Creatures Great and Small

Creatures Great and Small

Online Exhibit

How are animals part of the history of Northwest Arkansas?

Humans have depended on animals for millennia. We have shaped them through breeding and domestication and through transformation of their environment. And they have shaped us by the ways we use them and how we think about them—as natural resource, food, laborers, transportation, entertainment, athletes, and companions.

Natural Resource

Native Americans—During the 1700s Osage Indians traveled south from their homes in what is now western Missouri to the Arkansas Ozarks in part to hunt game. Bear, elk, deer, bison, and small game animals were used for meat and leather, some of which, along with bear oil, was traded to other Native American tribes and Europeans.

Settlers—When white settlers moved into the area in the early 1800s, they relied on local wildlife for food and leather and fur pelts for trade. Dr. Alvah Jackson is said to have had a bear-fat rendering plant in the 1820s or 1830s in Carroll (now Boone) County, near the mouth of Bear Creek. The rendered fat was used to make oil lamp fuel, lubricants, and even hair gel. Farmers worked hard to kill wolves, panthers, foxes, and other predators to protect their livestock. In 1893 Bill Young promised that, if elected Benton County circuit clerk, he would “buy a good set of hounds and let the boys hunt with them.” He won, brought in hounds from Tennessee, and drew up the bylaws for the Northwest Arkansas Fox Hunters Association, the oldest such group west of the Mississippi River.

Overhunted—By the mid-1800s the buffalo herds of Benton and Washington counties were gone due to hunting and loss of habitat as the prairies were transformed into farmland. Overhunting continued and by the late 1800s the region’s game population was in serious decline. During the Great Depression of the 1930s game animals were scarce, making it hard for folks to supplement their food supply. In 1938 about 200 deer were harvested legally statewide.

Conservation—The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was created in 1915 to establish regulations and issue licenses to hunters and fishers. In later years the Commission worked to improve and rebuild habitat and wildlife species. An elk herd was reestablished in Boxley Valley near the Buffalo River beginning in 1981. State fish hatcheries produce walleye, crappie, trout, largemouth bass, and other fish for stocking in area lakes and waterways. The coming of Beaver Lake in the mid-1960s gave rise to fishing competitions such as the All-American Bass Tournament, first held in 1967. Organized by Ray Scott of Alabama, the tourney attracted 106 of the nation’s top anglers, who competed for the grand prize of $2,000 and a weeklong trip for two to Acapulco, Mexico. While the largest fish caught were kept for trophy mounts, the rest of the fish were donated to area charities.

Protection—Today, ongoing challenges include wildlife moving into urban areas, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk herds, and an expanding feral hog population. Organizations like the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust are taking action to help conserve wildlife habitat in a rapidly developing region. Ponds built along Interstate 49 near Lowell are meant to filter possibly polluted runoff water in the recharge area for the endangered blind Ozark cavefish. The fish evolved in near-total darkness, where there was no need for working eyes. Injured wildlife are cared for by certified rehabilitation facilities, which work to educate the public about the important role wildlife plays. The operators of Vi-Jo Wildlife Haven in Siloam Springs relied on donations and treatment by volunteer veterinarians, but often paid for the haven’s operations themselves, picking up fresh road kill with which to feed their patients. When they retired in 1988, their mission was picked up by Lynn Sciumbato, who started Morning Star Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Gravette. Today she treats 400 to 500 animals and birds each year.

ANIMAL TALES
“Grandpap Vaughan lived southwest of the little village of Clifty. He said he was plowing corn one day and heard a pig squealing down toward the spring. He decided to go down and see what the trouble was. …He got on the old mare, and he and his old hound went to see what was going on. As they were going down the path…toward the spring, a panther jumped out of a tree. It had the pig up in the tree eating it alive! The panther landed on the old mare right behind him! …right then and there the old mare shedded Grandpap and the panther! The old hound ran away, leaving Grandpap and the panther in the trail. Grandpap said he was afraid to run, so he confronted the vicious animal. He said it would growl with its ears laid back like it was going to jump him. When it growled, he would growl back… Finally it began to back away from him and growl. He would growl and back away too. At last the panther ran and he ran too!”

Fred Todd, Clifty, Arkansas
And the Two Hillbilly Kids Growin’ Old, 1989

Food and Other Products

Early Residents—Early settlers to Northwest Arkansas brought with them what they needed to survive on the frontier, including livestock. Hogs were especially important because, in the days before refrigeration, the meat could be preserved with salt and smoke. Although most livestock was raised for home use, some animals were taken to market. In 1853 a crew of drovers took 550 head of cattle from Washington County to northern California to supply fresh meat to growing communities. As the area became more urban, local meat was sold in area butcher shops to families who lived and worked in town rather than on a farm.

Poultry Industry—During the 1920s Jeff Brown of Springdale began experimenting with young chickens (broilers), examining breeding, diet, and how best to hatch them in an incubator. His work led to the birth of the area’s poultry industry and such companies as Tyson Foods in Springdale, Hudson Foods in Rogers, and Peterson Industries in Decatur. For a time the area was home to egg production companies like Fox De Luxe, demonstrating how important chickens are to the area economy. They’re also part of countless fairs and fundraisers, such as the spaghetti-and-chicken dinners at the Tontitown Grape Festival and the annual Decatur Barbecue.

Other Commercial Livestock—Pel-Freez opened a rabbit-meat processing plant in Rogers in 1951, giving small-scale farmers a new source of income. Pel-Freez continues today, selling frozen rabbit meat to health-conscious consumers and manufacturing animal-based biomedical materials. At one time Benton County was the largest milk producer in the state. In the 1980s its roughly 200 dairies provided milk to such places as the Kraft Foods cheese plant in Bentonville and Hiland Dairy in Fayetteville. But by 2008 there were fewer than twenty dairies in Benton County due to high production costs and changing farm conditions. Today, as the farm-to-table food movement grows, specialty farming has increased. In Elkins the White River Creamery turns out 200 pounds of goat cheese each week while in Harrison, Berkshire Ridge Farm raises heritage-breed hogs for high-end area restaurants.

Wildlife—The Ozark Trout Farm was established at Johnson in 1932. Anglers could catch their fill of rainbows in a pond fed by the cold, clean waters of Johnson Springs. In 1970 the production was about 20,000 pounds of fish annually. Frog legs were a popular menu item back in the day. In the 1930s and 1940s Vol Brashears of Berryville raised and shipped live “giant jumbo” bullfrogs for pond restocking. Area boys earned spending money by catching the crawdads needed for frog food. In recent years a number of exotic species have been raised in the Ozarks including alpacas (for fleece) in Carroll County and foxes (for pelts) and emus (for meat, leather, and oil) in Madison County.

Environmental Damage and Animal Welfare—Concerns have been raised about large-scale hog farming near the Buffalo River in Mount Judea. Some folks worry about water pollution from liquid waste-containment ponds at C&H Hog Farm’s operation. Others feel that, as long as the owners abide by the regulations, they should be able to do what they want on their property. Folks are also concerned about animals at industrial farms, arguing for such things as humane handling and housing. According to Tyson Foods, the company is working to increase the percentage of sows housed in open pens from 34% to 47% by the end of 2017. On a smaller scale, the folks at Mason Creek Farm in Fayetteville are breeding hogs that not only have better-flavored meat, but are less prone to being startled or stressed.

ANIMAL TALES
“[Maggie Trammel of Everton] …kept a flock of Silver Laced Wyandotte hens in a half-acre fenced area connected to her hen house. …[she] gathered about three dozen eggs each day most of the year. Laying hens were replaced yearly. Not only were the egg needs of the family supplied, but [she] was able to sell perhaps 18 or 20 dozen eggs each week, and egg sales generated additional income to support the family. Eggs sold for ten cents a dozen most of the time, but prices dipped as low as three cents per dozen at the lowest point of the Depression [in the 1930s].”

Connell J. Brown
Hard Times in God’s Country, 2010

Worker

Farming—The strength of oxen, mules, and horses was used for all sorts of farm activities such as pulling stumps, plowing land, turning sorghum mills, and hauling wagons and equipment. Henry Thompson of Madison County remembered a time back in 1869 when he got sleepy as he rode in endless circles while his horses’ hooves tramped wheat berries from the chaff and straw. Eventually gas-powered equipment like tractors took over many farm chores. The back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s and 1970s renewed interest in old-time farming with draft animals. That interest continues today with some of the area’s young farmers. Greedy Goats of NWA is a new business which uses goats to clear invasive vegetation such as honeysuckle and poison ivy from private residences and neighborhood parks, such as Wilson Park in Fayetteville.

Logging—When the hardwood timber industry was in its heyday back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, horses and mules were used to “snake” (drag) heavy logs out of the forest, haul them on timber wagons, and bring portable steam engines and sawmills to the work site. In 1861 timber baron Peter Van Winkle relied on the 34 mules at his sawmill near War Eagle, using teams of six to haul lumber. Modern-day lumbering operations, with their large, heavy vehicles, can harm the forest. In the 1990s Tom Coe of Gravette used ponies to pull logs weighing 900 pounds or so out of the woods without damaging trees or the forest floor. He enjoyed the work and the property owners whose trees he harvested appreciated his care for their land.

Construction—During the 1800s and early 1900s, male residents of a certain age were required by law to do several days of road work each year or pay a fee to get out of it. Teams of sturdy horses or mules were used to pull road construction equipment like scrapers or graders. These teams could be hired by the road overseer, but a man who brought his own team could lessen his work time. Even in the 1930s, when gas-powered equipment was available, draft animals were used to construct such places as Devil’s Den, Lake Wedington, Highway 71, and the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville.

Hunting—Hounds have been used to tree possums and raccoons, track scents, chase foxes, flush out quail, retrieve ducks, capture rabbits, fight bears, and protect livestock and their owners. Robert Winn of Winslow told of George Reed and his prized foxhound, “Sam.” One night when he was out foxhunting, Reed realized that Sam was sleeping by the fire rather than chasing foxes with the other dogs. As one fox was being driven closer, Reed is said to have picked up the dozing dog and thrown him almost on top of the fleeing fox. After a quick chase, Sam came back to sleep by the fire.

Service Animals—Following World War I, seeing-eye dogs were trained to help guide German veterans who had lost their sight due to mustard gas. The idea expanded to the U.S. in the 1930s and grew. After Dr. George V. Harris lost his vision at age 30, he trained as an osteopath and opened an office on the Fayetteville square. He lived nearby, choosing his house because it had sidewalks and curbs, necessary features for seeing-eye dogs to do their work. Specially certified dogs and cats are also used in such places as nursing homes, to soothe agitated residents and give them an opportunity to give and receive affection. Horses for Healing, a non-profit therapeutic riding center near Bentonville, helps riders with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities to improve such things as physical balance and flexibility and build self-confidence and social skills. A new program at the Benton County Jail pairs female offenders with shelter dogs, often pit bull mixes. The dogs receive much-needed obedience training while the women learn a technical skill, improve their morale, and gain leadership experience.

To Serve and Protect—Specially bred and trained dogs are frequently used in police work to find missing people, sniff out drugs and dead bodies, and subdue suspects by biting them repeatedly. With the increased use of police body cameras and cell phone videos made by bystanders, such “canine apprehension” is coming under scrutiny. In 1997 the dogs in Fayetteville Police Department’s K-9 unit trained seven hours weekly. Their work was rewarded with lots of praise and a special ball. “Gilligan” became Northwest Arkansas’ first arson dog in 1997, trained to sniff out the presence of hydrocarbons and accelerants used in intentionally set fires. While the golden Labrador’s home base was the Rogers Fire Department, he served fire companies in Benton and Washington Counties.

ANIMAL TALES
“Monte, the well known dog of City Marshall Duggans, was killed by the fire wagon Saturday afternoon. Monte was one of the most sagacious of his kind and has been a familiar figure on the streets of Fayetteville for nearly fourteen years. For many years he was assistant jailer here, neglecting no part of his duty except drawing his salary. When Mr. Duggans had charge of the county jail Monte was his constant companion and sprang to his feet to rivet his eyes upon any prisoner that moved from his bunk at night. The sound of a file or saw infuriated him and he seemed to understand all about a jail. He was accorded honorable burial in a plot of ground…”

Springdale News, February 14, 1902

Transportation

Stage Coach—From 1858 to 1861 the Butterfield Overland Mail transported mail and passengers from St. Louis to San Francisco, a 2,812-mile, twenty-plus-day journey costing $200 (over $5,6000 today). In Northwest Arkansas horses were switched out along the Old Wire Road at relay stations like Elkhorn Tavern in Pea Ridge and Fitzgerald’s Station in Springdale, where the latter’s stone barn still stands today. Waterman L. Ormsbey, who reported on the Mail’s first trip, described mountainsides “covered with massive broken rock” and “precipitous ravines of unknown depth.”

Hacks, Wagons, and Buggies—For shorter journeys, small hack wagons driven by independent operators were used to take paying passengers from the railroad depot to their hotel. In the early 1900s the “Summit Hack” took passengers to the Summit Hotel in Winslow, when the town was a summer resort. In Zinc, the open-sided wagon was known as a mud wagon, perhaps because of its exposure to the elements. Coy Logan of Boone County told the story of several sleepy children who were left in the hay that lined the bed of their parents’ farm wagon during a long church service. Some of the local youth decided to switch the children around, causing confusion for parents when they got home. Buggies were used by many folks when they traveled to church, to town for supplies, when visiting with neighbors, or during leisurely rides when a young man was courting his gal. Today horse-drawn buggies take folks through downtown Eureka Springs or around the Fayetteville square to see the lights at Christmastime.

Joy Ride—In the late 1800s hotels and livery stables had riding horses available for visitors at the health resort of Eureka Springs. Groups of sightseers took “tally-ho” (carriage) rides to popular picnic spots like Sanitarium Lake (now Lake Lucerne). Drawn by a team of four horses, the coach could comfortably seat about thirty-five people. A herd of 29 donkeys was available at the Summitt Hotel in Winslow for guests to ride, if they could—the donkeys had a will of their own. Before a horse can be ridden, it must be “broken” or trained so it is safe to handle and able to follow commands. Noted cowboy and “horse breaker” Otis J. Parker of Fayetteville worked with horses his entire life, training saddle horses and gaiters. Riding continues to be a favorite pastime today. Several area trails are horse-friendly, including one at Lake Sequoyah in Fayetteville.

House Calls—Dr. Will Mock of Prairie Grove was given a registered saddle horse, “Roxanna,” by his parents after he graduated from medical school. He started his career riding horseback, carrying medicine in his saddlebags. From there he graduated to a horse-drawn buggy and then to a double buggy with two horses. Later horses were named “Woodland Wilkes,” “Bill Nye,” and “General Forrest.” After the introduction of the automobile, Dr. Mock “kept his saddle horse as his standby.” Circuit riders—clergymen who traveled from church to church to preach the Gospel—frequently traveled by horseback on their multi-week journeys.

Wagons Ho—In 1951 the Northwest Arkansas Cavalcade was formed to promote the Rodeo of the Ozarks throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Local riding club members traveled hundreds of miles, stopping at towns along the way to talk up the rodeo and sell tickets. Martha Collins remembered that, during one early Cavalcade ride to Fort Smith, a heavy rain forced the riders to swim their horses through flooded Johnson Creek. Since 1977 the Harrison Roundup Club has sponsored the John Henry Shaddox Memorial Wagon Train. Participants enjoy the slow pace and the companionship of the other riders as they spend five days traveling 108 miles on rubber-wheeled wagons from Harrison to the Rodeo grounds in Springdale.

ANIMAL TALES
[Describing the ride on the Butterfield Overland Mail coach south of Fayetteville] “No one who has never passed over this road can form any idea of its bold and rugged aspect. …The horses are seldom permitted to walk, even when traversing the steepest and most tortuous hills, and when driven at their topmost speed, which is generally the case, the stage reels from side to side like a storm-tossed bark [boat], and the din of the heavily ironed wheels in constant contact with the flinty rocks is truly appalling.”
Hiram S. Rumfield, 1858

Athlete

Day at the Races—Horse races were a popular event at county and agricultural fairs in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One early race was held through the streets of the Fayetteville square, as part of Washington County’s first fair in 1856. At a fair in Rogers in the early 1900s, the “county trot” featured horses ridden by their owners, all locals. Local newspaperman Erwin Funk was impressed with J.T. Weathers, a rider who was “quite a curiosity among horsemen for he neither smokes, drinks, chews nor swears.” Three cone-shaped stone-and-cement markers used to mark the track’s boundaries still stand near downtown Rogers. By the late 1930s, a group of Bentonville businessmen built an oval racetrack on land that is now Melvin Ford Park. It had twenty stables, a corral, and a 1,200-seat grandstand complete with a red-clay tile roof. The scene of horse races and shows, it also gave locals a place to train and ride. The Ozark Downs racetrack was built near Sonora in 1965 by a group of quarter-horse breeders and trainers. At the time it was the only track in Arkansas sanctioned by the American Quarter Horse Association. It featured an oval track, bleachers, and a 100-stall, fireproof stable. The track operated off and on into the 1970s.

Rodeo Time—Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show came to Fayetteville in 1898 and featured cowboys riding and roping animals. In 1945 Thurman “Shorty” Parsons and Dempsey Letsch, along with others, began the Rodeo of the Ozarks in Springdale. Animals’ natural ability to run, buck, and canter were featured in such feats of skill as calf roping, saddle-bronc riding, and performing acrobatics while atop moving horses. Barrel racing relies on the skill of the rider and the athletic ability of the horse to run a cloverleaf pattern around barrels as fast as possible.

Horse Breeders—Around the turn of the 20th century the Prairie Grove area was known for its fine horses, the sires of which often came from Tennessee and Kentucky, much like the settlers themselves. Ed Rogers bought and sold horses from the Cherokee Nation, just across Arkansas’ border with Oklahoma. If the Native Americans didn’t have cash on hand, he took what he called “Pull Back Notes,” a type of IOU. John E. Rogers bred and trained stallions as pacers and trotters for horse racing. Pacers move the legs on one side of their body at the same time (left front and left rear) while trotters move diagonally paired legs (left front and right rear). Mack Morton began an annual colt show at his farm in the Walnut Grove community. Prizes were awarded in a number of categories, including best colts from his stud and best lady rider (riding sidesaddle, with both legs to one side of the horse). In the early 1900s the C.A. Ownbey Breeding Co. in Springdale advertised the services of “Clifford H. Jr.,” who paced a mile in 2 minutes, 18 seconds. The horse was described as “the finest saddle horse ever in the state” and “high bred…with plenty of bone and substance.”

Rare Breeds—In the 1980s Circle 7 Riding Stables in Jasper was home to sixteen Lipizzaner horses. These rare, gray horses from Austria are known for their “airs above the ground,” specialty leaps and turns originally derived from combat movements. The Ozark Lipizzaners were trained as riding horses and to pull wagons. For a time in the 1970s the Peruvian Paso horse was bred and trained at Rancho de la Ozarks in Harrison. Descendants of the horses of Spanish conquistadores, these saddle horses are known for their smooth, cat-like gait. They were once used in bull fighting.

Uncommon Athletes—Dogs are natural athletes and their skills are used when playing Frisbee or during agility events such as crawling through tunnels and jumping over barriers. The Pea Ridge Mule Jump got its start in 1988 when a group of raccoon hunters began bragging about how well their mules could jump fences, a necessary skill while out riding in the woods. During the contest the participants have three minutes to verbally coax their mules over a wood barrier, set at varying heights, without knocking it down. The winner in the professional category is awarded a $1,000 prize. Mules also compete in barrel-racing and pole-bending events, where a mule is ridden weaving in and out through a series of poles set in a straight line.

ANIMAL TALES
[At the Rogers Fair, horses were ridden by their owners during the horse races.] “When in 1905 it became possible for owners to secure professional drivers, the public lost interest in the trotting races, as they were more interested in the drivers than in the horses or their time. However in 1906, the last year [of the fair], there was much local interest in Senator Boy, 14 years old, owned by Miss Adlyn Morris…and the crowd cheered when the old trotter won his race.”
Erwin Funk
Benton County Pioneer, September 1958

Entertainment

Circuses and Carnivals—In 1859 three separate circuses came to Fayetteville, including Mabie’s Menagerie & Circus. The newspaper ad promised a musical chariot would be pulled by “Two Colossal Elephants!!!!!” Its collection of wild animals included, “ten magnificent lions,” a royal Bengal tiger, a Brazilian black tiger, leopards, panthers, a cougar, ocelots, striped and spotted hyenas, kangaroos, black bears, camels, a Burmese cow, alpacas, llamas, wolves, badgers, porcupines, and a “whole wilderness of birds and monkeys!” The circus came to Pettigrew several times. According to Wayne Martin, in the 1920s the circus trucks got stuck one time. “They unloaded the elephants, hooked them to the front of the trucks, [and] pulled the [trucks] through the rough spots.” Forrestina Campbell, known as White River Red, operated many carnival games in the area, including the popular “Rat Game.” Three rats were placed in a large ring which had a box with holes in the center. Folks placed bets on which rat would enter each hole. According to Phillip Steele, “the white rat paid one for one, the gray two for one, and the black rat (called ‘Old Coaly’) paid five for one.”

Animal Parks—In 1960 Freda Wilmoth bought three bison for her husband Ross, who was interested in breeding them with beef cattle. From there they began raising deer and elk and then more exotic animals like peacocks, monkeys, lions, and leopards. Interest grew and visitors began to arrive, leading to the opening of the Wild Wilderness Drive-Thru Safari in Gentry in the mid-1970s. Today, critics and federal agencies cite issues with animal care, housing, and visitor safety. Snake World opened in Berryville in 1992, serving visitors and schoolchildren. At first it largely featured venomous snakes but now includes non-venomous snakes, reptiles, tropical fish, and even a few guinea pigs.

Parades—In the late 1890s an elephant paraded through downtown Fayetteville to advertise the Barnum and Bailey Circus. More often, horses are a mainstay of parades. In 1901 horses pulling flower-covered buggies greeted the arrival of St. Louis & North Arkansas Railroad’s first train in Berryville. At the 1926 Apple Blossom Festival in Rogers, Bentonville’s float, pulled by a team of eight white horses, won first place. Riding clubs are often part of the Rodeo of the Ozarks parades in Springdale along with a miniature Purina Chow wagon pulled by ponies. Even oxen got in on the act, pulling a pioneer wagon in at least one rodeo parade.

Show Time—Farm animals have always been a highlight of county fairs. Livestock and horse races were featured on the Fayetteville square during the first Washington County Fair in 1856. Today’s members of area 4-H and Future Farmers of America clubs spend all year learning to care for and groom such animals as rabbits, chickens, goats, dairy cattle, turkeys, and sheep, which are proudly displayed at the fair. Some animals are sold during the Junior Livestock Auction. The first dog show in Washington County was held at the county fair in Fayetteville, September 1937. Prizes included eighty cans of dog food and an Irish Setter puppy. The Northwest Arkansas Kennel Club formed in 1961, in part to promote dog raising and breeding. It later added obedience trials to the show program.

Blood Sport—In the mid-1940s Cave Springs sponsored a “coon on a log” contest. Raccoons were chained to logs driven into the bottom of Lake Keith. As thousands watched, trained coon-hunting dogs were released and encouraged to swim to the raccoons, bite and catch them, and drag them to shore within sixty seconds. Both dogs and raccoons were mauled during their fights. At the time, supporters defended the practice as sport, hoping that the event would “put the town on the map.” The Humane Society member overseeing the event “did not think any fight was rough enough to stop.”

Sanctuary—Some owners realize too late that their exotic “pets” are dangerous or hard to care for. Lucky Birds Unlimited Parrot Rescue in Siloam Springs shelters exotic tropical birds whose owners can’t maintain their special diets or provide the necessary attention these long-lived animals need. Since 1992 Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has cared for “abandoned, abused, and neglected” big cats like lions and tigers, including “S. A.,” a 700-pound Bengal tiger who stood guard outside of a methamphetamine lab in San Antonio, Texas. He was kept hungry to encourage him to be savage. The sanctuary was located in Northwest Arkansas, in part because of the area’s meat processors. In 1998 Tyson Foods supplied 1,000 pounds of raw meat daily.

ANIMAL TALES
“Finally the lone elephant [at a circus in Winslow in the 1910s] was brought into the ring… I could not believe that I was hearing the trainer ask, ‘Are there any small boys in the crowd who would like to ride the elephant?’ …From every direction small boys poured in numbers that surely astonished the elephant’s handler. Seeing the competition hurrying in from everywhere and realizing that the broad back of the animal could carry only a limited number, my bare feet kicked up a cloud of dust as I sprinted into the arena. I leaped into the arms of the surprised keeper. I was aware of nothing except that I was in a dream world and being lifted onto the back of a jungle beast. Eleven of us were hoisted up for the ride of one turn around the ring.”
Robert G. Winn
The Cow That Went to Church, 1985

Companion

Pets—Dogs and cats are the most popular animals kept as pets, but there are fans of birds, fish, rabbits, and rodents, too. When Wayne Martin of Pettigrew was three years old in 1938, he was given a dog. “Tip” and Wayne “grew up together. …From the time I was ten years old there was nowhere I couldn’t go without a .22 rifle in one hand, a fishing pole in the other, and Tip alongside me.” Eventually Wayne had to use that rifle to put down an ailing Tip. Because Cornelia Wein of Winslow had a soft heart for animals, her neighbors took advantage of her, dropping off their unwanted cats. She fed them all with the help of “Maudie,” her cow. According to Robert Winn, when the cats saw Mrs. Wein with the milking pail, the cats were “purring and licking their chops in anticipation of the warm, foaming milk that soon was to be supper.” Sometimes folks keep unusual pets. When she was a child in 1920, Pauline Jackson Thacker of Aurora kept “Petty,” a chicken which had lost its feet to frostbite, but still managed to follow her around. In the 1980s pet llamas were bred at the Hickory Hill Llama Ranch near Kingston. For a time in the 1990s Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs were popular and local cities had to decide whether they were pets or livestock.

Superstition—A widespread belief in the Ozarks and throughout the South in the 1800s and early 1900s was that cats would chew on a corpse’s ears and nose. According to Wayne Martin, at a funeral wake in Madison County, a relative of the deceased used a broom to shoo a cat out of the room. Instead, “the cat got up under the sheet with the corpse and the corpse got a worse beating than the cat did.”

Dangerous Dogs—Dogs and other animals with rabies were feared because, if the rabies was transmitted via saliva to humans, it would lead to a painful death. In 1894 William Etris of Bentonville was bitten by a rabid puppy. Before his death he became “perfectly wild, it being necessary on one occasion to tie him in bed.” William’s mother Martha died the following year, “pining over the sad fate of her dear boy.” Feral dogs can form packs which may maul or kill livestock like sheep and chickens. Some folks are attacked by dogs while out jogging or bicycling. Today, one bicycling route in Washington County is so notorious for its threatening dogs that it’s known locally as “Dog Loop.” In an effort to deal with these problems, the Quorum Court recently passed an ordinance outlining how the Sheriff’s Office can declare animals “dangerous.” While it’s a step forward, without responsible owners who keep their pets in enclosures and vaccinated against rabies, people and animals are still in danger.

Shelters—The Fayetteville Humane Society was formed in 1946 to establish an adoption program and humane euthanasia (kill) methods. Prior to that, abandoned or stray dogs were placed in a large, crowded pen regardless of size or medical condition. Anyone who wanted a dog just took one, “no questions asked.” In the 1980s and 1990s shelters run by the cities of Springdale and Rogers were accused of overcrowding, poor sanitation, limited food supplies, and lack of proper solutions for euthanasia. In January 1980 the Springdale shelter dealt with an overcrowding issue by putting down 68 dogs and eight cats in a single day. As part of a new program, in 2017 over 200 dogs and cats were sent from the Washington County animal shelter to no-kill shelters in other states. While this helps save some animals, it leaves fewer animals for local adoption. During the county’s recent Pet Palooza event, 584 people came but only thirty animals were available for adoption.

ANIMAL TALES
“…another summer came and with it my daily chore of delivering fresh milk that Mama sold to various “summer people” [in the resort town of Winslow]. Always [my dog] Teddy accompanied me… [In 1913] a kindly lady…called Teddy to her and started stroking his long silky hair. After a long conversation she said she would like to buy Teddy from me. Sell Teddy!…The lady persisted. She would give me ten dollars for him and take him with her to her home in a southern town… I already knew something of the value of money and ten dollars was a huge sum to a small boy in Winslow at that time… The cursed ten dollar bill was placed in my outstretched hand and without looking back I ran as fast as my skinny legs would carry me across town… I threw the ten dollar bill onto [my mother’s] lap and without a word of explanation rushed out the back door and into the woods where I…sobbed until I could cry no more. [I learned a lesson that day] that no amount of money can compare in value to the steadfast loyalty of a true friend.”
Robert G. Winn
Washington County Observer, September 20, 1973

Credits

Alison, Charles Y., and Ellen Compton. Images of America: Fayetteville. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, 2011.

“Arkansas’ Only Herd of Rare Lippizan Horses Is In County.” Newton County Times, May 10, 1988.

“Attendance Up at Prairie Grove Reunion, Fair.” Northwest Arkansas Times, September 5,1965.

Barnes, Guy. “Some Complaints Valid . . . At City Pound.” Springdale News, January 23, 1980.

Beard, Annette. Jumping mules is part of ‘coon hunting. Pea Ridge Mule Jump.  (accessed 11/2017)

Beeks, Bonnie Cox. “Hog Killing at the Cox Farm on Hamestring Creek.” Flashback, Vol. 56, No. 2.

Bell, David. “Alpacas part of the family for local farmer.”  Carroll County News, September 30, 2014.

Bickford, Charles. “Jaycee Caravan to Phoenix.” Springdale News, June 13, 1968.

Bland, Gaye H. “Land of Opportunity: The Riches of Lumbering in Benton County.” Ozark View, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Aug 1993).

Blevins, Brooks. Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 2002.

Buddy, the First Seeing Eye Dog. America Comes Alive.  (accessed 11/2017)

Burnett, Abby. Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950. University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2014.

Burnett, Abby. “Oklahoma Couple ‘Retires’ On Kingston Llama Ranch.” Madison County Record, December 21, 1989.

Campbell, William S. One Hundred Years of Fayetteville: 1828-1928. Washington County Historical Society: Fayetteville, Arkansas, 1977.

“Charities to Get Tourney Fish.” Springdale News, June 2, 1967.

“Coon on a Log.” Life, January 12, 1948.

Craig, Charlie. “Bentonville’s horse track was thoroughly first class.” Arkansas Democrat, March 29, 1987.

“Dairymen: Dairies in county are No. 1 in statewide milk production.” Benton County Daily Record, February 1983.

Deane, Ernie. “Ozarks Country.”  Madison County Record, June 14,1984.

Dezort, Jeff. “Owners clear air about hog farm.” Newton County Times, April 17, 2013.

Dillard, Tom. “‘Justifiably frightening:’ Rabies was scourge of early Arkansas.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 28, 1917.

“Domestic Rabbits—A New Industry.” Ozarks Mountaineer, March 1956.

Donald, Leroy. “Peterson Male puts feather in cap.” Arkansas Gazette, October 13, 1985.

Donat, Pat. “Dedicated Doctor Nears End of Career.” Northwest Arkansas Times, April 1, 1979.

Donat, Pat. “Fayetteville Cowboy Still Breakin’ ‘Em at 82.” Northwest Arkansas Times, October 6, 1971.

Edmisten, Bob. “Apple Blossom Festivals Were Grand Attractions.” Springdale News, April 23, 1969.

Eley, Ashton. “Pairings benefit inmates, dogs: Jail program aims to build accountability in female offenders.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 12, 2017.

“Emu Growers Find Birds Used for Myriad of Products.” Madison County Record, July 14, 1994.

“Fair Catalog.” Northwest Arkansas Times, September 28, 1937.

“First Annual Fair in 1878.” Flashback, Vol. 5, No. 2 (April 1955).

Ferguson, Mayme. “‘Money’ at the Tail of the Rainbow.” Arkansas Gazette, December 20, 1970.

Flanagin, Scott. “Turning a blind eye to progress.” Northwest Arkansas Times, December 11, 1994.

Funk, Erwin. “Rogers Held First Benton County Fair in 1888.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 3, No. 6 (September 1958).

Gilbert, Allen Jr. “The Downs Are Back Up.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 26, 1968.

Gill, Todd. “Greedy Goats return to Wilson Park to clear honeysuckle and other invasive plants.” Fayetteville Flyer, October 16, 2017.  (accessed 11/2017)

Gittings, Misty. “Hard Times Take Toll: Dairy Farmers Remain Optimistic After Plant Closes.”  Benton County Daily Record, September 24, 2012.

Hahn, Jennifer. “Cats Find Comfort at Turpentine Creek.” Springdale News, August 2, 1998.

Haseloff, Cynthia. “Rodeo of the Ozarks caravans sold tickets around region.” Springdale News, June 25, 2000.

Heerwagen, P. K. “Prairie Grove Valley: Our ‘Bluegrass Country.'”  Arkansas Gazette, January 21,1965.

Hightower. Lara Jo. “Humane Society of the Ozarks a positive force in animal welfare.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 30, 2017.

Hill, Pamela. “Arson, search-and-rescue dogs protect and serve in other ways.” Northwest Arkansas Times, October 26, 1997.

Hill, Pamela. “Dutiful Dogs: Area police have well-established K-9 programs.” Northwest Arkansas Times, October 26, 1997.

Hinshaw, Jerry. “Cattleman’s Round-Up.”  Springdale News, October 21, 1979.

Hold, Billy. “Stocktons to close their bird rehabilitation center.” Herald-Democrat, June 30, 1988.

Holtmeyer, Dan. “Sequoyah trails become horse-friendly.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 26, 2016.

Horses for Healing.  (accessed 11/2017)

“Jeff Brown Hatches New Ideas in Poultry.” Springdale Morning News, April 21, 1991.

Jessen, Janelle. “Bird buddies: Sanctuary succors parrots in peril.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 7, 2014.

Joenks, Laurinda. “Roughing It: Wagon Train Crosses Hardscrabble Landscape to Reach Rodeo.” Springdale Morning News, June 30, 2002.

“Kennel Club Organizes in Rogers.” Northwest Arkansas Times, May 19, 1961.

Kinder, Kevin. “Fancying Felines: Wildlife Refuge Still Saving Big Cats One Day at a Time.” Northwest Arkansas Morning News, April 15, 2012.

“Local Woman’s Terrier Wins Top Honors at Dog Show.” Springdale News, 6-17-1964.

Logan, Coy. “Township Road Work.” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly. Vol. VII, No. 1 (March 1962).

Logan, Coy. “Travel in the early days: Review of Conditions in Carroll County to the ’20’s.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. No. (December 1969).

Lovell, Linda. Pea Ridge Mule Jump and Show.  Encyclopedia of Arkansas. (accessed 2017)

Lowman, Henry. “The Bird People of Siloam Springs . . . A Rare Couple With an Unusual Hobby.” Springdale News, January 11, 1981.

“Mabie’s Menagerie and Circus” advertisement. Arkansian, May 14, 1859.

Magsam, John. “Law on selling raw milk has some over the moon.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 28, 2013.

Martin, Wayne. Pettigrew, Arkansas: Hardwood Capital of the World. Shiloh Museum of Ozark History: Springdale, Arkansas, 2010.

Marts, Kent. “When the cows don’t come home.” Kent Marts, Benton County Democrat, April 13, 1986.

McGeeney, Ryan. “Hogs designed for lower stress: Fayetteville couple propagate, trademark noe breed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 6, 2014.

McKiever, Tonya. “Benton County once a thriving center for dairy, livestock.” Benton County Daily Record, February 18, 2008.

McKiever, Tonya. “Marker first step to honor old trail.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 17, 2007.

“Memories of Late 1800s.”  Washington County Observer, June 2, 1977.

Moll, Randy. “Love for family, animals at root of Safari in Gentry.” Westside Eagle Observer, November 9, 2016.

Moll, Randy. “PETA seeks to block renewal of Safari’s captive-bred permit.” Westside Eagle Observer, March 4, 2015.

Nehring, Radine Trees. “Treating the Forest Kindly With Pony-Style Logging.” Ozarks Mountaineer, May/June 1992.

Neil, Mark. “Fishing Fun.” Springdale News, May 8, 1981.

Newcomb, Kelly. “Something to hiss about: Snake World celebrates 25th anniversary.” Lovely County Citizen, May 18, 2017.

“Northwest Arkansas Cavalcade.” Ozark Mountaineer, undated (1953).

“Northwest Arkansas Fox-Hunters Association Oldest West of Mississippi.” Northwest Arkansas Morning News, June 14, 1960.

“Northwest Arkansas Kennel Club to Sponsor All-Breed Dog Show Here Sunday.” Springdale News, June 11,1964.

Obituary for Monte. Springdale News, February 14, 1902.

Owens, Nathan. “Goat farmers turn to retail for down time.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 12, 2017.

Owens, Nathan. “Harrison farm puts free-range pork on menus, local tables.”  Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 1, 2017.

Pel-Freez Biologicals.  (accessed November 2017)

Perozek, Dave. “Gentry safari to fight allegations.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 19, 2017.

Perozek, Dave. “Mule Jump Brings Joy.” Northwest Arkansas Morning News, October 13, 2013.

“Prairie Grove Clothesline Fair Closes with Square Dance Event.” Northwest Arkansas Times, September 7, 1965.

Putthoff, Flip. “Once around the pond: Visitors walk on the wild side next to Beaver Lake.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 25, 2017.

“Quarter Horses: A New Industry.” Springdale News, July 26, 1965.

Rogers Fairground Souvenir. Rogers Historical Museum.  (accessed November 2017)

Rose, F. P. “Butterfield Overland Mail Company.”  Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol., No. (Spring 1956).

Sabo, George III. Indians in Arkansas: The Osage.  Arkansas Archeological Survey. (accessed November 2017)

Saddle and Show Horse Chronicle, Lexington, KY, Vol. 3, No. 1, (February 4, 1913).

Sherman, Melissa. “Crowds Cheer On Mule Jumps.”  Northwest Arkansas Morning News, October 12, 2008.

Sims, Scarlet. “Animals sent away for adoption: Out-of-state relocation lowers county shelter population, helps budget.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 17, 2017.

Sims, Scarlet. “County mulls vicious dogs: Panel weighs ordinance changes.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Februrary 23, 2016.

Sims, Scarlet. “Dangerous animal rules under review: Cyclist attacked by dogs says more could be done.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 6, 2017.

Sims, Scarlet. “Volunteers Save Wildlife: Caregivers Nurse Injured Animals, Birds Back to Health.” Benton County Daily Record, May 19, 2014.

Sloate, Mike. “Sciumbatos take on wildlife rehab job.” Weekly Vista, January 3, 1989.

“Springdale Breeding Barns.” C. A. Ownbey Breeding Co., Springdale, circa 1903.

Steele, Phillip. “The Saga of White River Red.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 1, No. 3 (March 1975).

Stevens, Tommi H. “Peruvian Paso Horse Comes to Area.”  Harrison Daily Times, March 27, 1974.

Tedford, Harold C. “Circuses in Northwest Arkansas Before the Civil War.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXVI No. 3 (Autumn 1967).

Todd, Fred. Clifty, Arkansas—And the Two Hillbilly Kids Growin’ Old. Self-published, 1989.

Tracy, Dustin. “4-H’ers breathe life into fair.” Northwest Arkansas Times, August 27, 2007.

Tracy, Dustin. “County’s annual fair provides fond memories for generations.” Northwest Arkansas Times, August 27, 2007.

“Unique ‘Livestock’ Raised By Area Resident, Martha Campbell.” Madison County Record, January 15, 1977.

Walkenhorst, Emily. “Hog farm finds tolerance, disdain.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 23, 2017.

Wallace’s American Trotting Register. Volume VXXII, American Trotting Register Association, Chicago, 1921.

Westphal, June, and Catherine Osterhage. A Fame Not Easily Forgotten. Litho Printers and Bindary: Cassville, MO, 2010.

Whalen, Laurie. “Farmers put cows out to pasture.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 22, 2011.

Why Animal Well-Being is Important. Tyson Foods. (accessed 11/2017)

“Wild creatures roam Gentry park.” Rogers Daily News, August 17, 1975.

Williams, Jeff. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Encyclopedia of Arkansas. (accessed May 31, 2019)

Wilson, David. “Stage Set for Bass Tournament.” Springdale News, June 2, 1967.

Winn, Robert G. “Bob William’s Donkeys.” Washington County Observer, undated.

Winn. Robert G. “Fox Hunting In the Ozarks.” Washington County Observer, June 28, 1979.

Winn, Robert G. “Oda’s Hack.” Washington County Observer, May 27, 1982.

Winn, Robert G. “Sam, The Handsome Hound.” Robert G. Winn, Washington County Observer, May 29,1980.

Winn, Robert G. “Teddy.” Washington County Observer, September 20, 1973.

Wood, Ron. “Ponds developed to protect species.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 5, 2017.

Down by the Old Mill Stream

Down by the Old Mill Stream

Online Exhibit
Van Winkle Mill, Van Hollow (Benton County), early 1900s

Van Winkle Mill, Van Hollow (Benton County), early 1900s. Marilyn Larner Hicks Collection (S-90-10-39)

Imagine a time when there were no grocery stores. A time when people lived in the hills and hollows of the Ozark Mountains, growing crops and raising livestock in order to survive. Corn was important because it fed people and animals. It could be traded for other goods or turned into alcohol. Millers were important, too. In 1846 the State of Arkansas passed an act exempting millers from “serving on juries, working on roads, and in the performance of [normal] military duty.”

Today we think of gristmills as romantic old places, but once they were a major part of many rural communities. They provided families with an easy way to grind their grain (grist), brought folks together to trade news and gossip, and often functioned as a post office and mercantile store. According to Ozark folklorist Otto Ernest Rayburn, a trip to the mill was often a family occasion. Some folks traveled miles, hunting for meat and camping at the mill while waiting to have their grain milled. Dances might be held, marriages performed, doctors consulted. On Saturday afternoons at one mill in Madison County, fish trapped in the millrace after the gates were closed for the Sabbath were auctioned.

Folks could grind their grain at home, but it was a difficult, time-consuming process. One type of homemade mill involved tying a heavy maul to one end of a pole which was balanced on a forked limb pushed into the ground. When the free end of the pole was moved up and down, the maul fell into a hollowed-out tree stump full of dried corn. Having a community mill made a lot of sense.

Roller mill machinery, probably salvaged after a fire, War Eagle Mill, 1920s-1930s. Mrs. Gene Layman Collection (S-90-36-2)

Early gristmills were simple affairs—a building, a source of water such as a stream or spring, and a water wheel to channel the energy of the flowing water and use it to turn one millstone upon the other. A few mills, like Engel’s Mill near Farmington, were powered by mules or oxen on a treadmill. Local hardwood was used for the building and the water wheel. The belts that ran on the pulleys were made of home-tanned leather. Many millstones were quarried locally, but the stone wasn’t as good as that imported from France.

The miller’s job wasn’t easy. He hauled heavy sacks of grain, worked round-the-clock during harvest time, and worried about fire and flood. Dams, millponds, and milling equipment needed constant maintenance and repair. In payment for his work, the miller took a portion of grain (the “toll”) from each milling job. We don’t know why, but area mills seemed to change hands often. Some families, such as the Basores of Carroll County, specialized in gristmills, building new mills and improving old ones before moving on to the next challenge.

The Civil War was hard on mills. Unlike other area commanding officers on both sides of the conflict, Confederate General Ben McCulloch believed that mills should be destroyed. He wrote, “Every man who is a patriot and sound southern man will be the first to put the torch to his own grain or mill rather than have them left to aid the enemy.” In 1862 McCulloch ordered the burning of Fayetteville’s steam mill which produced 10,000 pounds of flour daily. The owners pleaded for the removal of their equipment but were denied. Mills which escaped destruction were often captured, the grain bought or seized to feed the troops. During the occupation of the Rhea Community, miller William Rhea showed on which side his sympathies lay. He charged the Confederates 2½¢ a pound for flour while the Federals were charged double.

After the war old mills were rebuilt and new ones begun. Many were powered with steam engines which didn’t require the flowing water of a water mill. But they did need lots of wood to fire the boiler. At Rhea’s Mill, the men supplying the wood to fire the boilers were paid 25¢ a day and received free flour and meal and wholesale prices at the owner’s mercantile store. The mill workers had a similar deal, but received $2 a day.

Milling began to change in the 1880s with the invention of the roller mill. Corrugated metal rollers and other advanced processing equipment ground flour finer and faster than the old millstones. With the coming of the railroads new markets opened up. Area farmers looking to make a profit used agricultural innovations to plant more acreage in soft winter wheat and corn. Some mills went into the flour business in a big way. In the early 1900s the Berryville Milling Company imported wheat from the North to mill and market.

Gristmills had their own brands of flour, often poetically named. At Johnson they offered “Cream of the Harvest” and “White Dove.” Over in West Fork “Jersey Lily” was a favorite while Kingston had “Pride of Arkansas.” At Osage Mills Dr. Philo Alden wrote of his “Gold Dust” brand flour, “A bride’s best dower, and when she’s through the making, her bread is light and sweet and white, and shows a perfect baking.” Some mills used their water and steam power to saw timber, card wool, and gin (process) cotton. A few mills even operated a government distillery. Having different business ventures made running a mill more profitable and kept customers coming back as the needs of the community changed.

The early 20th century saw a decline in gristmills. Railroads and the automobile made it easier to get ready-made flour to the stores, diets were more varied, and fewer folks were growing grain for home use or sale. New food-safety laws forced some mills to change to milling animal feed only. A few millers held on into the 1960s and 1970s, but one by one the mills went away—burned down, washed away, tumbled down, and forgotten. Today only the War Eagle Mill keeps on grinding.

Left: Fayetteville Roller Mills advertisement,1904. (S-87-323-1) Right: Flour sack label, Springdale Milling Co., circa 1920.

Left: Fayetteville Roller Mills advertisement,1904. (S-87-323-1) Right: Flour sack label, Springdale Milling Co., circa 1920. Sue K. McBryde Collection (S-89-114-63)

Van Winkle Mill, Van Hollow (Benton County), early 1900s

Van Winkle Mill, Van Hollow (Benton County), early 1900s. Marilyn Larner Hicks Collection (S-90-10-39)

Imagine a time when there were no grocery stores. A time when people lived in the hills and hollows of the Ozark Mountains, growing crops and raising livestock in order to survive. Corn was important because it fed people and animals. It could be traded for other goods or turned into alcohol. Millers were important, too. In 1846 the State of Arkansas passed an act exempting millers from “serving on juries, working on roads, and in the performance of [normal] military duty.”

Today we think of gristmills as romantic old places, but once they were a major part of many rural communities. They provided families with an easy way to grind their grain (grist), brought folks together to trade news and gossip, and often functioned as a post office and mercantile store. According to Ozark folklorist Otto Ernest Rayburn, a trip to the mill was often a family occasion. Some folks traveled miles, hunting for meat and camping at the mill while waiting to have their grain milled. Dances might be held, marriages performed, doctors consulted. On Saturday afternoons at one mill in Madison County, fish trapped in the millrace after the gates were closed for the Sabbath were auctioned.

Folks could grind their grain at home, but it was a difficult, time-consuming process. One type of homemade mill involved tying a heavy maul to one end of a pole which was balanced on a forked limb pushed into the ground. When the free end of the pole was moved up and down, the maul fell into a hollowed-out tree stump full of dried corn. Having a community mill made a lot of sense.

Roller mill machinery, probably salvaged after a fire, War Eagle Mill, 1920s-1930s. Mrs. Gene Layman Collection (S-90-36-2)

Early gristmills were simple affairs—a building, a source of water such as a stream or spring, and a water wheel to channel the energy of the flowing water and use it to turn one millstone upon the other. A few mills, like Engel’s Mill near Farmington, were powered by mules or oxen on a treadmill. Local hardwood was used for the building and the water wheel. The belts that ran on the pulleys were made of home-tanned leather. Many millstones were quarried locally, but the stone wasn’t as good as that imported from France.

The miller’s job wasn’t easy. He hauled heavy sacks of grain, worked round-the-clock during harvest time, and worried about fire and flood. Dams, millponds, and milling equipment needed constant maintenance and repair. In payment for his work, the miller took a portion of grain (the “toll”) from each milling job. We don’t know why, but area mills seemed to change hands often. Some families, such as the Basores of Carroll County, specialized in gristmills, building new mills and improving old ones before moving on to the next challenge.

The Civil War was hard on mills. Unlike other area commanding officers on both sides of the conflict, Confederate General Ben McCulloch believed that mills should be destroyed. He wrote, “Every man who is a patriot and sound southern man will be the first to put the torch to his own grain or mill rather than have them left to aid the enemy.” In 1862 McCulloch ordered the burning of Fayetteville’s steam mill which produced 10,000 pounds of flour daily. The owners pleaded for the removal of their equipment but were denied. Mills which escaped destruction were often captured, the grain bought or seized to feed the troops. During the occupation of the Rhea Community, miller William Rhea showed on which side his sympathies lay. He charged the Confederates 2½¢ a pound for flour while the Federals were charged double.

After the war old mills were rebuilt and new ones begun. Many were powered with steam engines which didn’t require the flowing water of a water mill. But they did need lots of wood to fire the boiler. At Rhea’s Mill, the men supplying the wood to fire the boilers were paid 25¢ a day and received free flour and meal and wholesale prices at the owner’s mercantile store. The mill workers had a similar deal, but received $2 a day.

Milling began to change in the 1880s with the invention of the roller mill. Corrugated metal rollers and other advanced processing equipment ground flour finer and faster than the old millstones. With the coming of the railroads new markets opened up. Area farmers looking to make a profit used agricultural innovations to plant more acreage in soft winter wheat and corn. Some mills went into the flour business in a big way. In the early 1900s the Berryville Milling Company imported wheat from the North to mill and market.

Gristmills had their own brands of flour, often poetically named. At Johnson they offered “Cream of the Harvest” and “White Dove.” Over in West Fork “Jersey Lily” was a favorite while Kingston had “Pride of Arkansas.” At Osage Mills Dr. Philo Alden wrote of his “Gold Dust” brand flour, “A bride’s best dower, and when she’s through the making, her bread is light and sweet and white, and shows a perfect baking.” Some mills used their water and steam power to saw timber, card wool, and gin (process) cotton. A few mills even operated a government distillery. Having different business ventures made running a mill more profitable and kept customers coming back as the needs of the community changed.

The early 20th century saw a decline in gristmills. Railroads and the automobile made it easier to get ready-made flour to the stores, diets were more varied, and fewer folks were growing grain for home use or sale. New food-safety laws forced some mills to change to milling animal feed only. A few millers held on into the 1960s and 1970s, but one by one the mills went away—burned down, washed away, tumbled down, and forgotten. Today only the War Eagle Mill keeps on grinding.

Left: Fayetteville Roller Mills advertisement,1904. (S-87-323-1) Right: Flour sack label, Springdale Milling Co., circa 1920.

Left: Fayetteville Roller Mills advertisement,1904. (S-87-323-1) Right: Flour sack label, Springdale Milling Co., circa 1920. Sue K. McBryde Collection (S-89-114-63)

The Miller’s Tale

Many mills use water power to run their machinery. Water from a spring or stream is gathered into a millpond. The water is held back by a dam [1] with a sluice gate [2]. When the sluice gate is opened, water is released into a chute-like flume [3] or a pipe [4] and travels to the water wheel or turbine.

Water for an overshot wheel [5] falls down into the wheel’s buckets, causing it to turn. On a breastshot wheel [6], water comes in level with the wheel’s center. An undershot wheel [7] works directly in the stream where water is diverted into a small channel. An undershot wheel is easier to build than an overshot wheel, but it isn’t as effective. A turbine [8] works like a small water wheel, but it sits flat in the water. It can work even when the water is low.

Some mills are powered by steam engines [9]. Burning wood heats water in a boiler, making steam. Steam pressure forces pistons to move, which then move other machinery. Exhausted steam leaves through a tall flue pipe or chimney [10]. The power turns a driveshaft which then turns the gears, pulleys, and belts [11] attached to the mill’s machines, making them work.

Grain is channeled into the center hole of a pair of grooved millstones [12 and 13]. The bedstone (on the bottom) stays still while the runnerstone spins on top. The thickness of the meal or flour depends on how close the stones are to one another.

In a roller mill, grains of wheat are first sent to the scourer [14] to be cleaned before being crushed between the roller’s [15] corrugated metal bars.

The crushed grain travels to the different machines by way of elevators [16], chutes which contain small cups attached to long belts. The grain may go through another roller before it goes to one or more bolters [17] which sift the flour into different-sized particles.

The final product is packaged into sacks [18]. Flour is finely ground; meal is more coarse. Chops (crushed corn) and shorts (leftovers from milling wheat) were fed to livestock.

Photo Gallery

Villines Mill Photo Gallery

Located in Boxley (Newton County), the Villines Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. View architectural drawings of the mill (2.8 MB pdf document).

Johnson Mill and Villines Mill Architectural Drawings

Johnson Mill (Washington County) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. University of Arkansas architecture students created scale drawings of the mill in 1985. View the scale drawings (3.3 MB pdf document).

Villines Mill, aka Boxley Mill (Newton County) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Drawn on behalf of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service, in 1986. View the scale drawings (2.8 MB pdf document).

Credits

“Account Books of the Cane Hill Mill.” Flashback, Vol. 15, No. 5 (November 1965).

Allen, Eric. “Remembering the Old Boxley Mill.” Arkansas Gazette, December 5, 1971.

Banton, Margaret. “Farmington City Hall Honors Ms. Shepherd with Reception.” Farmington Enterprise, February 19, 1987.

Banton, Margaret. “History of Farmington” series.  Prairie Grove Enterprise, June 6, 1986; June 19, 1986; June 26, 1986; July 3, 1986.

Basore, George W. “The Flour Mills of Berryville and Carroll County in the Early Days.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXXXV, No. 3 (September 2000).

Basore, George W. “Memoirs of an Early Northwest Arkansas Millwrightseries. Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. XVII, No. 4 (Winter 1972) and Vol. XVIII, No. 1/Vol. XVIII, No. 2 (Spring/Summer 1973).

Belknap, Lucile McWilliams. “Old Mill Was Center of Rootville Community Life.” Undated article, Shiloh Museum research files.

Blackburn to Lee deed, April 20,1857. Washington County Archives Land Records, 1834-1991.

“Boxley Mill Gets Roof, Other Repair.” Newton County Times, Septebmer 28, 1989.

Braswell, O. Klute. “The  True and Legendary Story of Yocum…Carroll County, Arkansas.” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XIV, No. 4; Vol. XV, No. 1 (December 1969; March 1970).

Cain, William B. “Water Powered Hawkins Mill in Service for 100 Years,” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXVI, No. 4 (Winter 1981-1982).

Campbell, William S. One Hundred Years of Fayetteville: 1828-1928. 1928. Reprint, Fayetteville: Washington County Historical Society, 1977.

“Cave Springs.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 14, 1960.

Cave Springs Memories. Cave Springs Library Board, circa 1995.

“County’s Oldest Landmark Succumbs in Flood.” Madison County Record, June 15, 1944.

Croley, Victor A. “Marble Falls Has Had Many Names.” Arkansas Gazette, 1968.

Dillard, Tom W. “Gristmill Once as Numerous as Kernels on an Ear of Corn,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 4, 2007.

“Dogpatch Grist Mill Dedicated to Worker.” Marshall Mountain Wave, August 24, 1989.

“Early Mill Operated Near Farmington; Land Where Town Stands Platted in ’70.” Northwest Arkansas Times, June 14, 1960.

Fisher, Sarah. “Inn at the Mill Celebrates 10-year Anniversary,” Northwest Arkansas Times, October 12, 2001.

“From the North Arkansas Fair Catalogue and Premium List, 1910.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. VI, No. 3 (September 1961).

Funk, Erwin. “War Eagle Flour Mill Destroyed by Fire 1924.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 7, No. 5 (July 1962).

Gearhart, George. “Reminiscences of Old Anderson Township and its People.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 3, No. 3 (April 1953).

“Great Water Damage to Farms and Crops.” Madison County Record, June 15, 1944.

“Gristmill.” Old Sturbridge Village. http://www.osv.org/explore_learn/waterpower/grist.html. (page no longer available, 2019)

Hazen, Theodore R. “Flour Milling in America: A General Overview.”

Hazen, Theodore. “The Index Page of Mill Restoration.”

“Historic Waterwheel is Rejuvenated.” Eureka Springs Flashlight, September 1983.

History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.

“Hosea M. Benbrook, Oldest Male Citizen Knew Clay Helbert,” Northwest Arkansas Times, September 8, 1941.

Hudson, James F. “Settlement Geography of Madison County, Arkansas.” Master’s thesis, University of Arkansas, 1976.

Hudspeth, Cora Smith, and Alice Smith Doss. “Hawkins Mill at Dry Fork.” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXXI, No. 3 (Autumn 1985).

Hughes, Michael A. “Wartime Gristmill Destruction in Northwest Arkansas and Military-Farm Communities.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. XLVI, No. 2 (Summer 1987).

Inn at the Mill

Jines, Billie Allen. “From Cannon to Cave Springs – In Two Different Ways.” Cave Springs Scene, November 19, 1970.

Johnson, Mary Ellen. The Johnson Family: The Johnson Mill, A Tradition. Self-published, circa 1992.

Johnston, Dorothy M. History of the Rhea Community, Washington County, Arkansas. Self-published, 1987.

Johnston, Harold L. “Rhea.” Lincoln Leader, April 10, 1969.

Keesee, Irene. “The Jolly, Johnson Miller.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 23, No. 1, February 1975.

Lackey Walter F. History of Newton County, Arkansas. Point Lookout, Missouri: School of the Ozarks Press, 1950.

Lancaster, Zoe L. “War Eagle Mill.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 1975).

Leung, Felicity. Grist and Flour Mills in Ontario, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Parks Canada, Environment Canada. 1981.

Lemke, Walter J. “The Old Mill at Cane Hill.” Flashback, Vol. XI, No. 4 (November 1961).

Lof, Eric and Larry. Boxley Grist Mill. Self-published pamphlet, circa 2005.

Logan, Coy. “Mills.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXXXV, No. 1 (March 2000).

Lynch, Bobbie Byars. “Early Mills of Washington County.” Flashback, Vol. 25, No. 1 (February 1975) and Vol. 25, No. 2 (May 1975).

Lynch, Bobbie Byars, ed. Shiloh-Springdale, 1878-1978. Springdale: Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, 1978.

“Marble City and Newton County, Arkansas, 1891.” Unidentified/undated newspaper clipping, Shiloh Museum research files.

McConnell, F. M. “History of the Middle Fork.” Flashback, Vol. XV, No. 2 (April 1965.)

McMurry, Neva Barnes. “Stark’s Nursery Shed.” Washington County Observer, July 29, 1982.

“Milling is Part of Cane Hill’s Past.” Unidentified newspaper, July 25, 1974. Shiloh Museum research files.

Neal, Lisa. “Johnson’s Water Mill.” Springdale News, December 16, 1985.

Nixon, Jennifer. “Mill Gives Guests History and Luxury.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, circa 2005.

“North Arkansas Milling Company.” Eureka Springs Times-Echo, July 6, 1990.

Norris, R. E. IV. “Yocum and the O’Neal Family.” Carroll County Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXXII, No. 3 (Autumn 1986).

“Old Marble Falls Mill and Settlement Belong to the Past.” Ozarks Mountaineer, Vol. 4, No. 3 (November 1955).

“‘Old Mill’ Named to National Register of Historical Places.” Boone County Headlight, October 10, 1974.

Oliver, M. E. “Eventful History of Arkansas’ Old Hawkins Water Mill.” Ozarks Mountaineer, April 1959.

Payne, Ruth Holt. “Memorabilia of Early Mills.” Flashback, Vol. 13, #1 (February 1963).

Piercy, Maud, and Emmaline Rife. “Early Mills in Benton County.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Fall 1982).

Poorman, Forrest. “The Tandy K. Kidd Home and Mill.” Flashback, Vol. 40, No. 4 (November 1990).

Rayburn, Otto Ernest. “Going to Mill.” Ozark Country. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1941.

“Reactivates to Preserve Cane Hill Waterwheel.” Prairie Grove Enterprise, March 22, 1990.

Read, Julia S. “Farmington First Called Engel’s Mill.” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, June 11, 1936.

Robinson, Deborah. “September 8 Event to Highlight Mill Restoration.” Northwest Arkansas Times, August 30, 1990.

Russell, Conrad. “History of the Cane Hill Mill.” Flashback, Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 1976).

“Scenes of Our Heritage: Scroggins Mill.” Cave Springs Scene, July 22, 1971.

Scogin, Linda. “Canehill Mill Full of History.” Northwest Arkansas Times, April 17, 1990.

Shiras, Tom. “Century Old Mill Grinding on Every Day.” Southwest Times Record, August 15, 1937.

Sines, Helen N. “Savoy, Yesterday and Today.” Flashback, Vol. V, No. 2 (April 1955).

Stamps, Carl. “Grist Mills and Water Mills on Osage Creek.” Carroll County Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3 (Autumn 1983).

Steele, Phillip. “History of the Johnson Mill.” Ozark View, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1993).

Steele, Phillip. “Johnson’s Mill.” Flashback, Vol. 26, No. 2 (May 1976)

Sutton, Leslie. “Echoes of a Lost and Quieter Time.” Northwest Arkansas Times, January 5, 1977

“This Was Carroll County.” Harrison Daily Times, February 21, 1992.

Vaughan, Ardella. “History of Marble Falls.” Boone County Headlight, April 11, 1968.

Waits, Wally. “The Hawkins Mill.” Madison County Musings, Vol. III, No. 1 (Spring 1984).

“War Eagle Water Mills Go Back to 1838.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 4, No. 6 (September 1959).

“W. H. Rhea, Rhea’s Mill Merchant, Totals His Losses Before and After the Battle of Prairie Grove.” Flashback, Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 1956).

“White River Mills of West Fork.” Washington County Observer, September 1, 1983.

Whittemore, Carol, ed. Fading Memories II: Stories of Madison County People and Places. N. p. 1992.

Wilson, Charles Morrow. “Mills of the Gods.” Farm and Ranch, December 22, 1928.

Wilson, Jaunita. The History of Cincinnati, Arkansas, 1836-1986. Siloam Springs, AR: Siloam Springs Printing, 1986.

Winn, Robert G. “West Fork Grist Mill of 1900.” Undated/unidentified newspaper clipping, Shiloh Museum research files.

War Eagle Mill

 

Following the Crop

Following the Crop

Online Exhibit

Fruit label, ca. 1940. Dr. Lloyd O. Warren Collection (S-84-269-19)

Agriculture has long been a major economic force of Northwest Arkansas. Early pioneers grew crops to feed their families and livestock. With the arrival of the railroads in the late 1800s farmers grew additional produce and shipped it to market.

By the 1930s researchers had introduced new farming practices to improve crop yields. Commercial canning plants opened. More and more laborers were needed to pick and process the 24,000 acres of crops in Washington, Benton, and Madison Counties.

Financial hardship during the Great Depression led people across the nation to pack up their belongings in second-hand cars and “follow the crops,” traveling from town to town picking whatever crop was in season. In Northwest Arkansas strawberries were harvested first, followed by green beans, tomatoes, peaches, other berries, cherries, grapes, and apples. Entire families labored long hours in the fields. Those who were too young, too old, or too ill waited at the side of the field for the rest of the family to finish work.

Farmers couldn’t provide much in the way of good housing and medical care. Migrant laborers camped by their cars or lived on the farmer’s property in poultry houses or sheds. Host communities worried that folks without regular access to health care might bring diseases like tuberculosis to their area.

Fruit label, ca. 1940. Dr. Lloyd O. Warren Collection (S-84-269-19)

Agriculture has long been a major economic force of Northwest Arkansas. Early pioneers grew crops to feed their families and livestock. With the arrival of the railroads in the late 1800s farmers grew additional produce and shipped it to market.

By the 1930s researchers had introduced new farming practices to improve crop yields. Commercial canning plants opened. More and more laborers were needed to pick and process the 24,000 acres of crops in Washington, Benton, and Madison Counties.

Financial hardship during the Great Depression led people across the nation to pack up their belongings in second-hand cars and “follow the crops,” traveling from town to town picking whatever crop was in season. In Northwest Arkansas strawberries were harvested first, followed by green beans, tomatoes, peaches, other berries, cherries, grapes, and apples. Entire families labored long hours in the fields. Those who were too young, too old, or too ill waited at the side of the field for the rest of the family to finish work.

Farmers couldn’t provide much in the way of good housing and medical care. Migrant laborers camped by their cars or lived on the farmer’s property in poultry houses or sheds. Host communities worried that folks without regular access to health care might bring diseases like tuberculosis to their area.

Strawberry pickers, Springdale, May 1939. Dr. J. Lawrence Charlton, photographer. Dr. J. Lawrence Charlton Collection (S-86-15-14)

“[The pickers came earlier than expected] . . . they scared the cows and my Dad got flustered when we were not ready for them. We got the platform scales set up and leveled and Dad put the change into Mom’s muffin pan and we were in business. Dad paid two cents a pound for the picking. . . .”

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s
March 2008

“If you have ever seen migrant farm workers in the field in the past, you are certain to have noticed one thing: how hot, tired, neglected babies and small children have struggled out the weary day while their mothers assisted in the harvest of strawberries or beans.”

Billie Jines, columnist
Springdale News, 1960s

“The migrants were just like us, just hard-working people that got in the field about 5 a.m. and worked hard till about 1 p.m. . . . [They] would generally pick a few roasting ears from the corn to take home with them; Dad never said anything to them . . . as we had plenty.”

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s
March 2008

A Camp is Built
Map adapted from the Springdale News, April 23, 1942

Map adapted from the Springdale News, April 23, 1942

With the growing need for farm laborers, local business leaders and politicians wanted to provide good housing and health care to attract workers to the area. The Springdale Chamber of Commerce, working with U.S. Representative Clyde T. Ellis, approached the government for help.

In 1941 the U.S. Farm Security Administration agreed to place a migrant labor camp in Springdale. The $80,000, 40-acre camp would provide low-cost housing for the traveling farm workers who picked the crops or worked in the packing sheds and canning plants. The nearest labor camp was in Texas.

The camp was built in the southwest part of town, bounded by  Caudle Avenue on the north and South Powell Street on the west. It had a community building, a medical clinic, a nursery, offices, a home for the camp’s manager, bathroom and laundry buildings, a playground and picnic area, and 200 wood cabins with canvas (later metal) roofs. Each 14-by-14-foot cabin could hold up to five people, for a total of 1,000 migrant workers.

The Farm Workers Shelter opened its doors on April 27, 1942. Organizers predicted that the camp would bring a “better class of labor.” The camp was open from April to November and included an on-site placement office to help workers find jobs.

Cabins could be rented for 10 cents a day or up to $2.50 a week, if the unit had electricity and a small kerosene stove. During the 1943 season 1,302 people (including 328 families) stayed at the camp; the average stay was 44 days.

The government ran the camp until 1948 when it was sold it to the City of Springdale. As part of the sale the City agreed to keep the camp open for the next 20 years.

“The purpose of the camp is to build community betterment; to rehabilitate the farm worker; to rebuild worn out bodies in the clinic; to refuel exhausted human machines by better food, housing and clothing; to rebuild confidence with self government and personal dignity; to look to a rejuvenated younger generation through education and training to conserve human ideals.”

A. D. Stewart, regional director, Farm Security Administration
Springdale News, April 30, 1942

“I remember that the labor camp was always clean and neat and was always kept up and the people were friendly and they went a long way to helping the farmers of the area as they could not have made it without them.”

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s
March 2008

“The place has a fence around it and they turn out the lights at 9 p.m.; this makes me feel like a prisoner.”

17-year-old Texas migrant worker
Springdale News, 1960s

“About 75 percent of the people in the labor camp are residents of Arkansas. There are no Mexicans or Negroes and these types of workers are not encouraged to come here.”

Springdale News, 1960s

A Camp is Built
Map adapted from the Springdale News, April 23, 1942

Map adapted from the Springdale News, April 23, 1942

With the growing need for farm laborers, local business leaders and politicians wanted to provide good housing and health care to attract workers to the area. The Springdale Chamber of Commerce, working with U.S. Representative Clyde T. Ellis, approached the government for help.

In 1941 the U.S. Farm Security Administration agreed to place a migrant labor camp in Springdale. The $80,000, 40-acre camp would provide low-cost housing for the traveling farm workers who picked the crops or worked in the packing sheds and canning plants. The nearest labor camp was in Texas.

The camp was built in the southwest part of town, bounded by Caudle Avenue on the north and South Powell Street on the west. It had a community building, a medical clinic, a nursery, offices, a home for the camp’s manager, bathroom and laundry buildings, a playground and picnic area, and 200 wood cabins with canvas (later metal) roofs. Each 14-by-14-foot cabin could hold up to five people, for a total of 1,000 migrant workers.

The Farm Workers Shelter opened its doors on April 27, 1942. Organizers predicted that the camp would bring a “better class of labor.” The camp was open from April to November and included an on-site placement office to help workers find jobs.

Cabins could be rented for 10 cents a day or up to $2.50 a week, if the unit had electricity and a small kerosene stove. During the 1943 season 1,302 people (including 328 families) stayed at the camp; the average stay was 44 days.

The government ran the camp until 1948 when it was sold it to the City of Springdale. As part of the sale the City agreed to keep the camp open for the next 20 years.

“The purpose of the camp is to build community betterment; to rehabilitate the farm worker; to rebuild worn out bodies in the clinic; to refuel exhausted human machines by better food, housing and clothing; to rebuild confidence with self government and personal dignity; to look to a rejuvenated younger generation through education and training to conserve human ideals.”

A. D. Stewart, regional director, Farm Security Administration
Springdale News, April 30, 1942

“I remember that the labor camp was always clean and neat and was always kept up and the people were friendly and they went a long way to helping the farmers of the area as they could not have made it without them.”

Jeff Moser, who grew up on a farm in Cave Springs during the 1940s-50s
March 2008

“The place has a fence around it and they turn out the lights at 9 p.m.; this makes me feel like a prisoner.”

17-year-old Texas migrant worker
Springdale News, 1960s

“About 75 percent of the people in the labor camp are residents of Arkansas. There are no Mexicans or Negroes and these types of workers are not encouraged to come here.”

Springdale News, 1960s

The Workers
Paying strawberry pickers on the Kendle Sigmon farm,  Springdale, June 1960.

Paying strawberry pickers on the Kendle Sigmon farm, Springdale, June 1960. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2002-72-1129)

At dawn farmers picked up their workers—from young children to elderly grandparents—and delivered them to the fields or packing sheds where they labored long, hot hours. Early afternoon saw the workers back at camp, cooking, cleaning, and resting.

Their cabins were tiny. Some were without gas or electricity; none had plumbing so water was fetched from pumps. Toilet, bathing, and laundry facilities were centralized and shared by many.

Following the crop took its toll on laborers and their families. Because they were constantly on the move, children missed school and fell behind in their grade levels. Field work didn’t pay much. Many families scraped by, relying on donations of food, clothing, and medical care. Health problems for some folks came about because they didn’t realize the importance of, or have access to, good nutrition and cleanliness.

Most people were glad to see the laborers return each year. Farmers needed their crops harvested. Merchants had goods and services for sale. Churches wanted to minister to the needy. However, as welcome as the laborers were, there often was an economic, class, and educational gulf between them and the local community.

Omer Bynum with his granddaughter Rhonda Walton, 1957.

Omer Bynum with his granddaughter Rhonda Walton, 1957. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2001-82-327)

“As volunteers rock babies in the nursery or play with older children, the question each one asks is—What will become of this child? Must he, too, be a migrant? If so, must he live under these same unsanitary, crowded conditions and face the same insecurities and the same isolation from school, church and community?”

Cassandra Stockburger, state director
Division of Home Missions, National Council of Churches, 1957

“[A teacher] . . . related one child telling that her mother had sold her wedding rings to buy medicine for their baby. She also said children telling of one of their parents leaving home was not unusual.”

Ruth Ann Snipes, journalist
Springdale News, August 6, 1965

“There never is much time for food for breakfast: a piece of bacon and white gravy poured over heavy skillet-fried biscuits or pieces of loaf bread.…Babies are fed hurriedly from the mother’s plate and then, if lucky, are given a bottle of canned milk to drink on the way to the field where big sister, age three or four, will mind them at the edge of the field. . . .”

Cassandra Stockburger, state director
Division of Home Missions,  National Council of Churches, 1957

The Workers
Paying strawberry pickers on the Kendle Sigmon farm,  Springdale, June 1960.

Paying strawberry pickers on the Kendle Sigmon farm, Springdale, June 1960. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2002-72-1129)

At dawn farmers picked up their workers—from young children to elderly grandparents—and delivered them to the fields or packing sheds where they labored long, hot hours. Early afternoon saw the workers back at camp, cooking, cleaning, and resting.

Their cabins were tiny. Some were without gas or electricity; none had plumbing so water was fetched from pumps. Toilet, bathing, and laundry facilities were centralized and shared by many.

Following the crop took its toll on laborers and their families. Because they were constantly on the move, children missed school and fell behind in their grade levels. Field work didn’t pay much. Many families scraped by, relying on donations of food, clothing, and medical care. Health problems for some folks came about because they didn’t realize the importance of, or have access to, good nutrition and cleanliness.

Most people were glad to see the laborers return each year. Farmers needed their crops harvested. Merchants had goods and services for sale. Churches wanted to minister to the needy. However, as welcome as the laborers were, there often was an economic, class, and educational gulf between them and the local community.

Omer Bynum with his granddaughter Rhonda Walton, 1957.

Omer Bynum with his granddaughter Rhonda Walton, 1957. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2001-82-327)

“As volunteers rock babies in the nursery or play with older children, the question each one asks is—What will become of this child? Must he, too, be a migrant? If so, must he live under these same unsanitary, crowded conditions and face the same insecurities and the same isolation from school, church and community?”

Cassandra Stockburger, state director
Division of Home Missions, National Council of Churches, 1957

“[A teacher] . . . related one child telling that her mother had sold her wedding rings to buy medicine for their baby. She also said children telling of one of their parents leaving home was not unusual.”

Ruth Ann Snipes, journalist
Springdale News, August 6, 1965

“There never is much time for food for breakfast: a piece of bacon and white gravy poured over heavy skillet-fried biscuits or pieces of loaf bread.…Babies are fed hurriedly from the mother’s plate and then, if lucky, are given a bottle of canned milk to drink on the way to the field where big sister, age three or four, will mind them at the edge of the field. . . .”

Cassandra Stockburger, state director
Division of Home Missions,  National Council of Churches, 1957

Lending a Hand
Mennonite volunteer, 1958.

Mennonite volunteer, 1958. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2002-72-1900)

There were many civic, business, and religious organizations which helped meet the needs of the migrant laborers over the years. Among those lending a hand were the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, the non-denominational Home Missions Council of North America, the Home Mission Service of the Baptist Church, the United Church Women of Springdale, the Voluntary Service Team of the Mennonite Central Committee, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Washington County Health Department, and the Northwest Arkansas Area Migrant Committee.

A variety of aid programs were offered over the years. Volunteers and paid staff provided health care, nursery programs, education, recreation, relief, and religious services. There were adult literacy classes, Sunday School, and educational classes for children. A mothers’ club allowed women to socialize and make handicrafts such as rag dolls. Area dentists treated patients and taught proper tooth care. Doctors and public health nurses gave immunization shots and treated illnesses.

Children took field trips to the library, the fire department, and the swimming pool. They played board games, horseshoes, and volleyball and learned skills like sewing and woodworking. A teenage club was set up in one cabin while a church operated a clothing supply center in another.

The nursery school featured child-sized furniture, drinking fountains, and toilets. Plenty of nutritious food and nap times were offered to help the children gain weight and lose chronic colds.

Serving afternoon snacks at the Day Care Center, July 6, 1966. Luella Hayes (left) and Ima Jean Lindstrom.

Serving afternoon snacks at the Day Care Center, July 6, 1966. Luella Hayes (left) and Ima Jean Lindstrom. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 7-6-1966)

“Though they live here and work here, some for extended periods, we do not know them and they do not know us.  This project is designed to break down those barriers between us and to aid, if we can, in making their stay with us a pleasant and profitable one.”

Eva Reder, president, United Church Women of Springdale
Springdale News, circa 1957

“Oh goody, we have something somebody didn’t give us!”

Young migrant girl learning to sew a blouse and skirt
Springdale News, May 5, 1967

“We usually try to spend about three evenings each week in the camp playing baseball, drawing, painting, square dancing, and other children’s activities.”

Young labor camp volunteer, circa 1957

“In the normal classroom they are the low achievers, the failures, and they know it. We are trying to give each of them the chance to succeed at something this summer, to get the feeling of having done something well. Once this happens, they have something to build another success upon.”

Mike Zotti, deputy superintendent of curriculum and special services, Springdale Public Schools
Arkansas Gazette, August 6, 1967

Lending a Hand
Mennonite volunteer, 1958.

Mennonite volunteer, 1958. Howard Clark, photographer. Caroline Price Clark Collection (S-2002-72-1900)

There were many civic, business, and religious organizations which helped meet the needs of the migrant laborers over the years. Among those lending a hand were the Springdale Chamber of Commerce, the non-denominational Home Missions Council of North America, the Home Mission Service of the Baptist Church, the United Church Women of Springdale, the Voluntary Service Team of the Mennonite Central Committee, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Washington County Health Department, and the Northwest Arkansas Area Migrant Committee.

A variety of aid programs were offered over the years. Volunteers and paid staff provided health care, nursery programs, education, recreation, relief, and religious services. There were adult literacy classes, Sunday School, and educational classes for children. A mothers’ club allowed women to socialize and make handicrafts such as rag dolls. Area dentists treated patients and taught proper tooth care. Doctors and public health nurses gave immunization shots and treated illnesses.

Children took field trips to the library, the fire department, and the swimming pool. They played board games, horseshoes, and volleyball and learned skills like sewing and woodworking. A teenage club was set up in one cabin while a church operated a clothing supply center in another.

The nursery school featured child-sized furniture, drinking fountains, and toilets. Plenty of nutritious food and nap times were offered to help the children gain weight and lose chronic colds.

Serving afternoon snacks at the Day Care Center, July 6, 1966. Luella Hayes (left) and Ima Jean Lindstrom.

Serving afternoon snacks at the Day Care Center, July 6, 1966. Luella Hayes (left) and Ima Jean Lindstrom. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 7-6-1966)

“Though they live here and work here, some for extended periods, we do not know them and they do not know us.  This project is designed to break down those barriers between us and to aid, if we can, in making their stay with us a pleasant and profitable one.”

Eva Reder, president, United Church Women of Springdale
Springdale News, circa 1957

“Oh goody, we have something somebody didn’t give us!”

Young migrant girl learning to sew a blouse and skirt
Springdale News, May 5, 1967

“We usually try to spend about three evenings each week in the camp playing baseball, drawing, painting, square dancing, and other children’s activities.”

Young labor camp volunteer, circa 1957

“In the normal classroom they are the low achievers, the failures, and they know it. We are trying to give each of them the chance to succeed at something this summer, to get the feeling of having done something well. Once this happens, they have something to build another success upon.”

Mike Zotti, deputy superintendent of curriculum and special services, Springdale Public Schools
Arkansas Gazette, August 6, 1967

Closing the Camp
Arkansas Employment Security Division officials visiting the labor camp, September 8,1967.

Arkansas Employment Security Division officials visiting the labor camp, September 8, 1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 9-1967-21)

The number of laborers staying at the camp rose and fell over the summers and through the years. Bumper crops might bring many workers, but crop failures or a slow-down in jobs forced families to move down the road to the next opportunity. By the 1960s a new threat was on the horizon—automated bean pickers. Increased mechanization meant that some crops could be picked more cheaply and effectively by machines than by people. Camp attendance began to drop.

When the City of Springdale received the camp from the federal government it promised to run it for 20 years. In July 1968 the decision was made to close the camp at the end of the summer and sell the remaining 160 cabins, only 40 of which were still occupied.

Rather than running a labor camp, the Springdale Housing Authority wanted to build a 170-unit low-income housing development on the camp’s land, using federal funds to secure the 40-year loan. Groundbreaking on Phillips Plaza, named after Springdale’s mayor, Park Phillips, began in the fall of 1969. By May 1971 the first renters were living in the $2-million-dollar project.

Today much of the camp exists only in memories and photographs. A few of the old cabins may still stand as outbuildings in area yards and fields. The camp’s old community building, which once held the nursery school for migrant children, was moved to the southern part of the property. It serves as a Head Start school, continuing the structure’s long tradition of sheltering youngsters in need.

Children at the day care center, September 19, 1967.

Children at the day care center, September 19, 1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 9-1967-3)

“[The migrant ministry workers] . . . wonder if the scarcity of migrant workers at the Labor Center this year may mean that the workers are beginning to settle into permanent locations.  . . .They only know that approximately 90 per cent of the 3,000 acres of beans in this area are being picked by machine this year. And they just don’t offer a ministry program to machines.”

Billie Jines, columnist
Springdale News, July 8, 1963

“[The Housing Authority units would] . . . relieve some of the pressure for local housing needs, especially for the lower income folks, and provide adequate living conditions when in some cases the housing has been substandard.”

Charles Sanders, editor and columnist
Springdale News, October 16, 1969

“We picked green beans, tomatoes, strawberries . . . it was hard . . . I got too hot sometimes.  . . .There was times it was really good, we’d come home from picking beans and go get some ice cream [on Emma Avenue]. [The camp was] …okay. We were satisfied that we had food to eat and a roof over our heads.  . . . It was an adventure for us kids.”

Glenda Emery Wright, who was 13 years old when she lived in the camp in 1946
April 2008

Closing the Camp
Arkansas Employment Security Division officials visiting the labor camp, September 8,1967.

Arkansas Employment Security Division officials visiting the labor camp, September 8, 1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 9-1967-21)

The number of laborers staying at the camp rose and fell over the summers and through the years. Bumper crops might bring many workers, but crop failures or a slow-down in jobs forced families to move down the road to the next opportunity. By the 1960s a new threat was on the horizon—automated bean pickers. Increased mechanization meant that some crops could be picked more cheaply and effectively by machines than by people. Camp attendance began to drop.

When the City of Springdale received the camp from the federal government it promised to run it for 20 years. In July 1968 the decision was made to close the camp at the end of the summer and sell the remaining 160 cabins, only 40 of which were still occupied.

Rather than running a labor camp, the Springdale Housing Authority wanted to build a 170-unit low-income housing development on the camp’s land, using federal funds to secure the 40-year loan. Groundbreaking on Phillips Plaza, named after Springdale’s mayor, Park Phillips, began in the fall of 1969. By May 1971 the first renters were living in the $2-million-dollar project.

Today much of the camp exists only in memories and photographs. A few of the old cabins may still stand as outbuildings in area yards and fields. The camp’s old community building, which once held the nursery school for migrant children, was moved to the southern part of the property. It serves as a Head Start school, continuing the structure’s long tradition of sheltering youngsters in need.

Children at the day care center, September 19, 1967.

Children at the day care center, September 19, 1967. Charles Bickford, photographer. Springdale News Collection (SN 9-1967-3)

“[The migrant ministry workers] . . . wonder if the scarcity of migrant workers at the Labor Center this year may mean that the workers are beginning to settle into permanent locations.  . . .They only know that approximately 90 per cent of the 3,000 acres of beans in this area are being picked by machine this year. And they just don’t offer a ministry program to machines.”

Billie Jines, columnist
Springdale News, July 8, 1963

“[The Housing Authority units would] . . . relieve some of the pressure for local housing needs, especially for the lower income folks, and provide adequate living conditions when in some cases the housing has been substandard.”

Charles Sanders, editor and columnist
Springdale News, October 16, 1969

“We picked green beans, tomatoes, strawberries . . . it was hard . . . I got too hot sometimes.  . . .There was times it was really good, we’d come home from picking beans and go get some ice cream [on Emma Avenue]. [The camp was] …okay. We were satisfied that we had food to eat and a roof over our heads.  . . . It was an adventure for us kids.”

Glenda Emery Wright, who was 13 years old when she lived in the camp in 1946
April 2008

Photo Gallery

Credits

“Church Women Hear Facts on Local Schools.” Springdale News, May 3, 1957.

“City Obtains Migrant Labor Camp in 1948.” Springdale News, November 30, 1962.

City of Springdale, Arkansas. Ordinance No. 310: An Ordinance Governing the Migratory Labor Center of the City of Springdale, Arkansas.

“City to Open Labor Center.” Springdale News, April 15, 1948.

Clark, Caroline. “Camp for Migrant Workers.” Oklahoma Ranch and Farm World, May 10, 1959.

Clark, Caroline. “Migrant Farm Workers.” Arkansas Gazette, October 13, 1957.

Collins, Anna Schwegler. Conversation or email correspondence. April 14, 2008.

“Construction Work on Labor Center Started.” Springdale News, July 10, 1941.

Deane, Ernie. “A Real Helping Hand for Little ‘Nomads.’” Arkansas Gazette, July 16, 1961.

Dozier, Kathleen. “Coordinated Effort, Sleeping Children Greet Guests at Center.” Springdale News, July 11,1966.

Edgmon, Jim. “Labor Camp Operation Explained.” Springdale News, 1960s.

“Farm Labor Camp Probably Located on Park Avenue.” Springdale News, March 13, 1941.

“Farm Labor Center Has Biggest Year.” Springdale News, November 21, 1946.

“Farm Products Bring Dollars, Labor Shortage Relieved by Center.” Springdale News, December 3, 1942.

“Farm Workers Shelter is Dedicated Saturday by FSA Officials.” Springdale News, April 30, 1942.

“FSA Investigating Migratory Labor Problem.” Springdale News, February 13, 1941.

Henry, Earlene Brown. Conversation or email correspondence. March 13, 2008.

“Housing Authority to Get Appraisal for Labor Center Property.” Springdale News, December 3, 1968.

Jines, Billie. “The Way I Heard It.” Springdale News, August 9, 1960; July 8, 1963.

Jones, Mary John. Conversation or email correspondence. April 14, 2008.

“Labor Camp Dedication Saturday; Ready for Works Monday.” Springdale News, April 23, 1942.

“Labor Camp is Now Open; 100 are Registered.” Springdale News, March 13, 1949.

“Labor Camp Offered for Sale.” Springdale News, December 18, 1947.

“Labor Camp Registered 1,302 People.” Springdale News, October 21,1943.

Lankford, Martha Reder. Conversation or email correspondence. March 17, 2008.

Northwest Arkansas Area Migrant Committee Project (MG-50D67), Washington and Benton Counties. “Migrant Health Project Annual Report.” 1966-67.

“Migrant Labor Center to be Auctioned Into Oblivion.” Springdale News, July 24, 1968.

Migrant Ministry Committee of the United Council of Church Women of Springdale, Arkansas. “Statement on a Ministry to Migrants.” Circa 1957.

“Migratory Farm Labor Camp Here Certain.” Springdale News, May 15, 1941.

Minutes of the Northwest Arkansas Area Migrant Committee and the Migrant Ministry Committee of the Arkansas Council of Churches. Springdale, May 18,1964 (S-94-157).

Moser, Jeff Moser. Conversation or email correspondence. May 2008.

Murphey, Sara. “A Note on a Different Type of ‘Labor Camp.’” Arkansas Gazette, August 6, 1967.

Northwest Arkansas Area Migrant Committee Project, Washington and Benton Counties. “Annual Report, Migrant Health Project.” 1963-64.

“Nursery School Opens at Farm Labor Center.” Springdale News, May 23, 1946.

Report by an unknown camp counselor, circa 1957 (Shiloh Museum manuscript MS #42 5-6A).

Smith, Guy P. Jr. “Springdale Labor Camp.” 1990s.

Snipes, Ruth Ann. “Migrant Assistance Grows in Scope, Annual Dinner Slated to Aid Programs.” Springdale News, May 5,1967.

Snipes, Ruth Ann. “Migrant Ministry Aided.” Springdale News, September 28, 1967.

Snipes, Ruth Ann. “United Church Women Help Migrant Children Keep Up In School.” Springdale News, August 6,1965.

Stockburger, Cassandra. Letter to Maxine Bowman. Division of Home Missions, National Council of the Churches of Christ, February 8, 1957 (S-92-132-6:3 A-B).

Stockburger, Cassandra. “Springdale Finds an Answer.” Migrant Ministry, Division of Home Missions, National Council of Churches, circa 1957.

Tripp, Ray. Conversation or email correspondence. March 28, 2008.

Wilson, Mary Emery, and Glenda Emery Wright. Conversation or email correspondence. April 16, 2008.

Young, Susan. “Migrant Camp Remembered.” Northwest Arkansas Morning News, May 18, 2004.

Good Eats

Good Eats

Online Exhibit
Community fundraising dinner at Elm Springs, 1952. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-85-20-64)

Community fundraising dinner at Elm Springs, 1952. Identified in the photo, from right: Sue McCamey, Goldie Routh, Ronnie Routh, Nolan McCamey, Tom Bain. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-85-20-64)

In the early 1800s folks living in Northwest Arkansas produced and prepared nearly all of their own food. Settlers hunted game animals like deer and turkey, gathered wild fruits and honey, raised chickens and pigs, and grew such vegetables as corn and greens for the family table. Food preparation was an all-day event over a fire. There wasn’t a lot of variety in the homesteader’s diet, especially in wintertime. The “three M’s” in the Ozarks were meat, meal (corn meal), and molasses.

During the 1870s G. B. Jones made “maple sugar cakes.” A camp was set up near a stand of sugar maple trees on the family homestead west of Sulphur Springs. The sap was collected in early spring and boiled down in a big iron kettle until thick, then poured into molds to cool. Most of the finished cakes were taken to Neosho, Missouri, and sold.  But a couple of the nicely browned cakes found their way into Jones’ pocket as a treat for his girlfriend.

With large food processors such as Pillsbury and Campbell’s soups beginning to produce quality, low-cost products, by 1900 half of the food eaten by most Americans came from the store. Further time-savers were soon introduced including self-service grocery stores, quick-frozen foods, packaged mixes, and frozen dinners. Eating out became popular as well. As roads opened up it became easier to ship luxury goods such as sugar and coffee to the frontier. Convenience items like tinned food began arriving mid century as canning technology improved. Further variety was possible in 1881 when the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad began steaming through the Ozarks. Refrigerated railroad cars allowed perishable meat, fruits, and vegetables to be shipped nationwide. The rise of convenience food meant that traditional foodways declined. By the 1970s local newspapers were featuring articles about old-timers making apple butter or molasses the old-fashioned way. Preserving food for home use was no longer commonplace.

A. Q. Chicken House menu, circa 1950

A. Q. Chicken House menu, Springdale, circa 1950.

Today we purchase “home-cooked” meals in grocery stores, have pizzas delivered, and eat fast food in our cars. But the popularity of home cooking is increasing. Julia Child helped start the trend in the 1960s with her cooking show, “The French Chef.” Now there are many food-related magazines, television shows, and specialty stores to tempt our taste buds. Americans are rediscovering good food.

Coming Together
Amos Howard family with their dessert, Springdale, 1891. Guy Howard Collection (S-71-5-3)

Amos Howard family with their dessert, Springdale, 1891. Guy Howard Collection (S-71-5-3)

Think food is used only to nourish our bodies? Think again! We use food to celebrate, to stereotype people, to express love or compassion, to treat ourselves, to compete or make money, to remember our roots, to garner compliments, and to come together as a community. Our tastes in food have changed over time depending on where we live, what we can afford, and what’s in fashion.

Church members often gathered for “dinners on the ground.” Blankets were laid on the grass and then piled with a bounty of delicious foods. Lucile Dees McVay attended such dinners during the late 1920s and 1930s at the annual Decoration Day at Wedington Cemetery. Every woman brought her specialty, whether it was homemade bread, deviled eggs, or candied sweet potatoes. Young Lucile waited patiently by her mother’s salmon cakes until the blessing was said–then she helped herself! Canned salmon was so expensive that these treats were rarely made at home.

There’s something about food that has made us come together over the years. Neighbors gathered for community events such as house raisings, funerals, and school functions. During John Quincy Wolf’s youth in the 1870s Ozarks, women came together to prepare food for the men building a house. When the dinner horn was sounded promptly at noon everyone came running to partake of the fried ham, preserves, pumpkin pie, hog jowls, biscuits and cornbread, cabbage, sausage, turnips, coffee, and greens.

Handwritten recipe. Alice Ruth Collection

Handwritten recipe. Alice Ruth Collection

Families gathered for celebrations such as holidays, birthdays, and weddings. When Wayman Hogue was growing up in the late 1800s, a wedding was held at his home in the Ozarks. A dozen chickens were fattened with corn and lots of cakes, custards, pies, and light [white] bread were made. Tables placed end-to-end in the yard held three boiled hams. The hams’ skin had been removed and large round dots of black pepper added as decoration. Coffee was expensive so sassafras tea was served.

Picnics were fun occasions for friends and family. Betty Greathouse of the Greathouse Springs community southwest of Springdale liked having big picnics in her yard. Sawhorses were placed under the old sycamore tree and outfitted with wide boards and overlapping tablecloths. Family members fried chicken and guests brought covered dishes of food. One of the community elders said the blessing, “usually profound and well spoken.”

Tidbits
Members of the Springdale Woman’s Civic Club, February 1953. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-77-9-22)

Members of the Springdale Women’s Civic Club, February 1953. McRoberts, photographer. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection (S-77-9-22)

Every region of the country has dishes that it’s known for. When Charles Morrow Wilson grew up in Fayetteville in the early 1900s, typical Ozark fare included Johnny cakes, home-cured pork, Injun spareribs (a stew made with salt pork, sweet potatoes, green peppers, and corn), sweet potato puddings, hog jowls with cowpeas, and turnip greens with “pot likker,” the juice left behind after the greens and salt porkwere cooked in water.

During Wayman Hogue’s childhood in the Ozarks, “old man Adams” was the local barbeque expert. Families contributed sheep, goats, hogs, and calves to the annual Fourth of July celebration. Ditches were dug about 20 feet long and filled with oak and hickory. The evening before the big day Adams and his crew hung the carcasses from long poles and began cooking the meat.

Gregory-Robinson-Speas Recipe Book, circa 1930.

Gregory-Robinson-Speas Recipe Book, circa 1930. Mira Leister Collection

Cooking techniques and recipes were often passed from mother to daughter. In the 1910s county extension offices formed to bring “practical demonstrations” in agriculture and home economics to rural communities. Home Demonstration clubs hosted university specialists who taught scientific canning techniques, nutrition, and other homemaking skills. Canned goods not only provided food for the family, it was a good way to earn extra income.

Food was used for charitable purposes such as raising money for schools and community buildings. At box suppers and pie suppers men vied with one another to bid on the food prepared by the prettiest girl or the best cook. Bringing gifts of food to a new or struggling family was common. In Alpena a “pounding” was held for the preacher and his family. Church members brought eggs, fruit, coffee, canned goods, garden produce, sugar—whatever they wished—often in one-pound amounts.

Food can identify people in many ways. In Tontitown, the community’s early Italian roots are proudly expressed in the spaghetti served at the annual Grape Festival. But food is offensively used by some to stereotype people, such as linking traditional Ozarkers to possum or African Americans to watermelon.

Community fundraising dinner at Elm Springs, 1952. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-85-20-64)

Community fundraising dinner at Elm Springs, 1952. Identified in the photo, from right: Sue McCamey, Goldie Routh, Ronnie Routh, Nolan McCamey, Tom Bain. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-85-20-64)

In the early 1800s folks living in Northwest Arkansas produced and prepared nearly all of their own food.  Settlers hunted game animals like deer and turkey, gathered wild fruits and honey, raised chickens and pigs, and grew such vegetables as corn and greens for the family table.  Food preparation was an all-day event over a fire. There wasn’t a lot of variety in the homesteader’s diet, especially in wintertime. The “three M’s” in the Ozarks were meat, meal (corn meal), and molasses.

During the 1870s G.B. Jones made “maple sugar cakes.” A camp was set up near a stand of sugar maple trees on the family homestead west of Sulphur Springs. The sap was collected in early spring and boiled down in a big iron kettle until thick, then poured into molds to cool. Most of the finished cakes were taken to Neosho, Missouri, and sold.  But a couple of the nicely browned cakes found their way into Jones’ pocket as a treat for his girlfriend.

With large food processors such as Pillsbury and Campbell’s soups beginning to produce quality, low-cost products, by 1900 half of the food eaten by most Americans came from the store. Further time-savers were soon introduced including self-service grocery stores, quick-frozen foods, packaged mixes, and frozen dinners. Eating out became popular as well. As roads opened up it became easier to ship luxury goods such as sugar and coffee to the frontier. Convenience items like tinned food began arriving mid century as canning technology improved. Further variety was possible in 1881 when the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad began steaming through the Ozarks. Refrigerated railroad cars allowed perishable meat, fruits, and vegetables to be shipped nationwide. The rise of convenience food meant that traditional foodways declined. By the 1970s local newspapers were featuring articles about old-timers making apple butter or molasses the old-fashioned way. Preserving food for home use was no longer commonplace.

A. Q. Chicken House menu, Springdale, circa 1950

A. Q. Chicken House menu, Springdale, circa 1950.

Today we purchase “home-cooked” meals in grocery stores, have pizzas delivered, and eat fast food in our cars. But the popularity of home cooking is increasing. Julia Child helped start the trend in the 1960s with her cooking show, “The French Chef.” Now there are many food-related magazines, television shows, and specialty stores to tempt our taste buds. Americans are rediscovering good food.

Coming Together
Amos Howard family with their dessert, Springdale, 1891. Guy Howard Collection (S-71-5-3)

Amos Howard family with their dessert, Springdale, 1891. Guy Howard Collection (S-71-5-3)

Think food is used only to nourish our bodies? Think again! We use food to celebrate, to stereotype people, to express love or compassion, to treat ourselves, to compete or make money, to remember our roots, to garner compliments, and to come together as a community. Our tastes in food have changed over time depending on where we live, what we can afford, and what’s in fashion.

Church members often gathered for “dinners on the ground.” Blankets were laid on the grass and then piled with a bounty of delicious foods. Lucile Dees McVay attended such dinners during the late 1920s and 1930s at the annual Decoration Day at Wedington Cemetery. Every woman brought her specialty, whether it was homemade bread, deviled eggs, or candied sweet potatoes. Young Lucile waited patiently by her mother’s salmon cakes until the blessing was said–then she helped herself! Canned salmon was so expensive that these treats were rarely made at home.

There’s something about food that has made us come together over the years. Neighbors gathered for community events such as house raisings, funerals, and school functions. During John Quincy Wolf’s youth in the 1870s Ozarks, women came together to prepare food for the men building a house. When the dinner horn was sounded promptly at noon everyone came running to partake of the fried ham, preserves, pumpkin pie, hog jowls, biscuits and cornbread, cabbage, sausage, turnips, coffee, and greens.

Handwritten recipe. Alice Ruth Collection

Handwritten recipe. Alice Ruth Collection

Families gathered for celebrations such as holidays, birthdays, and weddings. When Wayman Hogue was growing up in the late 1800s, a wedding was held at his home in the Ozarks. A dozen chickens were fattened with corn and lots of cakes, custards, pies, and light [white] bread were made. Tables placed end-to-end in the yard held three boiled hams. The hams’ skin had been removed and large round dots of black pepper added as decoration. Coffee was expensive so sassafras tea was served.

Picnics were fun occasions for friends and family. Betty Greathouse of the Greathouse Springs community southwest of Springdale liked having big picnics in her yard. Sawhorses were placed under the old sycamore tree and outfitted with wide boards and overlapping tablecloths. Family members fried chicken and guests brought covered dishes of food. One of the community elders said the blessing, “usually profound and well spoken.”

Tidbits
Members of the Springdale Woman’s Civic Club, February 1953. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-77-9-22)

Members of the Springdale Woman’s Civic Club, February 1953. Springdale Chamber of Commerce Collection/McRoberts, photographer (S-77-9-22)

Every region of the country has dishes that it’s known for. When Charles Morrow Wilson grew up in Fayetteville in the early 1900s, typical Ozark fare included Johnny cakes, home-cured pork, Injun spareribs (a stew made with salt pork, sweet potatoes, green peppers, and corn), sweet potato puddings, hog jowls with cowpeas, and turnip greens with “pot likker,” the juice left behind after the greens and salt porkwere cooked in water.

During Wayman Hogue’s childhood in the Ozarks, “old man Adams” was the local barbeque expert. Families contributed sheep, goats, hogs, and calves to the annual Fourth of July celebration. Ditches were dug about 20 feet long and filled with oak and hickory. The evening before the big day Adams and his crew hung the carcasses from long poles and began cooking the meat.

Gregory-Robinson-Speas Recipe Book, circa 1930.

Gregory-Robinson-Speas Recipe Book, circa 1930. Mira Leister Collection

Cooking techniques and recipes were often passed from mother to daughter. In the 1910s county extension offices formed to bring “practical demonstrations” in agriculture and home economics to rural communities. Home Demonstration clubs hosted university specialists who taught scientific canning techniques, nutrition, and other homemaking skills. Canned goods not only provided food for the family, it was a good way to earn extra income.

Food was used for charitable purposes such as raising money for schools and community buildings. At box suppers and pie suppers men vied with one another to bid on the food prepared by the prettiest girl or the best cook. Bringing gifts of food to a new or struggling family was common. In Alpena a “pounding” was held for the preacher and his family. Church members brought eggs, fruit, coffee, canned goods, garden produce, sugar—whatever they wished—often in one-pound amounts.

Food can identify people in many ways. In Tontitown, the community’s early Italian roots are proudly expressed in the spaghetti served at the annual Grape Festival. But food is offensively used by some to stereotype people, such as linking traditional Ozarkers to possum or African Americans to watermelon.

Photo Gallery
Credits

Arnold, Eleanor, editor. Voices of American Homemakers: An Oral History Project of the National Extension Homemakers Council. Metropolitan Printing Service, Inc., 1985.

Hill, Ethel D. “Women’s Cash from Canning.” Arkansas Countryman [Fayetteville, AR], April 12, 1928.

Jones, W. G. “Sugar Cookies.” Benton County Pioneer, Vol. 5, No. 5 (July 1960).

Hogue, Wayman. Back Yonder. New Rochelle, NY: Knickerbocker Press, 1932.

McNeil, W. K.  and William M. Clements, editors. An Arkansas Folklore Sourcebook. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1992.

McVay, Lucile Dees. “Dinner on the Ground.” March 1999. Shiloh Museum research files.

White, T. A. Jr. “Memories of Greathouse Springs.” Ozarks Mountaineer, March-April 1985.

Wilson, Charles Morrow. The Bodacious Ozarks: True Tales of the Backhills.  New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1959.

Wolf, John Quincy. Life in the Leatherwoods: An Ozark Boyhood Remembered. Little Rock: August House, 1988.

“Kidnappers Foil”

"Kidnappers Foil"

Online Exhibit

In February 1937 Melton Barker came to Northwest Arkansas to film three separate movie “shorts” styled after the popular “Our Gang” comedies (a.k.a. “Little Rascals”) of the 1930s. Barker was an itinerant filmmaker from Dallas who shot the same movie, Kidnappers Foil, dozens of times from the 1930s into the early 1970s, primarily in towns throughout the Southeast and Midwest. The plot was simple. A young girl is kidnapped after her birthday party. Her father offers a reward for her return. A group of children search for her, eventually rescuing her from her captors. Then a small talent show is staged, featuring the kids singing and dancing. To make the movies, Melton Barker Juvenile Productions teamed up with local theater mogul William Sonneman. After casting calls were placed in area newspapers, would-be actors auditioned for various roles. Those who made the cut received training for a “small fee.” It took about a week to shoot all three movies in Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville plus the talent shows, which were filmed in Rogers. A few weeks later, Barker delivered the completed movies to Sonneman who showed them at his Palace (Fayetteville), Concord (Springdale), and Plaza (Bentonville) theaters. 

Once they were shown, the movie reels were placed inside a film carrier box and forgotten for decades. In 2016 they were found in Springdale and placed on eBay where Todd Terpening spotted them. He bought the films and donated them to the Library of Congress, where he volunteers. Then he contacted the Shiloh Museum for help with identifying the people and places in the films. Below is a list of 170 actors (with married names, if known) and the town in which they were filmed. Also included are images of the folks in the movie whom we have positively identified or feel fairly certain of their identification. But our work is not done. We need help in identifying more children and getting in touch with them or their descendants. If you can help, please email our photo archivist Marie Demeroukas or call 479-750-8165.

You can watch the Northwest Arkansas films on our YouTube channel, as well as videos from the movie “premiere” we hosted in November 2017:

Actors

Below is a list of 172 actors (with married names, if known, in square brackets)