----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dell--Ekron--Half Moon--Little River--Lost Cane--Perry--Pettyville--Roseland--Shonyo--Whistleville

Monday, December 31, 2012

General Stores, from The Richardson Memoirs

 From: “Bert Richardson Memoirs,” The Heritage of Blytheville, Arkansas, Wade c 1973, pg. 12-14
Some things I remember about the country stores: The candy was in large barrels. When we went to the store to buy our bill of groceries, each child was given a large paper sack full of candy. Sometimes it was all stuck together and we had to pry it apart, but it was candy nevertheless. The first packaged candy I remember was peppermint candy in a box. Each piece was not wrapped separately, though, and it became a big mess in the warm weather.

The crackers came in a large barrel. One would reach down into the barrel with his hands, clean or not, and sack up the desired amount of crackers in a paper sack. They were then weighed and sold by the pound.

Cheese came in big round hoops. We used a cheese cutter to cut the size hunk we wanted. By taking a guitar wire you could rip the cheese hoop in half and put half back in the icebox, while one-half stayed on the counter for sale.

Pickled pig feet came in barrels. You could get a pig foot and a few crackers from the barrel for five cents.

We would take prepared mustard and mix it half and half with vinegar to make it go further in the store.

About 500 pound cakes of ice were put in the top of the big icebox where the meat hung. The meat had to be sold fast, or it would begin smelling in a short time. We had soda pop in the boxes with ice on them.

Everything that was shipped to the store came in hoop barrels instead of cardboard boxes like we have today. Dried apples and peaches came in 50 pound boxes. We had a hook we could use to pull them loose so we could sack them.

Coffee came in coffee beans to the store and were ground there with a hand grinder. I’ll bet I have ground 100 pounds of coffee in one day many a time. We didn’t have computer scales and had to weigh each item and figure its cost on paper.

We sacked potatoes from 100 pound bags, weighing out 12 ½ pounds for a peck. Flour was shipped to us in barrels by the carloads. The farmer bought it by the barrels. I can remember selling eight barrels of flour to one farmer. We also had sacks of flour for the smaller families.

Northern beans also came in grass burlap bags. I have sold many a 100 pounds of northern beans to one family. When the farm sold his crop and drew his first check after paying his debts, he would stop by the sotre and load up with his winters supply of flour, coffee and winter groceries. . .

Greyhound Bus Station, Blytheville, AR

There's a wonderful post about the one person's memories of the Greyhound Bus Station at:
 Blytheville, Arkansas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly   Well, worth the read.

Also, check out the story behind these photos: Retro 50s at the Old Greyhound Bus Station

I'm sure many of you have memories of the old bus station. Please share them with us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Barn Charm--Winter Barn

A Winter snow storm in 2008, early morning. . . .

Then came the sun. . . .

With a few exceptions, Snow doesn't last long in the Delta. . . .

The Magers Barn, blt. ca. 1930 by Earl Magers
North of Dell, Arkansas

I'm sharing this post with:

Delta Crossroads

Did you know there's a magazine that is about our own Northeast Arkansas Delta? It's called Delta Crossroads. Available quarterly, I can hardly wait for each issue to be published. . . .

Filled with features on local families and farms, history of the area, festivals, schedule of events and anything else to do with the Delta, each issue is a treat. . . .

The writers, for the most part, are from the Delta, so they understand the people and what's of interest to them. There's a sense of warmth and  "home" in every magazine. . . .

"I've lived in a few other places, and let's face it, the people in the Arkansas Delta are just special. There aren't many area where you find folks with the same easy laid-back nature, with a nod or a smile for just about everyone they meet, and with a sure warmth and friendliness toward others that lifts the spirit."
Editor's Letter, Naney Kemp 

I enjoy most the articles on area history--but it's not all about history. It's about our Delta--the place we do call "Home". . . .

There's three ways you can get a copy. 

It's free if you'll drop by the Town Crier News on Main Street in Manila, AR

It's also free in a digital version. There's a complete flip book available. Simply go to: http://www.deltacrossroads.com/  You'll also be able to view back issues at the website.

If you'd like the magazine delivered to your mailing address, a yearly subscription is available for $16 and can be delivered anywhere in the United States. Make checks of money orders to:

Delta South Publishing
P O Box 366
Rector, AR 72461

The Town Crier also has a free publication on the History of Buffalo Island. It's well worth reading--much of the history ties in with other places in Northeast Arkansas.

Just thought I'd pass this information on to you. . . .Hope you'll enjoy it!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Memories of Big Lake

T K Photography

Some of you may have read these memories on the Dell, Arkansas site, but it's entertaining enough that I thought I'd add it to the blog for others to enjoy. . . .Big Lake is on my mind a lot these days--duck and geese in the air--hunters on the ground. . . . You'll find Daddy's (Curtis Duncan) one time duck hunt in this story. . . .

"I was working at the Farmers Gin Co. of Dell, Inc., weighing cotton (during the early 1950’s). I worked at the gin during the fall and winter months and then worked on the farm during spring and summer.

Mr. Magers hired Allen Leggett as Farm Manager. We had been planting the crops, and were about to finish, when Allen told us if we could get through with the planting today, we would go fishing the next day. We made it with time to spare. Allen took all the things necessary to cook fish, and of course, Coffee. We went to Watson's Ditch at Big Lake and fished the entire morning. We finally came up with enough fish for the meal. He, along with some of the other hands, made hush puppies, fried potatoes, and cooked the fish. Everyone was hungry and the fish, plus the other stuff, soon disappeared.

Allen really enjoyed the outdoors. When we were coming in from the fishing to cook them, he said, "Curtis I am tired (of) paddling this boat and I am going to hitch a ride the rest of the way in." I said, "You are?" (Allen said), " See that snake swimming down the ditch? "He is going to pull us down the ditch." I said, "You are kidding." He took a pole and with the hook caught the snake, and with a paddle, made it swim down the ditch, pulling the boat.

I had fished some with Daddy, but not a whole lot. So when the children got here and other expenses, I decided it would be cheaper on me to have a fishing hobby. Besides we could eat the fish. With the help of Allen Leggett, I built a fourteen-foot johnboat out of plywood. I needed something to get the boat through the water other than the paddle. Sears was having a sale on outboard motors, and I bought one on time. I think the payments were $8.00 or $10.00 per month. It seemed like the next payment was due before you turned around. I said, "GOOD LORD, Get me through this, and I will not buy any thing on monthly payments." I held to this the rest of my life. If you are getting 5 per cent on savings, and Sears is charging me 7 or 8 percent, then I am losing money by charging it. I could make 2 percent by paying for it. Anyway, I got the boat operating really well.

Arthur Penter was the ginner at the Cotton Gin, and I decided to put out some trotlines to catch some Catfish, Drum, and others. We put out about ten lines in the ditch we used to go up and down the lake. There was not a road on the levee at the time. Well, it was in February and the trotlines had not been run for a couple of days. We loaded the boat on the trailer and headed to Big Lake to run the trotlines. We got the boat in the water and the motor started and headed up the ditch (Floodway). When we came to the first curve, Arthur cut the turn too sharp, and the boat went up on its side. I landed in the middle of the ditch with rubber boots, two pair of pants, and a heavy coat on. I could feel the water creeping up my pants legs, and I was floating like a cork in the middle of the ditch. Arthur was sitting over in the boat, probably laug hing, Anyway, I asked him to bring the boat over so I could get in. He never did. I went over to the boat and got in. We headed back to the car and came home. My pants were frozen and would stand alone when I took them off. I never had a cold out of it. Also, this ended the trotline fishing bit.

I did enjoy fishing during the summer months and spring. My favorite was a bamboo fly rod that I used to catch bream (brim???????) and crappie on. I could handle the rod well and most of the time hit the spot I wanted to. One of my favorite fishing lures was a popping bug. I could drop it on a spot, and all of sudden, with a pop, the bug disappeared with a big bream pulling it under. The bream made a popping sound when it took the bug. The bream would bed up or get in one location during hot weather. When you found a bed, you might catch 15 or 20. Then they would stop biting. Move along to some other spot and fish for a while, and then come back to this bed and catch 5 or 10 more. It was fun. I usually did this by myself. During the summer, I would go up the floodway a short distance and pull my boat across the levee to a small hole. I have had good luck fishing this hole, since it was so small most fishermen would not fish it. I caught several good strings of fish. One day, I went up the lake and pulled the boat over the levee to the fishing hole, when I noticed that too much about it at the time. I pushed the boat off the bank and started to fish. Those darn snakes kept hitting the side of the boat and were going ninety to nothing. Well I decided that the snakes were mating and it would be best for me to get out of the hole. I did. But I still think about it and it had to be the mating.

Just a thought, if you have not heard a snake fall out of a willow tree, you have missed something. It makes the chills run up and down your back. The scales of the snake rubbing against the bark of the tree makes a noise that I cannot describe. You cannot look up because it might fall in your face. I have not had one in the boat but several fell close to the boat.

Allen Leggett was a PRO when it came to fishing. He really loved it and would love to have had a cottage on Reelfoot Lake. He never was able to do it. Several times, he would ask me to go fishing with him, and I would jump at every chance I got. We would put the boat in a Bar Pit. He made me sit in the front of the boat. We did not have electric trolling motors to pull the boat along. We used people power, with a paddle. He would paddle the boat along, keeping it where we could get at the fishing area. All I had to do was fish. I fished as hard as I could, but when we finished fishing, he would have twice as many as I had caught. I had the first shot at the fishing hole each time. Allen would laugh at me and say, "You have to have more sense than the fish to catch them!" Made me feel real good, but I loved it.

On Christmas Eve in the 1970’s, I asked Koehler Blankenship if I could go duck hunting with him with my cameras. He said, "OK. Be here at 4 AM, and we will see if we can find some ducks." When I got out of the car at Koehler Blankenship’s house, the first snow flakes started to fall. Koehler wan not going to let a little snowfall keep him from going duck hunting. We went to Simmon’s Field, where we crossed the big ditch and drove down the levee a short distance. Koehler had loaned me some wading boots that came up and covered the hips. So off through the darkness we went, falling through the thin ice into about 1¼ to 2 feet of water. Finally, we got to the blind and waited for a flight of ducks to come by. The wind started to blow harder, and I was shaking along with it. A small flight of ducks came by. They shot, but the ducks kept going. Koehler would blow on the duck caller, but no one answered. Some time later, another small flight came by, but no luck again. The weather was so bad, and the light so low, that I could not take any pictures. So I got in the corner of the blind and tried to stay warm, but no luck on that. Koehler had used all the large shotgun shells, but he had some 20-gauge shells. So he cut the paper off the large shell and placed it on the 20-gauge shell. It worked, but I really thought it would blow up. I was so cold. I could not stop shaking, uncontrollably cold. And I said, "Good Lord! Get me out of this, and I won’t bother you with it again." I never did, but Blandenship has told that story all over Mississippi County. He really gets a kick out of my last duck hunt.

The manager of Big Lake Refuge and I became close friends through photography. He wanted to take some good pictures of ducks and other wildlife for his personal use. He had his people build a blind and bait it with crushed grain. He let me use the blind, and I spent many a day sitting there watching the ducks swim in and eat. They would not come in to the blind but would light some distance and swim to the food. I was able to get some good shots of wood ducks and others that stayed during the summer.

Eleven thousand acres of mud, cypress trees, hardwood trees, willow trees, native grasses, yucca plants, water and islands make up Big Lake. There are sixty species of birds calling Big Lake home, plus many animals and especially the ducks. There are several deer killed each year. The Arkansas State Game and Fish Refuge controlled by the State Commission. They are closing the refuge to duck hunters using blinds to hunt. They will have to hide behind a tree or something while standing in the water. The duck hunters are upset by the ruling. In the past, the blinds were handed down to their kin or family and over time there has been many fights and lawsuits.

I have spent many days just riding in a boat, exploring the beautiful spots located on the lake. One place that is my favorite spot is at the cypress located in the middle of the lake, a row of cypress about one half mile long and about 200 feet wide. It looks like some one planted them. There are many areas that are suitable for nature photography. The cypress knees make some really good subjects. There are places that it looks like the oak trees are virgin timber and the under growth is so thick that you can’t see for some distances. I think it might look like it did when the Indians found it and controlled the area. I don’t know, but I really feel good when I find a place like that. I have used many runs that you can take a boat through. It is not unusual to see all kinds of animals there. The mosquitoes are not that bad most of the time, but one day the wind was blowing really bad, when I decided to explore an island with lots of trees. The mosquitoes had come to this place to get out of the wind. I sprayed myself with repellant. This didn’t work at all. They just covered me. The mosquitoes sound like a jet airplane. Needless to say, I got out of there and back into the wind, where the mosquitoes could not fly.

During the dry part of the year, there is a road that one can drive through an area that looks like it did years ago. Most of the time you see wildlife and the native grasses. The Refuge personnel are building trails, bird nesting boxes, and walking trails that carry people into areas that are as they were years ago. On these trails, a person can see many of the native animals. There are ducks, squirrels, coyotes, deer, skunks, birds, snakes, muskrats, and rabbits, along with the wildflowers and large trees.

Now, I like to drive the roads that are open for cars, pickups, etc. It is fun just to drive down the levee and see wild turkeys, birds, fox, and other animals. Since I am not able to use the boat anymore, the roads help me enjoy this wonderful gift to the local people."

From Curtis C. Duncan Memories

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Barn Charm--Simmons Plantation

A barn for a different kind of "animal"--mechanical farm equipment. . . .

Located on the old Simmons Plantation, west of Dell, Arkansas. . . .

A farm shop sat near-by. . . .

Both buildings were razed in January 2012.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barn Charm--The Widner Barn

The Widner Barn, built ca. 1910

Located at the Widner-Mager Farm Historic District 
on North State Highway 181, 
the three stall barn was built by the J. W. Widner family. 
In 1930, J. W. and wife Kitty sold the homestead and acreage to Earl Magers.
It is the only structure built by the Widners that still stands today.

I'm sharing this post on Monday with:


A Few Early Maps and Plats

 A very early map of Crowley's Ridge. Note the topography of Mississippi County. Big Lake Highlands, Big Lake, Pemiscot Bayou, and Dogwood Ridge. Map was drawn before logging began.

In Northeast Arkansas ( including Mississippi County), the Osage claimed the area as their hunting grounds. The Osage lived in Missouri but hunted in Arkansas.  They were very territorial about that land and killed any trespassers. After the 1808 cession, other Native Americans began moving into the territory. Most Native Americans who hunted and/or lived in the Dell area were from Missouri, including Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Delaware.

From the original survey of Northeast Arkansas. Present-day Dell is located in the northwest quarter of Section 8. The original Dell (ca. 1895) was located north of Section 8 in Section 5. It was a community of approximately 200 people.

Another early survey, which includes the Roseland, Pettyville, Big Lake, Lost Cane, Whistleville, Little River areas.

Sources of information: Mississippi County Courthouse, Blytheville, AR; Early maps CD

Dell Masonic Lodge--A Photograph

The Dell Masonic Lodge members
ca. 1920

Right: #1--Silas (Si) Leggett
#3--Earl Magers
Center: O. P. Winn (?)

Do you know the names of any of the other members?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cotton in my Sack--The Delta Sharecropper

"Cotton in My Sack, written by Lois Lensky, is based on the actual experiences of sharecroppers in the late 1940s.  The setting of the book is in Mississippi County, Arkansas, in the Delta.  Most of the sharecroppers in the United States during this time were white, but black and Hispanic sharecroppers were scattered about cotton country.  In the narrative of the book, the culture of the sharecroppers is emphasized and the reality of the cotton and agricultural economy made evident.  The children in the book were prepared to accept whatever life might bring as a result of their endurance of hardship, sorrow, and meanness.  The book is an account of the experiences of sharecroppers, but in an economist’s interpretation, the book exemplifies the reality of scarcity, decision-making, work, money, spending, saving, supply, and demand."

"Early in the 1900s, lumber companies cleared forests in northeastern Arkansas and opened vast areas of rich farmland.  Cotton acreage in Arkansas grew from about 1,650,000 acres in 1899 to almost 3,450,000 acres in 1929.   Almost eighty percent of the population in Arkansas was rural in 1930 and cotton production continued to increase.  Over half of the total crop acreage of the state was in cotton in 1930, and cotton occupied seventy to eighty percent of the crop land in the southern and eastern lowlands.  The number of farms in Arkansas increased between 1900 and 1930, and farms became smaller in size.  On large farms, tractors and machinery began to appear, but the use of mules and human labor was still the rule.

Arkansas farmers enjoyed rising prices and better times until 1920.  During the 1920s, many independent farmers slipped into tenancy as a result of hard times.  By 1930, sixty-three percent of Arkansas farmers had slipped into tenancy. There were several kinds of farm tenancy.  Renters paid cash or produce for the use of the land.  Share tenants provided their own labor, work mules, and equipment and received at least half of the crop.  Sharecroppers exchanged their labor for a smaller share of the crop.  In 1930, almost a third of the farmers in Arkansas were sharecroppers. According to the 1940 census, the state had a population of 1,949,387 and nearly eighty percent of the population lived by agriculture.  About half, from seven hundred to seven hundred and fifty thousand, were sharecroppers. They neither owned land nor houses but managed to subsist on some portion of the money they obtained by cultivating and gathering the cotton crop for the plantation owners.  Most of the sharecroppers were in Eastern Arkansas along the Mississippi River, or in the lower reaches of the Arkansas River. 

In these days, a landowner might divide his land into 40 or 60 acre plots for sharecropping.  Each parcel of land had a house for the sharecropper families to live in while they worked the land.  The landowner furnished everything the sharecropper needed to make a crop including the mules, seed, and any equipment. The landowner provided a “furnish” for the sharecroppers.  This was credit for living expenses throughout the year.  The sharecropper and his family worked the land and divided the products of the farm with the landowner.  The sharecropper and his family worked and lived a hard life.  The days of sharecropping are gone, but the cultural influence remains in much of Arkansas.

Today, cotton production has changed from the days of the sharecropper. Machinery and technology have changed the production and harvesting methods from the labor intensive crop of early years.  Cotton remains a very important crop in our state, which is one of fourteen southern states that form a region known as the Cotton Belt.   Cotton requires a long, sunny growing period, and it grows best in rich soil with adequate water.  The Delta, close to the Mississippi River, produces most of the cotton in Arkansas because of its rich soil."

Taken from an online lesson plan by:

   Jeannette N. Bennett
       Osceola East Elementary School

Lois Lenski was a popular author/illustrator of children's books, writing her first book, Skipping Village, in 1927. Many books followed. In 1944 she won the Marth Kinney Cooper Ohioana Library Medal for the first in her regional series for children, Bayou Suzette. In 1946, she received the 1946 Newbery Medal for Strawberry Girl, another book in the series which earned her national recognition. For all her regional series, Miss Lenski gathered material first-hand at the localities of her stories. Children at Yarbro School (north of Blytheville) heard her read the book Strawberry Girl on the radio and promptly wrote Miss Lenski, inviting her to visit Mississippi County and write a book about the people of the Delta. Miss Lenski arrived for a short visit in the spring of 1947, only to return that fall, living in the Hotel Noble in Blytheville, Arkansas for 6-8 weeks while she traveled the countryside, gathering stories and information, and making sketches of the area. Look closely at the illustrations in the books Cotton In My Sack, and We Live By The River, and Houseboat Girl, locals will see many landmarks of the Blytheville, Yarbro, Dell area. The old Ritz Theater in Blytheville is illustrated in Cotton In My Sack, which was the first book written about the Delta. Published in 1949, it is dedicated "For my beloved Arkansas cotton children."

Lenski returned to Mississippi County in 1954.This time she was interested in life on the Mississippi River. We Live By The River resulted in this visit. It is the story of Lola Mae, a "river rat", who grew up on the river. We Live By The River was published in 1956. In 1957, Houseboat Girl was published. It's the story of Patsy, the young lady whose family makes a living on the Mississippi River, catching catfish and turtles.

Lenski's love for the children of the Delta and her fondness of the Delta is apparent in this Forward to Cotton In My Sack.

"It was Strawberry Girl who introduced me to my cotton children. They had heard the dramatization over the air and after they had read the book, they wrote to me. They invited me to come to Arkansas and write a book about cotton. I began a delightful correspondence with teachers and children. A convenient time came for me to go to Arkansas fo a preliminary visit in the spring of 1947. A longer visit was possible in the fall. I was unwilling to write a cotton book without experienceing in every detail all cotton-growing activities. I entered another world. I donned a sunbonnet, pulled a nine-foot sack and picked cotton with the children. I achieved a sunburned nose, a crick in my back and about half as much cotton as the average ten-year-old picker. Most of my time was not spent picking, however, but studying the actions of the pickers, young and old, making sketches, talking and listening. I observed objectively, yet shared in every happening. I learned so many things-the weith of a full sack and the weariness it brings; the desirability of a good row and the sarisfaction that comes when the bolls are large and the sak fills fast; the length of a day from sunrise-the sun is hot and bright before six in Arkansas-to sunset. I was as eager as anyone to watch the weighing up and see if the desired number of pounds had been accomplishied. I climbed on the waiting truck and rode with the town-pickers to their homes in town, while the setting sun flooded the great arch of the sky with red and gold. I cam to know the cotton children and through stories of personal experiences which they told me, to share their life. As I listened, my admiration and respect for childhood increased, for here at first hadn, I saw all its courage, stoicism and fortitude. These children knew what it meant to be alive. In their faces I saw a look of that wisdom and kindness which only children know, expressed with ease and certainty. They had seen sorrow and so they were compassionate. They had see meannessm and so they valued goodness. They had endured hardship, and so theirs was an attitude not of excape but acceptance. They were ready for whatever life might bring. And because sorrow, meanness and hardship were a part of their lives, they had a better understanding of the joy of living, which comes by a full sharing in human adventure. Through the children I came to know parents, neighbors and friends. I heard many conflicting points of view on cotton economy, but my primary concern was human character in action, as controlled by an environment. I visited in homes of sharecroppers, tencants and owners alike. I often stayed for meals and felt honored to share a place at the kitchen table. I remember how many questions I asked and how patient everybody was in answering. From my cotton children and their families I learned a great deal more than facts about cotton-growing. There are more white than Negro sharecroppers in the United States. My cotton family is imaginary, but the incidents used have been taken from real life. Many people, both children and adults, contributed voluntarily, out of their personal experience, to the story.On Saturdays in town, I sat in a large general store and witnessed a continual moving drama, with Mexicans, Negroes and white people trading, talking and visiting. One day in a thunder storm the electric lights went out and I heard a woman say: "We're all the same color when the lights are out."An elderly man at a fruit stand, watching it rain, said; "The rain is God's fertilizer. It falls on rich and poor alike."A colored preacher at a Negro service in a little frame church set in a cotton field said to his congregation: "If you want a friend, first show yourself friendly."I did not invent these expressions. They came from the people themselves.It was another and adifferent world, but I had no feeling of strangeness. I felt as if I had always lived in the cotton country. The cotton People were my people. I was warmed by their kinship and happy in the thought that I belonged.If this book has anything of their spirit in it, it is because they themselves put it there; and they have, as they well know, my gratitude."

In 1972, Lois Lenski wrote about her experience while visiting Mississippi Country. . . .

"Cotton In My Sack 1949  The children in Yarbro School, near Blytheville, Arkansas, invited me to come to write about them. This was the first of many such invitations. When I told the children that I knew nothing about cotton or how it was grown, they assured me they would help and help they did, for the book is more theirs than mine. I made two visits to Arkansas, one in the spring for the planting and a longer one in the fall for the picking. I interviewed more than twenty-five families, sharecroppers, tenants, and owners, to listen to their respective points of view. The housing for the sharecroppers was unspeakably bad and the conditions under which the children lived most depressing. But the children were alert and responsive, hungry for love and understanding, and I came to love them dearly. They shared all the sorrow and tragedy of their lives with me, as freely as the little joy and happiness. The story of my experiences in the cotton country is too long to be told here, but it was a rich and rewarding one."

The three books, Cotton In My Sack, We Live By The River and Houseboat Girl are more than children's books of the Delta region. They are an insight into our heritage and well worth reading--young or old. 

In the Fall of 2011, over 100 Gosnell School students visited the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District north of Dell. They studied "Cotton In My Sack" for several weeks before their visit and arrived with lots of questions and much interest about the plight of the Delta sharecropper. They had fun--and learned many things about their heritage, too.

The day was filled with 1930s games, a tour of the 1930s farm headquarters, a chance to see an old general store and try Moon Pies, and an old fashioned picnic on the grounds.