colonists on good terms, and for a time the Bourbon monarchies at home in Spain and France also were allies.
For a time. Minor squabbles increased, and the French began to overextend their liberties and impose upon the Spanish. An expedition by French explorers Chapin and Foissy violated several territorial orders set by the Spanish. The French became more blatant in their smuggling patterns. The French pressured Spanish authorities to bend rules based on the need for continuation of “good will” between the two colonies. This overstepping did not allow the continuation of good will, and Spain sent a warning.
At home, France was dealing with many distractions at this time. Her colony, Antilles, and its sugar industry beckoned French investors, and Great Britain loomed as a threat to expand her influence in the New World. In order to simplify her affairs, France handed Louisiana to Spain. In 1761, France’s Louis XV (His Christian Majesty) and Spain’s Charles II (His Catholic Majesty) effected a new family compact of alliance, the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The treaty was kept secret because Spain could not protect Louisiana from Britain.
More instability ensued. In 1763, Britain and France signed the Treaty of Paris to end the Seven Years War, causing many changes of official possession across the Atlantic. Britain took all of Canada and everything east of the Mississippi River which had been French, and Spain was openly granted all of Louisiana. Turrentine Jackson noted “When France lost and gave away a continent in 1763. . . she was ready after sixty years of endeavor to admit her failure in colonizing Louisiana. . .didn’t pay” (SP).
The Indians, still leaning toward their French friends, pleaded with the French colonial authorities not to abandon them mercilessly to the unfriendly Spaniards, but to no avail. France was sick of the idea of colonizing, her funds had been bled dry, and she wanted out of the New World.
Nonetheless, while Spanish was the official language, and France had officially turned her back on the colony, the territory remained loyally French in manners and customs. The colonists, unhappy with the transfer of French to Spanish authority, openly resisted the Spanish and petitioned to remain French. Not much changed, as most of the administrative positions were retained by Frenchmen under employment of Spain. These Frenchmen knew the land, the Indians, and colonial administration.
The settlers inhabiting the undomesticated plains of the territory were not common Frenchmen, regardless of pedigree. The typical Frenchman would hardly think of sacrificing his security to confront a savage land full of risk and adventure. Conversely, this land offered security to many. Lawbreakers, roughnecks, social misfits, and adventurous young fools all found a paradise on the uncivilized banks of the Ouachita River.
Though the territory was a delight to vagrants and convicts, it was not totally lawless. Athanasa de Mezieres created ordinances for the colonies under Spanish rule concerning alcoholic beverages, merchandise given to Indians, cattle rustling, runaway minors, and slaves. In 1722, acting governor de Bienville instituted the Black Code, which served as the “germ, origin, and source of most of the slave laws that were enacted in the U.S. for the next 140 years” (Benjamin 334). These laws, now grossly archaic, included expulsion of Jews, prohibition of any worship other than Roman Catholic, prohibition of mixed marriages, punishment for any issue from concubinage, abolition of association for slaves, abolition of all possessions of slaves, prohibition of harboring slaves, and guidelines for punishing slaves.
Any woman could find a husband in the colony. On three separate occasions, young girls, selected from a public institution, were shipped over to the colony in “Here Come the Brides” fashion, at the request of territory directors, who “thought it impossible to make a solid establishment without them” (Benjamin 334).
Before 1740, one half of all women on the frontier were married before fourteen years of age (Jones SP). Five of every six immigrants was male, and with a higher death rate in women due to the hazards of childbirth on the frontier, a woman, much less a good woman, was truly hard to find. The type of woman who would entertain the idea of leaving France for the primitive Louisiana Territory raises a question about the “public institution” from whence the brides came: was it a school, a jail, or even a mental ward? It was a common known fact among the hunters of the Ouachita Basin that “wives were as vicious as their husbands” (Dickinson SP)
Colonial men and women alike were growing further away from their mother countries, across the “salty water” (Bossu). Spain’s control of the colony, realistically, was only in name. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte coerced Spain into returning Louisiana to the French, but it took several years to replace the Spanish officials with the French. Yet Bonaparte faced many complications in Europe, and needed funds to support his army there. After failing to reconquer Haiti after its slave revolt, Louisiana again became merely an asset for sale or transfer to continental powers. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson, the President of the United States of America, bought the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million. This territory evolved into its separate states, but each carries the influence of France, Spain, and the Indian nations who fished the waters, trapped the beaver, and planted corn. France’s investment in southern Arkansas over three hundred years ago provided the seed from which our civilization would flourish.
Teague, a native of Walnut Ridge, holds degrees in French and English from Ouachita University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Mississippi. She currently writes from her home in El Dorado.
Benjamin, M. W. “History of the French in Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 2
Branner, John. “Some Old French Place Names in the State of Arkansas.” Arkansas
Historical Quarterly 3 (1960).
Bossu, Jean Bernard. New Travels in North America, 1770-1771. Translated by S. D. Dickinson. NSU Press, 1982.
Dickinson, S. D. “Folkways of Trade in Colonial Louisiana.” Paper delivered at
Northwest Louisiana State University Symposium, “North Louisiana’s Colonial Heritage,” Oct. 7-8, 1982. (Hereafter all symposium papers will be referred to as SP).
Falconer, W. A. “Arkansas and the Jesuits.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 4 (1917).
Faye, Stanley. “Arkansas Post of Louisiana, French Domination.” Louisiana Historical
Quarterly 26 (1943).
Faye, Stanley. “Arkansas Post of Louisiana, Spanish Domination.” Louisiana Historical
Quarterly 25 (1942).
Heinrich, Pierre. La Louisiane sous la Compagnie des Indes. Paris, 1908, vol. 67, note 5.
Jackson, W. Turrentine. “North Louisiana: Frontier Image—An Overview.” SP.
Jones, Terry. “Colonial Fortifications in North Louisiana: Their Cultural Significance.”
Margry, Pierre. Decouvertes et Etablissements des Francais dans l’Ouest et dans le Sud
de l’Amerique Septentrionale, 1614-1754. Paris, 1886. vols 1-6.
Marquette Jacques. “Marquette Entertained by the Arkansas Indians.” Arkansas
Historical Quarterly 1 (1906).
EL DORADO’S VISION FOR EDUCATION, 1909
By Bart Reed
Boosterism was a prominent theme in El Dorado, Arkansas, in 1909. In that year, the Annual Announcement of El Dorado Public High School was published, written by school officials T. C. Abbot and John G. Pipkin. It included the highest praise for the “location and advantages” offered by El Dorado as a place to “rear and educate your children into polished men and women.” The following document from 1909 includes a civic description of El Dorado, the Board of Education, faculty, calendar, and curriculum. Of interest, too, were the “advertisements” of local businesses. They were the “Partners-in-Education” of 1909. Many names of the school board and faculty of that year are still recognized by many today as names of local schools and streets. The curriculum of that day was particularly strong in the humanities and foreign languages.
Annual Announcement of El Dorado Public High School
El Dorado Public High School
LOCATION AND ADVANTAGES
Situated on the highest point in Union county, with an atmosphere free from material poisons but abundant with the sweet scented ozone, famous for its health-giving vigor; lighted with a modern electric light plant; supplied with excellent water from a complete system of waterworks and with an extensive sewerage system under plans of construction; surrounded by fertile farming and fruit lands; inhabited by 6500 of as hospitable, progressive, refined, and cultured people as are found anywhere; with her excellent $60,000 school building and new college under construction, El Dorado has many educational advantages to offer your boys and girls and more inducements to men and women as a city in which to rear and educate your children into polished men and women.
With three railroads, three banks, several wholesale houses, hotels and a new $60,000 one under construction together with her many industries and 18 miles of concrete sidewalks one may form a faint idea of the energy and progressive spirit that obtains among our citizenship. Nor are our people interested in the material alone, the religious and moral and social life is even more encouraging and inspiring. We have three beautiful churches, no saloons, no gambling houses, and no places of vice. Public spirit runs high and does much to advance the cause of education. In selecting a home for yourselves or a school for your child we respectfully invite you to consider the many favorable advantages El Dorado has to offer.
WHEN, WHY AND HOW WE MUST
Educate Our Boys and Girls
There should be no necessity for a discussion of this subject. Yet, I believe it does exist, not because parents do not know the importance of an education but because many of them in the mad rush of life do not stop to consider seriously the value to their children, in all of its phases. Especially do I believe that many fail to comprehend the gravity of the responsibility to which they have obligated themselves in this matter by becoming parents.
One of the distinguishing marks between animals of the lower order and man is the great difference in their capacity to receive an education. In the lower animal forms, the young are born with all their physical organs so well developed that they need, for but a short while, the care and protection of the parent. As we rise upward through the animal kingdom we find that the helplessness of the young increases and extends over a longer period. At the top of this ladder we find that the helplessness of the young increases and extends over a longer period. At the top of this ladder we find man and here in the infant babe we find the most dependent creature of all. In him too this period of helplessness lasts longer than in any animal species.
This period between birth and the development into the adult race type had been called by psychologists the play period. The relative lengths of these periods in the scale of animal life determine the relative degree of the educability of the particular species. Thus the educability of the horse and the dog is higher than that of wild animals and that of a human being is higher than all the animal world.
BOARD OF EDUCATION
DR. W. J. PINSON Term expires 1912
W. J. MILES Term expires 1912
HUGH W. GOODWIN Term expires 1910
W. E. McRAE Term expires 1910
JUDGE NEIL MARSH Term expires 1911
B. W. REEVES Term expires 1911
OFFICERS OF THE BOARD
B. W. REEVES PRESIDENT
DR. W. J. PINSON SECRETARY
W. J. MILES, Chairman
W. E. McRAE H. W. GOODWIN
DR. W. J. PINSON B. W. REEVES
DR. W. J. PINSON
The Board meets regularly the last Saturday in each month.
T. C. ABBOTT,
Mathematics and French
JOHN G. PIPKIN,
History and Science
MRS. IDA Z. RILEY,
English and Literature
MISS MARY LEE,
Latin and German
MRS. HELEN HENRY,
Seventh A and Seventh B Grades
MISS RETTA BROWN,
Sixth A and Sixth B Grades
MISS EMMIE HAYS,
Fifth A and Fifth B Grades
G. S. TATUM,
Fourth A and Fourth B Grades
MISS LENA HARDY,
Third A and Third B Grades
MISS EMMA RILEY,
Second A and Second B Grades
MISS ALICE CORDELL,
First A Grade
MRS. MATTIE BRYANT,
First B Grade
MISS ELLIE TATUM,
First C and First D Grades
MISS ROBERTA ARMSTRONG,
MISS BESSIE HEARON,
MISS PEARL STEADMAN,
September 9 and 10 – Examination for entrance into higher standing
September 13 – Session opens.
November 25 and 26 – Thanksgiving holidays.
December 23-January 2 – Christmas holidays.
January 19-22 – Examination for first term.
January 23 – Second term begins.
May 21 – Commencement sermon.
May 24 – Final examinations begin.
May 22-27 – Commencement week.
May 27 – Class night.
Seventh A Grade
Reading: -- Graded Classics, Book VII
English: -- Scott Southworth’s English Grammar, Book II. Composition of work in narration and description; types of these kinds of inventions studied in class; practical business English forms; study, Enoch Arden, Tennyson; Washington, Scudder; read, Treasure Island, Stevenson
Arithmetic:-- Smith’s Advanced to page 137.
Spelling: -- Hazen’s Book II, 4-8 months,7th year.
Geography: -- Frye’s Grammar School, completed.
History: -- Review of History of United States and Shinn’s History of Arkansas
Physiology: -- Overton’s Advanced, completed.
Writing:-- Copy Book IX
HIGH SCHOOL DEPARTMENT
English: -- Crittenden’s Composition and Grammar. Original composition weekly; study of specimens of these types of invention in class; narration, description, exposition.
Literature: -- Ivanhoe, Scott; The Tale of Two Cities, Dickens; As You Like It, Shakespeare; Julius Caesar, Shakespeare; A Man Without a Country, Hale; Franklin’s Autobiography.
Mathematics: -- Smith’s Advanced arithmetic (first half year); Milne’s elements of algebra (last half year)
Science: -- Elements of Biology, Hunter
Latin: -- Smiley and Stork’s Beginner’s Latin
History: -- Myers Ancient History.
English: -- Herrick and Damon’s rhetoric, chapters I-IX. Original composition work under directions of teacher, weekly.
Literature: -- Selected readings from the masterpieces of American Literature. Introduction to American Literature, Brander Matthews.
Mathematics: -- Milne’s High School Algebra
Science: -- Davis’ Physical Geography
Latin: -- Viri Romae, D’Ooge; study of Latin syntax
History: -- Myers Mediaeval and Modern History.
English: -- Herrick and Damon’s Rhetoric, completed. Weekly composition work.
Literature: -- Eliot’s Silas Marner; Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare; Vision of Sir Launfal, Lowell; Macbeth, Shakespeare.
Mathematics: -- Milne’s Plane Geometry.
Science: -- Physics for High School Students, Carhart and Chute
Latin: -- Caesar, Allen and Greenough’s (four books). D’Ooge’s Latin Composition, weekly.
French: -- Fraser and Squire’s Grammar; conversation, Sym’s Easy French Reader, La Tour de La France, Bruno (Sym’s tr.)
French will be made optional with German in the Third and Fourth years of the High School. Either will be given according to the election of the class in the Third Year.
History: -- History of England, Andrews.
German: -- Joynes-Wesselhoeft, German Lesson Grammar. Reading, Guerber, Marchen and Erzahlunsen, I; Mosher, Willkommen in Deutschland; Storm, Immensee.
English: -- Essay writing in the four principal types of discourse. A careful study of the principles of good English. References to several texts.
Literature: -- Essay on Burns, Carlyle; Hamlet, Shakespeare; Idylls of the King, Tennyson; Speech on Conciliation of America, Burke; Washington’s Farewell Address, Webster’s First Bunker Hill Oration. Formal work: Halleck’s History of English Literature.
Mathematics: -- Milne’s solid Geometry (first half year); Wentworth’s Plane Geometry (last half year).
Science: -- Elementary Study of Chemistry, McPherson and Henderson
Latin: -- Cicero’s Orations (five books and one in Vergil). Latin Composition bi-weekly, Barss, Book II.
French: -- Grammar, composition, conversation, reading; Francois’ Introductory French Prose Composition; About’s Le Roi de Montanges; Halevy’s L’Abbe Constantin; Mermee’s Colomba.
History: -- Comprehensive study of United States History, Fiske; Blocher’s Civil Government.
German: -- Joynes-Wesselhoeft, German Lesson Grammar; composition and conversation; Reading, Goethe, Das Marchen; Dillard, Au dem Deutschen Dicterwald; Bernhardt, Auf der Sonnenseite; Hervey, Fulda; Unter vier Augen, and Benedix; Keller, Kleider machen Leute.
Reed, an El Dorado native, teaches at El Dorado High School as well as at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and South Arkansas Community College.
OIL DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH ARKANSAS,
By John G. Ragsdale
Edwin L. Drake is credited with drilling the first oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, and thus began the oil business in the United States. Major companies came into existence in the latter part of the nineteenth century, e.g., in 1870, John D. Rockefeller formed the Standard Oil Company. First uses of oil were for lubrication and heating, and then the crude became a source for gasoline as a fuel. With Henry Ford and his first automobile in 1896, gasoline became and remains a major part of the oil industry.
In the southern states, small oil producing wells were found near Corsicana, Texas, in 1897, but the major discovery of the Spindletop Oil Field near Beaumont in 1901 opened huge fields in the Gulf Coast area and led a shift of the domestic petroleum from Pennsylvania to the southern portion of the United States. About the same time, small discoveries were made in Oklahoma and then the large Glenn Pool was found near Tulsa in 1905, making Oklahoma the largest oil producing state in the area until 1928.
Discovery of oil in the areas south and west of Arkansas indicated that oil might
be contained in subsurface zones of Arkansas. Several test wells were drilled in Arkansas but failed to indicate commercial deposits of oil. Then in January 1921, oil was discovered in the Busey #1 Armstrong well about two miles west of El Dorado in Union County. The producing zone was at a depth of about 2,000 feet in what was later named the El Dorado South Field.
El Dorado quickly became an oil boomtown as thousands of people flocked to the new oil discovery scene. Leases were acquired, drilling rigs were erected, workers arrived for demanding schedules, and many wells were drilled in the development of the oil reservoirs.
In 1922, about 10 miles north of El Dorado, oil was discovered at a depth of about 2,000 feet in the Smackover Field, which is located in the southern portion of Ouachita County and the northern portion of Union County. This field has been the most prolific oil producing field in the state, and the large producing rates of oil from this field caused the state oil production total to increase each year until the peak producing rate was recorded in 1925. By this time, much development had occurred in this field, and a subsequent rapid decline of the annual oil producing rate occurred as the reservoirs were depleted. Figure 1 indicates the annual oil production for the state, from the initial production in 1921 through the year of 2001. The annual rate of production is in millions of barrels.
Annual oil producing rates in the state continued to decline until 1937, when oil was discovered in the Shuler Field in the western area of Union County. This new discovery of oil was produced from zones at depths of 5,500 feet to 7,500 feet. This discovery of deeper productive reservoirs led to another extended boom time of drilling and development in South Arkansas. In 1938, the major Magnolia Field was discovered in Columbia County, and also the Village Field was developed in Columbia County.
Other discoveries which expanded further oil development in South Arkansas were: in 1939, the Dorcheat-Macedonia Field in Columbia County; in 1940, the McKamie-Patton Field in Lafayette County; and in 1942, the Midway Field in Lafayette County.
Extensive drilling across the South Arkansas area and deeper drilling contributed to the development of oil production from this area. Depletion of the reservoirs and economics have caused the gradual decline in the annual rates of oil production. Through December 31, 2001, there have been 343 fields discovered and a total of 1,762,000,000 barrels produced in South Arkansas. Of these, there have been three major fields that have each produced over 100 million barrels of oil (Table 1), four fields have had production in excess of 50 million barrels (Table 2), and fourteen have produced more than 10 million barrels (Table 3). Oil production has been from ten counties in the state. Table 4 lists these ten counties and the number of fields discovered in each county and the cumulative oil produced.
South Arkansas was fortunate to have had the oil discovery in 1921 and the subsequent drilling which developed the reservoirs and allowed the production of oil. This development provided income for the landowners, drilling companies, and the operators who have produced the oil.
Arkansas Oil Fields Producing More Than 100 Million Barrels of Oil
Field Year of Discovery Oil Produced (mbls)
Smackover 1922 583
Shuler 1937 113
Magnolia 1938 170
Arkansas Oil Fields Whose Production Was in Excess of
50 Million Barrels of Oil
Field Year of Discovery Oil Produced (mbls)
El Dorado South 1921 57
Stephens 1922 60
Midway 1942 83
Wesson 1945 63
Arkansas Oil Fields That Have Produced More Than
10 Million Barrels of Oil
Field Year of Discovery Oil Produced (mbls)
El Dorado East 1921 16
Irma 1921 19
Champagnolle 1927 35
Urbana 1929 20
Troy 1936 13
Buckner 1937 20
Atlanta 1938 24
Village 1938 29
Dorcheat-Macedonia 1939 47
Fouke 1940 33
McKamie-Patton 1940 39
Sandy Bend 1947 13
Walker Creek 1957 35
Chalybeat Springs 1971 15
Arkansas Counties, Number of Fields and Production
County Number of Fields Cumulative Oil Produced (mbls)
Ashley 1 0.2
Bradley 4 6.0
Calhoun 8 5.0
Columbia 56 383.0
Hempstead 3 0.2
Lafayette 69 208.0
Miller 53 79.0
Nevada 14 64.0
Ouachita 21 394.0
Union 114 637.0
Ragsdale, a retired petroleum engineer, is an El Dorado resident and member of the El Dorado Historic District Commission. This article was originally presented as part of the Drake Well Foundation Symposium in Shreveport, Louisiana, in March 2003.
Oil production volumes were acquired from the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission,
El Dorado, Arkansas.
THE GOVERNOR OF MOUNT HOLLY:
THOMAS CHIPMAN McRAE
By Ken Bridges
In December 1851, few suspected that the birth of Thomas Chipman McRae in Mount Holly would change the direction of Arkansas forever. As the oldest of five children, he led his family through difficult times and later led the South Arkansas region through its times of frustration. In time, he would rise to the state’s governorship, embarking on an ambitious program that would give all Arkansans hope for a brighter future.
His father, Duncan McRae, helped found the Mount Holly community after his arrival in Arkansas in 1843 (Baird 152). Like most families in the region, the McRae family engaged in farming. The Ouachita River Valley was renowned for its rich soil and had established itself as an important cotton-producing area. According to census records, the elder McRae owned some thirteen slaves in 1860 (Ledbetter 3). Fearful of what the impending war between the states meant for his position, the elder McRae volunteered for the Confederate army when the war erupted, but officials felt that at 45, his best years were behind him.
The Civil War years produced intense hardship for many families. The McRae family would not be an exception. Tragedy befell the family two years later, when in July 1863, Duncan McRae died. This forced Thomas McRae, as the eldest son, to care for his family. He worked hard, briefly serving as a courier for Confederate forces operating in the South Arkansas area. His mother remarried in 1868, allowing the future governor to actively consider furthering his education.
Thomas McRae attended a series of private schools in the area, particularly in Mt. Holly, Shady Grove, and the co-educational Masonic Academy in Falcon where he met his future wife, Amelia Ann White. The school was run by the Masons, a private civic organization. Public schools were exceedingly rare in Arkansas in the nineteenth century. Nearly half of all school-aged children in the state did not attend school at all. This left a powerful impression on McRae, prompting him to work for improvements in education in his later years. After graduation from the Masonic Academy, he found work at a retail store in Shreveport and soon went to New Orleans to attend the Soule Business College. He briefly returned to Arkansas before enrolling at Washington and Lee Law School in Lexington, Virginia, for the 1871 term. Astoundingly, he completed the two-year course of study in one year.
McRae quickly returned to Arkansas and passed the bar exams. In 1873, he set up a law practice in Rosston in the newly-created Nevada County in the southwestern part of the state. The next year, he married his sweetheart from the Masonic Academy. Amelia White, the daughter of the county clerk, was a native of the area. The two would have nine children in their long marriage together.
In 1874, he received an appointment as election commissioner for Nevada County, a county formed just three years earlier. Two years later, he won the nomination of Nevada County Democrats to the Arkansas House of Representatives. He won the election as Arkansans continued to recoil against the excesses of Reconstruction. Radical Republicans had run up a $14 million bond debt in their zeal to build a slew of levees and railroads. A faction of Democrats angry with the debts and a number of other debts dating back to the 1840s, tried to cancel the bonds, arguing that the bonds were issued illegally. McRae warned against repudiating the debt which he believed would ruin the state’s credit and imperil the success of any other bond project in the future. McRae noted, “By repudiating, we lose both our credit and our honor.” (Ledbetter 5). The repudiation amendments failed in both 1877 and 1880, but passed in 1884, and the state’s credit rating collapsed as a result. McRae decided not to seek re-election in 1884, but he kept his eye on political developments.
The election of Grover Cleveland as president in 1884 presented an incredible opportunity for McRae, albeit indirectly. Arkansas’s Senator Augustus H. Garland won appointment as attorney general in the new Cleveland administration. Garland resigned and was replaced in the Senate by U. S. Rep. Jesse K. Jones, now leaving a vacancy in his congressional district, covering the western and southern parts of the state. McRae leapt at the chance and announced his candidacy for the special election to fill the remainder of Jones’s term. He announced a platform friendly to the concerns of farmers throughout the rural district in the 1880s: free coinage of silver to promote higher commodity prices, ensuring that more public lands doled out by the federal government actually went to the settlers instead of the railroads, and the forfeiture of railroad land grants when they to meet the conditions of the grant. In addition to the call for more land and stable crop prices, he also called for improvements in the public education system.
The Democrats decided to rally behind a single candidate, and at a special convention, McRae won over his fellow partisans to secure the nomination on the second ballot. The people liked the young attorney and he won election to the United States House of Representatives, capturing seventeen of the district’s nineteen counties. He would serve the third district in Congress for the next eighteen years.
He labored for more land and more credit for farmers while serving on the Public Lands Committee. The congressman managed to cancel most of the state’s debts to the federal government, which alleviated some of the fiscal problems in Arkansas. By 1893, his years of long work had earned him the chairmanship of the committee. Concerned with over-harvesting of trees and the future of the nation’s forests and lumber reserves, he fought to create forest reserves throughout the country. He defeated many attempts by lumber interests and western congressmen to derail his forest reserve program, triumphing by 1897.
In 1903, satisfied with his accomplishments in Congress, he returned to Prescott to practice law once again. In 1905, he bought the Bank of Prescott. The state’s other bankers became so impressed with his skill, they elected him president of the Arkansas Bankers Association in 1909. He maintained an active civic life, serving on the State Board of Charities, the Board of Trustees of Arkansas College in Batesville, and the Arkansas Tuberculosis Association (Ledbetter 9).
In October 1915, McRae decided to return to politics and announced his candidacy for governor. In front of an excited crowd of 5,000 in Prescott, McRae called for improvements to the state’s education system and for Prohibition. Two months before the March 1916 primary, he withdrew, citing concerns that the balloting was rigged. He also served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1917-18, a document which was handily defeated by Arkansas voters in 1918. Undeterred, McRae prepared to run for governor once again.
Women could now vote in Arkansas and the state had pushed the primary to August, essentially the election in the absence of a significant Republican opposition in the state, making the 1920 primary an entirely different kind of election than McRae had ever participated. McRae called for streamlining government by eliminating many state commissions and boards, a new highway system, support for public education, and in deference to the powerful new voting bloc, promised to put women on state commissions. “Make Arkansas the equal of the best state in this blessed Union!” he cried at his announcement in Searcy.
The other major candidate in the race, Camden attorney Smead Powell, initially had the backing of the railroad interests and the incumbent governor, Charles Brough. Powell, however, alienated Brough by criticizing his highway programs, leading the governor to withdraw his support. McRae’s opponents criticized his banking connections (an unpopular profession to many Arkansans in 1920) and his advancing age, 68, but voters ignored these concerns and gave him the nomination with a plurality of 10,000 votes (Ledbetter 14). McRae won the general election easily, capturing 65 percent of the vote.
Chaos engulfed the state in the postwar years. Unnerved by the pace of change and reform, the rise of socialism, and the war, many in the state longed to escape into a mythic past. The Ku Klux Klan rose from the ashes of its Reconstruction past to embark on a self-appointed rampage across the state to erase the vestiges of reform, women’s suffrage, civil rights, and any trace of modernity. The power of the Klan swept across the state, sparking a civil war in the Arkansas Democratic Party, the only viable political organization in the state at the time. Many officials tried to fight the Klan, only to be thrown out of office by Klan-sponsored candidates.
McRae was caught in the middle of the fight as the new governor tried to fight the lynchings and mob violence engulfing the state. Shortly after McRae assumed office in January 1921, white mobs in Mississippi County swarmed around the county jail, zeroing in on a local African-American man as the target of their bloodlust. McRae, hearing of the rising tensions, prepared to send a detachment of the Arkansas National Guard to bring the man to the state penitentiary in protective custody. The Mississippi County sheriff, however, persuaded the new governor that he had the situation under control and no harm would come to the suspect. On January 27, the sheriff allowed the mobs to kill the man (Ledbetter 17). McRae angrily lectured the legislature about the vicious injustices perpetrated by lynch mobs and demanded a law that removed any official who failed to protect prisoners from lynchings. The legislature refused the request. McRae’s personal secretary, however, was an active member in the Klan (Moneyhon 143). In 1922, the Klan endorsed McRae in his re-election bid, apparently in support of McRae’s programs to stop crime and support for Prohibition. According to all reports, he did not seek the endorsement. Nevertheless, this became an indelible blot on McRae’s record.
Despite these frustrations, McRae endeavored to live up to his campaign rallying cry to bring progress to the state. He appointed the first woman officeholder in the state in 1921, a notary public; and he also pushed the legislature to approve a law ensuring that women could hold office in Arkansas as well as vote. After oil was discovered in Union County, McRae quickly recognized the importance of this find and established the office of state geologist.
The state’s attempts to build a system of highways for the increasing number of automobiles had turned into a disaster. Local highway districts charged with maintaining county and state roads had become riddled with fraud and the state’s few federal highways were quickly falling into disrepair. The federal government threatened to eliminate the state’s highway funding unless the problem was corrected and road construction was placed under a single government body. Thwarted by the legislature, McRae appointed an honorary 40-member commission to make recommendations to the legislature.
Education also became an issue of utmost importance to McRae. He had long been troubled by the limited access of many Arkansas children to schools. Those who did attend, usually attended only 130 days each year. After a federal study of the state’s schools in 1922, the Arkansas Educational Commission delivered a series of recommendations (Johnson 110). McRae endorsed these recommendations in their entirety: a state equalization fund for the poorer districts, more high schools for rural areas, consolidation of the smaller school districts, and better-educated teachers. Schools of the 1920s remained largely unorganized, lacking a standard statewide curriculum, while poorer districts, small and fragmented, could provide only the most rudimentary education.
Attempts to improve funding for education to improve the facilities and improve the state’s highways were defeated by the legislature. McRae won some small successes by cutting extraneous paid commissions from the state payroll, which provided only limited relief. The governor concluded that he had won roughly half of his recommendations from the legislature as he prepared for re-election (Ledbetter 15). He won reelection easily in 1922, trouncing Chicot County Judge E. P. Toney of Lake Village by 70,000 votes in the primary and winning the general election by an equally wide margin with 78 percent of the vote.
In his second term, McRae moved more aggressively to find sources of revenue for the state’s highways and schools. The legislature passed an income tax of 1 percent on gross income designed to replace the state property tax and fund the schools. The state supreme court, however, found the enforcement and construction of the law unconstitutional. A 1924 special legislative session failed to produce any new forms of revenue for education (Johnson 111). A severance tax, of which all revenues would be directed to the schools, made advantage of the new oil wealth recently discovered in the southern parts of the state. Within three years, these taxes produced $3.5 million for the public schools, but resources were still limited.
He also won approval for the Harrelson Highway Act, which created a unified highway commission as well as a system of severance taxes, registration fees, and gasoline taxes to help fund highways. Local interests, however, pushed to divide the gasoline taxes between local roads and state highways, leaving the state’s ability to build new roads seriously limited. Federal funding for Arkansas highways, however, was restored, and Arkansas began to slowly improve its highway system.
After his second term ended, he returned to Prescott to resume his law practice and his banking ventures until his death in 1929. He had risen from quiet obscurity. Through hard work and determination, McRae rose to the heights of Arkansas politics, leaving a legacy of reform, education, and transportation for the state. Today, a historical marker sits in the middle of this town of perhaps 400 souls, marking how one quiet man rose from this unassuming community to the heights of Arkansas politics.
Bridges teaches history at South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado.
Baird, W. David. “Thomas Chipman McRae,” The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in
Political Biography. Timothy P. Dorman and William B. Gatewood, eds. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1981.
“Biographical Directory of the United States Congress,” http://bioguide.congress.gov.
Johnson, Ben F. “`All Thoughtful Citizens:’ The Arkansas School Reform Movement,
1921-1930,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 46 (Summer 1987): 105-132.
Ledbetter, Calvin R.“Thomas C. McRae: National Forests, Education, Highways, and
Brickhouse v. Hill,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 59 (Spring 2000): 1-29.
Moneyhon, Carl H. Arkansas and the New South, 1874-1929. Fayetteville: University
of Arkansas Press, 1997.
Whayne, Jeannie M., et al. Arkansas: A Narrative History. Fayetteville: University of
Arkansas Press, 2002.
THE W. H. ALLEN HOMEPLACE, SPOTVILLE, ARKANSAS
By P. Sue Allen
A few years after their 1852 marriage in Alabama, William Henry ‘Dick’ Allen (1832-1901) and Eliza Jane Gillispee Allen (1834-1900), left their home in Alabama with one mule and one son, Albert, who was born in Alabama in 1856. They came by boat as far as the Alabama Landing on the Ouachita River in Louisiana. Carrying everything they had, they walked across the country looking for a place to settle. As they passed through what is now El Dorado, all they saw was a salt lick near where the courthouse is now.
It is believed that William Henry’s older brother, Albert Allen, and his wife, Harritt Shannon Allen, also made the journey from Alabama. The Allens first settled in the Ebenezer community, a few miles south of Stephens. W.H. and Eliza Allen joined the Ebenezer Church, as did Albert and his wife, and are buried there. The community’s closest neighbors were in Mt. Holly, Atlanta and Calhoun. The nearest store or market was in Camden.
In 1859 Allen bought a large tract of land in Columbia County from the government, and by 1863 he owned 312 acres. In 1869 he obtained title to 400 acres of land at a cost of $800. The family moved to Spotville, 15 miles southeast of Magnolia, living for several years near Gum Spring, about a half-mile southwest of their future homeplace. While Allen was away during the Civil War, his wife raised the crops, carrying her wheat and corn to Braswell’s Mill to have it ground. Her only means of travel was by ox cart, and it was necessary to ford nearby Hurricane Creek along the way. Plow lines for the mules were made out of peeled bark, which she used to dye cloth for the quilts she made. She was afraid of bears in the woods.
After the war, Allen built a dogtrot style home measuring 28 by 42 feet at the present location of the homeplace in Spotville, near the area known as Nall’s Mill, an early water mill that later became a steam mill, saw mill and gin. “Spotville” is the official name, but locals refer to it as “Spotsville.” It was called “Allentown” by local African-Americans.
The Allen home was built on the old Magnolia-El Dorado road used before the modern highway was built. The family moved in on Christmas Eve of 1873. Dick Allen began farming with oxen but switched to breeding jacks and raising his own mules. One of the first successful farmers in the area, he also raised corn and hogs and made loans to neighbors. Cotton became his main cash crop. The cotton was picked by hand in late August or September using cloth sacks or woven hickory baskets. Allen had a mule-pulled gin behind the house that ginned up to two or three bales a day. The gin was shut down when neighbor Abe Hendricks put in a new steam gin. Eliza Allen used a spinning wheel to spin the cotton into thread.
The original five rooms of the homeplace were built of hand-planed lumber with square nails and 16-foot ceilings. The original sills were hand-hued from timber on the property and joined with wooden pegs. Most of the lumber was acquired in Camden and brought to the site by ox-drawn wagons. A separate log kitchen out back had a large fireplace where the cooking was done, and where the family spent their evenings in the cooler weather. An open hallway ran through the center of the main house, offering cool sleeping quarters in the hot summers, and two chimneys were constructed in rooms on each side of the hallway for winter warmth.
One room was used as a general store; it carried groceries, dry goods and hardware. A blacksmith shop and smokehouse were also on the property.
Five children were raised in the original five-room house: Hezikiah Allen, Drucilla Allen (Nesbit), Martha Allen (Morgan), Jeff Allen, and Walter Allen. Walter, the youngest, married Minnie O’Della Smith at her parents’ home near the Union-Columbia County line on the Magnolia-El Dorado highway in 1899. He brought her to live with his parents, who passed away soon after their marriage. Walter and Della enlarged and remodeled the old dogtrot in 1907, adapting it to the needs of a larger family. A kitchen and four more rooms were added, the dogtrot was enclosed, and a porch was added to the front façade.
Timber for the 1907 expansion was cut on the farm and sawn at a mill one mile from the house by Bill Cheatham and his sons, who were the carpenters for the renovation. A Delco gasoline powered generator provided light beginning in 1923, when running water was installed. The smokehouse sat in back of the house and was always full of hams, bacon and sausage, and an adjacent room stored field peas. The house appears today much the same as it did after the 1907 renovation. The wide veranda sweeps the entire width of the house, and a metal, hipped roof similar to an early one was recently added. The cornice on the porch is marked by decorative spindle work, and the green and white colors echo the original colors.
Walter Allen had a small orchard and farmed cotton, corn and field peas. Lest the family’s house and field hands be forgotten, it must be noted that up to eight tenant families lived on the property over the years, raising ribbon cane, sorghum, peanuts and other crops. One African American family that moved into the area around 1915 still has descendants living on the property. In his childhood ‘Uncle Randle’ had been a slave for the Easter family, who had a farm on the Union-Columbia County line. He and ‘Aunt Mary’ lived on the Allen farm until their deaths. Mary Easter and their daughter, Effie Easter Mach, worked with Della in the Allen home and helped raise the Allen children.
One story ‘Uncle Randle’ told the children was about a coachwhip snake squeezing him when he was a small child and whipping him until he hollered for his brothers to help. Randle Easter also said that his master, Mr. Easter, once shot two Indians out of a tree because they would not work for him as his slaves.
Walter and Della Allen also ran the general mercantile store near the house. Like his father, Allen also made and sold caskets until the 1940s, when undertaking establishments became common. The store’s location on the old Magnolia-El Dorado Road offered a good lunch stop for the many passing travelers, muleskinners, and wagons pulling oil field equipment or lumber on the dirt road.
Twelve children were born to Walter and Della Allen in the home, five of whom are still living in the vicinity: Docia Allen Brashier of Magnolia, Hubert Allen of El Dorado, Doris Allen Roberson of Atlanta, Jean Allen Gunnels Hendrick of Village, and Geraldine Allen Talley Gunnels, who has owned and lived in the home since 1950. Deceased children include Gertrude Allen Stover, and brothers Oswell, Curtis and Harold Allen. The four-generation home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as a representation of early settlement in the area.
Allen, a past Union County resident and graduate of El Dorado High School, compiled this article from stories told by her father, Curtis Allen, and his siblings. She currently works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas.
As recalled by Eva Goza
The Great Depression of the 1930s was a long-term event and experience that made life-long impressions on many people living in South Arkansas during that time. One such person was Eva Goza of the Marysville Community, west of El Dorado near the Columbia-Union County line. She was 84 years old in 1986 when she shared her memories of “self-sufficiency” life in rural Arkansas during the Depression in this interview taken from the archives of the South Arkansas Community College Library.
-- Bart Reed
My name is Eva Goza. I have lived in the Marysville Community in Union County for the past 62 years. I was born on March 31, 1902. I am 84 years old. When the Depression began in 1929, I was 27 years old.
In 1930, we had a drought and didn’t make too much cotton. The drought was very hard on the farmers. Cotton was at a very low price and didn’t make very much for two years on account of the drought. We had to carry our cotton to Mt. Holly, which is about five or six miles from where I live. Part of the time we had to carry it to Magnolia after we had it ginned because it drew a better price. 1930-34 were the worst years for us. My husband farmed. We had our own beef, pork, chickens, butter, and eggs. We lived on what we raised on the farm. We didn’t run off to town to buy things.
In 1933 my husband went to work for the WPA. The government gave men work on the public roads. The WPA paid low wages, but it was better than nothing.
We had three children then, and it was pretty hard to make a living. We had a wage hand when the farming was going pretty good. The children were too young to help out on the farm.
We owned our land and house. The house had four large rooms. I’ve been living here for 62 years. We had 120 acres. My husband farmed 40 acres. Most of the land was in pasture land. We would pay so much when we sold our cotton. We paid for the house and land in three years. In 1934, our house burned, and we lost almost everything. It really was tough the next couple of years. We lived over it, and we were happy most of the time. We didn’t let the Depression bother us too much. We were thankful for what we did have.
We churned butter by hand with a dasher and a churn. We had plenty of our own milk and butter. We raised our own chickens and fryers. We would always put the fryers up in a pen for about three weeks so they would be good and fat. We had some goats. Once in awhile, we would kill a goat. My husband would go squirrel hunting and fishing. We were as happy then as we have ever been since. We had lots of dried fruit. We had pressure cookers, and we canned a lot. We made our own meal at the grist mill.
My two girls were in school in Mt. Holly. They caught the bus down on the main road. They had to walk about half a quarter to catch the bus.
We had real close neighbors. We tried to help each other the best we could. There just wasn’t any strangers around here then. Everybody owned their own homes, and nobody sold out.
We had kerosene lamps. Later we got lamps with a wick that you had to pump up. They gave a real pretty light. You could hang them from the ceiling or put them wherever you needed a light. We heated our home with a fireplace until our home burned in 1934. Then we had a heater. My husband got all of the firewood. He hired a fellow to help him saw the wood. He got all of his wood up in the fall of the year. That would do him all winter. He would always get enough stove wood to do him until he got his crop made the next spring.
We had wood cooking stoves, an oven, and a firebox. Everything got hot. You could cook on top of the stove and in the oven too.
I sewed for me and the girls. At that time we had one boy. I sewed and made all our clothes. We were comfortably dressed in the winter. We had no electricity. We washed our clothes outside with a wash pot. We had a board well, and later we made us a dug well. Then we had more water. With the board well, we had to be might saving with the water. We drawed our water up the day before we washed. I had a rub board to rub the clothes out on.
We would put our food down in the well to keep meats and things. Then we had our own ice box. There was an ice man who hauled ice to the houses. We would put 100 pounds of ice in the ice box. This would last about a week. We were mighty saving with the ice.
There wasn’t too much leisure time. But the kids would meet here and play ball in the afternoons. Once in awhile someone would have a party or a pound supper. At a pound supper, everybody that went would take a pound of something – cake, pies, sardines, salmon, cookies, or fruit. They would square dance. When they got tired of dancing, they would go in where the table was fixed. They would eat and visit. Everybody would enjoy a good time of fellowship. On Sunday afternoons, we would all meet in the ribbon cane field. Everybody would bring their knives. We would sit and peel the ribbon cane and chew it. We had lots of fun that way. That was about all the recreation we had on Sunday afternoons.
At Christmas, my husband would take the children out in the woods and get a pretty holly tree. They would also get lots of vines to decorate the house with. We bought just a few Christmas decorations. We would buy fans that would open up and leave them open. The girls would get a doll. We didn’t spend very much for pleasure things. We always had apples, oranges, and candy. We would pop corn and string it. We would trim our tree with the popcorn strings. We would make syrup candy and popcorn balls. We would have an old-time sorghum pulling. They would pull the candy. The longer you pulled it, the brighter it got. Then you would twist it up and break it into pieces. It was good to eat.
Anybody can do on a lot less if you have to. Luxury doesn’t make happiness.
By Susan Whatley
We were gathered on Munna’s tiny screened-in porch the evening of her funeral; Mom, my aunts, my sisters, and the “cousins.” I have fifteen first cousins, just on my mother’s side. Some were sitting cross-legged on the floor, sifting through boxes of Munna’s “papers.” She had not accumulated a lot of valuables during her lifetime. Most of them had already been given to those whom she wished to have them. She had, however, left her “papers” – a loose collection of jottings, clippings, and journal-type entries scrawled on scrap paper, which we knew she intended for us to go through after she was gone.
My cousin Katie opened a box and began to read aloud from a paper. It seemed to be written directly to us, as if she was sure that just such a gathering might take place one day. I know we all felt her presence in the room as her words addressed us across that mystical divide between life and death.
Her little house was dark and quiet in those two years before she died, except for the clicking of the clocks. She had a mantle clock that chimed the hour and an old Big Ben alarm clock with a brown face and green glowing numbers. They seemed to be ticking off the time she had left, waiting for the end in that dark, quiet house. My grandmother was one hundred years old and though quite formidable in her days, she had become small and frail and was plagued by aches and pains, poor eyesight, and deafness.
Her close family would also attest to a wicked sense of humor. In her later years, she would like to take her bridgework out and put them in upside down so that it looked like Dracula teeth. This was done to scare unsuspecting little kids! She had a flair for the dramatic, making her a great storyteller. She embellished when she needed to make the story even better. As she got older and outlived so many of her contemporaries, there was no one to dispute her version of tales, so she would really embellish. There is a true story about a gun fight on the Court House Square here in El Dorado in 1902. Some years back, some local people thought that as a tourist attraction they would have actors dramatize the story right down on the Square, which they did. I took Munna to see the first enactment of this event. There were newspaper and television news people on hand to capture this local happening. A television reporter spied Munna in the crowd enjoying herself and probably thought she looked old enough to remember it. He asked what she knew about the gunfight and she began to tell her version which she heard from her father-in-law, who had witnessed it. Only today, this story which I had heard before, had an added twist. One of the men had his horse shot out from under him!
She was “Munna” to us grandkids and “Qunice” to her friends, but she had been christened Louquincey Gatsy Phillips. Well, she was the tenth child. She often talked about Essie, a beautiful older sister who died at the age of twenty of tuberculosis, a common disease of that era which was referred to as a “galloping consumption.” She had a brother, John, who was considered the black sheep of the family. He hated to wear shoes, even in the winter and would shed them whenever he could. Sometimes, she remembered, he would take off his shoes and walk to school on “tomwalkers,” which were stilts. She described him as sort of a hustler who could start off with a pair of skates and trade up to a horse. The brother I remember was Uncle Emmett, an upstanding citizen who served on the city council and ran a Mom and Pop grocery store where people could call in their orders and have their groceries delivered by bicycle.
Munna’s parents grew up just after the Civil War. Food and jobs were scarce in that war-ravaged economy. Her Papa’s father was struck by lightning while getting off his horse, leaving his mother a widow with a small child. John, her Papa, remembered going to bed hungry more than once. He began “hiring out” to other farmers about the age of ten, so what little formal schooling he got, had to be during bad weather when farming couldn’t be done. He was truly a self-made man, buying books with what he could save from his farm wages, educating himself.
The woman he chose to marry was from a family who was a little better off. At first, they thought she had married beneath her; but in the end, they were to change their opinion. They started out married life in a one-room house and added on rooms to the house as the family grew. John became a merchant and started a dry goods store. He had struggled so hard to educate himself; he wanted better for his children. He tried to organize a school for their small community but could not get the other neighbors to help pay a teacher. So he moved his family of ten to a larger town, Arkadelphia, where there was a college. Munna, the youngest, was five.
Munna never cared much for regular sewing of clothes. In fact, she once took a dress she was making for one of the girls and ripped it down the middle in frustration. However, she excelled at needlework, patching, and darning. Once my Aunt Ticka came home from school and said, “Oh, Momma, I was so embarrassed today! We all had to take off our shoes to step up on the scale so the school nurse could weigh us and she went on and on about what a good darning job you had done on my socks!”
“Don’t be embarrassed by that,” exclaimed my grandmother. “Now I would have been embarrassed if you’d had holes in your socks.”
While she lived, Munna was the hub of a wheel with spokes extending to Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Washington State, and Washington, DC. For years, she kept up correspondence with far-flung cousins, nieces, and nephews and sent letters and clippings to be passed along form cousin to cousin. She told us stories of our shared heritage to give us a sense of family and belonging. She encouraged us and tried to instill in us her enthusiasm for life, her sense of history, love for country and state, and love for God’s beautiful world. I’ll never see a cardinal, her favorite bird, without thinking of her. As her health grew frail in her last few years, she was unable to travel far from home. As in the Robert Frost poem The Ovenbird, she showed us what to make of a diminished thing. She found delight in things closer to home. When her eyesight prevented her from doing the intricate needlework she loved to do, she hemstitched flannel baby blankets that she could do mostly by feel.
Many of her stories had a moral, I now realize. Like the story about my great aunt, known as “Antie” to us, she was the oldest of Munna’s siblings – there being a sixteen-year age difference between them. Antie had the misfortune to marry a rounder who eventually left her with three children to raise. Child support? There was no such thing, so she decided on a plan. She would secure a certain old large house in Arkadelphia, take in boarders, and offer food and lodging. Her daughter, Mattie Bell, was aghast. “Mother, that neighborhood’s not even respectable!”
“Well, it will be when I get there,” Antie replied evenly. She became known, by and by for her “respectable” rooming house and delicious meals and eventually was offered the job of dietician at Henderson College, a position she held for twenty years.
In the late 1950s, Munna moved to North Dakota to help her son. He was divorced with four children to raise while he worked as a doctor on an Indian Reservation. The civil rights movement was taking place in the South. The nightly news was filled with images of black people in the South attacked police dogs and drenched with high-pressure hoses. One of her neighbors said she ought to be ashamed of how the southerners treated blacks. My grandmother was a product of her time and place in the South. Though she had grown up in a segregated society, she had good relations with the black people she personally knew, including Golda, who had helped her keep house and raise her kids. The remark stung my grandmother and seemed especially unfair to her considering the way the Indians were treated in that part of the country. I think it’s fair to say that it shook her complacency and caused her to devote hundreds of dollars over the next forty years to an Indian school in Tempe, Arizona. She set out to pay one child’s way through the school and by the time of her death she had footed the bill for many.
On her 100th birthday, the Indian school sent her a beautiful bouquet of flowers in appreciation of her generosity over the years. We had a big celebration on her 100th birthday, but actually we had been getting together on her birthday since she was 85. That seemed old to us then. I think we felt we might not have her with us much longer. Little did we know that she would live robustly for fifteen more years, outliving her husband by 40 years and her eldest child by six.
Leafing through some of her old papers one day, I found this piece of scrap paper. Written in her quaint scrawl with black magic marker were these words: “We have fought a good fight, We have run the race, We have kept the faith.” I cannot think of a more fitting epitaph.
Whatley, an El Dorado native and mother of two teenage daughters, works as a respiratory therapist at Medical Center of South Arkansas. She lists reading biographies of inspiring people among her hobbies.
South Arkansas Historical Journal
VOLUME 4 FALL 2004
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
John G. Ragsdale
Worth Camp, Jr.
M. Angela Crawford
El Dorado Chamber of Commerce
The Lacy Family
Nevada County Depot and Museum
Ouachita River Foundation
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 4 FALL 2004
Published by the South Arkansas Historical Society
From the Editors:
History is often remembered as a series of dates and faded images, but it is the lives of people who make the past worth remembering and bring the past back to life. For our fourth edition of the South Arkansas Historical Journal, we celebrate the lives of the pioneers who helped build South Arkansas, from the Native American heritage dating back thousands of years to the technological society of the twentieth century.
For one family in particular, the descendants of the Rev. William Sterling Lacy, their roots run deep into the history of Union County and fill the lives of the community in the present. Lacy, the founder of a local school and the first Presbyterian church in the area, helped build the community. One of his descendants, M. Angela Crawford, recalls the history of a remarkable family. Bart Reed writes of another branch of the Lacy Family and their popular family auto repair business in El Dorado.
Before the Americans, the Native Americans called South Arkansas their home. Worth Camp, Jr., presents a history of the Choctaws of South Arkansas, a rich Native American culture that dominated the region in the eighteenth century and whose descendants still live throughout the state. Mr. Camp also regales us with tales from the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition of 1804 and 1805, which explored the Ouachita River Valley when its wonders were mostly a secret from Europeans.
Novelist Bill Crumpler presents a reenactment of the days of the Camden Expedition, in which Union and Confederate armies clashed in 1864 Ouachita County in the midst of the Civil War.
In commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the birth of Union County, organized on November 2, 1829, we have included a chronology of memorable events in the county’s history.
We thank all of those who assisted us with our research, recovering photographs and inspiring us to recover the stories of those distant days. Again, special thanks to our members and the South Arkansas Historical Foundation for helping bring these lives into the light of the present once more.
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 4 FALL 2004
Celebrating Union County: A Chronology of 175 Years
By Ken Bridges……………………………………………………...4
By the Sweat of Their Brows: A Brief History/Memoir of Reed’s Body Shop in El Dorado
By Bart Reed………………………………………………………...8
Choctaw on the Ouachita – The Forgotten History
By Worth Camp, Jr. ……………………………………..…………14
Portrait of a Pioneer Family: The Lacys of Union County
By M. Angela Crawford……………………………………………21
Hunter and Dunbar on the Ouachita, 1804
By Worth Camp, Jr.…………………………………...……………27
El Dorado’s First Congressman: Albert Rust
By Ken Bridges…………………….……………………………….32
Steele Shadows: Thirteen Days of the Civil War in Camden
Excerpt from the novel by Bill Crumpler………………………….38
CELEBRATING UNION COUNTY:
A CHRONOLOGY OF 175 YEARS
By Ken Bridges
On November 2, 2004, Union County will commemorate its 175th anniversary. The county’s history has produced a number of notable figures and unforgettable characters. The land and the resources have shaped the history as well as the people. Tragedy has visited the county as well as days of happiness. Below is a brief chronology of some of the most notable events in the history of Union County, both its best days and its worst.
1700s -- French trappers and explorers trek through the region, giving such place names as “Ouachita” and “Sumac Couveur,” which later became “Smackover.”
1803 -- United States buys Louisiana from France for $15 million.
1804-1805 -- Hunter-Dunbar Expedition. American explorers George Hunter and William Dunbar, in a scientific expedition commissioned by Thomas Jefferson, trek along the Ouachita River.
1818 – Treaty forces Quapaws to cede land in Union County and across South and West Arkansas.
1819 -- Arkansas Territory organized. Of the five counties comprising the territory, the future Union County is a part of Hempstead County, which stretched from the Ouachita River westward across southern Arkansas.
1829 -- Union County organized on November 2 with county seat at Ecore Fabre.
1836 -- Arkansas admitted as the twenty-fifth state.
1838 – Scarborough’s Landing founded as the first continuously settled community in the county.
1839 -- County seat moves to Scarborough’s Landing and inhabitants change the town’s name to Champagnolle.
1843 -- Mount Holly founded. Matthew Rainey opens his retail store on the site that would become El Dorado as settlers move into the area.
1843 – The first Presbyterian church in Union County is formed as First Presbyterian Church in El Dorado.
1844 -- County seat moves to El Dorado. Smackover founded.
1845 – Oldest surviving Baptist church in Union County, Union Baptist Church in Union, organized.
1846 -- The Lapile community is organized in eastern Union County.
1851 -- Thomas Chipman McRae born near Mt. Holly. McRae would serve as a United States Congressman from 1885 to 1903 and as governor of the state from 1921 to 1925. El Dorado officially incorporated.
1860 – The Union Coal Company constructs a crude refinery.
1861 -- Arkansas secedes from the Union. Among the earliest Confederate army units to organize in the county is the Third Arkansas Infantry, Company E, organized at Champagnolle that year.
1864 – “Camden Expedition.” Confederate forces storm through Union County from Shreveport to thwart an attempted Union invasion of northern Louisiana.
1865 -- Civil War ends.
1891 – Norphlet founded.
1902 -- Tucker-Parnell Feud. Gunfight in downtown El Dorado leaves three dead and sparks a feud that would leave 40 more dead in the next few years.
1903 -- Victoria incorporated.
1904 – Huttig founded.
1905 -- El Dorado High School building completed at a cost of $60,000. Now commonly referred to as the Junior College Building, it serves as the present administrative building for South Arkansas Community College.
1913 – Junction City officially incorporated.
1914 -- Civil rights leader Daisy Bates born in Huttig. During the confrontation over integrating Little Rock Central High School in 1957, Bates played a key role in mediating the crisis and defusing the tensions.
1921 – “Discovery Well.” Dr. Samuel T. Busey discovers a major oil well one mile southwest of El Dorado. The Busey No. 1 well touches off the South Arkansas oil boom. Five oil refineries are operating in the county within months. Warner Brown Hospital established in El Dorado as a private, non-profit hospital.
1922 – Smackover population surges to 25,000 from 131 as oil workers surge to the community in pursuit of fortune. A riot by two hundred Ku Klux Klansmen destroys businesses and property near Smackover, forcing hundreds of oil field workers to flee for their lives.
1923 – El Dorado boasts 59 oil companies.
1924 – Norphlet officially incorporated.
1925 – El Dorado population reaches its oil boom peak of 25,000.
1926 – The oil boom reaches its peak. 1927 – Tornado devastates city of Victoria. Victoria is rechristened Strong afterward as a show of spirit. El Dorado City Hall completed, costing $125,000.
1928 – The new Union County Court House completed. El Dorado Junior College opens on the El Dorado High School campus; but because of low enrollment and the pressures caused by World War II, the junior college closes by 1942.
1941 – United States enters World War II. El Dorado would house munitions and chemical plants throughout the war.
1942 – A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses is assaulted for their pacifist views in El Dorado by members of the El Dorado Veterans of Foreign Wars.
1948 -- South Arkansas Regional Airport completed.
1949 -- El Dorado Junior High School completed. It was the first in the state built exclusively as a junior high school. Its name later changed to Barton Middle School.
1955 – County’s first television station, KTVE, opens studio in El Dorado.
1964 -- Union Medical Center established as a public hospital by the county and opens in El Dorado.
1965 – The South Arkansas Arboretum is established on 13 acres in El Dorado through the efforts of El Dorado High School biology teacher James Riley. It is Arkansas’s fiftieth state park.
1967 -- Oil Belt Vo-Tech established as a vocational school just east of El Dorado.
1970 -- Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge established along the Ouachita River between Ashley, Bradley, and Union counties. It comprises 65,000 acres, including 15,000 acres as the world's largest green-tree reservoir. South Arkansas Arts Center completed in El Dorado.
1975 -- Southern State College - El Dorado Branch established. Its name later changes to Southern Arkansas University - El Dorado Branch.
1980 – Union County population stands at 49,947.
1987 -- Warner Brown Hospital and Union Medical Center merge as Medical Center of South Arkansas. Arkansas Natural Resources Museum established near Smackover.
1992 -- Southern Arkansas University - El Dorado Branch and Oil Belt Vo-Tech merge as South Arkansas Community College.
2000 -- Union County population at 45,629, according to the census.
2004 -- Downtown El Dorado recognized as a National Historic District.
BY THE SWEAT OF THEIR BROWS:
A BRIEF HISTORY/MEMOIR OF THE REED BODY SHOP IN EL DORADO
By Bart Reed
It was the summer of 1960. I had completed my fifth-grade studies under Miss Millie Cooksey at the new Hugh Goodwin Elementary School in El Dorado, Arkansas. Miss Ellis was our principal. That school year I had learned about fractions and how to play the trombone, played the part of George Washington in a school play, was taught to play chess by Bill Cook, and read two of my favorite books for the first time -- Rifles for Watie and Huckleberry Finn. My academic studies were fine, but my father, Ray Reed, decided it might be time to introduce me to the fifty-hour week at Reed’s Body Shop. So I put down my books and picked up a floor push broom. My first days of gainful employment began with earning $15 per week at 1401 North Quaker Street. The work hours were from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM Mondays through Fridays and from 7:30 until 12:00 on Saturday mornings.
It was through sweeping and washing the front floor of the shop, near the ice water fountain and mirrored cigarette machine positioned directly under the Grapette clock, that I made the wondrous and pleasant discovery that the concrete floor was as green as an algae-laden farm pond. Chips in the concrete itself proved the concrete had been dyed green in its original mixing. The green concrete seemed to match the green porcelain light fixtures above, which shone brightly with their 200-watt bulbs.
Frank Lacy Reed, Sr., and his wife, Ray Murphy, had six sons: Frank, Jr., John, Louis, James, Ray and Walter. All were born between 1919 and 1934; and all, at one time or another, were involved in the automotive repair business. In the 1940s, the oldest son, Frank, had a body shop in Wichita Falls, Texas, where brothers John and Louis also worked. Later, John was employed at Laney’s Body Shop in El Dorado, Arkansas. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the other three brothers -- James, Ray (my father), and Walter -- were also in automotive repair.
From late 1946 to 1996, Reed’s Body Shop was a prominent automotive body repair business in El Dorado, Arkansas. It began as a family business after the Second World War by brothers (my uncles) John and Louis Reed when both returned home after active combat service in the United States Navy. John served as a Seabee in the Pacific, and Louis was a radarman on the newly commissioned destroyer USS Moore (DE240). The body shop was begun in a tin and wood building built by them and their other brothers on a property lot owned by John Reed at North Quaker Street and Wagner. The streets at that time were unpaved. It was 1946; and within a short time, two other brothers, James and Ray, began working at the body shop and eventually became co-owners. A cousin, Clifford Harrell, also worked from time to time.
Frank Reed, Sr., donated the lumber from an old barn on his farm that enabled the brothers to construct the “first” Reed’s Body Shop in September1946. Photographs show obvious pride and a sense of accomplishment in building the “shop.” The old barn had to be first torn down and then rebuilt as a body shop.
The “Shop,” as it was called by the family, was built in stages over a period of time. The original wood/tin structure was “covered” by a new concrete block and pipes truss building in the 1950s. Upon completion of the “new” structure, the old original building was disassembled and removed. During this time, a night watchman from Fordville was hired to guard the place at night. Later in the 1950s, the “back” portion of the shop was constructed. It, too, was of concrete blocks and contained a frame-straightening “pit,” a wet-sanding and wash/detail area, a corner for radiator repair (the red metal tank was filled with anti-freeze to check for leaks), and an area for window glass cutting/sanding from paper templates. There were shelves for cans of automotive paint and a separate sandpaper table/rack. Two paint booths with fluorescent lights and exhaust fan completed this section.
Reed’s was always known and praised for its fine better-than-factory paint jobs. Good body work and paint finishing go hand-in-hand, and each can complement the other. Louis Reed was the first painter at the body shop. He tells the story of the first paint job done at Reed’s. It was for Willard Chaney of Chaney’s Grocery on Cedar Street. In order to get paint and materials for his 1940 blue-green Oldsmobile, Chaney advanced $70 so that the materials could be purchased before work could begin.
Body work in the summer can be hot and dusty. It was all right to have dust in the front of the shop, but in the back where painting and refinishing took place, dust was the enemy. It could ruin an enamel paint job. For that reason, it was always necessary to wet down the paint rooms, taking care not to get water on the ceiling and making sure the door filters, walls, and floor were good and damp.
Daddy (Ray) had the most steady, even, and precise spray painting style and technique I ever observed. With each passing of the paint gun across the surface being painted, he would “fan out” the overspray and for a split-second let go of the trigger. It was magical to see the unpainted car be transformed into a work of highly skilled art. When he, or Benny Davis, or my cousin Clark Reed carefully emerged from the paint room, their heads would be covered with masking paper and tape, their eyes red from the paint fumes. Even so, there would be a gleam in their eyes or a smile on their faces when the job turned out right. That was always expected.
I recall seeing a photograph of a repaired red 1965 American Rambler in front of the shop in about 1967. The car was owned by an insurance adjustor/agent Ed Cook. Cook was so impressed with the high quality of repair that he wanted a group picture of all the employees that had a part in it. The photo shows all of the people of the shop at that time, and one cannot help but notice the immense pride of craftsmanship depicted in each face -- from front office to body man to painter to detail man. All realized their effort was but one part of the overall success story.
Tools and body shop accessories were of the highest quality; Brinks spray paint guns and 3-M sand paper were in constant use. Body men generally possessed their own tools and tool boxes; however, weekly stops by the Mac or Snap-On tool salesmen in their well-stocked and lighted vans were always a welcome sight. Some tools bought by Ray Reed remained usable for forty years. There were many other necessary tools for body men, including acetylene torches. The shop made its own acetylene.
In the hard-scrabble early days of welding at the shop, ordinary wire coat hangers were used for steel welding rods. In later years, Reed’s would be the first body shop in town to have MIG and TIG welders. Acetylene cutting and heating torches were used a daily basis to cut and stretch sheet metal and to melt the sticks of lead used in early body repair. By the mid-1960s, lead began to be replaced by plastic bondo filler. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, sheet metal was getting thinner; but new body men were still being trained to repair dents with the old tried peck file and lead filler system. At first Reed’s preferred lead over bondo. The body man had to “file” whether he used lead or bondo, but the bondo shavings always made a bigger pile.
Hard work and a dedication to quality in labor and materials was a long-term earned reputation acquired by Reed’s. This commitment to hard work was also evident in the work/labor and service of Reed’s Wrecking Yard, now Reed’s Auto Salvage, founded by Jean and Louis Reed and John Reed in the early 1950s. Walter Reed, the youngest of the Reed brothers, joined Louis at the wrecking yard to help establish a respected and successful business. Walter’s wife Kay and Louis’s wife, Jean, proved to be invaluable assets, not only by taking care of the office, but also by occasionally picking up and towing vehicles. Honesty and a commitment to excellence were traits perhaps instilled by Jim Reed, the founding brothers’ paternal grandfather, who ran a successful dairy for many years. Jim Reed’s customers were happy to pay more than one cent per quart for the milk he sold because they felt it was consistently of better quality than that of his competitors. The customers at Reed’s were always assured that the job would be done right.
At Reed’s Body Shop, almost any type of car-truck body repair was done -- from bent and twisted sheet metal, broken windshields and glass to upholstery and completed paint jobs. Nothing was too large either; 18-wheelers and the KTVE Channel 10 trailer received faultless paint jobs.
Jackie Phillips, the shop’s long-time bookkeeper, was crucial to the success and well-being of the shop. Her outstanding financial management skills were particularly beneficial, especially during times of economic recession and hardship. She could budget for the shop during the lean times. This was a defining factor. Her passing from cancer in 1980 was a definite turning point and a great loss. Her business personality and customer relation skills could not be replaced.
The sights, sounds, and smells of the body shop served as an inspiration for a poem, “Reed’s Body Shop,” written in 1983 by Jimmy Hatchett, a nephew of Ruby Floyd. Mrs. Floyd was the mother of seven children and the next-door neighbor to Reed’s Body Shop:
Playing cards with Acey Dale
With Jake and Arky near
Body shop is crashing smashing (It’s all them Reed boys)
You can hear the Reed boys
Then fender-mending, motor-mending
Body hammers turned to the fifth harmonic
Multi-colored mist is drifting
Toxic fumes nobody mentions
Fresh paint baking in their ovens
(Them Reed boys and their hot lacquer)
You can even smell the Reed boys
Them high-falutin, air-pollutin
(There must be half-dozen of ‘em)
Aunt Ruby’s cooking turnip greens
The scent is braking through
When it gets with the smell of her cornbread
It’s gonna chase that paint
All the way back
(To them Reed boys)
It is said that a sense of “place” is particularly important for people of the South. Southern writers from the colonial period to modern times have often described place as being central to understanding themselves and what it means to be of the South. Identity and place are closely intertwined. Such is the case with the story of my family’s business -- Reed’s Body Shop. Its history was and is part of what it means to be a member of the Reed family of southern Arkansas.
A list of workers at Reed’s Body Shop is extensive. Without their dedicated labor, the shop’s reputation for good, honest work would have been impossible. Listing all of the people who worked at Reed’s Body Shop from 1946 to 1996 is not possible. From my own memories and from talking to my mother and surviving uncles, I compiled the following list of members of the labor force from 1946 to 1996:
John Reed, Louis Reed, Ray Reed, James Reed, Walter Reed, Frank Reed, Jr., Clark Reed, Bart Reed, Mike Reed, Andy Reed, Douglas Reed, John Reed, Jr., Mary Reed, Kay Reed, Laquieta Reed, Jamie Reed, Clifford Harrell, Rufus Woods, Jr., and his son, Rufus Woods III, Dub Woods, Fannie Woods, Clayborn Reed, Bud Campbell, Benny Davis, Frankie “Sonny” Williams, Jim Nelson, J. W. Cutshall, Ed Whatley, Leonard Lougans, Herbie Pepper, Al King, and his sons, Sammy and Alvin, Clarence and Mark Hansen, Rudy Pugh, Ricky Sorrells, Willie Jackson, Aubrey Barbaree, Jackie Phillips, and Roger Humphries -- a body man form Perth, Australia.
For all their dedicated labor and accomplishments, the customers and the body shop were blessed. They are all remembered with the greatest honor and respect. They were Reed’s Body Shop.
CHOCTAW ON THE OUACHITA – THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY
By Worth Camp, Jr.
The story of the Choctaw of South Arkansas is a forgotten history. It begins with the French colony west of the Mississippi River, all of which was considered Louisiana, including the Ouachita River Basin of what is now South Arkansas and North Louisiana. The French controlled this area from the late 1600s until 1763.
The Spanish returned to the region after 1763 when France turned over control of the region to them. The Spanish stayed in the territory until 1803 but had secretly sold the territory to Napoleon Bonaparte of France in October 1800. Napoleon, needing money for other problems, sold the territory to the United States in 1803.
The French had developed and the Spanish had continued a commercial system that used the Ouachita River and Red River Basins as Political and Economic Districts for the Orleans Territory, which comprised modern-day Louisiana.
Many modern Native American Choctaws migrated from Mississippi into the Ouachita River Basin of South Arkansas and North Louisiana during the Colonial Period. This was before George Washington was inaugurated President in 1789.
The Choctaw were very successful in Mississippi and good trading partners with the French who lost control of the east side of the Mississippi River to the British in 1763. The Choctaw came for the game, some wearing European-made clothing, using pots and pans, and flintlock rifles. Some lived in cabins.
They had Christian names picked up from the English protestant missionary efforts that drove the pioneer values during this period. The Choctaw are part of our recent history without sufficient buried evidence to be attended to by archaeologists. Native Americans were not included in the U.S. Census by name in these earlier years, and because of their Christian names, the genealogist seldom singles them out. Their descendents are now assimilated and unwritten about. They have a presence in Columbia, Ouachita, Calhoun, Bradley, Ashley and Union Counties.
In the colonial period, South Arkansas was first a part of Louisiana (New France) and not a part of British America. France explored the South Arkansas and Louisiana area in the 1600s, and established a trading post at Natchitoches on the Red River in 1714.
All Native Americans and French trappers in both the Red River and Washita River Basins, including the Hot Springs on the Washita, were required in the spring, at the end of the hunting season, to get their deer and other skins to Natchitoches. The Quapaw and others along the Arkansas River Basin were required to trade at Arkansas Post near the mouth of the Mississippi.
Native Americans were the Frenchman’s best friends. Deer, bear, and beaver hides were dynamic necessities in demand all over the world. Hides were purchased from the Native Americans with “trade goods,” and from the French hunters/trappers in merchandise or currency used at the trading posts.
The British owned America from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian Mountains. The French competed for the ownership of Canada, the Ohio River Basin, and from their Mobile port to New Orleans. The Choctaw of Mississippi and South Alabama were their friends and trading partners.
The French lost the American Seven Year War, and in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Britain took all of Canada and all lands east of the Mississippi River. Spain (New Spain) owned the Provinces of Florida and Tejas (Texas) and was granted all of France’s Louisiana (Territory).
The Spanish on the Tejas side of Louisiana, particularly in the area of Nacogdoches, on the Southwest Trail (Kings Highway) were already known along the Sabine and Red Rivers as bad trading neighbors. They were not liked or accepted by the more easy going peoples of Louisiana. The Native Americans on the Red River preferred the friendliness and whisky of the French trappers and traders. Therefore, to avoid upsetting the tax revenues and the established commercial relations, the Spanish relied on the French managers to govern and run the trading system already in place. This is why it is so confusing today to figure out how the Spanish were involved in the Cajun History.
Ft. Miro on the Washita, 1784.
To increase the revenues to the Spanish, the new provisional Governor General Estevan Miro’ in New Orleans, on February 1, 1783, named Jean-Baptiste Filhiol as commandant of a combination garrison and trading post as far up the Washita River as feasible. Filhiol was already living in the area of “la Prairie des Canots,” the site of modern Monroe, Louisiana, and was familiar with the area.
S.D. Dickinson of Prescott, Arkansas, writes, when Commandant Jean Filhiol went up the Washita in 1783 to create the post at “Ecore a Fabri,” where Camden, Arkansas, is today, he failed to recruit hunters from their remote camps to join the small staff at the post and thus give that station a commercial base. The hunters on Bayou Bartholomew refused to trade at that post location.
When that effort failed, in 1784 Commandant Filhiol relocated the post downstream below the mouth of Bayou Bartholomew at “la Prairie des Canots (Canoes)” where hunters were in the habit of assembling before and after making the winter hunting campaign. This political jurisdiction of “le Poste du Ouachita” was named Ft. Miro, for Governor-General Miro in New Orleans.
The political divisions after 1784 appear to be the: Orleans Territory, which includes the Natchitoches Post, and the Ouachita Post; and the Louisiana Territory with the Arkansas Post and the St. Louis Post. Each Post was a military (militia) garrison. Soldiers and others in the pay of France or the Spanish, after 1763, or later the United States Militia, could be paid their monthly wages or draw supplies. A voucher and receipt system protected the Post Commandant and the soldier or “official traveler” such as Lewis and Clark, or Dunbar and Hunter.
The Choctaw needed hunting space west of the Mississippi. There was an empty slot of Indian activity in the Ouachita River Basin. The Choctaw were gradually settling in the area and some were marrying Frenchmen or hunters in the area. The New Orleans governor licensed them to hunt and trade with the Spanish trading post of Poste de Washitas, Fuerte (Fort) Miro. The Monroe Chamber of Commerce Web Site says that the post was near the 1780 site of the first primitive French settlement, known as Prairie de Canots (Prairie of the Canoes), the real beginning of Monroe, Louisiana.
George Hunter and William Dunbar in their 1804 expedition observed Choctaw Indians living along the Washita from just north of the Red River continuing to a point near or above Fort Miro. The expedition recorded a report near the Little Missouri River above Camden from a German hunter named Palts with a 30-year history of hunting in Arkansas, “that there was a party of Chickasaws, Choctaws and other neighbouring Indians, about 800 in number, now on their way to the River Arkansa, to drive off those 400 warriors of the Osages who had lately come to that country, whose hands were lifted against every description.”
Caddos had lived west of the Ouachita River in South Arkansas. However, by the1780s they were concentrating in the Red River Basin, which includes Bodcaw Creek and Dorcheat Bayou in west Columbia County. The Caddo had been trading for over 50 years with the buyers at the post (Fort St. Jean Baptiste) at Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the Red River Basin.
Quapaws had lived east of the Ouachita River in South Arkansas, but now concentrated on the Arkansas River and traded with buyers from Arkansas Post, a fort 20 miles up river from the Mississippi River.
The Tunica of southeastern Arkansas and the Greenville, Mississippi, area, and northeastern Louisiana are not mentioned at this period in the Ouachita River Basin.
Osages lived in southern Missouri and in North Arkansas. The Spanish governor in New Orleans refused the Osage trading privileges at Arkansas Post. They were required to take their furs a long distance to the traders at Fort St. Louis. These Arkansas Osage were outraged and attacked Arkansas Post. About six French Soldiers, French trappers, traders, a few pioneers defended the post.
The governor of New Orleans, under the French or Spanish, was in charge of all Louisiana. New France was not profitable to the French government, and not popular with the French taxpayers. The French, therefore, licensed commercial companies for the management of the territory. Baron Bastrop had a license for a large district, north of Ft. Miro into Arkansas. The baron controlled the Washita River and licensed John Nunn, the ferry owner at Ecore Fabre, to navigate the Washita to Ft. Miro for trade goods.
The Spanish governor of New Orleans later separated the four river basins into economic and political divisions. The rivers were the highways, and the fort system was like our county judge and sheriff. The division maximized the collection of taxes and provided for the common safety of the people and a profit for the licensed companies.
The Arkansas Native Americans and French trappers, men similar to the mountain men of the Rockies (and North Arkansas), at the end of the trapping season, floated or packed their furs down river to sell at the forts. The traders (buyers) paid the taxes to the governor. He in turn paid France or Spain.
In the Warm Springs (Hot Springs) area, mountain men could raft from below the “Great Falls” of the Ouachita at Rockport (next to Malvern). In 1804, George Hunter wrote in his diary, “At the great falls. . . the river was full of giant rocks, which formed ledges with only occasional openings wide enough for the boat to be (pulled) through . . .(and only) after many hours of great exertion, which could have destroyed the boat.”
General Arbuckle, at Ft. Smith, was under instructions to keep the peace and assist in the relocation of all Native American groups from North Arkansas, which he did through 1828. The Arkansas territorial governor, acting for the U.S. Government, was authorized to enter into treaties for the further relocation (removal) of the Cherokee in North Arkansas west of Washington County to that part of the Territory, now Northeast Oklahoma. He also negotiated several Treaties with the Quapaw until they were reduced to a very small group near Pine Bluff, the center of their traditional lands, and finally joined with another tribe in now Oklahoma. No treaty or official action has been discovered by this writer to remove Native Americans from South Arkansas, before or during the Trail of Tears, 1831 to 1839.
South Arkansas and North Louisiana became a resting area (maybe for weeks or a whole growing season for one stay) for thousands of Choctaw who traveled back and forth between the recognized tribal lands in Southeast Oklahoma and Mississippi. The Choctaw, at the time of their removal, from 1831 to 1833, were permitted to remain in Mississippi, if they abided by Mississippi laws, which outlawed the Ghost Dance, restricted land ownership, and tribal leaders.
Resting areas in Union County were: Bayou de Loutre at US Hwy. 167 south of El Dorado; near the Sandy Bend County Road from Strong to Urbana; a field, west of the Marysville Methodist Church and north of US Hwy. 82; and a field on the old Pigeon Hill to Champanolle Road near the Thatcher Dam. This is based on statements from persons over 75 years old who saw or discussed the Choctaw or Cherokee on these properties with their older generation.
Like modern American families, Native American families before and after the Civil War traveled long distances through Arkansas and Louisiana to care for family and find work, food, or places to make a crop. This continued into the 1900s.
Dr. John Aaron Moore, grandfather of Dr. Berry Lee Moore, was the first country doctor at Lisbon (Union County) in the early 1900s. His patients included traveling Choctaw or Cherokee Indians, who brought their family and lived on Camp Creek, until the doctor got their family member well enough to travel.
The Choctaw or Cherokee ancestors who stayed in South Arkansas abided by the Sheriff’s laws, did not do the Ghost Dance, and were silently assimilated by mixed marriages into both the white and black communities. The Gardner Community at Strong, Arkansas, is one of those communities.
The ancestors did not talk about their history with their children. The stigma of being a Native American quietly passed as each generation replaced the other. Few memories have been recorded, and the story is likely lost unless today’s heirs will recall even small portions of their memories and share that history. A local newspaper could be helpful if they had a “History Day” and the editor encouraged short memories or stories, subject to editing.
An estimated 30 percent of today’s South Arkansas citizens have Choctaw or Cherokee ancestors, most of whom were living here in the Ouachita River Basin when the early pioneers were arriving in the late 1800s.
Choctaw and Cherokee descendants have become our teachers, students, school administrators, employees, business owners, lawyers, judges, and sheriffs. Union County has had at least two sheriffs, now deceased, who were both descendants of Cherokee ancestors, who served us well. My wife, Janis, was a distant cousin to one of these sheriffs. She has a first cousin who used his Columbia County Choctaw heritage in a minority business venture and another first cousin’s wife that has a Cherokee ancestor from Strong.
Today’s history students and teachers are beginning to recognize this unique Native American culture still “silently” present in South Arkansas. It has not been written in the school textbooks, but South Arkansas is a good illustration of successful assimilation of Native Americans into the new American society.
Worth Camp, Jr., an El Dorado resident, is a writer, history enthusiast, and a country lawyer.
Arnold, Morris S. Colonial Arkansas 1686-1804: A Social and Cultural History. Fayetteville: U. of Arkansas Press, 1991.
Bolton, S. Charles. University of Arkansas, Little Rock (Spanish Buffer)
Summer 2004 Program: Indian Removal & Arkansas River-Before the Trail of Tears by the Arkansas chapter of the Trail of Tears Association in cooperation with the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Moderator: Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield Jr.
Camp, Worth, Jr. The Choctaw and Cherokee in Union County: Before and After the Removal of the 1830s and Today, El Dorado: South Arkansas Historical Journal 2 (Fall 2002): 32.
Dickinson, Samuel Dorris. Observations Summares sur le Ouachita by Louis Badins,
(Translated and Annotated), 2003 Clark County Historical Association and the Pete Parks Center for Regional Studies, Ouachita Baptist University.
Encyclopedia Britannica. “History of the United States,” 1995, Propaedia 18: 959.
Gore, Glen. Portraits of the Ouachita Limited Edition 2004 Ouachita River 2004
Calendar (Excerpts from both William Dunbar’s & George Hunter’s Journals),
Monroe: Ouachita River Museum Foundation.
Hunter, George. Manuscript Journal of George Hunter Up the Red & Washita Rivers
with Wm. Dunbar, 1804, by order U.S. & Up to Hot Springs, transmitted by G.H. to Government & was found in the office of the Adj. & Insp. Gen. Of Army, U.S.A: Parker.
Key, Joseph Patrick. Arkansas State University, Jonesboro (Quapaw)
National Geographic Map Supplement Indian Country- North American Indian Cultures,
Personal interviews by Worth Camp Jr. (a recent member of the Arkansas Chapter of the
Trail of Tears Association) with:
Hot Springs Historian Marcus Phillips during 2003 and 2004. Garland County Historical Society, 328 Quapaw, Hot Springs, AR 71901, Bobbie McLane, Executive Director.
Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Park Interpreter, Bob Norman (on loan from the Texas State Parks System), 130 Moreau St., Natchitoches LA, Mgr. Rick Seale, April 23, 2004.
Los Adaes State Historic Site (Presidio Los Adaes), Dr. George Avery, NW State University, and Interpreter Cornial Cox, U.S Hwy. 84E, Robeline, Louisiana.
City of Nacogdoches Historic Sites Manager, Brian W. Bray, 211 S. Lanana St., Nacogdoches, Texas 75961.
Frank Schambach, Professor of Archeology, Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, at a meeting of the South Arkansas Chapter of the Arkansas Archeology Society. Arkansas Archeological Survey, May 14, 2002, “Lost Prairie Cherokee Presentation.”
Hundreds of descendents of Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors who presently live in and their families originated in South Arkansas.
Phillips, Marcus and Sandra Long. Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs: Garland County Historical Society & the Hot Springs Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission.
Teague, Sara. On Parlait Francais Ici: French Affairs in the Louisiana Territory before
the Purchase, El Dorado: South Arkansas Historical Journal 3 (Fall 2003): 3-10.
Webb, Clarence H. and Hiram F. Gregory. The Caddo Indians of Louisiana, 2nd Ed.
1986 Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission.
PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER FAMILY: THE LACYS OF UNION COUNTY
By M. Angela Crawford
Among the first of those to settle in Union County were the Reverend William Sterling Lacy and his second wife, Julia Ann Eldridge Lacy. The Lacys were the third settlers in the area, important pioneers of El Dorado.
William Sterling Lacy was born at Hamden-Sydney, Prince Edward County, Virginia, on April 8, 1791. By all accounts, the Rev. Lacy was a man of impressive character; it has been written that he had the highest integrity, and the courtesy, charm and hospitality of the old school. He was a man of elegance, with fine literary attainments, the author of several historical documents. Lacy had a highly retentive memory; those who knew him said he could recite from beginning to end the New Testament of the Bible and many of the Psalms and portions of the Old Testament. Lacy retained his faculties to the end of his long life, although he became nearly blind by his last years. He cut an imposing figure, well over six feet tall, large-boned but not corpulent, probably weighing about 200 pounds. He was said to have auburn hair as a young man, blue eyes, and a fair complexion.
William S. Lacy was educated at Hampden-Sydney College, graduating in 1811. He took a professorial chair there in the field of modern languages. Lacy then enlisted in the army in the War of 1812 in Charlotte, North Carolina, in July 1813, and served six months as a private. For this service, he was later granted bounty land in the year 1850.
After serving in the war, in 1816, Lacy married Sally E. Campbell Graham, daughter of Edward Graham and Margaret Alexander. They moved to Pulaski County, Tennessee, and remained there until 1820 before moving to Missouri. Lacy first decided to pursue law in Roanoke, Virginia, with U.S. Rep. John Randolph, but did not ultimately choose to stay with the law, as he soon found he was more interested in the ministry.
Lacy was ordained in 1824, and according to records, the first Presbyterian minister ever ordained in the state of Missouri. He ministered all about the counties there, traveling in the summer and fall seasons to preach and to organize churches on the Missouri and Upper Mississippi Rivers, once preaching at the home of Col. Sam Dyer. With Col. Rev. John S. Ball, he traveled for eight years, finally settling on Lacy property in St. Louis County and taking charge of the Dardenne Church, remaining there until 1832. The Rev. Lacy went back and forth, ministering from Missouri to Tennessee.
In 1832, his wife, Sally, died, leaving ten children: Edward T.; Beverly Tucker; William A.; James H.; Campbell; Anne Smith; John Randolph; Drury; Sally C.; and Margaret S.
In 1833, Rev. Lacy married his second wife, Julia Ann Eldridge Lacy. Julia was raised in New Hampshire, the daughter of Capt. Uriah Zuah Eldridge, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. She was a cultured, well-educated gentlewoman, having graduated from Miss Lyons Academy in 1828, after which she moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to teach, and then to Summerville, Tennessee. To this union were born seven children: Mary E.; Anna S.; Samuel D.H.; Watson E; Sterling S.; Archibald A.; and finally, Fannie Lacy.
In 1843, Rev. Lacy made his final move, to Union County, Arkansas, in the area of El Dorado. He was a pioneer there, the third family to settle in the area. The Rev. Lacy bought a farm of 400 acres three miles from El Dorado for his son to farm.
He and his wife Julia organized the First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado, where he pastored for a year in the first church building. The building was made of log, also used as the courthouse, three-quarters of a mile northeast of the present day Presbyterian church site. A marble plaque is still visible in the vestibule of the church, carrying the inscription:
“Reverend William Sterling Lacy
Who Organized This Church in 1843
And Served as First Pastor
Captain Watson Eldridge Lacy
Faithful Member and Elder for Many Years
Rev. William Stokes Lacy, D.D.
After this, Rev. Lacy also established churches in Camden, Mount Holly, El Dorado, Scotland, Elliott, and Ebenezer; and while teaching, served all of these churches. He continued in active church work until the outbreak of the Civil War, whereupon he retired to his farm.
Rev. Lacy and his wife, Julia, established the first school in El Dorado -- a private academy they ran from their log-hewn cabin, which was at the site now occupied by the Lion Oil Company parking lot at 416 N. Jefferson Ave. Disputes have emerged over the site of the school. Some have placed the Lacy home as being on N. Washington St., but some have placed it as being on N. West Ave., where the City Hall stood (as verified in 1886).
While running their non-sectarian academy, to which children from several Arkansas counties and Louisiana parishes came to attend, Rev. Lacy taught the boys in one room and Mrs. Lacy taught the girls in the other. After two years of operating the school, the Lacys sent for the Rev. and Mrs. A.R. Banks to run the school. The Lacys probably then moved to one of the other reported sites, which was their plantation near the town with crops of corn and cotton, farmed mainly by slaves. After turning the school over to the Banks Family, the Banks Female Academy was established on West Avenue, and was moved after the Civil War to the site that later became El Dorado High School in 1905 and eventually South Arkansas Community College. Reverend William Sterling Lacy died at the plantation home of his son, W.E. Lacy, in 1880, and Julia Lacy died in 1891; both are interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery in El Dorado.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, there is a memorial on the grounds of the Capitol erected in memory of those who fought in the War of 1812 and are buried in Arkansas, and the name William Sterling Lacy appears there. In the Barton Library of El Dorado, a tribute still stands to Julia Eldridge Lacy, in the form of a doll dating back to 1939, created by a local teacher’s group, the Alpha Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society, honoring Julia Lacy as El Dorado’s first teacher. The petticoat on the doll, embroidered and beaded with a velvet ribbon, once belonged to Julia Lacy.
Rev. Lacy had three children which were of particularly notable distinction; Beverly Tucker Lacy, who was chosen and served as General T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s chaplain in the Civil War; James Horace Lacy, who was a major in the Civil War; and the Rev. Lacy’s youngest child, Fannie Lacy, who had the distinction of being the first white child born in El Dorado.
Fannie Lacy Lester gave several interviews about what life was like in the earlier days of El Dorado and Union County to Juanita Whitaker Green, who later wrote History of Union County (August, 1936):
Matthew F. Rainey brought a small stock of supplies from New Orleans and placed them in a rough shed to sell, thus becoming the first businessman in El Dorado. He and Judge Davis named El Dorado and christened it with whiskey. Their store had groceries and whiskey, but they sold more whiskey than groceries. The store faced the pond where the court house now stands. Many ducks came to this pond in season and many were killed there. Bears, wolves and deer were plentiful and the latter came there often to drink. Rainey is said to have preempted 160 acres of land which he gave as a town site, reserving four acres of land for his cabin and for the house which he expected to build ... From the beginning of the purely agricultural economy that came with the permanent home makers, cotton was the great commercial cash crop ... Corn was the next most important crop; and others of importance were sweet potatoes, peas, beans, wheat, oats, Irish potatoes, tobacco, rye, rice, and garden vegetables. The popular agricultural implements of this age consisted of scooters, shovels, sweeps, turning plows, and wooden harrows with wooden teeth, made out of a forked tree.
Before the Civil War there were no banks in the county, and such functions as are now performed by these institutions were carried on by the commission merchants and cotton brokers at Camden, at New Orleans, and later at Champagnolle Landing. Farmers usually hauled their cotton to Champagnolle on the Ouachita in the fall or winter and sold it to commission merchants in New Orleans through an agent in Champagnolle. They made lists of their wants and the commission merchants filled their orders, even to the ladies’ bonnets.
Fannie Lacy Lester remembered that her father, Rev. William S. Lacy, had twenty slaves and that they made an average of eighty bales of cotton each year. Two of the slaves were weavers and three were spinners. They sent to New Orleans each year for the supplies and clothes that they bought. Hats and bonnets of silk and velvet were purchased...by commission merchants who had a list of what they needed.
She thought the people welcomed the creation of new counties out of Union County, because the sheriff and other county officials had too much work and too large a territory to cover. Few roads existed and the principal means of travel were by horseback, wagon or ox team. She remembered that the first bank in El Dorado was opened in 1880 or 1881. Before that time, money was kept at home or in New Orleans.
After the war, Lester said, the carpetbaggers took over the government and destroyed the records or changed them to beat the Confederates out of property. They received position by holding an election but refusing to allow the Confederates and Confederate sympathizers to vote. They even cut down trees in the roads so the people couldn’t get to town to vote (History of Union County).
Fannie Lacy married Daniel B. Lester, a carriage maker of El Dorado, in 1871. Their children were Anna Lacy; Drury; Elizabeth; Mary E; D. Bruce; Fannie M.; and Florence. Recalled by relatives, Fannie Lester was a dignified lady who wore seven petticoats, had a keen mind, and was declared by the El Dorado News-Times to be the oldest mother alive in El Dorado on Mother’s Day 1934 when she was 90 years old. Fannie Lacy
Lester died at the home of her son, D. Bruce Lester, in 1943. D. Bruce Lester married and had a daughter among his children, Dorothy Lester. Dotte, as she was usually called, married William T. Lawrence of El Dorado, and their son, Samuel Lester Lawrence, married Ginger Hawkins of El Dorado. The author is the daughter of Sam and Ginger Lawrence, and has a brother, William Bruce. There are many descendents of the Lacys still in the area.
Rev. William Sterling Lacy’s son, Rev. Beverly Tucker Lacy, served in the Civil War in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Gen. Jackson soon named the Rev. Beverly Tucker Lacy to his headquarters as “Chaplain at Large” in the II Corps and consequently assumed his duties on March 1, 1863. Rev. B.T. Lacy is recalled in The Battle Rainbow: Jackson and his Chaplains, by Chaplain Russ Campbell, as a “genial gentleman, an indefatigable worker and an effective preacher.” Rev. B.T. Lacy helped General Jackson both as his chaplain and his friend after Jackson’s tragic wound, the amputation of his arm, and Jackson’s subsequent fatal bout of pneumonia. General Jackson died with his head in Rev. Lacy’s lap, and Rev. Lacy later took the General’s arm to be buried at his brother J. Horace Lacy’s Ellwood estate in Virginia. Rev. Lacy stayed on with the II Corps as chaplain, and General Robert E. Lee used Lacy’s knowledge of the byways in and around Chancellorsville during the war, as Lacy had served a church in that area.
Lacy was the first “supervisory” chaplain in U.S. History, and was instrumental in helping to organize the Great Revival which swept through the army in a wave in 1863. Rev. Beverly Tucker Lacy’s story was later told in the movie Gods and Generals, based on the novel by Michael Shaara, in which he was favorably portrayed as the chaplain of Gen. Stonewall Jackson and his regiment.
The Rev. William Sterling Lacy was one of the three sons of Rev. Dr. Drury Lacy, D.D., born in 1758 in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Drury Lacy intended as a young adult to be a farmer, as his father had been, but after an accident with a musket took off his hand, he changed his decision of profession, studying Greek and Latin, and later chairing the modern languages department of Hampden-Sydney College. He ministered, as well, and it is said that his oratory voice was silver, his hands silver, and that he had “a fire in his eye” when he preached. He had three sons with his wife, Nancy Ann Smith: Rev. William Sterling; Rev. Drury; and Dr. James Horace Lacy, who became a medical physician. Within the publication Documents, Chiefly Unpublished relating to the Huguenot Emigration to Virginia and to the Settlement at Manakin Town, published by the Virginia Historical Society in 1886, is a paragraph which states the following: “The Church remembers him as Lacy of the ‘silver hand and silver voice.’” He married a Miss Smith, and reared three sons and two daughters. Two of the sons became ministers of the Gospel.
The eldest, William S. Lacy, preached for a time as a missionary, and then became pioneer of the church in Arkansas. The youngest, Drury, was pastor for some time in Raleigh, North Carolina. He then served as president of Davidson College; and subsequently as chaplain in the state hospitals. The third son became a physician. Each of the sons reared a son for the ministry.
Another of Rev. William Sterling Lacy’s sons, Major James Horace Lacy, an ardent secessionist, married Betty Churchill Jones, on October 17, 1848. Maj. J. Horace Lacy later acquired the antebellum home and plantation of Chatham as his primary home, which operated with sometimes up to 250 slaves, and his summer home, Ellwood. Ellwood served as field hospital for months after the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Ellwood took center stage during the Battle of The Wilderness in 1864, and by the end of the battle, the home had been ravished, its extensive library ransacked by Union soldiers, its staircase burned. Ellwood, like Chatham, now belongs to the National Park Service.
Chatham House has a rich and famous history. When the war began, Maj. J. Horace Lacy moved his family to Ellwood and gave Chatham, later known as “Lacy House,” over to be a hospital and command post. Walt Whitman, searching for his brother during the Civil War, remained there for a time to nurse for the wounded soldiers being housed there. General Robert E. Lee had previously courted his wife under the trees of Chatham. President Abraham Lincoln spent several days at Chatham in the early part of the war, and from its shores the pontoon bridges were thrown, over which the Federal Army under Burnside crossed to the bloody battle of Fredericksburg. Gen. George Washington had even visited Chatham before the house had changed over to J. Horace Lacy’s hands.
J. Horace Lacy’s ownership of Ellwood, Lafitta, Chatham, and Boscobel plantations elevated him to the status of first rank of Virginia Planters, and partially was the reason he was so enthusiastically captured for a time by the Union army, who wanted him not only because he served the Confederate army, but also because he was a wealthy landowner. He was later released. During the War, his wife, Betty Churchill Lacy, and their children stayed safely with two of her husband’s aunts, Lizzie and Nancy Graham.
After the war, the Lacys found Chatham had been shredded by carpetbaggers from the North, the paneling stripped from the walls, every door and window gone, trees cut down, and there were nineteen Federal graves on the lawn. Some time passed before the house was livable again.
Other notable people are within this family line. To trace it back, the previously mentioned Rev. Dr. Drury Lacy, D.D., was the son of William Lacy (1713-1775), who was married to Elizabeth Rice (sometimes referred to as “Catherine” Rice). This William Lacy who was born in 1713 was the son of William Lacy who was the son of Thomas Lacy II; Thomas Lacy II was married to Ann Burnley. Thomas Lacy II was the son of Thomas de Lacy I (1660-1750), who was married to Miss Rhuys (Welsh for “Rice,” whose name is thought to have been Phebe).
Thomas de Lacy I was an immigrant (he dropped the “de” in de Lacy later in order to better fit the names present in Virginia at that time), reputed to have come from Wales to Virginia between 1680 and 1685 on the very frontier of the settlements there. He was of French Huguenot extraction, having previously fled to Wales from France during the religious upheavals there, it is believed. There is an account, written by Rev. William Sterling Lacy, who received his notes on it from “Old Mr. William Rice.” The story goes that when Thomas de Lacy I had embarked on a vessel from Wales with other emigrants, during the voyage to VA, he was captured by a notorious pirate who went under the familiar name of Black Beard in order to frighten others, but whose name actually was Taike. Every passenger on board the vessel captured was made to walk the plank except Thomas de Lacy, whom the pirate Taike (also known as “Lewis Guittar”) swore was “too fine a looking fellow to be drowned, and should be impressed into the service of a noble pirate.” Thomas de Lacy did not find that an agreeable suggestion. A character named Minnis organized an attack on the pirate ship, and when pirate Guittar’s vessel was besieged, Thomas de Lacy drew his cutlass and shouted, “I am a true man. I am a prisoner!” de Lacy began to cut down pirates right and left, throwing them further into confusion....not one pirate would surrender, and so all were slain. The Governor then gave de Lacy a tract of land on the frontier of what is now Hanover County, and subsequent other rewards. This account of de Lacy and the pirate was given to record in Virginia in May 1700.
The Lacys were a distinguished and respected line which not only contributed to the Civil War and Virginia, but fanned out as pioneers who helped tame and set up settlements in Missouri and Arkansas. Their name is throughout public record in those states and easily located. For Union County, it is known that the name of Lacy cannot be forgotten.
M. Angela Crawford, a descendant of the Lacy Family, lives in El Dorado and is a student at South Arkansas Community College.
DUNBAR AND HUNTER ON THE OUACHITA, 1804
By Worth Camp, Jr.
Editor’s Note: The following is a narrative from George Hunter’s journal of the 1804-1805 expedition along the Ouachita River, including analysis and observations by Worth Camp, Jr.
In 1804, William Dunbar and George Hunter were commissioned by President Jefferson to explore and map the Ouachita River. The following story is a partial narrative of George Hunter’s writings as typed from his manuscript journal that he transmitted to the “Government & was found in the Office of the Adjutant & Inspector General of (the) Army, U.S.A: Parker.”
The matching of geographical locations with current Hot Springs, Arkansas, places and creek names was configured from city maps, visits, and interviews with Marcus Phillips, a reputable Hot Springs historian, and co-author of Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs (1994).
For place names along the river, Hunter and Dunbar hired Samuel Blasier, a French guide from Ft. Miro (today’s Monroe, Louisiana) to “pilot” their boat and tell them the common names of the creeks, swamps, lakes and rivers as they entered what would in 1819 become Arkansas Territory. He was paid $30 a month. From the French we get “Smackover” and thousands of other words that describe Arkansas rivers, creeks, and mountains. The Ouachita River varied in width from 100 yards to 30 yards.
Dunbar and Hunter’s original boat was too big, so they left it at Ft. Miro and rented, for $1.25 per day, a long shallow two-foot draft boat with a cabin for Dunbar and Hunter to sleep in. The soldiers and guide slept under tents on the banks. A big canoe loaded with provisions was tied to the big boat. Twelve soldiers with a sergeant from the U.S. garrison in New Orleans rowed the big boat. They rowed in two shifts of six men, or they were hauling and poling (which kept the boat away from the shore) along sandy shallow shores. At shoals they unloaded the big boat, then winched, tugged, and shoveled through the gravel and sandy shoals. They used the canoe to bring the unloaded supplies through the shoals to reload the big boat. They traveled from daylight until late in the afternoon, leaving time to set up camp and cook for the night.
When the French first explored down the Mississippi from Canada as far as the Arkansas River, the French asked the Illinois Indians what tribes to expect down river. One of the interpretations of the name given was their word for “Land of the South Wind” for the Native Americans living on the Arkansas River.
For river traffic going up river from the Gulf, early boats used square sails to be blown north by the prevailing south wind up the rivers when possible, and rode the current downstream on the return. The Dunbar and Hunter boat had a sail. It was used when they made a river bend that gave them wind from the stern
Dunbar and Hunter were on the river between Monroe and Hot Springs from November 11, 1804, to January 16, 1805. They observed Choctaws on the Ouachita below and above Ft. Miro (Monroe).
They saw (white) pelicans, alligators, a deer killed by a Panther, black bears, and evidence of buffalos. Six miles south of the present-day Arkansas state line, they identified Bayu (creek) Frangueur, already named by the hunters for the guy who lost his life at that spot “in the chase of the Buffaloes.” They saw “Spanish Beard” hanging in the trees until they passed Bayou Bartholomew, just north of Monroe, at Sterlington, Louisiana.
They saw deer, unfenced cattle, whooping cranes, turkey, ducks, and mallet (mallard) ducks. “We see constantly large flocks of wild Geese and Ducks which fly as we approach, so it is difficult to get a shot at them,” wrote Hunter. They found the catfish, buffalo, and gars to “be soft and insipid compared to those (fish) near the sea.”
They passed “the ‘Island on Mallet’ where the line between the Territories of Orleans & Louisiana crosses the Ouachita (at) Lat.33.” This is today’s Arkansas state line. There is another reference in the journal to the Mallet Brothers who came down from Canada.
On their return trip they observed an eclipse of the moon, total darkness, just below the Arkansas state line at Mallet Island on Monday, January 14, 1805.
Now in Union County, Arkansas, they “passed the Bayu de Grande Marais (or great swamp) on the left. This has but a small opening, but extends some distance up, nearly parallel with the Ouachita ... The banks are low, having Prairies & ponds behind them. Timber Trees, soil etc. much the same as the two or three last days ... Passed Bayu de la Tulip . . .at l½ past 11 am, (passed) a small pond on the right shore, called Marais de Saline (Saline Swamp) about a mile in circumference, a Retreat for wild fowl, it is surrounded by Cypress. . . at half past 12 came to Bayu de Saline on the right, of considerable extent. This afternoon the banks begin to rise by slow degrees. Passed several Hunting Camps, but the Hunters were gone.”
From November 16, 1804: “Came 17 miles, 158 perches this day. About 4 p.m. (same day) it began to hail, & in time turned into rain, continuing with encreased violence the greatest part of the night. Encamped on alluvial ground.
“Nov. 17. Saturday. Therm. At 7 a.m. 40, in the river 54, at 3 p.m. 51 at 7p.m. 44. Fog on the river, Cloudy, Calm. . . . The current being more rapid than usual.”
Near present day Arkadelphia, at 4 p.m. they “came to Grand Claise,
[Hunter left the English name blank] opposite to Bayu de Cypri (Cypress Creek) having a number of Cypress trees growing round it; remarkable, because these trees terminate hereabouts, & are seldom found north of this place.’
“ Here, we met with a Delaware Indian, painted round the eyes with vermilion. He called himself Capt. Jacobs, (and) exclaimed when he saw our boat, “O! Canoe damned big.” (and) said that a large number of Chickisaw & Choctaw Indians had gone to hunt on the waters of the Arkansa.”
The expedition reached their destination, Hot Springs, the “boiling springs” on December 4, 1804, after walking seven miles beyond “Ellis Camp.” They came to the “Bayu of the Hot Springs” and followed today’s Hot Springs Creek north to the springs.
The Ellis Camp (Landing) was 100 yards below the Forche (fork) a Calfat, the mouth of today’s Gulpha Creek, where the expedition left their boats and a camp. Dunbar and Hunter with the guide and their group stayed in a wood cabin left vacant by previous travelers to the “Warm Springs” as some local trappers referred to Hot Springs. The party had met several travelers on the Ouachita River that had been to the hot springs.
Hunter’s journal records a report that Major Ellis, who lives near Natchez on the Mississippi, heralds the healing powers of the hot springs for him. He periodically travels to the hot springs with his servants. The “Ellis Camp” could be named for him, and he could have built the cabin.
While in Hot Springs for 30 days, the Ouachita Expedition endured several three-day periods of 10 to 30 degree low temperatures with wind, rain and sleet. For one of these episodes, George Hunter was out with three of the soldiers and the guide, Samuel Blasier, exploring over and around the immediate mountains east of the 20 or so hot springs where the expedition had set up camp on today’s Central Avenue and Bath House Row.
George Hunter’s journal describes this bad weather trip as follows:
Dec. 27th. Thursday. Therm. In the morning 26, at 3pm 45, at 8pm 38. Weather clear and cold. Wind northeast.’
After an early breakfast, I left our encampment on an excursion for three or four days, according as it should prove interesting, with a party of three men besides the Guide, carrying a tent, two Rifles, a spade, a mattock, an ac & two days provisions depending on what game should fall in our way for the rest. I put a small compass in my pocket to serve in cloudy weather.
As in the two former short tours [to the northwest and west of Hot Springs] we could only proceed for about half a day at a time the other half being necessarily occupied in returning to camp. It was now determined to go in a straight line for two days, except circumstances should point out otherwise; & then to return by another way.
Therefore, we directed our course towards the northeast and continued & all this day. Sometimes, over hills & steep craggy mountains, with narrow valleys between them, then up these valleys generally by the side of a branch of the Calfat (Gulpha) where we pitched our tent, having made only 12 miles this day, we had no path & were often impeded by the hills, waters, briars etc. ...
On ascending the high grounds, one can perceive as far as the eye can reach, at the height of 50, or 60 feet, a visible commencement of the piney region, straight on a line from that height to the top. This (yellow pines trees) is the more remarkable now as the other trees are deprived of their leaves.
Now the hilltops are entirely destitute of other trees or the valley without pines, But the Pines chiefly occupy the upper regions, leaving the valleys for the other timber. The soil in these narrow valleys is very thin, & full of stones ...
Towards evening the weather grew raw, and penetrating, portending a storm, which came in the night with rain & sleet; however by means of a good fire, we slept comfortably under our tent.
Dec. 28th. Friday. Terhm. at 7 am 34, at 3pm 32, & at 8 pm 30, weather, raw, cold & disagreeable, Wind N.E.
After an early breakfast, set out again in the same direction as yesterday, passing the source of the Calfat & the ridge which gave it birth.
We had scarcely proceeded two miles when a violent storm set in from the N.W. right in our faces, accompanied with rain & sleet; this obliged us to return to our late fire where we pitched our tent again, until the storm should abate, which it did about 11 am when we immediately struck tent & set out again towards the N.E. as before, continued that course till one pm We now turned east, for half an hour, over a steep mountain. Then South for ¾ hour. Then S.W. over the hills till half past 2 pm.
Here we shot a Doe. The skinning and dressing of which took up half an hour, when, after each man had got his proportion to carry, set out again at 3 pm S.W. for half an hour. Our Guide now shot another Doe, which being treated in the same manner as the other; we now set out again & proceeded on till we came to a “brach” of the Bayu de Saline, which stretches towards the river Arkansa & emptys into the Ouachita many leagues below this place. On this small brook we pitched our tent for the night; Having come about 12 miles this day, without a path or sight of the Sun, being directed by the pocket compass.
The soil, stones & timber much the same as yesterday or rather poorer.
Having made a good fire, began to regale ourselves with the nice delicate pieces of the game we had killed; These being perforated by as many small twigs sharpened at the ends & struck in the ground before the fire, served as spits to roast the venison; A large slate raised from the creek, & supported by three pegs drive in the ground, was our table, on which we kneeded our flour & caked it in the ashes like a potatoe. Smaller Slates were our plates, our drink was the pure (spring) fountain. The exercise & fine air of the hills gave us a keen appetite; & although the snow & sleet drifted by the N.E. gale, assailed us in all quarters, (never sat a pleasanter meal in my life) or slept sounder than I did here on the ground before the fire.
Dec 29th. Saturday. Therm. At 7am 25, at 8am 24, weather raw & overcast. . . .
On our arrival we found that Wm. Dunbar had removed with all the Soldiers & baggage from this (our Camp at the hot springs), to our old encampment on the banks of the Ouachita, at Ellis’s Camp, where the boat lay, leaving my Son and one Soldier to wait our arrival, & we prepared to follow him in the morning (a distance of about 7 miles).
Today in Hot Springs, the “Bayu of the Hot Springs” is Hot Springs Creek and flows southeasterly past the downtown train station headed to the north bank of today’s Lake Hamilton south of the Hot Springs Country Club. The expedition walked four miles up this creek “to the mountain which give birth to the hot springs.” The City of Hot Springs has recently completed new facilities for two miles along the bank of the creek where the expedition walked to and from Ellis Camp on the river.
The Forche a Calfat (Gulpha Creek) is three miles further east of Hot Springs Creek. It can be seen flowing through Gulpha Gorge just north on Gulpha Gorge Road from US Highway 70E, the Little Rock Highway, to State Highway 7. The Creek flows into today’s Lake Catherine east of where the US 270 By-Pass joins US Hwy 270 to Malvern. George Hunter’s three days bad weather excursion to the east was likely in the Gulpha Gorge direction through the mountains towards Hot Springs Village. The South Fork of the Saline River is southeast of Hot Springs Village.
EL DORADO’S FIRST CONGRESSMAN: ALBERT RUST
By Ken Bridges
Albert Rust, forgotten by many in South Arkansas, once stood as a giant over the region. Soldier, statesman, and businessman, he became a respected leader of the community. Emerging from modest beginnings, his fortunes rose and fell with the fate of Union County.
Born in 1818 in Fauquier County, Virginia, near the Maryland border, he became determined at an early age to move to the developing frontier of the West. At the age of 19, he made the trek by himself from Virginia to the distant new state of Arkansas. He settled at Scarborough’s Landing, on the banks of the Ouachita River in Union County.
Rust quickly involved himself in the settlement of the Ouachita River Valley, apparently impressing many of the residents in the largely unsettled frontier area. Soon after his arrival, he bought a few acres of land and a store house near the river. In 1838, he became a county surveyor, helping organize the untamed land into defined sections for sale (Cordell 38).
The next year, a series of events would cement Rust’s place in the history of Union County. The county seat was moved to Scarborough’s Landing. No courthouse existed, and the county did not have the funds to build one. Rust had the only building that would suffice for a courthouse. Thus, county officials decided that his store house would be used as the official courthouse as long as the county seat remained in Scarborough’s Landing (Cordell 39).
The settlement was re-christened Champagnolle shortly after the county seat was moved there in 1839. Rust reportedly helped give the community its new name, after an old friend of his, the Prosper de la Vilyan Chappelle of Champagne, France (Cordell 40). Champagnolle meant “Little Champagne.” Another story, however, contradicts this by claiming that Champagnolle received its name from Pedro Champagnolle, a man who had traded in the area as early as the 1770s (Cordell 40). Nevertheless, Rust prospered, becoming a lawyer, prosperous businessman, and a slave owner as most white men of means were at the time.
In addition to his adventurous nature, Rust also had a dangerous temper. Reportedly, on one occasion, he and friend George Watson erupted into a bitter argument apparently over cream for coffee (Cordell 41). The exact nature of this dispute remains uncertain, but it escalated into the two men challenging each other to a duel. Their seconds realized that Rust would not intentionally harm his friend and reportedly loaded Watson’s pistol with blanks (Cordell 42). Duels were not unusual in Arkansas in the 1830s and 1840s and were considered affairs of honor more than excuses for violence. Many had ended with no actions being taken, but others had ended in the death of one or both participants. One, in fact, had ended in the death of a popular territorial delegate to Congress (Bolton 30).
On the fateful day, the two met. Rust fired a shot through Watson’s hat, deliberately missing, but making a dramatic point in the process (Cordell 42). Watson fired his shot with no effect.
The duel did little damage to Rust’s reputation. In 1842, Rust won election to the state House of Representatives, as the Democratic representative for Union County. His first term passed with little incident. What came initially as a disappointment to Rust came in 1844 as the county seat of Union County moved to El Dorado. Nevertheless, he won re-election to the legislature in 1844 and 1846 and moved his law practice to the new city. After the United States Land Office opened in Champagnolle in 1845, Rust received appointment as receiver, processing and validating land claims in the area (Cordell 40).
In 1846, the state’s lone congressman, Archibald Yell, resigned in order to take a field command in the war that had broken out with Mexico. A special election was announced for the following January to fill the remaining weeks of the term. Five men came forward to seek the seat, including Rust, who had just won a third term to the state legislature. Rust was one of four Democrats and one Whig who had jumped into the race (Arkansas State Gazette, January 16, 1847).
Since Arkansas only had one congressional district at the time, Rust and the others had to run statewide. Rust finished surprisingly well in the divided election, considering his lack of statewide name recognition. Rust won fourteen counties, including Ouachita, Dallas, and Hot Spring. He carried his own Union County by a wide margin of more than 200 votes (Arkansas State Gazette, January 16, 1847). But his spirited effort earned him only a third place finish, some 71 votes behind Democrat George W. Paschal. Democrat C. F. M. Noland finished fourth, winning three counties. The fifth candidate, identified only as H. Haroldson, garnered only a handful of votes. The division among Democrats had cost all of them, allowing the Whig candidate, Thomas W. Newton and his 1,745 votes, to win the election by a scant 23 votes. This election marked the only time in state history in which a Whig won a congressional seat or ever won statewide. Believing his best chance for a congressional career had been dashed, Rust decided to give up on any congressional ambitions for the foreseeable future.
1847 Special Congressional Election
Thomas W. Newton (Whig)………………….1,745 – 28.6%
George W. Paschal (Democratic)…………….1,722 – 28.2%
Albert Rust (Democratic)…………………….1,651 – 27.0%
C. F. M. Noland (Democratic)…………………854 – 14.0%
H. Haroldson (Democratic)…………………….136 -- 2.2%
In 1852, Rust dusted off his political ambitions once again and won a fourth term representing Union County in the state legislature. His fellow representatives honored the El Dorado lawyer by electing him speaker pro-tempore for the session, the second-highest position in the House of Representatives (Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat, Nov. 1, 1852).
In the summer of 1854, southern Arkansas Democrats gathered at Princeton in Dallas County for their nominating convention. The convention sought to replace Congressman Edward A. Warren, who had won the newly created seat in 1852. Rust’s name suddenly appeared and was forwarded as a compromise candidate. The convention nominated him unanimously. Rust modestly accepted the nomination, claiming in a letter of acceptance released statewide that he had not sought the nomination and had not even attended the convention! (Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat, June 2, 1854). The Whigs had long had difficulty gaining any traction in the heavily Democratic state. This boded well for Rust as he went on a whirlwind speaking tour of the district, which covered the southern half of the state. He captured nearly 9,000 votes against his opponent, E. G. Walker of the Whig Party, winning with 67% of the vote (Priest 119).
Rust assumed his seat on December 3, 1855, when the Thirty-fourth Congress convened. The new congressman bickered with the other congressman, forcing one to apologize to him on the floor of the House of Representatives (“Congressional Globe”). He took little part in the debates, though he showed an interest in military affairs. Rust’s lackluster term failed to impress the voters of southern Arkansas. Democrats refused to renominate him for a second term in 1856, nominating Edward A. Warren instead. Warren would win the general election.
1854 Second Congressional District Results:
Albert Rust (Democratic)………………8,893 -- 67%
E. G. Walker (Whig)……………………4,371 -- 33%
Nevertheless, Rust rallied to repair his political fortunes and came roaring back in 1858. The Democrats embraced him at their convention, and Rust cruised to an easy victory. In the meantime, the Whig Party had collapsed and Rust had faced only token opposition from a dissident Democrat and a candidate from the nativist American Party, now dismissed as the “Know-Nothings.” Rust won by more than 4:1 over his nearest opponent, capturing 70% of the vote (Priest 119).
1858 Second Congressional District Results:
Albert Rust (Democratic)…………………………….......16,302 -- 70%
Thomas S Drew (Independent Democratic)………………3,780 -- 16%
James A. Jones (American)……………………………......3,180 -- 14%
Throughout the election, he had vowed to the district’s voters that he would not inflame the tense situation between the North and South. Arguments for and against the expansion and existence of slavery had incensed both halves of the country, and many southerners began to feel that the survival of the southern way of life was in mortal danger.
Seeing that the northern states claimed the majorities in both houses of Congress by 1859, Rust stated that the South should not take any hasty action and watch developments in “calm and dignified silence” (“Congressional Globe”). He added darkly that the South’s next response to provocations from the North would be anything but restrained.
Subsequent events, no matter how trivial, only made the situation worse.
As Rust took his seat in 1859, an uproar engulfed Congress as the House of Representatives fought over the nomination of Rep. John Sherman, an Ohio Republican, for speaker of the house. Sherman had supported the distribution of an incendiary book, The Impending Crisis of the South by North Carolinian Hinton R. Helper, in which Helper argued that non-slaveholding whites had been impoverished by the slave system (Potter 386-387). Helper called for a revolution of non-slaveholding whites to overthrow the slave system and the planter upper class and for deportation of the slaves.
Rust dived into the debate and denounced both Helper and Sherman in a bitter debate. A slaveholder himself, he was extremely sensitive to these issues. Said Rust in a blistering speech, “The non-slaveholders of the southern States are invited . . . To engage in a war, indiscriminate and pitiless, against their fellow-countrymen . . .” (“Congressional Globe”). Sherman was defeated for speaker.
Throughout his second term, Rust continued his interest in military affairs and his combativeness with other House members, particularly northern Republicans. He also worked for improvement of barge traffic along the Red River – a vital economic highway for southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. As the tensions between North and South grew, Rust found difficulty in gaining support even for such mild projects as improvements for the Red River.
He chose not to run in the 1860 election for a third term. It would matter little as southern states began seceding from the union just as Abraham Lincoln won the presidency. By April 1861, Arkansas had also broken away and joined the Confederacy. Rust had been a vocal supporter of secession.
The new Confederate States of America had formed in February 1861 from the first seven seceded states with Montgomery, Alabama, as its capital. The new Confederate government did not have time to hold elections, hastily convening a provisional Congress and electing former U. S. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as Confederate president. Upon Arkansas’s decision to secede, Rust and four other Arkansans were named to represent the state in the Confederate House of Representatives, in addition to two Senators. Delegates from Arkansas joined the provisional Congress in May. Rust was appointed to the Postal Affairs Committee.
After Virginia seceded, the Confederacy moved its government to Richmond. But as the Civil War unfolded, Rust had little time to participate in the proceedings of the Confederate assembly. After elections were held throughout the South to the Confederate Congress in late 1861, Rust stepped down from his position.
Rust had served in the state militia for years, rising to the rank of colonel. As war erupted, Rust organized the Arkansas Third Infantry. The first major assignment of the Third Infantry was to join troops under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee in western Virginia. Lee faced the daunting task of trying to dislodge entrenched Union troops in areas of Virginia that had stayed loyal to the Union. The Battle of Cheat Mountain in what is now West Virginia lasted three days in mid-September 1861. The results were disappointing for the Confederates. Rust spearheaded an attack on Union positions and watched his troops’ advance stall under withering fire. The strength of the Union defenses convinced Rust that he faced overwhelming force, but actually faced only 300 troops (www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/battles/wv005.htm). Lee withdrew Confederate forces from the area, having suffered ninety casualties.
In 1862, Rust received a promotion to brigadier general. In the meantime, he and his troops received orders to return to Arkansas to stop the northern advance westward from the Mississippi River and toward Little Rock. On July 7, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, also of Arkansas, saw an opportunity to disrupt Union forces. Hindman ordered his troops, including Rust, to disrupt the northern army’s supply route in Woodruff County. The Battle of Cotton Plant, also known as Hill’s Plantation, began as a Confederate ambush on unsuspecting Union troops, but the northern forces managed to deflect the attack (www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/battles/ar003.htm). The assault, which initially seemed a successful Confederate attack, became almost a rout of the southern troops, forcing Hindman to retreat toward Little Rock.
For the remainder of 1862 and into 1863, Rust saw action in Tennessee and Mississippi – his troops shifting back and forth as deep divisions emerged in the Confederate high command over how to prevent the northern takeover. Late in the war, with most of Arkansas and southern Louisiana in Union hands, Rust served in the few areas still under Confederate control until Robert E. Lee’s surrender in April 1865 effectively ended the Civil War.
The post-war period was a dismal time for Arkansas as the people tried to piece together a land destroyed by years of warfare. The economy of Union County had disintegrated under the pressures of war. Confederate veterans and freedmen alike began the difficult work of trying to build new lives. Likewise, Rust tried to move forward. He returned to El Dorado to resume his law practice, but his time would be short. Five years after the war ended, on April 3, 1870, the former congressman and general died quietly (bioguide.congress.gov). The causes he championed had been reduced to ruins, but traces of his legacy would continue to touch the region.
Ken Bridges is an El Dorado resident and a history instructor at South Arkansas Community College.
Arkansas State Gazette
Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat
Bolton, S. Charles. Arkansas, 1800-1860: Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: University
of Arkansas Press, 1998.
“Congressional Globe,” http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwcg.html
Cordell, Anna H. “Champagnolle: A Pioneer River Town,” Arkansas Historical
Quarterly 16 (Winter 1957): 37-45.
“Cheat Mountain.” Heritage Preservation Services, National Parks Service.
__________. “Hill’s Plantation,” www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/battles/ar003.htm.
Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861. New York: Harper Torchbooks,
Priest, Sharon. Historical Report, Arkansas Secretary of State, 1998. Little Rock: State
of Arkansas, 1998.
“Rust, Albert.” United States House of Representatives.
Whayne, Jeannie M., et al. Arkansas: A Narrative History. Fayetteville: University of
Arkansas Press, 2002.
STEELE SHADOWS: THIRTEEN DAYS OF THE CIVIL WAR IN CAMDEN
Excerpt from the novel by Bill Crumpler
Friday, 15 April 1864 ... The First Day
The awful day of all days . . . .
—John W. Brown, citizen
John Brown (5:15 p.m.)
John William Brown stood in his doorway and gazed westward down Washington Street toward the late evening sun and the thunder of the cannons. They knew it was coming. For days it had been coming. The Union Army. Rumors. Horrible rumors. At least that much was over. There would be no more rumors. The Union Army was here.
Down the road at the Stinson house he thought he saw Mrs. Stinson standing at her window, peering timorously through the curtain. She’d given birth three weeks ago and was still feeling weak and poorly. It is so hard on the women. The widows, the orphans. So hard. The young men are gone. We old men are all that’s left. To protect the women and children, to protect the innocent, to—
A shell exploded in the trees behind the Graham house. The window panes rattled and he steadied himself with a trembling hand planted as firmly as possible against the doorjamb. He sipped his Rio coffee—strong, black, thickened with sugar. There wasn’t much sugar left these days. Nor coffee. Nor anything.
Suddenly he saw a cavalryman galloping full tilt down the road from town. One of ours. Amazing. Gray clad, gaunt and ghostly. Bold as Satan. The rider reined in his horse right in front of Brown’s house, great clumps of moist dirt splattering in all directions. The magnificent animal grunted—one of those deep-souled, internal grunts that stallions make. He wheeled around violently to his right in a 360-degree circle. The rider fumbled for his revolver but couldn’t unfasten the covering flap to remove it from his holster. He seemed to be an officer. A captain. One of Colonel Lawther’s men—from General Marmaduke’s division, Brown thought, but he couldn’t tell who.
The horse—a roan stallion lathered with sweat—reared as the unknown captain gave up on the pistol and drew out his sword instead. The lean animal danced nervously on thin legs. Protruding rib cage. Froth at the mouth. Obviously terrified. But the beast had filled his heart with stubborn Confederate resolve, resolve to do his duty or be damned trying.
The slanting sunbeams of the evening glistened off his slick coat, bathing it in iridescent red highlighted with white froth and black shadows. Likewise the rider’s face glowed blood red in the setting sun. Perhaps it was not from the sun, thought Brown. Perhaps it was only sunburn. Perhaps it was from rage. Perhaps red was the natural color of the man’s face. For an instant the horseman glanced toward old man Brown. The captain’s eyes blazed fiery red, blood-shot and demonic. Like a madman he brandished his sword and waved it fiendishly, defiantly in the general direction of the enemy.
God in heaven, Brown thought. Is this all we have? Is this all we can do? One man waving a sword as though it were a magic wand? Would a magic sword make the evil of the world go away?
The act seemed to him symbolic. Gallant, yet quixotic. Metaphysical, perhaps. A lone rider in tattered gray. An exhausted red soldier on an exhausted red horse, trying desperately to fight off the whole Blue Army.
General Steele, U.S.A. (5:20 p.m.)
Major General Frederick Steele and his entourage galloped up to General Eugene A. Carr, commander of the Cavalry Division. Carr and a few of his staff officers and brigade commanders sat atop their mounts in the front yard of the Bragg House about four miles west of Camden.
“How does it look, General?” said Steele, a small, neat man with a pale, almost sickly complexion—a wiry figure with a full silky beard, bright gray eyes, and a shrill little voice that betrayed the godlike power he held as commander of the Union Seventh Corps.
“Looks good, sir,” said General Carr. “I believe the Rebs may have a few local militia in town and a sprinkling of cavalry, but that’s all. General Salomon reports only token resistance. It’s a walk-in affair, General. We’ll be in there before nightfall.”
“I think we’ve foxed ‘em out of their long johns, sir,” said Major Lennon, regimental commander of the Third Missouri Cavalry. “General Carr, you are convinced that enemy resistance will be light?”
“I am, sir.”
“Here come the Germans, General,” said Lennon. “I’m sure they’ll know.” His wry sarcasm drew smiles from both Steele and Carr.
Steele looked up the road ahead to see the approach of Prussian-born Brigadier General Frederick Salomon, commander of the Third Division. With him rode Colonel Adolph Engelmann, one of his brigade commanders; Captain Adolph Blocki, Salomon’s Chief of Staff; and Captain Frederick Heineman, another staff officer.
Steele turned to the man on his right: “Captain Henry.”
“Sir,” said the young chief quartermaster.
“As soon as we are situated in town, I want a detailed report on our supply situation—rations for the men, fodder for the animals, everything. Be specific. Don’t just tell me things are bad. I know things are bad. I want to know how bad. By the numbers. Understood?”
Salomon and party arrived. “General, sir,” said Salomon in his distinctly German accent. “It pleases me to report that the enemy has fallen back. The road to Camden is clear.”
“How far back?”
“Very far, sir. Shelby and Marmaduke have retired their troops southward to the Middle Road.”
“Our scouts confirm that, sir,” said Carr. “Sterling Price seems to be moving his main force up to Cypress Creek. My guess is he’ll camp there and lick his wounds for a while.”
“Hmm. General Salomon, General Carr maintains that the enemy force that lies before us in Camden is only a token force. Do you agree?”
“I do, sir.”
“Very well.” He turned to Carr. “And how is our rear? What of General Thayer’s Frontier Division?”
“Nothing serious, sir. Fagan and Maxey are nipping at our rear like a couple of mongrel dogs, but that’s all.”
“Good. Very good.” Steele stroked his silky beard thoughtfully. “General Carr, bring up whatever units you can to support General
Salomon’s advance into Camden.” Steele dismissed him with a salute.
“Yes, sir.” Carr and his staff returned the salute and reined their horses around, westward down the road from where they had just come, Carr shouting orders to his subordinates as they rode.
Steele said to Salomon: “I understand things got a little heated at that place this side of White Oak Creek—what was it called?”
During the excitement of the skirmish Salomon had taken little note of the place name. He turned to Captain Heineman for help. “Poison Springs, sir,” said the twenty-four-year-old Heineman. His flowing brown locks gave him a boyish look, more like a poet than a soldier.
“Damned ominous name,” said Steele. “Poison Springs.”
“The action was never a real threat, General,” said Salomon. “Just delaying tactics.”
“Very good. All right. General Salomon, make haste to forward your division into town. I’ll send word to General Thayer. I want as many of us as possible within the safety of Camden before nightfall. I want a strong defensive perimeter set up. I doubt the enemy will try anything tonight, but we must be ready in case he does. Is that clear?”
“Quite clear, sir.” The Germans saluted and galloped away to the east on horses whose flanks were marked with sweat-slick coats and hungry ribs. The shadows of evening grew longer.
Steele took off his hat and wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his coat. “Oh, I wish I was in Dixie,” he sang quietly to himself. “To live and die in Dixie.” A curious orderly cocked his head in the general’s direction. Steele noticed and repeated the line for the young man’s benefit: “To live and die in Dixie, son.” The commander of the Union Seventh Corps smiled at the irony and rode off, leaving the young man to wonder about living and dying.
Leah Chidester (5:45 p.m.)
Mrs. Leah Chidester stood on her front porch, staring off to the west and listening to the terrifying pop and rattle of musketry. She was five months pregnant. Slowly, anxiously she crossed to the far end of the porch. Around her neck hung a small chain to which was attached a large key. In her hands a leather money belt.
A voice from inside the house answered: “Yes, ma’am?”
“Will you come out here, please? I’m on the porch. Quickly, if you please.”
The young Negro woman walked through the front door and out onto the porch. She was pretty. Smooth skin. Dark. High cheek bones, like an Indian. She wiped her hands with a wet dishrag. Her name was Caroline, but when John, Jr., now age nine, was just learning to talk, “Ca’line” was the best he could do, and the name stuck. All the female house servants were called “Aunt.”
Besides John, Jr., there were three other Chidester children, all boys: William, seven; Frank, four; and Jim, two. The family hoped the next child would be a girl. If so, they would name her Mary Lee.
“Come, Aunt Ca’line. Please come over here for a moment.” Mrs. Chidester gestured for her to come but never took her eyes off the Washington Road to the west. She put her arm absently around her servant’s shoulder. “You hear that?”
“That’s the Yankees, Ca’line. They’re coming. They’re really coming. See that smoke out there? That must be from the cannons. And the dust from the horses galloping this way. And from the soldiers marching.”
“I do wish Mr. John was here, ma’am.”
“Yes,” she said dreamily, her eyes still fixed on the invisible approaching Yankees. “Yes. But it’s better that he is away. He’s a fugitive, a wanted man. The Yankees would surely hang him if they catch him. We’ll be all right.” She thought for a moment. “We’ll be all right. It’s just that ... well, we must be brave. We must all be brave. How are the children?” Leah looked at her, the worried look of a mother for her children. Now it was Aunt Ca’line’s turn to place a soothing arm around the shoulder of someone she respected and cared for.
“Don’t fret, Miss Leah. Them boys just as brave as you are.”
Leah gave her a gentle hug. “Aunt Ca’line. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You won’t never have to find out, ma’am. Never.”
A shell exploded in the woods nearby, giving them a start.
“Ca’line, lift up your apron. I want you to wear this money belt.” She began strapping the leather belt around the woman’s waist. “The Yankees won’t think of you having it. You can be sure they’ll look everywhere else. I’ll keep the key to the smokehouse upon my person. We will not starve as long as I have breath within me. We should have plenty to eat unless—”
“Miss Leah!” The servant pointed to the west. “I think that’s them Yankees!”
Leah turned to see. Yes. Dark blue phantoms emerging from the shadows of the woods. “Oh my. Quickly now. Hurry to the back yard and finish burying the china. China is so delicate.”
Ca’line hurried away. She was just going through the front door when Leah called to her: “Tell the children to stay in their room! Tell them not to come out for anything!”
“I done told ‘em to lay low, ma’am. They’ll be all right. They more scared of me than they is of them Yankees.”
Leah smiled and looked again to the west, shielding her eyes hopelessly against the setting sun. Soldiers were approaching on horseback. Four or five. Blue coated. Right there on Washington Street. In the distance she could see scores of other Union soldiers flanked on either side of the road, moving into position, firing now and then at nothing in particular. There was no resistance—just a walk-in affair.
The four horsemen halted about fifty yards away. They seemed to be officers. The soldiers on the sides of the road produced horses of their own out of the woods and undergrowth as if by magic. They mounted and advanced. Thundering along the road, right in front of her house. Two groups of them. Platoons or companies, she wasn’t sure.
The four officers advanced. Tired horses. Low-hung heads. Ambling slowly forward on lanky legs until they cautiously stopped right in front of her gate. One of the officers dismounted, opened the gate, and walked up the walkway to the porch. He removed his cap and said:
“Excuse me, ma’am. Are you Mrs. Chidester?”
She scowled at the man. “How do you know that?”
“Well, ma’am, one of your neighbors out there”—he gestured with his cap toward the west—”told us this was the Chidester house.”
“I am Mrs. Chidester.”
“I’m Captain Charles A. Henry, chief quartermaster to General Steele. The General sends his compliments, ma’am.”
“I would gladly return his compliments if he would return to where he came from.” Her icy stare bore down upon the young man.
He smiled and forced a modest laugh. “I wish we could all return to where we came from, ma’am. Mrs. Chidester, I’ll come straight to the point. Your facilities are to be appropriated for the use of Federal forces.”
“Facilities? You mean my house?”
“Yes, ma’am. Your house.”
“Appropriated? For what purpose?”
“For the purpose of providing lodging and headquarters for General Steele and a few of his staff. Do we have your permission, ma’am?”
“My permission? If I refuse permission, will you all just”—she waved her hand, a vague gesture in the general direction of out there somewhere, anywhere other than here—”just go elsewhere?”
“No, ma’am, I’m afraid we can’t just go elsewhere.”
“What will you do if I refuse?”
The captain shifted his weight. “The General sincerely hopes you will not refuse.”
“What you are saying is that I have no choice in the matter. Permission or no, you are intent on ... appropriating my house.”
“We would prefer having your permission. But ... no, ma’am, you have no choice in the matter.”
“Very well then. The matter is settled. Does the General prefer upstairs or downstairs.”
“Your convenience, ma’am.”
“Humph! My convenience indeed!”
Captain Henry wiped the dust from the brim of his cap. He’d never enjoyed performing this particular duty. It seemed like stealing. “Okay, boys!” he called in the direction of his three companions, who promptly, though somewhat wearily, dismounted and stepped forward. “Secure the house.” The three men saluted and silently carried out their orders.
She followed them with her eyes as they entered the house. Her house. She then turned back to the captain, who remained standing below her on the walkway. She was about to say something, but was interrupted by another coterie of mounted officers approaching at a canter from the west. The newcomers reined in and dismounted at the gate. Captain Henry stepped to one side, placed his dustless cap back on his head, and waited.
Leah Chidester placed her hands defiantly on her hips. She recognized the uniform and insignia of a Union Army major general. She scowled again. Scowling was uncharacteristic for her. Unnatural. Smiling was natural. Her petite, delicate lips. Her dark brown eyes with thin brows and lashes. Her high forehead, not intellectual, but intelligent. Her face was not made for scowling.
Henry saluted as his commanding officer approached and said, “General, sir. Mrs. Chidester, may I present Major General Frederick Steele, United States Army. General, Mrs. Chidester.”
“Good evening, ma’am,” he said in his tight, unimposing voice. “Has Captain Henry explained the situation?”
“I am truly sorry for the inconvenience imposed upon you and your family. But, unfortunately, such impositions are sometimes necessary.”
“General Steele, surely there are other, more suitable houses in Camden. I have four children to care for and”—she patted her stomach—”and one on the way. There are other houses that—”
“There are other suitable houses, ma’am. And circumstances may dictate that at some point in time I may have to remove my headquarters to one of them. But as for now, I am here.”
“But, sir, my children—”
“Mrs. Chidester, my heart grieves for you and your children, but I have 14,000 starving men to care for! I fully appreciate your reluctance to cooperate, but I’m afraid you have no other choice. My men and I have just marched some twenty-three miles under constant harassment by the enemy. We are tired, hungry, and, I do confess, not in the best of tempers. If you will be so kind ....”
Steele bowed slightly and gestured toward the front door. Leah held her ground for a moment then, yielding to the inevitable, turned and led the general to his new headquarters.
Bill Crumpler was born and raised in Camden, Arkansas. He has taught college-level composition, literature, and philosophy for many years, including for Southern Arkansas University Tech at Camden. He lives in McKinney, Texas.