Spout Spring—A Place Where People Live

The Manuel family Victory Garden on East Center Street, Fayetteville, ArkansasMay 1943.

The Manuel family Victory Garden on East Center Street, Fayetteville, May 1943. From left: Chris Manuel, Bayley Joiner (block chairman of the food-for-victory drive), and Lola Young Manuel. Northwest Arkansas Times, photographer. Washington County Historical Society Collection (P-2437)

Hopeful that the end of World War II was on the horizon, in January 1945 the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce hired two engineers to envision the “Fayetteville of Tomorrow” by positioning the town “to receive the most benefit from post-war construction programs.” Working with input from the Chamber, city government, citizen groups, church leaders, and others, the resulting document—Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan—was published that fall. Key components were the development of a civic center west of the town square, a hospital expansion, the rerouting of a major highway, and the improvement or development of through-roads, parks, schools, and utilities.

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, Fayetteville, Arkansas 1945. Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74) 

 

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1945. Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74) 

I came across the plan while reviewing a large donation of photographic and archival materials from Ann Wiggans Sugg. Curious, I began reading and was soon struck by how easily the plan’s proponents recommended the destruction of a long-standing, close-knit neighborhood, a neighborhood whose residents likely had no say in the matter. Despite the plan’s carefully couched reasons as to why everyone would benefit, the neighborhood’s removal would further marginalize an already marginalized population.

The report’s authors dubbed Fayetteville “A City of Homes, A Place Where People Live.” Back then the town’s boundaries stretched roughly from the veteran’s hospital in the north, to the western edge of Mount Sequoyah in the east, to U.S. Highway 62 in the south, and to North Garland Avenue on the west. With over 8,200 citizens, its economy relied largely on agricultural products (fresh and processed), the University of Arkansas, and forestry products (lumber and veneer). It was expected that population, land area, retail and trade, industry, and tourism would continue to grow.

Highway 71 (College Avenue) in front of the Washington County Courthouse, Fayetteville,Arkansas, about 1940.

Highway 71 (College Avenue) in front of the Washington County Courthouse, about 1940. Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Hinds Collection (S-87-63-8) 

Transportation needs were a concern. As a major thoroughfare, U.S. Highway 71’s narrow lanes and steep grades posed a problem for commercial trucks traveling through town. The road also cut through the business district, limiting growth and burdening in-city traffic. The solution? Reroute it to the east through Spout Spring.

Spout Spring was a neighborhood settled by formerly enslaved people and their descendants sometime after the Civil War. Encompassing a small valley with a spring-fed creek just east of what was then the Washington County Courthouse, the community core included East Meadow, Center, Mountain, and Rock Streets along with South Willow and Washington Avenues.(1) Its cornerstone institutions were the Mission School for Negroes Only (1866, renamed Henderson School in the 1890s), St. James Methodist Episcopal Church (1868), St. James Baptist Church (1885), and Lincoln Elementary School (1936), which replaced Henderson as the neighborhood school.

Susan Marshbank Manuel at her home on North Olive Avenue, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1940s-early 1950s.

Susan Marshbank Manuel at her home on North Olive Avenue, Fayetteville, 1940s–early 1950s. “Mama Susie,” as she was known, offered accommodations for African-American travelers. Her home was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book from 1939-1956.(2) Betty Hayes Davis Collection (S-2015-71-12)

One of the first formerly enslaved African-Americans to purchase land near the core of Spout Springs was Tabitha Marshbank Taylor. In 1879 she bought a large lot on North Olive Avenue (3), which provided space for her and her descendants to build homes.(4) More folks bought property in the valley as early as the 1890s.(5) Many of Spout Spring’s residents worked as housekeepers, laborers, railroad porters, cooks, dishwashers, and shoe-shiners, in large part the only jobs that were open to them. Some operated small businesses out of their homes such as cafés, barbershops, and juke joints. Extra income was earned by renting rooms to travelling workers and, once it was integrated in 1948, University of Arkansas students. Because Fayetteville’s high school was for whites only, Black students seeking higher education were forced to move to larger Arkansas cities like Fort Smith and Pine Bluff or elsewhere to earn their diplomas.

High-school graduate Betty Hayes with her mother Clara Manuel Hayes in the yard of their home on North Olive Avenue, 1945. Betty lived in St. Louis with her uncle while attending Sumner High School. Also seen is the home of Tabitha Marshbank Taylor, Betty’s great grandmother, who bought the property in 1879. Betty Hayes Davis Collection (S-2015-71-50)

Spout Spring is identified as “Tin Cup” in the plan. According to Jessie B. Bryant, civic leader and founder of Northwest Arkansas Free Health and Dental Center, the name was used by white businessmen who stopped by the area for a cup of cool spring water and a quick bite of lunch. In a 2000 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she said, “That’s the misconception of it all. It wasn’t part of the Black neighborhood. . . . if you mention ‘Tin Cup’ it’s automatically a derogatory term for the people in the community. But it had nothing to do with the community.”(6) University of Arkansas professor Dr. Gordon Morgan and his wife Dr. Izola Preston Morgan said much the same in a 1975 Northwest Arkansas Times article. “The Black community has never really considered itself as having a separate identity from that of Fayetteville at large. It has resisted such names as the Can, the Hollow, Tin Cup, and even East Fayetteville. These names have been given it by outsiders . . . who have had no practical knowledge of [the] history of the community.”(7)

Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

Plate No. V depicts the proposed route change of U.S. Highway 71 through Fayetteville. A star has been added to mark the location of the Washington County Courthouse.

Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

Plate No. VII depicts a closeup of the route through the Spout Spring neighborhood, with proposed recreational parks and parking lot. A star has been added to mark the location of the Washington County Courthouse.

The plan labeled Spout Spring as having sub-standard housing and deemed it a poor use of land. Because the area was considered a “natural beauty spot which should be preserved” and as “an area that will do much toward selling Fayetteville to the traveling public,” planners proposed rerouting Highway 71 east through Spout Spring. The adjacent land would be used to create two recreational parks and a parking lot for the use of citizens and travelers.

The suggestion was made to move the valley’s African-American residents to a federally funded, segregated “Negro Housing Project” just beyond the southeastern edge of town, in the belief that “when two races are mixed in a neighborhood all property loses value.” An adjacent ten-acre park centering on Wood Avenue would be developed “to serve the Negro population for recreation, school and church facilities.” Moving the city’s Black residents away from downtown meant that their new neighborhood would be “separate from areas of thickly settled white population” while being “close enough to the Business Section of the city as practical.” In other words, close enough for Blacks to continue to work for whites, but not so close as to impact their neighborhoods.

Government-sanctioned segregation was hardly a new idea. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Federal Housing Administration refused to insure home mortgages in or near existing Black communities, considering the risk of falling property values too great. In urban areas, African Americans were pushed towards segregated housing projects which were often cut off from the rest of the city by major roads and highways.

Ada Lee Smith Shook Collection (S-97-60-35)

This map depicts the locations of Spout Spring’s cornerstone institutions and the homes of some of the people pictured in this blog, contrasted against the proposed changes to the Spout Spring neighborhood and its relocation. A base map was drawn in 1936 by Fayetteville city engineer W. Carl Smith, which in turn was used as the base map for the various illustrations found in Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Neither map is to scale.

The authors seemed confident that the “Federal Government [would] undoubtedly furnish all or part of the money for many of these projects.” Following the plan’s publication Fayetteville moved ahead with several projects, largely using city funds with some federal money for planning. Land was purchased and plans were made to expand the hospital. A new water-pumping station was built and improvements made to water distribution lines and the sewer system. In need of housing for returning World War II veterans, land adjoining City Park (now known as Wilson Park) was secured for a short-term trailer village, and later used to expand the park.

But the rerouting of Highway 71 through Spout Spring never happened. A new proposal had emerged by 1947 to build an overhead viaduct between Rock and Third Streets to overcome the steep hill south of the courthouse. Mayor George T. Sanders believed it could be done “at much less expense than condemning and buying property elsewhere.”(8) Alternate routes were later proposed but ultimately the city couldn’t secure the funds to purchase the needed right-of-way.

Students with their teacher at Washington Elementary School, Fayetteville, Arkansas. 1966-1967

Students with their teacher at Washington Elementary School, 1966-1967. Northwest Arkansas Times Collection (NWAT Box 15 66.413)

Spout Springs continued to be “a place where people live.” While the neighborhood remained largely segregated for several more decades, its people did not. Within days of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Fayetteville’s School Board unanimously voted to integrate its high school. They considered several factors—compliance with the ruling, a concerted push by Black and white community members, and the financial burden of paying for African-American high-school students to be educated elsewhere.(9) That fall seven Black students were welcomed in what was said to be a smooth, orderly fashion. Not that there weren’t difficulties throughout the year, but they were nothing like what befell the students who attempted to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. While Fayetteville’s junior high was integrated in 1955 it took another ten years before the school board integrated the elementary schools. In response to community petitions, the city’s movie theaters and the Wilson Park swimming pool were opened to Blacks in 1963. The following year Melvin E. Dowell was the first alumnus of Lincoln Elementary and Fayetteville High to receive a degree from the University of Arkansas.

FOOTNOTES
1. Information gleaned from the 1940 U.S. Census, based on race, house number, and street name.
2. Edmark, David. “Fayetteville in the Green Book: ‘A Knit Community.’” Flashback, Fall 2019.
3. Email from Tony Wappel, 10-5-2018.
4. Interviews with Betty Hayes Davis, 2012-2016.
5. Johnson, Eric. “Spout Spring in Memory and History.” Flashback, Spring 2017.
6. Schulte, Bret. “Jessie Ballie Carr Bryant: Helping the human race.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11-12-2000.
7. Morgan, Gordon and Izola Preston Morgan. “History Of Black Community Woven With City’s.” Northwest Arkansas Times, 7-16-1978.
8. Northwest Arkansas Times. “Rerouting of Highway 71 Up South College With Construction of Viaduct Proposed.” 4-15-1947.
9. Adams, Julianne Lewis and Thomas A. DeBlack. Civil Obedience: An Oral History of School Desegregation in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1954–1965. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville: 1994.

Marie Demeroukas is the Shiloh Museum’s photo archivist/research librarian. 

The Manuel family Victory Garden on East Center Street, Fayetteville, ArkansasMay 1943.

The Manuel family Victory Garden on East Center Street, Fayetteville, May 1943. From left: Chris Manuel, Bayley Joiner (block chairman of the food-for-victory drive), and Lola Young Manuel. Northwest Arkansas Times, photographer. Washington County Historical Society Collection (P-2437)

Hopeful that the end of World War II was on the horizon, in January 1945 the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce hired two engineers to envision the “Fayetteville of Tomorrow” by positioning the town “to receive the most benefit from post-war construction programs.” Working with input from the Chamber, city government, citizen groups, church leaders, and others, the resulting document—Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan—was published that fall. Key components were the development of a civic center west of the town square, a hospital expansion, the rerouting of a major highway, and the improvement or development of through-roads, parks, schools, and utilities.

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, Fayetteville, Arkansas 1945.

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1945.

Authors and contributors to the Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

I came across the plan while reviewing a large donation of photographic and archival materials from Ann Wiggans Sugg. Curious, I began reading and was soon struck by how easily the plan’s proponents recommended the destruction of a long-standing, close-knit neighborhood, a neighborhood whose residents likely had no say in the matter. Despite the plan’s carefully couched reasons as to why everyone would benefit, the neighborhood’s removal would further marginalize an already marginalized population.

The report’s authors dubbed Fayetteville “A City of Homes, A Place Where People Live.” Back then the town’s boundaries stretched roughly from the veteran’s hospital in the north, to the western edge of Mount Sequoyah in the east, to U.S. Highway 62 in the south, and to North Garland Avenue on the west. With over 8,200 citizens, its economy relied largely on agricultural products (fresh and processed), the University of Arkansas, and forestry products (lumber and veneer). It was expected that population, land area, retail and trade, industry, and tourism would continue to grow.

Highway 71 (College Avenue) in front of the Washington County Courthouse, Fayetteville,Arkansas, about 1940.

Highway 71 (College Avenue) in front of the Washington County Courthouse, about 1940. Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Hinds Collection (S-87-63-8) 

Transportation needs were a concern. As a major thoroughfare, U.S. Highway 71’s narrow lanes and steep grades posed a problem for commercial trucks traveling through town. The road also cut through the business district, limiting growth and burdening in-city traffic. The solution? Reroute it to the east through Spout Spring.

Spout Spring was a neighborhood settled by formerly enslaved people and their descendants sometime after the Civil War. Encompassing a small valley with a spring-fed creek just east of what was then the Washington County Courthouse, the community core included East Meadow, Center, Mountain, and Rock Streets along with South Willow and Washington Avenues.(1) Its cornerstone institutions were the Mission School for Negroes Only (1866, renamed Henderson School in the 1890s), St. James Methodist Episcopal Church (1868), St. James Baptist Church (1885), and Lincoln Elementary School (1936), which replaced Henderson as the neighborhood school.

Susan Marshbank Manuel at her home on North Olive Avenue, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1940s-early 1950s.

Susan Marshbank Manuel at her home on North Olive Avenue, Fayetteville, 1940s–early 1950s. “Mama Susie,” as she was known, offered accommodations for African-American travelers. Her home was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book from 1939-1956.(2) Betty Hayes Davis Collection (S-2015-71-12)

One of the first formerly enslaved African-Americans to purchase land near the core of Spout Springs was Tabitha Marshbank Taylor. In 1879 she bought a large lot on North Olive Avenue (3), which provided space for her and her descendants to build homes.(4) More folks bought property in the valley as early as the 1890s.(5) Many of Spout Spring’s residents worked as housekeepers, laborers, railroad porters, cooks, dishwashers, and shoe-shiners, in large part the only jobs that were open to them. Some operated small businesses out of their homes such as cafés, barbershops, and juke joints. Extra income was earned by renting rooms to travelling workers and, once it was integrated in 1948, University of Arkansas students. Because Fayetteville’s high school was for whites only, Black students seeking higher education were forced to move to larger Arkansas cities like Fort Smith and Pine Bluff or elsewhere to earn their diplomas.

High-school graduate Betty Hayes with her mother Clara Manuel Hayes in the yard of their home on North Olive Avenue, 1945. Betty lived in St. Louis with her uncle while attending Sumner High School. Also seen is the home of Tabitha Marshbank Taylor, Betty’s great grandmother, who bought the property in 1879. Betty Hayes Davis Collection (S-2015-71-50)

Spout Spring is identified as “Tin Cup” in the plan. According to Jessie B. Bryant, civic leader and founder of Northwest Arkansas Free Health and Dental Center, the name was used by white businessmen who stopped by the area for a cup of cool spring water and a quick bite of lunch. In a 2000 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she said, “That’s the misconception of it all. It wasn’t part of the Black neighborhood. . . . if you mention ‘Tin Cup’ it’s automatically a derogatory term for the people in the community. But it had nothing to do with the community.”(6) University of Arkansas professor Dr. Gordon Morgan and his wife Dr. Izola Preston Morgan said much the same in a 1975 Northwest Arkansas Times article. “The Black community has never really considered itself as having a separate identity from that of Fayetteville at large. It has resisted such names as the Can, the Hollow, Tin Cup, and even East Fayetteville. These names have been given it by outsiders . . . who have had no practical knowledge of [the] history of the community.”(7)

Plate No. V depicts the proposed route change of U.S. Highway 71 through Fayetteville. A star has been added to mark the location of the Washington County Courthouse. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

Plate No. VII depicts a closeup of the route through the Spout Spring neighborhood, with proposed recreational parks and parking lot. A star has been added to mark the location of the Washington County Courthouse. Ann Wiggans Sugg Collection (S-2018-74)

The plan labeled Spout Spring as having sub-standard housing and deemed it a poor use of land. Because the area was considered a “natural beauty spot which should be preserved” and as “an area that will do much toward selling Fayetteville to the traveling public,” planners proposed rerouting Highway 71 east through Spout Spring. The adjacent land would be used to create two recreational parks and a parking lot for the use of citizens and travelers.

The suggestion was made to move the valley’s African-American residents to a federally funded, segregated “Negro Housing Project” just beyond the southeastern edge of town, in the belief that “when two races are mixed in a neighborhood all property loses value.” An adjacent ten-acre park centering on Wood Avenue would be developed “to serve the Negro population for recreation, school and church facilities.” Moving the city’s Black residents away from downtown meant that their new neighborhood would be “separate from areas of thickly settled white population” while being “close enough to the Business Section of the city as practical.” In other words, close enough for Blacks to continue to work for whites, but not so close as to impact their neighborhoods.

Government-sanctioned segregation was hardly a new idea. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Federal Housing Administration refused to insure home mortgages in or near existing Black communities, considering the risk of falling property values too great. In urban areas, African Americans were pushed towards segregated housing projects which were often cut off from the rest of the city by major roads and highways.

This map depicts the locations of Spout Spring’s cornerstone institutions and the homes of some of the people pictured in this blog, contrasted against the proposed changes to the Spout Spring neighborhood and its relocation. A base map was drawn in 1936 by Fayetteville city engineer W. Carl Smith, which in turn was used as the base map for the various illustrations found in Six Year Public Works Program and Master City Plan, 1945. Neither map is to scale. Ada Lee Smith Shook Collection (S-97-60-35)

The authors seemed confident that the “Federal Government [would] undoubtedly furnish all or part of the money for many of these projects.” Following the plan’s publication Fayetteville moved ahead with several projects, largely using city funds with some federal money for planning. Land was purchased and plans were made to expand the hospital. A new water-pumping station was built and improvements made to water distribution lines and the sewer system. In need of housing for returning World War II veterans, land adjoining City Park (now known as Wilson Park) was secured for a short-term trailer village, and later used to expand the park.

But the rerouting of Highway 71 through Spout Spring never happened. A new proposal had emerged by 1947 to build an overhead viaduct between Rock and Third Streets to overcome the steep hill south of the courthouse. Mayor George T. Sanders believed it could be done “at much less expense than condemning and buying property elsewhere.”(8) Alternate routes were later proposed but ultimately the city couldn’t secure the funds to purchase the needed right-of-way.

Students with their teacher at Washington Elementary School, Fayetteville, Arkansas. 1966-1967

Students with their teacher at Washington Elementary School, 1966-1967. Northwest Arkansas Times Collection (NWAT Box 15 66.413)

Spout Springs continued to be “a place where people live.” While the neighborhood remained largely segregated for several more decades, its people did not. Within days of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Fayetteville’s School Board unanimously voted to integrate its high school. They considered several factors—compliance with the ruling, a concerted push by Black and white community members, and the financial burden of paying for African-American high-school students to be educated elsewhere.(9) That fall seven Black students were welcomed in what was said to be a smooth, orderly fashion. Not that there weren’t difficulties throughout the year, but they were nothing like what befell the students who attempted to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. While Fayetteville’s junior high was integrated in 1955 it took another ten years before the school board integrated the elementary schools. In response to community petitions, the city’s movie theaters and the Wilson Park swimming pool were opened to Blacks in 1963. The following year Melvin E. Dowell was the first alumnus of Lincoln Elementary and Fayetteville High to receive a degree from the University of Arkansas.

FOOTNOTES
1. Information gleaned from the 1940 U.S. Census, based on race, house number, and street name.
2. Edmark, David. “Fayetteville in the Green Book: ‘A Knit Community.’” Flashback, Fall 2019.
3. Email from Tony Wappel, 10-5-2018.
4. Interviews with Betty Hayes Davis, 2012-2016.
5. Johnson, Eric. “Spout Spring in Memory and History.” Flashback, Spring 2017.
6. Schulte, Bret. “Jessie Ballie Carr Bryant: Helping the human race.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11-12-2000.
7. Morgan, Gordon and Izola Preston Morgan. “History Of Black Community Woven With City’s.” Northwest Arkansas Times, 7-16-1978.
8. Northwest Arkansas Times. “Rerouting of Highway 71 Up South College With Construction of Viaduct Proposed.” 4-15-1947.
9. Adams, Julianne Lewis and Thomas A. DeBlack. Civil Obedience: An Oral History of School Desegregation in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1954–1965. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville: 1994.

Marie Demeroukas is the Shiloh Museum’s photo archivist/research librarian. 

Found, Then Lost

"Stack-Sack" office building in downtown Springdale, 2016. Courtesy Google Maps

“Stack-Sack” office building in downtown Springdale, 2016. Courtesy Google Maps

As a longtime employee of the museum I have driven various routes through Springdale on my way to work over the years. Occasionally I travel up (or down) North Commercial Street which fronts the west side of the train tracks between Emma and Johnson Avenues in downtown Springdale. A building there always caught my eye. It had such an unusual look about it that I wondered about its history.

Well, a few weeks back I got my answer, and what fun! We were processing a scrapbook once kept by employees of Springdale’s old First National Bank and amongst the material on the bank’s history was tucked an undated Arkansas Gazette newspaper clipping: “State’s First ‘Stack-Sack’ Office Constructed for Springdale Lawyers.” (Research is leading me to believe the article ran sometime in November 1969.)

What’s that? A stack what? There in the article (with pictures) was the whole story about the building. Attorney and former Springdale mayor (1962–1966), Charles E. Davis and his partner, Joe B. Reed, decided to build a new office. They wanted something different, so they decided to use Stack-Sack construction, a new way of building walls made by filling burlap sacks with concrete, stacking them on rebar (steel rods), and then coating the exterior with masonry cement. The technique was developed by Edward T. Dicker, a Dallas builder, in 1966. By 1968 Dicker was selling licenses to contractors in the states and places like, Caracas, Venezuela, and the Pacific island of Saipan. He applied for patents in the United States and Russia and received approval from the Federal Housing Administration for FHA-insured financing. The building method had the advantage of being lower in cost and could be built in much less time than traditional construction.

In Springdale, Francis J. McCourt owned the Stack-Sack franchise for nine Northwest Arkansas counties, according to the news clipping. (McCourt, retired from the railroad and trucking business moved to Springdale about 1960, started a construction business about 1965, and developed two residential areas in town.) According to McCourt, Stack-Sack construction was “strong, fireproof, vermin-proof, sound-proof, and easy to maintain.” At the same time he was constructing the Davis-Reed law office, McCourt was also building a three-bedroom Stack-Sack home in Springdale.

I was so geeked to find the story of this building I shared it with staff and gave Marie Demeroukas, museum librarian, the original clipping for the research files. I kept a copy on my desk to remind me to do more research.

Then on Thursday, August 13, 2020, I was driving to work, heading west on Emma Avenue, and looked over to see Springdale’s Stack-Sack building—”the first ever built in Arkansas”—being demolished! After I put my jaw back in place I pulled over and took some pictures. I also grabbed a small chunk of concrete and burlap to take to the museum. I shared the news with Marie and she immediately suggested we needed a bigger example than the puny piece I had brought back. Aaron Loehndorf, museum collections specialist, overheard and volunteered to go get a bigger (and therefore heavier) relic. About that time museum photographer Bo Williams showed up and Marie asked him to go along and take pictures of remaining walls. So the three of us went over in the museum van. Bo took some great shots of the demolition and Aaron found some dandy examples of the burlap and concrete bags and stucco exterior, which are now resting on a cart in museum storage.

Remaining wall (left) with exposed burlap ends of Stack-Sack building, Springdale, Arkansas

Remaining wall (left) with exposed burlap ends, August 13, 2020.

Remains of demolished Stack-Sack building, Springdale, Arkansas, 2020

Remains of demolished walls, August 13, 2020.

Stack-Sack building remnant, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, AR

Burlap and concrete bags and stucco exterior, now safely in museum storage.

I came back to the museum and researched the Davis-Reed building. Old city directories revealed that Davis and Reed had an office on Mill Street until 1969. By 1970 they were installed in the Stack-Sack building on Commercial Street. Davis kept his law office there into the 1990s. The building was later owned by Jeff Watson, a Davis associate (and current Springdale City Council member). The last occupant was also a law firm. The property sold earlier this year to the same folks who bought the old Ryan’s Department Store and San José Manor buildings around the corner on Emma Avenue.

Downtown Springdale is seeing lots of changes and plans are afoot for development. I guess the old Stack-Sack building, once the first of its kind, had to give way for the future.

Here’s a link to a pdf of the original Arkansas Gazette news clipping found in the First National Bank scrapbook that set this research project in motion. Courtesy Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Here’s a link to a story about the Stack-Sack technique featured in Concrete Construction magazine, March 1971.

Postscript: The site of the former David-Reed building is now a tidy flat lot awaiting development. Francis J. McCourt sold his properties and moved out of state in the 1970s. His Stack-Sack house still stands in Springdale.

A stack-sack residence in Springdale, Arkansas, 2014. Courtesy Google Maps

A stack-sack residence in Springdale, 2014. Courtesy Google Maps


Carolyn Reno is the Shiloh Museum’s assistant director/collections manager. 

A Skeleton in Our (Collections) Closet

The very fragile skeleton costume laid out for careful cleaning before storage in an acid-free box.

This skeleton costume was donated by the estate of longtime Hindsville (Madison County) resident Patricia Laird Vaughan. She married James Vaughan, whose family first came to Madison County in 1831. In addition to farming, raising cattle, and running one of the largest fescue seed operations in Arkansas, James and Patricia Vaughan also owned and operated two well-known Hindsville businesses: the Valley Inn Café and Vaughan Valley Antique Shop.

The costume box is stamped as size “Junior (16)” with a penciled-in cost of $2.98. Unfortunately, we do not know if this costume was worn by a child in the Vaughan family, or if it was a item the Vaughans had for sale in their antique store.

According to many sources the practice of “trick or treating” began with a Celtic tradition. The Celts thought that by dressing up as evil spirits, they would be protected if they happened to encounter a demon who roamed the earth as we moved from one year to the next. The term “trick or treating” has a much more recent history. According to Smithsonian magazine, the earliest known printed reference is found in a November 1927 edition of the Blackie Herald (Alberta, Canada):

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

In 1909, Samuel Cornish founded the Collegeville Manufacturing Company in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The company first made aprons, but soon began making American flags as well. In 1923, they further expanded to include making inexpensive Halloween costumes using fabric remnants from the flag-making process. Soon costume-making became a dedicated branch of the Cornish enterprise as the Collegeville Costume Company.

Throughout the years, Collegeville’s line of costumes included pop culture figures of the day. The 1976 Collegeville catalog featured costumes celebrating the Bicentennial and related to the blockbuster movie Jaws. During the 1980s, Peanuts and Transfomers characters were popular Collegeville costumes. Today, Collegeville no longer makes Halloween costumes, but the Cornish family still operates a retail costume store in Royersford, Pennsylvania.


Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.

The very fragile skeleton costume laid out for careful cleaning before storage in an acid-free box.

This skeleton costume was donated by the estate of longtime Hindsville (Madison County) resident Patricia Laird Vaughan. She married James Vaughan, whose family first came to Madison County in 1831. In addition to farming, raising cattle, and running one of the largest fescue seed operations in Arkansas, James and Patricia Vaughan also owned and operated two well-known Hindsville businesses: the Valley Inn Café and Vaughan Valley Antique Shop.

The costume box is stamped as size “Junior (16)” with a penciled-in cost of $2.98. Unfortunately, we do not know if this costume was worn by a child in the Vaughan family, or if it was a item the Vaughans had for sale in their antique store.

According to many sources the practice of “trick or treating” began with a Celtic tradition. The Celts thought that by dressing up as evil spirits, they would be protected if they happened to encounter a demon who roamed the earth as we moved from one year to the next. The term “trick or treating” has a much more recent history. According to Smithsonian magazine, the earliest known printed reference is found in a November 1927 edition of the Blackie Herald (Alberta, Canada):

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

In 1909, Samuel Cornish founded the Collegeville Manufacturing Company in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The company first made aprons, but soon began making American flags as well. In 1923, they further expanded to include making inexpensive Halloween costumes using fabric remnants from the flag-making process. Soon costume-making became a dedicated branch of the Cornish enterprise as the Collegeville Costume Company.

Throughout the years, Collegeville’s line of costumes included pop culture figures of the day. The 1976 Collegeville catalog featured costumes celebrating the Bicentennial and related to the blockbuster movie Jaws. During the 1980s, Peanuts and Transfomers characters were popular Collegeville costumes. Today, Collegeville no longer makes Halloween costumes, but the Cornish family still operates a retail costume store in Royersford, Pennsylvania.


Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.

For the Fans

Tontitown Grapers baseball team, Tontitown, Arkansas, circa 1945.

Tontitown Grapers baseball team at Mantegani Park in Tontitown, circa 1945. From left: Abe Pianalto, Virgil Verucchi Jr., Williard Moon, Paul Pianalto, Bill Fiori, Guy Bariola. Veronica Keith Collection (S-2006-44-5)

A couple years ago I went to my first-ever minor league professional baseball game. It immediately began a love affair that I thought might wane, but it really has not. I went to my first major league game last summer and loved every moment of it. Sadly, this year I have been watching replays of previous games and following players on Twitter and Instagram. We will not discuss the teams (nor sports, nor players) I follow because I understand just how passionate people are about their favorites, but the experience reminds me of an article I read as an undergrad about baseball magic and the incredibly dedicated and detailed rituals players and fans engage in to ensure a win. Next time you watch a basketball player take a free-throw or a pitcher set up, watch for their routine. You won’t be able to unsee it once you find it.

A while back, museum outreach coordinator Susan Young proposed that Aaron Loehndorf (the museum’s collections/education specialist and arguably the biggest baseball fan among the museum staff) and I come up with an “Shiloh Sandwiched-In” program on a local sports topic. Before we agreed to the idea, we wanted to be sure enough material was available to put a program together. Of course there was. Our research focused on the most common form of baseball magic—mascots. Ultimately the Sandwiched-In talk was sidelined and the research went into files on my external hard drive. But the topic stayed in the back of my mind for a long time. If I came across a new team while I was working on something else, I made a note or took a picture with my phone and added the information to my spreadsheet. And then it just sat there. Until now.

Tontitown Grapers baseball team, Tontitown, Arkansas, circa 1945.

Tontitown Grapers baseball team at Mantegani Park in Tontitown, circa 1945. From left: Abe Pianalto, Virgil Verucchi Jr., Williard Moon, Paul Pianalto, Bill Fiori, Guy Bariola. Veronica Keith Collection (S-2006-44-5)

A couple years ago I went to my first-ever minor league professional baseball game. It immediately began a love affair that I thought might wane, but it really has not. I went to my first major league game last summer and loved every moment of it. Sadly, this year I have been watching replays of previous games and following players on Twitter and Instagram. We will not discuss the teams (nor sports, nor players) I follow because I understand just how passionate people are about their favorites, but the experience reminds me of an article I read as an undergrad about baseball magic and the incredibly dedicated and detailed rituals players and fans engage in to ensure a win. Next time you watch a basketball player take a free-throw or a pitcher set up, watch for their routine. You won’t be able to unsee it once you find it.

A while back, museum outreach coordinator Susan Young proposed that Aaron Loehndorf (the museum’s collections/education specialist and arguably the biggest baseball fan among the museum staff) and I come up with an “Shiloh Sandwiched-In” program on a local sports topic. Before we agreed to the idea, we wanted to be sure enough material was available to put a program together. Of course there was. Our research focused on the most common form of baseball magic—mascots. Ultimately the Sandwiched-In talk was sidelined and the research went into files on my external hard drive. But the topic stayed in the back of my mind for a long time. If I came across a new team while I was working on something else, I made a note or took a picture with my phone and added the information to my spreadsheet. And then it just sat there. Until now.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word mascot as “a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck; (now) esp. something carried or displayed for this purpose. Also: a thing (often an animal or personified character) used by an organization, esp. a sports team, as a symbol or for good luck; an emblem.” The origin of the word is French and first appeared in 1867 in an operetta by Edmond Audran. (This operetta was first performed in 1880, if you would like to know.)

Mascots have evolved in many ways. Early mascots for baseball, for example, were young boys who sat with the team. Now they can be Mudhens, Celery Stalks, or Gus the Pioneer (Gentry Public Schools, Benton County.) Mascots provide entertainment and encourage engagement with the crowds. They dance, they interact directly with fans, and often have a ritual of their own  their team scores. Mascots have even been controversial, most recently with teams using Native American nomenclature. And what if your team has the same mascot as another? Ahem, Fayetteville and Springdale: both towns have used the Bulldog as their mascot for decades. This sparked a friendly rivalry and newspaper accounts differentiated by calling them by the team color (purple for Fayetteville, red for Springdale) rather than Bulldogs when they published a retelling of games between the two teams.

Siloam Springs (Arkansas) football team, 1928.

Siloam Springs football team, 1928. Front row, from left: Chester Gilliland, Roy Wolfe, “Tiny” Ward, Zeke Cecil Camp, Vaul Smith, Cal Dean Gunter Jr., Peter “Taz” Paul LaFallette. Back row, from left: Paul “Dayo” Guthrie, Ralph “Slick” Henry, Lee “Athletic” Elrod, Cecil “Beardie” Elrod. Siloam Springs Museum Collection (S-83-297-69)

Farmington girls basketball team, Farmington (Washington County), Arkansas, 1937.

Farmington girls basketball team, Farmington (Washington County), Arkansas, 1937. Washington County Historical Society Collection (P-456)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word mascot as “a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck; (now) esp. something carried or displayed for this purpose. Also: a thing (often an animal or personified character) used by an organization, esp. a sports team, as a symbol or for good luck; an emblem.” The origin of the word is French and first appeared in 1867 in an operetta by Edmond Audran. (This operetta was first performed in 1880, if you would like to know.)

Bentonville, Arkansas, baseball team, circa 1912.

Bentonville baseball team, circa 1912. The team was part of a regional African-American league ranging from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Joplin, Missouri. Back, from left: Thad Wayne, Marion “Sonny” Finney, and Lloyd Trout. Front, from left: Yates Claypool, Virge Black, and John Barker. Elizabeth Robertson Collection (S-95-7-42)

Mascots have evolved in many ways. Early mascots for baseball, for example, were young boys who sat with the team. Now they can be Mudhens, Celery Stalks, or Gus the Pioneer (Gentry Public Schools, Benton County.) Mascots provide entertainment and encourage engagement with the crowds. They dance, they interact directly with fans, and often have a ritual of their own  their team scores. Mascots have even been controversial, most recently with teams using Native American nomenclature. And what if your team has the same mascot as another? Ahem, Fayetteville and Springdale: both towns have used the Bulldog as their mascot for decades. This sparked a friendly rivalry and newspaper accounts differentiated by calling them by the team color (purple for Fayetteville, red for Springdale) rather than Bulldogs when they published a retelling of games between the two teams.

It is not just the mascot that evolved, but the sports and organizations themselves. Over the years, we’ve had our school teams of course, but we also had town teams that would sometimes take on the school team. On July 30, 1937, the Fayetteville Daily Democrat reported on the local WPA baseball league: Greenland beat Tontitown, and Springdale was scheduled to play Fayetteville the following day. We also had professional teams that might play for a season or two and then disappear. These pro teams were funded by local businessmen. And one of the most important changes to sports was desegregation of teams and leagues.

Lest you think I refer to baseball mascots only, I would like to report that on July 14, 1967, the Springdale News recounted a football game between the local police department (the Fuzz) and the fire department (the Hose Jockeys).

Some sports played on the local level were obscure, or so I thought. Does anyone know what shinskinner hockey is? I found this mentioned in one article from 1929. When I did some initial Google-searching I came up with the Bruins. These guys are hockey players today, but once upon a time, there was a soccer team called the Bruins. But in this instance? Basketball, boys and girls. Shinskinner hockey referred to basketball.

Below is the data I have collected thus far, with a lot of help from Aaron. I hope you enjoy exploring the variety of mascots Northwest Arkansas has seen over the years!

COUNTY

SCHOOL

MASCOT

Benton

Bentonville 

Tigers

Benton

Decatur

Bulldogs

Benton

Gentry

Pioneers; was Gorillas (football)

Benton

Gentry (may be club team)

All-Stars (baseball)

Benton

Gentry 

Longhorns (basketball)

Benton

Gravette 

Lions

Benton

Gravette (town team)

Blues (baseball)

Benton

Ozark Adventist Academy

Skeeter the Skyhawk

Benton

Pea Ridge

Blackhawks

Benton

Rogers Heritage High

War Eagles

Benton

Rogers High

Mounties, was Mountaineers

Benton

School of the Arts

Penguins

Benton

Siloam Springs

Panthers, was Travelers (baseball)

Benton

Siloam Springs

Bear Cats (town baseball team)

Benton

Siloam Springs

Jays (town baseball team)

Benton

Siloam Springs Northside Elementary

Koalas

Benton

Sulphur Springs

Pirates

Boone

Alpena

Leopards

Boone

Bergman

Panthers

Boone

Everton/Bruno-Pyatt

Patriots

Boone

Gaither

Cubs

Boone

Harrison

Golden Goblins

Boone

Lead Hill

Tigers

Boone

Omaha

Eagles

Boone

Valley Springs

Tigers

Carroll

Berryville

Bobcats

Carroll

Eureka Springs

Highlanders

Carroll

Green Forest

Tigers

Madison

Huntsville

Eagles

Madison

Kingston

Yellowjackets

Madison

St. Paul

Hornets

Newton

Deer

Deer

Newton

Jasper

Pirates

Newton

Mount Judea

Eagles

Newton

Western Grove

Warriors

Washington

Elkins

Elks

Washington

Farmington

Cardinals

Washington

Fayetteville

Purple Bulldogs

Washington

Fayetteville

Maulers (junior football, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville 

Pirates (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville

Rinkydinks (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville 

Little Can (junior basketball, 1929) 

Washington

Fayetteville

Caddies (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington 

Fayetteville

Educators; became Angels (town minor league baseball)

Washington

Fayetteville Christian

Eagles

Washington

Greenland

Pirates

Washington

Haas Hall 

Mastiffs

Washington

Har-Ber 

Wildcats

Washington

Lincoln

Wolves

Washington

Prairie Grove

Tigers

Washington

Shiloh Christian

Saints

Washington

Southwest Junior

Cougars

Washington

Springdale

Red Bulldogs

Washington

Springdale Police Dept.

Fuzz (football, 1987)

Washington

Springdale Fire Dept.

Hose Jockeys (football, 1987)

Washington

Tontitown

Grapers

Washington

University High

Cardinals (basketball, 1929)

Washington

West Fork

Tigers

Washington

Winslow

Squirrels

Washington

Winslow

Independents (basketball, 1929)


Rachel Whitaker is the Shiloh Museum’s research specialist.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word mascot as “a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck; (now) esp. something carried or displayed for this purpose. Also: a thing (often an animal or personified character) used by an organization, esp. a sports team, as a symbol or for good luck; an emblem.” The origin of the word is French and first appeared in 1867 in an operetta by Edmond Audran. (This operetta was first performed in 1880, if you would like to know.)

Bentonville, Arkansas, baseball team, circa 1912.

Bentonville baseball team, circa 1912. The team was part of a regional African-American league ranging from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Joplin, Missouri. Back, from left: Thad Wayne, Marion “Sonny” Finney, and Lloyd Trout. Front, from left: Yates Claypool, Virge Black, and John Barker. Elizabeth Robertson Collection (S-95-7-42)

Mascots have evolved in many ways. Early mascots for baseball, for example, were young boys who sat with the team. Now they can be Mudhens, Celery Stalks, or Gus the Pioneer (Gentry Public Schools, Benton County.) Mascots provide entertainment and encourage engagement with the crowds. They dance, they interact directly with fans, and often have a ritual of their own  their team scores. Mascots have even been controversial, most recently with teams using Native American nomenclature. And what if your team has the same mascot as another? Ahem, Fayetteville and Springdale: both towns have used the Bulldog as their mascot for decades. This sparked a friendly rivalry and newspaper accounts differentiated by calling them by the team color (purple for Fayetteville, red for Springdale) rather than Bulldogs when they published a retelling of games between the two teams.

It is not just the mascot that evolved, but the sports and organizations themselves. Over the years, we’ve had our school teams of course, but we also had town teams that would sometimes take on the school team. On July 30, 1937, the Fayetteville Daily Democrat reported on the local WPA baseball league: Greenland beat Tontitown, and Springdale was scheduled to play Fayetteville the following day. We also had professional teams that might play for a season or two and then disappear. These pro teams were funded by local businessmen. And one of the most important changes to sports was desegregation of teams and leagues.

Lest you think I refer to baseball mascots only, I would like to report that on July 14, 1967, the Springdale News recounted a football game between the local police department (the Fuzz) and the fire department (the Hose Jockeys).

Some sports played on the local level were obscure, or so I thought. Does anyone know what shinskinner hockey is? I found this mentioned in one article from 1929. When I did some initial Google-searching I came up with the Bruins. These guys are hockey players today, but once upon a time, there was a soccer team called the Bruins. But in this instance? Basketball, boys and girls. Shinskinner hockey referred to basketball.

Below is the data I have collected thus far, with a lot of help from Aaron. I hope you enjoy exploring the variety of mascots Northwest Arkansas has seen over the years!

COUNTY

SCHOOL

MASCOT

Benton

Bentonville 

Tigers

Benton

Decatur

Bulldogs

Benton

Gentry

Pioneers; was Gorillas (football)

Benton

Gentry (may be club team)

All-Stars (baseball)

Benton

Gentry 

Longhorns (basketball)

Benton

Gravette 

Lions

Benton

Gravette (town team)

Blues (baseball)

Benton

Ozark Adventist Academy

Skeeter the Skyhawk

Benton

Pea Ridge

Blackhawks

Benton

Rogers Heritage High

War Eagles

Benton

Rogers High

Mounties, was Mountaineers

Benton

School of the Arts

Penguins

Benton

Siloam Springs

Panthers, was Travelers (baseball)

Benton

Siloam Springs

Bear Cats (town baseball team)

Benton

Siloam Springs

Jays (town baseball team)

Benton

Siloam Springs Northside Elementary

Koalas

Benton

Sulphur Springs

Pirates

Boone

Alpena

Leopards

Boone

Bergman

Panthers

Boone

Everton/Bruno-Pyatt

Patriots

Boone

Gaither

Cubs

Boone

Harrison

Golden Goblins

Boone

Lead Hill

Tigers

Boone

Omaha

Eagles

Boone

Valley Springs

Tigers

Carroll

Berryville

Bobcats

Carroll

Eureka Springs

Highlanders

Carroll

Green Forest

Tigers

Madison

Huntsville

Eagles

Madison

Kingston

Yellowjackets

Madison

St. Paul

Hornets

Newton

Deer

Deer

Newton

Jasper

Pirates

Newton

Mount Judea

Eagles

Newton

Western Grove

Warriors

Washington

Elkins

Elks

Washington

Farmington

Cardinals

Washington

Fayetteville

Purple Bulldogs

Washington

Fayetteville

Maulers (junior football, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville 

Pirates (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville

Rinkydinks (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington

Fayetteville 

Little Can (junior basketball, 1929) 

Washington

Fayetteville

Caddies (junior basketball, 1929)

Washington 

Fayetteville

Educators; became Angels (town minor league baseball)

Washington

Fayetteville Christian

Eagles

Washington

Greenland

Pirates

Washington

Haas Hall 

Mastiffs

Washington

Har-Ber 

Wildcats

Washington

Lincoln

Wolves

Washington

Prairie Grove

Tigers

Washington

Shiloh Christian

Saints

Washington

Southwest Junior

Cougars

Washington

Springdale

Red Bulldogs

Washington

Springdale Police Dept.

Fuzz (football, 1987)

Washington

Springdale Fire Dept.

Hose Jockeys (football, 1987)

Washington

Tontitown

Grapers

Washington

University High

Cardinals (basketball, 1929)

Washington

West Fork

Tigers

Washington

Winslow

Squirrels

Washington

Winslow

Independents (basketball, 1929)


Rachel Whitaker is the Shiloh Museum’s research specialist.

Paul’s Blue Ox

Note: Thanks to our museum photographer, Bo Williams, for filming Paul’s Blue Ox in action.

When cataloging an artifact, many aspects of it can be extremely helpful in determining how it was used, where it came from, and the date range of manufacture and/or use. A family history of that artifact can fill in many of those blanks. Artifacts that are stamped with company information, and, in some cases, a patent number, can give us a very specific date range to go from. However, when that patent number does not match a patent resembling the artifact in question, it becomes even more challenging to figure out a date. Such was the case with a recent donation from the Patricia Laird Vaughan estate of “Paul’s Blue Ox,” a toy made by Multipl-aktion Toy Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Paul’s Blue Ox is a “ball-actuated” toy:  marbles roll down the back of the ox until a lumberjack type figure rises up, knocks the marble off of between the ox’s horns, and dumps it on the tray at the bottom of the toy. Paul’s Blue Ox came to us in its original box. Printed on the box is patent number 1791217. A patent search on the internet linked that number to a European patent for female and male connector circuitry, not for a toy from the 1940s (that date was my educated guess).

Next I turned to a web search to find information about the Multipl-aktion Toy Company. The search engine kept trying to tell me the company name was “Multiple-Action” Toy Company, which was not the name I was looking for. I was able to find one web listing for the toy with the same patent number which dated the toy as 1931 but yielded no other new information. I also located an entry in the 1944 Minneapolis city directory for the “Multipl Aktion Toy Company” with salesmen David Ackerberg and Sidney Rivkin listed as company officers.

With nothing to show for my sleuthing but limited bits of information on the Blue Ox, I reluctantly moved on to another artifact from the same donor—a toy xylophone. The xylophone’s patent numbers proved quite helpful, and the numbers started with a “US” prefix. I finished cataloging the xylophone, then, on a whim, I went back to the Blue Ox patents. I decided to try the patent search again, this time adding “US” to the patent number. This led me to a 1929 patent for a liquid-vending machine issued to Sidney L. Long of Minneapolis, Minnesota—same location as the Multipl-aktion Toy Company, but the time period was a bit early and the patent was not for a Blue Ox toy.

I delved deeper into the other patents submitted by Sidney L. Long, and there, finally, I found a ball-actuated toy, patent number 2434571, filed August 29, 1945. That patent is for a toy that looks almost identical to the Blue Ox.

Even though an erroneous patent number led to several dead ends, it still provided valuable information for finally tracking down the correct patent for Paul’s Blue Ox.


Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.

Telling Ed’s Story

Aaron Loehndorf with Ed Stilley, March 2019.

Shiloh Museum collections and education specialist Aaron Loehndorf greets Ed Stilley at the Instruments of Faith exhibit reception, March 30, 2019.

There is a saying, “all good things must come to an end.” On January 13,2020, our Instruments of Faith exhibit on the life and work of folk instrument maker Ed Stilley will close. For me, it was truly a blessing to curate the exhibit, and it will be bittersweet as I take it down.

Early in the exhibit creation process, I was fortunate enough to meet folk musicians Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, friends of the Stilley family. The assistance and support from Kelly and Donna made the exhibit possible, and they made the work enjoyable. Kelly and Donna introduced me to Ed Stilley and his wife, Eliza.  Meeting the Stilleys is still an awe-inspiring moment for me. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met as they welcomed me into their home. I have never met anyone like Ed—forceful yet quiet, reserved yet expressive. The fact that I had the chance to spend time with him during the course of the exhibit was the highlight of the entire process.

Museum exhibits frequently cover topics from the past or about individuals that are no longer with us. Telling someone else’s story, especially while they’re still alive, can be daunting. I had some concerns about how the exhibit would be received, especially since at the heart of Ed Stilley’s life story is his response to a vision he said he received from God. It’s a very personal story. I wanted to present it to the public in a meaningful, respectful way. Overall, I could not be happier with how Instruments of Faith turned out and the rave reviews we’ve received from visitors. There might be one or two minor tweaks—things I would have done differently—but all in all, I am happy with it.

Ed Stilley and Kelly Mulhollan

Ed Stilley signs a copy of his biography, True Faith, True Light, as author Kelly Mulhollan looks on. Stilley and Mulhollan were attending the museum’s Instrument of Faith exhibit reception on March 30, 2019.

While Ed Stilley stopped making instruments a few years ago due to poor health, he and his family joyfully attended the Instruments of Faith exhibit opening on March 30, 2019. Ed sang a hymn for the audience and also signed copies of his biography, True Faith, True Light, written by Kelly Mulhollan and published by the University of Arkansas Press. I think for all those in attendance, being in the same room with Ed Stilley, getting the chance to shake his hand, was a very moving experience. I believe the exhibit reception was Ed’s last public appearance. He passed away on June 12, 2019.

Soon the Ed Stilley instruments will come down, the tools in his replica tool shed will be put away, and the life-size photo of Rose the mule will find a new home. I wish I had words to do justice about what this experience has meant to me, but I am at a loss. It was truly a life changing process to be a part of, and I will carry the memories and experiences for the rest of my life. Thank you once again to all the individuals who loaned their Stilley instruments for the exhibit. Another thank you to all who came to see the exhibit and took time to share their impressions with us. (It is always nice to hear positive comments from the people that the museum serves.) Finally, a special thank you to Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, and to the entire Stilley family for entrusting me with Ed’s story. I hope you feel that I did it justice.


Aaron Loehndorf is the Shiloh Museum’s collections and education specialist.