“A Real Satisfaction”

"A Real Satisfaction"

Online Exhibit
Essie Ward at her home near Marshall (Searcy County), Arkansas, 1970s.

Essie Ward at her home near Marshall (Searcy County), Arkansas, 1970s. Jeanne Hofer-Tucker Collection (S-96-10-3)

Folk artist Essie Treat Ward has been called the “Grandma Moses of the Ozarks.” Born in the Searcy County community of Nubbin Hill in 1902, Essie began drawing when she was a young girl. Throughout her life, she created drawings, paintings, toys, and sculptures—all without the benefit of formal training.

Hers was the life of a traditional Ozark woman. Essie married Jesse Ward in 1922. The couple raised chickens, hogs, vegetables, fruit trees, and seven children on a small farm near Marshall. Much of the farm work fell to Essie when Jesse was diagnosed with diabetes.

In 1959, Essie was diagnosed with cancer. After an operation, doctors sent her home with orders to slow down. That’s when Essie put down the plow and picked up a paint brush.

Most of Essie Ward’s paintings show the adventures of Miranda and Hezzakiah, an old Ozark pioneer couple. Essie was inspired to create these characters when a friend came to her with a photograph of a woman churning butter in the doorway of a log cabin. “He had carried that picture in his billfold for thirty years trying to find somebody to paint it,” Ward said. She tried her hand at it, and as she recalled, “it turned out real good.”

Miranda and Hezzakiah find themselves in all sorts of predicaments. They are joined by a cast of characters, including farm animals, wildlife, and even ticks. The Miranda and Hezzakiah paintings became so popular that orders came in faster than Ward could fill them. She painted on masonite, holding the board in her lap, with oil paints straight from the tube. She usually finished one picture a day.

Although each painting is original, Ward developed a series of fifty-five different Miranda and Hezzakiah scenes, complete with landscapes shaded correctly for the season of the year. Customers selected one of the scenes when they placed their order. Ward’s trademark appears in every painting: two tiny white marks that resemble rabbit or mule ears.

Fame came to Essie Ward in 1970, when she was invited to participate in the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C.

Through the years, Essie Ward sold hundreds of paintings. In a 1971 interview she remarked, “[Painting] is all I’ve ever wanted to do, yet I never studied anything about painting. I guess you could say I just paint as I see it—actually, or in my memory. Others like what I do. That’s a real satisfaction.”

Essie Ward lived all of her seventy-nine years in the hills of Searcy County. She died in 1981, and is buried at Canaan Cemetery in Marshall.

To learn more about the life and work of Essie Ward, watch a vidcast by Shiloh Museum outreach coordinator Susan Young (also available on YouTube and iTunes).

We often receive questions from folks asking us to estimate the monetary value of their Essie Ward painting. As a matter of best museum practices, the Shiloh Museum does not provide or estimate values for any antiques or collectibles. Regarding Essie Ward, some years back we checked with a qualified folk art appraiser and he reported that Essie Ward paintings “have no presence in the folk art market and therefore no estimated market value.” If you are interested in contacting an art appraiser about your painting(s), qualified folk art appraisers can be found at the American Society of Appraisers website. Under “Appraisal Expertise/ASA Specialty, select “American Folk Art.”

Essie Ward at her home near Marshall (Searcy County), Arkansas, 1970s.

Essie Ward at her home near Marshall (Searcy County), Arkansas, 1970s. Jeanne Hofer-Tucker Collection (S-96-10-3)

Folk artist Essie Treat Ward has been called the “Grandma Moses of the Ozarks.” Born in the Searcy County community of Nubbin Hill in 1902, Essie began drawing when she was a young girl. Throughout her life, she created drawings, paintings, toys, and sculptures—all without the benefit of formal training.

Hers was the life of a traditional Ozark woman. Essie married Jesse Ward in 1922. The couple raised chickens, hogs, vegetables, fruit trees, and seven children on a small farm near Marshall. Much of the farm work fell to Essie when Jesse was diagnosed with diabetes.

In 1959, Essie was diagnosed with cancer. After an operation, doctors sent her home with orders to slow down. That’s when Essie put down the plow and picked up a paint brush.

Most of Essie Ward’s paintings show the adventures of Miranda and Hezzakiah, an old Ozark pioneer couple. Essie was inspired to create these characters when a friend came to her with a photograph of a woman churning butter in the doorway of a log cabin. “He had carried that picture in his billfold for thirty years trying to find somebody to paint it,” Ward said. She tried her hand at it, and as she recalled, “it turned out real good.”

Miranda and Hezzakiah find themselves in all sorts of predicaments. They are joined by a cast of characters, including farm animals, wildlife, and even ticks. The Miranda and Hezzakiah paintings became so popular that orders came in faster than Ward could fill them. She painted on masonite, holding the board in her lap, with oil paints straight from the tube. She usually finished one picture a day.

Although each painting is original, Ward developed a series of fifty-five different Miranda and Hezzakiah scenes, complete with landscapes shaded correctly for the season of the year. Customers selected one of the scenes when they placed their order. Ward’s trademark appears in every painting: two tiny white marks that resemble rabbit or mule ears.

Fame came to Essie Ward in 1970, when she was invited to participate in the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C.

Through the years, Essie Ward sold hundreds of paintings. In a 1971 interview she remarked, “[Painting] is all I’ve ever wanted to do, yet I never studied anything about painting. I guess you could say I just paint as I see it—actually, or in my memory. Others like what I do. That’s a real satisfaction.”

Essie Ward lived all of her seventy-nine years in the hills of Searcy County. She died in 1981, and is buried at Canaan Cemetery in Marshall.

To learn more about the life and work of Essie Ward, watch a vidcast by Shiloh Museum outreach coordinator Susan Young (also available on YouTube and iTunes).

We often receive questions from folks asking us to estimate the monetary value of their Essie Ward painting. As a matter of best museum practices, the Shiloh Museum does not provide or estimate values for any antiques or collectibles. Regarding Essie Ward, some years back we checked with a qualified folk art appraiser and he reported that Essie Ward paintings “have no presence in the folk art market and therefore no estimated market value.” If you are interested in contacting an art appraiser about your painting(s), qualified folk art appraisers can be found at the American Society of Appraisers website. Under “Appraisal Expertise/ASA Specialty, select “American Folk Art.”

Shiloh Museum’s Jeanne Hoffer-Tucker Collection of Essie Ward Paintings

Building Beaver Lake

Building Beaver Lake

Online Exhibit

What would Northwest Arkansas be like without Beaver Lake? Would we be as economically prosperous? Would we be able to support a large population? Would as many tourists visit? Probably not. The landscape and community of Northwest Arkansas changed with the coming of Beaver Lake.

Today many of us think of Beaver Lake as a water source and as a place to enjoy recreational activities, but its original purpose was for power generation and flood control. Tremendous floods in the 1920s and 1930s prompted Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action against future disasters. Many areas across the nation were recommended for improvement, including the White River Basin. And so began the struggle to secure the authority—and the funds—to build a series of reservoirs along the White River and its tributaries.

The White was a strong, clear river, home to big catfish and lined with huge walnut and cherry trees. Native Americans first benefited from the river, and later homesteaders settled along its banks, raising families, farming land, and operating businesses among the forested hills, limestone bluffs, and deep valleys. Much of this land came to be covered by the waters of Beaver Lake.

The lake’s name comes from the town of Beaver in Carroll County, originally homesteaded by Wilson Beaver. At first the dam was to be built near Beaver, until it was determined that the area’s geography and geology weren’t suitable. Instead the dam was built six miles northwest of nearby Eureka Springs.

The Beaver Lake project cost over $43 million. The money was used to purchase property, relocate cemeteries, roads, and utility lines, clear the reservoir area, build the dam, powerhouse, and auxiliary embankment dams, and engineer and supervise the entire project. The contract for the dam was awarded to the T.L. James & Co. of Ruston, Louisiana, and the J.A. Jones Construction Co. of Charlotte, North Carolina, which together submitted a bid of $15.9 million.

The Corps of Engineers operates the five reservoirs that make up the integrated water resource system in the White River Basin: Beaver, Table Rock (in Missouri), and Bull Shoals (near Mountain Home) on the White River; Norfork on the North Fork River; and Greers Ferry (near Heber Springs) on the Little Red River.

The original purpose of the reservoir was for flood control and power generation. It was only later, around the time that the lake was built, that the lake’s use as a municipal and industrial water supply and as a recreational resource began to take shape. The lake was one of the first in the nation to include these benefits as part of its mandated purpose.

Many of the images in this exhibit were donated by Thomas E. Petermann, project engineer in charge of building Beaver Dam and powerhouse. He also wrote a synopsis of the project that serves as an invaluable resource for historians.

To learn more about the big picture that Beaver Lake is a part of, take a look at these resources:

What would Northwest Arkansas be like without Beaver Lake? Would we be as economically prosperous? Would we be able to support a large population? Would as many tourists visit? Probably not. The landscape and community of Northwest Arkansas changed with the coming of Beaver Lake.

Today many of us think of Beaver Lake as a water source and as a place to enjoy recreational activities, but its original purpose was for power generation and flood control. Tremendous floods in the 1920s and 1930s prompted Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action against future disasters. Many areas across the nation were recommended for improvement, including the White River Basin. And so began the struggle to secure the authority—and the funds—to build a series of reservoirs along the White River and its tributaries.

The White was a strong, clear river, home to big catfish and lined with huge walnut and cherry trees. Native Americans first benefited from the river, and later homesteaders settled along its banks, raising families, farming land, and operating businesses among the forested hills, limestone bluffs, and deep valleys. Much of this land came to be covered by the waters of Beaver Lake.

The lake’s name comes from the town of Beaver in Carroll County, originally homesteaded by Wilson Beaver. At first the dam was to be built near Beaver, until it was determined that the area’s geography and geology weren’t suitable. Instead the dam was built six miles northwest of nearby Eureka Springs.

The Beaver Lake project cost over $43 million. The money was used to purchase property, relocate cemeteries, roads, and utility lines, clear the reservoir area, build the dam, powerhouse, and auxiliary embankment dams, and engineer and supervise the entire project. The contract for the dam was awarded to the T.L. James & Co. of Ruston, Louisiana, and the J.A. Jones Construction Co. of Charlotte, North Carolina, which together submitted a bid of $15.9 million.

The Corps of Engineers operates the five reservoirs that make up the integrated water resource system in the White River Basin: Beaver, Table Rock (in Missouri), and Bull Shoals (near Mountain Home) on the White River; Norfork on the North Fork River; and Greers Ferry (near Heber Springs) on the Little Red River.

The original purpose of the reservoir was for flood control and power generation. It was only later, around the time that the lake was built, that the lake’s use as a municipal and industrial water supply and as a recreational resource began to take shape. The lake was one of the first in the nation to include these benefits as part of its mandated purpose.

Many of the images in this exhibit were donated by Thomas E. Petermann, project engineer in charge of building Beaver Dam and powerhouse. He also wrote a synopsis of the project that serves as an invaluable resource for historians.

To learn more about the big picture that Beaver Lake is a part of, take a look at these resources:

Timeline

1927. Great Flood devastates six southern states, including Arkansas

1929. Corps begins flood-control study of White River Basin

1937. More flooding causes Congress to approve national flood-control plan

1938. Passage of Flood Control Act authorizing Corps to build six flood-control lakes in White River Basin

1941. Passage of Flood Control Act authorizing Norfolk and Bull Shoals Dams

1944. Passage of Flood Control Act allows Southwest Power Administration to market power generated by lakes

1949. Beaver Dam Association incorporates

1954. Passage of Flood Control Act authorizing addition of Beaver Lake for flood control and power generation to White River plan

1957. Beaver Water District incorporates

1958. Passage of Water Supply Act approving municipal and industrial water storage in federally constructed reservoirs

1959. Corps completes first land purchase

1960. Construction begins on dam; Beaver Water District contracts for water rights

1963. Construction begins on powerhouse and switchyard

1964. Dam complete and water impoundment begins

1965. Passage of Recreational Act allows for federally constructed reservoirs to include recreation as a project purpose; power generation begins

1966. Beaver Lake complete; Beaver Water District goes on line; Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Committee incorporates to strategize for growth in Beaver Lake area

Fun Facts

Amount of Arkansas underwater during 1927 flood: 6,600 square miles

Number of counties affected: 36 of 75

Percentage of Arkansans who get their drinking water from the lake: 14% (over 420,000 people)

Number of cemeteries relocated: 39

Number of graves moved: 1,584

Amount of water Beaver Water District can produce daily (as of 2014): 140 million gallons

Length of White River affected by project: 70 miles

Number of visits in 2016 to Corps of Engineer-run parks at Beaver Lake: over 2.6 million

Amount of cement used: 600,000 barrels

Height of mixing plant: 120 feet

Height of crane operator above trestle: 80 feet

Length of trestle: 1,150 feet

Size of aggregate: 6 inch, 3 inch, 1½ inch, ¾ inch

Distance apart of gantry rails: 32 feet

Weight of four-cubic-yard bucket of concrete: 11 tons

Amount of concrete produced per hour: 150 cubic yards

Estimated cost of project: $51 million

Actual cost of project: $43 million

Dimension of lift: 48-feet wide by 7½-feet high

Amount of concrete used in dam: 133,000 truck loads

Number of monoliths: 28

Height of dam: 228 feet

Amount of concrete in dam: 780,000 cubic yards

Length of concrete dam: 1,333 feet

Width of dam at base: 180 feet

Width of dam at top: 32 feet

Capacity of water storage tanks: 16,000 gallons

Length of cooling conveyor: 350 feet

Length of embankment: 1,242 feet

Amount of rock and soil in embankment: 1.7 million cubic yards

Amount of water in one acre-foot: 325,850 gallons

Dimensions of each gate: 40 feet wide by 37 feet high

Length of spillway: 328 feet

Bid for construction of powerhouse: $3.7 million

Diameter of penstock: 20½ feet

Capacity of each turbine: 77,400 horsepower (about 553 average-sized cars)

Dimensions of sluice gate: 6 feet by 10 feet

Amount of time to go from zero-power generation to full load: 3 minutes

Length of shoreline: 450 miles

Number of people projected to be living in area by 2055: 1.2 million

Photo Gallery

Before the Lake, A River
The White River as seen from Panorama Point near Monte Ne, circa 1920.  W. B. Grabill Collection (S-86-210-4)

The White River as seen from Panorama Point near Monte Ne, circa 1920. W.B. Grabill Collection (S-86-210-4)

The White River starts near Fayetteville and flows north into Missouri before returning to Arkansas. In 1926 and 1927 heavy rains throughout the Midwest and South dumped an enormous amount of water into the White and other rivers that flow into the Mississippi River. The Great Flood of 1927 began on April 16 when a levee broke in Illinois. As the water flowed downstream, more levees broke.

The floodwaters devastated the South. Over 27,000 square miles of land were flooded in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Nearly 1,000 people lost their lives, one million people were displaced, and 130,000 homes were destroyed.

It was because of this flood that the Federal government began looking into ways to manage the nation’s rivers. In 1929 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a $61,000 flood-control study of the White River Basin, concluding that a series of dams was needed.

  Residents watch the flooding of the West Fork of the White River, near Brentwood (Washington County), April 15, 1927.

Residents watch the flooding of the West Fork of the White River, near Brentwood (Washington County), April 15, 1927. Bertha Cartmell Reid and George Cartmell Collection (S-89-105-241)

The Vision
Members of the Beaver Dam Association, circa 1950.  Front row, from left: Willis Shaw (Elm Springs), Claud Morsani (Tontitown), vice-president Joe Robinson (Springdale), president Earl Harris (Rogers), secretary-treasurer Courtney Crouch (Springdale), Mace Howell (Springdale), Paul Young (Fayetteville), unidentified.  Back row, from left:  Elbert Graham (Lowell), State Senator Russell Elrod (Siloam Springs), J.J. Neil (Springdale), Albert Price (Eureka Springs), unidentified, unidentified, Shelby Ford (Springdale), Carl Shores (Cave Springs), unidentified.

Members of the Beaver Dam Association, circa 1950. Front row, from left: Willis Shaw (Elm Springs), Claud Morsani (Tontitown), vice-president Joe Robinson (Springdale), president Earl Harris (Rogers), secretary-treasurer Courtney Crouch (Springdale), Mace Howell (Springdale), Paul Young (Fayetteville), unidentified. Back row, from left: Elbert Graham (Lowell), State Senator Russell Elrod (Siloam Springs), J. J. Neil (Springdale), Albert Price (Eureka Springs), unidentified, unidentified, Shelby Ford (Springdale), Carl Shores (Cave Springs), unidentified. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection (S-77-9-294)

Northwest Arkansas lobbied for the construction of Beaver Lake. In 1949 area leaders formed the Beaver Dam Association to study such things as erosion and flooding on the upper White River and to look into irrigation, municipal water, and hydroelectric power, all in order to promote the lake’s construction.

The Beaver Water District was formed in 1957 by the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, and Springdale to secure a long-term supply of water for Benton and Washington Counties. The District paid for five additional feet of dam height for water storage.

One of five aerial maps produced by the Corps of Engineers illustrating the area to be cleared for the reservoir, July 1960.  The future footprint of the lake is marked in white.  Rogers is on the left.

One of five aerial maps produced by the Corps of Engineers illustrating the area to be cleared for the reservoir, July 1960. The future footprint of the lake is marked in white. Rogers is on the left. Joe Neal Collection (S-89-14)

The Corps of Engineers had to purchase over 40,000 acres of land to make way for the reservoir.  It was a difficult task because land titles back in the hills were informal or non-existent and owners or their heirs were scattered.

Because the White was a meandering river, the lake took on an irregular shape as the impounded waters backed up into the hills and valleys of the river basin.

Not only did the lake change the geographical landscape of the area, it changed the historical and cultural landscapes.  Families whose ancestors homesteaded along the White were forced to move their homes and cemeteries as the lake rose to cover farms, small towns and communities, Native American archeological sites, and historical sites such as the resort at Monte Ne.

U. S. Representative James W. Trimble at the groundbreaking for Beaver Dam, November 22, 1960.  The men to his right are, from left: Governor Orval E. Faubus, Clarence Byrnes, and Joe Robinson, president of the Beaver Dam Association.

U. S. Representative James W. Trimble at the groundbreaking for Beaver Dam, November 22, 1960. The men to his right are, from left: Governor Orval E. Faubus, Clarence Byrnes, and Joe Robinson, president of the Beaver Dam Association. Springdale News Collection (SMN pre-65-23)

It was fitting that U.S. Representative James W. Trimble of Berryville was the first to break earth at the dam site, because he was a leading advocate for Beaver Lake. Although there was opposition to the reservoir in Congress, by adding water supply to the reservoir’s purpose he was able to secure the necessary funds in 1954. At the ceremony Trimble envisioned a day when “…family groups with children will enjoy outings on the shores of the emerald lake to be created here, when young lovers will make plans for a brighter future, and older folks will look in increasing numbers to our beautiful Ozarks as an ideal place for retirement in their golden years.”

Governor Faubus declared, “Nature has given to the Ozarks their unmatched beauty. Now Beaver Dam will help this hill country grow into one of the most prosperous areas of our nation.”

Prepping the Dam Site
Preparing a bluff ledge for the concrete mixing plant, early 1961.

Preparing a bluff ledge for the concrete mixing plant, early 1961.
Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-53)

The best site for the dam was found about six miles northwest of Eureka Springs, where the White River flowed past a 350-feet-tall bluff on one side and a more gradual rise of 250 feet on the other.

To bring machinery and supplies to the dam site, the Frisco Railroad built a 20-car spur near Gateway on the Arkansas-Missouri border. Materials traveled down Highway 62 and then onto a newly built three-mile-long access road.

Bluff with the trestle and mixing plant under construction, June 1961.

Bluff with the trestle and mixing plant under construction, June 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-67B)

The contract to build the dam was awarded on November 16, 1960. For the next four years tremors, noise, dust, and diesel fumes filled the sleepy little valley.

Two electric whirley cranes were used to build the dam. Each crane revolved 360 degrees on its base, allowing the operator to move heavy construction materials and concrete in all directions. The cranes were mounted on 75-feet-tall gantries, movable steel towers perched atop a steel trestle (bridge) spanning the length of the dam.

A whirley crane places a second crane, June 1961.

A whirley crane places a second crane, June 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-57)

Care had to be taken to keep the crane from overextending and toppling over. The heavier the load hanging from the end of the long boom, the closer it needed to stay to the center of the crane.

A used mixing plant was purchased from the Niagara Falls Power Project in New York in 1960. It was taken apart and shipped by rail to Gateway.

The concrete mixing plant (front) and the trestle for the whirley cranes (back) under construction, August 1961. The White River flows below the concrete plant.

The concrete mixing plant (front) and the trestle for the whirley cranes (back) under construction, August 1961. The White River flows below the concrete plant. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-62)

Cement and aggregate (crushed stone) were stored in the plant above a structure which sorted the aggregate into various sizes. From there the materials went into batching hoppers to be measured and weighed and then into one of four mixers, each capable of holding four cubic yards of concrete.

Along with the tracks for the whirley crane gantries, two sets of railroad tracks were installed on the trestle, allowing for the coming and going of the flatcars hauling giant buckets of concrete.

 

Rock Crushers and Concrete
Part of the rock-crushing plant, December 1961.

Part of the rock-crushing plant, December 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-100)

Concrete is made of aggregate, sand, water, Portland cement, and sometimes flyash, a filler material that is a by-product of coal-burning plants. To keep costs down, the aggregate quarry was located at the top of the bluff.

The concrete mixing plant, December 1961.  A railroad flatcar with buckets of concrete is seen in front

The concrete mixing plant, December 1961. A railroad flatcar with buckets of concrete is seen in front. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-105)

Rock was blasted to a depth of 90 feet and hauled to the rock-crushing plant near the bluff’s edge. After it was crushed and screened into various sizes, the rock was stored in recovery tunnels and moved by conveyor belt to the mixing plant.

The finished trestle, January 1962.

The finished trestle, January 1962. Bettye Mohney Collection (S-86-124-38:3)

The project was a joint venture between the T. L. James and J. A. Jones construction companies. As contractor they oversaw all phases of the work including scheduling and delivery of supplies and equipment, securing electrical power to the site, and letting out subcontracts for preparing the foundation and operating the quarry. The contractor also hired the work crew. Some were seasoned professionals who traveled from project to project, but most were local workers.

The contractor built warehouses, fueling depots, equipment maintenance sheds, project offices, temporary roads and a bridge across the river, a carpentry shop, an inspection building, parking areas, lay-down areas for materials and equipment, and an electrical substation. In the end, the dam and powerhouse were completed ahead of schedule and under budget

Monoliths on the Rise
Whirley cranes moving buckets of concrete to a monolith, December 1961.

Whirley cranes moving buckets of concrete to a monolith, December 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-104)

A gravity dam is made up of monoliths, giant concrete blocks built on top of and next to each other. To create the monoliths, cantilevered steel lifts (forms) are used to hold and shape the concrete until it is hardened. Chilled concrete, shallow lifts, and a precisely calculated cure time prevent the concrete from cracking.

After steel reinforcing rods were put into position, concrete was poured onto the sandblasted surface of the hardened monolith below the lift. The concrete mix was so stiff when it was poured that workers were able to walk on it and use a six-inch vibrator to consolidate the concrete and remove air pockets.

The worksite behind an earthen cofferdam, December 1961.

The worksite behind an earthen cofferdam, December 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-101)

Three cofferdams made of earth or steel sheet piling were erected at different stages of the project. They served as temporary barriers to keep the White River from flooding the worksite.

Monoliths under construction, December 1961.

Monoliths under construction, December 1961. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-98)

Beaver Dam is not made of solid concrete. Tunnel-like access galleries run along the length of the dam. To make an opening in the concrete, a wood-and-plywood form was built and positioned inside the monolith. The concrete was poured around the form and once hardened, the form was removed.

Equipment is housed in the operator’s gallery.  Below it is the lower gallery which follows the bottom of the dam. To prevent water seepage, the foundation rock is pressure-grouted through holes in the gallery floor. Any seepage that does occur flows down drain holes to a sump pump. To monitor tilt in the dam caused by the water pressure of the reservoir, a tilt meter (a large plumb bob) hangs in a vertical gallery and measurements are taken quarterly.

Monoliths on the rise, July 1962

Monoliths on the rise, July 1962. Bettye Mohney Collection (S-86-124-38:7)

A number of problems had to be overcome at the dam site. To transport heavy Portland cement to the mixing plant, a temporary bridge across the White River and a road to the high bluff were built.

To make best use of the quarry atop the bluff, the concrete mixing plant was placed on a ledge halfway down the bluff face. The height of the plant determined the height of the trestle and the whirley cranes. But the cranes couldn’t reach the part of the dam next to the bluff, so a stationary stiff-leg derrick was mounted on the dam.

Because the first monoliths were constructed opposite the bluff, the entire trestle had to be completed to move the concrete from the mixing plant to the worksite. This meant that some of the trestle footings had to stand in the flowing river. Holes were drilled into the bedrock and reinforced concrete footings installed.

The southern monoliths under construction, July 1962

The southern monoliths under construction, July 1962. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-113)

Beaver Dam is a concrete gravity dam. It uses its massive weight to hold back the water in the reservoir. Roughly triangular in shape, the dam has a wide base which counteracts the enormous horizontal water pressure found at the bottom of the lake. At the top of the triangle, where there is little water pressure, the dam is narrow.

In order to anchor the dam to the limestone bluff, deep notches or keyways were blasted into the rock face. The leftover rock was used to build the earthen embankment anchoring the other side of the dam, opposite the bluff.

The Spillway and the Powerhouse
Slip forms used to construct the narrow, arched walls of the spillway, April 1963.  Below the gantry the dinkey locomotive hauls a flatcar of concrete.

Slip forms used to construct the narrow, arched walls of the spillway, April 1963. Below the gantry the dinkey locomotive hauls a flatcar of concrete. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-117)

When water is added to the dry ingredients that make up concrete, it causes it to harden, releasing heat which can make the concrete crack. To prevent this at Beaver Dam, concrete was poured at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

On the bluff above the mixing plant were several operations designed to keep the concrete and its ingredients cool. A 1,200-ton refrigeration plant made chilled water to mix into the concrete. Chilled water was also sprayed onto the crushed rock as it moved along the conveyor, and then the water was vibrated out before it went into the mixing plant. To cool the coarse aggregate in the storage bins, cold air was forced through it.

Ammonia refrigeration plants made flaked ice, which was stored in an insulated storage house. The ice was moved along a screw conveyor into the ice batcher in the mixing plant. During hot weather more ice than water was added to the concrete mixture to keep it cool.

The spillway under construction, June 1963.  Part of the embankment is seen at right.

The spillway under construction, June 1963. Part of the embankment is seen at right. Bettye Mohney Collection (S-86-124-38:13)

An earthen embankment spans the gap between the concrete dam and the sloping countryside around it. To build the embankment a keyway was blasted into the bedrock. Then a cutoff wall made of impervious (non-porous) clay was built to resist water seepage from the lake. Pervious (porous) rock from White River gravel bars was piled against the clay core to equalize water pressure.

Rock-and-earth fill material forms the massive sloping sides of the embankment. Fill came from the dam excavation itself and from several nearby pits, some of which contained human graves that first had to be relocated by the Corps of Engineers before the fill could be removed. Riprap (large rocks) was placed on top of the embankment’s slopes to control erosion.

The spillway under construction, April 1963.  The earthen embankment is seen at top right.

The spillway under construction, April 1963. The earthen embankment is seen at top right. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-116)

The lake is divided into two parts. The conservation pool, at 1,200 feet above sea level, holds water for power generation and municipal and industrial use. At its normal water level, about 28,000 acres of land are covered by the lake. The ten feet above the conservation pool is reserved for the flood pool. Often empty, it can hold up to 300,000 acre-feet of floodwater.

When the flood pool fills and the Corps of Engineers determines that floodwater needs to be released from the reservoir, seven steel, curved, tainter gates at the top of the dam’s spillway are raised electrically. Water flows down the arched spillway away from the base of the dam and into the concrete stilling basin where large baffles (blocks) disperse the energy of the water being released downstream.

The spillway gates have been opened several times over the years to regulate floodwaters. The sight of millions of gallons of water rushing down the spillway is a spectacular event and always draws a crowd.

Building the turbine barrel in the powerhouse, February 1964.

Building the turbine barrel in the powerhouse, February 1964. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-140)

Not only were the T. L. James and J. A. Jones construction companies awarded the contract for the construction of the dam, they were asked to take on the powerhouse and switchyard project as well, after the company that originally won the bid was disqualified.

Although the James and Jones companies came to the project late, the milestone dates—dates by which certain portions of the project had to be completed—weren’t adjusted to reflect the delay. The contractor scrambled to begin the project in April 1963, finishing it one year later.

It helped that the contractor was using the critical path method (CPM), a newly developed system for scheduling a variety of activities in the least amount of time. Today such work is done by computer; in the early 1960s the monthly CPM chart was created manually.

One of two turbines, May 1964.

One of two turbines, May 1964. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-155)

To generate electricity, an intake gate on the lake side of the dam is opened. Water flows into the penstock, a long tube that travels downward and ends in a spiral scroll case. The mass of the water and the acceleration it achieves by falling and circling pushes against the turbine buckets, forcing the turbine to spin. A generator connected to the turbine shaft creates electricity which is sent to transformers in the switchyard and converted to a usable voltage. The power is delivered over high-voltage lines to an electric substation.

Beaver Dam’s powerhouse contains a small, in-house generator for its own use and two large generators, each of which can produce 56,000 kilowatts of electricity, enough for 25,000 homes. The decision to generate power is made by remote radio control from Table Rock Dam. Hydroelectric power from Beaver Dam is sold through the Southwest Power Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, to electric companies in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.

A scroll case under construction, before its connection to the penstock, Summer 1964.

A scroll case under construction, before its connection to the penstock, Summer 1964. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-141)

Under full-load conditions, the dam’s generators can produce 128 megawatts of electricity per hour (enough to supply power to a town of 100,000), although this rarely happens. Beaver Dam is a peaking plant, generating much of its power during the summer when demand is heaviest.

Once the water has spent its energy by rotating the turbines that turn the generators, it passes through the draft tube and out of the powerhouse. The concrete training walls of the tailrace guide the water into the White River. The water flows downstream to Table Rock reservoir in Missouri, where once again it is stored and used to generate electricity.

The powerhouse tailrace area, February 1964.

The powerhouse tailrace area, February 1964. Thomas E. Petermann Collection (S-2005-89-137)

Federal law requires that a steady flow of water moves through the dam each day to make up the flow of the White. Water may flow through the draft tube or through the hydraulic sluice gate at the base of the spillway. The released water is very cold, making it a perfect temperature for the trout stocked by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Completion
The nearly complete dam and White River, 1964.

The nearly complete dam and White River, 1964. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection (S-85-287-6)

With the completion of the dam in March 1964 the waters of the White River began to fill the reservoir. Commercial power generation began in May 1965 and Beaver Lake was pronounced complete in June 1966. Since then millions of people have enjoyed fishing, swimming, and boating in the lake and camping along its shores.

The completed dam and Beaver Lake, circa 1966.  The switchyard is seen to the right of the spillway and powerhouse.

The completed dam and Beaver Lake, circa 1966. The switchyard is seen to the right of the spillway and powerhouse. Springdale News Collection (S-84-13)

What does the future hold? Growing, water-thirsty and power-hungry cities and industries are impacting the lake as do prolonged droughts. Will the lake meet our needs in the coming decades?

Bumper Crop

Bumper Crop

Online Exhibit

John and Martha Hann, Friendship Community southwest of West Fork, about 1908. Elsie Cress Young Collection (S-85-129-32)

About Apples

Johnny Appleseed’s mission of planting apple seeds wasn’t about growing apples for pies, but for cider making. That’s because apple seeds don’t grow true. A seed from a Granny Smith apple doesn’t grow into a tree bearing Granny Smiths.

Apples grown from seed are often bitter or sour. But every now and then a seed grows into a tree which produces a flavorful apple. In order to replicate the fruit, a scion (prepared twig) from the desired tree is grafted onto a sturdy rootstock. That is, the plant tissue from one tree is “fused” into the plant tissue of another tree. The resulting tree is a clone of the parent tree. Trees grown from seed are considered “seedling varieties.” Trees grown from grafts are considered “propagated varieties.”

During the 1700s and 1800s most people in the U.S. drank apples, rather than ate them. They turned their apple crop into cider (what we now call hard cider) a more popular drink than water, wine, beer, or coffee. A mildly alcoholic beverage, cider was easier and safer to make than corn liquor. Apple juice could also be distilled into high-proof apple brandy and applejack. In Northwest Arkansas folks probably made cider at home, but there isn’t evidence of commercial cider mills like there were in the East or Midwest. It may be that folks better trusted the water in the Ozarks.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that apples were primarily considered a food crop. Around the turn of the 20th century groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union began fighting alcohol and the evils associated with it. When Prohibition came into effect in 1920, distilleries across the nation closed. In order to distance themselves from any association with alcohol, the emerging apple industry began heavily promoting the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Apples Come West

Early settlers to Northwest Arkansas traveled light. They could bring only the necessities to their new home—tools, livestock, furniture, clothing, bedding, cooking vessels, and plants and seeds. Apples were an important food source on the frontier. Apples were consumed fresh of course, baked, fried, or eaten straight from the tree. Firm late-season apples could be kept all winter long. But in an era before electric refrigeration, apples had to be processed if they were going to be kept for a long time. They could be cooked down into apple butter (a thick, sweet paste) or they could be sliced, dried, and later rehydrated in hot water for pies and cobblers. Their juice could be turned into vinegar, fermented into cider, or distilled into alcohol.

The First Nurserymen

When the first settlers arrived in the 1820s and 1830s they found that the area’s fertile soil, good climate, and high elevations were just right for growing fruit. They planted their seeds and young apple trees and began taming the land. Soon nurserymen set up shop, developing and testing new varieties and selling their product to new settlers. Some of the first commercial growers in Northwest Arkansas were James B. Russell and Earls Holt, both of Boonsboro (later known as Cane Hill), one of the earliest settlements in Washington County. Legend has it that the first commercial apple orchard in the state was planted near Maysville by a Cherokee woman and her enslaved Africans. After the Civil War she couldn’t afford to pay for labor so the orchard went into decline. H. S. Mundell purchased her land and began tending the neglected trees. Goldsmith Davis started his nursery business near Bentonville in 1869 with apple seeds planted by his mother. He began grafting the seedlings and built up his stock so much that at one point he had over 1,000,000 young trees (many of which were probably Ben Davis variety), which he shipped to almost every state.

Why So Many Varieties?

It was important for the home orchardist to grow a variety of apple trees to spread the harvest from early summer to late fall. Different apples had different qualities. Some were good for cooking, some kept a long time, and some made flavorful cider.

Even though nurserymen propagated trees, many folks planted apple seeds. It was a very democratic process. Anyone who planted a seed had a chance of discovering the perfect fruit in their orchard. Everybody wanted to develop a great apple, the apple that would make them rich. In 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, Arkansas won awards for “a collection of sixty new and unnamed seedling varieties, many of which show considerable merit.”

It’s thought that over 300 varieties were grown in the area with such fanciful names as Nickerjack, Sheepnose, Brightwater, August Red, Mammoth, and 80-Ounce Pippin. Over 50 varieties were developed locally.

“The climatic conditions are so superior for the production of fruit that it is estimated that if all the orchards in Benton county . . . were consolidated into one, it would cover . . . ten square miles. . . . To all who are honorably inclined, industrious and desirous of happy home, Bentonville extends a cordial welcome.”

Bentonville Democrat, August 26, 1899

John and Martha Hann, Friendship Community southwest of West Fork, about 1908. Elsie Cress Young Collection (S-85-129-32)

About Apples

Johnny Appleseed’s mission of planting apple seeds wasn’t about growing apples for pies, but for cider making. That’s because apple seeds don’t grow true. A seed from a Granny Smith apple doesn’t grow into a tree bearing Granny Smiths.

Apples grown from seed are often bitter or sour. But every now and then a seed grows into a tree which produces a flavorful apple. In order to replicate the fruit, a scion (prepared twig) from the desired tree is grafted onto a sturdy rootstock. That is, the plant tissue from one tree is “fused” into the plant tissue of another tree. The resulting tree is a clone of the parent tree. Trees grown from seed are considered “seedling varieties.” Trees grown from grafts are considered “propagated varieties.”

During the 1700s and 1800s most people in the U.S. drank apples, rather than ate them. They turned their apple crop into cider (what we now call hard cider) a more popular drink than water, wine, beer, or coffee. A mildly alcoholic beverage, cider was easier and safer to make than corn liquor. Apple juice could also be distilled into high-proof apple brandy and applejack. In Northwest Arkansas folks probably made cider at home, but there isn’t evidence of commercial cider mills like there were in the East or Midwest. It may be that folks better trusted the water in the Ozarks.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that apples were primarily considered a food crop. Around the turn of the 20th century groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union began fighting alcohol and the evils associated with it. When Prohibition came into effect in 1920, distilleries across the nation closed. In order to distance themselves from any association with alcohol, the emerging apple industry began heavily promoting the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Apples Come West

Early settlers to Northwest Arkansas traveled light. They could bring only the necessities to their new home—tools, livestock, furniture, clothing, bedding, cooking vessels, and plants and seeds. Apples were an important food source on the frontier. Apples were consumed fresh of course, baked, fried, or eaten straight from the tree. Firm late-season apples could be kept all winter long. But in an era before electric refrigeration, apples had to be processed if they were going to be kept for a long time. They could be cooked down into apple butter (a thick, sweet paste) or they could be sliced, dried, and later rehydrated in hot water for pies and cobblers. Their juice could be turned into vinegar, fermented into cider, or distilled into alcohol.

The First Nurserymen

When the first settlers arrived in our area in the 1820s and 1830s they found that the area’s fertile soil, good climate, and high elevations were just right for growing fruit. They planted their seeds and young apple trees and began taming the land. Soon nurserymen set up shop, developing and testing new varieties and selling their product to new settlers. Some of the first commercial growers in Northwest Arkansas were James B. Russell and Earls Holt, both of Boonsboro (later known as Cane Hill), one of the earliest settlements in Washington County. Legend has it that the first commercial apple orchard in the state was planted near Maysville by a Cherokee woman and her enslaved Africans. After the Civil War she couldn’t afford to pay for labor so the orchard went into decline. H. S. Mundell purchased her land and began tending the neglected trees. Goldsmith Davis started his nursery business near Bentonville in 1869 with apple seeds planted by his mother. He began grafting the seedlings and built up his stock so much that at one point he had over 1,000,000 young trees (many of which were probably Ben Davis variety), which he shipped to almost every state.

Why So Many Varieties?

It was important for the home orchardist to grow a variety of apple trees to spread the harvest from early summer to late fall. Different apples had different qualities. Some were good for cooking, some kept a long time, and some made flavorful cider.

Even though nurserymen propagated trees, many folks planted apple seeds. It was a very democratic process. Anyone who planted a seed had a chance of discovering the perfect fruit in their orchard. Everybody wanted to develop a great apple, the apple that would make them rich. In 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, Arkansas won awards for “a collection of sixty new and unnamed seedling varieties, many of which show considerable merit.”

It’s thought that over 300 varieties were grown in the area with such fanciful names as Nickerjack, Sheepnose, Brightwater, August Red, Mammoth, and 80-Ounce Pippin. Over 50 varieties were developed locally.

“The climatic conditions are so superior for the production of fruit that it is estimated that if all the orchards in Benton county . . . were consolidated into one, it would cover . . . ten square miles. . . . To all who are honorably inclined, industrious and desirous of happy home, Bentonville extends a cordial welcome.”
Bentonville Democrat, August 26, 1899

The Heyday of the Apple Industry
Apples grown by Dave Eicher, Springdale, 1900s-1910s.

Apples grown by Dave Eicher, Springdale, 1900s-1910s. Sydney D. Aaron, photographer. Dr. Roy C. Rom Collection (S-82-34-41)

The Railroad Comes Through

Transportation played a major role in the growth of the apple industry. At first few apples were grown for market because Northwest Arkansas didn’t have a railroad line or major navigable river. Apples had to be hauled by wagon great distances before they could be shipped. With the coming of the railroad in the 1880s, growers began planting apple trees by the thousands.

Not only did the railroad ship apples, it bought huge tracts of land, promoting the acreage in brochures with such titles as “Fruit Farming Along the Frisco.” While every county in Northwest Arkansas grew and shipped apples, Benton and Washington Counties were the major players. Arkansas apples won top prizes at expositions from the 1870s to the 1910s.

Scientific Orcharding

With orcharding becoming a big business, growers sought ways to increase their crop yield. As a 1908 Springdale News article saw it, the “era of scientific orcharding” had begun. National and state agricultural agencies set up research and experimental stations to test new practices, teach, and spread practical information to farmers. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, researchers began studying and improving techniques for grafting, pruning, and spraying.

Apples were so important in Northwest Arkansas that in 1906, with the help of Senator James Berry of Bentonville and the state horticultural society, a first-class U.S. Weather Bureau opened on the Bentonville square. Not only did it offer daily forecasts, it sent notices to fruit farmers regarding when to spray their trees for insects and disease.

This intensive planting of orchards and attention to scientific growing methods paid off. Bumper crops of apples were reported year after year. Accounts vary but in 1919 the total apple crop in Benton County was valued at almost $5.5 million. There were over 3,100 railroad cars of fresh apples, 250 cars of dried apples, and 618 cars of apples for vinegar. About 90,000 bushels of apples went to the canning factories.

New Businesses Develop

With the growth of the apple industry came a number of specialty businesses. Apple trees were propagated and grown at area nurseries. Barrels made from locally grown timber were used to ship high-grade fruit when it was green (not fully ripened) and better able to resist bruising. Ice from ice plants helped cool down refrigerated railroad cars. Cold storage plants overwintered apples before shipping them out in the spring.

Medium-grade apples were sent to the canneries for canning or to the evaporators to be sliced and dried. Low-grade fruit was sold in bulk and turned into vinegar or alcohol at the distillery. The Kimmons, Walker and Company evaporator in Springdale was said to have been the biggest plant in the area. In 1907 over 1,500 bushels of apples were processed daily. The women working at one of the company’s 18 peelers were paid from 75¢ to $1 a day, depending on their skill.

Wholesalers and fruit brokers bought fresh fruit from the growers or processed apple products, selling these items to distant markets. During the busy season thousands of men, women, and children were employed in the orchards picking apples and in the packing sheds, distilleries, vinegar plants, and evaporators. So many people benefitted from “King Apple” that in 1901 the apple blossom became the state flower.

To celebrate the crop that put Northwest Arkansas on the map, in the mid 1920s Rogers held spectacular Apple Blossom Festivals complete with pageants, orchard tours, and the crowning of the Apple Blossom queen. Many communities and organizations sent crepe paper blossom-covered parade floats filled with pretty girls. One year over 50,000 attendees enjoyed the show. The last festival was held in 1927. Several years of unexpected rainy, cold weather had put a damper on the proceedings. The shifting weather patterns didn’t help the apple trees, either.

“. . . acres of [apple trees] in such long rows one can not see the end of them, just long streaks of vivid red and green. . . . They will surely bring to the farmers a mint of money. You remember our mother used to say to us girls . . . “dollars don’t grow on every bush, my dear.” But dollars do grow on every apple tree in this country.”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

The Heyday of the Apple Industry
Apples grown by Dave Eicher, Springdale, 1900s-1910s.

Apples grown by Dave Eicher, Springdale, 1900s-1910s. Sydney D. Aaron, photographer. Dr. Roy C. Rom Collection (S-82-34-41)

The Railroad Comes Through

Transportation played a major role in the growth of the apple industry. At first few apples were grown for market because Northwest Arkansas didn’t have a railroad line or major navigable river. Apples had to be hauled by wagon great distances before they could be shipped. With the coming of the railroad in the 1880s, growers began planting apple trees by the thousands.

Not only did the railroad ship apples, it bought huge tracts of land, promoting the acreage in brochures with such titles as “Fruit Farming Along the Frisco.” While every county in Northwest Arkansas grew and shipped apples, Benton and Washington Counties were the major players. Arkansas apples won top prizes at expositions from the 1870s to the 1910s.

Scientific Orcharding

With orcharding becoming a big business, growers sought ways to increase their crop yield. As a 1908 Springdale News article saw it, the “era of scientific orcharding” had begun. National and state agricultural agencies set up research and experimental stations to test new practices, teach, and spread practical information to farmers. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, researchers began studying and improving techniques for grafting, pruning, and spraying.

Apples were so important in Northwest Arkansas that in 1906, with the help of Senator James Berry of Bentonville and the state horticultural society, a first-class U.S. Weather Bureau opened on the Bentonville square. Not only did it offer daily forecasts, it sent notices to fruit farmers regarding when to spray their trees for insects and disease.

This intensive planting of orchards and attention to scientific growing methods paid off. Bumper crops of apples were reported year after year. Accounts vary but in 1919 the total apple crop in Benton County was valued at almost $5.5 million. There were over 3,100 railroad cars of fresh apples, 250 cars of dried apples, and 618 cars of apples for vinegar. About 90,000 bushels of apples went to the canning factories.

New Businesses Develop

With the growth of the apple industry came a number of specialty businesses. Apple trees were propagated and grown at area nurseries. Barrels made from locally grown timber were used to ship high-grade fruit when it was green (not fully ripened) and better able to resist bruising. Ice from ice plants helped cool down refrigerated railroad cars. Cold storage plants overwintered apples before shipping them out in the spring.

Medium-grade apples were sent to the canneries for canning or to the evaporators to be sliced and dried. Low-grade fruit was sold in bulk and turned into vinegar or alcohol at the distillery. The Kimmons, Walker and Company evaporator in Springdale was said to have been the biggest plant in the area. In 1907 over 1,500 bushels of apples were processed daily. The women working at one of the company’s 18 peelers were paid from 75¢ to $1 a day, depending on their skill.

Wholesalers and fruit brokers bought fresh fruit from the growers or processed apple products, selling these items to distant markets. During the busy season thousands of men, women, and children were employed in the orchards picking apples and in the packing sheds, distilleries, vinegar plants, and evaporators. So many people benefitted from “King Apple” that in 1901 the apple blossom became the state flower.

To celebrate the crop that put Northwest Arkansas on the map, in the mid 1920s Rogers held spectacular Apple Blossom Festivals complete with pageants, orchard tours, and the crowning of the Apple Blossom queen. Many communities and organizations sent crepe paper blossom-covered parade floats filled with pretty girls. One year over 50,000 attendees enjoyed the show. The last festival was held in 1927. Several years of unexpected rainy, cold weather had put a damper on the proceedings. The shifting weather patterns didn’t help the apple trees, either.

“. . . acres of [apple trees] in such long rows one can not see the end of them, just long streaks of vivid red and green. . . . They will surely bring to the farmers a mint of money. You remember our mother used to say to us girls . . . “dollars don’t grow on every bush, my dear.” But dollars do grow on every apple tree in this country.”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

The End, and the Revival, of the Apple Industry in the Ozarks
Fred Vanzant at his farm stand, Lowell, August 17, 1984.

Fred Vanzant at his farm stand, Lowell, August 17, 1984. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 8-17-1984)

End of an Era

Although folks didn’t see it at the time, by the early 1920s the apple industry was in decline in Northwest Arkansas. Many factors were responsible. Lots of people got into the apple business thinking they’d get rich, but most didn’t know much about controlling pests and disease or replenishing soil nutrients. Some growers and packing houses also shipped poor quality fruit, giving area orchards a bad name. With the advent of the automobile, independent sellers could drive a truckload of fruit to a distant town to make a sale. Not only did they cut into the fruit shipper’s business, but the product quality was often poor.

Too many apple varieties meant that commercial buyers couldn’t buy enough volume of one variety. And many of the varieties weren’t the best, including the Ben Davis, one of the area’s most planted apples. As apple-growing regions out west grew in prominence, the public began to favor the new varieties. Northwest Arkansas’ growers didn’t keep up with the changing tastes. The area’s orchards were also aging.

The weather brought late freezes, droughts, or too much rain. The narrow genetic base of local apples meant that trees were more susceptible to insects and disease. San Jose scale, the coddling moth, and the oriental fruit moth wreaked havoc, as did diseases like fire blight and bitter rot. Apples were sprayed with such things as lead arsenate and “Bordeaux mixture” (lime and copper sulphate), but these treatments left a residue.

Dried apples began losing popularity in the early 1900s. Part of their decline was due to the increasing ability to preserve and transport fresh apples. Also, newly enacted federal laws like the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 placed stiff regulations on a largely unregulated business. Should inspectors find bits of peel or seed in a dried apple shipment, the load was confiscated, the shipper arrested and fined, and the fruit reprocessed in order to conform to the law. Other regulations required growers to wash apples in a weak hydrochloric acid solution before shipping to remove pesticide residue. Treated apples didn’t keep as long as untreated fruit. All of these extra steps cut into profits.

With help from the economic toll of the Great Depression, the number of apple-growing acres declined in the 1930s and 1940s. Rather than relying on apples, the area’s agricultural economy began to focus on an up-and-coming industry—poultry.

The Apple’s Revival

A few orchardists held out. In the 1950s and 1960s growers like Forrest Rodgers of Lincoln and Fred Vanzant of Lowell believed in the future of Arkansas apples. They had new products for insect and disease control and newly developed tree stock that came to maturity more quickly. In 1984 Vanzant had 60 acres of Red Delicious and Jonathan apples. Today the family still runs the farm stand.

Apple research continues at the University of Arkansas. Along with many others, Dr. Roy Rom and his son, Dr. Curt Rom, have spent decades researching and improving apple varieties. Today modern growers reduce pesticide use by using integrated pest management programs to prevent and control insect damage. Computer programs can measure temperature, humidity, and rainfall and alert a farmer to when the trees need irrigation. Smaller trees have been developed to allow more trees to be planted per acre. They’re also easier to pick.

Today’s consumers are faced with limited apple choices. Grocery stores across the nation generally offer the same varieties—Granny Smith, Jonathan, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Macintosh. Gone are the choices of yesteryear. Northwest Arkansas was once the biggest apple growing region of the country, but today we can’t compete with major apple-growing regions such as Washington or Oregon. Instead, small orchards are seen as the future. Consumers are increasingly interested in organic foods, heirloom plants, farmers’ markets, and the “Eat Local” movement. As these trends grow, so too does the interest for homegrown apples.

“The big, red apple will never be King in Northwest Arkansas again. That era is gone forever but its reign, in retrospect, was benign. The countryside was beautiful with trees that blossomed in the spring and were crimson with fruit in the fall. The air was clean; the water was clear.”
Thomas Rothrock
Benton County Pioneer, Summer 1974

The End, and the Revival, of the Apple Industry in the Ozarks
Fred Vanzant at his farm stand, Lowell, August 17, 1984.

Fred Vanzant at his farm stand, Lowell, August 17, 1984. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 8-17-1984)

End of an Era

Although folks didn’t see it at the time, by the early 1920s the apple industry was in decline in Northwest Arkansas. Many factors were responsible. Lots of people got into the apple business thinking they’d get rich, but most didn’t know much about controlling pests and disease or replenishing soil nutrients. Some growers and packing houses also shipped poor quality fruit, giving area orchards a bad name. With the advent of the automobile, independent sellers could drive a truckload of fruit to a distant town to make a sale. Not only did they cut into the fruit shipper’s business, but the product quality was often poor.

Too many apple varieties meant that commercial buyers couldn’t buy enough volume of one variety. And many of the varieties weren’t the best, including the Ben Davis, one of the area’s most planted apples. As apple-growing regions out west grew in prominence, the public began to favor the new varieties. Northwest Arkansas’ growers didn’t keep up with the changing tastes. The area’s orchards were also aging.

The weather brought late freezes, droughts, or too much rain. The narrow genetic base of local apples meant that trees were more susceptible to insects and disease. San Jose scale, the coddling moth, and the oriental fruit moth wreaked havoc, as did diseases like fire blight and bitter rot. Apples were sprayed with such things as lead arsenate and “Bordeaux mixture” (lime and copper sulphate), but these treatments left a residue.

Dried apples began losing popularity in the early 1900s. Part of their decline was due to the increasing ability to preserve and transport fresh apples. Also, newly enacted federal laws like the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 placed stiff regulations on a largely unregulated business. Should inspectors find bits of peel or seed in a dried apple shipment, the load was confiscated, the shipper arrested and fined, and the fruit reprocessed in order to conform to the law. Other regulations required growers to wash apples in a weak hydrochloric acid solution before shipping to remove pesticide residue. Treated apples didn’t keep as long as untreated fruit. All of these extra steps cut into profits.

With help from the economic toll of the Great Depression, the number of apple-growing acres declined in the 1930s and 1940s. Rather than relying on apples, the area’s agricultural economy began to focus on an up-and-coming industry—poultry.

The Apple’s Revival

A few orchardists held out. In the 1950s and 1960s growers like Forrest Rodgers of Lincoln and Fred Vanzant of Lowell believed in the future of Arkansas apples. They had new products for insect and disease control and newly developed tree stock that came to maturity more quickly. In 1984 Vanzant had 60 acres of Red Delicious and Jonathan apples. Today the family still runs the farm stand.

Apple research continues at the University of Arkansas. Along with many others, Dr. Roy Rom and his son, Dr. Curt Rom, have spent decades researching and improving apple varieties. Today modern growers reduce pesticide use by using integrated pest management programs to prevent and control insect damage. Computer programs can measure temperature, humidity, and rainfall and alert a farmer to when the trees need irrigation. Smaller trees have been developed to allow more trees to be planted per acre. They’re also easier to pick.

Today’s consumers are faced with limited apple choices. Grocery stores across the nation generally offer the same varieties—Granny Smith, Jonathan, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Macintosh. Gone are the choices of yesteryear. Northwest Arkansas was once the biggest apple growing region of the country, but today we can’t compete with major apple-growing regions such as Washington or Oregon. Instead, small orchards are seen as the future. Consumers are increasingly interested in organic foods, heirloom plants, farmers’ markets, and the “Eat Local” movement. As these trends grow, so too does the interest for homegrown apples.

“The big, red apple will never be King in Northwest Arkansas again. That era is gone forever but its reign, in retrospect, was benign. The countryside was beautiful with trees that blossomed in the spring and were crimson with fruit in the fall. The air was clean; the water was clear.”
Thomas Rothrock
Benton County Pioneer, Summer 1974

Locally Developed Varieties

Arkansas (aka Mammoth Black Twig)—propagated in 1869; the scion was cut from a tree grown from the seed of either the Black Twig or Limber Twig in the 1840s by John Crawford of Rhea’s Mill near Prairie Grove; exhibited at the New Orleans Exposition in 1884

Arkansas Black—conflicting origin; some say first fruited in 1879 on Mr. Braithwait’s farm near Bentonville; others say DeKalb Holt produced it near Lincoln; firm flesh harvested in late fall; excellent for overwintering; won first place at the 1900 International Exposition in Paris

Black Ben Davis (aka Reagan’s Red)— originated from a seedling found in 1883 by John Reagan on a waste pile near an apple evaporator on Alexander Black’s farm; gained acclaim at the International Exposition in Paris

Collins’ Red (aka Collins, Champion Red, Champion, Reagan’s Red)—found by chance in a field near Lincoln; commercially propagated around 1886; a good-colored fruit which keeps well, if kept properly

Etris—discovered by Jack Etris near Gentry in the late 1800s; a tart, red-striped fruit which keeps well; reaches its full flavor in late November

Highfill Seedling (aka Highfill Blue)—discovered by Hezikiah Highfill at his nursery in Highfill; a dark red fruit with a “blue frost” and a tart “whang;” won a medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis

Howard Sweet—the seedling is thought to have come from Earls Holt’s Cane Hill nursery after the Civil War; grown near Cincinnati by Mr. Howard; a sweet, highly colored dessert apple; the tree has a heavy bloom

King David—originated on Ben Frost’s Durham-area farm about 1890; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with red

Oliver Red (aka Oliver, Senator)—originated in Washington County; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with bright red; harvested in early September; a good dessert apple

Shannon Pippin—brought from Indiana in 1833; a yellow-skinned fruit with a faint blush, it had a sweet aroma and made for a good dessert apple; it wasn’t suitable for commercial growing because not many apples grew on the tree

Springdale—predicted to go far in 1890, it never gained prominence; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with mixed red and bright crimson splashes

Summer Champion—from W.T. Waller’s farm near Lincoln; originally from Abraham Tull’s farm in Grant County, Arkansas; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with red; sold to Stark Brothers Nursery for $45

Wilson June—one of 1,000 trees found at the Earles Holt nursery after the Civil War and transplanted to the Lincoln area by Albert and  A. J. Wilson; a sweet, yellow-skinned fruit with dark crimson stripes

Locally Developed Varieties

Arkansas (aka Mammoth Black Twig)—propagated in 1869; the scion was cut from a tree grown from the seed of either the Black Twig or Limber Twig in the 1840s by John Crawford of Rhea’s Mill near Prairie Grove; exhibited at the New Orleans Exposition in 1884

Arkansas Black—conflicting origin; some say first fruited in 1879 on Mr. Braithwait’s farm near Bentonville; others say DeKalb Holt produced it near Lincoln; firm flesh harvested in late fall; excellent for overwintering; won first place at the 1900 International Exposition in Paris

Black Ben Davis (aka Reagan’s Red)— originated from a seedling found in 1883 by John Reagan on a waste pile near an apple evaporator on Alexander Black’s farm; gained acclaim at the International Exposition in Paris

Collins’ Red (aka Collins, Champion Red, Champion, Reagan’s Red)—found by chance in a field near Lincoln; commercially propagated around 1886; a good-colored fruit which keeps well, if kept properly

Etris—discovered by Jack Etris near Gentry in the late 1800s; a tart, red-striped fruit which keeps well; reaches its full flavor in late November

Highfill Seedling (aka Highfill Blue)—discovered by Hezikiah Highfill at his nursery in Highfill; a dark red fruit with a “blue frost” and a tart “whang;” won a medal at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis

Howard Sweet—the seedling is thought to have come from Earls Holt’s Cane Hill nursery after the Civil War; grown near Cincinnati by Mr. Howard; a sweet, highly colored dessert apple; the tree has a heavy bloom

King David—originated on Ben Frost’s Durham-area farm about 1890; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with red

Oliver Red (aka Oliver, Senator)—originated in Washington County; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with bright red; harvested in early September; a good dessert apple

Shannon Pippin—brought from Indiana in 1833; a yellow-skinned fruit with a faint blush, it had a sweet aroma and made for a good dessert apple; it wasn’t suitable for commercial growing because not many apples grew on the tree

Springdale—predicted to go far in 1890, it never gained prominence; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with mixed red and bright crimson splashes

Summer Champion—from W.T. Waller’s farm near Lincoln; originally from Abraham Tull’s farm in Grant County, Arkansas; a yellow-skinned fruit washed with red; sold to Stark Brothers Nursery for $45

Wilson June—one of 1,000 trees found at the Earles Holt nursery after the Civil War and transplanted to the Lincoln area by Albert and  A. J. Wilson; a sweet, yellow-skinned fruit with dark crimson stripes

A Nursery Story
Parker Brothers Nursery Co., letter, April 21, 1921

Parker Brothers Nursery Company letter, 1921. Ruth Morris Collection

Part of the strength of the apple industry in Northwest Arkansas was due to the many nurseries that sprung up, beginning in the early 19th century. A few of the larger nurseries included Crider Brothers Nursery (Greenland), Benton County Nursery Company (Rogers), Stark Brothers Nursery (Farmington), and Parker Brothers Nursery Company and its offshoot, John Parker and Son Nursery Company.

Lewis Parker began a home nursery business in Aurora (Madison County) in 1887. As the business grew his elder sons James and John helped with the nursery and began selling stock further afield. A flowery 1922 account in the Fayetteville Democrat recounts the nursery’s early years:

“As a result of these labors, hundreds of home and commercial orchards have been established. . . . Who will say that these patient, plodding men labored only for the price brought by their trees? No, these men had a vision and as they worked and helped to lay the foundation of our great fruit industry this vision lured them on. They could see in the future vast orchards, vineyards and berry farms. They sensed afar the day that is now dawning when well developed fruit lands is bringing a flow of golden wealth to good old Northwest Arkansas.”

Eventually younger sons George and Elmer joined the business. After Lewis’ retirement in the early 1900s, his sons established their own nurseries. Elmer stayed in Aurora while James went to Oklahoma. George started the Parker Brothers Nursery Company in Fayetteville, with acreage for growing stock in Greenland. John worked for the company for 20 years as salesman and “Orchard Adviser.”

Early in 1922 John established John Parker and Son Nursery Company, “a clean little nursery” in Fayetteville. His split with brother George might have been acrimonious, as John’s early letterhead included the phrase, “Not connected in any way with ‘so-called’ Parker Bros. Nursery Co.” In 1922 John recounted his business philosophy:

“Father tried to grow the best trees possible. He was a firm believer in the ‘Golden Rule’ and applied it in his business dealings. I shall never forget the few sound principles which he tried to impress on us as we were getting our first years of experience with him in the Nursery work. . . . First, learn your business so that you will know a good tree and how to produce it. Be sure that you never put a tree in a man’s order that you would not plant yourself. Be absolutely honest with everybody you deal with.”

Certificate authorizing E. L. Morris of Lincoln, Arkansas, as a sales representative for Parker Brothers Nursery.

Certificate authorizing E. L. Morris of Lincoln, Arkansas, as a sales representative for Parker Brothers Nursery Company. Ruth Morris Collection

The following excerpts come from letters written to Emmett Lee Morris of Lincoln, who served first as an agent for the Parker Brothers Nursery Company before working for John M. Parker and Son Nursery Co. in 1922. Morris and his fellow agents worked on commission and were constantly being told to sell more stock, to write up orders correctly, to not promise something that couldn’t be delivered, and to follow through and get the payment due the company. The first few letters were written by George Parker; the remainder by John.

April 16, 1921
“We wish to offer here a little bit of advice to our salesmen and to stress the importance of starting early on Monday morning and to keep busy with hammer and tongs for the full six days of the week. We are lead to believe that Monday is the most important day of the week. . . . Week end vacations are all very well for retired business men, but you can’t indulge in this extravagance and stay in the business race. . . . Benjamin Franklin could not afford to waste a minute. Edison works eighteen hours a day. The men who win are the men who make every day stand on its own feet. They are Six Day Men. Are You?”

April 26, 1921
“Our letter of the 16th . . . evidently brought results as 26 men reported last week against the 14 the week before. Now men, this makes us feel optimistic. We are only two reports behind a year ago. This is fine, considering the cold, rainy, backward spring we have had, but summer is now here. . . . Remember, the more you work the more you get. Here are the ten high ones of this week. Are you a top notcher? . . . Morris $935.80, Gingles $513.75, Chamblin $340.50, Gilbert $237.94 . . . Each one of our salesmen should consider it his duty right now to suggest to his prospective customer that he plant and raise what he consumes . . . He will be apt to bring up the subject of canned fruit. Here is your opportunity. Make the best of it, and be an optimist all the time. Always read the optimistic parts of the news papers. Never read the pessimistic side.”

February 1, 1922
“Upon looking over our Sales Ledger this morning, I notice that you are not reporting, and wonder what our firm has done, or has not done, that this should be. Good opportunities and valuable time is fast passing away. I trust that the fact that you are not representing us now is not due to any discourteous or unsatisfactory treatment from this end. …It is now a desirable time to take up the work, there never was more money in circulation and more business activity in our history than at the present time, and I would like to have you represent us in your locality. Your name will be held on my desk, awaiting your prompt answer.”

October 30, 1923
“Sorry to hear you have not been able to work. . . . We can furnish the Summer Champion in the 3-4 ft. grade, but have no Shannon in stock. . . . One thing we want to avoid: Do not make a fellow believe that they will be 3-4 ft. and if the order is written is written up 2-3 ft. that is the grade we will send him. We guarantee the roots to be absolutely No. 1. . . .”

March 11, 1924
“We wish to thank you for the $108.10 and will say that we think you are handling that business very nicely, at least we are perfectly satisfied with your work.”

August 27, 1924
“You do not need a permit to sell trees in Oklahoma. However, we will guarantee to get you out of jail, and if you get in trouble we will pay the expenses. . . . We are very glad to hear that you have a car and that you are going to work at once. I believe the month of September and October will be the best two months in this year.”

December 4, 1924
“Please find enclosed our check for $3.12, the 10% advance commission due on your last report which amounted to $31.28.”

February 10, 1925
“I do not know just how the packing crew happened to leave C.E. Phillips order out. It was shipped out by C.O.D. express direct to him Feb. 7th. Roll in the orders as fast as possible. We will deliver the goods.”

February 10, 1925
“I wish that you were in the office so I could take my hat off to you. I would willingly expose my marble top to the man that gets one hundred cents on the dollar. . . . We are glad to know that you have prospects for more good business. Hit while the iron is hot. We all know we are giving the farmer the best deal he has ever had from any nursery company.”

February 18, 1925
“We sold over $700.00 cash business from the office that day, and got the money. About $300.00 yesterday. Get in the ring and tell the boys they had better close the deal now.”

December 4, 1925
“We note what you say in regard to Mr. Glidewell’s order. In regard to replacing, we will stand one-half the loss, but we really believe the dry weather was responsible for most of this loss.”

February 18, 1926
“We received a notice from the P.M. [postmaster] at Summers, that G.E. Hall had refused to accept his bill of nursery stock which we shipped out a few days ago. We would like for you to see what is the matter with him, and try to deliver it if possible. We cannot understand why he does not want it now, as this is fine weather for planting. We have written him telling him to call and get his stock at once, but we believe you had better see about it too, as he may be a pretty hard one to convince.”

March 12, 1926
“Just received your letter, and are glad to know you had 100% collections, and we always know that you will get the money when we ship to your customers. Will be glad to see you whenever you can come up with the money.”

January 21, 1928
“Don’t let anybody get by if they want to buy apples, peach, plum, pear or cherries.”

March 15, 1928
“We are wondering why it is you have not sent in some orders. You surely are not working very hard, as I am sure there is a number of people not far from where you live who want to buy some of our good trees. . . . Please put in at least 1 or 2 days and get some orders and rush them to us.”

March 19, 1929
“I was very much disappointed that I failed to meet you in the office this afternoon. I gave your boy samples of Stayman Winesap and we have a big surplus in Stayman, Red Delicious and Black Ben Davis in this extra fine 2 year old tree. Sell them at $20.00 per hundred if you can. If they take 50 or more sell them at 20¢. We will give you ¼ of all the money we collect. . . . We would like for you to go out and work a few days and see how much you can make. Rush the orders to us and if you have to give a fellow a Golden Delicious to buy, tell him we are making him a present of the same kind of tree that Stark Brothers sell for $1.50. Anything to get the business and we always appreciate your business because we have never failed to get the money on your orders.” Yours for More and Better Fruit, John Parker

A Nursery Story
Parker Brothers Nursery Co., letter, April 21, 1921

Parker Brothers Nursery Company letter, 1921. Ruth Morris Collection

Part of the strength of the apple industry in Northwest Arkansas was due to the many nurseries that sprung up, beginning in the early 19th century. A few of the larger nurseries included Crider Brothers Nursery (Greenland), Benton County Nursery Company (Rogers), Stark Brothers Nursery (Farmington), and Parker Brothers Nursery Company and its offshoot, John Parker and Son Nursery Company.

Lewis Parker began a home nursery business in Aurora (Madison County) in 1887. As the business grew his elder sons James and John helped with the nursery and began selling stock further afield. A flowery 1922 account in the Fayetteville Democrat recounts the nursery’s early years:

“As a result of these labors, hundreds of home and commercial orchards have been established. . . . Who will say that these patient, plodding men labored only for the price brought by their trees? No, these men had a vision and as they worked and helped to lay the foundation of our great fruit industry this vision lured them on. They could see in the future vast orchards, vineyards and berry farms. They sensed afar the day that is now dawning when well developed fruit lands is bringing a flow of golden wealth to good old Northwest Arkansas.”

Eventually younger sons George and Elmer joined the business. After Lewis’ retirement in the early 1900s, his sons established their own nurseries. Elmer stayed in Aurora while James went to Oklahoma. George started the Parker Brothers Nursery Company in Fayetteville, with acreage for growing stock in Greenland. John worked for the company for 20 years as salesman and “Orchard Adviser.”

Early in 1922 John established John Parker and Son Nursery Company, “a clean little nursery” in Fayetteville. His split with brother George might have been acrimonious, as John’s early letterhead included the phrase, “Not connected in any way with ‘so-called’ Parker Bros. Nursery Co.” In 1922 John recounted his business philosophy:

“Father tried to grow the best trees possible. He was a firm believer in the ‘Golden Rule’ and applied it in his business dealings. I shall never forget the few sound principles which he tried to impress on us as we were getting our first years of experience with him in the Nursery work. . . . First, learn your business so that you will know a good tree and how to produce it. Be sure that you never put a tree in a man’s order that you would not plant yourself. Be absolutely honest with everybody you deal with.”

Certificate authorizing E. L. Morris of Lincoln, Arkansas, as a sales representative for Parker Brothers Nursery.

Certificate authorizing E. L. Morris of Lincoln, Arkansas, as a sales representative for Parker Brothers Nursery Company. Ruth Morris Collection

The following excerpts come from letters written to Emmett Lee Morris of Lincoln, who served first as an agent for the Parker Brothers Nursery Company before working for John M. Parker and Son Nursery Co. in 1922. Morris and his fellow agents worked on commission and were constantly being told to sell more stock, to write up orders correctly, to not promise something that couldn’t be delivered, and to follow through and get the payment due the company. The first few letters were written by George Parker; the remainder by John.

April 16, 1921
“We wish to offer here a little bit of advice to our salesmen and to stress the importance of starting early on Monday morning and to keep busy with hammer and tongs for the full six days of the week. We are lead to believe that Monday is the most important day of the week. . . . Week end vacations are all very well for retired business men, but you can’t indulge in this extravagance and stay in the business race. . . . Benjamin Franklin could not afford to waste a minute. Edison works eighteen hours a day. The men who win are the men who make every day stand on its own feet. They are Six Day Men. Are You?”

April 26, 1921
“Our letter of the 16th . . . evidently brought results as 26 men reported last week against the 14 the week before. Now men, this makes us feel optimistic. We are only two reports behind a year ago. This is fine, considering the cold, rainy, backward spring we have had, but summer is now here. . . . Remember, the more you work the more you get. Here are the ten high ones of this week. Are you a top notcher? . . . Morris $935.80, Gingles $513.75, Chamblin $340.50, Gilbert $237.94 . . . Each one of our salesmen should consider it his duty right now to suggest to his prospective customer that he plant and raise what he consumes . . . He will be apt to bring up the subject of canned fruit. Here is your opportunity. Make the best of it, and be an optimist all the time. Always read the optimistic parts of the news papers. Never read the pessimistic side.”

February 1, 1922
“Upon looking over our Sales Ledger this morning, I notice that you are not reporting, and wonder what our firm has done, or has not done, that this should be. Good opportunities and valuable time is fast passing away. I trust that the fact that you are not representing us now is not due to any discourteous or unsatisfactory treatment from this end. …It is now a desirable time to take up the work, there never was more money in circulation and more business activity in our history than at the present time, and I would like to have you represent us in your locality. Your name will be held on my desk, awaiting your prompt answer.”

October 30, 1923
“Sorry to hear you have not been able to work. . . . We can furnish the Summer Champion in the 3-4 ft. grade, but have no Shannon in stock. . . . One thing we want to avoid: Do not make a fellow believe that they will be 3-4 ft. and if the order is written is written up 2-3 ft. that is the grade we will send him. We guarantee the roots to be absolutely No. 1. . . .”

March 11, 1924
“We wish to thank you for the $108.10 and will say that we think you are handling that business very nicely, at least we are perfectly satisfied with your work.”

August 27, 1924
“You do not need a permit to sell trees in Oklahoma. However, we will guarantee to get you out of jail, and if you get in trouble we will pay the expenses. . . . We are very glad to hear that you have a car and that you are going to work at once. I believe the month of September and October will be the best two months in this year.”

December 4, 1924
“Please find enclosed our check for $3.12, the 10% advance commission due on your last report which amounted to $31.28.”

February 10, 1925
“I do not know just how the packing crew happened to leave C.E. Phillips order out. It was shipped out by C.O.D. express direct to him Feb. 7th. Roll in the orders as fast as possible. We will deliver the goods.”

February 10, 1925
“I wish that you were in the office so I could take my hat off to you. I would willingly expose my marble top to the man that gets one hundred cents on the dollar. . . . We are glad to know that you have prospects for more good business. Hit while the iron is hot. We all know we are giving the farmer the best deal he has ever had from any nursery company.”

February 18, 1925
“We sold over $700.00 cash business from the office that day, and got the money. About $300.00 yesterday. Get in the ring and tell the boys they had better close the deal now.”

December 4, 1925
“We note what you say in regard to Mr. Glidewell’s order. In regard to replacing, we will stand one-half the loss, but we really believe the dry weather was responsible for most of this loss.”

February 18, 1926
“We received a notice from the P.M. [postmaster] at Summers, that G.E. Hall had refused to accept his bill of nursery stock which we shipped out a few days ago. We would like for you to see what is the matter with him, and try to deliver it if possible. We cannot understand why he does not want it now, as this is fine weather for planting. We have written him telling him to call and get his stock at once, but we believe you had better see about it too, as he may be a pretty hard one to convince.”

March 12, 1926
“Just received your letter, and are glad to know you had 100% collections, and we always know that you will get the money when we ship to your customers. Will be glad to see you whenever you can come up with the money.”

January 21, 1928
“Don’t let anybody get by if they want to buy apples, peach, plum, pear or cherries.”

March 15, 1928
“We are wondering why it is you have not sent in some orders. You surely are not working very hard, as I am sure there is a number of people not far from where you live who want to buy some of our good trees. . . . Please put in at least 1 or 2 days and get some orders and rush them to us.”

March 19, 1929
“I was very much disappointed that I failed to meet you in the office this afternoon. I gave your boy samples of Stayman Winesap and we have a big surplus in Stayman, Red Delicious and Black Ben Davis in this extra fine 2 year old tree. Sell them at $20.00 per hundred if you can. If they take 50 or more sell them at 20¢. We will give you ¼ of all the money we collect. . . . We would like for you to go out and work a few days and see how much you can make. Rush the orders to us and if you have to give a fellow a Golden Delicious to buy, tell him we are making him a present of the same kind of tree that Stark Brothers sell for $1.50. Anything to get the business and we always appreciate your business because we have never failed to get the money on your orders.” Yours for More and Better Fruit, John Parker

Prunings of Apple History
E. B. Littlefield orchard east of Springdale, circa 1910.

E. B. Littlefield orchard east of Springdale, circa 1910. Dr. Lloyd O. Warren Collection (S-82-214-4)

“The apple is the king of fruits, and the mountains of Arkansas form its throne. Hurrah for Arkansas, for our fine flavored apples . . .”
Springdale News, October 30, 1894

“Verily, as the poet says, “God dreamed of apple trees” when his hand created these delightful hills and hollows, these wide plateaus and gentle slopes, for this is the world’s greatest apple orchard . . .”
John T. Stinson
Fruit Growing Along the Frisco System, 1904

“The countryside was beautiful with trees that blossomed fragrantly in the spring and were crimson with fruit in the autumn. . . . For me, the apple blossom festivals held in Rogers during the 1920s were symbolic of the beauty that was once down Northwest Arkansas’s lanes; and which brought the apple blossom to be the State Flower of Arkansas.”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

“We had a winesap, a tart-sweet apple, and a good “keeper”—we always tried to retain a few bushels in the root cellar, where they lasted well into the winter. Ingrams, a small sweet apple were the very best “keeper.” . . . I remember one [tree] that bore fruit which ripened early, but never lost its green color. We called them “June Apples.” They were so sweet that there were occasional pockets of crystallized sugar near the core. Also we had Arkansas Blacks, a yellow-fleshed apple, so dark red that it was almost black, firm, sweet, juicy.”
Caryn Schmitt and Steven Finney
Flashback, August 1986

“Pruning was commenced at once and continued all winter whenever the weather was mild. No pruning was allowed when the wood was in a frozen condition. . . . Weak, interfering and dead limbs were cut out, strong ones often shortened in to balance the tops. . . . [C]are was used to cut back to a fair-sized limb in a good position to continue growth and assist in healing the wound.”
Springdale News, February 21, 1908

“Orchard men from various other sections of the country began to discover that this region was most admirably adapted to horticulture, with the apple as the prime minister of progress. Rolling acres where from prehistoric days the forest had flourished were turned into symmetrical orchards, the flourishing trees burdened with plump fruit . . .”
John T. Stinson
Fruit Growing Along the Frisco System, 1904

“There is no longer little doubt about the beneficial results of spraying . . . It means better fruit and more fruit, and The News predicts that the time is not far distant when Northwest Arkansas will be up with other fruit sections in this particular.”
Springdale News, April 25, 1908

“My father [Harvey W. Gipple] held that insects would eventually become immune to the chemicals used in the spray material… Growers sprayed summer and winter but still there were diseases and insects which caused the fruit to be of an inferior quality. They thought the spray materials were diluted or had lost their effectiveness, but they finally realized—just as my father had thought—worms had become immune to the chemicals . . .”
Pearl Gipple Banks
Benton County Pioneer, July 1957

Anglin family working at Rupple's apple shed, Fayetteville, circa 1910.

Anglin family working at Rupple’s apple shed, Fayetteville, circa 1910. Lois Conduff Collection (S-87-276-1)

“During World War I men laborers were scarce and Reed [Adcock] hired a number of us boys to pick apples for him . . . Someone threw an apple, another did the same, and that started the ball to rolling. . . . Almost spontaneously apples began to fly . . . The next morning . . .  [Adcock] told us in a very kind way that the program had changed. From now on, he said, I shall pay you 5¢ per bushel for picking apples, instead by the day.”
A. D. Lester
Benton County Pioneer, Summer 1972

“In the packing house [operated by Teasdale Fruit and Nut Products Co.] under the supervision of Miss Lizzie McFarlin, all were so busy and everything so nice and clean. The fruit is packed in 50-pound boxes, which are all nicely paperlined, carefully faced and made pretty by the use of lace paper.”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

“From every source and from all parts of the country come complaints of last season’s packing of apples. The wholesalers denounce the packing of inferior fruit, because it has shut off consumption; the retailers have had grievance for the same reason and the consumer has been so disgusted he has simply passed the apples by and has bought oranges and bananas instead.”
Springdale News, June 15, 1908

“There would be such a line, we would take the truck over and leave it. A man would stay with it to pull it up. And at noon someone would take his place. We’d be lucky if we got it unloaded that day. And this was in the 1930s when the apple business was sort of winding down.”
Jack Yates
Benton County Daily Democrat, March 1, 1987

“As the hundreds of carloads were dispatched . . . Secretary Stroud’s office [of the Ozark Fruit Growers Association] . . . was kept in touch with the market conditions in cities from Denver and St. Paul eastward by representatives and salesmen who quoted prices . . . the refrigerator cars of local fruit were sent to points where there was the greatest demand. . . . Constant communications by wire kept the output of fruit from glutting any particular market, and results were soon evident in better prices to the grower.”
Will Plank
Benton County Pioneer, March 1963

“There is much more to a glass of cider than just squeezing apples so over came Cleva and Harry Douglas [of Rogers] with buckets and baskets, tubs and sacks . . . There were a few discussions with bees and wasps as to just which apples belonged to whom, but I didn’t push the issue, and let them have a fair share.”
Lanette Tillman
Oklahoma Ranch and Farm World, April 13, 1969

“Owing to the extensive apple orchards and the large returns received from the crops, much attention is being paid to methods of care and cultivation . . . as well as packing and marketing the fruit. It has been our observation that the grower who gives his orchard good care and cultivation is repaid many times over for the extra expense.”
Fruit Farming Along the Frisco, 1899

“The [Southern Fruit Products Co.] factory is nearly as large as all out doors. Uses apples of all grades, large and small, and has a capacity of 3,500 bushels per day and even then the bins get to running over though they work night and day. Last year it made 530,000 gallons of vinegar which finds its way to every section of the Union. Sells by the train load. Just think of that, Betsey, train loads of vinegar!”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

“The Macon and Carson distillery has up to the present date used something over 30,000 bushels of apples in the manufacture of brandy. They expect before the season is over to use over a quarter of a million bushels of fruit.”
Unknown source, September 1899
(quoted by Robert G. Winn, Washington County Observer, 1970s–1980s)

“The apples were peeled, sliced, then dried by a night crew over wood stoves. Sulphur was thrown on the fires, the resulting vapors preventing the apple slices from turning too brown. When ready to market, the dried apples were sprinkled with soda water and then packed into wooden or pasteboard boxes.”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

Kimmons-Walker apple evaporator, Springdale, circa 1900

Kimmons-Walker apple evaporator, Springdale, circa 1900. Austin Cravens/W. Fay Atkisson Collection

“The National Pure Food Commission seems to think that the use of sulphur will be a violation of the pure food law. . . . If Sulphur is barred from use in bleaching fruit, it will work great injury to the business and affect not only the evaporator men, but all who grow fruit.”
Springdale News, March 6, 1908

“. . . no commercial apple has even been as well adapted to Northwest Arkansas’s climate and soil as the Ben Davis; and probably no apple will ever be. . . . Said a Louisiana native to an Arkansas apple peddler, ‘That man Benny Davis up there sho’ do grow the apples.'”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

“The awards on apples [at the Chicago World’s Fair] have just been made and the Arkansas display . . . secured the highest award for the largest and best display of apples. . . . New York had long been noted for her apples but they did not begin to compare with the fruit from Arkansas, which was a great revelation to most of the people, who looked upon Arkansas as a wilderness.”
Springdale News, October 30, 1893

Prunings of Apple History
E. B. Littlefield orchard east of Springdale, circa 1910.

E. B. Littlefield orchard east of Springdale, circa 1910. Dr. Lloyd O. Warren Collection (S-82-214-4)

“The apple is the king of fruits, and the mountains of Arkansas form its throne. Hurrah for Arkansas, for our fine flavored apples . . .”
Springdale News, October 30, 1894

“Verily, as the poet says, “God dreamed of apple trees” when his hand created these delightful hills and hollows, these wide plateaus and gentle slopes, for this is the world’s greatest apple orchard . . .”
John T. Stinson
Fruit Growing Along the Frisco System, 1904

“The countryside was beautiful with trees that blossomed fragrantly in the spring and were crimson with fruit in the autumn. . . . For me, the apple blossom festivals held in Rogers during the 1920s were symbolic of the beauty that was once down Northwest Arkansas’s lanes; and which brought the apple blossom to be the State Flower of Arkansas.”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

“We had a winesap, a tart-sweet apple, and a good “keeper”—we always tried to retain a few bushels in the root cellar, where they lasted well into the winter. Ingrams, a small sweet apple were the very best “keeper.” . . . I remember one [tree] that bore fruit which ripened early, but never lost its green color. We called them “June Apples.” They were so sweet that there were occasional pockets of crystallized sugar near the core. Also we had Arkansas Blacks, a yellow-fleshed apple, so dark red that it was almost black, firm, sweet, juicy.”
Caryn Schmitt and Steven Finney
Flashback, August 1986

“Pruning was commenced at once and continued all winter whenever the weather was mild. No pruning was allowed when the wood was in a frozen condition. . . . Weak, interfering and dead limbs were cut out, strong ones often shortened in to balance the tops. . . . [C]are was used to cut back to a fair-sized limb in a good position to continue growth and assist in healing the wound.”
Springdale News, February 21, 1908

“Orchard men from various other sections of the country began to discover that this region was most admirably adapted to horticulture, with the apple as the prime minister of progress. Rolling acres where from prehistoric days the forest had flourished were turned into symmetrical orchards, the flourishing trees burdened with plump fruit . . .”
John T. Stinson
Fruit Growing Along the Frisco System, 1904

“There is no longer little doubt about the beneficial results of spraying . . . It means better fruit and more fruit, and The News predicts that the time is not far distant when Northwest Arkansas will be up with other fruit sections in this particular.”
Springdale News, April 25, 1908

“My father [Harvey W. Gipple] held that insects would eventually become immune to the chemicals used in the spray material . . . Growers sprayed summer and winter but still there were diseases and insects which caused the fruit to be of an inferior quality. They thought the spray materials were diluted or had lost their effectiveness, but they finally realized—just as my father had thought—worms had become immune to the chemicals . . .”
Pearl Gipple Banks
Benton County Pioneer, July 1957

Anglin family working at Rupple's apple shed, Fayetteville, circa 1910.

Anglin family working at Rupple’s apple shed, Fayetteville, circa 1910. Lois Conduff Collection (S-87-276-1)

 

“During World War I men laborers were scarce and Reed [Adcock] hired a number of us boys to pick apples for him . . . Someone threw an apple, another did the same, and that started the ball to rolling. . . . Almost spontaneously apples began to fly . . . The next morning . . .  [Adcock] told us in a very kind way that the program had changed. From now on, he said, I shall pay you 5¢ per bushel for picking apples, instead by the day.”
A. D. Lester
Benton County Pioneer, Summer 1972

“In the packing house [operated by Teasdale Fruit and Nut Products Co.] under the supervision of Miss Lizzie McFarlin, all were so busy and everything so nice and clean. The fruit is packed in 50-pound boxes, which are all nicely paperlined, carefully faced and made pretty by the use of lace paper.”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

“From every source and from all parts of the country come complaints of last season’s packing of apples. The wholesalers denounce the packing of inferior fruit, because it has shut off consumption; the retailers have had grievance for the same reason and the consumer has been so disgusted he has simply passed the apples by and has bought oranges and bananas instead.”
Springdale News, June 15, 1908

“There would be such a line, we would take the truck over and leave it. A man would stay with it to pull it up. And at noon someone would take his place. We’d be lucky if we got it unloaded that day. And this was in the 1930s when the apple business was sort of winding down.”
Jack Yates
Benton County Daily Democrat, March 1, 1987

“As the hundreds of carloads were dispatched . . . Secretary Stroud’s office [of the Ozark Fruit Growers Association] . . . was kept in touch with the market conditions in cities from Denver and St. Paul eastward by representatives and salesmen who quoted prices . . . the refrigerator cars of local fruit were sent to points where there was the greatest demand. . . . Constant communications by wire kept the output of fruit from glutting any particular market, and results were soon evident in better prices to the grower.”
Will Plank
Benton County Pioneer, March 1963

“There is much more to a glass of cider than just squeezing apples so over came Cleva and Harry Douglas [of Rogers] with buckets and baskets, tubs and sacks . . . There were a few discussions with bees and wasps as to just which apples belonged to whom, but I didn’t push the issue, and let them have a fair share.”
Lanette Tillman
Oklahoma Ranch and Farm World, April 13, 1969

“Owing to the extensive apple orchards and the large returns received from the crops, much attention is being paid to methods of care and cultivation . . . as well as packing and marketing the fruit. It has been our observation that the grower who gives his orchard good care and cultivation is repaid many times over for the extra expense.”
Fruit Farming Along the Frisco, 1899

“The [Southern Fruit Products Co.] factory is nearly as large as all out doors. Uses apples of all grades, large and small, and has a capacity of 3,500 bushels per day and even then the bins get to running over though they work night and day. Last year it made 530,000 gallons of vinegar which finds its way to every section of the Union. Sells by the train load. Just think of that, Betsey, train loads of vinegar!”
Martha A. Warren, September 1, 1907
(quoted by Erwin Funk, Rogers Daily News, July 1, 1950)

“The Macon and Carson distillery has up to the present date used something over 30,000 bushels of apples in the manufacture of brandy. They expect before the season is over to use over a quarter of a million bushels of fruit.”
Unknown source, September 1899
(quoted by Robert G. Winn, Washington County Observer, 1970s–1980s)

“The apples were peeled, sliced, then dried by a night crew over wood stoves. Sulphur was thrown on the fires, the resulting vapors preventing the apple slices from turning too brown. When ready to market, the dried apples were sprinkled with soda water and then packed into wooden or pasteboard boxes.”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

Kimmons-Walker apple evaporator, Springdale, circa 1900

Kimmons-Walker apple evaporator, Springdale, circa 1900. Austin Cravens/W. Fay Atkisson Collection

“The National Pure Food Commission seems to think that the use of sulphur will be a violation of the pure food law. . . . If Sulphur is barred from use in bleaching fruit, it will work great injury to the business and affect not only the evaporator men, but all who grow fruit.”
Springdale News, March 6, 1908

“. . . no commercial apple has even been as well adapted to Northwest Arkansas’s climate and soil as the Ben Davis; and probably no apple will ever be. . . . Said a Louisiana native to an Arkansas apple peddler, ‘That man Benny Davis up there sho’ do grow the apples.'”
Thomas Rothrock
Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Winter 1974

“The awards on apples [at the Chicago World’s Fair] have just been made and the Arkansas display . . . secured the highest award for the largest and best display of apples. . . . New York had long been noted for her apples but they did not begin to compare with the fruit from Arkansas, which was a great revelation to most of the people, who looked upon Arkansas as a wilderness.”
Springdale News, October 30, 1893

Photo Gallery

Credits

“A. D. Lester Reminisces About Hiwassee and Area History.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Summer 1972).

A. E. Rausher farm photo. Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 13, No. 4 (October 1968).

Allen, Eric. “Booming Era of Big Red Apple Seems Like Yesterday to Former Gentry City Recorder.” Southwest Times Record, February 14,1965.

“Apple Varieties Originated in Washington County.” From a 1913 U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletin, Flashback, Vol. 7, No. 3 (September 1962).

“Apples—Once Key Produce.” (unattributed/undated newspaper article in Shiloh Museum research files).

Banks, Pearl Gipple. “The Early Development of the Apple Industry in Benton County.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 2, No. 5 (July 1957).

“Beat the World—Arkansas Apples Carry off Highest Honors at the World’s Fair.” Springdale News, circa October 30, 1893.

“Big Distillery is Running in Arkansas.” Springfield Daily Leader, September 15,1914.

Black, J. Dickson. “Red Apple Once King of Benton.” (unattributed/undated newspaper article, Shiloh Museum research files).

Black, J. Dickson. “U.S. Weather Bureau Here Sign of Apple’s Importance.” Rogers Democrat, April 11, 1975.

Campbell, W. S. “Rise and Fall of the Apple Empire.” Flashback, Vol. XI, No. 1 (February 1961).

Cherry, Kim. “Apples: A Look Back at a Major Industry.” Northwest Arkansas Times, March 6,1982.

Cordell, Mike. Descendants of William Bennet Brogdon Sr. (1854-1929) and Dee Jackson (1862-1927). Mike Cordell, (unpublished manuscript) 2010.

Dupy, Gerald W. “The Bright Future for Ozarks Apples.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 45, No. 5 (October/November 1997).

“Eight Awards on Fruit.” Arkansas Democrat, October 1893.

“Evaporator Men Meet. Action of Pure Food Commission Causing Some Uneasiness in this Section.” Springdale News, March 6,1908.

Fruit Farming Along the Frisco. St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, St. Louis, MO: 1899.

Funk, Erwin. “Arkansas Was More than Rocky Hillsides.” Rogers Daily News, 7-1-1950.

Funk, Erwin. “Goldsmith Davis and the Ben Davis.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 2, No. 6 (September 1957).

Funk, Erwin. “Red Apple—Deposed King of Ozarks: A Major Regional Industry is Now Almost Extinct.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 2, No. 7 (February 1954).

“Good Packing of Apples—This is Absolutely Necessary in Order to Realize the Best Prices.” Springdale News, June 15,1908.

History of Benton County. Goodspeed, 1889.

Kennedy, Steele T. “Apple Orchards Staging Strong Comeback in Arkansas Ozarks.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 11, No. 10 (November 1963).

“Kimmons, Walker and Co’s. Evaporator.” Springdale News, August 9, 1907.

“Lincoln History Enmeshed in Apples.” (Cherokee Group Apple Festival Section), October 3, 1996.

McColloch, Lacy P. “Apple Industry at Cane Hill, Arkansas.” Flashback, Vol. XVI, No. 4 (November 1966).

McFee, Gladys Brogdon. “Dee Brogdon.” History of Washington County, Arkansas. Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, 1989.

Mores, Jeff. “Apple of the Country’s Eye.” Benton County Daily Record, November 10, 2008.

Neal, Joe. “Arkansas Apple Festival.” Grapevine, October 13, 1976.

Payne, Ruth Holt. “The Seedling that Made Good: The Story of the Black Ben Davis Apple.”  Flashback, Vol. IX, No. 1 (February 1959).

“Pictures from Benton County History—A Series.” Benton County Democrat, 4-3-1974.

Plank, Will. “The Ozark Fruit Growers’ Association, Our Great Marketing Organization.”  Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 8, No. 3 (March 1963).

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Random House: New York, 2001.

Reynolds, Sonja. “When Apples Were King—Festivals of Days Gone By.” Benton County Daily Democrat, March 1, 1987.

Rom, Roy C. “Apple Industry.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (accessed May 2019).

Rothrock, Thomas. “A King That Was.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Winter 1974).

Rothrock, Thomas. “King Apple and the Depression—Dust Bowl Years.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer 1974).

Rothrock, Thomas. “William Bennett Brogdon: Pioneer Horticulturalist.” Flashback, Vol. 25, No. 3 (August 1975).

“S. B. Van Horn, Practical Ingrafter of Pears and Apples.” Springdale News, 1-17-1908.

Schmitt, Caryn, and Steven Finney. “Life in the Thirties, Washington County.” Flashback, Vol. 36, No. 3 (August 1986).

Sealey, Ross H. “Development of the Parker Nurseries: Good Nurseries the Foundation of the Fruit Industry.” Fayetteville Democrat, June 12, 1922.

“They are Spraying—Apple Growers are Awaking to the Importance of the Work.” Springdale News, April 24, 1908.

“Vanzants Named County Farm Family.” Springdale News, August 19, 1984.

Walker, Ernest. “Story of the Improvement of an Old Apple Orchard in Washington County, Arkansas.” Springdale News, February 21, 1908.

“When the Apple was King.” Springdale News, April 21, 1985.

Winkleman, T. A. “Benton County’s Biggest Apple Year.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 7, No. 1 (November 1961).

Winn, Robert G. “Glimpses into the Past.” Washington County Observer (undated).

Carl Smith’s Fayetteville

Carl Smith's Fayetteville

Online Exhibit
Carl Smith at the Slaughter home, Fayetteville, circa 1925.

Carl Smith at the Slaughter home, Fayetteville, circa 1925. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-37)

When Carl Smith looked through the lens of his camera, he found a fascinating world. He saw scenes of hometown life, massive engineering projects, and a precious daughter. Because of his talent with the camera we are able to glimpse one man’s life in Fayetteville in the first half of the twentieth century.

William Carl Smith (1900-1973) was born in Farmington to Moses Elbert “Eb” Smith and Minnie Lee Blackburn, a member of the prominent Blackburn family at War Eagle. When Eb died a few years after Carl’s birth, Minnie moved the family to Fayetteville.

Carl graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1922 with a degree in civil engineering. He worked on several large construction projects in the area, including the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville and the parks at Devil’s Den and Lake Wedington. In 1926 he married Frances Slaughter with whom he had a daughter, Ada Lee.

He was a military man, serving as an Army officer in Europe during World War II, where he received several honors including the Bronze Star and the British Distinguished Service Order. Following the war he was a commanding officer in the 142nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Arkansas National Guard for six years.

In later years he served as water superintendant and city engineer for the City of Fayetteville and as director of Fayetteville Building and Loan. Through it all he kept his camera at the ready.

Carl Smith's 1950s Zeis Ikon Nettar II camera and snapshots. <em>Bill Shook Collection and Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith’s 1950s Zeis Ikon Nettar II camera and snapshots. Bill Shook Collection and Ada Lee Shook Collection

We have Minnie to thank for inspiring Carl’s interest in photography. She loved to take photos with the camera Eb gave her, no doubt inspiring her young son.

Our most grateful thanks goes to Carl’s daughter Ada Lee Smith Shook who shared memories of her family and generously donated hundreds of his images to the Shiloh Museum.

Carl Smith at the Slaughter home, Fayetteville, circa 1925.

Carl Smith at the Slaughter home, Fayetteville, circa 1925. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-37)

When Carl Smith looked through the lens of his camera, he found a fascinating world. He saw scenes of hometown life, massive engineering projects, and a precious daughter. Because of his talent with the camera we are able to glimpse one man’s life in Fayetteville in the first half of the twentieth century.

William Carl Smith (1900-1973) was born in Farmington to Moses Elbert “Eb” Smith and Minnie Lee Blackburn, a member of the prominent Blackburn family at War Eagle. When Eb died a few years after Carl’s birth, Minnie moved the family to Fayetteville.

Carl graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1922 with a degree in civil engineering. He worked on several large construction projects in the area, including the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville and the parks at Devil’s Den and Lake Wedington. In 1926 he married Frances Slaughter with whom he had a daughter, Ada Lee.

He was a military man, serving as an Army officer in Europe during World War II, where he received several honors including the Bronze Star and the British Distinguished Service Order. Following the war he was a commanding officer in the 142nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Arkansas National Guard for six years.

In later years he served as water superintendant and city engineer for the City of Fayetteville and as director of Fayetteville Building and Loan. Through it all he kept his camera at the ready.

Carl Smith's 1950s Zeis Ikon Nettar II camera and snapshots. <em>Bill Shook Collection and Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith’s 1950s Zeis Ikon Nettar II camera and snapshots. Bill Shook Collection and Ada Lee Shook Collection

We have Minnie to thank for inspiring Carl’s interest in photography. She loved to take photos with the camera Eb gave her, no doubt inspiring her young son. Our most grateful thanks goes to Carl’s daughter Ada Lee Smith Shook who shared memories of her family and generously donated hundreds of his images to the Shiloh Museum.

Carl Smith's Community
Track meet, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1941. Carl Smith, photographer.

Track meet, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1941. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection ( S-98-85-1798)

Camera in hand, Carl Smith recorded the town he loved.

One of Carl’s major interests was in the goings-on at Fayetteville High School and the University of Arkansas, his alma maters. During homecoming he captured scenes of float builders, marchers, and parades. At sporting events he caught the scramble of football players on the field and the moment when a racer crossed the finish line.

Around town he snapped images of buildings, streets, and new homes under construction. At one point he even hopped into an airplane to take a few aerial shots of the downtown and surrounding countryside. A bird’s-eye view of the University’s campus shows just a few buildings surrounding Old Main and an empty field where the Student Union now stands.

Of course some of the places he documented have changed over time. Gone are the dirt roads on Mt. Sequoyah and the ornate First Baptist Church. The city swimming pool at Wilson Park looks quite different as do a few of the buildings on the square. Carl’s photos are a legacy of Fayetteville as it used to be.

 

First National Bank, northeast corner of Block & Center Streets, Fayetteville, 1950s. Carl Smith, photographer.

First National Bank, northeast corner of Block and Center Streets, Fayetteville, 1950s. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-2001-101-76)

Carl Smith's Community
Track meet, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1941. Carl Smith, photographer.

Track meet, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 1941. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection ( S-98-85-1798)

Camera in hand, Carl Smith recorded the town he loved.

One of Carl’s major interests was in the goings-on at Fayetteville High School and the University of Arkansas, his alma maters. During homecoming he captured scenes of float builders, marchers, and parades. At sporting events he caught the scramble of football players on the field and the moment when a racer crossed the finish line.

Around town he snapped images of buildings, streets, and new homes under construction. At one point he even hopped into an airplane to take a few aerial shots of the downtown and surrounding countryside. A bird’s-eye view of the University’s campus shows just a few buildings surrounding Old Main and an empty field where the Student Union now stands.

First National Bank, northeast corner of Block & Center Streets, Fayetteville, 1950s. Carl Smith, photographer.

First National Bank, northeast corner of Block & Center Streets, Fayetteville, 1950s. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-2001-101-76)

Of course some of the places he documented have changed over time. Gone are the dirt roads on Mt. Sequoyah and the ornate First Baptist Church. The city swimming pool at Wilson Park looks quite different as do a few of the buildings on the square. Carl’s photos are a legacy of Fayetteville as it used to be.

Carl Smith's Construction Projects
Carl Smith with his surveying equipment at his mother's home on Locust Street, Fayetteville, about 1925.

Carl Smith with his surveying equipment at his mother’s home on Locust Street, Fayetteville, about 1925. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-39)

Building a Life, Building a Town

After receiving his civil engineering degree from the University of Arkansas in 1922, Carl worked on a variety of area engineering projects: sewer and paving improvements in Harrison; paving, water, and sewer projects in Fayetteville; and the waterworks plant in Prairie Grove. He went further afield, working for a sulfur company in Freeport, Texas, and as a resident engineer for a construction company in Monett, Missouri.

Carl’s biggest jobs came during the Great Depression, when the Federal government sponsored massive construction projects as a way to put people to work. From 1932 to 1933 he assisted with the building of the U.S. Veterans Hospital complex, which included the administration building, the dining hall, the nurses’ quarters, the boiler house, and various on-site residences.

From 1936 to 1938 he worked on another Federal project, the construction of the Lake Wedington recreational area just west of Fayetteville. As project engineer he laid out the road into the work site and built the 102-acre lake with its 1,000-feet-long earthen dam.

After World War II Carl served as water superintendent and city engineer for the City of Fayetteville. He advocated projects that would increase the water supply of a growing town and oversaw additions and renovations at the city hospital, the airport, and in residential areas.

 

 

Carl Smith's 1945 surveying transit and accessories. Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith’s 1945 surveying transit and accessories. Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith's Construction Projects
Carl Smith with his surveying equipment at his mother's home on Locust Street, Fayetteville, about 1925.

Carl Smith with his surveying equipment at his mother’s home on Locust Street, Fayetteville, about 1925. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-39)


Building a Life, Building a Town

After receiving his civil engineering degree from the University of Arkansas in 1922, Carl worked on a variety of area engineering projects: sewer and paving improvements in Harrison; paving, water, and sewer projects in Fayetteville; and the waterworks plant in Prairie Grove. He went further afield, working for a sulfur company in Freeport, Texas, and as a resident engineer for a construction company in Monett, Missouri.

Carl’s biggest jobs came during the Great Depression, when the Federal government sponsored massive construction projects as a way to put people to work. From 1932 to 1933 he assisted with the building of the U.S. Veterans Hospital complex, which included the administration building, the dining hall, the nurses’ quarters, the boiler house, and various on-site residences.

From 1936 to 1938 he worked on another Federal project, the construction of the Lake Wedington recreational area just west of Fayetteville. As project engineer he laid out the road into the work site and built the 102-acre lake with its 1,000-feet-long earthen dam.

After World War II Carl served as water superintendent and city engineer for the City of Fayetteville. He advocated projects that would increase the water supply of a growing town and oversaw additions and renovations at the city hospital, the airport, and in residential areas.

Carl Smith's 1945 surveying transit and accessories. Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith’s 1945 surveying transit and accessories. Ada Lee Shook Collection

Carl Smith's Family
Ada Lee Smith in her sandbox, Fayetteville, 1933.

Ada Lee Smith in her sandbox, Fayetteville, 1933. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-336)

Was there ever a child in Northwest Arkansas more photographed than Ada Lee?

From the moment she was born in 1928 Carl began documenting his daughter’s life. There are snapshots of her with her toys, pets, outfits, and bicycles. Ada Lee on Christmas morning, on her birthday, playing in her sandbox, swimming in the creek.

The neighborhood kids weren’t left out. Not only did Carl take their picture, he also built go-carts, made playhouses, and organized adventures. In later years Ada Lee remembered, “Oh, he was a great dad! A lot of fun! He made kites for all the neighborhood kids out of tissue paper and sticks, with a tail made of rags. He knew exactly how to make them fly. He took all us kids for walks on Mount Sequoyah. He played with us in the sandbox. He made roads in the sand, and used twigs from our spirea bush to make trees.”

One of Carl’s interests was formal portraiture, as evidenced by the many posed shots he took of children and adults. He’d sit his subjects outside, perhaps with a dark blanket as a backdrop, and when the light was just right, capture a quiet moment.

 

Ada Lee smith with sled, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1932.

Ada Lee with sled, Fayetteville, 1932. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-333)

Carl Smith's Family
Ada Lee Smith in her sandbox, Fayetteville, 1933.

Ada Lee Smith in her sandbox, Fayetteville, 1933. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-336)

Was there ever a child in Northwest Arkansas more photographed than Ada Lee?

From the moment she was born in 1928 Carl began documenting his daughter’s life. There are snapshots of her with her toys, her pets, her outfits, and her bicycles. Ada Lee on Christmas morning, on her birthday, playing in her sandbox, swimming in the creek.

The neighborhood kids weren’t left out. Not only did Carl take their picture, he also built go-carts, made playhouses, and organized adventures. In later years Ada Lee remembered, “Oh, he was a great dad! A lot of fun! He made kites for all the neighborhood kids out of tissue paper and sticks, with a tail made of rags. He knew exactly how to make them fly. He took all us kids for walks on Mount Sequoyah. He played with us in the sandbox. He made roads in the sand, and used twigs from our spirea bush to make trees.”

One of Carl’s interests was formal portraiture, as evidenced by the many posed shots he took of children and adults. He’d sit his subjects outside, perhaps with a dark blanket as a backdrop, and when the light was just right, capture a quiet moment.

Ada Lee smith with sled, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1932.

Ada Lee with sled, Fayetteville, 1932. Carl Smith, photographer. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-98-85-333)

Photo Gallery

Credits
Carl Smith in his home darkroom, Fayetteville, 1930s.

Carl Smith in his home darkroom, Fayetteville, 1930s. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-2009-79)

“Lt. Col. Smith Wears British Honor Medal,” [possibly] Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 1946?

McGlumphy, Veronica. “Wiggan’s Hole: History of Lake Wedington.” Flashback, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Spring 2008).

Miller, Leaford. “Urgency of Water Situation Here Stressed by Official.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 26, 1956.

“Mountain Street District Paving Opened to Public,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, September 18, 1925.

Resettlement Administration, Washington, D.C. Letters to William Carl Smith, December 16, 1935, and May 20, 1936. Shiloh Museum Manuscript Collection #79, Box 3, File 1.

Rucker, Steve. Email re: Carl Smith’s military service, July 18, 2001.

Shook, Ada Lee. “William Claiborne Smith.”  History of Washington County Arkansas, 1989.

USDA Soil Conservation Service, Washington D.C. Personal Data Memorandum for Carl Smith, September 1, 1939. Shiloh Museum Manuscript Collection #79, Box 3, File 1.

Young, Susan. “Carl Smith and His Photos.” Shiloh Scrapbook, Summer 2001.

Young, Susan. Notes from an interview with Ada Lee Smith Shook, 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

Credits
Carl Smith in his home darkroom, Fayetteville, 1930s.

Carl Smith in his home darkroom, Fayetteville, 1930s. Ada Lee Shook Collection (S-2009-79)

“Lt. Col. Smith Wears British Honor Medal,” [possibly] Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 1946?

McGlumphy, Veronica. “Wiggan’s Hole: History of Lake Wedington.” Flashback, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Spring 2008).

Miller, Leaford. “Urgency of Water Situation Here Stressed by Official.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 26, 1956.

“Mountain Street District Paving Opened to Public,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, September 18, 1925.

Resettlement Administration, Washington, D.C. Letters to William Carl Smith, December 16, 1935, and May 20, 1936. Shiloh Museum Manuscript Collection #79, Box 3, File 1.

Rucker, Steve. Email re: Carl Smith’s military service, July 18, 2001.

Shook, Ada Lee. “William Claiborne Smith.”  History of Washington County Arkansas, 1989.

USDA Soil Conservation Service, Washington D.C. Personal Data Memorandum for Carl Smith, September 1, 1939. Shiloh Museum Manuscript Collection #79, Box 3, File 1.

Young, Susan. “Carl Smith and His Photos.” Shiloh Scrapbook, Summer 2001.

Young, Susan. Notes from an interview with Ada Lee Smith Shook, 2001.

The Changing Face of Emma

The Changing Face of Emma

Online Exhibit
Emma Dupree Deaver, 1890s.

Emma Dupree Deaver, 1890s. Susan Chadick Collection (S-2006-175-10)

Emma Avenue has been the heart of Springdale’s downtown district for over 130 years. Springdale’s first mayor, Joseph Holcomb, named the thoroughfare after his stepdaughter, Emma Dupree Deaver.

Like many of Northwest Arkansas’ main streets, at one time Emma was all things to all people. It was a destination, both for citizens and rural folk who came to town to shop, conduct business, and socialize. It was an agricultural hub, where farmers and businessmen sold and shipped huge quantities of produce and poultry. And it was a gathering place, uniting the community through parades, festivals, and events.

As Springdale grew, new roads and commercial districts were developed. Retailers followed the traffic, moving their businesses away from Emma. Agricultural businesses left as well when the produce industry declined and poultry companies expanded to larger operations outside the town’s core. Emma’s prosperity and importance faded. Many attempts were made to revitalize downtown, with limited success. But today Emma is once again becoming a destination and community center with the arrival of new merchants, recreational activities, and diverse events. Emma has been reborn.

Local historian Bruce Vaughan remembers Emma Avenue.

Emma Dupree Deaver, 1890s.

Emma Dupree Deaver, 1890s. Susan Chadick Collection (S-2006-175-10)

Emma Avenue has been the heart of Springdale’s downtown district for over 130 years. Springdale’s first mayor, Joseph Holcomb, named the thoroughfare after his stepdaughter, Emma Dupree Deaver.

Like many of Northwest Arkansas’ main streets, at one time Emma was all things to all people. It was a destination, both for citizens and rural folk who came to town to shop, conduct business, and socialize. It was an agricultural hub, where farmers and businessmen sold and shipped huge quantities of produce and poultry. And it was a gathering place, uniting the community through parades, festivals, and events.

As Springdale grew, new roads and commercial districts were developed. Retailers followed the traffic, moving their businesses away from Emma. Agricultural businesses left as well when the produce industry declined and poultry companies expanded to larger operations outside the town’s core. Emma’s prosperity and importance faded. Many attempts were made to revitalize downtown, with limited success. But today Emma is once again becoming a destination and community center with the arrival of new merchants, recreational activities, and diverse events. Emma has been reborn.

Local historian Bruce Vaughan remembers Emma Avenue.

Emma Avenue through the Decades

Beginnings
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, early 1900s.

Looking west on Emma Avenue, from near the railroad tracks, early 1900s. D. D. Deaver Collection (S-78-18)

When Springdale was incorporated in 1878, the land where the Shiloh Museum now stands was the center of town. It was surrounded by homes, businesses, churches, and farms. In the early 1880s Mayor Jo Holcomb encouraged merchants to move to his property a few blocks southeast by offering land at low or no cost. Why? Because that’s where the St. Louis & San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad built a depot in 1881 as it steamed its way through Northwest Arkansas. A commercial district formed on the new street named for Holcomb’s stepdaughter, Emma Dupree Deaver.

Some of the earliest buildings were made of wood, making them quick to build but also quick to burn down. When fire wiped out a block of wood buildings near the depot, more permanent brick structures were built in their place. In 1897 the core of the business district was from Main Street east to the railroad tracks. Emma was home to produce companies, banks, livery stables, barbershops, apple evaporators, and hotels, along with stores which sold food, clothing, hardware, and household supplies.

Spring Creek ran north through Emma, roughly along Spring Street. Flooding was a continual problem. Ditches and drains helped channel some of the water, but not all. A bridge of sorts was built over the creek to contain it, with structures built atop. But whenever there was a heavy rain, merchants reluctantly opened their doors to let the water flow through their buildings. Emma’s dirt roadbed turned into a muddy mess. The street was paved in 1925, making it popular both with merchants and roller skaters.

Beginnings
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, early 1900s.

Looking west on Emma Avenue, from near the railroad tracks, early 1900s. D. D. Deaver Collection (S-78-18)

When Springdale was incorporated in 1878, the land where the Shiloh Museum now stands was the center of town. It was surrounded by homes, businesses, churches, and farms. In the early 1880s Mayor Jo Holcomb encouraged merchants to move to his property a few blocks southeast by offering land at low or no cost. Why? Because that’s where the St. Louis & San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad built a depot in 1881 as it steamed its way through Northwest Arkansas. A commercial district formed on the new street named for Holcomb’s stepdaughter, Emma Dupree Deaver.

Some of the earliest buildings were made of wood, making them quick to build but also quick to burn down. When fire wiped out a block of wood buildings near the depot, more permanent brick structures were built in their place. In 1897 the core of the business district was from Main Street east to the railroad tracks. Emma was home to produce companies, banks, livery stables, barbershops, apple evaporators, and hotels, along with stores which sold food, clothing, hardware, and household supplies.

Spring Creek ran north through Emma, roughly along Spring Street. Flooding was a continual problem. Ditches and drains helped channel some of the water, but not all. A bridge of sorts was built over the creek to contain it, with structures built atop. But whenever there was a heavy rain, merchants reluctantly opened their doors to let the water flow through their buildings. Emma’s dirt roadbed turned into a muddy mess. The street was paved in 1925, making it popular both with merchants and roller skaters.

Growth
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 1950s.

1950s. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection (S-77-9-104)

Back in its heyday Emma was a busy, thriving street. By the late 1800s Springdale’s main industry was agriculture, thanks to the railroad which gave farmers a chance to ship their produce beyond Northwest Arkansas. Thousands of railroad cars of apples, strawberries, grapes, and other produce were shipped from the depot on Emma. Each spring trucks filled the street as buyers came to examine, select, and purchase strawberries.

Beginning in the 1920s produce-businesses moved to the east side of the tracks. They were joined by poultry suppliers and growers in the 1930s and 1940s, among them Jeff Brown, C.L. George, and John Tyson. Further down the street Harvey Jones’ trucking company hauled such freight as lumber and fruit throughout the region. These men, who all got their start on Emma, turned their small companies into corporate giants, bringing wealth and prosperity to the area.

Growth
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 1950s.

1950s. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection (S-77-9-104)

Back in its heyday Emma was a busy, thriving street. By the late 1800s Springdale’s main industry was agriculture, thanks to the railroad which gave farmers a chance to ship their produce beyond Northwest Arkansas. Thousands of railroad cars of apples, strawberries, grapes, and other produce were shipped from the depot on Emma. Each spring trucks filled the street as buyers came to examine, select, and purchase strawberries.

Beginning in the 1920s produce-businesses moved to the east side of the tracks. They were joined by poultry suppliers and growers in the 1930s and 1940s, among them Jeff Brown, C.L. George, and John Tyson. Further down the street Harvey Jones’ trucking company hauled such freight as lumber and fruit throughout the region. These men, who all got their start on Emma, turned their small companies into corporate giants, bringing wealth and prosperity to the area.

Community
Parade, Springdale, AR, early 1900s

Community parade, early 1900s. Bobbie Byars Lynch Collection (S-77-53-13)

Emma was the “town square” of Springdale, the place were high school students met for sodas, where hunters showed off their trophy bucks, and where crowds gathered to watch traveling medicine shows. Politicians like Governors Orval Faubus and Bill Clinton often visited the street to glad-hand voters and wave from parade cars. Springdale is famous for its parades. Early on, Fourth of July festivities honored Civil War veterans and welcomed back World War I soldiers and nurses. During the mid-1920s the Ozark Grape Festival parades celebrated the area’s grape industry.

The first official Rodeo of the Ozarks parade was held in 1946 and featured riding clubs, marching bands, and floats and cars decorated by local businesses. As the rodeo grew, so did community involvement. During Western Week merchants decorated their store windows with a rodeo theme. Folks caught not wearing western clothing on Emma were sometimes subject to a good-natured fine or a dunking in a large tub of water. The rodeo also sponsored an annual Christmas parade.

 

Community
Parade, Springdale, AR, early 1900s

Community parade, early 1900s. Bobbie Byars Lynch Collection (S-77-53-13)

Emma was the “town square” of Springdale, the place were high school students met for sodas, where hunters showed off their trophy bucks, and where crowds gathered to watch traveling medicine shows. Politicians like Governors Orval Faubus and Bill Clinton often visited the street to glad-hand voters and wave from parade cars. Springdale is famous for its parades. Early on, Fourth of July festivities honored Civil War veterans and welcomed back World War I soldiers and nurses. During the mid-1920s the Ozark Grape Festival parades celebrated the area’s grape industry.

The first official Rodeo of the Ozarks parade was held in 1946 and featured riding clubs, marching bands, and floats and cars decorated by local businesses. As the rodeo grew, so did community involvement. During Western Week merchants decorated their store windows with a rodeo theme. Folks caught not wearing western clothing on Emma were sometimes subject to a good-natured fine or a dunking in a large tub of water. The rodeo also sponsored an annual Christmas parade.

 

Revitalization
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 1967.

1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (S-84-49-68)

Over the years Emma’s buildings were updated to reflect a fresh, modern look. Old-fashioned tin ceilings were covered and stucco and metal siding hid old brick walls. Around 1950 Pioneer Lumber unified its odd mix of buildings into one storefront with plate-glass windows and a streamlined brick exterior. Later renovations have all but hidden the original 1895-era two-story building.

Floods changed the look of Emma too. On May 29, 1950, heavy rains caused Spring Creek to rise quickly. Water surged through downtown, washing debris towards the Meadow Street bridge. The debris jammed, causing the water to back up on Emma. Items began floating away, some through smashed plate-glass windows—chairs and a showcase at Penrod’s Café, boards at Pioneer Lumber, and the organ console at the Apollo Theater. The next day Wilson’s held what may have been Emma’s first sidewalk sale, selling flood-damaged clothing to buyers eager for a discount.

Although Springdale leaders wanted a better drainage system, they didn’t have the funds. That began to change in the 1960s when the city underwent urban renewal, a federal program meant to revitalize the nation’s downtowns. The multimillion-dollar project addressed several Emma-related issues including increased parking for shoppers and employees, the channelization of Spring Creek with concrete culverts to eliminate flooding, and the demolition or modernization of several historic buildings.

New structures went up in some of the holes left behind, including San Jose Manor, a business mall built by businessmen Sandy Boone and Joe Steele, and Shiloh Square, a community pavilion built over a Spring Creek drainage culvert. Events such as fried-chicken dinners, arts and crafts shows, and high school pep rallies were held there. Years later the space was fenced off because of damage done by skateboarders and graffiti artists.

Other attempts to revitalize Springdale’s downtown included redevelopment studies, landscaping, parking meter removal, and changes to on-street parking spaces.

Revitalization
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 1967.

1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (S-84-49-68)

Over the years Emma’s buildings were updated to reflect a fresh, modern look. Old-fashioned tin ceilings were covered and stucco and metal siding hid old brick walls. Around 1950 Pioneer Lumber unified its odd mix of buildings into one storefront with plate-glass windows and a streamlined brick exterior. Later renovations have all but hidden the original 1895-era two-story building.

 Floods changed the look of Emma too. On May 29, 1950, heavy rains caused Spring Creek to rise quickly. Water surged through downtown, washing debris towards the Meadow Street bridge. The debris jammed, causing the water to back up on Emma. Items began floating away, some through smashed plate-glass windows—chairs and a showcase at Penrod’s Café, boards at Pioneer Lumber, and the organ console at the Apollo Theater. The next day Wilson’s held what may have been Emma’s first sidewalk sale, selling flood-damaged clothing to buyers eager for a discount.

 Although Springdale leaders wanted a better drainage system, they didn’t have the funds. That began to change in the 1960s when the city underwent urban renewal, a federal program meant to revitalize the nation’s downtowns. The multimillion-dollar project addressed several Emma-related issues including increased parking for shoppers and employees, the channelization of Spring Creek with concrete culverts to eliminate flooding, and the demolition or modernization of several historic buildings.

 New structures went up in some of the holes left behind, including San Jose Manor, a business mall built by businessmen Sandy Boone and Joe Steele, and Shiloh Square, a community pavilion built over a Spring Creek drainage culvert. Events such as fried-chicken dinners, arts and crafts shows, and high school pep rallies were held there. Years later the space was fenced off because of damage done by skateboarders and graffiti artists.

 Other attempts to revitalize Springdale’s downtown included redevelopment studies, landscaping, parking meter removal, and changes to on-street parking spaces.

Decline
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, Feb. 1, 1973

Looking east, February 1, 1973. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (S-84-13-94A)

Emma’s landscape and energy was changing. In 1965 the Frisco ended passenger service in Northwest Arkansas, reducing activity at the depot. During urban renewal buildings were torn down and replaced with parking lots. Some thought the changes helpful, others didn’t. While Emma still had merchants, shoppers were drifting away. Highway 71’s high volume of traffic beckoned as a place for downtown store owners to relocate. As the years passed, buildings on Emma emptied and longtime mainstays closed their doors. The Springdale News, Tyson Foods, and Famous Hardware buildings became a farm-supply store, a grocery, and an antique store, respectively.

When Bill Sonneman opened the Apollo Theater in 1949 it was a showplace with velvet seats, a pipe organ, and a handsome marble statue of the Greek god Apollo. In the early 1970s the theater’s new owners hoped to turn a profit by showing X-rated movies. After opposition by citizens and the Springdale City Council, authorities took action in 1975. Police raided the theater and seized the film, Touch Me. The Apollo closed for several years before reopening as a music venue. By 2002 the building was once again shuttered and later condemned.

Decline
Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, Feb. 1, 1973

Looking east, February 1, 1973. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (S-84-13-94A)

Emma’s landscape and energy was changing. In 1965 the Frisco ended passenger service in Northwest Arkansas, reducing activity at the depot. During urban renewal buildings were torn down and replaced with parking lots. Some thought the changes helpful, others didn’t. While Emma still had merchants, shoppers were drifting away. Highway 71’s high volume of traffic beckoned as a place for downtown store owners to relocate. As the years passed, buildings on Emma emptied and longtime mainstays closed their doors. The Springdale News, Tyson Foods, and Famous Hardware buildings became a farm-supply store, a grocery, and an antique store, respectively.

When Bill Sonneman opened the Apollo Theater in 1949 it was a showplace with velvet seats, a pipe organ, and a handsome marble statue of the Greek god Apollo. In the early 1970s the theater’s new owners hoped to turn a profit by showing X-rated movies. After opposition by citizens and the Springdale City Council, authorities took action in 1975. Police raided the theater and seized the film, Touch Me. The Apollo closed for several years before reopening as a music venue. By 2002 the building was once again shuttered and later condemned.

Rebirth
Outdoor street dinner, Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 2016

Outdoor street dinner sponsored by Downtown Springdale Alliance, May 21, 2016. Courtesy Kim Christie, photographer.

Today Springdale is involved in a different kind of urban renewal, one which is drawing people and businesses back downtown. Perhaps the event that triggered this latest round of activity was the coming of the Razorback Greenway, an extensive system of trails throughout Northwest Arkansas. The Greenway cuts through downtown Emma next to a remodeled Shiloh Square and newly built Walter Turnbow Park, which exposes the long-buried waters of Spring Creek. What was once a problem is now an asset.

A land rush of sorts is occurring on Emma. Merchants are refurbishing buildings and opening new businesses. The interest in craft spirits has led to brew pubs, bars, and an apple cidery. The old Apollo Theater has been renovated and is now an event space. And Tyson Foods returned to its original home in what is now the Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District. An increasingly diverse population is putting its own stamp on the street with Latino-owned businesses and Marshallese-community events.

Emma’s recent improvements are due to the efforts and investments of many. City- and citizen-based initiatives are developing building codes, promoting Emma on social media, and hosting events like outdoor street dinners and the Hogeye Marathon. Large players like Tyson Foods and the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton have purchased buildings for development. They, along with the Care Foundation and the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, have donated money towards the construction of the Greenway and Turnbow Park. Tyson’s has also given $1 million to the Downtown Springdale Alliance, a nonprofit group working to rejuvenate downtown.

While old-timers will find a different street from days gone by, they’re sure to appreciate seeing the old buildings brought back to life and people once again enjoying Emma Avenue.

Rebirth
Outdoor street dinner, Emma Avenue, Springdale, AR, 2016

Outdoor street dinner sponsored by Downtown Springdale Alliance, May 21, 2016. Courtesy Kim Christie, photographer.

Today Springdale is involved in a different kind of urban renewal, one which is drawing people and businesses back downtown. Perhaps the event that triggered this latest round of activity was the coming of the Razorback Greenway, an extensive system of trails throughout Northwest Arkansas. The Greenway cuts through downtown Emma next to a remodeled Shiloh Square and newly built Walter Turnbow Park, which exposes the long-buried waters of Spring Creek. What was once a problem is now an asset.

A land rush of sorts is occurring on Emma. Merchants are refurbishing buildings and opening new businesses. The interest in craft spirits has led to brew pubs, bars, and an apple cidery. The old Apollo Theater is undergoing renovation for future use as an event space. And Tyson Foods will return to its original home in what is now the Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District. An increasingly diverse population is putting its own stamp on the street with Latino-owned businesses and Marshallese-community events.

Emma’s recent improvements are due to the efforts and investments of many. City- and citizen-based initiatives are developing building codes, promoting Emma on social media, and hosting events like outdoor street dinners and the Hogeye Marathon. Large players like Tyson Foods and the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton have purchased buildings for development. They, along with the Care Foundation and the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, have donated money towards the construction of the Greenway and Turnbow Park. Tyson’s has also given $1 million to the Downtown Springdale Alliance, a nonprofit group working to rejuvenate downtown.

While old-timers will find a different street from days gone by, they’re sure to appreciate seeing the old buildings brought back to life and people once again enjoying Emma Avenue.